With 2021 coming to a close, our region has set sail on a major, exciting, one-in-a-generation opportunity to restructure and reform our transit network thanks to billions in capital investments. In 2008, regional voters approved Sound Transit 2 (ST2), and these investments are now bearing fruit as our regional light rail network will nearly triple in size. We must prepare before this is complete in 2024.

Northgate Link gives us a preview of what’s coming, as bus and light rail integration reshapes our idea of what’s possible with transit. Our bus-based, one-seat ride network is changing as trains reemerge to play a large role. In addition, the pandemic fundamentally changes how our transit network will be used, as many traditional commutes disappear. Transit’s role in moving 9-5 workers into a few hubs migrates into a broader community-and-corridor-based network serving a wider variety of people 24/7. While there will still be a need to serve major centers such as Bellevue, UW, Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett, their role and magnitude as transit magnets is still uncertain.

King County Metro will usher in an entirely new network in several parts of King County to integrate with four different Link extensions (!), a topic which will be heavily covered by this blog. Two new RapidRide Lines will enter service thanks to partnerships between King County, Seattle, Burien, and White Center as the first new RapidRide lines since the F Line in 2014. Madison G Line offers an opportunity to restructure transit service in the densest part of our state, while the H Line upgrades crucial north-south service in a long corridor with a community strongly tied to transit. RapidRide is the linchpin in Metro’s frequent regional network offering marquee service to nearly 70,000 pre-pandemic riders on the busiest corridors. Improving service on existing Lines could be in the cards as well with Metro hiring staff to evaluate opportunities for investment (based on KCM job postings earlier this year).

Pierce Transit’s first Stream BRT Line starts construction in 2022 along busy Pacific Avenue. This 14+ mile line upgrades PT’s busiest corridor to provide frequent, reliable service to more of Pierce County utilizing many tools from NACTO’s playbook. Tacoma Link’s extension onto MLK and Hilltop Neighborhood, a light rail extension resembling Seattle Streetcar’s Broadway/First Hill Line, hopes to spur economic development and provide community investment in transit. Federal Way Link Extension provides Pierce Transit their first direct connection with Link light rail at Federal Way Transit Center; opening frequent, congestion-free travel alternatives.

Community Transit’s plan is to refocus Seattle-bound commuter resources towards local connectivity to key transit hubs with Link light rail stations. In this, their network is set to grow with new Swift BRT lines and a frequent network serving key destinations throughout Snohomish County. On the heels of a widely successfully transition of University District service to connect with Link at Northgate Station, Community Transit’s public outreach is already in high gear in advance of Lynnwood Link’s anticipated 2024 opening to ensure smooth implementation and that their new network best serves people.

With this and many other transit projects coming on line, no doubt other discussions will arise. Reducing process for key bus lanes, running a night Link replacement bus when trains are not operating as San Francisco does for MUNI, or reevaluating obsolete regional master plans. Here, we are only limited by our imagination.

I encourage regional agencies to make difficult, bold decisions based not on legacy routing and old travel patterns but on what possibilities new rapid transit creates. I’d also encourage agencies in these coming years blur boundaries of both county and subarea equity to best serve the needs of people. People don’t see these invisible boundaries but do need to cross these lines without unnecessary burden and complication.

To our fellow readers and riders, now is the time to pay attention to agency proposals in the coming months, ask questions, and please provide comments. Comments, both positive and negative, go a long way in shaping policy, and simply assuming governments will “do the right thing, so there’s no need to comment” is incorrect. If there’s something you’d like to see, or a place you wish transit would go, speak up when the time comes (writing a tweet or replying here, while indeed fun, does not count as an official comment). Adding a supportive “this is great, please keep going” provides balance to the inevitable “no change ever”.

As this transformation begins, we at Seattle Transit Blog be right here with you to slice and dice. Here’s to a prosperous transit future and Happy New Year!

172 Replies to “Getting ready for big changes to regional transit”

  1. “…the pandemic fundamentally changes how our transit network will be used, as many traditional commutes disappear.”

    (the strong continuing development pipeline for Class A office space in desirable central locations like downtown Bellevue suggests the “traditional commute” isn’t going anywhere)

    1. I’m genuinely interested to see where this all goes in the coming five years. Downtown Seattle, on the other hand, is now pretty quiet with tens-of-thousands of office “spaces” open as work from home becomes more entrenched in culture. Is this continued office development speculation or a good investment? I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

      1. But from a transit perspective, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good investment. All of those developers could go bankrupt, but as long as those are good, Class A buildings, they will be full of workers post-COVID. Will they be ‘full’ only 2 days a week instead of 5 days? Perhaps. But I agree with Ron’s central point – the High Capacity network still needs to oriented around serving the peak commute anchored by Seattle and now Bellevue. Off-peak may become more interesting & dynamic, but the peak (whenever it is) will remain the same dynamo for transit ridership.

        If the region has wildly overbuilt office space, it will be the Class B & C developments, much of which are along suburban office corridors and often poorly served by transit, that will be empty and redeveloped into other uses, probably a grab-bag of warehouses, residential, mixed use commercial, or specialty uses (e.g. healthcare). It will be much like today’s overbuilt retail spaces. A good mall is still a good mall, but a dead mall gets repurposed.

      2. Here’s a good example of what could happen to excess, non-Class A office space throughout the region if we end up significantly overbuilt:

        Key quotes:
        “The 109-year-old building is currently vacant …
        While downtown Tacoma is filling up with multifamily projects around the city’s main core, office buildings are a tougher sell, with several either for sale or lease…
        InterUrban seeks to build 60 residential units in the 110,000-square-foot structure, public records show. The building has no parking spaces and records filed with the city indicate that none are planned.”

      3. It’s quiet because of delta and omicron. Offices were going to reopen in September, then January, and now it may not be until March. Or maybe more variants will arise next year. The developers and employers don’t know, but they’re assuming offices will reopen in 2022 or 2023, and the buildings will be in demand then.

        Housing construction is another issue. Whenever there’s a pause in construction, as happened in 2008 and 2020, it leads to a spike in prices because the population continues to increase and households continue to form. I’m not sure that office space works the same, but that would be the danger if construction stops: that there would be a pent-up shortage of office space.

      4. Residential conversion is happening in Manhattan, or at least it’s being talked about. That probably won’t happen as much in Seattle because the existing residential base is small so only a few buildings would be a major expansion, and and there’s less demand to live near Rainier Square than there is near Wall Street.

      5. @Mike — Agreed. If there is a long term move away from office space, then housing in Seattle would likely get a lot cheaper. The housing spiked because of the huge increase in people commuting downtown (and downtown Bellevue). If those people no longer need to come into the office, there is no reason for them to live in Seattle. Seattle has inherit value outside of employment, but not enough to explain the giant spike in demand.

        It is possible that offices will go to a hybrid model, where workers are asked to come in a once in a while, but not 9-5 every day. That would continue to put pressure on housing prices, although you might see more people willing to make really long commutes (since they would make them less often).

      6. That’s why I provided the relevant quotes from the article… the link was mostly for citation and the headline image.

      7. OK, my apologies, AJ. It’s good to have a couple of folks paying for each of the local paywall sites, because most of the readership here can’t afford a bunch of specialty subscriptions or isn’t interested in the technicalities of their focus.

        Thank you for being our bizjournals volunteer.

    2. “I encourage regional agencies to make difficult, bold decisions based not on legacy routing and old travel patterns but on what possibilities new rapid transit creates. I’d also encourage agencies in these coming years blur boundaries of both county and subarea equity to best serve the needs of people. People don’t see these invisible boundaries but do need to cross these lines without unnecessary burden and complication.”

      When it comes to subarea equity for ST that is part of the founding legislation, and subareas jealously guard their share. Start blurring subarea equity and subareas will withdraw or sue, although the restructure “blurred” the lines IMO. Subareas are also keenly aware of what they contribute to Metro, and want their fair share, including Seattle, although intra subarea equity makes sense. The last two Metro levies failed I believe, and the eastside and south King Co. are likely no votes.

      Making bold new decisions on routes and frequency during a pandemic is risky. It is one thing to increase transit ridership based on induced demand where ridership already exists, and another to create transit ridership through induced demand, which is why I think ridership on East Link will be much lower than estimated. It is the old Ross paradigm: bus, then rapid ride if ridership is strong enough, then light rail.

      Where the peak commuter fits into this post pandemic is a key question, because ridership determines farebox recovery which determines the operations budget. The longer the pandemic continues the harder it will be to return workers to a grueling five day/week peak commute.

      Office occupancy is a better indicator than new development because new development has been years in the pipeline, which a few years ago was very strong in Seattle. Today Seattle has two issues: 1. the pandemic; and 2. the reluctance of many commuters to work in Seattle or take public transit within Seattle, both of which are hurting occupancy. It doesn’t help that Link does not serve two of Seattle’s biggest employment centers: First Hill, and SLU. Mercer Island is even subsidizing the 630 to provide one seat rides for Islanders to First Hill.

      The second factor has shifted more employers and eastside employees to Bellevue. Occupancy is also critical because many of the interest rates for loans for the development or purchase of office buildings is tied to occupancy rates. Converting office buildings into housing (at least the steel and glass buildings) is nearly impossible, but more importantly it would likely lead to an immediate acceleration and default of the loan because the lender would not see how housing revenue would match office lease revenue (one of which is tax deductible for the lessee).

      Although many on this blog wish transit led society, it actually follows and serves decisions people make that are more important than transit. The pandemic will have more long-term impact than light rail. This includes kids, schools, safety, the desire for a SFH, and so on.

      I have my doubts Link will transform transportation or transit unless society follows that transformation. Just in 2019 the PSRC was still stuck in its pre-pandemic mindset of huge population growth, density and TOD. Today the Seattle Times has an article noting statewide population growth is barely above zero. the pandemic has de-urbanized housing choices, and transit ridership has declined precipitously, especially for the commuter. The PSRC one year into its 2050 Vision Plan got it nearly all wrong.

      I have always questioned the cost to run Link from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond through some very undense and transit phobic areas, with too few urban stations and lines, and I think post pandemic that will be even more problematic depending on how steeply the commuter ridership drops off, and ST struggles to meet its 40% farebox recovery assumptions.

      The pandemic has accomplished one thing: it has allowed agencies to determine those areas in which folks have to take transit, because if you didn’t have to take transit before the vaccine you didn’t.

      Personally, I think that is pretty good equity data because first and foremost public transit is designed to provide transportation to those who can’t afford another mode, not create some kind of urbanist utopia. Unfortunately, it looks like subarea equity will create the most revenue and reserves in those subareas that need the least equity and have the highest transit phobia, so I understand the concept of spreading the equity among subareas, but doubt it will happen, in part because Seattle will object to sharing its limited Link subarea revenue with S. King Co. or Pierce Co., where the equity is needed most according to the recent transit plan, and the eastside has already given its park and rides toward WSBLE.

      1. Serving peak period commuters generally reduces farebox recovery because

        1. Those trips are really expensive to provide due to extra service added that only lasts a few hours a day.

        2. A large portion of those trips are paid for using a monthly pass or similar discount fare.

        3. Facilities such as park and ride lots are expensive to build and maintain and go unused the majority of the time, while generating relatively few riders for the space consumed.

        As far as your complains about sub-area equity goes, not everyone lives on Mercer Island. Where is the logical point for transit service to end at the Shoreline – Snohomish County line? Other than this invisible line, why should everyone traveling the highway 99 corridor have to change buses at a random Costco gas station? Throw a dart at a map, and unless it lands a mile out into Puget Sound itself it’s likely to hit a spot that would make a more logical transit destination. What subarea interests are being served by not having some sort of jointly funded routes that cross this border? Or do people that live in Snohomish and want to shop at the Fred Meyer that’s only 20 blocks on the other side of the border not count as residents?

      2. Well, I’m not Daniel, nor am I his representative, but I do see a distinction between subarea equity, which is relatively important and should probably be maintained to some degree, and having sensible, interconnected routes that don’t stop at political boundaries. There’s no reason that KC Metro and Community Transit couldn’t work together to have a consistent route that serves those needs and still keep subarea equity intact.

      3. Glenn, I was not trying to state an opinion. I was just saying subarea equity is part of the enabling ST legislation. The “realignment” manipulated that somewhat to meet the debt ceiling limit, but the revenue from the five-year extension will still accrue to subareas separately. The eastside will get their park and rides because they were promised in ST 3 and the revenue is there (now), the cost is tiny compared to something like WSBLE, and probably a whole lot more transit stuff based on the additional revenue and relative lower cost transit projects on the eastside, including a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland I can guarantee you no one in Issaquah or S. Kirkland will ride.

        The reality is providing these suburban areas with equal feeder bus service as a park and ride — as Kenmore was promised in the amendment to the realignment when its park and ride was extended — or micro-transit is more expensive than a park and ride because then Metro must fund the driver and vehicle. Which is why ST promised these voters park and rides to sell ST 3.

        When it comes to Metro, coverage and frequency are just functions of revenue. Seattle’s TBD is a form of subarea equity, and I imagine Seattle taxpayers don’t want to use that revenue for non-Seattle transit (and IMO Seattle/N. King Co. paid a disproportionate share to run rail to Snohomish Co. and S. King Co. which hurt true urban subway transit).

        East King Co. and S. King Co. tend to vote no on county wide Metro levies, so their service reflects that. I live in a city that pays a high level per capita of county taxes due to the value of the real estate and we have almost no transit, and if I were Metro I am not sure I would allocate revenue to such a steep and undense area, so I guess that is allocating transit based on use/need and not what an area pays. What MI needs is/was our park and ride back because that fits OUR lifestyle.

        I have read many times on this blog that commuter transit is disproportionately expensive (at least for buses) but haven’t really seen the data, and I wonder if that is true. First, on the eastside most commuter bus transit is funded by ST and revenue is not an issue. Second, these buses were packed with full fare paying customers.

        Metro has only a 20% farebox recovery rate so its coverage and frequency is more a function of levies, but ST has a 40% farebox recovery rate and it runs whether there are commuters or not, and a lot of Link is built around the peak commuter due to the congestion and lack of parking downtown.

        But just as importantly is the fact commuters vote for transit levies too, and tend — as usual — to be the swing vote, including ST 2 and 3. As someone recently pointed out the eastside as a whole now has the same population as Seattle. If folks are not using transit, or it doesn’t serve them — including park and rides which fit THEIR lifestyle — they won’t vote yes on transit levies. My guess is this is part of the reason Metro will continue express commuter buses from Lake City if ridership returns, at least until it can be determined how first/last mile access with Northgate Link works out (and these are very pro transit voters). With the pandemic, WFH, and the current decline in the transit commuter, I highly doubt any transit levy would pass because voters on the eastside won’t see the benefit to them, and that is how voters vote.

        The 2050 Transit Vision map assumes levies and very large revenue increases in transit funding. The reality, at least at this point in the pandemic and with population growth models based on current info and not the PSRC’s political lens, the map should probably reflect lower revenue in the future, although driverless transit could be a game changer when it comes to transit cost.

  2. The need for rail replacement service overnight specifically exists. Unfortunately it’s still a bit unclear which agency should sponsor it and which agency should subsidize it.

    I think ST should do more. Right now, it’s up to KC Metro to completely provide the overnight service.

    It is worth noting that the Bay Area got better overnight replacement service when it was permanently subsidized within regional bridge toll ballot measures. That happened because enough leaders in the region made it important. Of course, SF Muni had it before the regional ballot measure.

    1. Rather than viewing an overnight Link bus as a separate item, an overnight Link bus should be viewed as continuation of providing Link Line “X” service to riders 24/7; therefore, funding for such a service comes from Link’s overall operating budget. This is critical as our network restructures to be dependent on Link transfers for more transit trips. There are a wide variety of ST-branded buses capable of filling this roll.

      To deny people frequent, reliable service 24/7 because of bureaucracy is exactly why I state our agencies must blur county and subarea boundaries to provide regional mobility to everyone.

    2. @Al. S: Correction. ACTransit, Samtrans, and VTA all had 24hr service before that Ballot measure. What it did do was restructure service in the East Bay, and fund new owl routes East of the Oakland Hills. Those routes were then cut and eventually restored IIRC.

      @Mike Bjork:

      Agree 100%, though from a more pragmatic standpoint, it might be better for a Link Night Owl network to not parallel Link exactly.

      1. Here is a description of the overnight bus service and its history in the Bay Area.

        As the item explains, only Muni had consistent overnight service before the 2004 referendum. In other words, I’m not exactly in need of correction.

        While the routes are operated by bus transit agencies, the existence of an outside funding subsidy through bridge tolls makes it fiscally easier for a bus operating agency to offer overnight service.

    3. There’s a de facto owl shadow network with the 7, 49, 70, 67, and 124. MUNI is a small city network. The suburban counties have 24-hour routes, but there are no BART night owl expresses across the entire rail lines that I’m aware of, and long-distance routes serving all stations would take way too long. (Two hours from Embarcadero to Berryessa?)

      Early ST long-range wishlists had potential 24-hour service, but that seems to have been dropped because I never heard about it in the 2014 LRP update or afterward. Metro already has the A and E to Federal Way and possibly Mountlake Terrace. There’s no Eastside night owl anymore, but the Eastside could think about that. (The B claims to have night owl, but that’s just runs between 12 and 12:30am that always existed, not at 2am.) The B’s span could be extended to 24 hours like the A and E.

