227 Replies to “News roundup: escalator switching”

  1. Sounder North: The annual landslides are just one more hassle to operate the weakest link in our rail system. Should we give up in favor of a frequent bus to when Lynnwood Link opens? Can ST then give the train slots to Amtrak?

    1. The slots are only for King Street to Everett station, so I’m not sure how useful they are to Amtrak.

      Perhaps ST could use them as currency when adding slots to Sounder South. Removing runs from the BNSF tunnel may something very desirable for BNSF; there could be some non-cash subarea accounting to make Snohomish whole.

      Bit more of a long shot, but ST could simply stop operations but hold on to the easements and then at some point in the future they could be used by ST or CT to run commuter trains from Marysville/Arlington to Seattle; at that distance the single seat ride to Seattle is much faster than an express bus + Link, even at Sounder south’s low speeds, particularly if the Mulkiteo and Edmunds stations go away. Sounder is entirely operated by BSNF (ST owns the rolling stock), so perhaps S Sounder continues as an ST Mode while N Sounder could be reimagined as something different under the aegis of Community Transit?

      1. Capacity north of Everett is not an issue. There are three scheduled freight a day each direction to Sedro-Wooley plus occasional oil trains from the Bakken field to Cherry Point. The refineries there are optimized for North Slope crude which isn’t sufficient to fully utilize them.

        So they make up the shortfall with “diluted bitumen” from Alberta which needs the Bakken super-light crude to dilute it further.

        I don’t think it’s a train a day, though.

      2. Sorry, I should have said what happens north of Sedro-Wooley. One pair takes the old NP route to Sumas while the others go to Blaine and Vancouver.

      3. By handing the slots to Amtrak, I am also imagining a line that extends northward. Certainly, the longer the distance, the more advantageous a single-seat ride is as well as the more attractive it is to not drive. Finally, the frequency of Sounder North won’t even emulate an express bus route and obviously not a Link+Swift trip which makes it much less attractive after Lynnwood Link opens.

        The reason I suggested shifting it to Amtrak is because the ST taxing district stops at Everett. Some sort of joint powers oversight and accounting would need to be developed. It could be that ST can keep the branding even though the service should probably have a separate governing board — because I don’t politically see north Snohomish joining the ST taxing district.

        Once Lynnwood Link opens, I expect to see a shift of riders away from Sounder North except for a very small number of diehard Sounder North fans. It may not be a popular idea before that, but 2025 ridership will ultimately define its post-Link future.

        Right now, there appears to be no will to change the status quo. Without a major rethinking, the service will eventually be cancelled. I view a northern extension as the only realistic way to actually save it and even then it’s a bit of a long shot.

        As far as replacements go, would there be value in a higher-speed passenger ferry from Mulkiteo and Edmonds (Everett will have Link someday and will have great bus service to Lynnwood before that)? That ferry could possibly continue to Clinton. With a ferry, there is no limit to the number of slots per day. It would offer service to a different part of Central Seattle (noting that Link will serve the ID area in addition to Sounder). That may be impractical but at least it’s a way to provide a single-seat “replacement” if ST gives up on Sounder North.

      4. If the easements are useful for WSDOT to add Cascade runs, then yeah it could be good if ST transfers them to WSDOT, perhaps using the same framework as the landbank agreement whenever WSDOT & ST make improvement to each others facilities or consume each others ROW. The value of the easements then offsets ST consuming WSDOT resources, for example running Link within the I5 ROW between Alderwood and Mariner.

      5. “, I am also imagining a line that extends northward. Certainly, the longer the distance, the more advantageous a single-seat ride is as well as the more attractive it is to not drive … the ST taxing district stops at Everett” Well said – that’s what I was trying to get at. Arlington/Marysville would benefit more from these easements than Edmunds/Mulkiteo, particularly once Lynnwood Link opens and CT can run good, all-day bus connections from Edmunds/Mulkiteo historic downtowns to Link.

        Since Sounder is operated by BNSF, not Amtrak, I’m not sure Amtrak even needs to be involved. This Extended Sounder North service could be funded directly by Snohomish/Community Transfer via a service contract with BNSF. No need for Arlington/Marysville to join the ST district.

        If there truly is ‘spare’ capacity north of Everett, CT could even operate an all day train between Arlington/Marysville and Everett station, with peak only express runs to King Station? An all-day train between Arlington/Marysville and Everett might be a compelling alternative to adding HOV lanes to I5 over the Union Slough?

      6. “This Extended Sounder North service could be funded directly by Snohomish/Community Transfer [sic] via a service contract with BNSF.”

        Um, so where do you plan on getting this funding stream? The SnoCo PTBA’s taxpayers?

      7. AJ, define “all-day”. Do you mean every two or three hours? Anything more frequent than that would probably require a couple of short “passenger-sized” sidings. That’s not ruinous, but not cheap.

      8. With the Cascade Industrial Center being built in Marysville and Arlington, and some interest in having some form of a passenger rail connection, now might be a good time to have these conversations with SnoCo and Community Transit. Possibly Amtrak. Although they’re probably more geared towards Stanwood and Mount Vernon, a station in Marysville should be possible. If Amtrak and/or CT can add a station close to 116 St NE and convince the Tulalip tribe to convert the unused rail crossing of I-5 into a mixed use path, it would create a direct rail connection between Seattle and the Tulalip outlets (“Seattle” Premium Outlets) and retail/entertainment complex–a boon for hundreds of employees and for tourism. (Or at least a two-seat ride with an easy rail-to-rail transfer at Everett, if the current Sounder N was shut down.)

      9. @Tlsgwm – yes, it would certainly require incremental money from Snohomish. Personally, I would prefer expanding the ST district (Marysville and Arlington are in the UGA) and a Sounder rail investment could do nicely as a keystone project, but the PTBA would be the next logical option. Obviously this would require political support. If Maryville/Arlington taxpayers don’t want it, then don’t build it.

        @Tom – like 30 minutes a day, or even 15 minutes at peak. Basically, provide ST Express quality service but invest in that rail alignment rather than I5 ROW. Have a small fleet of battery EMUs and build out a half dozen or so small stations, terminating in historical Arlington. Would love to see how that capital investment would compare to adding a lane to I5 over the Snohomish river. Because Marysville and Arlington have old historic cores, these possible Sounder stations can be truly transit oriented, much like the Sounder South stations (and unlike Sounder S, put the P&R at an intermediate suburban station, not at the historic town centers).

        I am imaging small stations, perhaps none of which would be served by Amtrak. Would be much closer to a streetcar in size & speed, but with dedicated ROW would actually be a useful interurban, not a toy streetcar. Better than a frequent bus because it avoids I5 congestion and can pull right into Everett station for maximum transfer opportunities.

      10. AJ, thank you. That seems like overkill, but who knows how big Marysville and Arlington will become? It’s nice to have the rail ROW available.

      11. Might not be overkill if the alternative is a $1B to add an HOV lane to I5.

        There’s 70K people in Marysville and 20K in Arlington. If WaLeg requires triplexes & whatnot (HB 1782), there could easily be 100K population within the 10 minute walkshed of the dozen of so stations.

        Even though Marysville is mostly SF, it’s a long, linear stretch of development right along that rail ROW, so close stop spacing should be able to put most of the population within a 10 minute walk of the station, much like some of the older commute rail suburbs I’m familiar with in Chicago (some Metra lines have close stop spacing for convenient access for riders before a long express run into the big city).

        I think it’s very plausible this service could generate a solid mode share, given the commute flows are overwelmingly linear in this part of the county due to the limited road network crossing the Snohomish river. Seattle Times has reported over 10% of the population of Marysville commutes directly to Seattle, so there’s certainly latent demand for the peak express runs, and then many other riders would use the all-day connection to Everett Link & beyond. And then others have pointed out the demand for the “reverse’ commute, with the Casino and the Arlington industrial area both possible sources of good ridership, particularly if there was good last-mile shuttle service.

      12. Basically I could see this service operate as a ‘baby spine’ for Community Transit north of Snohomish river, doing the heavy work of moving riders across the river (bypassing the I5 congestion) and providing transfer anchors for east/west local service.

      13. Even though Marysville is mostly SF, it’s a long, linear stretch of development right along that rail ROW

        Not really. Marysville sprawls to the east, and it is visible on the map. You can tell that much of this is recent, given the semi-cul-de-sac pattern. There is no grid, like the old town, but it isn’t like 1980s cul-de-sacs, in which there is only one way in or out. There are driving dead-ends, but with pedestrian egress. For example here: https://goo.gl/maps/PGJVCPCS2G8QwvHc6. You can tell this is being developed just from the satellite picture. This is how Marysville has grown (well away from the tracks).

        It is possible that people in that area could use commuter rail (via park and ride, or some sort of bus/train combination) but it is unlikely they would use it as a very high rate. Employment in the area is just too spread out. If you get on OnTheMap you can see this. Relatively few are headed to downtown Everett or downtown Seattle. They are going all over the place.

        An extension would just be more of the same. Relatively few riders, very high costs per person, but quite popular with the folks that use it. Extending the HOV lanes of I-5 would be a lot more expensive, but it would be a lot more useful as well.

      14. Basically I could see this service operate as a ‘baby spine’ for Community Transit north of Snohomish river, doing the heavy work of moving riders across the river (bypassing the I5 congestion) and providing transfer anchors for east/west local service.

        I think it would fail miserably in that regard. When Link works as a “spine” (enabling convenient three-seat rides) it is when Link is very frequent (under six minutes) and there is very good bus service at each stop. The stops are fairly close to each other (half mile to a mile) allowing extensive coverage. That just won’t happen with commuter rail. It won’t run that often, and it is unlikely that each station will have good bus service emanating from it.

        Commuter rail really needs a very popular destination, with huge numbers of people headed to it. The stations needs to be convenient for people in that community, even if it means they drive to it. Unfortunately, the railway line in the north really doesn’t achieve that, other than in Edmonds, which means that it doesn’t really work. Without enough really good stations, it can’t pick up that many riders, which is the problem with it.

      15. Fair point on frequency. Given the conflicts with BNSF operations, it might require a 3rd track across the Snohomish to delivery good enough frequency, at which point the capital cost may be high enough that might was well just add an HOV lane to I5.

      16. I’ve ridden the Amtrak to Bellingham a few times. Between Everett and Marysville is very slow, including a decrepit single track bridge with a 10 mph speed limit. Without major track improvements, a commuter train from Marysville can never compete with I-5 on any but the worst traffic days. This does not even get into the dispersed employment around Everett and the fact that Marysville residents would have to already be in their car to reach the rail station in the first place.

        To the extent that Marysville needs better transit, much higher priority should be more of the basic bus service. This means a more frequent 201/202, as well as other routes in the area, such as the 209, express buses down I-5 to Everett, and maybe some whole new routes to improve coverage. If any rail service in Marysville would make sense, it would be a new station stop on the existing Cascades runs; it would be cheap to implement, and probably get better ridership than Stanwood station (which is a very low bar to meet).

        Of course, I do not expect Marysville to vote to raise taxes for any kind of transit anytime soon, but if enough liberal voters get pushed out there due to high housing prices in Seattle, who knows?

    2. Just about anything in Snohomish county is better use of money than Sounder north, including not just more buses, but also plugging the funding shortfall of Link to Everett. However, for political reasons, it’s untouchable. You see, for the vast majority of the electorate out there that doesn’t know anything about transit and doesn’t ride it, it’s not about frequency, span, or ridership, but “modes”. In the hierarchy of modes, commuter rail is considered best, then light rail, then buses. Running the train twice a day at a cost per boarding over $30 allows Sound Transit to tell these people that they are doing their job by providing service for the commuter rail “mode”, which no other mode can, in their minds, replace, because it’s a different mode.

