No one is going to remember the Durkan administration, positively or negatively, based on its transit or land use legacy. The twin crises of the pandemic and a reckoning with racist policing will dominate the historical record. But here at STB, we always size up the outgoing mayor (Murray, McGinn, Nickels) on this basis. And her legacy will largely be stasis, with isolated progress and some major setbacks.
The preceding Murray administration had largely locked in a transportation agenda with a vehicle license fee for bus service, Move Seattle, and Sound Transit 3. A first Durkan term would therefore always have been one of consolidation. Ms. Durkan campaigned as a policy continuity candidate from a productive but scandal-ridden predecessor. On this measure, her term was a disappointment.
The item that will most likely resonate for years to come is the failure to commit to a light rail alignment. Sound Transit requested that cities consolidate their request into a single alignment within a year to streamline the environmental review process. Instead, Seattle alone has dozens of alternatives still in play in year 5, largely because of a total inability to say no to any interest group. Worse, the main purpose is to reduce “impacts” (burying lines and moving the train away from activity centers) rather than to improve the experience of future riders.
Not only has this resulted in years of delay, but it is an important cause of a steep escalation in cost for the Ballard-West Seattle alignment. The result will be years of less convenient transit trips and coping with value-engineered lines in perpetuity.
The 2020 Vehicle License Fee Renewal was the one measure the Durkan administration had to address. Regrettably, she was disinclined to fully replace the expiring revenue, and had to be dragged by the Council to limit the cut to about 200,000 service hours. 80% of voters approved the measure in mid-pandemic, implying that leaders could have pushed much harder to preserve service.
It’s often said that personnel is policy. Sam Zimbabwe was an excellent hire at SDOT, with the right values and an ability to execute. Items below the radar, like bus and bike lanes, kept happening, aided by quiet pandemic streets. Morale improved at the agency. When Metro didn’t have capacity to take the dollars Seattle voters were ready to give it, Durkan championed interesting experiments to largely eliminate youth fares and run microtransit to improve Link access. Stay Healthy Streets, though less politically tricky than many people think, have been popular and may outlive the pandemic.
When transportation programs had embarrassing setbacks, Mayor Durkan’s instinct was to press pause, arguably making problems worse. The Center City Connector streetcar connection, which would supercharge a fragmented system into a consolidated line with dedicated right-of-way, ended up in limbo, neither cancelled nor greenlit, where costs can simply escalate. Its fate remains uncertain.
On the land-use front, the long HALA effort finally finished in 2020, upzoning 27 neighborhoods and legalizing ADUs. Set in motion by Mayor Murray and driven by the Council, the Durkan Administration did not attract attention in the process. There certainly was no impetus from the Mayor’s office for another round of deregulation, like an attack on single-family zoning. But Seattle continued to build housing, albeit not nearly enough to contain housing costs.
After all that, Seattle voters approved a candidate that largely promised to continue Durkan administration themes. Mayor Harrell does not have a reputation as a transportation visionary, but he generally went along with Council majorities to approve transit measures. We’ll see how a mix of cross-pressures drives his decision making over the next four years.
75 Replies to “Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan”
I don’t see the inability of Durkan to say no to WSB as a problem she created. It was a situation inherited from Murray, and the ST Board and management. ST3 in 2016 was strategically low-balled and few were putting scrutiny into what was being promised. The public trusted ST and they misrepresented the project details, the costs as well as the timelines. In particular, a seasoned SDOT director would have seen the looming cost mistakes — and Kubly was either too inexperienced to see it or too arrogant to admit it.
I will say that realignment failed to explore the obvious and Durkan was party to that. The effort refused to consider dropping a single station or changing the technology to shorter driverless trains to save money. It was a mere extension to the ST3 layaway plan but was the same project.
That’s not what this is about. It’s as Martin said: ST asked the stakeholders (city, businesses, port, activists, public) to agree on one or two alternatives early to avoid the south Bellevue fiasco, where different factions insisted on a dozen different alternatives. That delayed further planning by a year, and added months and costs to the EIS studies.
But the stakeholders in Seattle did the same thing. The Port and Fisherman’s Terminal asked for a new alignment away from 15th (to 14th). West Seattle wanted to protect some houses in a single-family area, and the parks department didn’t want it alongside the park. Both Ballard and West Seattle asked for tunnels. which were out-of-scale with ST3’s budget. International District businesses wanted anything but the default 5th shallow station. The 14th Ballard option was so far from the center it’s supposed to serve that transit fans had to oppose it. All that led to the spaghetti of options we have now, and multiple preferred alignments, and segments without a preferred alignment yet.
All that is on top of built-in budget shortfalls. Those shortfalls weren’t known until the past year, after all these alignment controversies had been argued and ST had started choosing alternatives for the EIS.
As to what Durkan could have done, she could have reinforced ST’s message. She was on the ST board so it was partly her message anyway. She could have pushed back against the port and her own parks department. Even if she conceded to adding a 14th alternative, she could have pointed out that the paramount issue is passengers walking from the station to the density centered on 20th to 17th. Instead nobody stood up for that except transit fans. She could have pushed back against the International District alternatives, since the earlier studies showed the 5th shallow option is the cheapest and highest-ridership, and would bring more riders to the Intl Dist businesses, and was the representative alignment in the ballot measure. She could have argued more forecefully that the time to ask for tunnels was before the ST3 ballot measure was finalized. Or if she thought third-party money for the tunnels was feasible, she could have done more to identify a funding source or ask those with money to contribute. Instead it’s just going on like a zombie, “OK, we want tunnels, but we aren’t doing anything to find funding for them.”
I don’t want to pile on to Durkin or overstate her flaws. She pursued a continuation policy as we expected. She handled covid well and had sensible but not over-the-top restrictions. She didn’t do anything particularly bad. Her transit problem is just that she didn’t have any new ideas like all the four previous mayors had, and she didn’t prioritize enough to generate those ideas. All those innovations about targeted free passes and last-mile taxis don’t do anything to make transit more frequent, faster, or have better coverage. That’s what’s missing.
I would argue that the inability to say “no” to any special interest group is not a Durkan failing, it’s a Seattle failing (or regional failing). The “Seattle Process” is real and, if we’re honest, it’s gotten worse over the last decade.
Seattle could elect the most “transportation visionary” mayor in history and nothing is going to change until the city’s (or region’s) politics moves away from “everyone’s idea is a good one because you’re all special!”
Why is ST asking the “stakeholders” for anything? Design a system that works, not a system that makes special interest groups in Seattle happy. That’s ST’s job but they are too much of a political organization to realize that fact. You’re telling me ST can’t figure out the best alignment for serving Ballard that they need to “ask” stakeholders?
ST wastes so much time on all of the “listening” sessions and feedback meetings to hear what riders want in a new route or station. Here’s a suggestion: design routes and stations based on proven knowledge. Figure out where mass transit is needed the most and design routes to serve that need, regardless of where the politicians live (*cough*West Seattle*cough*).
Let transit experts design our system – not politicians and citizens that only want to cater to their chosen special interest group.
Until we move past paralysis by analysis, nothing will change, regardless of the name of the mayor. You can blame Durkan all you want, she’s just a symptom of a bigger problem.
“Stakeholders” as the name implies have a kind of ownership share in the alignment. ST sees its mandate as building what the cities, counties, and other stakeholders want. Whether it has the authority, mandate, and moral obligation to not do that is an ongoing debate. And cities have the power to not permit some other alignment. To override that ST would have to get into an eminent domain battle, and that might harm its overall relationship with the cities and that would hurt it in other ways.
“ST” is governed by its Board, who are elected officials. The subareas were quite specific about two things: 1. subarea equity; and 2. ST be accountable to the elected officials, who represent their cities.
And based on everything I have seen from ST staff and “design experts”, starting with Rogoff, it is a damn good thing ST does not have unfettered discretion to design and build light rail, while demanding just another $48 billion to quasi-finish ST 2 and 3. One Robert Moses is enough.