      Snohomish and Pierce Counties it’s up to CT and PT. Given their taxpayer’s adversion to Metro-like frequency and span, they have other things to work on before night owls.

      1. @Mike Orr: Calling SF’s owl network “small” is a major understatement. It’s comprehensive, covering most of SF’s Primary and Secondary corridors.

      2. There’s a de facto owl shadow network with the 7, 49, 70, 67, and 124.

        Exactly. Basically it is already covered. As the routes go outward, the existing ST routes would kick in. The 512 would run late night, just as it does today (or would, presumably, if not for Covid). If there never were plans for the 512 to run late at night, then so be it. The new extension doesn’t really change anything. It would be nice now, just as it would nice in the future; whether ST will chip in for it is another issue.

      3. I think Mike’s point was about Muni’s footprint being small relative to the overall region, not about its comprehensiveness within SF. I think Owl networks are appropriately the responsibility of the county agencies, not ST.

      4. MUNI Metro is small so its shadow routes are only a few miles long. Having a Link night owl shadow to Tacoma is a different thing.

        MUNI total night owl bus network is impressive like Chicago’s. Half-hourly night owls a mile apart. You can get to most areas with that, and you’re not waiting an hour or two or three (or driving because you don’t want to wait or you don’t know the schedule).

    4. I guess it would be Richmond to Berryessa, since there wouldn’t be overlapping SF-south trains then if there isn’t on Sundays.

    5. What is striking to me about Metro’s night owl service is that not a single bus operates on the East Side. This is a weakness with the night owl system. It is a weakness now, and will be a weakness after Link. The train really doesn’t change anything. It is merely whether the county want to spend money on service that is relatively expensive, and won’t carry that many riders. Seattle helps subsidize the service, I’m not sure if other cities (or the county, or ST) will.

      1. Wasn’t there a night owl between downtown Seattle and Bellevue at one point? I vaguely recall reading someone mentioning it in comments a while back.

        I’m not familiar enough with the Eastside to know what type of night owl service would be beneficial. Should any routes go to Seattle? Or should it be more like an Eastside version of the circulator-type routes 82-84 and be rooted in one city (likely Bellevue)? My first thought was the latter and maybe have one route that does something like Bellevue TC-Kirkland TC-Redmond TC-Crossroads-Eastgate TC-Bellevue TC, but I don’t know whether it would get non-zero ridership. It seems like anything else would be requiring transfers which would be very hard to time if frequency is hourly or less.

      2. I don’t know, but I’m guessing a lot of it is (STBD funding). On the Metro page they specifically mention Seattle’s investment. This could explain why it is relatively extensive in Seattle, but it doesn’t account for all of it. There is service out to SeaTac, Federal Way and Auburn. The E and 5 are just the regular buses, instead of ending at the city limits.

        I’m guessing demand just has a lot to do with the lack of night owl service on the East Side. For the 574, the first run from Lakewood towards SeaTac leaves at 2:00 AM (reflecting the early morning shift). That is the most popular bus on that line, while buses that follow do quite well. This means the subsidy at that hour is minimal. I don’t think would be the case for buses on the East Side at 4:00 AM.

      3. Metro got out of the night owl business in the 2014 cuts except for a few South King County equity routes, mainly for early-morning airport workers. The Seattle night owls were picked up by the city council and then the STBD. The former Eastside night owl was the 280, which went on 4th Avenue, 520, Bellevue Way, 405, Renton, and East Marginal Way back to Seattle.

        The current suburban night owls I know of are the A, E, 120, 124, 160 (Auburn-Kent only), 181 (connecting Kent and Burien to the airport). Most of these are for early-morning airport workers.

      4. Metro Route 280 was a night owl route that traveled in a one-way clockwise route from downtown Seattle, across SR-520, through downtown Bellevue, through downtown Renton. I don’t recall whether it returned to Seattle via I-5 or 4th Avenue. I think it was on I-5. I think that route 174 had night owl service, so route 280 didn’t duplicate that.

      5. The 5 isn’t really night owl. Metro is just calling “night owl” every run after midnight to make the network look more extensive. Previously the regular day ended at 2am and then the night owl period started. Many routes have their last regular runs at 12:30am or 1am.

        Hmm, the 150 now has southbound service until 2:15am. Previously it ended at 1:30. My roommate works in a Kent warehouse that has 24 hour shifts, and he used to take the 1:30 and then wait 45 minutes for his shift to start. Now he’s working swing shift.

      6. Like other night owls, the 280 was a special route that ran only two trips in the middle of the night and nothing else. The stop locations downtown, I think, we’re different from the 550. I believe it was a de-facto roving homeless shelter, as nearly the entire ridership was getting on downtown, riding the full loop, getting off where they started, then riding the same loop again an hour later. It is not at all hard to see why a bus with three people on it would be a better sleeping environment than a shelter with hundreds of people in one room, many with mental disorders screaming and doing drugs.

        In general, I think night owl trips should run the same routes that run during the daytime, rather than special routes that operate only at night. It is also best to avoid one way loops. If I were designing a night owl route for the Eastside, I would probably start with a Link shadow bus that just goes from station to station. If extra money is available, next in line would be adding a couple of night owl trips to the B line or, if owl service to Renton is desired, the 106. But, I would never ever run anything resembling the old 280 route, RIP.

      7. I took the 280 once, after watching the Rocky Horror Picture show at the Neptune. I took it to NE 8th Street and then walked an hour to eastern Bellevue. I don’t remember how full it was, maybe a quarter full. It was in the early 80s when homeless people were considered a “New York City problem”; they were just starting to appear here.

  3. I expect a shift in public expectations for transit will increasingly force agencies to consider restructuring bus routes to feed higher-frequency and more schedule-reliable light rail once it opens. I would even be so bold to say that most riders will increasingly expect a direct light rail transfer to be possible from any bus stop within 3 miles of a light rail station.

    I also expect that this will trigger at least 2 restructures as bus operating agencies respond to shifts in ridership by route once light rail opens. Most agencies are being proactive about this already, although making change will be much easier once the mindset changes less from “leave my favorite routes alone” and more to “just get me to Link as fast and often as possible”.

    1. That’s basically the approach for the East King restructure, where every route is evaluated on whether it connects to Link. But within Seattle, I imagine there are still a few corridors that have enough demand that don’t require a direct connection to Link.

      1. Maybe for some routes, but certainly not the 240. Instead of turning left on I-90 to go to Link, it turns right to go to Eastgate. Sure, it eventually hooks up with Link further north, but not without a big detour. In order for feeder buses to be attractive, they need to get you to Link via a direct route, not zig zag back and forth for 30 minutes.

        My theory of what’s going on with the 240 is that KCM needed some bus to continue running between Eastgate and Factoria (and also Eastgate->Bellevue), and the 240 riders got the short end of the stick for “equity” reasons, so they’re being asked to sit through a long detour on every trip to and from Link, in order to provide this service to others. I guess, if they don’t like it, that’s what Sound Transit’s giant South Bellevue parking garage is for.

      2. 240 riders got the short end of the stick for “equity” reasons

        Or because the 240 is a coverage route. It doesn’t perform well, even by suburban standards. I’m not saying they made the right choice, but given what little money they had to work with, it is reasonable. It would be difficult to send all the buses to Link stations while still providing a network to major destinations (like Bellevue College) as well as coverage to less popular destinations.

      3. I use relative terms like “more” for a reason. It’s not an absolute expectation.

        Even in Seattle, most routes already have a light rail transfer possible. Consider that all Third Avenue routes have a direct light rail transfer possible, for example.

        There remains a possibility that bus service some long corridors will operate several miles before reaching a light rail station.

        Metro implied a vision that extends Aurora’s RapidRide E to Mountlake Terrace Link in the latest Metro Connects vision.

        I think some commenters on the STB still can’t fully fathom the perception change in using Link that’s imminent and the post’s author emphasizes. They are stuck in the past. By funding such a massive new transit service, the voters effectively endorsed restructuring to make Link the preferred “spines” of regional transit trips.

        I’m reminded of Boston’s MBTA bus network near Downtown. Most buses don’t go into Downtown and all buses seem to offer a direct Subway connection.

      4. “Or because the 240 is a coverage route. It doesn’t perform well, even by suburban standards.”

        A quick look at the map shows that, even if ridership on the 240 is not great, it should still be higher than the 241. Past the shared section on Factoria Blvd., the 240 passes by far more homes on the way to Newcastle than the 241 does along Newport Way, whose walkshed is cut off by greenbelts. Also, Newcastle is not entirely single family homes and, what few apartment complexes it has, the 240 goes by them. The 240 also serves the Newcastle commercial area, while the 241 does not serve any commercial area east of Factoria Mall. If any route needs to be the sacrificial lamb, it should be the 241, not the 240.

        I also have a vague recollection that the 240 is actually promoted to RapidRide in Metro’s long range 2050 plan (don’t remember the letter), which doesn’t sound like something they would do for a pure coverage route with ridership like the 208.

      5. Proximity matters too, not just density. The 240 might pass more ‘stuff,’ but it’s a longer trip pair between Newcastle and the key destinations in Bellevue (downtown, Eastgate) for the 240, while the 241 is a much shorter trip from Factoria & south Bellevue to downtown, or Eastgate to the Eastgate TC.

        A typical Newcastle rider would be much more interested in the 114 over the 240 because it is a more direct connection to the major activity centers, but the 114 is a peak express so its never developed all-day ridership. If I lived in Newcastle, I would agitate for an all-day 114 terminating at S Bellevue, perhaps funded by having the 111 terminate at 44th street off-peak, where riders can transfer to Stride. (During peak, both 111 and Stride buses are likely SRO in normal times so need to run 111 all the way to Link as current proposed in the restructure).

        240 is still a good route and it’s great to run it all day, but because it takes such a circuitous route to downtown Bellevue, I think it is appropriately viewed as a coverage route. This classification will be further reinforced once East Link opens;
        Factoria-S Bellevue station is a much more desirable trip pair than Factoria-Eastgate, so I would suspect the 241 is elevated to frequent before the 240, primarily on the back of ridership growth as Factoria is redeveloped.

        Nonetheless, Factoria – Eastgate is a useful connection. It is not as important at Factoria-Link, but I could see the 240 be elevated to RapidRide as the East King version of the RR-F. The F provides important coverage; even though Tukwilla and Renton have straighter routes that more directly connect their neighborhoods to Seattle, the F super important for local trips. The 241 gets people out of their cars by providing a better option. The 240, like the F, is basically never faster than driving for any trip pair, but its super important for people who cannot or otherwise choose not to drive.

        The 241, on the other hand, is mostly a last-mile connection on 108th and Factoria Blvd, with a coverage tail through suburban Eastgate.

        241’s service on 108th is illustrative. Even if that corridor is less dense than Newcastle’s commercial strip, 108th’s immediate proximity to Link (in both directions) and Bellevue CBD should result in a much higher mode share and therefore perhaps more boardings despite lower density. But because it’s mostly a last-mile service, it likely won’t ever be elevated to RapidRide.

        Because of the topography and street grid, a bus serving Newcastle probably isn’t going to get good ridership unless it immediately hops on 405. Taking the local streets through Bellevue is super uncompetitive with driving, even with 405 congestion. Newcastle can have all the density it wants, but unless it figures out how to link up better to the 405 ‘spine,’ bus ridership will be anemic. The fact that there is no route on May Creek Park drive to connect Newcastle to the Stride station at 44th is a missed connection but perhaps underscores how difficult it is to great a proper bus grid with Newcastle suburban street grid. Hopefully staff is just ignoring 405 Stride within the East Link restructure and will revisit these routes (24X, 11X) in a subsequent Stride restructure.

      6. If any route needs to be the sacrificial lamb, it should be the 241, not the 240.

        Both the 240 and 241 are coverage routes in the sense that they perform worse than the average route. If Metro decided to focus purely on cost effectiveness, they would be abandoned. But they are no means the worst in the area (they aren’t the first to cut when things get bad). You are correct, the 240 performs better than the 241. The 241 is more coverage than the 240.

        I don’t think any route is being sacrificed. It is merely a matter of geography. Consider what I assume you are proposing: First send the 240 to South Bellevue. Fair enough. Then what? We still need a bus covering Somerset, and the current proposal makes the most sense. The 241 (which covers 108th) is best suited for this task. It is a lower frequency coverage route. That all sounds good, but we haven’t saved any money, and we still need a crucial piece: a fast connection between Factoria and Eastgate/Bellevue College. That can be done by taking the 245 and having it do its current loop. That all works, except for one thing: it costs more money.

        The point being that if you are fixated on one goal (connecting every one to Link) you are bound to sacrifice something else (good general connectivity or decent frequency). Again, I’m not saying that the East Link proposal is great — I’m just saying it is a zero sum game, and while connecting to Link is important, it shouldn’t be our only consideration.

        More than anything, this is a great example of the importance of clever routing and adequate funding, not just priorities. From a routing perspective, not sending the 240 to South Bellevue is a clear flaw. But solving that problem requires coming up with a creative solution and/or more money. The former takes a lot of time and effort, and it full of trade-offs. The latter requires political will.

      7. “I also have a vague recollection that the 240 is actually promoted to RapidRide in Metro’s long range 2050 plan (don’t remember the letter)”

        It was RapidRide in the last LRP and it’s a RapidRide candidate in the new one. It was never assigned a letter because its planning isn’t funded yet.

    2. In Chicago every bus route serves at least one el station as far as I can tell. The bus stop sign has a diagram of the route: a line showing the termini and a mark where each el station is. Metro has started to get there with an icon on routes that serve a Link station, but it doesn’t tell whether the station is in this direction or the opposite direction or how far it is.

      The most difficult part of the Northgate Link and East Link restructures is how to make feeders as fast as current service without additional revenue. There have been complaints that route 512 trips are slowed 10 minutes by the transfer, route 522 trips have less increased frequency than expected, route 75 trips lost the 41’s evening frequency, and Daniel is concerned about Issaquah and Renton/Newcastle commutes to downtown that will take longer with the transfer. Most of this is due to the pandemic recession and ridership loss, but it makes a Link-based network less useful than intended.

      1. In Chicago every bus route serves at least one el station as far as I can tell.

        Yeah, but that has more to do with the El than it does the bus routes. If you just look at the bus system in Chicago, it looks like a straightforward grid. You can’t really guess where the train stops are; buses don’t have to bend out of their way to connect to the El. In contrast, our system is not setup that way. Partly this is because of our awkward street grid, but it is also because it was never a priority. For example, Ballard to UW (which would enable every bus north of the ship canal to go by a Link station without making a detour) will probably never be built.

    3. I agree – even pre-COVID, we didn’t really go to any city center often (Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Renton, Tacoma, etc.) except to make a transfer. Whatever happens to the office real estate market, those transfers will still need to happen somewhere, and hopefully a subset of the lines available for transferring are frequent so that trips can be timed in at least one direction. If there happens to be some amenities like libraries, bookshops, or restaurants in walking distance too, we might even be tempted to visit them on the way. Hopefully that’s the attitude that city planners and business people take as well.

    4. I think it is clear that most bus routes will connect with nearby Link lines. But it is silly to think all of them will. The 101 will not be truncated at Rainier Beach, for example. A lot of the Folks on Aurora will still depend on the E to get them anywhere, which means either going downtown (like they do today) or a three seat ride if they want to use Link. For a lot of people, Link really doesn’t change things.

      It is also worth noting that with the last restructure, Metro focused a considerable amount of money on bus routes that go by Link stations, but keep going to various parts of downtown. Are people going to put pressure on them to abandon those routes and increase frequency on the buses that just end at the station? I doubt it. I think if they truncate those routes it will be because they just aren’t worth the money. Someone (with some sense) realizes that for the greater good, you need to create a more efficient system, rather than trying to please a handful of rush-hour riders by having them avoid taking the train.

      1. If people vote with their feet and don’t take those buses, or take them only to Northgate Station and transfer, or if office commutes don’t come back, then they’d be high on the list for deletion in the next recession. The First Hill/SLU expresses are a judgment call and a guess about how popular those commutes will be and how reasonable it is to expect people to take Link to them. The further away the destinations are from Link, the longer Link takes compared to the one-seat ride, and the worse the last-mile bus service is if you do take Link, the more people will ride these expresses. For instance, taking the streetcar from Capitol Hill Station to First Hill isn’t that bad, but taking the 3/4 from 3rd & James to Harborview or Cherry Hill is horrible with huge traffic bottlenecks.

      2. The further away the destinations are from Link, the longer Link takes compared to the one-seat ride, and the worse the last-mile bus service is if you do take Link, the more people will ride these expresses.

        My guess is everyone who takes a trip that can be served by those buses will take the bus, regardless of the distance to a Link Station. The 322 goes right by Pioneer Square Station. If I’m in Kenmore headed to *that station*, I’m taking the bus. The bus is an express, which means not only do you avoid a transfer, but you avoid the extra stops.

        That’s not really the issue. The issue is whether it is worth the money. The 41 would still be really popular if they kept it. It would still get plenty of riders, and be one of the more productive routes in our system, even though it would only connect to the same downtown stops as Link. But providing a marginally better trip for a few customers while largely duplicating Link is a really bad use of money.