      Yes, I know this “mode” line of thinking is B.S., and I don’t need RossB to reply to my comment and say it’s B.S. But, for the millions of SnoCo voters who believe that private cars are for actually getting places, rail is something you ride for the novelty (and the only form of transit that middle class people can use), and buses are just for the poor people, you can see why getting rid of Sounder north is next to impossible.

      This is why, even when Link is running all the way out to Everett, stopping at the exact same station that sounder does, and getting downtown in the same amount of time, Sound Transit still intends to continue running sounder north in perpetuity. They have to continue it because it would be a big blow to lose the commuter rail “mode”, and light rail can’t replace it because it’s a different mode.

      1. Given the region went through a massive, highly political negotiation in which nearly every interest group got at least something, I think it is notable that Sounder North received zero incremental investments in ST3. Pretty sure nearly every politician on the county board and city council of Everett would prioritize Link over Sounder.

        I think you wildly overestimate how ‘untouchable’ N Sounder is. It’s exclusion from ST3 is a signal the region considers it a fail experiment from ST1. It continues mostly because the mandate of ST1 is still in place.

        N Sounder provides high quality, even with low frequency, service to Mukilteo and Edmonds stations that cannot be easily provided overwise. Perhaps after Lynnwood Link opens, CT or ST can provide Mukilteo and Edmond comparable service to replace Sounder North.

      2. @AJ
        It sounds like your support of the Sounder North “experiment” has softened since the last time this topic was discussed on this blog. Is that indeed the case? I think you already know where I stand on the issue. :)

        One minor correction is called for here. The ST3 Plan does call for one early deliverable for Sounder North:

        “• North Sounder Parking and Access Improvements
        This project would provide an early deliverable within the ST3 System Plan by providing additional parking at Mukilteo and Edmonds Sounder Stations and an opportunity for access improvements prioritized per Sound Transit’s System Access Policy. ”

        I think ST put $50 million in YOE$ in this bucket. (The entire early deliverables total was some $225 million (2014$) from what I recall, with the “Bus on Shoulder” program consuming almost half of the allotment.)

        With that said, I do agree with your larger point about the signaling.

      3. I thought the North Sounder Parking and Access Improvements was a holdover from the ST2 plan? Didn’t realize it was new to ST3.

        Has my Sounder take evolved much? I think Sounder North is high quality service that, unfortunately, hasn’t attracted much ridership; if Edmunds & Mukilteo got aggressive with TOD, I still think the service could get enough ridership to justify its existence post-COVID. Having read others’ suggestions on this blog, I do agree that Lynnwood Link restructure creates the opportunity to offer Edmunds & Mukilteo an alternative service that trades a 1-seat ride for better all-day service, but I would still object if someone wants to delete Sounder North with no corresponding improvement in bus service for Edmunds & Mukilteo.

        I was mostly rolling my eye’s at asdf2’s political analysis. I would imagine I am much more bullish on Sounder North that asdf2 is

      4. That “early deliverable” seems to be in tier 3 of the realignment, 6-9 years later: “Sounder platforms & access (2036)”. That’s not specifically Sounder North but I don’t see any more specific item. Unless it’s not in the realignment at all because it’s one of the by-2024 projects. But the RapidRide C/D early deliverable was deprioritized to tier 4, so the Sounder one may have been too.

      5. ST could accelerate Link to Everett and connect Edmonds via gondola with a stop at Edmonds College to Link. Such all day service would get a lot higher ridership.
        Not sure Mukilteo ridership is worth the investment, but the same would be possible.

      6. Long-term, once Everett Link is finally built, a shuttle bus between Mukilteo and Paine Field Station actually serves Mukilteo quite well. It could run all day and be a very short bus ride. If the Paine Field Detour is going to be built anyway, might as well run a bus to make some use out of it.

      7. I actually agree with Martin on a gondola to Mukilteo. It will, be quite short between the TC and the ferry terminal and there are no messy stops in between. BUT there may be height problems around an airfield.

        Edmondson is better served by a bus.

      8. Quick summary of North Sounder ridership (from before the pandemic):

        Southbound on, off:
        Everett — 300, 0
        Mukilteo — 142, 13
        Edmonds — 318, 23

        Now consider that unlike Everett and Edmonds, there is basically nothing in downtown Mukilteo other than a ferry dock. Thus just about everyone who boards there gets off the ferry, waits for the train, and goes straight to downtown. The train makes four trips a day (each way). Thus the obvious alternative for Mukilteo is to have a passenger ferry run from Clinton to downtown Seattle.

        Everett and Edmonds are trickier. Edmonds is not only a commuter train, but also a non-stop, one-seat ride. This makes is dramatically faster than the alternative (the 416) which isn’t even much more frequent (5 trips a day instead of 4). Everett is a different story. The bus is competitive with the train, often beating it, and runs around 15 times a day (each way).

        I’m sure the train is popular for various reasons. The problem is, it just isn’t worth it. When Lynnwood Link gets here, I would do the following:

        1) Run express buses from Edmonds to 185th Station during rush hour, if not all of the day. These would make some stops, but not a lot. Riders make up for the slower speed with more frequency.

        2) Keep the 510. It is reasonable for ST to truncate the 510 in Everett, but some peak express runs (with a stop at Lynnwood instead of Mountlake Terrace) are quite reasonable. Riders of the existing 510 are happy, and riders of the old Sounder Train at least have the one-seat express bus to downtown.

        3) Live with whatever CT comes up with for Mukilteo. For that matter, it may be that the county or state may chip in for a passenger ferry from Clinton to downtown Seattle.

      9. @RossB
        “Edmonds is not only a commuter train, but also a non-stop, one-seat ride.”

        One minor quibble….
        This is only true for those riders whose final destination is within the walkshed of the King Street Station. You can’t ignore the time penalty of having to backtrack if that isn’t the case.

        Nevertheless, I agree with your overall point here. I don’t think ridership on Sounder North has ever topped 1700-1800 average weekday trips*. So that’s just 850-900 daily riders who, prepandemic, were able to make this commuter rail trip work for them. I just don’t see that number changing much in the future, and as such, I don’t share AJ’s bullish viewpoint, particularly post Lynnwood Link.

        *I looked back at first quarter performance (ridership) reports back to 2017 to confirm this. The reason I went with first quarter comparisons is because Q1 2021 was the last published report I could find on ST’s site. The ridership data that the agency reports to the FTA’s NTD consolidates the data from the two commuter rail segments so although it’s more recent it’s not useful for this purpose. So, I’m left wondering…..when is Sound Transit going to start publishing its ridership reports again.

      10. There’s parking in Mukilteo, I would imagine that is where the riders were coming from, not the ferry.

        Tsgwm makes a good point; I believe the majority of South Sounder riders transfer to a bus or Link, and I would imagine N Sounder was the same.

      11. AJ, it’s PRETTY BAD coming down the hill into Mukilteo for the 15 minutes before rush-hour ferries. The road can’t be widened because historic structures abut it, so no bus lane, ever. A gondola would be above the congestion.

      12. The big problem with replacing Sounder North with Link or bus+Link is that Sounder North is still going to be quite a bit faster for those very few places that have stations.

        There are a number of reasons why these trains are expensive to operate, but included in that is they require a days worth of funding for 90 minutes of actual train operation.

        If it were me, I would:

        1. Make this a state service.

        2. Extend the service to Bellingham.

        3. Fund the service with a mixture of former Sounder North and state money.

        4. Change ticket policy to allow in-zone travel on the regional trains at the same ticket price as charged on transit fare. This works fine in the Berlin transit region, and is quite a bit cheaper for the transit agency to pay a bit into the operation of existing regional trains than operate duplicative service with separate trains.

        5. Rebuild the branch into the old navy yard and terminate some trains directly at the casino shopping complex.

        Note I don’t suggest making this part of Amtrak Cascades. If something is branded as Amtrak it can’t have FTA funding. State sponsored transit without Amtrak branding, even if Amtrak is the operator, is allowed to have federal funding.

      13. There’s parking in Mukilteo, I would imagine that is where the riders were coming from, not the ferry

        You have a good imagination. But in this case, you are wrong. First of all the parking lots in Mukilteo are small. Second, a lot of people use them for the ferry going the other way, or for their job in Mukilteo. Third, the ferry gets about 380,000 walk-on riders a year, and who knows how many riders who get on the ferry in a friend’s car, but walk off the ferry. Of course most of those riders are heading to their job in Everett, but it stands to reason that a fair number are headed to Seattle. It is why the 417 only runs peak direction (towards Seattle in the morning). It is why the (Everett Transit) 18 runs bi-bidirectionally during peak. It is mainly picking up ferry commuters to Everett, but there are people being dropped off downtown, as well as people headed to Whidbey Island.

        You just aren’t going to get a lot of people to drive the wrong direction and then pay $200 a month to park*, just so they can catch the train (which also costs money). The people using that parking work in Mukilteo, or take the ferry to Whidbey. If they shutoff the ferry, Sounder ridership from Mukilteo would dry up. Mukilteo just isn’t Edmonds.

        (To be clear, there are some similarities. Both have a fair amount of density on the connecting highway, and both are tied to other areas by the ferry. But Edmonds has lots of condos and apartments close to the water, while Mukilteo doesn’t. Downtown Mukilteo have a very low population density, but moderate employment density. )


      14. The big problem with replacing Sounder North with Link or bus+Link is that Sounder North is still going to be quite a bit faster for those very few places that have stations.

        That is true of Edmonds, but not the other two stations. For Mukilteo, a high speed ferry from Clinton would save most of the riders a significant amount of time (without the hassle of the transfer). For Everett an express bus is faster 9 times out of 10. Edmonds is the odd man out, in that it has decent ridership (from Edmonds itself) while also providing a trip that is much faster than the alternatives.

        But that is the nature of express service. It serves some people really well, but isn’t necessarily cost effective. The 41 was extremely popular, and would still be today if it was running. It would be faster for just about every downtown commuter, as well as lots of midday trips. But it just isn’t worth the money — not if we have an alternative.

        This is only true for those riders whose final destination is within the walkshed of the King Street Station. You can’t ignore the time penalty of having to backtrack if that isn’t the case.

        But that is true for every express trip. The 41 didn’t connect to the U-District. Even Link doesn’t go to First Hill and South Lake Union. Express buses like the 101 fall short of big destinations, or skip over them. If you take a plane to Portland, you may fly right over your destination, and have to backtrack. It is just the nature of the beast.

        But if the trip saves a good half hour over any other *downtown* trip, then the additional walking, or additional transfer (at headways similar to a gondola) are a very small price to pay. The folks at Edmonds really are getting a great service — it is just that it is too expensive. Some will definitely be upset if it goes away. Giving them more frequent service to more places (with an express bus to Link) would be welcome to some, and cold comfort for others. But it is one of the few cost effective alternatives available.

      15. A gondola would be above the congestion.

        Yeah, but it would also be above the people that makeup the area. Very few people live in downtown Mukilteo. They live in apartments (and condos) along the main highway, where a bus would go. It would become like Sounder, in that it only serves a small subset of people in the area, but serves them really well.

      16. Ah, where would we be if we didn’t have a once yearly mudslide for us to beat this issue to death, death, and deader than death.

        Oh, and to be clear, mudslides between Seattle and Everett still happen regularly. It’s just that the work they did a few years ago doesn’t let the slides make it to the tracks. Just the really bad ones overtop the catchment walls. (or happen in an area that’s usually not that unstable.

        Transportation planning happens here based on POLITICS.
        Plain and Simple.
        If viewed through that lens, all of this makes sense.

        First thing you need to toss out is your literal reading of what Sound Transit’s ‘business name’ is:
        Central Puget Sound Regional Transit AUTHORITY.