Even if ST did have unfettered zoning and design discretion, it still doesn’t have enough money for WSBLE and DSTT2, even with the realignment, not even close.
ST staff created this mess by lowballing ST 3 project costs and inflating ridership estimates and farebox recovery to lower general taxes because it was desperate to pass ST 3 because it had lowballed ST 2. ST figured without a big yes vote in West Seattle and Ballard ST 3 would not pass. I wish a few Board members had been more sophisticated when it came to transit, and project costs, but I am sure the Board’s defense would be who thought Rogoff would be so dishonest with the Board. I have to say that when I first became involved with ST in 2015 I never imagined a public agency could be so arrogant, dishonest, and just plain stupid.
I agree that little of this has to do with Durkan. Durkan’s mistake was the protests/riots and CHOP, and forgetting like Harrell she was elected by the middle who like law and order.
If I could offer any advice to the Board when it comes to WSBLE — which would have been good advice for ST 1, 2 and 3 — it is the Board make actual project bids part of the DEIS. If you can’t trust Rogoff or ST staff to be honest about project cost estimates then ask the folks who will actually build WSBLE (the true experts), and who will likely include a 50% cost contingency into any bid that includes a tunnel.
All politics is about dividing the pie. Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt don’t give a damn about extracting tunnels and tens of millions in mitigation from ST even if it means Ballard and West Seattle won’t get tunnels or underground stations. And Ballard and West Seattle are going to demand another “realignment” so they get tunnels and underground stations, and downtown Seattle gets DSTT2, even though it won’t benefit the other neighborhoods in Seattle.
All I care about is my subarea is capped at $276 million for DSTT2 and WSBLE because that cap protects my subarea from ST’s dishonest (except of course for the five extra years of ST taxes my subarea really does not need). This time N. King Co. really has to take off the rose-colored transit glasses and demand project cost bid estimates with true contingencies from a third party. Then that subarea can decide whether to raise taxes for the design West Seattle and Ballard — and DSTT2 — want, or do something else (“value engineering” is the euphuism I think that is used).
“it had lowballed ST 2”
You mean, the 2008 recession lowered ST’s tax receipts in the 2023 timeframe that ST2 was scheduled to be completed. That was why South Link was truncated from 272nd to 200th, then re-extended to 240th. You can’t claim lowballing on Redmond and Federal Way when the ballot measure was transparent that ST2 would go only to Redmond Tech (instead of downtown Redmond) and 272nd (instead of 320th).
“make actual project bids part of the DEIS”
Again you’re asking for non-EIS things to be put into the EIS. What’s the benefit in that? The EIS is not a vote or authorization or anything; it just describes the physical impacts on the neighbors and ecosystem. A decision what to approve for construction is separate and later than that, and that’s when bids would be relevant. You can’t get bids on something you’re not sure if you’re gong to build, and even if the EIS did have bid estimates they’d change in the time between EIS publication and approving each project for construction a few years later.
“Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt don’t give a damn about extracting tunnels and tens of millions in mitigation from ST even if it means Ballard and West Seattle won’t get tunnels or underground stations.”
Capitol Hill and UW’s tunnel was essential because of the hill and going under the Ship Canal. You couldn’t have done surface or elevated with such steep grades in a short distance.
Roosevelt’s tunnel didn’t deprive West Seattle and Ballard of anything. The decision was made ten years before there was any plan to accelerate ST3, in a completely different tax and cost environment.
The tunnel was originally going to end at 63rd near I-5. Roosevelt asked for it to be extended beyond 65th and moved east to Roosevelt. Subsequent engineering studies showed it would actually COST LESS to extend the tunnel to 93rd rather than weave around I-5’s foundations. So it was a win-win. Once you get an expensive tunnel-boring machine underground, it’s not that expensive to have it go a few miles further.
“What is an Environmental Impact Statement?”
“Section 4—Analyzes the environmental impact of each of the Proposed “Actions and Range of Alternatives. The analysis include:
“Impacts to threatened or endangered species
“Air and water quality impacts
“Impacts to historical and cultural sites, particularly sites of significance for indigenous peoples
“Social and economical impacts to local communities, including housing stock, businesses, property values, and considerations of aesthetics and noise expected
“Cost and schedule analysis for all of the actions and alternatives presented
“The EIS may include additional topics not required for every project, including financial plans, environmental mitigation plans, and plans for complying with any additional required federal, state, or local permits.
Really? Does that mean that if some court rules that Subarea Equity suddenly implies that “loans” or “advances” from one subarea to another are no longer legal, you’ll be departing?
“ ST wastes so much time on all of the “listening” sessions and feedback meetings to hear what riders want in a new route or station.”
I would say that ST is not meeting with “riders” but instead is meeting with groups that own property and these are not necessarily riders. The effect on their property is by far their primary interest generally even if they are a rider.
Riders and transit activists are lumped together into one stakeholder. Each city government, county government, special government like the port, and large business is another stakeholder. So riders and transit activists get around 20% of the influence pie. Small property owners may be another lumped-together group.
I don’t get the sense that the problems that bedeviled South Bellevue and Ballard-West Seattle were a problem with previous alignments within the city of Seattle (other than the MLK surface alignment), so it’s hard to chalk it up to “Seattle Process”. The problems with Sound Move had more to do with soil conditions outside anyone’s control; if anything ST’s track record within North King has been of saying no more than they probably should (no First Hill station, Northgate Link being punted to ST2, 130th being “deferred”), though admittedly even then they tend to appease the wrong stakeholders (First Hill Streetcar, no Aurora alignment).
The spectre of freeways being bulldozed through minority communities and gentrification further disrupting them hangs over any transit construction process that might disrupt homes and businesses. Couple that with the US still having enough of an individualistic culture that even in a place as lefty as Seattle people still hold property rights paramount and demand that government can’t just come in and take their stuff, and the idea that the “transit experts” should just lay down whatever the “best” route is regardless of what anyone else thinks is a pipe dream at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.
“Let transit experts design our system – not politicians and citizens that only want to cater to their chosen special interest group.”
Good luck storming that castle. You can be the expert that tells Dow and the rest of West Seattle they aren’t getting light rail.
It’s unclear how West Seattle and Dow would react now. All that “West Seattle must have light rail” and “It must be before Ballard” was in a different economic and political environment. A lot has happened since then, so their attitudes may have changed. And when it comes to a head and ST flat-out can’t afford West Seattle’s entire wishlist or it’s necessary to reprioritize North King’s projects, West Seattle won’t necessarily be as insistent as it was in the past. Or even if it is, the rest of North King and the city government may be less willing to give in to it. Currently the West Seattle-SODO stub is still scheduled early, but I consider that a placeholder and not necessarily what will happen in the end.
West Seattle and Ballard will argue for another five-year extension in ST taxes, and claim it would be pound foolish and penny wise to build a low cost (elevated or at grade) station and line with fewer stations, pointing to the long-term mistake of skipping First Hill.
The four other subareas (or at least three of them) may go along since subarea equity means they will have additional revenue for other projects. In some ways a ten-year extension is really ST 4, without the vote.
I was surprised at how little blowback there was over the realignment, which most did not really understand, or the enormity of the amounts involved. If you are a politician and are on the Board another five-year extension when most of us will be dead may be the least contentious “alternative”, and will make Ballard and West Seattle happy when most others won’t even be paying attention.
We don’t even know how many years they’ll need because that depends on future economic conditions. Not just Ballard and West Seattle, but many projects in all subareas. Five years on top of what? Why five, and not ten or zero? Are you assuming Ballard and West Seattle tunnels will be included, when that hasn’t been decided? Do you think Ballard and West Seattle control the show? Snohomish and Pierce will certainly have a lot to say, and they have clout. You may not like what they say, if they want to extend the taxes to complete the spine sooner.