      3. one thing to remember about First Hill is that its jobs cannot be done at home. That’s not true of SLU so those buses are indeed probably short-lived.

        But I expect that the First Hill routes will be popular since they can use the express lanes.

      4. From the Seattle Times, “Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, NanoString Technologies and Bristol Myers Squibb have research facilities in South Lake Union, along with other biotech firms and UW Medicine. ”

        And there’s this Biotech is Coming to South Lake Union. And currently Boren Office Lofts (10 stories, 136,000 square feet) is being converted into “a fully dedicated life science facility” with lab space for “innovators, creators, scientists and more.” (more from the Times)

      5. Fred Hutch and Children’s have research and clinical trials, and there are other biotech companies there.

      6. Bernie, Mike, thank you. I forgot about Hutchinson and did not know of the others. So perhaps the SLU e presses will continue, too.

    5. Yes, light rail connections will drive transit demand as they are high-frequency and schedule-reliable, but expectations for feeders will be similar – people will not be satisfied with 15min headways, not even 10min headways for feeders. At the same time driverless technology will get more attention to reduce operational cost. My prediction is that gondola technology will become a serious alternative for such feeders as we see in France, Germany, Mexico City and South American cities.

      1. Martin, I’m a fan of the gondola idea. Can you point to any cities of less than a million people and a minimum density of Seattle’s 8,775.03/sq mi where gondola’s have been successful? Seattle certainly has the terrain that could favor a gondola vs say light rail to West Seattle. But would it be demonstrably better than spending on more bus service and HOT/HOV/BAT lanes that leverage highway spending dollars.

      2. Gondolas are an alternative for high-frequency hilly East/West connections (up to about 7mi) but not an alternative for long, low-capacity BRT routes along freeways such as Stride. Ankara is a good example ( as well as Mexico City ( The one in Toulouse will open early next year:

      3. Gondolas are a bit like ferries in that they are best when you have a geographic advantage. A ferry from Edmonds to Kingston makes sense, because driving around requires a lot more time. A ferry from Edmonds to downtown Seattle does not.

        But there are differences as well. Ferries can be very high capacity — gondolas can’t. Thus ferries can be fed by buses and trains, and aren’t highly dependent on point to point travel. I’m sure some of the people who take the Staten Island Ferry walk from their home to their office, but most take some form of public (or private) transportation on either end.

        One of the big advantages of gondolas is their very low headways (measured in seconds, not minutes). One of the disadvantages is that they are relatively slow. They are usually much cheaper than building rail, but not as cheap as just running a bus. Like all major capital projects, you have to have enough demand to justify the cost.

        Thus they are best suited for trips where the gondola has a geographic advantage over alternatives, the distance is not that far, and there is strong, direct, point to point demand. They don’t make much sense as feeders for rail, because either the demand is low (not justifying the cost) or the demand spikes every time the train unloads (overwhelming the capacity of the gondola). They are a niche mode not because people aren’t aware of them, but because they are only appropriate in a small number of cases (typically in really densely populated cities).

        There are very few places in Seattle where they make sense, simply because we have relatively few areas where there is a major geographic advantage — we have a very extensive set of roads and bridges. We also just don’t have the density in the places where they could work (and where we have the density, there are better alternatives). One of the best gondola ideas was a line from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union to Uptown. It was meant as an alternative to the 8, which used to be stuck in traffic for a very long time. Fortunately, SDOT added some bus lanes, and travel along there is much better. A gondola would still be better for some people, but others would prefer the 8 (simply because it has more stops). You could add a bunch of stops for the gondola, but that costs a bundle. There just aren’t many places (if any) where it makes sense around here. It is reminiscent of some of the ferry plans they’ve considered. Either an express bus is faster, or there just aren’t that many people making that trip to justify the extra cost.

        A West Seattle gondola only came up because the ST plan (light rail) is so inappropriate. What makes the most sense there is a trunk and branch bus system with a bus tunnel.

      4. “They don’t make much sense as feeders for rail, because … the demand spikes every time the train unloads (overwhelming the capacity of the gondola). ”
        If 100 people get off a train, it takes less than 2 minutes to get them transported on a gondola while with a bus you may have to wait 10 minutes for it to arrive.

        “Ferries can be very high capacity — gondolas can’t.”
        What’s high capacity for you, Ross? Buses? Gondolas can handle 4500 riders in each direction per hour. The latest CableBus (see link above) has carried 56,000 riders per day, they expect more once the pandemic eases up.

        West Seattle is one feeder option, Eastgate/Factoria and South Center are others, Kirkland is already studying one between downtown and the new Stride station. The 8 has gotten better, but a gondola could provide more reliability, higher frequency at a reduced operational cost and serve Belltown, too. The Feds could pick up some of the initial investment.

      5. I know Gondolas can move a lot of people because I’ve seen it as ski areas. But two of the three cities mentioned have populations in the millions and density an order of magnitude higher than Seattle. Toulouse is the only one comparable and it’s not open. In fact in 2013 it was supposed to open in 2016-17. 2017 it was supposed to open in 2020. From what I can find construction finally started in late 2019 or early 2020. That doesn’t jive with the idea we can have something for West Seattle up and running in just a few years and lengthy schedule delays inevitably mean cost overruns.

        Almost all the “news” I can find is from Poma. They are pretty much the only show in town after Yan collapsed; literally and financially. They know how to build lifts so I’m sure the issue is political and financial (related).

        The Toulouse route connects three high use destinations; two universities and a major hospital. West Seattle isn’t so much a destination but an area which means most ridership will be some sort of connecting service. DT is a destination which is why it makes sense to go there rather than just transfer at SODO. And SODO is a real destination when events are going on.

        The other advantage Toulouse has is it shaved 20-30 minutes off the bus time end to end because of the geography. I’m not sure how the gondola will compare to bus times. It’s certainly more convenient and reliable. The other question is operating cost. You can run the gondola with a crew of ~4 and the people assisting loading don’t require a special operating license. And if capital and operational costs are more than bus service it still might be worth it for the reliability and frequency. Or, the other argument is that if it’s the same or more than a bus it saved big bucks over light rail and arguably provides better service.

        I agree handling crowds from Link is a non-isssue. Gondolas swallow people as fast as they walk up. It’s a better transfer experience than finding and waiting for a bus.

      6. Bernie, most of the info from Toulouse is in French, like
        Last I heard is that the line is being tested for certification but supply chain issues for surveillance cameras pushed the opening day out til early next year.
        Gondolas may benefit from 1) no wait 2) reliable travel time b/c separate ROW 3) reduced operating cost. You might want to review the business case analysis TransLink provided for Burnaby which shows 30% operating expense reduction

      7. most of the info from Toulouse is in French

        Sounds like a dodge. Firefox translates those links just fine. Thing is, it’s a nothing burger, “The slow rise of urban cable cars in France”.

        Regarding Burnaby, “Burnaby Mountain for the 25,000 daily trips made by SFU students, staff, faculty, and residents of UniverCity.” Yeah, again like Toulouse there’s a major university anchoring at least one end of the line. I’m not trying to oppose your effort but just want to vet what seems to be an over enthusiastic attachment to a technology without consideration of the real world. A West Seattle gondola is unprecedented. You don’t have a real world example that is comparable. I think most people that look at the numbers agree it’s a better value than light rail but that’s not sufficient to sell the idea.

        Honestly I hope it is seriously considered as a replacement for Link to West Seattle which will never happen in my life time. There will be major opposition from construction companies that would lose out on lucrative contracts and residents that are convinced light rail is something they are entitled to. You need to sharpen your pencil.

      8. I don’t understand your concern, Bernie. ST estimates that WS will have 27,000 daily riders, Burnaby is 25,000, Mexico City’s latest CableBus line has 56,000. The latter line is about as long and has about as many stations. Why would you say it doesn’t compare? Because it is in a bigger city? Mexico City has metro lines within its center, they only use gondolas in the periphery for feeders. Those areas are comparable to West Seattle and the ridership is comparable.
        The SkyLink team also proposes to use the savings to build a South Park light rail line meaning construction companies would just shift their crew to another project though that line wouldn’t have any 150′ guide rails and no huge Duwamish bridge as the current WS plan calls for.

      9. A good place in Seattle for a gondola or funicular would be from the park just south of the County Courthouse to Harborview. Step off the train at PSS and get on for a quick, undisturbed ride to the hospital.

        Yes, Daniel, we would need to “clean up the area”. Wouldn’t want to scare the female court employees.

      10. Yes, Tom, I thought about a “hospital express”. From the Court House Park/PSS a gondola could go over the freeway along Jefferson to Harborview and potentially continue up to Broadway to connect with the streetcar (and Swedish First Hill) and then to Swedish Cherry Hill and Garfield High.
        I talked to Swedish’ transit coordinator, they call an Uber if a patient has to transfer between the hospitals as the 3/4 is just too unreliable. They were very excited about a reliable connection between the two hospitals.
        Harborview is very difficult to reach reliably at the moment, too, and there is considerable traffic between these three hospitals.
        People may even transfer from the streetcar as it would be faster to get to Link than riding the streetcar through the ID. Students would take it to Garfield and Nova High; others could continue on the 48 along 23rd. High-frequency would make it attractive as for East/West transfers.

      11. For God’s sake, Martin, I didn’t say run a fricking gondola to Magnolia Park! Cool your jets.

        Congested POINT TO congested POINT. That’s all.

      12. Mexico City’s latest CableBus line has 56,000. … they only use gondolas in the periphery for feeders.

        That’s exactly why Mexico City is irrelevant to whether a gondola is right for Seattle. Even out in their boonies they have twice the always inflated ridership number ST is pulling out of their hat. I think most people here believe it would be a better technology for West Seattle than light rail. The question is, is it better than improved/increased bus service? To answer that you have to look at the entirety of West Seattle and to get the numbers on the gondola you have to run a whole bunch of feeder bus service anyway. So the calculation is how much operating expense is saved by truncating routes at a gondola station vs the capital investment (something that is always under estimated by ST).

        In the end it may come down to West Seattle politically will demand something with more panache than buses with fancy paint. And just to build a bridge for light rail I think will cost more than the entire gondola. Ironically, the highest use may be between DT and SODO. And if more people from outside of West Seattle use it maybe there’s precedent from the bus tunnel for the County to contribute funding.

        Has anyone though of a way by either sighting the Gondola terminus or extending the Monorail to have the two meet up?

      13. Bernie, a comparison with Mexico City won’t help in terms of forecasting ridership, but from a technology perspective. ST’s forecast for WS Link is probably based on truncating all bus services going from the peninsula to downtown at the 3 stations which last I checked was around 22,000 riders. Therefore 27,000 riders seems reasonable if truncation is attractive. If people would have to transfer to Link, then wait for a RV train at SODO, I doubt that will be attractive while a no-wait gondola ride to ID would be much more so.
        I’m not sure a monorail extension will be desired once the SLU tunnel is built, but I could see the WS line to get extended along the waterfront potentially reaching Seattle Center. Since the waterfront streetcar was dismantled, there is no transit available in that corridor.

      14. The WF is a tough nut to crack. Now that “people” have their view back I don’t think an aerial conveyance will fly. Maybe some vintage street cars, oh wait, that worked.

        What about extending the Monorail on 5th Ave all the way to the ID? That would be ~5 minutes to Seattle Center. Or, it might be cheaper and less intrusive to run the Gondola up 5th to Westlake. Although, I wonder if most of the extension could be single track with a passing point doubling as another DT station? The Library is about the half way point. Either way it’s a lot cheaper than another DT tunnel and could happen decades sooner.

        The Monorail gets a lot of tourist ridership. I’m sure the Gondola would as well (Link to W Sea not so much).

  4. Can we update STB’s style guide to just call T-Link a streetcar? It would be consistent with ST’s National Transit Database (NTD) reporting to the FTA and would avoid the necessary qualifier “a light rail extension resembling Seattle Streetcar’s Broadway/First Hill Line.” Most importantly, it would help Tacoma be honest about what it is and is not building with its ST funds.

  5. RapidRide is the linchpin in Metro’s frequent regional network offering marquee service to nearly 70,000 pre-pandemic riders on the busiest corridors.

    That’s a stretch. The C, D and E? Definitely. The A? Sure. The B and F? Definitely not. Here are the buses that carry more than 8,000 riders per day (before the pandemic):

    62 — 8,100
    70 — 8,100
    120 — 8,200
    8 — 8,800
    44 — 8,800
    A — 9,100
    36 — 9,200
    7 — 11,000
    C — 11,100
    40 — 13,200
    D — 13,800
    E — 16,700

    The B carries 6,200 while the F carries 5,700. I don’t list (or even count) the number of buses that serve more than these, because there are so many. RapidRide serves a handful of our busiest corridors, while most are served by numbered buses. This doesn’t even count the combined corridors (like the 3/4) which would definitely be on this list if they were counted as one route. If you look at ridership per mile, you get similar results (the E gets a lot of riders because it is really long, stretching out to the county border).

    I wouldn’t say these buses are any more important than any other, either. Without the 44 you cripple the system in the north end — I would definitely call it a linchpin route.

    I think things would be different with the MoveSeattle routes — what were called RapidRide+ ( Build that, and you could make the case that RapidRide provides the core bus routes for our system. Lacking that, RapidRide is merely an assortment of buses, although a few of them perform really well.

    1. It’s the highest-quality Metro service even if the B and F are lagging in ridership. Metro says the suburbs love their RapidRide lines including the B and F, so they’re getting value out of it. In contrast, Seattlites complain about their RapidRide lines because they have higher expectations. In Seattle (or any city with its density and walkability) bus routes are mediocre if they’re not 5-10 minutes daytime, 15 minutes evenings, and night owl. In the suburbs they’re thrilled to have 15-minute service.

      1. Rapid ride is really two things. First is a promise of frequent, all day service, between double and quadruple what suburbs are typically accustomed to. Second is stuff such as off board fare payment and triple door buses designed to speed up boarding times.

        The former can, in principle, be done with any numbered bus route. It doesn’t have to be RapidRide. For instance, the 255 runs a schedule that’s not that different in frequency and span from the B-line. The latter requires some form of special infrastructure, but it only actually improves travel time on routes that are crowded, so applying it on routes that aren’t simply wastes money. Route 7 is an excellent case for where three-door buses and off-board fare payment have a huge impact. Applying the same to a combination of the 250 and 239 (the K line) would result in negligible time savings for passengers.

        So, while I definitely applaud the concept of offering at least a few high frequency routes to the suburbs, I think RapidRide, itself, should have been limited to the most popular routes and, except for the A line, these routes are all located in Seattle.

      2. RapidRide is minimum 15 minutes until 10pm every day, next-arrival displays and off-board payment at RapidRide stations (a few RapidRide “stops” don’t have these), 1/4 mile station spacing (legacy routes have closer spacing), and a street investment which may include BAT lanes and in-lane stops. The 255 doesn’t have any of these, and evening/weekend frequency is 20-30 minutes.

      3. It’s the highest-quality Metro service

        Says who? Prior to the pandemic, both the 41 and C were very similar buses. They were both express buses that served parts of the neighborhood before getting on the freeway and going downtown. They both ran very frequently during rush hour, and took advantage of HOV lanes on the freeway. In the middle of the day they had identical frequency (12 minutes). But at night the 41 was actually better than the C, running 15 minutes instead of 30. The C had off-board payment, but outbound from downtown, the 41 did too. At best it is a draw.

        Meanwhile, you had buses like the 67 and 70 that ran more frequently. During rush hour, riders would flock to the 15, and prefer that over the D. From Queen Anne to downtown, the D is just one of many buses that can get you there — none significantly different than any other. When SDOT finishes the work for the 40, it will be one of the most productive, highest quality routes in our system. It won’t matter if they decide to brand it Rapid-Ride. There is a Chinese proverb* — “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.” Likewise, it doesn’t matter what color a bus is, as long as it provides good service.

        The only unusual valuable thing that RapidRide has is off-board payment. This should be done system wide, or at least by region. The approach taken more recently (where we have off-board payment on Third Avenue, for all the buses) is effective. I could see that extending to other locations. Northgate Station would be an obvious one. I could also see all of Seattle go with off-board payment.

        In general I think we have to look at the RapidRide system as a mistake, or at best a transitional act that inspired better bus service. Folks on Aurora now know that Metro can deliver fast, frequent bus service along there. But the branding, and the idea behind it (“These are special buses, so much better than the pieces of crap you usually use”) is nonsense, and detrimental to the overall brand. It also limits flexibility. I’ve argued for a while now that the 40 and D should swap tails ( This can’t be done easily, because it would require more RapidRide buses (painted a different color). That’s nuts.

        My guess is a major motivation for RapidRide is federal money. While some projects (like Madison BRT, and the one in Tacoma) are definitely worthy, different and expensive — a lot of it is BS. It leads the agency to focus on improving a handful of routes — often not the most important ones — while ignoring a more holistic approach. The most effective bus projects in King County are the ones that effected lots of buses, not just a handful. Things like the bus tunnel and Third Avenue busway. Likewise, getting rid of the transit bottleneck around the Montlake Bridge (which we’ve been chipping away at for years) is better than any RapidRide project. I laud the plans for the 40 in part because it is a critical bus route, but also because it will help other buses (like the 31, 32 and 62). I’m sure the folks who ride the 3/4 could care less whether it becomes RapidRide — they just want it to be faster.