        They do not behave like whatever Transit Authorities, you’ve been used to.

        It is a Political Organization.

        Given that, Sounder North lives in the typical half-assed limbo that the rest of the region’s transit system lives in, given the local decision making process.

        The CAR is KING in the Puget Sound Region.

        As long as you remember that, you can understand the duplicity in this process.

        Sounder North is just an obvious symptom.

        You could improve the ridership with three simple things.

        1) Add a station at Bell St.
        Our resident foamer Briand Bundridge had made this suggestion, and when he was foaming for BNSF, I’m sure he had insight as to the possibilities. That would take care of the Seattle walkshed issue.
        2) Edmonds
        The ‘Condo Living’ in Edmonds is well-to-do seniors, not the working slobs that would take Sounder for the most part. Edmonds wants the riff-raff up on Hwy99. More density in the Edmonds Station walkshed means screwing up the views for those of privilege.
        3) Mukilteo
        Mukilteo has the best setup setup to create denser living without screwing up too many views. However, Mukilteo residents just voted on a referendum to rejecting density.
        #2 and #3 local density issues could be ameliorated with local bus service that actually MEETS the TRAINS. That’s now how CT has set things up, though.

        Stop picking at this scab, it’s never going to change. The local political establishment hasn’t got the balls to make non-SOV transportation work.

        (do I sound jaded?)

      17. “The big problem with replacing Sounder North with Link or bus+Link is that Sounder North is still going to be quite a bit faster for those very few places that have stations”

        It’s few riders or taxpayers though. The bulk of Snohomish’s population is centered on I-5 and 99. The bulk of Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s population lives closer to 99 than to their ostensible Sounder stations. Since ST has limited resources, it’s questionable whether such a large portion should be spent on heavy rail for just part of those cities, and for out-of-district islanders who aren’t paying ST taxes.

        Everett’s Sounder, ST Express, and Everett Link’s travel time to Seattle are all about the same — an hour — so Sounder isn’t a big time advantage there. Its only time advantage is that traffic jams can raise the bus travel time to 1 1/2 hours. But Lynnwood Link will alleviate half of that, and Everett Link the rest.

        “1. Make this a state service. 2. Extend the service to Bellingham.”

        In the 2000s the state studied commuter rail from Bellingham to Everett. Since Sounder covered south of Everett and it wasn’t studying joint funding, it assumed people would transfer in Everett, but of course a joint funding mechanism would allow through trains.

        “3. Fund the service with a mixture of former Sounder North and state money.”

        Snohomish taxpayers might frown on that, since they’d be paying an extra tax and northwesterners wouldn’t. The study assumed that the northwestern cities/counties would pay for it.

        The state also studied other commuter rail corridors like Auburn-Maple Valley and maybe Snoqualmie. The studies said the communities served would have to fund them. None of them been willing to consider this, so the studies have been gathering dust on the shelf.

      18. @Jim Cusick
        Instead of Bell Street, perhaps the better location would be W Galer Street. That way, passengers could transfer to the D Line so that connections can be made to lower Queen Anne and the Regrade. In addition, it would be near a future light rail station.

      19. Ross, a bus would probably turn off Paine Field Boulevard at 84th Street SW, right? Between the intersection of 84th and Mukilteo Speedway the Speedway is green on both sides of the road almost all the way to downtown Mukilteo. There are a couple of intersections that have buildings, including the schools at 76th.

        There are few people to be above; the development you mentioned is mostly south of 84th. But perhaps that will change. A bus shuttle would be relatively cheap to run; three or at the most four coaches could provide 15 minute headways except at peak ferry times.

      20. @J.Reddoch
        The reason for choosing Bell St, other than Brian’s insight for things BNSF, is that the pedestrian overpass is right there, and aside from finding a way to access a northbound platform, the cost of that station would be minimal, if constructed as the temporary Tukwila Sounder/Amtrak was.
        About the cost of a split-level home (essentially a giant deck).

        Readjust the bus connections in Mukilteoand Edmonds, and that would be a relatively inexpensive ‘proof-of-concept’ test.

      21. Ross, a bus would probably turn off Paine Field Boulevard at 84th Street SW, right?

        No, but even 84th would be a huge improvement. At least there are apartments from 80th to 84th. Then there is the school you mentioned.

        But that isn’t what I had in mind. I’m basically just thinking of an all-day 417 truncated at Lynnwood, but running a lot more often (hourly or even half-hourly — timed with the ferry on both ends). By picking up riders along the way, you can justify its existence. I’m not even sure that is worth it, given the small handful of riders we are talking about. If the point is to give Whidbey Island riders something as good as the train, then a passenger ferry from Clinton to downtown Seattle seems like the best option (by far). It wouldn’t run that often, but then neither does the train.

        For trips from downtown Mukilteo to Boeing or Paine Field, you have the (currently suspended) 70. Boeing could also just extend their circulators to go out to the highway. Either approach works, since “Boeing Everett” is not a single spot, but a sprawling area. For trips to downtown Everett, you have the existing Everett bus. That gets riders into Everett Station in 22 minutes (according to the schedule) which sounds fine to me.

      22. This is the first time I’ve heard that the Mukilteo ridership is really just Whidbey ridership. Is there any data to verify? I thought the ferry-Sounder transfer was underutilized because the ferry & train don’t have a timed transfer.

        Yes Jim that is staggeringly jaded. People who live in condos generally have jobs; I worked with several who commuted daily in Sounder N when I was at ST. Edmonds isn’t The Villages in Florida.

      23. @Jim Cusick
        For now, a single platform could be placed on the east side of the eastern most track for a quick walk to the Rapid Ride stop. A pedestrian bridge is not needed at this time.

      24. “Yes Jim that is staggeringly jaded.”
        That’s because I’ve been involved in various planning processes since the dawn of the CPSRTA. I don’t believe elected officials take transit seriously.
        I’ve become like Greta “Blah, Blah, Blah….”

        “People who live in condos generally have jobs”
        Working slobs can afford this view?

        If the limiting factor in North Sounder ridership is parking, then (in Edmonds) why aren’t they:
        1) building more density close to the station? (Hint: they don’t want their view spoiled, (and they hated the train horns enough to ask for the RR to be in a trench))
        2) if CT had their schedules arranged so that they actually met the trains then the more affordable condos up outside of the bowl would have better service. CT with their 416 (Edmonds) and 417 (Mukilteo) buses is running a competing service. The advantage to those buses is that they run down Stewart St downtown.
        Hence, why a Bell St. station would be one simple change that would positively affect Sounder North ridership.

        Hey, for a half a mil$ you could even have your own back yard in the Edmonds bowl.

      25. This is the first time I’ve heard that the Mukilteo ridership is really just Whidbey ridership. Is there any data to verify?

        There is data, and I already mentioned it. Downtown Mukilteo is not like downtown Edmonds. There is no population density. There is some employment density, which is why parking is expensive, but very few people live within walking distance of the station. You can look at the census data if you want (with OnTheMap). It will show the same thing. Draw a circle around that part of Mukilteo and you only get a handful going to downtown Seattle. Even if you include those willing to park and ride (and pay $200) it doesn’t add up to that many people.

        It’s use as a park and ride (for Mukilteo to downtown Seattle) just doesn’t make sense, even if parking was free. The geography is all wrong. It means people are going the wrong way, just so they can take a train, which isn’t that fast. At the end of the day, they very well could experience traffic from people who got off the ferry (or parked and got on it). The people who park in downtown Mukilteo either work there, or on Whidbey Island ($200 bucks a month is a lot of money, but so is ferry fare). The folks in greater Mukilteo are way more likely to take the bus to downtown Seattle.

        I thought the ferry-Sounder transfer was underutilized because the ferry & train don’t have a timed transfer.

        It is. At most it gets 142 riders a day! My guess is you have about 120 riders doing the ferry/train commute, and 20 from Mukilteo. No matter what, the station has very few riders. Way more do the ferry/bus combo, and most of those are headed somewhere in Everett (either Boeing or downtown Everett).

      26. “ Snohomish taxpayers might frown on that, since they’d be paying an extra tax and northwesterners wouldn’t. The study assumed that the northwestern cities/counties would pay for it.”

        What you have now is a state funded Cascades service operating on the same line, which the state can’t justify running if it doesn’t go all the way to Vancouver BC, and a duplicative service where the only difference is a station stop in Mukilteo, and a significantly cheaper fare.

        What Snohomish gets is the ability to pay the existing local fare for the train that’s already there, plus the option to head north from the stations instead of the extremely limited service currently existing, as I would replace the currently non-operating northbound Cascades morning train with this service too. By using the crews for a full operating day, rather than just two hours per day, you’d also get better utilization of the operating money spent.

        Current Sounder North from Everett to Seattle is 1 hour. When I’ve taken the 512 or similar, it was generally in the 1:10 range. Today, the suggested alternative is the 510 at 1:12. Link plus 512 is 1:25 in the lunch time period and doesn’t even show as an option if you use Google maps (it prefers to put you on the Empire Builder rather than Link).

        Sure, some passengers may have to backtrack a bit from some stations, but if it’s going to exist anyway, might it not be good to make it as cost effective as possible?

        The Regio trains in the Berlin region, where local passengers can ride half-hourly regional intercity trains for the local fare when traveling inside the fare zone, are extremely popular. Any cross-district resentment there might be is pretty much eliminated by the pooling of resources resulting in better service for both.

      27. “What you have now is a state funded Cascades service operating on the same line, which the state can’t justify running if it doesn’t go all the way to Vancouver BC,”

        Of course it’s justified if it’s the primary form of transit to northwest Washington. You mentioned German Regio above. It could also be an alternative to adding two lanes to I-5. The biggest problem is freight congestion, since freight is also a major benefit to Washington.

        “and a duplicative service where the only difference is a station stop in Mukilteo, and a significantly cheaper fare.”

        Cascades doesn’t run peak hours when the commuters are. At Everett the southbound trains were around 10:30am and 9:30pm, and the northbound trains were around 9am and 8pm. There was a Pass Plus program so if you had a monthly pass for the maximum Sounder North fare you could ride Cascades at that fare, but the times weren’t very useful.

        If Cascades became more frequent to Bellingham, it might be worth merging Cascades North and Sounder North into another brand. But then there’s the Vancouver excursion aspect: WA and BC would want to keep the Cascades brand they’ve put a lot of marketing investment into.

      28. “ Cascades doesn’t run peak hours when the commuters are.”


        If you extended one of the southbound “Sounder” trains to originate in Bellingham while operating on the same schedule slot, you would, and the only real expense would be additional fuel and incremental
        maintenance.. The crews already have to work a full day for their one hour Everett to Seattle trip. The stations have to be open early anyway due to the timing of northbound trains, including the Empire Builder and the 7:30 am to Canada.

        Even with the non-peak service, the morning departure from Bellingham was very popular. Extend a train that operates at a peak travel time, and you’ve made it more popular and more cost effective.

      29. I like Glenn’s thinking about an Bellingham extension, but for one of the southbound North Sounder runs to begin there would be REALLY early! With the slow trackage along Chuckanut Drive it takes almost twenty minutes to get to the tangent at Blanchard, even for the Talgos. With the tall Sounder equipment it might be twenty-five. The train would be leaving no later than 6:00 AM.

        Would people really commute to Seattle or Everett from Bellingham day after day if they had to be at the station at that time?

      30. “and the only real expense would be additional fuel and incremental

        I think it would be much more than that. For starters, Sound Transit’s track easements cover only Seattle to Everett. To go beyond that, you’d need to pay BNSF a boatload of money for more easements, the cost of which would likely be prohibitive. Then, there’s the cost of labor for a much longer train trip. The long travel time also begs the question of what does the crew do in the middle of the day. Due to the long travel time back home, they’d probably have to pay the crew for just sitting around downtown all day while the passengers are working. (This is also why ski buses are so expensive to run; paying the bus driver to sit all day in the ski resort parking lot on the empty bus costs more than actually running the bus).