I used to just be annoyed at how clueless this blog and its readers were about the need for better transit to West Seattle and the potential to support new development. I chalked it up to lots of techbois who don’t go here. But how this blog can look at West Seattle during the current Bridge detour and the craziness that is Metro’s Emergency Snow Network and still not think light rail is needed there just makes one question the competence of some of the writing here. I mean, it’s literally 1/7 of the City’s population. Come on out and visit some time.
I don’t think anyone here is saying WS doesn’t deserve high-quality transit. What’s being questioned is whether light rail is the best mode for delivering that high-quality transit, both in the context of WS and also the broader network.
The high bridge problem is orthogonal to that, since the high bridge will be repaired well before Link will reach West Seattle, and I don’t think is even a single-point of failure when it comes to transportation infrastructure; there’s a second bridge right next to it (albeit a bit of a detour and with less capacity), along with the 1st Ave S bridge and alternate routes like the water taxi.
By contract, imagine if the Ballard Bridge became unusable for a couple years. The closest alternate route is the Fremont bridge at 1.5 miles away, has substantially less capacity with much more congested approaches. SR99 is a bit farther, but has no feeder arterials like Marginal Way to get traffic to it from Ballard. Transit would be a total mess and there’s no alternate modes like the water taxi to bypass it.
That’s not to say that West Seattle’s problems should be ignored, but they’re hardly unique and there are other corridors that would be as bad or worse if there were a failure on them.
the high bridge will be repaired well before Link will reach West Seattle
Based on the estimates of lifespan for the repaired bridge it’s likely that an entirely new bridge will be needed before light rail reaches West Seattle. The design of any high capacity transit is really just a SWAG at this point since there’s really no way to know what West Seattle transit priorities will be by then. And the new high bridge replacement design in part depends on if West Seattle has high capacity transit and what it looks like.
One of the problems with building the West Seattle portion is that it’s held hostage to the second DT tunnel which is hugely expensive. Revenue may never catch up to escalating costs. I think that’s one of the most compelling reasons to take a hard look at a Gondola. If one can be built in less than a decade for 1/3 of the cost of light rail there may still be light rail in West Seattle’s transit future because assuming a 2nd DT tunnel gets built or if an alternate alignment is chosen the cost will be much less. In fact, having the Gondola operational for a number of years will likely create density and demand that makes the case for light rail stronger.
The distance is too far for a goldola traveling 5-10 mph to make sense. I think a better form of value engineering that nobody seems to be considering is to just make the west Seattle and Ballard lines feed into the existing downtown tunnel and scrap DSTT2 (at least the part from Westlake to international district) altogether. Whatever it costs to upgrade the signal systems to support trains every 2-3 minutes ought to be peanuts compared to building a whole new tunnel with whole new stations. Worst case, the shared tunnel limits peak hour frequency to 8 minutes per line instead of 6, but all-day frequency, it won’t matter.
It would be one thing if DSTT2 served First Hill, actually adding to the areas served. But, the station locations actually proposed are all within a block of stations in DSTT1, so their only value is capacity. And if we don’t really need all that capacity, there is no need for the multi billion dollar tunnel either.
14mph is what they are achieving now at ski areas today. 5mph is about what a fixed grip chairlift runs at. When you factor in the average wait time for a train it’s about a wash for travel time. I’m not saying it is the best solution but it certainly deserves being studied with an open mind.
asdf2 – ‘nobody’ consider it because the primary reason for the 2nd tunnel is to meet regional capacity needs. If there isn’t a need for the 2nd tunnel, then there really isn’t an need for WSBLE in general. Spending billions on a 2nd subway only makes sense if we think one of our subway lines will be over capacity.
asdf2: I for one am with you on having the West Seattle spur simply feed into the existing downtown transit tunnel. And either use the existing SoDo stations in the process, or better yet, go up 1st Ave. and actually have new stations add new walkshed to the system. IF Seattle needed a second subway tunnel (e.g., in ST4), make it be Seattle Subway’s Metro-8 line, which can intercept some riders from the Rainier Valley and from the east side. At any rate, it is VERY wasteful to be building entire new stations at the exact same locations as the existing stations in SoDo and the ID!
Seattle Subway’s Metro 8 intersects East Link and RV Link at Judkins and Mt Baker, but as envisioned it is basically useless at alleviating crowding in the DSTT1. It will induce demand on the downtown tunnel(s), not divert riders. Building it before the ST3 tunnel would make crowding on DSTT1 worse, not better.
“ Seattle Subway’s Metro 8 intersects East Link and RV Link at Judkins and Mt Baker, but as envisioned it is basically useless at alleviating crowding in the DSTT1. ”
Look here at the PM peak volumes forecasts:
It really clear that the segment between Westlake and Capitol Hill is forecast to carry more northbound riders than the northbound riders from both DSTT and DSTT2 added together.
This was true in forecasts before ST3 too. Building DSTT2 actually adds more riders to this overcrowded segment because riders from SLU will go to Westlake to transfer north.
Whether it’s Metro 8 or DSTT2, the relief is only possible if the transfer station is st Capitol Hill or further north rather than at Westlake..
Of course, a short automated line between SLU and Capitol Hill would also address the problem. However consider this: we already have a short line suitable for automation in the monorail! Rerouting the SLU line to offer transfers at Capitol Hill rather than at Westlake, curving back to First Hill before tying in near the ID. Even a City Hall station could be included.
Westlake – Cap Hill 74K peak riders
Westlake – Union 58K peak riders
Westlake – Madison 41K peak riders
74 < 58+41.
DSTT1+2 will have 25% more peak riders than Westlake-Cap Hill, per the PDF you just linked.
Please provide an example of “this blog” opposing link to West Seattle
To be fair, the OP said annoyed at how clueless this blog and its readers were about the need for better transit to West Seattle which lumps “this blog” with the moderated comments. Comments have far outweighed posts recently so the masses speak for “this blog”. If that doesn’t reflect the views of “this blog” then adopt the policy of the Bellevue Reporter:
“This blog” then has direct control. I prefer the open exchange and moderators have been good about clamping down on ad hominem. But if the comments lean predominantly one way; then that is what “this blog” is supporting.
The MT-J paragraph does not include “Link”. West Seattle, along the west of Seattle south of 85th Street, developed along streetcar lines. Hence the Admiral, Alaska, and Morgan junctions. The Highland Park line extended to Burien, about to have Route 120 rebranded as the H Line. Today, would have been a great year to consider revision to the West Seattle network, but the agencies are standing pat. It is clear that Nickels and Constantine have been good and powerful political leaders helping to make high capacity transit decisions. Link will be very costly and distant in time. Seattle actually owns both high level and low level bridges; SDOT has opened the South Lander Street overcrossing that could allow bus service to reach Link at the SODO station.
addendum: Nickels and Constantine have been among the best local politicians in the transit realm but have made several poor decisions. The have meant well.
errata: rest not west in second sentence.
Mike, I am not advocating for another five-year extension of ST taxes. I am guessing that is what West Seattle and Ballard will argue for. The additional five years of taxes is on top of the five-year extension in the realignment. The point will be to complete DSTT2, and underground stations and lines through West Seattle and Ballard.
Any revenue raised from an extension of taxes in a subarea must be spent in that subarea. N. King Co. will use it for WSBLE, and Snoco and Pierce can use it to complete the spine sooner if they choose. It is their money. So the real question is whether subareas will object to more ST transit taxes, without a vote. I could see East KC, Snohomish, and S. King Co. going along because the politicians receive the tax revenue without having to be the ones asking for the tax increase.
Personally, I have always questioned the legality of the realignment itself without a vote, but so far none of the movers and shakers like Bellevue have questioned the realignment, which leads me to believe the politicians like the idea of a huge tax increase they don’t own.
If one or more subareas object (and I doubt N. King Co. would object to another five-year extension in ST taxes since the point would be to complete WSBLE and DSTT2 as desired by WS, Ballard and downtown Seattle) then Seattle would have to look at some kind of HB1304 subarea specific tax, but it would be a lot, and likely replicate the ST taxes.