        It is easy to assume that Rapid Ride is special — that it really does deliver something much better than other bus routes, and that the routes were chosen because of their regional importance. That clearly isn’t the case.

      4. “Prior to the pandemic, both the 41 and C were very similar buses.”

        The C is guaranteed frequent, has next-arrival displays at most stations (which I care about),. and has off-board payment at most stations (which you care about). The 41’s frequency goes up and down like the 11’s does. It was half-hourly evenings until Seattle’s TBD made it frequent, and that’s a levy that expires every five years and the hours can be taken anytime for other routes.

        “you had buses like the 67 and 70 that ran more frequently. ”

        With the previous TBD’s supplement. Now that more frequency is gone.

        “During rush hour, riders would flock to the 15, and prefer that over the D.”

        It’s an express. Its peak travel time is what the D’s evening travel time is. And the D is full peak hours, so entire busloads couldn’t ride it anyway. The 15 functions as both a capacity surge and to compensate for rpeak oad congestion that increases the D’s travel time. If Metro didn’t have the 15, it would have to have more D runs. And it would have to order red buses for them, buses that would only be used peak hours.

      5. RapidRide is minimum 15 minutes until 10pm every day, next-arrival displays and off-board payment at RapidRide stations (a few RapidRide “stops” don’t have these), 1/4 mile station spacing (legacy routes have closer spacing), and a street investment which may include BAT lanes and in-lane stops. The 255 doesn’t have any of these, and evening/weekend frequency is 20-30 minutes.

        OK, let’s break that down:

        The frequency simply means it isn’t one of the worst. It doesn’t mean it is one of the best. There are plenty of numbered bus routes with better frequency than RapidRide buses.

        Next-arrival displays — This happens all over the place, for various buses. Not particularly special.

        Street investment which may include BAT lanes and in-lane stops — There have been plenty of street investment that have nothing to do with RapidRide. Not only on shared routes (like Third Avenue, or close to the Montlake Bridge) but improvements geared towards particular routes for the 8.

        Off-board payment — There are off-board sections that aren’t geared to RapidRide, but yes, if you are on a bus that has lots of off-board stations, then it is RapidRide.

        1/4 mile station spacing (legacy routes have closer spacing) — I think you are right. I think only the RapidRide buses have had stop diets (although I could be wrong).

        The few things that are special to RapidRide (off-board payment and better stop spacing) are things that should be implemented system wide, as other agencies have done.

        From a branding standpoint, “RapidRide” largely means it won’t operate like a coverage bus. It won’t run every half hour, or detours (except the F or course). It basically means that this won’t be one of the worst buses — it doesn’t mean it will be one the best.

      6. “When SDOT finishes the work for the 40, it will be one of the most productive, highest quality routes in our system. It won’t matter if they decide to brand it Rapid-Ride. There is a Chinese proverb* — “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.”

        The 40 will be sub-RapidRide. The whole reason its RapidRide upgrade was cancelled was to invest less in it because the money wasn’t there. The problem with sub-RapidRide routes is they don’t catch all mice,

        “In general I think we have to look at the RapidRide system as a mistake”

        RapidRide lines are the only ones guaranteed to have a minimum European level of local bus service. The only think like it King County has is Link, and maybe in the future Stride. The A, C, D, and E have persistently gotten major increases in ridership, moreso than most Metro routes. So people are voting with their feet.

        “getting rid of the transit bottleneck around the Montlake Bridge (which we’ve been chipping away at for years) is better than any RapidRide project.”

        What getting rid of the transit bottleneck? Is it rid yet? Will it be? In any case, a Montlake project doesn’t help me in Aurora or Ballard or Renton or Des Moines evenings when the 15, 358, 140, and 174 were all half-hourly.

        “I’m sure the folks who ride the 3/4 could care less whether it becomes RapidRide — they just want it to be faster.”

        The 3/4 is one of a half-dozen corridors that has been full-time frequent for decades because of Harborview. It won’t be upgraded to RapidRide because it doesn’t go very far, and RapidRide G will be a few blocks away. Some people on the 3/4 will probably switch to the G for better or faster service. The only way to speed up the 3/4 is to eliminate the James Street congestion or move the route to Yesler. Metro was going to move the route but then decided not to, and nobody has yet identified how the James Street congestion could be eliminated.

        “My guess is a major motivation for RapidRide is federal money…. getting rid of the transit bottleneck around the Montlake Bridge (which we’ve been chipping away at for years) is better than any RapidRide project. I laud the plans for the 40 in part because it is a critical bus route, but also because it will help other buses (like the 31, 32 and 62).

        RapidRide A-F came out of the Transit Now levy, which leveraged a federal grant. At the time the feds were funding enhanced bus routes, which is what RapidRide is. The grant required a distinct brand (name, buses, station design, fat line on the map). The distribution of routes was by subarea. Seattle got three lines because of its high density and ridership. They went to the three biggest districts that weren’t getting Link. And two lines for South King and one for East King. South King prioritized the 99 corridor and the airport for both the A and Link, so it has been consistent for decades. (While parts of Link are on I-5, it still serves 99 at four major points. The point is that it doesn’t serve the Southcenter-Kent-Auburn or Renton-Kent-Auburn corridors.) South King’s second priority was Burien to Renton — again for both the F and Link. East King’s highest priority was the highly-productive Bellevue-Overlake-Redmond corridor, where both the F, failed Forward Thrust, and future Link go. The suburbs got the first two lines in the spirit of 40/40/20. Some of all that was political and arbitrary, but the rough corridors were reasonably good choices anyone at the time would have chosen, even if they could have been somewhat better.

        The 40 is the most unusual situation because Ballard’s geography is a Y. One route can’t serve both 15th and 24th. From the beginning there were please to put the D on 24th to serve “real Ballard” and the tourist destinations. But Metro stuck to 15th because it’s a six-lane arterial, straight, and had the most development potential so they thought. Yet the needs of Real Ballard never went away, and eventually Metro conceded by creating the 40 and promising it would become RapidRide someday. So Metro backed into two RapidRide lines. And the 40 RapidRide would have happened if Kubly’s fanciful budgeting had been accurate and if we hadn’t had the covid recession. So the 40 is a unique case, and not like other non-RapidRide corridors.

      7. I can’t believe you don’t see it.

        “There are plenty of numbered bus routes with better frequency than RapidRide buses.”

        A half dozen at most is not “plenty”.

        “Next-arrival displays — This happens all over the place, for various buses.”

        RapidRide lines have them at 95% of their stops. Other routes have them for 0-10% of their route. the 40, for instance, doesn’t, except at large hubs like 3rd Avenue and Market Street. If you’re counting on non-RapidRide lines to get a lot of these this decade, you’ll probably be disappointed.

        “There have been plenty of street investment that have nothing to do with RapidRide.”

        Not on entire routes. Only in a few places that’s just a few percent of each route. The 23rd upgrade was partly in expectation of the 48 becoming RapidRide, and partly for non-transit reasons. The 40 and 44 upgrades were planned expecting them to become RapidRide.

        “1/4 mile station spacing (legacy routes have closer spacing) — I think you are right. I think only the RapidRide buses have had stop diets (although I could be wrong).”

        1/4 – 1/3 mile is Metro’s new standard, following international standards, and some other routes or segments have undergone stop diets, like the 8 in southwest Capitol Hill. But with RapidRide it’s done for the entire route at the time of its conversion. Other routes get it occasionally, sometimes for just part of the route. Some residential areas still have stops every two blocks, like NE 65th Street. In some cases it’s because they’re waiting for RapidRide conversion (like the 62 east of 15th NE) or a street renovation (like the 62 between Greenlake and 15th), or because they’re so low density that most of the stops are unused (like the 62 east of 15th).

        “The few things that are special to RapidRide (off-board payment and better stop spacing) are things that should be implemented system wide, as other agencies have done.”

        We’ve asked Metro to do that for years. RapidRide conversions are the only times it does it thoroughly for entire routes. The 40 and 44 are special cases because they’re getting some of the investment their RapidRide lines would have had.

        “From a branding standpoint, “RapidRide” largely means it won’t operate like a coverage bus.”

        The 5, 8, and 11 aren’t coverage routes either, but they’re not RapidRide so they don’t get the full level of service RapidRide lines do.

      8. With the previous TBD’s supplement. Now that more frequency is gone.

        So what? Are you saying RapidRide’s frequency is special only during an epidemic that causes a system service reduction? OK, fair enough. But during *normal times*, there were several numbered buses that were more frequent. Even now, the 7 and 36 *still* run every ten minutes in the middle of the day. That is better than the B, C or F. There is also no reason to assume that if things get really bad, Metro won’t reduce the frequency of RapidRide as well. Which gets me to another point:

        The C is guaranteed frequent

        No its not! There is nothing stopping Metro from running it every 15 minutes, like the B or F. They aren’t going to run the bus every half hour for the same reason Metro won’t run the 7, 36, 70, 120 and plenty of other buses every half hour. These are core routes — highly productive buses that form the backbone of our system. If you draw a Venn diagram of core routes and RapidRide routes you have a simple overlap, with three categories:

        1) Numbered buses that are core (7, 36, 40, 44, 70, etc.)
        2) RapidRide buses that are core (A, C, D, E)
        3) RapidRide buses that are not core (B, F).

        This same idea can be applied to frequency, although you would have different routes in each circle, and they change (maybe someday the B, C and F can join the 10 minute frequency club).

        [The 15] is an express

        It is *now*. It is an express only because Metro introduced a different route, and called it RapidRide. A lot of people would prefer the old 15, because the RapidRide is not special, and they have no interest in going to Uptown. That misses the point. If you are on Uptown, and can catch the 1, 2, 13 or D to downtown, you don’t care at all which bus arrives first. Your mainly happy that so many buses converge to give you really good frequency, instead of the barely tolerable frequency of the D.

      9. “The C is guaranteed frequent”

        “No its not! There is nothing stopping Metro from running it every 15 minutes, like the B or F.”

        The guarantee is a 15 minute minimum, so if it runs every 15 minutes until 10pm it meets the threshold. The guarantee is a guard against 20 or 30 minute service, like the 174, 226/253, 15, 54, 358, and 140 had before RapidRide A, B, C, D, E, and F. Or like the 5 has evenings and weekends, the 8 has evenings and Sundays, the 75 has evenings, the 106 has evenings, etc.

        “A lot of people would prefer the old 15, because the RapidRide is not special, and they have no interest in going to Uptown.”

        The old 15 local did go to Uptown.

      10. The 40 will be sub-RapidRide. The whole reason its RapidRide upgrade was cancelled was to invest less in it because the money wasn’t there. The problem with sub-RapidRide routes is they don’t catch all mice,

        Bullshit. It is clear by the data I’ve given that many of the routes are just as productive as RapidRide. It is also quite possible this will be better than if they just made it RapidRide. Imagine two scenarios:

        1) They decide to give the 40 the RapidRide treatment. They add off-board payment and kiosks for a bunch of stops. They add a few bus lanes, but like the E and Aurora, it isn’t comprehensive. Frequency remains the same, because it is already at RapidRide standards.

        2) SDOT decides to make major improvements on the roadway (which is highly likely). Metro or Seattle decides to invest in the 40, so that it runs every 10 minutes during the day (quite likely over time). The bus is rerouted to use 85th to get to Northgate, and then extended to Lake City (replacing the 20) like so: They add a few kiosks where the buses converge (in Fremont), and are thus most useful.

        I’m a big fan of off-board payment, and I like fancy bus stops as much as the next guy, but clearly the second option is much better. What matters most with the 40 is not off-board payment, but congestion. That is what matters with most buses. Eliminate congestion on the 44 and off-board payment is just a bonus.

        RapidRide lines are the only ones guaranteed to have a minimum European level of local bus service.

        So what??? Why is that a good thing? If things get tough, and Metro has to make major cutbacks, why is it good if buses like the 7 and 44 run every half hour, but the B and F are spared?

        This gets to the core of my argument. I’m not saying that RapidRide doesn’t have some good things. I’m saying that picking a handful of routes — somewhat arbitrarily — and giving them those things is not a great use of resources. It is great that there are kiosks on Aurora telling riders when the E will arrive. But it matters a lot more to the riders at Fremont, who may have to decide at the very last second whether to catch the 40 or 62 (southbound). Off-board payment is great, but it should be applied system wide, or at the very least by region (as with Third Avenue). All of these concepts — including managing frequency — should be applied system wide.

        At the core of the RapidRide concept is branding. It is the idea that this bus is special, and not like the other buses. In some ways that is true (the bus will have a lot more off-board payment readers). In other ways (like frequency) it clearly isn’t. But more than anything, we just don’t get anything out of the branding. No one cares what color the bus is.

      11. “From a branding standpoint, “RapidRide” largely means it won’t operate like a coverage bus.”

        The 5, 8, and 11 aren’t coverage routes either, but they’re not RapidRide so they don’t get the full level of service RapidRide lines do.

        You are missing the point. From a frequency standpoint, “RapidRide” does not mean “This bus is really frequent, like the 7”, it only means “This bus is not really infrequent, like the 13”. It doesn’t mean it is one of the best, it only means it is not one of the worst.

        “getting rid of the transit bottleneck around the Montlake Bridge (which we’ve been chipping away at for years) is better than any RapidRide project.”

        What getting rid of the transit bottleneck? Is it rid yet? Will it be?

        Come on dude, you and I both know that the 520 bridge work is not done. But there are bus-only lanes approaching the bridge from the north, as well as from the south. This will improve travel for every bus headed to the UW from 520, as well as the 48. It may not be perfect — buses may encounter some congestion — but you can say that about every single RapidRide line as well.

        Or consider the D. The most important improvement for that corridor is the set of bus lanes on the (now disabled) bridge. That makes travel on *every* bus on the bridge faster. I’m sure if you listed the top capital improvements for buses in King County, you get way down the list before you get to one that can only be used by a RapidRide bus. It is great that the E runs fast on SR 99 — but it is lot more important that a lot of buses run fast through downtown.

        The only way to speed up the 3/4 is to eliminate the James Street congestion … nobody has yet identified how the James Street congestion could be eliminated.

        Exactly. Maybe that’s because it isn’t a RapidRide candidate. You can just imagine the conversation:

        “Hey, the 3/4 always gets bogged down on James. Let’s do a study to see if we can make it faster — maybe add some BAT lanes.”

        “Can’t. It isn’t RapidRide”

        I’m not saying it went down that way, but if it did it is an example of another flaw within the RapidRide system. We single out particular routes, not segments (which is the worst flaw). Then we pick routes somewhat arbitrarily. We don’t pick out the routes that could lead to the biggest increase in ridership, nor do we even pick out the routes that are already the most productive. The routes that become RapidRide are better than average, but they clearly aren’t the best, by any measure.

        You keep arguing that riding on a RapidRide bus is great. Sure it is. But riding on several regular Metro buses is as well. But let’s just assume you are right, and RapidRide does give riders a superior experience. Fine. But that doesn’t mean it was the best way to spend the money. A route-centric approach is flawed, and they didn’t even pick the best routes!

        Imagine instead, if they simply had a system wide capital fund. This would include money for traffic studies, street improvements, kiosks, off-board payment stations, and stop spacing. Much of this work would focus on segments, not individual routes. For kiosks, for example, there would be a bunch at various locations where routes combine, and you have lots of riders making last second decisions, instead of places like 80th and Aurora, where there is only one bus. Likewise the studies and street improvements would probably focus on the areas that are likely to provide the most benefit (typically spots where you have more than one bus). It is possible we never get around to off-board payment, although there would certainly be discussions amongst the group as to how best implement that (system wide). You would be able to balance spending on that versus spending on street improvements (at some point off-board payment becomes more cost effective).

        Meanwhile, frequency would be like it is with most routes. No handful of routes would be designated as ones always above a certain threshold, but Metro would have the good sense not to cripple the numeric equivalent of the E any more than they would the 7. There would be no special brand of buses. Overall, I think it would be a much better way to spend the money.

        The only argument for the current system is political — the branding makes it easier to get federal funding. If so, it is just another example of the messed up federal system. A package of several improvements to various areas should be eligible for federal funds just as much as a new, special route with a different colored bus.

      12. I agree with RossB here. Metro RR is all about branding and getting FTA funding. For the purpose of reporting operating expenses, fares and ridership levels to the fed’s NTD, KC Metro doesn’t even segregate the data for its RR routes. It breaks out the info for its trolleybus routes, as well as the distinction of which routes are directly operated (DO)and which utilize purchased transportation (PT) to operate, per the guidelines in the NTB Policy Manual. But the RR data is not reported in any special way, i.e., it rightfully is not reported under the BRT mode. Community Transit’s Swift service is comparable in this respect.

        Here’s a link to the report for Oct 2021. KC Metro data is right at the top of the spreadsheet.