        There’s another practical problem, in that there’s a lot of congestion in single track segments up there, and the railroad tracks are definitely more delay-prone than I-5 in rush hour. It is extremely common for Amtrak trains to get delayed by other Amtrak trains going the opposite direction, even with the trains running just twice per day. While a 6:00 AM departure from Bellingham would, most of time, get you to King St. Station around 8:30, there would be days when it would be 9:30, or even later. I don’t see very many people risking it. Driving from Bellingham to Lynnwood and catching Link for the last 15 miles into downtown feels a lot more like someone making a Bellingham to Seattle commute might actually do.

        Granted, these are issues that could be fixed with track upgrades, but it would be very expensive.

      31. The cost of labor that you mention is why Sounder is so expensive to run already. The crews work 2 hours a day, but you have to pay them for the full day.

        There is no meaningful Everett – Bellingham traffic that operates as a single entity. When SoundTransit gets the Seattle to Everett slots, those slots in the timetable extend over Stevens Pass and up to Vancouver BC as those vacancies in the timetable can’t be taken by, eg, an Interbay – Bellingham train, or Interbay – Stevens Pass (which is where the vast majority of the traffic is located). Remember the bulk of the freight traffic is both directions south of Everett, as the busy section runs south from Everett and then over Stevens Pass. The worst of the choke points are already being used by Sounder.

        This is what I mean by an incremental cost increase. The bulk of the expense is already being paid by the fact there is a train there.

      32. I see. I didn’t realize that Sounder already requires paying the crew for the entire day. I thought they could use two part time crews, base them out of Everett, and shuttle them back in a van.

        Still, even if the marginal impact to BNSF freight from extending Sounder further north is small, BNSF would still milk Sound Transit for all they can in negotiations, simply because they can. Without alternative track options, Sound Transit simply has no negotiating leverage. They can either pay whatever BNSF asks for or not run the service.

      33. If the incremental ROW cost is indeed low to run trains from Bellingham to Everett, I think I like Glenn’s idea better than mine. The Bellingham-Seattle market isn’t daily commuters, but it’s a great option for occasional weekday trips (business, personal appointments, pleasure, etc.), and while it’s an early morning, the Sounder travel window makes for a full day in Seattle, and with transfer on Link makes for a good option for a meeting at UW, Microsoft, SeaTac, etc. Your pricing framework (#4) would fit well under the RailPlus program.

        Ross, conjecturing ridership from census maps isn’t data. Actual data: 160 daily riders, of which at least 63 are from the parking lot, which was at 100% capacity in 2019. So you are off by a factor of 3. The Mukiteo station access study include exactly zero investments in the ferry-Sounder transfer environment, which supports my conjecture that the ferry isn’t a material source of ridership. soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/mukilteo-executive-summary-online.pdf

      34. For the stuff you buy that’s probably true. Uwajimaya is a specialty market. For weekly specials Uwajimaya is 30% more today for boneless pork loin when they are both on their weekly specials list. I routinely get close to 50% savings shopping the ads for Safeway (who has a higher base price than FM). We put a couple of dinners in the chest freeze (something most apartment dwellers don’t have). Saving 50% on my food cost is big to me.

      35. Why would I get boneless pork loin? I go to Uwajimaya for Asian ingredients that Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Central Co-op don’t have. Actually, I go more to H-Mart nowadays. Small stores are easier to get in and out of. My favorite Asian store was a small Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall on 12th & Jackson. The owner retired and closed the shop. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen fresh seaweed.

      36. Ross, conjecturing ridership from census maps isn’t data.

        So you are saying census data isn’t data. That’s just silly. Of course it is data.

        Actual data: 160 daily riders, of which at least 63 are from the parking lot, which was at 100% capacity in 2019.

        OK, so census data isn’t data, but a parking lot which can be used for a number of different purposes somehow is? Come on, you are being silly. Yeah, I’m sure a handful take the train (just as a handful park there and take the bus) but it is much easier to just use one of the many other park and ride lots and take a bus if you are headed to downtown Seattle. Even if every single rider from that parking lot takes the train, we are still only talking about 63 riders! Holy cow, man, that is tiny, and would still be outnumbered by folks from the island.

        You are missing the main points here:

        1) Downtown Mukilteo has very few people, which means that unlike the the other stations, very few people walk and catch the train.

        2) A fair number of people commute from Whidbey Island to Seattle (roughly 3,000). This is more than commute to Everett (which I find surprising) although it is less than work on the island.

        3) Very few people commute from Mukilteo to Seattle (about 600).

        4) There are several alternative ways to serve those Mukilteo-to-Seattle riders, including bus stops that are close to the relatively densely populated areas.

        5) There are alternatives for Whidbey Island to Seattle riders as well, but they all go through that same stop. For riders from Whidbey Island headed to Seattle, the train is as good as a bus. For most of the riders from Mukilteo, this isn’t the case.

        Therefore, a ferry from Whidbey Island to Seattle would carry a significant number of potential riders, and a significant number of actual riders of the train from that stop. The remaining riders from Mukilteo are simply not worth worrying about (especially since there is express bus service, which is more convenient for the vast majority).

      37. This is a long comingled thread but I felt the need to chime in here regarding the extension of Sounder North service discussion. I agree with asdf’s position in that it just isn’t worth the high cost. BNSF would gorge on the additional easement costs. The Everett to Seattle ones, four in total, cost almost three times what ST had anticipated ($260M versus 90M). And that was a 2002/2003 P&S agreement. I can only imagine what there asking price today would be.

        Secondly, there are many other drivers to the O&M costs other than the specified purchased transportation, additional fuel costs and incremental maintenance costs. I suggest reading the Operations and Maintenance Cost Methodology Report from 2015 that illustrates all of the drivers that contribute to the O&M cost bucket.

        Lastly, regarding the purchased transportation services ST contracts for to operate Sounder North, that agreement is based on mileage not on crew hours. Sound Transit just renewed the agreement for another ten years with two additional five-year options, retaining the same terms that were in the original 2003 agreement. Again, here I would suggest reading the ensuing motion and staff report for this action, Motion 2020-066. Likewise, I also would suggest reading the initial motions and staff reports that established the original agreements, specifically Motions 2003-130 and 131.

      38. The question at hand was who uses the Mukilteo Sounder station. Some people on this thread are convinced they are primarily Whidbey residents. Given there are 200 parking spots on the Clinton side and 60 spots on the Mulkiteo side, I suppose that would be possible if we believe that literally no one within a 20 minute walk of the station is interested in a comfy 1 seat ride to Seattle

        But I will have to ridicule Ross for pointing to census data to insist no one can possibly be walking to the Sounder station because there’s nothing else there, but then speculate that maybe people are driving in and then walking to something other than the Sounder station? That’s an impressive ability to take the exact same data and draw opposite conclusions depending on what you want. Do you really think people pay to park at the ferry and then walk back up the hill, rather than, perhaps, park for free in the actual town center?

        Tlsgwm – mileage is a proxy metric and is used to differentiate between runs, such as a Tacoma-Seattle vs Lakewood Seattle run, so that ST only pays for runs that actually occur, particularly if service needs to be truncated. BSNF certainly cares about the actual labor costs and that would feed into the negotiation. I would expect Sounder N & S to have different mileage rates.

    3. We should have deleted Sounder North already and put the money into replacement buses and accelerating Lynnwood/Everett Link. But ST hasn’t been willing to budge on that, saying its approval in ST1 means voters want it to remain forever. Its main benefit is to the far west edges of Mukilteo and Everett and out-of-district ferry commuters. That’s a small population. Eastern Edmonds have to drive out of direction to get to it. ST might change its mind as Lynnwood or Everett Link get closer, but by then the opportunity to accelerate Link will have been substantially reduced because the money will have been already spent on Sounder.

      ST could sublease the timeslots back to BNSF on a short-basis for freight. That would give ST flexibility to reclaim them later. Or it could transfer them to WSDOT if WSDOT would use them for Cascades.

      “The slots are only for King Street to Everett station, so I’m not sure how useful they are to Amtrak.”

      Amtrak is unlikely to add long-distance runs. The Biden Boost will be used up by the time it gets to expanding the Coast Starlight or Empire Builder. Amtrak can’t fund regional (Cascades) service under a federal law passed 10-20 years ago, so WSDOT is funding that. It contracts with Amtrak because Amtrak has legal clout to get priority from the private railroads for only its incremental cost.

      The slots may not be useful to Amtrak, but they block freight runs between Seattle and the Wenatchee-Spokane-Minneapolis corridor, and that may be beneficial to everyone not just BNSF. It would be one thing if major passenger service were feasible in that corridor, but it’s not because it’s too far west of the Snohomish population center and it’s squeezed in between the Sound and a hill and can’t add tracks and is prone to mudslides.

      Sounder South, however, has a lot of potential, and ST is wisely adding runs there rather than in the north. Maybe BNSF would be willing swap north and south vouchers for a reasonable price. But first the Snohomish subarea has to be willing to.

  2. Zimbabwe’s ouster still doesn’t make any sense. How did he not align with Harrell’s vision? “We must create a balanced transportation ecosystem – increasing safety and decreasing travel times by bolstering transit, improving sidewalks, protecting bike lanes, and recognizing the role of cars and new electric vehicles. From Vision Zero to net zero, we will prioritize climate resilience and lead at the intersections of accessibility, reliability, safety, and sustainability.” Isn’t that what Zimbabwe was doing? What does Harrell want that Zimbabwe was unwilling or unable to do? What was so major that we need a “national search” to find another director? Why isn’t Harrell concerned about SDOT stagnating under an interim director for months while a national director is found? If there even is an interested candidate who’s so much better it’s worth disrupting SDOT like this.

      1. They don’t do a “national search” for them; they hire somebody who’s immediately available.

      1. But what does that mean? Does Harrell think cars should have more of a role or less of a role? Does he know Zimbabwe wouldn’t follow his direction?

      2. What does that mean? I think Harrell supporters want free parking downtown (or very cheap spaces) instead of parking garages, bike lanes replaced by parking. Whether that actually happens is another thing, but getting rid of Zimbabwe has symbolic meaning. Maybe the Mayor names Pedersen to head SDOT. (I am only half kidding about that).

      3. The issue is what Harrell himself is doing, not what his supporters want. And his supporters aren’t monolitic drive-everywheres. There were only two choices so people had to lean toward one or the other. Many people voted for Harrell because of his greater commitment to eliminate tents and fund the police, or they were afraid Gonzolez would abolish single-family zoning, or too identity-politics, etc. That’s a lot of Harrell voters whose top priority wasn’t free parking downtown. Many of them have hardly been downtown for decades, and they go so rarely that paying for a garage is only a minor irritant or they can take a bus for what it serves best.

      4. Running over the bicyclists may not be the first priority of Harrell voters– but I doubt your Harrell voter would support expanding bike lanes. Do you think a Harrell voter would support Pederson or Mike O’Brien/Dan Strauss, etc.

      5. Polls show bike lanes polling much higher than the vote that opposed Harrell, so some bike lane supporters must have voted for him. One obvious reason is that cleaning up the streets is important for literally every mode of transportation. In some ways, the issue of homelessness is actually most acute for the non-car forms of transportation, since drivers can avoid whatever problems are going on downtown by simply parking in security-patrolled garages and walking straight into the building, without ever setting foot on the street. Transit riders can’t do that (at least, if the destination is anything other than Westlake Center). Pedestrians certainly can’t. And cyclists who respect red lights can’t avoid the downtown streets either. There are plenty of reasons for people who walk, bike, or ride transit downtown, as opposed to drive, to have chosen Harrell.