Otherwise the DEIS for WSBLE and chosen alternative will be very contentious, and I don’t think N. King Co. — even with the realignment — has the money for DSTT2, or even the elevated lines and stations through WS and Ballard when you factor in the ROW costs on the surface, certainly if the proper contingencies are included, and if you are tunnelling cost contingencies are high because the risks and unknowns are high.
DSTT2 was never going to cost $2.2 billion, but ST had to lowball DSTT2 because four other subareas were paying half, and it wanted to pass ST 3. The real question after the realignment is whether DSTT2 will cost $4 billion, or $6 billion.
The main problem with the Ballard and West Seattle lines is that they should be built as part of a city (_maybe_ county) metro authority, not by a massive regional transit authority spanning from interests from high-density cities to sparse farmland.
Paid for? Probably. Operated? No; there should be a single rail operator.
Martin’s analysis is solid on several major points: ST3 Link, the STBD in 2020, and Sam Zimbabwe.
I differ on the CCC Streetcar, Move Seattle, and microtransit. The Murray-Kubly left her disasters; on the CCC Streetcar, she paused it, analyzed it, found the Kubly-AGH plan deeply flawed, and studied it some more. It should have been killed; we need to consider the three opportunity costs: capital funds, right of way, and operating subsidy; all three would generate more transit benefit is used on better projects. The SDOT ridership modeling showed very few new riders generated on First Hill from the extension. the Murray-Kubly Move Seattle was vastly over promised; it could not be provided. The RapidRide phasing was infeasible and flawed; the G Line implementation is not electric trolley bus and the alignment does not provide a close transfer with Link. Ride2 and Via are just burning up scarce service subsidy; they are inefficient and costly and compete with the local fixed route network. During the period of maximum constraint, Seattle could have freed up 1st Avenue for bus service, relaxing the capacity constraint, but still have visions of a toy streetcar. The STBD could have purchased more off-peak service even in the face of no peak period buses; the commuting periods were spreading before Covid. The several agencies combined to slow and congest transit in downtown in 2019 and ridership fell significantly.
HALA and the ADU ordinances complement one another.
It seems too early to comment on the Harrell administration. It is less than a week in.
New poll from the Seattle Times shows 55% of King County residents in favor of “allow larger apartments and condominiums in Seattle neighborhoods currently zoned for single-family use”, and 51% in favor of the same “in Seattle’s suburban communities”. Considering that this poll was conducted county-wide, not just Seattle, both of these numbers are much higher than I was expecting.
Of course, the poll does not define what the word “larger” means, that you would probably get two very different answers depending on whether “larger” means a small cluster of townhomes or a 40-storey apartment tower. The wording is also vague enough that some of the “yes” answers could be people who support upzoning in other neighborhoods, so long as their own neighborhood remains single-family forever. Still, it’s a good sign, and could be an indicator that the electorate overall is more supportive of zoning reforms than the NIMBY activists who attend meetings and make it seem as though everybody supports them.
The only problem is that Harrell, from what I understand, is opposed to the rezoning of SFH neighborhoods in the city.
A Gonzalez administration along with the city council would have taken some baby steps in the direction of upzoning some of those neighborhoods.
I don’t think you understand Harrell’s position on zoning. Did you listen/watch the debates??? Of course he could have been lying… that’s what politicians do to get elected. But unless you win the election it doesn’t matter what your position (or lie) was.
He’s opposed to abolishing single-family zoning across the board, but he’s for upzoning certain single-family blocks “where it makes sense”. He didn’t explain what his threshold would be, but it presumably means expanding urban villages and filling in the gaps between nearby ones.
Sounds more like he pretty much opposes upzoning SFH neighborhoods, but makes those rare pinprick exceptions. So he wants to sneak an apartment or a townhouse on a SFH block “that makes sense”. What would qualify as making sense? Won’t do squat for expanding housing in the city. But he got those votes in Magnolia and Wedgewood.
Positive spin would be an expansion of existing urban villages, plus perhaps a few new urban villages. The Durkan administration started the process, but 130th Station still doesn’t have an urban village so that could be an easy win for the next administration/council to create new midrise zoning on a few dozen blocks.
As to where to expand, this 2035 maps identifies several good options: https://www.theurbanist.org/seattle-2035-urban-villages/
I’ve argued (usually with Ross)on many prior posts that politically it is difficult to push through both a broad lowrise upzone and an expansion of midrise zoning in the same political cycle. Tacoma’s lowrise upzone is great, but I’m also totally fine with this new administration making strides on expanding the total footprint of midrize zoning and waiting for the next election cycle for a political leader with a clearer mandate to do a broad lowrise upzone (aka abolish SF zones)
single-family zoning accommodates very little growth
Negative growth when Seattle wants one to live one person + dog per household (and they can afford it). But that backyard is important to the dog. I see a lot of virtue signalling in this poll.
Yep, virtue signalling. I support transit so everyone else uses it and I can drive. Seattle in a nut case cameo.
Underscored by even higher support for housing in converted office buildings and ‘underdeveloped’ spaces, i.e. places where the interviewees don’t currently live.
In 2017, just before Mayor Durkan took office, the city created a partnering agreement with Sound Transit to streamline WSBLE construction. In 2018, Durkan hired Anne Fennessy to lead that partnership, with the ostensible goal of keeping things moving quickly. By 2019 Durkan was calling for more options but not selecting one. Obviously COVID didn’t help, but Durkan’s signature indecisiveness, which manifested itself across virtually every aspect of her office, was a key factor.
Considering that this partnering agreement was signed just a few weeks after ST3 passage, wasn’t the agreement itself signed rather hastily?
My overall assessment of Durkan’s tenure as Seattle Mayor is that her success in serving in that capacity was hamstrung by the good deal of indecisiveness that you’ve noted. Going into the job, based on her background as a federal prosecutor, I wouldn’t have surmised that this particular character trait would be her downfall, but here we are. Ultimately, Durkan turned out to be a disappointment, imo, due to her consistent positioning as a fence-sitter, or what one of my high school teachers liked to call a mugwump*. The CCC project is emblematic of this but there are many other examples in her time as mayor as well.
*…as in mug on one side of said fence, and wump on the other, not to be construed with the strict political meaning of the term. In other words, indecisive.
I agree with your assessment TISGWM. Durkan forgot who elected her and tried to appease both sides, and that never works in politics. Her base was appalled at her handling of the protests/riots and CHOP, especially her comment about a “summer of love”. (You don’t see a lot of defund the police demands today). I doubt the CCC registered with more than 1% of her base. Few if any voted for Durkan based on transit. They voted for her because she was a former prosecutor, and the issue then like last November was public safety and crime.
Probably because she was new to politics she misunderstood that a certain percentage of the electorate will dislike or even hate you (especially in Seattle where there is so little compromise). Just look at Manchin in D.C. and Jayapal who was willing to give millionaires one of the largest tax cuts in history by raising the SALT tax deduction to $80,000 and yet demanded the moral high ground, or Sawant leading marches to Durkan’s home. These are some pretty ruthless and zealous folks.
Durkan is a good lesson for Harrell, who has much more political experience. As Bill Clinton used to say, as long as the folks who viscerally hate you number less than 50% you win. Those who voted for Gonzales will never vote for Harrell next time around so fuck them, and you know Gonzales is already thinking of another run for mayor. If you win by 17% points over the head of the council the voters are telling you something, and it isn’t try to make friends with your opponents. My guess is Harrell understands that much better than Durkan did. In a place like Seattle you talk compromise but govern the opposite.
“They voted for her because she was a former prosecutor, and the issue then like last November was public safety and crime.”
They voted for her because she was moderate, and that her former legal experience showed she was competent. It had more to do with the Tax Amazon fiasco and other Sawantian excesses than with public safety or crime. Those didn’t became major issues until CHOP and the covid-era spread of tent clusters.