        (For those not familiar with the reporting format, here’s a handy cheat sheet for the mode abbreviations:

        Rail Modes-
        Alaska Railroad (AR)
        Cable Car (CC)
        Commuter Rail (CR)
        Heavy Rail (HR)
        Hybrid Rail (YR)
        Inclined Plane (IP)
        Light Rail (LR) Monorail/Automated Guideway (MG)
        Streetcar Rail (SR)

        Non-rail Modes-
        Aerial Tramway (TR) Commuter Bus (CB)
        Bus (MB)
        Bus Rapid Transit (RB) Demand Response (DR) Demand Response–Taxi (DT) Ferryboat (FB)
        Jitney (JT)
        Público (PB)
        Trolleybus (TB)
        Vanpool (VP) )

        Following up on the “Chinese proverb” reference, I believe this is a western interpretation of Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping’s appropriation of the (Sichuan) proverb back in the 60s. I think Deng actually said yellow cat but I need to confirm that with my mother-in-law as Deng spoke with a heavy Sichuan dialect accent. I think RossB meant to include a link for this reference in his comment above, hence the (*), but inadvertently left it off.

        Nevertheless, the point he is making here is absolutely sound: RapidRide is principally about branding and securing federal funding for acquiring some new transit assets. As such, it is certainly fair to question the entire scheme’s premise.

      13. “RapidRide lines are the only ones guaranteed to have a minimum European level of local bus service.”

        “So what??? Why is that a good thing? … I’m saying that picking a handful of routes — somewhat arbitrarily — and giving them those things is not a great use of resources.”

        It ensures that that entire quarters of the city and major parts of the suburbs have at least one high-quality way to get there — Ballard, Aurora, West Seattle, and eastern Bellevue. That’s important because three out of four of them won’t have Link for almost twenty years, and people have to get there in the meantime and need to be able to live there with good mobility to get to the rest of the region.

        The F is harder to justify but it’s an anomaly among RapidRide lines. And it’s bogged down by the decision to put Sounder and Boeing Commercial on it instead of having a direct path between Renton and Southcenter. West of Southcenter it’s good. Between Southcenter and Renton TC it’s challenged.

        The color of the bus doesn’t matter, and off-board payment isn’t as important when two-thirds of the stops get only one or two people at a time. But minimum frequency, street improvements for the entire route, next-arrival displays, and full stop diets are important. That’s what makes RapidRide worth it even if the buses look funny and the stop benches aren’t as long or comfortable as at regular stops. If I had my way I’d lower the investment on the bus brand. But 80% of a good thing is better than none.

        You’re looking at Metro’s and northwest transit’s future and saying, oh well, it’s not that important after all. It is important. Not the bus color, but the other things.

      14. @Tlsgwm

        Correct, I did mean to have a footnote for that. The quote is often credited to Deng Xiaoping, as you mentioned. He did use the line in a speech outlining the market reforms (that changed China and the world). But according to Wikipedia, it actually comes from a Sichuan proverb. That is why I used that, instead of just crediting Deng. (scroll down until you see the section for Deng Xiaoping).

      15. It ensures that that entire quarters of the city and major parts of the suburbs have at least one high-quality way to get there

        This is same flawed thinking that drives a lot of the Link decisions. It treats stops like they are community centers — as long as each region gets one, it is OK. That’s not how transit works. If a bus is a mile away from me, it doesn’t matter how frequent it is.

        That is why you never see Jarrett Walker talk about this. He mentions ridership and coverage, different types of networks, stop spacing, line spacing, and various other trade-offs. But you will never see someone saying that it is essential (or even a priority) that each broad area (well outside the walking distance for most people) have a frequent bus route. Quite the opposite. It is common to see areas like Ballard, where you have two parallel routes not to far apart with frequent service, while other areas (like Magnolia) lack a single frequent route.

        Even if the goal was to build a regional network of higher frequency buses, it is clear that it has failed miserably in that respect. There is nothing in the entire Central Area, despite the fact that it accounts for a very high number of riders within our system. Not the 8, 48, 3/4 — nothing. There is nothing in Lake City, either. Nor Magnolia. I’m not saying there should be a high frequency core route in Magnolia, but if you are trying to build frequent transit for each region based on physical size, it is as worthy as much of what they’ve built.

        It is just a silly concept, and you never see planners think this way, either in good times or bad. I’ve seen a lot of restructures, and I’ve talked to the people who actually do them, and not once has anyone valued this idea while planning, either in good times or bad.

        RapidRide is not like light rail, where buses go out of their way to serve a station and the transfer is more than made up for by the speed and/or frequency difference. If I’m in Greenwood and want to go downtown, I’m taking the 5. I’m not taking a bus over to the D or E, just because it is marginally faster or marginally more frequent. Those aren’t BRT.

        RapidRide G will be. The buses will run every 6 minutes, all day long. It will be much faster than other buses, and a lot more frequent than everything in the area but the 3/4. It will alter the network, the same way that Link alters the network in various neighborhoods. It is basically a 43-killer. If I live in Montlake right now, I really miss the 43. It wasn’t super frequent, but it did get me downtown fairly quickly. Now I take the 48, followed by a transfer, and the options aren’t great. I can take the 2 or 11, which only ran every 15 minutes before the pandemic. I can ride the bus all the way down to Garfield, and then take the 3/4, which is a lot more frequent, but often gets bogged down. Once Madison BRT is finished, I’ll take the G and be downtown faster than if I had waited for the 43 (back in its heyday). Even if Metro sends the 11 downtown via the 43 pathway, and runs it at RapidRide frequency (15 minutes) and gives it RapidRide treatment (a stop diet, a few BAT lanes here and there) I’m staying on the bus until I can transfer to the G. In all likelihood they won’t send the 11 downtown, but will have it take over the 8. This means Madison Park riders will have to transfer to get downtown. But instead of transferring to a typical RapidRide bus (running every 15 minutes) or making the time consuming deep bore in/out of Link (for a short journey) the riders will transfer to a fast bus running every six minutes, all day long (more frequent than Link currently runs, and only a minute worse than future headways along that section). That really is BRT.

        The RapidRide concept ties the hands of Metro with every restructure. When times are good, the frequency of RapidRide is ignored, as other buses run more often. When times are bad, the pain is concentrated onto non-RapidRide buses, even if they are more worthy. All the while the branding means little to people, and limits the ability of Metro to restructure.

        This sort of approach really doesn’t make sense for our region. You can make a much bigger case for it in other areas. In Pierce County for example, the 1 accounted for close to 20% of all ridership. Giving that bus extra frequency, extra capital improvements, special branding, and the only off-board payment in the county is quite reasonable. We just don’t have that system. Our routes are less stratified, and the RapidRide routes (despite a disproportionate amount of funding) don’t dominate. Even if the RapidRide system was set up better we would always have a lot of edge cases, spines, splits and reverse splits, and combined routes that act like splits (e. g. the 65 and 75 from Lake City to Children’s Hospital). A more holistic approach to improving the overall network makes a lot more sense.

        The best case you can make for RapidRide is that it allowed the feds to help chip in for bus improvements. This is a really strong argument, but demonstrates a big flaw with the way federal funding works.

      16. Walker absolutely talks about this tradeoff. Spreading around ‘good’ transit to various communities is one way to do coverage. It’s right there in his summary: “Providing a sense of political equity, by providing service to every municipality or electoral district.” He does say coverage is “providing crappy service to every municipality or district”

        In the ridership vs coverage tradeoff paradigm, coverage routes aren’t not necessarily low frequency or low ridership routes. Choosing to fund medium quality routes in certain neighborhoods over investing in high quality routes in other neighborhoods is something Jarrett Walker would absolutely support, as long as that was the decision the overall community made in a transparent, informed, and thoughtful manner.

        The RapidRide construct is about providing “better transit.” It has never been solely focused on more ridership. That fact that Ross equivocates between good transit and high ridership is simply a reflection of his values. Each suburban RapidRide line costs ~$100MM in capital. None of that $100MM goes towards actually running buses, but goes towards other improvements to transit (ROW improvements, station access, station wayfinding, etc.) that people find valuable. There’s more to cats than catching mice.

      17. “Those aren’t BRT….
        RapidRide G will be.”

        When the time comes, it will be interesting to see if KC Metro does indeed report their data to the NTD under the BRT mode for this line.

      18. “The RapidRide construct is about providing “better transit.” It has never been solely focused on more ridership. That fact that Ross equivocates between good transit and high ridership is simply a reflection of his values. Each suburban RapidRide line costs ~$100MM in capital. None of that $100MM goes towards actually running buses, but goes towards other improvements to transit (ROW improvements, station access, station wayfinding, etc.) that people find valuable. There’s more to cats than catching mice.”

        At some point it has to be about “more ridership”, ideally the first point. That is economics, not values. Unless funding and farebox recovery are irrelevant. If Link had been sold on the basis let’s spend over $100 billion to provide better transit to the same number of overall transit riders I doubt it would have passed, or even received legislative approval (and unfortunately it looks like that might be the case). A lot of folks have taken the bait about “induced demand”, and so far I don’t see it. Build a baseball field in a rural corn field and it turns out they won’t come.

        Yes, you can spend $100 million just on the infrastructure for suburban RapidRide, but you still need to show that it will result in more riders because the operation costs are high too. I just don’t buy the notion that you can go to an area that has very low transit ridership, and transit phobia, and induced demand will work, especially if it is still a bus (unless of course money is not an issue). If ridership is low on regular buses, or near zero, it will be low with RapidRide, because those folks have obviously found alternative transportation modes, and still need to get to RR.

        My concern is “coverage” is more of an urbanist/transit advocate’s goal and forgets the number one goal of publicly subsidized transit is to provide transportation to those who can’t afford other modes. Those are the folks who need more transit investment, and you can identify them if they are riding crummy and slow regular buses in large numbers, especially during a pandemic. Providing coverage transit to or within Mercer Island makes little sense to me.

        I agree with those who think the peak commuter has corrupted that goal, and we have spent way too much providing “better” transit to that crowd (in large part to sell levies), definitely with Link, because that crowd is the most fickle, and the pandemic proves that.

        You could make the 550 and 554 RapidRide (and the 550 was close to RapidRide when it accessed the center roadway, and ridership today would be the same: tiny. Before the pandemic ridership on the 550 declined 550 which proves how fickle this rider is.

        Spending so much on something like RapidRide to or in a community that is always looking for a way to not take transit is a big risk (i.e. East Link, which originally was all about cross lake travel). You are betting hundreds of millions of dollars you can move them from a car to a bus because you may prefer a bus when the transit ridership on non RR does not support that. They have different lives.

        The flaw in RapidRide or Link Ross points out is you have to get to it. That means a transfer and a bus (unless you can access a park and ride next to Link or live next to Link which basically is I-5 for much of Link). People want to feel like they have started their trip right away, and any kind of feeder bus and transfer does not do that. If there is extreme peak congestion, and the trip is long to a core urban area with expensive parking, then Link becomes an option in part because it is a different mode than the feeder bus. But that situation is pretty rare today, and who knows tomorrow.

        If any RapidRide will be interesting it will be along 405 from Renton to Bellevue, which is much more economical than Link.

        First how many office type workers make that commute during peak times? Second how will they get to RapidRide (when the park and ride is by far the favored first/last mile access in this area and the density does not support a lot of walk up ridership). Third RR is based on the extreme congestion on 405 WSDOT claims it will alleviate with its redesign, and is much less during the pandemic. RR is basically an add on to the increased lanes and HOT lanes.

        This RR would appear to have some of the necessary things going for it to succeed on paper (pre-pandemic): congested freeway, a terminal in a major urban center. But going against it are the demographics and how many can arrive in downtown Bellevue without a car or truck, first/last mile access to RR, and the general antipathy towards transit that is magnified during the pandemic.

        This RR needs a 405 that is gridlock and a white-collar work force or the $100+ million will have been wasted, although is a lower cost substitute for Link, which IMO means at least the subarea is wasting less money on this RR.

        Maybe RR from Issaquah to S. Kirkland would waste less money, because it is the same paradigm for this Link line: the regular bus traffic along this route is very small and would not support a RR, and yet let’s just skip to Link because the subarea has to spend the money someplace, and Link will induce a demand that does not exist today better than RR.

        I can understand why disadvantaged communities think our transit policies and priorities are skewed. These folks need to move from walking to transit. Provide “better” transit to the folks who must ride transit, and then if some money is left over look at expanding coverage to areas that have and prefer other modes of transportation to see if you can actually move folks who will move from cars to transit.

      19. It’s interesting to read the RapidRide discussion but I don’t see Metro rethinking the lines in the program any time soon. They have a backlog of routes that they already want upgraded.

        I will say that as long as there is sufficient ridership to justify a reasonable frequency, the most important benefit to the cost is speeding up the buses. Specifically, ridership is at most 30-40% of cost recovery on a productive line, so increasing ridership by 20% means only 6-8% more revenue. On the other hand, reducing travel time by 20% means that bus operations save 20% or the frequency can be raised by 20% with the same number of buses in service at a given time.

        So, let’s not forget the huge improvement in bus round trip times as well as less rider time to go the same distance. The travel time savings is a much bigger payoff — and attracting more riders is icing on this bigger piece of cake.

      20. This is not just some coverage district. Ballard is Seattle’s fourth-largest urban village. It needs to have guaranteed 15 minute service 16 hours a day. Having one high-quality route to Ballard or eastern Bellevue means you can walk from 15th Ave NW or Crossroads rather than from Aurora or downtown Bellevue if no close bus is coming in a reasonable time. The CD has no urban villages; it has a moderately high residential density but no large cluster of businesses.

        If Metro guarantees all Frequent routes will have RapidRide’s minimum frequent span — as I thought Frequent meant at first — that would lessen the need for more RapidRide conversions.

      21. Metro has a backlog of RapidRide candidates, and they’re in the right places for the most part. It’s obvious that Kent East Hill and downtown Kent need a guaranteed-frequent route to Link. So does Auburn to Link. The 270 from Bellevue to UW makes sense. The K fills in Kirkland-Bellevue service which has long been below other Eastside corridors. I’m less convinced about the 62, 249, and 372. But if Metro builds all the RapidRide corridors it has identified, it would be a good thing. If it gives them all the RapidRide features I like and guarantees them, but doesn’t give them red buses with different interiors and less-comfortable stations, that would be a good thing too.

        The cities need to step up too. Seattle stepped up with the TBD and the capital measure (Move Seattle?), but other cities are waiting for somebody else to pay for it. There’s nothing stopping Bellevue or Kent from accelerating their RapidRide lines or general transit-priority lane improvement.

      22. “If Metro guarantees all Frequent routes will have RapidRide’s minimum frequent span — as I thought Frequent meant at first — that would lessen the need for more RapidRide conversions.”

        I think that’s the right way to think about it. On one hand, there is investing O&M in frequency. KCM has a great network of ‘frequent’ routes in its planning document, it just needs the funds to give those routes all day frequent routes. On the other hand, there is investing capital dollars in RapidRide, which is a frequent route plus other nice things. Some routes, particularly in the suburbs, would really benefit from RapidRide upgrades to improve wayfinding, visibility, station quality (lighting, shelter, etc.), and station access (sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.). Other routes, like the 40 or 7, really just need better frequency and some ROW improvements for speed/reliability.

        Since RapidRide is about capital dollars, it’s much easier to fund via a 3rd party, whether that’s a Federal grant, a local city, or an agency like WSDOT or ST.

      23. Daniel, there will be no RapidRide “along 405”. STRide will be running there, and it will be a cross between an express bus from Bellevue to Renton and the Golden Gate Transit buses on 101 through Marin County. The stop at Coal Creek Parkway will be like the Lucky Drive bus pad. Change there to go from anywhere to anywhere.

      24. “If any RapidRide will be interesting it will be along 405 from Renton to Bellevue”

        Stride will be unlike any existing transit in Pugetopolis. It will be frequent, limited-stop, on a freeway, with in-line stations.

        Stride S1 (Burien-Bellevue) and S2 (Bellevue-Lynnwood): Frequent, limited-stop, on freeways, with in-line stations. These are like expresses.

        Stride S3 (Shoreline-UW Bothell): Similar but on an arterial.

        Swift (Snohomish County): Like Stride S3.

        ST Express: Usually not frequent, with no special stations.

        RapidRide: Frequent, full-stop, on arterials, with in-line stations. These are enhanced local routes.

        “This RR [Stride S1] needs a 405 that is gridlock and a white-collar work force”

        Or a blue-collar work force with essential workers. Renton, Burien, and Tukwila have a lot of those. But even if it doesn’t have those, an Eastside of 300K in a metro of 4.5m needs frequent express transit between all its larger cities so that people can get around reasonably without a car. That’s minimum transit service for an industrialized country. Stride is an alternative to Link for lower-density areas. Issaquah-Kirkland Stride would have been better than Link, but Issaquah had clout and insisted on rail.

  6. Recently the superior court ruled in ST’s favor in its motion for summary judgement on the bus intercept, at least as to the issue of drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way.

    In another post I may repost comments I have posted in other forums about the flaws in MI’s legal strategy, and the court’s ruling, which will probably be appealed.

    But the real irony is the litigation has nothing to do with a bus intercept anymore, or the optimal bus intercept configuration that Metro demanded based on ST’s pre-pandemic ridership estimates on East Link cross-lake (20 articulated buses per peak hour) even though that appears to be the basis of the judge’s order. Now, based on the restructure, MI will only handle a few peak hour buses from North Bend and Issaquah (but not the 554).