    1. I think Move Seattle not only underestimated needed funding for the projects listed (and the referendum just made more projects eligible and not promised, by the way — and that’s contrary what advocates have been saying), but left a structural ongoing maintenance and operations funding shortfall. Any city can’t add a large number of new signals with detectors and special separations for bicyclists that require more involved street sweeping and not have a jump in ongoing maintenance.

      Durkan stopped the projects because there wasn’t capital money in the bank to pay for them. Harrell must go further and revisit the increased ongoing staffing needs and costs in a post Move Seattle setting.

      Finally, private vehicles will continue play a predominant role in Seattle’s transportation. Deliveries are even made to bicycle shops by delivery vehicles. More people mean more need to bring in more goods and services by truck. The “car free” lifestyle is increasing the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles as well as delivery vehicles on the road. Even the bicycle rental programs have added service vehicles put on the street! ZEVs are getting more popular and a segment of those buyers assume that they can keep driving and not emit more GHG.

      Unlike the past, Seattle has the ability to stop and assess what all the recent changes mean rather than just speculate. Did going from striped to protected bicycle lanes significantly reduce accidents or significantly increase bicycle usage? Has Vision Zero reduced traffic accidents for an entire part of town or does it just move traffic to other streets so one street shows fewer accidents but parallel routes see an increase? Let’s see the data! A few years ago, SDOT bragged about lower accident numbers on Rainier but the data showed a bigger decrease in traffic volumes than in accidents — so each car has statistically become more dangerous!

      In other words, the time has probably come to pause and assess the new reality we already created before pushing for more changes pushed merely as a “good idea” with speculative benefits by an advocacy group.

      I even wonder if we would get more benefit from merely requiring households to buy a bicycle (and offer a rebate) rather than try to regulate a massive bicycle rental use program that gets barely used. I think we should quit asking what we should be doing and instead ask what is the most effective thing to do.

      1. Al, you raise a point we learned the hard way on Mercer Island after spending quite a bit of money to build dedicated bike lanes along The Mercers: roads are crowned to allow water to run off. This means road debris from oil to leaves to pine needles to you name it ends up in the bike lane. The city can’t possibly afford to clean these bike lanes, many of which run under tall trees.

        As you may have also observed on freeway offramps, the wind from cars tends to push garbage and loose items to the side of the road as well, although most Islanders are very good about not throwing garbage or cigarette butts out the window except the odd beer can from teens.

        So of course the bicyclists ride in the main road, unless in the narrowest parts along East Mercer Way with cars tailgating them. But the bike lanes are handy for construction workers and party parking, including in front of my house (with a three-car onsite parking requirement in the SFH not too many residents need to park in the street). The bike lanes near the Roanoke are also handy for off-Islanders to park their cars to ride around the Island and have a beer afterwards.

        On a second issue I think the biggest issue for private bike ownership in Seattle (for the 2% who regularly use bikes for non-recreational trips) is keeping your bike from being stolen. Again, we see this issue at the new light rail station on Mercer Island. Who will ride an expensive bike to the station and leave it chained to an outside bike rack a simple escalator ride down to a train leaving the Island?

        Some argue buy a cheap bike no one wants to steal, but that means no one wants to ride it, especially any distance. So we have bike share programs, that are expensive when you get down to it, and compete poorly with Uber/Lyft if your goal is to actually get somewhere safely, dryly, and quickly at the same cost as a shared bike if there is more than one, and even if you are the only rider the benefits are worth the extra few bucks.

      2. What’s different about Mercer Islands’ bike lanes? The trails and cycletracks in Seattle and the Eastside mainland don’t get all the debris. Sharrows maybe do. It sounds like the I-90 trail on Mercer Island should have been elevated a couple inches more or been more separated?

        Al S, did you mean to say that owning a bicycle would be mandatory? I don’t think the public is ready for that. I’m pro-bike but I would hesitate to such a mandate. I had a bike when I could lock to the front porch of my 1905 townhouse-style apartment. Now I live in a building where I’d have to keep it in a shared bike locker in the garage, and there aren’t enough lockers for everyone to have a bike, and bikes aren’t allowed on the residential floors. I haven’t gotten a bike again partly for that reason, and partly because since I’m older and less athletic I’m less likely to ride it. And I’m even less likely to put an expensive e-bike in the shared locker.

        Some people have suggested distributing a free e-bike to everyone who wants it. That sounds like a promising idea if it could get off the ground. The proponents say it would get more ridership for less cost than a new bus route or car lane.

      3. Er, I don’t mean sharrows get debris because sharrows are the entire lane. I meant that bike lanes painted at the edges of streets get debris, like the north-south lanes that have appeared in south Kirkland and Bellevue. As a pedestrian who has to walk in the street when there’s no sidewalk, I see that the car lanes are the smoothest and cleanest but the shoulders get rough and accumulate debris.

      4. No Mike, I did not suggest that people have to buy a bicycle for themselves. I said that it could be a mandatory requirement in a dwelling unit. Whether it gets used or not is debatable. It would be like having a smoke detector. It would apply to the unit and not a person.

        You miss the point about protected bike lanes and debris, Mike. A street sweeper can navigate the curb from the lane of traffic when there is no “protection” for bicyclists. However, it takes more maintenance to both sweep a PBL in addition to the traffic lanes. That need for duplicate sweeping increases maintenance costs.

    2. This was more ego driven. Zimbabwe’s effectiveness as an agency head did not matter. Harrell wants to put his personal stamp on the agencies and put HIS people in.

      1. Well, we don’t know. It seems to me like a chance for political payback. Harrell has already established a record of hiring campaign staff and family to high paying positions. We’ll see. The most telling thing for me is he couldn’t point at any failing of Zimbabwe for firing him. Nor could he explicitly say what he wanted done differently. What I got out of the press release, “We’ll waste money on a ‘national search’ and then hire the person in my Rolodex that bankrolled the campaign.” I don’t vote in Seattle but was a Harrell supporter. Even if what I suspect is true I still think he was better than the alternative base on Seattle’s most urgent issues. It all depends on what he can actually get done. Firing Zimbabwe doesn’t seem to work toward that goal.

      2. Of course Harrell wants his people in. He won by 17% over the progressive candidate, an unheard of majority (FDR got 66% I think in 1936), in Seattle no less.

        His dept. heads will determine his legacy. When a new President is elected custom is every U.S. attorney throughout the country tenders their resignation. Zimbabwe was here only two years but I can’t think of anything important he did, although he inherited an incredibly irresponsible council. Life will go on without him although I do feel bad about his short tenure.

        Based on the editorial in today’s Seattle Times Harrell, Juarez and Nelson hope to get the ship off the rocks and stop pandering to the progressive special interests who put the city on the rocks. More downtown retail and commercial businesses, fewer empty bike lanes.

        Personally I think transit is one of the least critical issues for Harrell because I don’t think transit is the problem. The region is spending $130 billion or whatever — which is surely low both capital and operations — on ST alone over the next 20 years, while $3.5 billion in bridge repair and replacement is being funded with a $7 million/year car tab fee while the city basically wasted $1 billion on Move Seattle. We built a hub and spoke light rail system 90 miles long to a hub that is quickly becoming a non-hub without any way to feed it except low income TOD’s next to I-5.

        The majority of tax revenue in generated in the downtown core, or was, to pay for all the progressive programs. Seattle has a ton of folks who don’t work, and cost a fortune. I don’t think the Eastside commuter is coming back post-pandemic, which is reflected in the crazy development in downtown Bellevue.

        Harrell and Juarez need to huddle with the downtown business community to find out what they think is necessary to compete with Bellevue, in a post-pandemic world that may see the end of commercial “hubs”, and commuting to them. In that world Seattle will have a huge revenue hole, but with even more social and infrastructure costs.

        If the business community believes more transit is critical then fund more transit, rather than transit for transit’s sakes, with free fares. If they want more parking then more parking.

        I can still remember that kind of situation in downtown Seattle from the 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. The only difference this time is a thriving Bellevue (and other Eastside cities) will be right across the lake.

        Harrell needs to hire whomever he thinks can deliver on his core issues. He needs a director of SDOT who understands that, and listens to the Chambef more than the Cascade bicycle club.

        Business matters because that is where the jobs and revenue come from. I would hate to have Seattle’s current downtown become the permanent downtown.

        Funny enough I think Juarez may be the most important person, with Nelson the deciding vote.

      3. I can’t think of anything important he did,

        Except maybe the West Seattle Bridge? And you’re throwing out the department head so the consultants will just start racking up the change order fees like crazy. But back to my comment, their is nothing specific to warrant firing him. Seems like “I got a big paying job I’m going to use for payback.” There is no other reason or criteria for hire given.

      4. No way Bernie, Harrell is not going to use head of SDOT for a political plum. Too important.

        I am not sure why you are crediting Zimbabwe with the discovery and repair of the West Seattle Bridge. The issues with the bridge had been known for some time, and Durkan made the call to repair it because it’s sudden closure caused panic in West Seattle, and the city didn’t have the money or time to replace it. Ideally, the repair/replacement of the West Seattle bridge should have been a discussion before its immediate closure had SDOT done its job.

        Something about Zimbabwe and SDOT Harrell doesn’t like. He won by 17% in Seattle on a law and order platform. Now he has to deliver, and no one cares whom he picks to lead his departments as long as he and they perform, and he is starting in a huge hole. Just look at the disaster Biden has been in his first year. Harrell has no time and no margin for error for his top two campaign promises: removing the homeless from the streets and reducing crime, which hopefully will revitalize the downtown during a pandemic with Bellevue the competition. The odds are against Harrell so let him choose his team.

      5. “This was more ego driven. Zimbabwe’s effectiveness as an agency head did not matter. Harrell wants to put his personal stamp on the agencies and put HIS people in.”

        If this is true, it makes me concerned about Harrell’s judgment.

        “Zimbabwe was here only two years but I can’t think of anything important he did”

        Can you think of anything bad he did? Two years is not much time; it’s half of Durkan’s administration. Any significant program would just be getting into its stride in two years.

        Harrell should have weighed how good a job Zimbabwe was doing vs the disruption of switching to a new director, who may be no better than Zimbabwe and may be worse. If Harrell doesn’t have a candidate in mind, how does he know a better nationwide candidate is available right now? One who’s so much better it’s worth switching directors.

        The closest thing I’ve heard is that Harrell wants somebody who’ll put cars in their proper role, implying Zimbabwe is too “war on cars”. Well, that’s really vague. If he ousted him because of that, why can’t he say so clearly?

        With no more definite information, we’ll have to wait and see what kinds of transportation policies Harrell and the next director pursue. And since we don’t know what’s in Harrell’s mind, whether he’s being egotistic or just wants to give the job to a campaign supporter, that’s just speculation.

        “Based on the editorial in today’s Seattle Times Harrell, Juarez and Nelson hope to get the ship off the rocks and stop pandering to the progressive special interests”

        The Seattle Times editorial board would say that. They’re always anti-progressive and suburbanist.

        “Just look at the disaster Biden has been in his first year.”

        Biden has been holding the country together when the Republicans have been trying to destroy it. Obama did the same thing. To me the Biden era is the eye of the storm, if Trump or Cruz or McConnell or DeSantis or somebody like those succeed in winning in 2024.

  3. It looks like Diaz is out too.

    Maybe Harrell just wants a clean slate and dept. heads directly loyal to him, and on the same page. If he were a new head coach, and Seattle was the team, I doubt he would keep any of the old assistant coaches, except maybe one or two minor positions at most.