“Those who voted for Gonzales will never vote for Harrell next time around”
Remember there are only two choices. Many people felt Harrell and Gonzalez were almost equal, or one was just slightly better, or they were unsure until the last minute when they had to fill out one oval. I voted for Gonzalez but I might vote for Harrell next time if he’s good.
The Gonzalez fanatics who will never vote for Harrell, like the Sawant fanatics who will never vote for her opponents, are a small faction compared to the people who lean toward Harrell or Gonzalez but could be persuaded otherwise.
What, exactly, do people expect to happen about the encampments, anyway? They are just as much of a problem in right wing Texas as they are in Seattle. Republican policies are just as ineffective as Republican policies being pushed by “moderates.”
Are there tents in Texas? I had a friend from Dallas in the mid 2000s who complained about Seattle’s visible homeless; he said in Texas they “run them out of town” so they don’t hang around panhandling or loitering for very long. So do Dallas and Houston really have a lot of tent clusters now?
Houston is generally regarded as best-in-class among large US cities for addressing homelessness with a ‘housing first’ policy. Houston & Dallas are run by Democrats, so Texas probably has a different Overton window for policy solutions to homelessness but I certainly wouldn’t describe either city’s approach as ‘moderate’ or ‘republican.’
I believe SLC also has been effective at addressing homelessness. And NYC is notable for having enough beds in winter (at pre-covid density) for its entire homeless population. The west coast is an outlier in its inability to address homelessness and street camping.
Oh for God’s sake, Daniel, you are back to your lying Faux News bullpuckey. Raising the SALT deduction to $80K means AT THE MOST a $40,000 reduction in taxes to a tax unit, or 0.08% of Elon’s estimated (by him) tax burden. That’s hardly “the largest tax break [to millionaires] in history”. That honor goes to your Saint Ronnie.
It was not Jayapal’s idea anyway, but to get the Democrats from the wealthy parts of California and New York on board, she had to agree. Of such sub-optimal compromises is the sausage of legislation made. Dems in the House can afford to lose only five members on any given bill, and of course, in the Senate it’s zero.
I’m beginning to get a clearer idea of just what sort of “Labor lawyer” you are.
Well Tom, I posted a few months ago Michael Steele’s (former RNC chair and now MSNBC sycophant) comment that after knowing Joe Manchin for over 30 years Manchin was never going to vote for BBB, no matter what. BBB was a progressive fraud, with the compromise on the SALT tax exemption the most obvious just to get the D’s in the House to pass it, along with funding programs for 1 year for deficit scoring. I would have saved around $10,000/year in federal taxes each year if BBB had passed, but still I found the SALT tax exemption abhorrent, especially from progressives.
Of course it did not help that Sanders and Harris went into W. VA (which Trump won by 40 points) to insult Manchin, and Jayapal called him a liar in public, at least if they want to pass anything out of the BBB bill. Manchin didn’t even want to run for the Senate. Payapal got drunk on the limelight, and made some rookie mistakes, a lack of humbleness being one (and apparently not knowing the presidential election in W. VA in 2020). Anyone who sells their soul for an $80,000 SALT exemption does not have the moral high ground.
I never understood how such a pro like Pelosi could send such a dishonest (if you are a progressive) and DOA bill to the Senate, but I think she had had it with her different factions in the D House, beginning with Payapal. Biden’s plummeting poll numbers and feebleness, along with inflation that is well over 10% if scored under the formula used in the 1970’s, hurt his ability to put any pressure on anyone, and like Trump Biden has found Covid is a brutal opponent. LBJ Biden ain’t.
The reality is Manchin was speaking for about 6 other Democrat Senators, except Manchin likes the publicity. Don’t hold your breath on voting rights either. The solution there is for D’s to start winning some state legislatures.
My humble advice is to start having bills originate in the Senate. Pelosi has lost control of her base, and Biden is too weak to pressure anyone. I think that will be the course if any of the good parts of BBB are to be passed, although I am guessing now that it is 2022 the legislative agenda is pretty much closed.
As Manchin noted several times, every single thing progressives and Payapal want in the House — including the BBB — can be achieved, if D’s hold the House in 2022 and pick up three or four Senate seats, and win around 12 state legislatures currently held by R’s.
It looks rosy for progressives in 2023.
I too dislike the SALT exemption, but even more I dislike dropping the Child Tax Credit, though I might support an earlier phase out than the original plan.
That does not change my observation that your “biggest tax break for billionaires” bloviation is complete nonsense.
The aggregate amount is very expensive, but most is not going to “billionaires”. Probably “most” is not even going to “millionaires”. There just aren’t that many compared to high-earning professionals.
When you say “streamline WSBLE” what does that mean? I would think any agreement signed before the “realignment” has questionable validity. Plus the city does not have the authority to “streamline” a federal EIS, and the litigation under an EIS. (And I loved Bernie’s line that a politician really can’t lie when running for office unless they get elected).
EIS’s and SEPA are political tools. These projects are going into cities and communities, and those cities and communities have an obligation under their permitting rules to seek mitigation, and the best plan for them. Every other city and community has done the same with Link. While state law does give authority to site an essential public facility over the objections of a city (like a prison) it doesn’t mean the city has to welcome the facility, or not negotiate mitigation.
West Seattle and Ballard will argue just because ST lied about project costs in ST 3 (which the Board claimed it rectified with a $48 billion realignment) does not mean the city, ST or the region can circumvent or “streamline” the EIS process to come up with a WSBLE on the cheap that will materially harm their communities for decades. Pretty hard to argue with them when the Board just fired the CEO for dishonesty.
An error some make on this blog is to think transit is the most important thing to a community. It isn’t. The things that make Ballard and West Seattle attractive neighborhoods have little to do with transit, and obviously right now nothing to do with light rail. In fact, 90% of all trips are by car, which is why both communities’ number one demand is any new bridge preserves existing car capacity. Transit serves the need of a community; it does not determine those needs. For example, Bellevue when it was told ST could not afford the cost to tunnel East Link under Bellevue Way moved it to 112th because Bellevue never saw East Link as essential to its vision for Bellevue. Bellevue Way was more important to Bellevue than East Link, and Bellevue was right.
West Seattle and Ballard will have a good hand because I don’t think the realignment will cover DSTT2 or WSBLE, even with surface stations and lines. Does anyone think the city will “streamline” an above grade line through downtown Seattle? That means additional revenue will be needed no matter what.
The Board is going to have to come up with more funding to complete DSTT2 — which is still budgeted at $2.2 billion which even Seattle Subway lists at $3.65 billion without contingency (and that assumes the four other subareas don’t object to their $276 million contribution each since we all know now DSTT2 is not necessary to meet capacity for Lines 1 or 2, and at the very least insist their contribution is capped at $276 million/each).
Seattle can’t come up with the extra funding to complete WSBLE. We are talking billions, and who knows if the legislature will ever pass a HB1304 type of bill, or whether the rest of the city wants to place all its transit-levy money into WSBLE. Dow Constantine, and probably Harrell, are in a pickle because both get big support from West Seattle and Ballard (their SFH neighborhood bread and butter), and of course Dow wants to run for governor, and both communities will not be happy if they get a “streamlined” WSBLE.
Seattle will demand DSTT2, underground, so there goes that streamlining. If you really want to build WSBLE without more tax revenue I would look at using DSTT1 or running DSTT2 on the surface along third, but that won’t be any more palatable to Seattle than running a surface East Link along Bellevue Way was to Bellevue, although the four other subareas would be thrilled to keep their $276 million each.
What I would recommend against is the Board and ST make the same errors of dishonesty on cost estimating WSBLE they made in the past. Find out what each alternative will truly cost, with an honest cost contingency, even if you have to bring in third party contractors who will end up bidding on the project.