    In fact, Metro has informally indicated to MI one of these routes that truncate on MI may be rerouted to S. Bellevue (while ST spent millions on buying residential houses and building a roundabout on MI and a station with two entrances), and Islanders are beginning to think any transit trip east will probably be better by taking East Link to S. Bellevue and then a bus from there if necessary. The concern for Metro is ridership on these buses to MI may be too low to provide any kind of decent peak frequency. My guess is Issaquah commuters to Seattle — certainly SLU or First Hill — will want one seat express buses, which is just beginning to dawn on Issaquah.

    All this litigation has boiled down to is Metro’s desire to use the north side of N. Mercer Way for bus layovers even though the other terminals are park and rides.

    The light rail station entrances are on the south side of N. Mercer Way, the busiest arterial on MI. The bus stop going eastbound is on the south side right next to the 80th station entrance/exit.

    In the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement ST and MI agreed to prohibit drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way (before ST announced it would end all buses across the bridge span and MI was designated a “bus intercept”) for a very good reason: because it requires every passenger to disembark the bus and then cross N. Mercer Way in a rush to catch a train that can run no more frequently than every 8 minutes, across the busiest street on MI.

    Even Metro’s traffic engineers (who were much more honest than ST’s) stated this was not an ideal intercept, especially with the heavy traffic on N. Mercer Way due to the loss of SOV access on Island Crest Way west bound on I-90, and these bus passengers will be darting out from behind the back of parked articulated buses to cross N. Mercer Way to catch a train, next to the entrance to the park and ride, a very busy intersection.

    But Metro now realizes it must drop off passengers on the N. side of N. Mercer Way if it wants to layover buses because the passengers must disembark on the north side before the drivers take their very generous 20-minute break.

    The error MI made IMO is it relied solely on the language in the settlement agreement to support its position, whereas ST and the judge — in a rambling and mostly incoherent oral decision that did not reference a single piece of evidence although 28 declarations were submitted as part of the ST motion — approached the issue more like siting an essential public facility under SEPA. Ironically, Metro has been much more realistic in the eastside restructure and the bus intercept than ST, probably because its budget is pretty thin to serve a huge and undense area.

    The real issue is whether it makes sense to layover buses along the north side of NMW that block the view of drivers that will require every passenger to disembark and cross N. Mercer Way at 80th at the back of the bus in a rush to catch a train on the busiest arterial on MI? If there is a tragic collision in which a passenger crossing N. Mercer Way is badly injured or killed this balancing will become more acute.

    But again the reality is transit follows society, it does not lead. Even though the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line will eliminate the bus intercept (in 2044 now), the reasons for that line are the same today as in 2044: folks from Issaquah want to get to Bellevue, or East Link going east.

    No one wanted to come to Mercer Island on a bus to transfer to a train before the pandemic, and no one will want to come after. Would Metro have designed an intercept on MI if ST had not designed one, originally just to meet ST’s inflated ridership estimates by eliminating buses across the bridge span and counting there. No, Metro would run everything through S. Bellevue which accesses East Link east and East Link west (the original design).

    Other factors being discussed are whether Metro’s electrification will require an off-Island charging station to layover, and whether these routes along I-90 with a fixed route will be ideal routes for driverless technology so layovers are a thing of the past.

    And of course, Bellevue’s changing view on the intercept, and routing more eastside workers (especially from Issaquah and N. Bend/Sammamish) to downtown Bellevue rather than Seattle. East Link was always designed in the minds of eastsiders to benefit the eastside, and that now looks like funneling ridership to Bellevue and not Seattle. Mercer Island will remain a sleepy little suburban town no one who does not live on MI wants to get off a train or bus to visit.

    I would not be surprised if Metro announces at least one of the peak feeder buses scheduled to access MI is shifted to S. Bellevue (maybe to avoid Issaquah demanding express buses to Seattle), and at that point there is probably little point to continue the litigation. It just turned-out MI was not a good place for an intense bus intercept, and the pandemic has shifted work and travel patterns. MI might be an intercept, except there won’t be any buses, probably many fewer than pre-East Link.

      1. Thanks for the update on the litigation. I’m reading the transcript of the oral decision as we speak.

  7. Although the judge did not think highly of the briefing by MI’s lawyers, MI approached the issue from the point of view that the agreement’s prohibition on drop offs on the north side of NMW was not subject to the agreement’s other provision stating MI would not “unreasonably” withhold permitting approval for Metro’s needs, and the fact Metro was not a party to the agreement was irrelevant since Metro’s needs could not impact the prohibition on drop offs on the north side of NMW.

    I think that was a mistake. The court looked at it more like a balancing, although the court’s understanding of East Link and the intercept’s intensity was out of date. Metro is now anticipating an intercept intensity closer to the limited configuration, or 12 buses per peak hour (if that post-pandemic), rather than the optimal configuration which is 20 buses per peak hour and would have required drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way and pickups on the south side to handle the volume of buses.

    Over and over I suggested MI’s outside lawyers — who charged a fortune but apparently never took a single deposition — follow this blog because the case is much more about transit than the law or contracts, but it doesn’t look like they did.

    I don’t think summary judgement was appropriate, but at the same time the city did not do a good job of outlining the factual issues for trial, if as the city argued this was simply a legal contracts question. No matter what the intensity of the configuration, dropping passengers off on the north side of NMW is unsafe, Metro’s experts said it was unsafe, and the reason today is for bus layovers, not to meet the volume of cross lake riders ST estimated.

    You may also miss in the order that the declarations submitted by the city do not include the city manager at the time, city attorney at the time, and both mayors (one of which signed off on the SEPA permits in 2016 without a written agreement for mitigation with ST and didn’t tell anyone until they vested) during the post agreement period from Nov. 2017 until March 2019 when Metro presented its configuration request to the council, and if you read ST’s motion ST spends a lot of time claiming the former manager/attorney/mayors orally agreed in the 2017 settlement agreement to the optimal configuration sub rosa because they knew the agreement would be very unpopular with the citizens anyway, and worked afterwards to implement the optimal configuration without disclosing that to the citizens.

    Behind the scenes the real power brokers are Bellevue, Metro and Issaquah/Sammamish/North Bend. Metro has been much more reasonable than ST because Metro (who is not a party to the action) actually understands the difficulties of providing transit and is beginning to wonder why there is an intercept on MI that drops passengers off on the wrong side of the road, and now knows ST’s ridership estimates were inflated to sell a levy, and the pandemic has changed everything. Bellevue has decided all work/commuter transit should run through Bellevue and S. Bellevue — especially from Issaquah and that feeder area — and Issaquah is waking up to the fact its commuters to Seattle will want a one seat express bus like Lake City got, if there are commuters to Seattle.

    It turns out no one really wants to go to Mercer Island, especially on a bus after driving to a park and ride to a catch a train to Seattle that doesn’t serve the biggest employment centers, SLU and First Hill. Even funnier is the original offer to Mercer Island was ST would build a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland that would eliminate the need for an intercept on MI, except very few will ever take that train, just like very few will take a bus to MI to catch a train.

    It is always very hard to litigate against an opponent like ST that uses your own tax money to litigate against you, is a bully but can hire the best lawyers, and ST is a bully, except ST lied about project costs and revenue that has caught up with ST which killed any ST 4, and ST is no match for a pandemic going into its third year. If you want to feel sympathy for anyone in this litigation, feel sympathy for Metro whose partner ST is a sociopath, and who is subject to the changing minds of Bellevue and Issaquah. The MI council had to litigate because the citizens demanded it, so with the restructure even if MI loses the litigation the council wins.

    1. So many words about a station-area controversy that only 5% of East Link riders care about, and an even smaller percent of the East/North subarea taxpayers.

      “It turns out no one really wants to go to Mercer Island”

      Well, maybe Mercer Island should focus on marketing its downtown businesses and amenities so that people do come. And if that turnaround turns out to be unneeded, maybe the land could be converted to housing someday.

  8. With all the (often legitimate) criticisms of Metro, it’s worth keeping in mind what Metro has done right with its operations, especially over the last couple years. Sound Transit cut its flagship route (Link) to 30 minute headways during COVID, while Metro preserved frequency and even boosted it where needed. In the last couple days, when Metro preserved frequency on its ESN (including RR routes), Community Transit cut headways to 40 minutes on its flagship Swift lines yesterday, and only managed to boost headways on the Blue line to 20 minutes today. Pierce Transit in the last couple months has slashed service due to operator shortages (I wonder if those famously low wages are a problem?), and has lost its two routes (routes 1 & 2) that had better than 30 minute weekday headways.

    There’s certainly places for improvement, but even in our immediate region there’s agencies that unfortunately have not been able to provide Metro’s level of service. I’m not quite sure what to expect over the coming decades with these changes, but I’d rather see what Metro can do than any other agency.

    1. I was thinking about writing an end-of-year article about this, but then so many other things intervened and put it out of my mind. I was going to say that we’ve come pretty far in ten years — since 2011. Further than the fiftty years before that, and further than I would have expected in 2011.

      In 2011 Link was just the initial segment from Westlake to SeaTac. RapidRide C, D, and E and their restructures didn’t exist. Seattle’s TBD didn’t exist. Most Seattle Metro routes were still in their 1970s alignments. The biggest thing before Link’s initial segment was the DSTT in 1990 and its restructure. Most routes were still 30 minute evenings, including the 5, 10, 15, 41, 49, 54, 67, and 358. It was harder to get to several neighborhoods and cities.

  9. I guess this is “on topic”. I just got my email announcing the comment period for WSBLE’s EIS. It looks like the preferred alternative is now along Fourth Avenue with New Westlake south of the existing platforms.

    That may be a recognition that the station boxes wouldn’t fit in the Fifth Avenue footprint.

    That means no underground passage under the freeway at Midtown and more hill climbing for workers along Fifth.

    Also, they like the alignment along Interbay Yard, but they’re still saying elevated. That’s a missed opportunity for some real savings. Sadly they’re going for the StupidStation at Pier 91.

    No mention of a possible left turn to a surface station in Real Ballard.

    There is still no “Preferred Alternative” between Midtown and Stadium. I thought they had to have one.

    West Seattle is a confusing mess.

    1. Tom, I thought ST announced a week ago that they will publish the DEIS and proposed alignment at the board meeting on Jan 28 and start the 90 day public review process. What’s currently published online ( are just the alignments currently under consideration. Or did you get another link?

      1. Can you share the content of the email, Tom? Did it refer to some new website besides the one I mentioned?

      2. I did’t read the whole thing, just the attached map with circles for stations instead of details. I thought maybe that they had run into some problems with Fifth and were switching to Fourth because it’s a lane wider.

        Not so as the website shows clearly.

    2. “Elevated 14th Avenue Alternative (preferred alternative): The Ballard Station would be on the east side of 14th Avenue Northwest”

      I’m trying not to choke. The east side of 14th? Even though 14th is three blocks east of 15th and even further east of 17th and Ballard Ave? Well, that’s an expected bad move. Maybe I should brush up on some West Woodland jokes.

      “Tunnel 15th Avenue Station Option (preferred alternative with third-party funding)”

      Now we’re talking. Are there any third parties? Paul Allen is dead; Jeff Bezos might supplement the Denny/SLU/Uptown area but less likely Ballard. And Seattle probably doesn’t have that kind of money.

      “It looks like the preferred alternative is now along Fourth Avenue with New Westlake south of the existing platforms.”

      Downtown is clearly on 5th (preferred) and 6th (alternative) on the map. 4th is only Intl Dist Station. That may be higher cost than 5th; we’ll have to confirm that. It’s definitely a longer walk to the neighborhood it’s named after. None of them are preferred yet, so it’s not clear that ST is preferring fourth. These are just all the alternatives from the previous phase. The deep alternatives on 4th and 5th are more expensive than the shallow alternatives, with no additional benefit for passengers, so they should be axed.

      Is there a way for trains to cross to the other tunnel? There doesn’t appear to be. That’s important, both for resiliency in case one of the tunnels is closed, and for flexibility if we later want to reroute trains or expand the system. If DSTT2 doesn’t get a second line eventually, it will forever be underused, especially if trains are permanently limited to 6 minutes on MLK.

      I don’t understand the alternatives south of Intl Dist as well as the north half, so I have no opinion there.

      Maybe I should be bothered that 41st is two blocks away from California Avenue SW. But two blocks is wonderful compared to the ten blocks in Ballard or three blocks in Columbia City. And Fauntleroy Way is just two blocks away on the other side, and I think the village triangle spans both sides of a 41st station.

      1. Mike, I don’t think what you say about Fifth and Sixth is true. All of the “Sixth” options formerly began (northbound) on Fifth with Midtown at Fifth and Madison or thereabouts. The Sixth portion began north of there, presumably to allow a station north of Westlake.

        The map in the announcement shows a straight line south of New Westlake all the way to the curve about Jefferson. If that is Sixth then Midtown would be right at Spring and the freeway; the circle is north of what is obviously Madison. I guess that’s kind of good because there isn’t much of a hill up Spring so folks could walk to First Hill fairly readily. Another big building could be built just southeast of the freeway in its walkshed, but west of the freeway it’s a huge bust. There isn’t much around Sixth and Spring: a courthouse and the Womens’ University Club — on the National Register so no take downs allowed.

        And yes, the red line reaches Midtown. If that’s the preferred alternative to the north, then both of the lines into the red Midtown circle from the south ought to be red as far as New IDS; if the preferred alternative is built one or the other must be built in that stretch. They do that at the end of West Seattle with two “preferred” options, one at Alaska and Fauntleroy and one between 41st and 42nd just south of Alaska.

      2. Mike, OK, you’re right. I followed the link that Martin shared and can see in the blown up PDF that the pink line is on Fifth and the alternative on Sixth. Please, God, do not let them choose Sixth or if they do choose Sixth for New Westlake that the jog over is north of Midtown at Fifth.

        I recognize that is no longer an “alternative”, but it should be. There are actually more large buildings between Fifth and Sixth south of Marion than north of Madison, so making the job would actually be easier to the north.

        The station locations north of Denny through “SLU” and LQA are much better in the Alternative.

      3. I was going to ask if there are any good things about the 6th alternative. In my mind, no, because the core of downtown and most transfers are west of 6th, and 6th is also further from the library. The library didn’t get a station with the DSTT or the 1 Line, so we shouldn’t make that mistake again. 6th Avenue might be better for walking to First Hill, but it’s still up a steep hill. And ST has shown no interest in the concept of an underground escalator to First Hill. There will be RapidRide G, which is something. Oh, are both of the Midtown alernatives next to a G station?

        Westlake transfers don’t seem to be an issue because Westlake Station 1 spans 4th to 6th, so it would be adjacent to a 6th Westlake 2 station. A 6th Avenue station would be a longer walk for people going to 4th or 3rd or Pike Place though.

      4. I was going to ask if there are any good things about the 6th alternative. In my mind, no …

        Agreed. At first glance it appears that 6th and Madison moves the station away from the other downtown stations, increasing the coverage in the area. Unfortunately, that ignores the freeway. This is really the worst of both worlds. Not far enough away from the stations on the other line to justify a transfer, and yet not very good as a destination, because so much of the short-distance walkshed is taken up by the freeway.

        Westlake looks like a wash, and I would have to know the details (like which one had a shorter transfer, or the entrances/exits).

        The Denny Station looks like a wash as well. On the one hand the Terry Station is a bit farther away, but work would have to be done on Terry to make it more appealing (they would also need to build a walkway here:

        Both South Lake Union Stations look terrible. They manage to be next to the worst part of South Lake Union (the big rectangle formed by Mercer, Dexter, Harrison and 5th). The area is mostly roadway, but it also contains the suburban style office park (the Gates foundation complex). But at least the preferred alternative would connect with Aurora buses (the whole point of having a station there). The 6th Avenue alternative wouldn’t, unless WSDOT redid the highway there and actually put the exits on the right.

        With the Seattle Center Station, I guess I have a slight preference for the 6th Avenue alternative (on Mercer) but it is close enough that details like the actual entrances would sway me one way or another.

        The preferred alternative either looks much better, or roughly the same for each stop. At least for this section, the preferred alternative is the better choice.

      5. 6th street wouldn’t be that bad if you believed the I5 freeway was going to be removed. At the time frame of WSBLE, that might not be a bad assumption?

        Why does the library need a Link station? Libraries are neighborhood amenities, not regional destinations. People take local trips to their local library branch, not regional trips to a flagship library.

        I don’t think the preferred SLU station is that bad at all. It’s really a ‘western SLU, eastern Seattle Center” station (eastern SLU (“Cascade”) is to be served by the Denny station) and it has good access to the Needle and museums in the SC.

      6. Yeah, the freeway might be capped — that would great. The freeway isn’t bad in terms of crossing, it is just that it is a dead space. If it was a capped and simply an extension of the park, then nothing really changes from a transit destination standpoint. At best it shrinks the walking a bit (for diagonal trips). It is possible they would add some buildings, but it would still be a very low density area. By “density” I mean density of destinations, not just population density (these could include employment, educational — basically any reason someone would make a trip there).