    Immediate triage is the downtown commercial/retail core because that is where a majority of tax revenue comes from. I see where Nelson was appointed to that council subcommittee since she does not hate business, and her vote could tip the balance of the council. My guess is transit, bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. are around 10, 11 and 12 issues on his plate, and if I were Harrell I would stay away from WSBLE because that could turn into a political storm with no win.

    The problem with his (and the county’s) housing team is their solutions have not worked, and the proposals the progressives want to pursue like upzoning will not create affordable housing, and any actual new housing — SFH gross floor area vs. just more legal units for the same GFA — will take decades to create unaffordable housing, and Harrell doesn’t have decades. Voters want the tents out of the parks and off the streets NOW.

    Harrell was hired to fix a crisis and getting caught up in a bunch of other issues that were not the basis of his win would be foolish. Probably like Adams in NY and his showdown with BLM over the plain clothes police details Harrell needs a sister soulja moment with the council (ideally in response to a Sawant proposal so Harrell can paint the rest of the council as Sawant). With a 17% win over the Gonzales Harrell has a mandate, but the mandate is pretty specific and very difficult. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Souljah_moment

    1. “If he were a new head coach, and Seattle was the team, I doubt he would keep any of the old assistant coaches, except maybe one or two minor positions at most.”

      He would appoint local people who are immediately available. ST doesn’t replace the CEO every time the board changes. They only replace them for major reasons, and only do a nationwide search occasionally, not every four years.

    2. Running a City is not anything like a professional sports entertainment team. Pete Carrol doesn’t have to deal with non-performers (homeless). All he has to do is put an entertaining product on the field. Fixing Seattle bridges should be more important than paying off political favors. I’m not feeling good about Seattle’s new Mayor just yet.

    3. Given that Harrell is from the Murray/Durkan pro-business side of Seattle politics, a true “Sista Soulja” moment would be proposing a head tax on Amazon to pay for speeding up ST3, housing (as opposed to shelter beds) for the homeless., etc. He might even tell the new City Attorney to back such a proposal in court.

      It’s easy to say “up yours” to your adversaries, it’s a lot tougher to do so to your allies. Otherwise, you’re Dan Quayle criticizing Murphy Brown.

  4. Does anyone have a better idea of when East Link might open besides sometime in 2023? Does everyone agree that it will probably coincide with a Metro service change?

    1. The progress report on system expansion listed as June 30, 2023 for East Link, with the Downtown Redmond portion listed as November 19, 2024. It’s in page 14 here: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/agency-progress-report-capital-program-november-2021.pdf

      Of course, testing is the big schedule unknown. As with any big construction project, problems can arise. There are many systems that have to be working correctly! Northgate Link stands out in that many other recent urban rail projects have had significant delays (DC Dulles, SF Central Subway, LA Crenshaw, MD Purple Line) due to problems that have arisen in inspections or testing and these are still not open (and East San Jose BART was delayed well over a year). If I remember correctly, Northgate Link opening was actually pushed back two weeks or so. Keep in mind that the line also runs through the DSTT and North Seattle so those systems must also be working correctly.

      So my guess is that 2 Line (East Link) will begin operation no earlier than June 30, and a more definitive date will be announced early in 2023. I think ST will operate phantom East Link trains several weeks before opening (perhaps being in service north of ID/C).

    2. Train testing is nine months for a major new segment, and the rest of the testing starts a year ahead. So if East Link will open in late 2023, it will have to start testing in late 2022.

      Is all the track in place?

      The biggest thing I’m concerned about is the bridge expansion joints and putting a heavy train on the bridge because that was always going to be the most difficult and unprecedented part.

      1. Will ST try to time East Link’s opening with a Metro service change? If yes, that only leaves three options. March, June, or October.

  5. Albuquerque has free buses too. It started January 1st and is a one-year pilot program paid by federal covid relief funds. The previous fare was $1.

    The article also says Missoula, Montana; Olympia, Washington; and Richmond, Virginia, have free buses.

  6. On an E-Line right now headed downtown and there are NextGen Orca reader base pads mounted at the two rear exits. Not the readers themselves but the base to attach the reader.

    1. I’ve seen those on several new buses now. It at least gives the capability of installing rear-door readers at some point. The big issue will be the cost of the readers, as that’s why Metro hasn’t done it already. The readers are thousands of dollars each.

      1. How many thousands? $2k is less than the cost of a weeks wages & benefits for a full time bus driver. Or, about enough to buy enough diesel to drive a bus about a 100 miles. I’m curious how the cost of an ORCA reader compares to a credit card reader.

      2. I don’t remember the exact number, and it was in an article a year or two ago, and you know how bad I am at finding old articles. The issue for Metro is buying thousands of them for every bus, when it doesn’t have a lot of extra money. It’s not buying thousands of credit-card readers or hiring thousands of conductors to staff the back doors either, or putting a fare inspector/security guard on every bus all day.

  7. I’m curious what this group’s take is on the vernacular name for our light rail system.

    Seems most people here refer to it as Link, but in general conversation around non-transit nerds I find most people call it it “the light rail”. As in “I’m taking the light rail”, rather than “I’m taking Link”.

    I’d prefer to say Link, as it’s shorter and specific to seattle, but I’m not sure many of my friends would know what I’m talking about.

    1. Most people I talk with, mostly living in Seattle, call it “the light rail”. I’ve no problem with calling it “light rail”… that’s what it is. “THE has that CA speak connection. It’s 405, no “the” required; likewise, it’s light rail; or Link. The 1 Line; nope… Link or ‘light rail”. Link (or Central Link, or East Link) does not require “the“. Stop the Californication!!!

      1. After reading your comment above, I am left thinking about a somewhat famous reoccurring SNL skit and chuckling to myself. :)

      2. I tend to call it either “light rail” or “the train”. As in “I took the train from Northgate to Roosevelt, then walked to Ravenna Park”. I think I would call Sounder “commuter rail”, or maybe “Sounder train”, or just “the train” (relying on context) but it comes up so rarely I don’t remember. I’m sure this is a bigger thing for south sound residents (the one person I know who commuted from Seattle to Tacoma just took an express bus).

        I know some people refer to the RapidRide buses as a “line”. I usually just use the letter, along with the definite article, like the numbered buses. So this could be a typical conversation:

        “Do you take the 5 or the E to get to your house?”, I asked.

        “I take the E Line”, she replied.

      3. “ A gallon of milk or half rack of beer alone isn’t easy to carry to a train, on the train, and then home, even if young, for a $6 short round trip fare on Link. ”

        DT, please consider just once taking transit somewhere. It will give you some insight into how transit is actually used by people who actually exist, not some theoretical strawman you’ve dreamed up in your head.

        People who have no cars go grocery shopping all the time. You can see them on the bus and on light rail every day. Many of them are elderly and not able to drive any more, so they have no choice in the matter. Typically you will see them at the bus stop with a fold-up shopping cart that’s big enough for a couple days worth of food and a gallon of milk, at least. Usually, thanks to how our grocery stores are arranged, they have to drag this across several acres of dangerous parking lot with little or no provision for pedestrians in order to get from the store to the bus stop.

        Younger people are actually the ones with a non-transit advantage as they tend to be the ones with access to phone apps for Uber, car share, etc. or can pay extra for delivery, and don’t have to live on a tiny fixed income.

        Sure, it’d be more convenient for them to drive or get delivery or at least live walking distance to a grocery store, but unfortunately that’s not how our society dictates retired people get to live.

    2. Interesting, but on the Eastside with East Link set to open, and after the Christmas party season (thank you booster) you would think I might repeat something derogatory said about East Link (or “Line 2” which may as well be in Chinese although many speak Chinese) but mention East Link or Line 2 or light rail and you get totally blank stares.

      112th, The Spring District, Wilburton, no one one knows what the hell you are talking about, except the commercial brokers who think light rail is a detriment. No one plans to take transit, let alone transit, on the Eastside, let alone to 112th, or parts of Bellevue that don’t exist, or GOD FORBID SEATTLE.

      Moral of story: don’t make the same mistake with WSBLE that ST made with East Link. Light rail could really work for Ballard and West Seattle if you don’t destroy the community with station and line design at the alter of transit, even though the subarea is broke.

      1. No surprise many Eastsiders don’t pay attention to transit. But among my colleagues at Microsoft and friends who commute to the east side, many are excited about the light rail coming to Bellevue and Redmond. I expect light rail opening to increase the public transit mode share to Microsoft measurably. Waiting for a train in a nice covered station sure beats waiting for a bus (542 or 545) at a bus stop on a freeway off-ramp.

      2. And there’s a lot more feeder bus network to the light rail stations than there is to freeway interchanges. I suspect you are right about a big change in transit use to jobs at Microsoft and DT Bellevue when East Link opens. What’s interesting is it goes against the trend of transit use typically being driven by low wage jobs. The other factor is all the new housing that’s being built in the Spring District and Overlake that’s walking distance to light rail. I wonder if people will take the train to shop at the Overlake Safeway. Are there any other large grocery stores that are an easy walk from a Link station?

      3. “What’s interesting is it goes against the trend of transit use typically being driven by low wage jobs.”

        That has never been the case here. In the 1980s three-quarters of the routes were peak expresses to downtown, and most of those riders were median-wage office workers. Another chunk served the Boeing factories and UW. In the 2000s the biggest non-downtown ridership was to Microsoft and downtown Bellevue. Pre-covid the 545 ran every five or ten minutes until 10:30am, packed with people going to Microsoft, and half of them got on at the Bellevue & Olive stop on Capitol Hill.

        Since 2020 there has been greater recognition of low-wage essential workers, and their ridership remained while higher-income commuters disappeared. That has caused a reprioritization of transit resources. But it’s a temporary situation until offices reopen. In the future we’ll probably see more of an equal number of higher- and lower-income workers. Not 80-90% lower-income because this isn’t Tacoma or Atlanta.

        The other factor is all the new housing that’s being built in the Spring District and Overlake that’s walking distance to light rail. I wonder if people will take the train to shop at the Overlake Safeway. Are there any other large grocery stores that are an easy walk from a Link station?

      4. I’m waiting to say “1 Line”, “2 Line”, “S1”, “S2”, “S3”, “Shoreline South”, “Shoreline North” until they open. People will hear them more then and recognize them. At this time there’s no point in keeping track of whether S1 or S2 is 405 South: everybody knows what “405 South” or “Renton-Bellevue” or “Stride 522” mean. As for “the 1 Line”, there’s no point when there’s only one line. The name is just to get people used to it for later.

        Last week in the newspaper I saw a reference to the “N” line. I wondered if it was a typo because there is no N line, not like MUNI’s N-Judah. I finally figured out they meant Sounder North, because ST has started putting “N” and “S” on the maps for Sounder. Maybe it can be the N line in the future, but right now people don’t recognize that.

        “112th, The Spring District, Wilburton, no one one knows what the hell you are talking about”

        And I don’t expect them to until after it opens. Many people do know the Spring District has a light rail station even if they don’t know exactly where, because that was part of the upzone planning. “Wilburton” is a vague term and people aren’t sure what its boundaries are. I thought it was the residential area south of NE 8th Street. “112th” is a long street, many people have rarely been there, and don’t pay attention to whether it has a Link station or not. People who go there in the future will learn about East Main station; it doesn’t matter otherwise.

        “except the commercial brokers who think light rail is a detriment.”

        Some commercial brokers might think that, but the Spring District commercial interests are pro-Link and were one of the catalysts of getting East Link approved.

        “Light rail could really work for Ballard and West Seattle if you don’t destroy the community with station and line design”

        Maybe there’s a silver lining in Ballard’s 14th alternative. It’s so far away from the community that it can’t destroy it. None of Link’s previous segments have destroyed communities, so I don’t see it happening now.