My guess is if the Board has to go back to the “realignment well” just to complete DSTT2, and WSBLE with surface stations and lines, and the other subareas don’t complain since any realignment 2.0 revenue raised in the subarea is theirs to spend, the Board will extend the taxes to complete DSTT2 and the designs West Seattle and Ballard desire. Politicians always favor the course of least resistance.
Because the other option is to tell Seattle there is not the funding for DSTT2, and West Seattle and Ballard they get a “streamlined” Link they would rather not have because like Bellevue they will think it causes more harm than good (unless like Bellevue they site the stations and lines in more remote and undesirable areas of their communities, like 112th in Bellevue). Then what happens if Seattle says no WSBLE with a surface line instead of DSTT2, and West Seattle and Ballard say no to Link if it includes elevated or at grade lines and stations in their commercial cores and residential neighborhoods. That would certainly be embarrassing for ST and the Board, and not really the best “alternative”, when doing nothing is always an alternative in any EIS.
I guess I would just say that we’re evaluating the Mayor’s term in office here. And one of the big promises she made at the beginning of her term was to move fast on ST3, speed up the process or whatever you want to call it, and she failed to do so. It seems like a lot of the commenters here want to blame her predecessor or the seattle process, but I think the executive has to take some accountability for setting a goal and failing to meet it. No?
The mayor absolutely has to take blame for being ineffective. At best she was a city manager. Mayor’s should lead, have a vision for the city, and the ability to implement that vision, and she pretty much failed at all of it. She knew it herself, or she would have run again.
After Biden got elected I expected him to tap her for a federal job, but she did such a bad job at mayor that she hasn’t even gotten that!
Can’t “tap” the mayor of city that let the CHAZ/CHOP happen – bad national optics (even though it was just a glorified, 24/7 local politics expo)
“When you say “streamline WSBLE” what does that mean? I would think any agreement signed before the “realignment” has questionable validity. Plus the city does not have the authority to “streamline” a federal EIS”
Try to understand what’s going on, please. I’ve been trying to explain it but you keep making accusations faced on faulty assumptions. EISs start with an “Alternatives Analysis” phase, where the agency does a preliminary analysis of potential corridors, modes, and options and at the ends selects one or more of those to study in the EIS. The AA must include a full range of reasonable alternatives. But what is “reasonable”? That’s for the agency and community to decide. If ST leaves out a reasonable alternative in the AA and EIS, somebody can sue them and a judge will decide, or the feds can reject the grant request. Some Link AAs included both light rail and BRT modes, like Lynnwood Link, while others have only light rail. You’d have to ask ST why BRT was considered must-evaluate in some projects and not others.
During some AAs the cities, activists, and public are in agrement and there are only one or two alternatives at the end, or maybe one alternative with a couple options around certain stations. That’s what they mean by streamlined. During other AAs the opposite happens: there are two or three or more factions that want different things and say the others are bad. That’s what happened in south Bellevue. The stakeholders disagreed and demanded many alternatives, and ST had to study them all.
A minimum EIS has the “preferred alternative” and a no-build option. Typical EISes have one or two other alternatives. ST was asking the community to keep the number of alternatives small. We could have had the representative alignment and a tunnel alternative: that’s two, alongside the no-build. But instead some segments have four alternatives, some have more than one preferred alternative, and some have no preferred alternative yet. That’s the most complicated Link EIS I’ve ever seen. That’s what ST wanted to avoid. Didn’t Bellevue have only one preferred alternative? I’m not sure if the final EIS can have anything other than one preferred alternative, but one hasn’t been chosen yet so the EIS will have to study multiple potential ones.
So it’s not an “agreement”, there was nothing to sign, and it has little to do with the realignment. It was just a plea that the stakeholders agree among themselves on a small number of alternatives for the EIS, ideally one or two.
The Alternatives Analysis for West Seattle, Ballard, and DSTT2 was in 2020 and 2021. It finished in mid to late 2021, and its results are the set of alternatives going into the EIS. So there’s nothing more to streamline; that was only for the AA.
The AA may have ended earlier, in April or June. I think I didn’t hear the results until later so I perceive it as ending later than it did. Otherwise I don’t know how they can have a draft EIS finished so quickly; they said they’ll publish it this month.
I should have started all this by saying, “The streamlining isn’t something that can happen now. It’s something that didn’t happen in the past.” Any future changes to the WSBLE or to the realignment, aren’t related to it.
Here is what FTA says:
“ AA studies are a corridor-level analysis of a range of alternatives designed to address locally-identified mobility and other problems in a specific transportation corridor. AA is considered complete with the selection of a locally preferred alternative (LPA) to advance into PE. ”
So yes the selection of the LPA is the last step.
With ST however, I think there is a larger issue — a lack of having a wider range of alternatives from the beginning of the WSBLE process.
Notice how there is supposed to be a “range” based on a “corridor”? Well in many AA steps there are corridors (including past ST corridors) at least a mile wide that are studied. In ST3, the corridors were fat lines on a map although a tad bit more specific with station names listed in the referendum text. However, they were always called “representative” to us voters.
After ST3 passed, the “representative” alternatives suddenly became almost cast in stone. ST tossed alternatives that were a mere four blocks away, saying that they were “inconsistent with ST3” for example. There are some like me who feel like that ST misled the voters by refusing to broaden the studies between 2018 and 2021.
When the wildly bad real estate needs and cost estimates arose in 2020, the board undertook “realignment” — a term which is flat out deceptive because no actual track alignment changed. Further, the wildly higher cost estimates should have sent ST back to reconsider the very technology assumed in them — like light metro with more frequent and shorter driverless trains. Of course, the studies before ST3 were defined in ST2 and there was no interest in examining the technology question.
So right now, we get “alternatives” which are very slightly different from each other. There is no way to pay for the full project. The only way that ST can build it is to extend the timeline. Finally, ST has not considered that the awful cost estimates may make the project significantly less competitive for FTA money. With recent Covid-driven decline in ridership, the core local overcrowding that required DSTT2 may be no longer a valid “need”.
And let’s be clear too that the DSTT2 segment remains vaguely engineered. There are no detailed subway station layouts shown to the public. It’s not clear how voluminous the station vaults into the ground will be or how many escalators and elevators are needed to handle the projected ridership. As a result, more cost increases are certainly possible.
The crazy thing is that there is this manufactured urgency to create a final design ASAP without regard to how much it will ultimately cost. Durkan and the rest of the ST Board should have done the responsible thing and revisited how to serve the wider corridors within a more realistic budget. However, they seem to think that they can’t roll the process backwards — even just to change from longer trains with drivers to shorter ones that are automated.
The future is one of even more huge cost increases, particularly in construction mitigation. Every Downtown tall building owner will be looking for significant mitigation money. The owners of hundreds of residences taken in West Seattle will end up in litigation that will create delays for years, particularly around its three stations. There are messy issues with Seattle Center and the Army Corps and the Port still to come. When it’s all said and done and I think that will take years to get the property and develop a reasonable way to generate the needed extra funds, the underground segments will then have 8-12 years of ongoing construction.
So it’s going to be a stressful few years with ST. The ribbon cuttings will be celebratory — but the overall badly evolved project development will create some tough times for Board members particularly after 2025.
I am not sure Mike truly understands the DEIS process. For example, at one point he stated cost was not an issue, and I linked an article from the ABA that noted cost is of course a central issue. If the political pressure is there the EIS conforms to it.
The very first point of WSBLE is there isn’t the funding to complete any of the alternatives, except do nothing. The “realignment” extended taxes five years, but also extended completion schedules, when history has shown inflation and project costs (including ROW) equal or exceed the additional revenue for each extended year, so you go backwards. To make an extension work you have to extend the taxes but not the completion date.
So right now Mike is correct, the project could hardly be more streamlined: the only alternative that is affordable without additional revenue is do nothing. This just isn’t a project N. King Co. can start digging without knowing it can complete, especially if R’s retake Congress.