        To quote this great article, “every stop has a walk radius, the area from which most people would be willing to walk to a stop … different people are comfortable walking different distances, so a truer view of these circles would be very fuzzy, gradually dissipating further out from the stop.” In short, the closer you are to a stop, the more people will be willing to take transit there. Having a very low density section (the freeway, or at best, a capped freeway) next to station reduces the potential ridership.

        The same is true with the South Lake Union station. The big rectangle formed by Mercer, Dexter, Harrison and 5th is six square blocks, and much lower density than just about everything in the area. The highway interchange makeup two of those blocks, and they are zero density. The Gates Foundation complex takes up another four blocks, and it is low density. Of course Mercer itself takes up a lot of space (which is another reason why putting a station there is a bad idea). As you move towards the Seattle Center, it doesn’t get much better. It is generally a land of parking lots (which could change) and low density uses. Places like Memorial Stadium and McCaw are high density on occasion, but so rarely that on average, they are low density.

        In contrast, go a couple blocks to the east, to 9th and Harrison: In every direction there is density. It isn’t until you get to Denny Park (which is relatively small) or the aforementioned rectangle (now much further away) that you get into a low density area. A station there would get a lot more walk-up riders.

        But it wouldn’t connect to the E, which is the point of that station. So consider a stop at 7th and Denny. You are closer to the park, but again, that is a smaller area, and travel through it is easy (this versus this). In every direction there is good density, some very high density. You would get a lot more riders if the station was there.

        To be clear, the proposed stop would get riders. It is reminiscent of the UW Station, in that it is just about the worst possible location for a station, but it still gets a significant number of riders.

      7. It’s the large central library and has things the other branches don’t have. A wide variety of people come to it, so the investment benefits more parts of society. Even if you don’t go to it, someone like you does. And it’s available if you need resources finding a job, getting educated, or learning English, or are attending events there.

      8. The library is definitely a regional destination, not a local one. Same with the courthouse. They are similar in that lots of people come and go during the day. But overall, I doubt it is any more of a destination than a lot of the buildings in the area. You’ve got skyscrapers nearby, which may have fewer visitors per floor, but a lot more floors.

        In general, everything around there is really good, and trying to pick out which is better would be very difficult. The only issues that concern me is whether there is too much overlap with the other stations (which is a given, regardless of alternative) and proximity to the nothingness that is the freeway.

      9. “Tunnel 15th Avenue Station Option (preferred alternative with third-party funding)”

        Right. If someone else comes up with a lot of money, we will make this thing almost as good as what people voted for. Instead of an elevated station relatively close to the surface, there will be another really deep station taking twice as long to access — but at least it won’t be on 14th!

        Anyway, it sucks they aren’t even considering 14th plus a curve to Market with a surface or elevated station (what I would call 14th+). If there is more money, it goes into tunneling, but to the same places. Speaking of which, if there is more money, why not follow that same path as 14+. Go underneath (at 14th or 15th) and then turn to go under Market (with a station around 20th or so). A station at 14th would be optional (ideally you build it so that the station can be easily added later). The next expansion of Link (if there ever is one) would be a Ballard to UW underground line, and building this would make it easier (one less station to build).

        I’m not sure if anyone suggested that, or if they did, what difference it would make. I know I suggested the 14+ idea, but obviously it didn’t get anywhere. The folks who decide these things get ideas in their head based mostly on avoiding confrontation (Oh no — the Port might not like it!) as opposed to building the most cost effective system.

      10. The library and courts serve more of the community. Offices may have more floors but only a narrow range of office workers go to them. The library serves everybody, and we should encourage more use by making it more convenient to get there. Everybody has jury duty at one time or another, and they give you transit fare for the commute so it’s some people’s introduction to transit. Anyway, I can’t think of anything between Union and Yesler, 1st and 7th that’s singularly more appropriate for a subway station than the library.

      11. Well, at least the draft EIS recognizes underground stations and lines for Ballard are not within the budget, even with the realignment. I think the proposal makes very good political sense: ST is signaling to Ballard the budget does not support what Ballard wants. Same will go for West Seattle.

        We know exactly what the public comments from the neighborhood groups for Ballard and West Seattle will request. Still the draft EIS is stating even with the realignment — that I think claims an additional $48 billion in revenue from the five-year extension in project completion (without really accounting for the inflation during that five-year extension) the underground stations and lines that West Seattle and Ballard would like and other Seattle neighborhoods got are not in the budget, which suggests the rest of the project’s costs are much higher than originally estimated.

        As Ross notes, there is no third-party Santa Claus I know of who will fund these “upgrades”. Who puts in a draft EIS that billions in upgrades will be a “preferred alternative” if someone other than the subarea revenue pays for it, as if the third-party payment would be subarea specific, unless it comes from that subarea (Seattle). Not sure how much the voters in the rest of Seattle want to levy for these billions in upgrades for Ballard and West Seattle (who of course paid for the tunnels and underground stations from Capitol Hill to Northgate).

        None of this is surprising, at least to me. What I will be interested to see is the project cost contingency for DSTT2, and some kind of guarantee to the four other subareas who are committed to pay 1/2 of $2.2 billion for DSTT2.

        At this point it looks like ST is sticking with the cost estimate for DSTT2, which is way low and drove the realignment, but if ST reprices DSTT2 with a 30% or 50% project cost contingency it will give notice to the four other subareas to demand a cap on their contribution to DSTT2 at $276 million. If the four other subareas get a cap on their contribution of $276 million each (or half of $2.2 billion) then the N. King Co. subarea can do — or start — whatever it wants, but the bad news IMO for Ballard and West Seattle is there is insufficient subarea revenue for DSTT2, let alone their wish lists.

        What this draft should really note is DSTT2 is the preferred alternative, assuming a third party can be found to pay for the true cost. Starting WSBLE is a huge roll of the dice for N. King Co. if the four other subareas are capped at $276 million, because we are talking about billions, not millions.

      12. “at least the draft EIS recognizes underground stations and lines for Ballard are not within the budget”

        That was always ST’s position. When calls for tunnels in Ballard and West Seattle first arose after the vote, ST pointed out that the budget was scaled for elevated. Tunnels would require third-party funding unless North King happens to have extra money left over from its ST3 tax rate. That was never going to be enough for a tunnel, and any surplus has been swallowed by rising real-estate prices and probably construction (cement, labor) prices.

        The tunnel alternatives are in the EIS in order to get tunnel activists off ST’s back, to not offend them, and so that if funding somehow arises the environmental study will have already been done.

        I don’t believe Seattle’s monorail tax could fund the tunnels because I understand it can only raise around $1 billion, and tunnels would be more than that, especially two tunnels. The monorail would have been elevated, so its tax was scaled to that, and in fact it wasn’t enough even for that, because it couldn’t afford to honor bus transfers, which would have defeated much of the purpose of building it, and then its financing melted down.

        So the tunnels would have to be financed at least partly by something other than ST3 or the monorail tax. Nobody has yet identified a source.

      13. “We know exactly what the public comments from the neighborhood groups for Ballard and West Seattle will request.”

        We know what they said in 2017, “We want tunnels.” We don’t know what they’d say now. when many things have happened. The West Seattle and Ballard blogs might give a clue. We know what STB commentators will say, but they are only a small fraction of the community so their comments will be overwhelmed by others.

        I have gotten kind of tired of how Ballard and West Seattle are turning out, so I’m not all “We must build it!” like I was in 2016. Others in West Seattle and Ballard may feel similarly, and with the cost-feasibility of tunnels diminishing, they may loosen their grip on that issue. I don’t know which way that will go; we’ll see what the feedback ends up being.

        It will fall to Harrell to arrange financing for the tunnels, or not. He was not on the board when all these decisions were made, so he might be a wildcard.

      14. It crosses my mind that the EIS step may be misunderstood. The ST Board defined the alternatives for the EIS and chose a preferred one. The EIS is to study and disclose (and maybe propose mitigation) of the impacts — anticipated or unanticipated.

        In a well-publicized PR stunt, ST leaders said that the environmental process needed to be shortened and limited in scope to build Link more quickly. As most are aware, the schedule has now been lengthened because the early project designs woefully underestimated costs and more time is needed to raise funds. In other words, the schedule argument in 2016 ended up being total BS.

        The things to look for in the EIS is not the alternatives because they were fixed going in. Look instead for the impacts and possible mitigation. Related to that are higher unanticipated costs or design changes required to address a mitigation. Any changes to an alternative that arise would be because of a problem impact and not the will of ST.

        Finally a cautionary word about tunnel construction: it adds years to a project. Northgate took 9 years. The San Francisco Central Subway is taking 12. The LA Regional Connector Subway is taking 8. All of these began after land was purchased, final engineering was completed and Federal funding was agreed. It’s been often disclosed but any tunneling in West Seattle would add 5 years of delay.

        Keep in mind that Federal funding is a competitive process so it’s probable that they would only fund a base portion and us locals would have to fully fund the rest out of our own pockets.

        Rather than get into specifics of the EIS now, I suggest waiting until the EIS gets its own set of posts. There are way too many detailed items to discuss for the eventually most expensive transit project ever built in the Northwest.

      15. “In a well-publicized PR stunt, ST leaders said that the environmental process needed to be shortened and limited in scope to build Link more quickly. As most are aware, the schedule has now been lengthened because the early project designs woefully underestimated costs and more time is needed to raise funds. In other words, the schedule argument in 2016 ended up being total BS.”

        It wasn’t a PR stunt. ST asked the stakeholders to agree on one or two alternatives for the EIS to avoid the south Bellevue fiasco, where different stakeholders demanded a dozen alternatives and lengthened planning by a year. Bellevue also delayed it by dragging out the permitting process rather doing what Redmond did and making light rail an allowed use across the board. These were separate from any cost overruns for other reasons.

        But that didn’t happen. Ballard and West Seattle activists demanded a tunnel. West Seattle objected to taking a few single-family houses or going alongside the golf course. I don’t know how the terminal got moved away from California Avenue. International District businesses objected to the shallow 5th Avenue station alternative, even though it’s the cheapest, highest-ridership, and closest for customers going to their businesses. The Port and Fisherman’s Terminal pressured ST to move the alignment to 14th away from their land. That alternative was so bad that transit fans had to oppose it. Transit fans also asked for an underground station at 20th. Neither tunnels nor 14th nor 20th were in the ballot measure. All these delayed the EIS, add months to the EIS process to study them, and will make the EIS cost more that if we’d just gone for the representative alignment and a mandatory no-build alternative. And some of these alternatives are worse than the representative alignment.

        “The things to look for in the EIS is not the alternatives because they were fixed going in.”

        I don’t think the current alternatives are what ST intended in 2016. They came about because ST defers heavily to city governments and the Port.

      16. “…West Seattle activists demanded a tunnel. West Seattle objected to taking a few single-family houses or going alongside the golf course. ”
        While the proposed tunnel would save a few homes close to the Junction, the tunnel would not save ANY homes along Pigeon Point and Youngstown but it would reduce the height of the guideway as it approaches the Junction. The golf course pushback came from the City’s Parks department, not any activists.
        Though I liked the idea to speed up the EIS by reducing the alignments early, now that the cost has escalated, it make it difficult to add mitigation during the DEIS process such as adding another downtown Ballard station to mitigate the fact that 14th Ave is too far away or switching to a gondola now that WS cost has almost doubled.

      17. The “few houses” was a specific segment east of Avalon; it may have been Youngstown. My impression was that they didn’t mind tearing up urban-village areas or the Avalon station area, but they did object to taking a certain set of houses outside these. So my question is, why are these houses more important than anything else?

      18. AJ, the WSB article is a dated, in the meantime Sound Transit notified 700 properties in West Seattle of potential impact, some in Avalon, some on Pigeon Point, most in Youngstown, some might get spared if one or another alignment is chosen. Some of these are single family homes, some are large apartment buildings. With the current housing shortage, it will be difficult for the impacted families to find alternative comparable homes. Light rail will not only wipe houses but also the West Duwamish Greenbelt on the North side of Pigeon Point which Olmsted had identified as one of the key ingredients of the Seattle Park System, it used to be a Great Heron colony until the WS bridge was built, some birds have come back to nest occasionally and so have been Osprey and Bald Eagles.
        It would be one thing if this is a critical corridor, but in this case a gondola could serve the same purpose with much less disruption and displacement while light rail could be extended through South Park much more easily.

      19. but in this case a gondola could serve the same purpose with much less disruption and displacement

        No, it couldn’t. Even if it did result in the removal of fewer homes, which is likely, a gondola would be excruciatingly slow getting even to SoDo, much less hanging a left and running all the way through downtown as an alternative to the second tunnel as you’ve proposed.


        They are fricking amusement park rides, ski lifts, or in a very few specific locations a useful POINT to POINT means by which to avoid a serious geographic impediment.

        Do you think that Seattle is SUCH a special snowflake that the brutal rules of good transit — if you want to move a lot of people, build train lines — are waived here?

      20. Tom, in the U.S. gondolas have only been used for recreational purposes, but in many other countries they serve as urban transit, in fact La Paz’s main transit mechanism is a network of gondolas. On a busy day they get more than half a million rides. I am not suggesting Seattle should do the same and certainly such would not replace a 2nd tunnel. Instead I propose Seattle should focus on light rail for the main corridors and then use feeders to connect the surrounding neighborhoods on our hilly East/West corridors. Mexico City has used the same strategy, they already built 3 lines, more are being considered.
        Snowflake? Kirkland, Paris, VancouverBC, Los Angeles, Berlin, Munich are planning or constructing lines. Pittsburgh, WashDC, and San Diego are considering gondolas.
        Yes, gondolas are slower than trains, but for short feeders frequency is more important as you may already be at your destination on gondola by the time your train arrives.

    3. “I thought they had to have [a preferred alternative].”

      A preferred alternative is integral to an EIS because it’s the zero point against with other alternatives are compared, including the mandatory no-build alternative. Normally a preferred alternative is chosen before the EIS is started, but I guess it can go to a later stage. I don’t know if the final EIS can be published without a preferred alternative in every segment, or with multiple preferred alternatives in some segments. Maybe it can, or maybe ST will choose one before it’s finalized. The federal grant evaluators will certainly be looking for a preferred alternative. Although ST doesn’t have to build what the preferred alternative is; it can mix-and-match any alternatives in the EIS or a later supplemental EIS.

      1. Dow Constantine reads STB because he said so in a public forum. Several ST staff and boardmembers read it too. Claudia Balducci has commented here a couple times. They know the general direction of the articles even if they don’t read every last comment. We have limited influence on ST’s policy though because the board is also valuing other considerations and viewpoints, some of which don’t lead to maximally effective transit.

    4. Reading this on the web site succinctly illustrates the ST faux news machine:

      “ The steep rise in real estate and construction costs in the region have driven up cost estimates for future transit expansion projects. In response, the Sound Transit Board on Aug. 5, 2021, adopted a realignment plan …”

      Of course, the actual cause was more bad original real estate needs and low-ball design treatments.

      1. Indeed. The ST spin machine has been quite active this year following the release of Deputy CEO Farley’s letter to CEO Rogoff announcing the unaffordability of the agency’s ST3 capital program back in early January 2021. That was followed by presentations to the board by the agency’s CFO, the subsequent hiring of an outside consultant (Triunity) to document the magnitude of the original as well as updated ST3 cost estimate misses and the reasons for their significant underestimations, and then the presentations of the final consultant findings (there were three contracted deliverables in total) to the board. That kicked off the agency’s capital program “realignment” that was followed closely by this blog and discussed in multiple posts. At all stages, ST seemed desperate to sell the narrative that the cost increases were not foreseeable in 2016 and were due exclusively to the area’s hot real estate and construction markets. However, that narrative wasn’t and isn’t supported by the consultant’s findings.

  10. The author paints a very optimistic future, but I’m skeptical. So much depends on funding, and to a lesser degree on the skill and priority of the transit planners. We’ve seen that with Metro’s Northgate Link restructure. The original proposal had some nice things, but it also had some flaws. There was a lack of consolidation, as buses were supposed to run on both 80th and 85th. A lot of the money went into peak-only routes that mimicked Link. But overall, the original proposal would have resulted in a significant improvement in the bus network.

    Then we lost funding. The revised proposal included things like abandoning all-day service on areas that have had it for as long as I can remember. The final proposal met somewhere in the middle. Overall, I think Metro bus service in the area is worse than it was a few years ago. Transit is better only because of the extension for Link, and the 522 changes. Buses are running *less* frequently between Lake City and Northgate. Riders in Wallingford no longer have their express to downtown. Some of the degradation is the result of prioritizing those express routes, but mostly it is just because King County and Seattle are spending less money on the buses.

    It is a lot different than the UW Link restructure. While the changes on Capitol Hill where mostly a wash, the changes in northeast Seattle were huge. A lot of people lost their fast one-seat ride to downtown, but they gained much more frequent service to the UW. Metro was able to take the huge amount of savings that came from truncating the 70 series buses and pour it into better service in the area. At roughly the same time, Seattle voters decided to spend a lot more money on the buses. All of this resulted in a big increase in transit ridership, at a time when other cities were seeing declines.