        “No one plans to take transit, let alone transit, on the Eastside, let alone to 112th, or parts of Bellevue that don’t exist, or GOD FORBID SEATTLE.”

        That’s clearly false. There are people on the 550 now; it has increased since its 2020 nadir. People going to Bellevue and Seattle for many destinations and reasons. People will take Link to the Spring District and Redmond because it’s so much more convenient than the existing buses. (The 545 goes from only a few places, and the Spring District currently has just a 30-60 minute coverage route to Bellevue TC.) East Main (112th) is a minor station so it will only matter to people going to that neighborhood. But 3/4 of the intersection is getting TOD highrises, so that will undoubtedly draw some riders. (And, y’know, if we upzoned Surrey Downs there would be even more.)

        , except the commercial brokers who think light rail is a detriment. No one plans to take transit, let alone transit, on the Eastside, let alone to 112th, or parts of Bellevue that don’t exist, or GOD FORBID SEATTLE. “

      5. Grocery stores have acres of free parking (on the Eastside) and you have to get your bags of groceries home. A gallon of milk or half rack of beer alone isn’t easy to carry to a train, on the train, and then home, even if young, for a $6 short round trip fare on Link. Developments in The Spring District and Wilburton and along 112th will have massive underground parking garages for a reason.

        In 2004 Microsoft was a big proponent of East Link. At the time a lot of employees were young and wanted to live in Seattle, not sleepy Redmond or Bellevue.

        Now those workers are older, married, with kids. Plus one can argue the best retail is on the Eastside, although probably not nightlife if you are young.

        No doubt if you live in Seattle, can walk to a Link station, and work at Microsoft (and don’t work from home) East Link is a big improvement (and if you live on First Hill catching the 630 to Mercer Island to catch East Link might work during peak hours considering there will be no other buses in the HOV lane on the bridge span) but I don’t think the reverse commute is why Eastside residents paid $5.5 billion for East Link, and not something they look forward to.

        And then you meet someone, get married, get older, and the next thing you know you are standing on a soccer field in the rain watching six year old kids playing soccer somewhere between Redmond and Bellevue thinking WTF and driving to work after dropping the kids off at pre-school or school and parking in the new 3 million sf underground parking garage.

        But funny enough you are happier that generally comes with age, to a point your body begins to break down. But there is a sweet spot between young and old, and it tends to occur in a SFH probably on the Eastside if you still work at Microsoft.

        Just don’t expect a lot of transit talk at cocktail parties.

      6. “A gallon of milk or half rack of beer alone isn’t easy to carry to a train,”

        Not everybody has a large family or overbuys consumer stuff. In cities like Boston people take taxis or use delivery services for large grocery and furniture runs. Not everybody wants to drive to a big-box store even if they can and parking is free. Some people will use Link for some trips and not for others.

        “In 2004 Microsoft was a big proponent of East Link.”

        It still is as far as I know.

        “Now those workers are older, married, with kids.”

        Are you sure Microsoft’s workforce is aging? Some people retire and start their own companies, and younger people take their place.

        “Plus one can argue the best retail is on the Eastside”

        The Seattle-Eastside area has over a million people. That means sizeable numbers of people are doing everything under the sun, including things you don’t think they’re doing. The Eastside certainly has unique shops and cultural and recreational venues that aren’t available elsewhere, or at least are easier to get to on transit than Southcenter, Alderwood Mall, and Federal Way. Those will inevitably draw people, and some of them will take Link. You may think that nobody takes transit to Bellevue Square, but somebody is getting on the 550 at 4th & Bellevue Way, and it’s often a dozen somebodies, so some of them are probably shopping at the Square.

      7. Grocery stores have acres of free parking (on the Eastside) and you have to get your bags of groceries home. A gallon of milk or half rack of beer alone isn’t easy to carry to a train, on the train, and then home, even if young, for a $6 short round trip fare on Link. Developments in The Spring District and Wilburton and along 112th will have massive underground parking garages for a reason.

        Daniel, we’ve been doing this for 15 years now, both by foot and by transit. We’re now late 30s and have no plans to stop. Maybe once we hit our 60s we’ll get a folding cart, which I’ve seen plenty of people bring onto buses and trains. Heck, we just managed a transfer from the 40 to the 62 with a week’s worth of groceries…

        I’m betting if you go to NYC, Boston, DC, or Philadelphia, you’ll see even more people doing their grocery shopping by non-car means. Just because you don’t do it or haven’t seen it doesn’t mean that it isn’t viable.

      8. That’s why you also see more (and smaller) grocery stores in Europe and the Eastcoast. I grew up with Aldi which is expanding on the Eastcoast and CA, they may eventually reach Seattle, too. You grab a few groceries on your way home from work rather than do an all week shopping spree by car, and if something is missing, they are usually not far away. But it will take a bit to turn our car-centric cities around.

      9. My mom grew up in London during the 30’s and 40’s. People didn’t have refrigeration back then so you only bought enough food that you could eat before it went bad. And you went to the butcher for meat. The baker for bread and a green grocery for fruits & veggies. So that culture has always been there. Now in London it’s extremely expensive to drive and there’s next to no parking. Boots are everywhere. There was talk of them coming to the US market. Ireland however everybody drives, even in cities like Cork.

        We’re seeing the smaller stores pop up like Amazon Go/Fresh. Also the Target mini stores like the one in Bellevue (although it’s not that mini it does have a decent grocery dept). And I think there’s a Safeway on the ground floor of one of the tall buildings in NW DT near Bell Square. I would expect some of the ground floor retail in Columbia City and Mt Baker to have groceries but they’ll likely be expensive specialty shops. The thing with the Safeway at Overlake is you can stock up on staples that are on sale and save as much as 50% over already lower prices than small shops. You also have a much greater selection of specialty items. That said, we’ve found that for things like black rice it’s cheaper to just order 3# bags on line. Same for goods like paper towels which are inevitably out of stock when you go to buy them; especially if they’re on sale. I can see people using airport style rolling luggage for shopping via Link. The level boarding is a big advantage over buses.

      10. I have always done the vast majority of my grocery shopping on foot, and plan on continuing to do so. I prefer to spend time walking than driving through busy parking lots, especially when most of the walking is on off-street trails, away from cars.

        If you look at the map, there are numerous homes, even on the eastside, within a 10-minute walk of a major grocery store (I live in one of them). Even my parents house in Houston, of all places, is within a 10-minute walk of a grocery store (and, yes, they do occasionally walk there when the weather is nice and they’re only buying a few things).

        To say everyone needs to have a car in order to get groceries is simply not true.

      11. Idea for comment or post. Rank all Line 1 and 2 stations by walkscore.

        Sam, you being the premier transit reporter in the PNW I look forward to your Page 2 submission.

      12. @asdf2,
        Would you be willing to share which store that is? There used to be a Safeway in DT Kirkland that got converted to an antique mall. Not sure what is on that site now. The Albertsons on Rose Hill closed after they merged with Safeway which had a newer store across the street. The QFC in Totem Lake is walking distance to a few apartments. The Kingsgate Safeway is surrounded by single family homes. The Metropolitan Market in Houghton has apartments and SF within walking distance… but it’s eXpensive. Of course everyone who lives in Kirkland is rich ;=)

        numerous homes, even on the eastside, within a 10-minute walk of a major grocery store

        I’d venture a guess there are more homes on the eastside in walking distance to a grocery store than in Seattle as grocery stores have been closing like crazy in Seattle for many years; often stores that go back generations.

      13. Station-area supermarkets:

        Othello: Safeway, adjacent.
        Columbia City: PCC, three blocks away.
        Beacon Hill: Red Apple Market, across the street.
        SODO/Stadium: I think there’s a Grocery Outlet and a wholesale restaurant store within a few blocks.
        Intl Dist: Uwajimaya, two blocks away.
        University Street: PCC opening soon, I think in Rainier Square?
        Westlake: H-Mart, 2 blocks away. Pike Place Market, 3 blocks away.
        Capitol Hill: H-Mart opening soon, adjacent. QFC, four blocks away and three blocks away. Trader Joe’s and Central Co-Op, seven blocks away up a hill.
        U-District: H-Mart, one block away. Safeway, two blocks away.
        Roosevelt: While Foods, across the street. Top Banana produce: three blocks away at 15th & 65th.
        East Main: Used to have a Lucky a few blocks away; a future supermarket might open when development finishes.
        Wilburton: Whole Foods, adjacent.
        Overlake Village: I’m not sure how far Safeway is.

        Also, it doesn’t take that long to go from Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill or from Capitol Hill to Roosevelt if you prefer the stores there. That’s the beauty of Link. On the Eastside, it won’t take long to go from anywhere to anywhere, such as East Main to Overlake Village or downtown Redmond. It’s too bad Bellevue downtown station is so far from Safeway at 4th & Bellevue Way, where Link should have been.

        John Bailo, a suburbanist who used to be on STB, lived in the densest, most transit-friendly location in Kent, at 104th & KK Road, where he could walk to a small shopping center with a supermarket.

      14. Wait, Top Banana is the produce shop at 15th NW. The one at 15th NE is Rising Sun Farms. It has/had a mural with a banana just to make things confusing.

      15. The Safeway at Othello seems to be only a little bit farther from the Link Station than Overlake. I don’t know the area so I don’t know what the walk is like. Are people using it to buy groceries?

      16. The QFC just north of Mt Baker station is my favorite market — compact and a nice variety of quality food.

      17. I go to Roosevelt for the produce shop, and if I were still going to Whole Foods regularly I’d go to that one because it’s so close to a station.

        The Othello Safeway is half a street away because the station is in the middle of the street. I don’t know anyone who lives in Rainier Valley now so I don’t know where they shop. But if I lived within seven miles of there and wanted to go to Safeway or to one of the big mainstream supermarkets, I’d go to that one. And if you live near Othello station, you can stop by Safeway on your way home.

      18. Mt Baker: Mekong Rainier, five blocks away. Not that big but has hard-to-find Thai ingredients.

      19. Will Judkins Park have any businesses?
        Not much. There’s a brew pub north of I-90 on the west side of Rainier. Not sure what the giant apartment buildingyet to be built will have at ground level. The historic “Dairygold” building is there. Nothing notable south of I-90 I recall but much has been made of Lighthouse for the Blind and the lack of handicapped signalling at the at grade crossing for the Link station. The main station on 23rd I don’t think has anything, it’s all Park.

      20. Depending on station location, Ballard link won’t be too far from Whole Foods, the Ballard Market and Ballard Safeway and Interbay QFC.

        Safeway and QFC and a few others around Seattle Center and Belltown too might wind up close to a station.

      21. That’s assuming that those stores in Ballard will still be there.
        Kroger to close at least two grocery stores in Seattle after hazard pay increase
        Only full-service supermarket in Downtown Seattle closes, citing problems in city
        And it’s been going on for quite some time:
        Albertsons closing two Seattle stores
        Of course new stores do open. A Metropolitin Market is coming to the old Crown Hill Value Village but it was originally a QFC. PCC is bring a new store to DT in Rainier Square. Safeway has developed a model where they use the land, usually with a lot of parking and build a ground level grocery with underground parking and as many floors of condos as the height limits allow. There’s one planned for Upper Queen Anne. It would be similar to the one on Lower Queen Anne. A more ambitious proposal is in the works for Capital Hill. It would be more like the one in DT Bellevue.

      22. Maybe some do not remember. In Northgate Mall there used to be a QFC with an external entrance you could get to when the mall was closed. It was shut down and eventually replaced by the one on Northgate Way and Roosevelt Ne. The store is gone and many years later, the mall. But that would have been a good grocery location for Link riders. The timing was off by about 25 years. Unfortunate.