This isn’t a general fund federal or state project. The funding is fixed, and specific to the subarea (sort of). ST 2 and 3 were a kind of Ponzi scheme based upon ST 4, but it doesn’t look like ST 4 is in the cards.
The next worst “alternative” is one that is “cost effective”, or Ballard and West Seattle insist upon due to the design that limits the stations, and moves them away from their ideal locations.
After all, putting aside the taxpayer, this project is about Ballard and West Seattle. With subarea equity what do I care what the design is (except I can walk from my house through a lovely park to East Link but it takes me to 112th. What is the point of that?)
What the Board should have learned is how little blowback there was from the other subareas for the realignment despite its $48 billion price tag. My guess is those politicians like the idea of all that subarea revenue, and ideally a way can be found to funnel some of that to feeder buses because Link will live or die based on first/last mile access.
But the next “realignment” to build WSBLE as it should be built — which of course is the most expensive design — needs to extend the ST taxes an additional five years but not the completion of WSBLE.
Otherwise, ST and the Board are going to find themselves in the humiliating position of having Ballard and West Seattle argue for the do nothing alternative, or station placement far from the commercial core, and very few stations. Or they will argue run DSTT2 along the surface through downtown since it is currently a shithole and spend the money in their neighborhoods, or use DSTT1. The residents in these areas don’t live and breathe transit, or light rail, and will look at Bellevue’s approach to East Link. They understand like Bellevue that good transit stations and placement can benefit a neighborhood or city, but bad placement or design can harm it. Light rail is just buses on rail.
Downtown Seattle ideally will recover (and it better because ST 3 is predicated on the general ST taxes from the downtown core). Seattle is a very expensive city to run transit because it has a lot of SFH zones near it, which is its charm, and is built next to and over water. West Seattle and especially Ballard are two of the main neighborhoods, and hard to get to. Running light rail to them is what Link should have been all about, rather than to Federal Way, Angle Lake, Redmond, Everett, Tacoma, and all the areas in between.
If I were on the Board I would: 1. either publicly or privately want to know what WSBLE will actually cost: no more Rogoff’s; and 2. be reaching out in private to the major players in the other subareas and asking them, do you want a billion-dollar transit tax increase for your subarea you don’t have to sell or own so we can built WSBLE? ST 4 without the vote.
Based on the last realignment I think they will say ok, if we can allocate the transit funding, and if you are ST you should see by now your Achilles heel is first/last mile access, whether the subarea wants park and rides, buses, micro-transit, shuttles to Bellevue Way, interchanges, whatever to go along with another five years extension in revenue (but not completion dates) so ST 3 and ST does not end with a disaster over WSBLE.
I only wish the eastside subarea had someone other than Balducci representing it, because a subarea like the eastside would have great leverage to demand decision making over where the addtional funding is spent in their subarea from realignments 1.0 and 2.0.
I just don’t see a politically palatable solution to WSBLE other than a second “realignment”, whether it is do nothing which is the only alternative without additional revenue, or a pretty awful “cost-effective” alternative, and I think Mike misunderstands the DEIS process is 100% political. You want stations at the best places in Ballard and West Seattle. Those neighborhoods will tell you those stations will have to be underground, because no one wants a surface train running through their neighborhood and would prefer no train over that. Bellevue proved that.
Daniel, I think that’s the issue ultimately comes down to the flexibility in interpreting ST3. As now written, the alternative doesn’t match the estimated cost. The ST Board must act to have them “match” and that won’t be easy.
It’s an interesting point about subareas. If WSBLE requires more money from North King that results in a tax timeline extension, the other subareas should get to determine where their own next priorities are with more years of revenue. I hadn’t really fully understood that subarea politics is a looming bugaboo for raising additional funds to complete WS and Ballard as represented in ST3 — and trying to change the project to having more underground segments will make the subarea funding balance challenge worse.
I could see these possibilities:
Pierce: The added TDLE cost may eat this up. If not, a modest one station extension to Downtown seems desirable.
South King: This subarea could ask for a number of last-mile projects. There doesn’t appear to be a major signature project that was deferred unless it’s to build the BAR Sounder station. There does not seem to be a South King unified vision about regional transit.
Snohomish: There are deferred stations already designated on the Everett alignment. If that isn’t spending enough there has also be an extension beyond Downtown Everett discussed.
East King: There is a deferred station at 90/ Lakemont Blvd or maybe enhancements to 405S Stride for a neglected Renton.
Anyway, the other option for North King is to raise the funds through a Seattle-only measure. Then the subarea equity won’t matter.
A final point is about the logic of subarea bean counting. Subarea residents directly benefit from projects in other subareas. ST likely would not need to build DSTT2 had all Link lines been restricted to North King. A good argument could be made that the other subareas benefit from DSTT2 and should pay for that part of the segment’s shortfall.
Al, the four other subareas are paying for 1/2 of DSTT2. However, ST estimated the cost of DSTT2 in ST 3 at $2.2 billion (which many at the time questioned), which is $1.1 billion for N. King Co. and $275 million/each for the four other subareas. The $64 question is whether the four other subareas are on the hook for 1/2 the ultimate cost of DSTT2 which will likely be closer to $4 billion.
My guess is the four other subareas will object to paying more than 1/2, or $275 million each, because:
1. Many just don’t have any additional funding. Probably only East King Co. does. As you note, ST’s project cost underestimation affects them too.
2. DSTT2 was sold to the four other subareas on the basis the capacity was needed for East Link and rail from S. King Co. and Pierce Co. in DSTT1. That just isn’t true. DSTT2 is needed for WSBLE. So the four other subareas already feel a little duped at contributing to DSTT2. After all, what has N. King Co. contributed to any of the other subareas?
3. Although I think Seattle probably ended up paying a disproportionate amount of the spine to S. King Co. and Snoco (which just don’t have additional revenue to put towards DSTT2 even if they wanted to), East King Co. paid a disproportionate amount for East Link in that those trains will greatly increase frequency through Seattle, EKC paid for 100% of East Link over the bridge span, and E. King Co. paid for 100% of the east/west buses until East Link opens, or close to $1 billion. Plus park and rides in east King Co. that the subarea can afford today were “extended” to meet the debt ceiling for WSBLE.
If the Board or N. King Co. frame the issue as the four other subareas should contribute more than $275 million/each to DSTT2 I think that won’t fly, in part because three of the subareas just don’t have the money. However, if the Board frames the issue as the ST taxes need to be extended — again — to complete WSBLE, but each subarea will receive a bounty in transit revenue from realignment 2.0 with more say in how it is expended (first/last mile access ST dumped on them), and those politicians can blame the ST Board for all that tax revenue, that is something the subareas might agree to.
Basically ask the four other subareas whether they want more transit tax revenue with no political risk with realignment 2.0 or less, understanding three can’t contribute more than $275 million to DSTT2 anyway. They will choose more. Politician always do. My point is a subarea like East King Co. should take that opportunity to control the new revenue as much as possible. We don’t need any more ideology like anti park and rides determining our transit decisions.
“EIS’s and SEPA are political tools.”
I don’t know what that means. To me the EIS is a requirement for federal grants, no different than saying you must fill in this form and provide that documentation. So it’s a bureaucratic feature, and a kind of regulation and compliance requirement. The intention was to make sure the agencies consider, disclose, and consult the public on environmental impacts. I wouldn’t call that “political”. It doesn’t help somebody’s campaign or change policy, except maybe indirectly. Otherwise you could say RapidRide J is political, but then everything’s political so nothing is.
“If WSBLE requires more money from North King that results in a tax timeline extension, the other subareas should get to determine where their own next priorities are with more years of revenue”
it’s not only WSBLE that forced an extension; it’s also Everett and Paine Field. All subareas were affected by the covid revenue loss. A delay of a year or two is really insignficant from a delivery standpoint (although riders suffer longer); it’s just the intrinsic uncertainty of estimating. It’s a judgement call what the threshold is for tolerability, and different people will have different opinions.