    Future restructures will not be easy. We’ve seen that with initial plans for East Link. Part of the problem is that there aren’t huge service savings to be had. ST (not Metro) runs the only all-day service along I-90. That changes the dynamic. ST Express and Metro need to complement each other for a comprehensive, cost effective network, and the first attempt failed miserably (with 8 buses an hour to the Highlands, serving different stations). With Lynnwood Link has similar issues. There are no all-day express buses on I-5. Metro has some peak-only buses, but those make as much sense after Lynnwood Link as they do now (which is to say, not a lot). Community Transit has plenty of buses to both Northgate and downtown, but again, they only run during rush hour. There will be a significant amount of savings, but it isn’t clear that it will make up for other financial shortcomings. The same could be said for ST Express service, which will likely be where the bulk of the truncations come after Federal Way Link.

    There are some very good projects coming in the near future, but building a first class transit network will require creative planning by the various agencies and more importantly, sufficient funding. Let’s hope we get both.

    1. Lynnwood should be a straightforward exercise for Community Transit, and in that way be much more like U-Link? 145th was never going to do much for KCM (522 Stride will be the big new addition), and 135th creates new opportunities but no savings with which to take advantage of those savings.

      You make a good point that much of the FW and East Link bus route savings are absorbed by ST and that changes the math for KCM. In East Link, the primary source of savings are truncating the 21X series, and since East King is a much bigger footprint, converting just a small number of routes to all day quickly consumes all that savings. But also most suburban routes have low off-peak frequency to begin with, so the value of off-peak truncations is muted. For example, the 554 length is cut in half with East Link, but when ST doubles midday frequency of that routes, absorbing all of the savings, the 554 is only then at 15 minute headways.

      FW will be simillar. The savings from ST route truncations will be huge … but those savings will be invested in giving Pierce service quality on its STX routes that Seattle would consider merely adequate, with little left over for new routes.

      1. Lynnwood should be a straightforward exercise for Community Transit, and in that way be much more like U-Link?

        Sort of. What I’m getting at is that Metro was able to save a huge amount of money with their U-Link restructure, because the buses that used to run from the U-District to downtown (via I-5) ran all day long. CT has a lot of commuter buses, but from what I can tell, they won’t save that much money. CT may be hurting in other ways (overall downturn of local Boeing employment) that may more than makeup for the savings. It is hard to tell, since commuter runs are so disproportionately expensive.

        It isn’t clear to me whether ST’s budget for the South Sound savings are already built in. This makes them different than the other agencies. For Metro the savings from U-Link acted like a bonus. They were spending the same amount as last year, just running more buses to the UW. ST may already know where the money is going (and not necessarily to increased feeder frequency).

        The main thing I’m getting it is that after U-Link, I think we got spoiled. We just assumed that as Link stretches outward, agencies would increase frequency on the local buses, as they did then. Unfortunately, there just isn’t the money (either because the savings aren’t that great, or because of other budget problems). There are a lot of really good changes coming in the next few years, but unless there is money (and good planning) to take advantage of it, the effect will be muted.

      2. I do know that from my time at ST, the savings for ST Express route displacement are definitely baked in (the O&M shifts to Link), and I believe it is the same for truncations. So ST assumes those bus hours disappear, as that subarea’s O&M money is spent on Link instead of STX.

    2. RossB is correct again. Was it a strategic flaw to seek ST3 funding before Metro funding? The latter was the priority in the legislature between 2009 and 2014, inclusive. In the the 2015 session , it shifted to ST3. Now, Metro Connects lacks funding. In 2009, the agreement on the deep bore included the MVET for Metro.

      1. “Was it a strategic flaw to seek ST3 funding before Metro funding? The latter was the priority in the legislature between 2009 and 2014, inclusive. In the the 2015 session , it shifted to ST3. Now, Metro Connects lacks funding. In 2009, the agreement on the deep bore included the MVET for Metro.”

        There was no plan to seek Metro funding from the legislature, either then or later. The legislature cares about issues impacting every county, not just King. And it cares about tri-county regional transit because suburbanites are 3/4 of the metro’s population and other legislators are sympathetic to their P&R lifestyles, in a way they aren’t about Northgate-Lake City or Renton-Harborview trips.

        The state’s funding structure gives each bus county/TBD a limited sales-tax authority, and anything beyond that the agency must ask for a small one-off exception, and half the time those are refused. So Metro and King County have been discouraged from asking for large transit-tax authority because it has been refused so many times. That’s why county/cities’ efforts go into Sound Transit for large things, because the legislature is more willing to give ST large tax authority.

        So to get first-rate funding for Metro, CT, and PT requires changing the culture of the legislature, county/city governments, and large parts of the voter base.

    3. I’m still overjoyed that I can take Link to Roosevelt, the U-District, and Northgate. It makes these areas two or three times more accessible. I’m similarly looking forward to accessing Bellevue, and not just downtown Bellevue but mid Bellevue and Overlake. Microsoft staff will be happy with better access to the campus, and I’ll be going to downtown Redmond for the trails and Cartridge World. Lynnwood is a bonus for me, but important for my friend who lives in north Lynnwood. All this is regardless of how good the bus restructures around it are. A good restructure would make it easier to get to places a mile or two off Link, but even a mediocre restructure would be OK because Link would get me further than downtown Bellevue or Northgate so I wouldn’t have to take the bus as far, and I could potentially walk from Link twenty minutes rather than forty minutes or an hour.

      People who have 5-day commutes to downtown Seattle might think differently if an added transfer takes longer, but for my use case of living a mile from Link and going to several Link-enabled districts, it’s better than the status quo even if the restructure is as disappointing as the 20 and the 522’s mediocre frequency was.

      My friend in north Lynnwood used to rave at how quickly the 512 got from Ash Way to Westlake, and is now complaining that the Northgate transfer adds ten minutes to the trip. So there ST could schedule the bus better and have better signage. (She wants more signs in the Lin area telling where to find which bus, and a sign telling which elevator goes from top to bottom so that people don’t spend more time taking multiple elevators and missing their bus.) This could be a precursor to future Eastside restructure controversies.

  11. In his latest video Reese argues that automated light metro is a lot more efficient and attractive than light rail systems like Link as they can run faster, more frequently (no driver) and use smaller trains and cheaper stations and OMFs. He encourages cities to build new lines using such technology rather than keep using LR as it would save a ton of operating expenses while providing more attractive/frequent service.
    I wonder how much could be saved with smaller stations and tunnel diameter if Ballard/Tacoma 1 line would be upgraded to use automated light metro technology, any opinions? Could this help with travel time to Tacoma and reduce the size of the new OMF?

    1. Is there a point in this video where there’s actually a point? From your comment I’m guessing there’s a push for more automation. Great, should work for grade separated. As for smaller stations, Link is pretty stinking minimalist. They cut all the amenities but none of the cost. Why a smaller OMF and WTF is “light metro technology”? The dude jabbering on was too annoying to watch even trying to skip ahead to where he might have had something to say.

    2. He cites SkyTrain (and REM etc) as an example: their stations accommodate maximum of 4 cars of 223′ length whereas Sound Transit stations are designed for 4 cars of 320′ (total) length. The shorter cars have almost the same capacity as LR as they don’t have driver cabs and wheels don’t interfere with seating like they do in a low floor LR train. Automated train control allows for 90 sec headways if required. 30% bigger station size increases cost in particular if these are underground stations. Longer headways also require larger boarding areas as people need to wait longer. Longer trains require bigger OMF size.
      I’m not sure metro trains are much faster…

    3. I guess he means third rail. Link is light metro in the tunnel sections; i.e., grade-separated rail with light (lower-capacity) trains like Europe built in the 1980s expecting to convert them later to full heavy-rail metro later if they needed more capacity. But in the non-largest corridors the light metros were sufficient and never needed to be upgraded.

    4. It’s interesting that while the US spends years agonizing whether a 500K city is large enough for even one rail line or whether Seattle’s Eastside is dense enough for a second line, Japan and Europe and Canada just build them and have a couple new lines every ten years, and people do come and find it easier to get around without a car, and then for the rest of eternity they wonder how they could ever have gotten along without them, and are glad their cities aren’t like American cities.

    5. Given how awful the frequency got in 2020 during the worst of Covid, I have a renewed passion for driverless trains. They enable great headways without a huge labor cost.

      I’m still surprised there isn’t a larger advocacy for West Seattle – Ballard to be a stand-alone frequent driverless line. The stations can be shorter, and the change helps the grade issues that exist in multiple segments along the corridor from Delridge and Avalon to the depth and length of ID and Midtown and Westlake to getting under 99 in SLU to crossing the Ship Canal near Ballard. The change would particularly reduce the real estate takes and subway station vaults required to build the project. The Triunity report ignored focused on why costs increased — but not how simply changing the technology could reduce the wait to opening day and the savings of billions.

      The ability to shift the project to driverless light metro already would require adding an alternative to the EIS. The change would affect OMF expansion, station layouts and the system operating plan.

      I’m afraid that the delay required to evaluate a new alternative for this technology would make it distasteful for the Board to do. Rather than say that the staff and Board made a mistake in the 2016 specifics, the leaders seem ready to remain naive about the need for a technology change as a cost savings measure. Instead they believe that the only solution is to continue down the narrow path carved quickly in 2016 — and the billions more (that they want the taxpayers to pay for) and additional years of delay that come with that (a delay much longer than if ST would suffer if they simply added the light Metro alternative to the EIS).

      It’s suboptimal at best and horrifically wasteful and damaging to the existing urban fabric at worst.

      1. Why on earth would we want to switch technologies just because we are building an “extension” to the existing system? It just drives up expense through increased non-recurring costs and reduced operational commonality. It is exactly the kind of thing ST should be avoiding.

        And when driverless LR tech comes (and it will) it can be applied on the existing lines just as easily as on future lines. The way the tech is developing you won’t need to deploy Skytrain like designs just to go driverless. All of Link could eventually be driverless.

        And going driverless has zero impact on grade climbing capability. None.

      2. Because driverless trains can run every 2-5 minutes for no more cost than regular trains running every 10-15 minutes. That difference makes the wait less, allows people to fit more activities into the day, makes people more satisfied with the transit network, and closes the gap between American and European/Asian frequency.

        Link could have been driverless from the beginning if they hadn’t built level crossings in MLK and SODO. Full grade separation should have been part of the minimum specs, as it is for SkyTrain. But ST initially wanted the opposite: maximum surface, to keep capital costs low, as previous American light rails had been (MAX, VTA, San Diego Trolley). But that slows the trains down and makes them less effective, which defeats part of the purpose of building rapid transit, and opens it up to car-train and ped-train collisions at crossings, which have already happened.

      3. There’s no need for new technology; the existing Link system could be upgraded to driverless with new electronics, but no need for new concrete.

        I wish ST would consider building WSBLE with 2 cars trains, higher frequency and smaller stations. Even if it wasn’t driverless from the beginning, the capital savings may still be worth it.

      4. Lazarus, driverless trains would mean more frequent trains — but only as long as there are no grade crossings that disrupt traffic including local buses. More frequent trains mean shorter trains can be run. That means shorter platforms in each underground station (an entire downtown block shorter at each station). That also means more distance between stations, enabling more vertical elevation change between stations. Finally, shorter trains are lighter, so that slightly steeper grades appear to be more easily negotiated by a shorter driverless train.

        It would seem possible to convert part of the existing OMF to driverless trains. The tracks would be the same width. The electronics and signaling and maybe some switches may need converting but that’s easier and cheaper than reconfiguring all new tracks on track beds.

        For a bit of history, the ST3 plan to split the spine into two lines was not proposed until well into 2016 when ST3 was being packaged. Prior to that, the two corridors (West Seattle and Downtown/ Ballard) were usually through-routed together in earlier proposals like the monorail. The West Seattle project could have been its own EIS but that would look a little too self-serving for the power brokers that live in West Seattle.

    6. We’ve asked ST for years to look at driverless trains. It said it would consider them for Ballard but then nothing happened. ST has all along wanted to stick to one technology, and it chose light rail because it could be street-running as well as elevated and underground. We asked for open-gangway trains, which would increase capacity 20%, but ST says it wants all cars the same so that any can be switched out for maintenance and added to the end or middle of a train. The video talks about US agencies stuck to one mode and unwilling to consider others, and that’s how ST is with Link. Driverless is also incompatible with the level crossings on MLK and SODO and Bellevue/Redmond east of 120th. That may be changing with driverless-car technology, but ST has show no inclination to pursue it. An early issue was probably not offending the drivers’ union, which talks about the need for family-wage jobs (for a few hundred drivers, out of a metro of 4.5 million). That may still have clout.

    7. Al, part of the reason may that, though everybody talks about Ballard to WS, they are really two separate projects: Ballard is scheduled to become 1 line to Tacoma whereas WS would go to Lynnwood as the 3 line.
      Yes, train size would certainly reduce station and OMF cost.
      Why do you think driverless operation would help with grade issues? It still has the same issues as any other metal wheel… Automated gondola or maglev technology would:
      Chinese automated light metros go 110mph which would help with reaching Everett and Tacoma more quickly, then we may not need Sounder anymore.

    8. No impact on travel time, unless you count less time at the station waiting for the train if a driverless fleet unlocks better headways.

      And probably no impact on OMF size; the “build WSBLE with 2-car trains” idea would still involve the same total fleet deployment. More trains but same number of vehicles likely means the same OMF footprint. Perhaps if driverless is fully vetted and deployed before the 4th OMF is built (OMF-north), there might be some savings in less employee parking.

  12. Some of the more recent automated metro systems in China use faster trains which can go up to 100mph, that would increase speed on longer stretches (eg Tacoma), but the main advantage would be cost savings due to station length. (I agree, not much savings on OMF)
    If a gondola gets built up the Junction and a South Park line would be built instead, it could make 1 line from Ballard to Tacoma fully grade separated. (RV line would serve Renton with traditional trains). Then driverless trains could be used and all the stations in the 2nd tunnel could be smaller for a substantial cost savings.

    1. Speed and automation are independent attributes. I don’t think they have any impact on each other. A heavy metro can get to 100mph with or without a driver. Driverless technology can improve following distances and therefore a higher throughput of trains/hour, but they don’t impact the speed of the individual trains.

      I don’t see Link ever getting above 55 mph; there’s simply no need. If there was to be an improvement on raw speed, I would first look at electrifying Sounder and then perhaps some ROW improvements (e.g. straightening the rail between Tacoma and Puyallup) to steadily decrease the travel time between Seattle & Tacoma. I would prioritize infill stations on Link (Graham, BAR, 220th), which slow Link down, ahead of speed improvements; I would do the same for the theoretical Dwamish bypass – even if the bypass was needed to handle high ridership, there would still be more benefit in a few infills stations than prioritizing end-to-end speed, unless Federal Way emerges as the next Bellevue.

    2. @Martin,
      What RV line are you talking about? The current “1 Line” or some new line that’s not even in any ST long range plans that actually runs along Rainier?
      The closest the “1 Line” comes to Rainier is at Mt Baker where Rainier is a block east. The at grade alignment is on MLK and would be difficult to jog back to Renton. You can’t just go over the hill though Skyway. That would be another uber expensive tunnel and would still miss any density. About the best you could hope for (if you’re Tukwila) is crossing I-5 (again) and going though South Center. I don’t see that ever happening.

      1. The idea is to move the Rainier Beach station a bit further North so that you can branch off East and follow Renton Ave S with another station at Kubota Gardens and another in Skyway. I don’t think Renton Ave is anywhere near as hilly as the current West Seattle alignment, it should be possible to do it as an elevated line.

      2. Renton Avenue South is way too narrow for supports. No, just No. If there is a branch to Renton it will have to follow Highway 900 or the Tolt River Aqueduct right of way.

        Using the Aqueduct ROW almost the entire route could be at-grade.

        Link is LIGHT RAIL. Please use it’s greatest strength: the ability to lay rail on the ground.

    3. What? No gondola from BAR to Kabota Gardens? I thought Martin loved gondolas! Of course, airport runway clearance could put a kibosh on that (and maybe a few other gondola ideas)! It’s under a mile in distance so a cable liner track would probably also work.

      SR 900 appears to be well-suited for a surface light rail line with some aerial portions. There are also several apartment complexes and a redeveloped ridge could be attractive for view condos. In contrast, Renton Ave in Skyway does not have much beyond low density residential and limited commercial and community businesses.

      1. Renton Ave S would be more central, but SR900 would certainly be an alternative, both get us to Renton. Skyway would be nice to serve, too, if not directly via Renton Ave, then a cable liner, gondola, or even a funicular may get people up the hill from SR900.

  13. I agree that the Duwamish bypass’ primary objective should be additional stations along the corridor (Georgetown, South Park, Tukwila and potentially White Center via another gondola line) and enabling the RV line to serve Skyway and Renton. Secondary benefit would be the fact that the bypass would be fully grade separated and therefore allow for higher frequency (rather than limited by crossing Rainier traffic) and third it would be a bit shorter/faster.

    1. Just piggy backing into that secondary need — the very possible RV overcrowding would be eased with more trains per hour. In my mind, this would become the primary factor in getting regional support for a Duwamish bypass.

      1. Agree – the additional stops might be the primary benefit, but the primary reason for this project to get regional consensus is likely to only happen if it is needed to create capacity elsewhere.

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