The realignment currently estimates up to 5 years delay for Link/Stride/Sounder lines, and some other things behind that to a total of 10+ years. Some of those other things could simply be canceled if the subareas were willing. In North King, “RapidRide C/D improvements” after Ballard/WS are a joke because the point of those improvements was interim service before Link, and the C/D to downtown won’t exist after Link.
If the suburban boardmembers, cities, or large public movements dispute this, now’s a good time to bring it up. I don’t hear anything.
“I only wish the eastside subarea had someone other than Balducci representing it,”
East King boardmembers: David Baker (Kenmore mayor), Ed Prince (Renton city council), Claudia Balducci (King County council chair and Eastside champion), and Dow Constantine (representing the whole county). And maybe the other King County councilmembers (McDermott, Upthelgrove, Reichbauer) depending how much they support the Eastside.
Daniel is suggesting an even longer delay for Ballard/WS/DSTT2, but that’s one person’s speculation. If Ballard/WS tunnels are selected, that will increase their length, but that money would be third-party, not affecting the rest of ST3. Extending ST3 taxes longer than the realignment or revenue fluctuations is something that ST hasn’t proposed. We can discuss it anyway, whether it’s likely and what to do in that case, but it’s all just speculation, like will there be another delta-like variant or will there be a recession or boom or will our US democracy last through 2025.
If North King proposes extending the taxes further or including Ballard/WS tunnels in the base budget, and the other subareas and the board as a whole agree to it, then the other subareas will also get an increased budget, and I’m sure they’ll find ways to spend it. The simplest thing would be to accelerate their existing projects.
“If WSBLE requires more money from North King that results in a tax timeline extension, the other subareas should get to determine where their own next priorities are with more years of revenue.”
Of course they will; it’s always been like that. The subareas’ projects are based on what each subarea wants.
Re Al S’s list, South King is the poorest subarea and has a lot of large projects (Federal Way, Sounder), so it probably won’t have extra money.
Piece has saved up for Tacoma Dome since the 1990s, so its extension is less affected by ST3 shortfalls than the others. An extension to downtown Tacoma would contradict Pierce’s stated plan of extending it southwest to Tacoma Mall as its final terminus. Switching to downtown Tacoma would require the Pierce delegation to change its mind, and it has shown no sign of that.
Snohomish’s Everett/Paine extension is expensive (almost as long as Westlake-Lynnwood) so it won’t have money left over. If it did it would probably put it into its stated Link extension (downtown Everett and Everett College). It could give it to ST to accelerate its Swift lines. 220th was deferred because the ridership wasn’t there yet, so I doubt that would change this soon.
East King I have no idea. That 85th station was downgraded so it could be restored. The Renton stations could probably use some more. Or it could extend Stride 522 to Woodinville or increase Woodinville’s other service. Or it could make the Stride lines more frequent. That would be my first choice I guess. Make sure it’s at least 15 minutes evenings and weekends.
“All subareas were affected by the covid revenue loss.”
You overstate the case with regard to ST’s revenue numbers over the past two years. While fare revenues are down, total revenues exceeded budget in 2020 and are forecast to do the same in 2021. The decline in revenue from fares has been more than offset by higher than budget grant revenue largely stemming from federal Covid-19 relief funding.
2020 Q4 (end-of-year) Results:
YTD 2020 Budget $2,472,028
YTD 2020 Actuals $2,566,710
YTD Budget Variance +$94,681
% of YTD Budget 103.8%
2021 Q3 (YTD) Results:
YTD 2021 Budget $1,601,226
YTD 2021 Actuals $2,155,809
YTD Budget Variance +$554,584
% of YTD Budget 134.6%
“Durkan and the rest of the ST Board should have done the responsible thing and revisited how to serve the wider corridors within a more realistic budget.”
Which is what the whole alternatives analysis is supposed to be about.
“ Daniel is suggesting an even longer delay for Ballard/WS/DSTT2, but that’s one person’s speculation.”
It’s not speculation. It’s pretty much been established by independent consultants that WSBLE is going to cost a major order of magnitude more than the other ST3 projects. It’s not due as much to regional inflation or loss of rider revenue in Covid (and keep in mind ST reduced service through much of the pandemic to save labor costs). If it was due to those things there would not be a looming subarea imbalance. It’s more due to low-ball construction estimates and inadequate projections of needed real estate.
And that’s before the expensive tunnel enhancements for the Ship Canal and West Seattle Junction. That’s in the current preferred alternatives without third party funding.
I agree Al, delay is inevitable if you don’t have the revenue plus cost contingency to pursue any of the WSBLE alternatives except do nothing, but Mike completely missed my point.
What I argued for is extended the ST taxes to complete WSBLE another five years, BUT NOT THE /COMMENCEMENT/COMPLETION DATE IF POSSIBLE.
That is the flaw with realignment 1.0. If you extend the construction along with the taxes you end up repeating the mistake that got you here: inflation for ROW and construction costs increase the same or more during the extension. It would be like arguing you will put off buying a house in Seattle for five years while you increase your savings thinking the price of the house won’t increase over those five years.
It is also important to note I am not a huge proponent of extending the ST taxes another five years (especially since I don’t know where my subarea can spend the ST 3 revenue it will have, although the three other subareas are different), or realignment 2.0.
I am saying if I am on the Board, I have four subareas questioning their $275 million/each contribution to DSTT2 they now know they don’t need, Seattle will never go for a surface line through downtown, DSTT2 will cost at least double the estimated $2.2 billion in ST 3, I just fired my CEO for dishonesty in project cost estimating, I know realignment 1.0 is inadequate, I have Ballard and West Seattle which are powerful constituencies demanding what other Seattle neighborhoods got or they will go Bellevue and move WSBLE to some remote part of the city, and there was so little blowback over realignment 1.0 from the four other subareas, I am thinking realignment 2.0 that adds billions in revenue to every subarea without any local politician having to sell or own that tax makes “political” sense.
What really irritates me is realignment 1.0 alone would have likely allowed a tunnel under Bellevue Way instead of permanently hurting the effectiveness of East Link by running it along 112th, and realignment 2.0 would have certainly funded that. But when it comes to Seattle every project has to be the grandest and most expensive, no matter how long we have to extend the taxes, so we can build tunnels and underground stations in West Seattle and Ballard, but not along Bellevue Way, when West Seattle and Ballard are nothing compared to Bellevue.
“ What really irritates me is realignment 1.0 alone would have likely allowed a tunnel under Bellevue Way instead of permanently hurting the effectiveness of East Link by running it along 112th, and realignment 2.0 would have certainly funded that.”
Daniel, as much as throwing money makes project changes affordable, I’m not convinced that the Bellevue public would have been willing to accept years of underground construction on Bellevue Way for over 1.5 miles. I think a more likely outcome would have been merely moving the East Main and/or Bellevue Downtown stations further west, or adding an additional station between the two at NE 4th and 105th or 106th St.
It’s all academic anyway. The project is almost open.
How many days had Durkan been in office before she started cancelling bike paths? There was a comprehensive plan that had been worked out over a long time with phenomenal consultation among many groups which the Durkan administration junked in less time that it would have taken to read it.
History won’t remember Durkan as the mayor who decided to capitalize on anti-bicycle backlash, making stupid decisions that will have costly effects for a long time in search of a short term political bounce. But I will.
It’s been pretty well documented that the Move Seattle bicycle lane project costs were woefully underestimated by Kubly under Murray’s term. Durkan didn’t drop projects on a whim; she was forced to do it due to lack of available funding.
Taxpayer money doesn’t grow on trees.
Al S: furthermore: first, between the BMP and implementation, the Kubly SDOT shifted to a more costly mode, protected bike lanes (e.g., more signals, civil work, right of way), from paint stripes; second, a key constraint is right of way, not funding. True, many aspects of Move Seattle were under funded (e.g., sidewalks, RapidRide, trolleybus overhead, pavement management). The several modal plans aim to use the same constrained rights of way.
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