      23. Totem Lake Mall also had a grocery store like the one you describe at Northgate. It became a Circuit City until they went bankrupt. There’s a Whole Foods in the new development. There’s a QFC exactly like this at Crossroads. Always has been as far back as I remember and it seems to be profitable.

        The Safeway at Othello I didn’t know about because it’s a block off MLK but it looks like about the same walk from the station as the one in Overlake will be. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Overlake location got the multifamily over grocery treatment. It’s a prime location bordering on the MS campus and having a light rail station. The one in Othello might get it too as the current redevelopment is only a block away. Hopefully it doesn’t just go away and increase the South Seattle Food Desert. That’s what happen to Viet Wah at S Graham.

      24. To add to Mike’s station area grocery store list … within walking distance of Overlake Village Station, along with Safeway, are Fred Meyer, Trader Joe’s, and Mayuri Grocery. Uwajimaya is near Wilburton Station. I still think it’s a poor location for a station, but at least it’s near stuff. Another grocery store near Wilburton Station along with Whole Foods is Uwajimaya.

        Bernie, I’m also a former Farrell’s employee. Except I worked at the Southcenter location in the fountain dept. Has your wife told you about the birthday kissing that went on? BTW, I’m pretty sure Totem Lake Mall had a CompUSA, not a Circuit City.

      25. To answer Bernie’s question, I shop at the QFC at Kirkland Urban. Right in the middle of downtown.

      26. @Mike Orr. I have shopped at that Top Banana on NW 65th and 15th Ave NW. I remember it was a gas station in the 70’s, and a family owned used car dealer in to the mid 90’s. When it became Top Banana, there used to be an Isuzu Box Truck parked there that I think said “Lil Rays Produce”. I hope I’m right. That would have been around 2003. I knew the owner of that truck. He moved my piano in that truck for a move in gift. Good times.

      27. I lived across the street from Top Banana in 2003. Before that I lived in the U-District and went to Rising Sun Farms, which had the mural with a banana. The latter had a second shop at 19th & Madison, where I lived for a short time in the early 90s. Then that closed and became a hearing center or something. The original location moved across the street, and its old location (the one with the banana) became “Rising Sun Parking”. That’s gone now. So there’s one produce shop at 65th & 15th NE, and another produce shop at 65th & 15th NW. I don’t know how that happened.

      28. the QFC at Kirkland Urban.

        I had no idea that was there. It’s well hidden. Appears they have an underground garage but I see no loading docks or way to back in a semi. That’s got to be expensive rent and operations. When you have that you tend to only sell really high quality or small package sizes (i.e. expensive).

    3. I say “Link” or “the train”. Newbies and non-riders say “light rail” because that’s what the politicians and TV shows say so that’s what they think it’s called. Many of them don’t recognize the word “Link” so I say “light rail” to them.

      We’ve fallen into a rhetorical hole because “light rail” is supposed to be for secondary corridors and small cities, but here it’s our main trunk. It’s especially incongruent in the underground stations. Typical light rail is 90+% surface like MAX, so having such large segments underground makes it more like a full-sized subway/metro, yet we call it light rail.

      In the beginning I probably called it “the subway” or “the metro”, but I’ve switched to “Link” because the name is everywhere on trains and stations, and it’s no worse than other city-specific names like Max, Bart, T, L. We have the only Link, and it links our cities and activity centers. :)

      I don’t fully like saying “the train” because it’s so vague, but I say it anyway. I had a friend in New Jersey who went to shows in Manhattan and he said “I take one train, then another train, then another. and another.” I said, “The last one or two must be subways, and I wouldn’t call those ‘trains’.” He said, “A train is a train”, as if the subway were only a detail. Maybe it looks like that if your closest station is a New Jersey Transit regional train. I would look at it the other way: the subway is the core service, and regional trains are to serve outlying areas.

      1. In New York they often refer to the subway as “the train” when it is clear they aren’t talking about a commuter train. They sometimes refer to specific lines by label, using the definite article (e. g. “the 2”, or “the G”).

        For that reason, I think it is quite likely that people will use “the train” more and more, even though it is not specific. Not too long ago, Link Light Rail covered a relatively small part of the city. Now, it is about to cover a huge part of the region. It will dwarf commuter rail; enough so that “the train” becomes synonymous with Link light rail. The Sounder train has to be spelled out, in the same way that someone referring to Portland Maine has to specify the state (around here).

        And yet, there will only be two lines on “the train” which means differentiating between them seems like overkill. You “take the train” to Bellevue or Redmond. Or you take it to Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley or the Airport. It becomes obvious which train you are on based on the destination. Or you take it between downtown and Northgate (and it doesn’t matter). In conversation, you are far more likely to say “I spaced out and took the train to Bellevue even though I was headed to Rainier Valley” then you are to say “I took the 2 instead of the 1 — oops”. Everyone knows what you mean by the first sentence, but might not by the second.

    4. Nationally, there are many systems that use “Link” fully or partially. There’s even one in Chelan County! In many cases, these systems are often for small communities because the term seems to imply access more than speed or frequency.

      Then there is Translink in Vancouver — which is a full agency name rather than a service.

      I think the name Link is so generic that it can’t offend anyone, which is why it’s used. It can’t inspire anyone either or create a quick mental image however, which is why it’s not embraced in casual conversation. A final factor is that it’s currently used to describe construction projects and not actual service (most entities call it East Link rather than Line 2 Link, for example) and often the projects are discussed without the addition of “extension” in the name.

      Of course, getting ST to rename the technology is unfathomable. So I think we are going to live with it unless it becomes politically offensive in some way — like “red line” was.

      So how does that play out in conversation? That would be a good research question for a graduate degree.

      I think a value of the abandoned color reference is that it was going to be identifiable and more commonly used (even though I feel that using colors has more negatives than positives). Line 1 is better — but it also seems too generic for quick visual imagery.

      I use “light rail” because “Link” feels so generic verbally that it could mean all sorts of things. “Take the link” is different from “Take the Link” but it sounds the same. Unless it’s used in context, the listener can think it means something else. It could even be another word for pedestrian bridge or tunnel to the light rail.

      Had ST proposed putting an “L” in front of the number (Line L1) like they are doing with Stride (Line S1), Link would probably be more accepted as “Link 1” or “Line 1”. The imagery of the T inside a circle defines Boston’s rail lines because it’s prominent at every station. Let’s admit that having just a “1” inside a circle does not immediately refer to rail in an average someone’s mind. I’m even reminded that 76 is a gasoline station chain and 7-11 is a convenience store. That’s why we probably need the train silhouette at stations and thus why people will continue to call that silhouette “light rail”.

      1. ST may back into L1 because it’s a natural evolution path from “1 Line”. Or people might start saying “the 1”. That overlaps with some bus routes but Metro’s 1 is a coverage route that will probably be restructured into another number, and PT’s 1 is being split into Stream and a still-unnumbered northern half. (Originally the one-digit routes were a premium brand like RapidRide, but it looks like most of them will eventually become Stream or replaced by the T line (19th).) See how up-to-date I am: I said “the T line” instead of “Tacoma link”. Sam can mail me an award.

      2. Or people might start saying “the 1”. That overlaps with some bus routes but Metro’s 1 is a coverage route that will probably be restructured into another number, and PT’s 1 is being split into Stream and a still-unnumbered northern half.

        I really doubt it. To begin, Metro’s 1 is not a coverage route, but a high density, high ridership route. It is short, but its ridership per mile is well above most routes. I don’t see it going anywhere in terms of a restructure.

        The 2 is an even bigger route, and again, I don’t see Metro messing with the number, even if they move the route a little bit because of a restructure (I would move it to Pike/Pine between downtown and Capitol Hill because of RapidRide G). These buses have been here a really long time, and thousands of people ride them every day. Lots of people reference them, as it is essential to catch the right bus, and there are numerous opportunities to catch the wrong one.

        Saying “the 1” in reference to a train would be confusing, given this history. It would also be unnecessary. Saying “the 1 train” will be meaningless to a lot of people who take it. If you are in Bellevue, the number is meaningless — you only care about the direction. Same with the return trip. If you are at Northgate headed to downtown, the same thing is true. If you are downtown headed to Bellevue, then you first need to know the destination (not the train number) to figure out where to stand. At that point, it stands to reason that you would base your decision on the same thing (the destination, not the number). My guess is only transit nerds will know the number, and even then, a lot of us will use terms like “East Link”. It is just easier to understand.

      3. “Metro’s 1 is not a coverage route, but a high density, high ridership route. It is short, but its ridership per mile is well above most routes. I don’t see it going anywhere in terms of a restructure. The 2 is an even bigger route, and again, I don’t see Metro messing with the number, even if they move the route a little bit because of a restructure (I would move it to Pike/Pine between downtown and Capitol Hill because of RapidRide G)”

        The 1 and 2N were hourly evenings for years. That doesn’t sound like high ridership routes. Most of the ridership was probably where they overlap with the 13 and/or D, so it could be addressed by adding runs on other routes. The 2S is busier than the 2N, and Metro has been focusing on making that half more frequent.

        Metro’s formerly-online plans moved the 2S to Pine-12th-Union to replace the 2, 11, and 49. The 2N was a local route that went to East Aloha Street if I recall. I don’t think the 1 went downtown either.

      4. It’d be nice to see the 1 do something different at the north end. I’m not sure exactly what, but a short extension could bring it down to Dravus and the D, and three more blocks connects it with the 31 and 33. Not sure of its utility, but any connection is better than ending in the middle of a residential area. At the very least, Dravus gives another QFC for Queen Anne residents to shop.

  8. I just finished reviewing the Northwest MLS 2021 annual report on housing in the central Puget Sound Market market and it’s pretty grim picture for buyers of modest means currently looking for a home. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I have seen inventory levels this low. The report shows that there were just 1,553 units listed at the end of last year, representing just .2 months supply.

    The share of all homes for sale across the region at the end of 2021 that were priced at $400k or less dropped all the way down to 15.1%, a decline of over 68% since the prior year. Here’s the breakdown for all homes sold during the year:

    Closed Sales by Price Range
    $400,000 and below:
    2019- 23,046
    2020- 16,832
    2021- 10,635

    $400,001 to $600,000:
    2019- 20,756
    2020- 23,636
    2021- 24,524

    $600,001 to $1,000,000:
    2019- 16,001
    2020- 19,559
    2021- 27,616

    2019- 6,189
    2020- 8,022
    2021- 13,792

    I think the pattern is pretty apparent.
    Anyway, there’s a ton of data in the report and I would encourage others to get a hold of a copy if they have access. One little nugget that caught my eye that I’ll close this comment out with was this section:

    Condominium Market Share in 2021
    King County 22.6%
    Snohomish County 18.0%
    Pierce County 6.3%
    Kitsap County 5.3%

    It would be interesting to see this particular data broken out further by new construction versus existing housing but unfortunately the report isn’t that granular.

    1. I put your numbers into an Excel sheet. From 2019 to 2020 there was an increase in number of sales of 3.12%. From 2020 to 2021 that increase was 12.52%. For 2020 Seattle population growth was 2.2%. For the years referenced the Seattle metro area growth rate has been a steady 0.8% per year. It would be interesting to know what the number of new units was but clearly the increased sales are being driven not by more people living here but by people moving around a lot more. I can think of a few reasons why. Covid, many people decided to move with the opportunity (or requirement) for WFH. Also related to Covid were a number of retirements so while population growth was modest there were more new people replacing retirees that moved out of the region. The other big reason is the Fed signalling that the days of free money are coming to an end. Someone that bought a $400k home back in the days of 7% mortgage rates can take out a $600k loan at 3% and be making a smaller payment. Thing is, you can’t deduct a refi on your income tax. So you have to move. And a 3% 30 year fixed loan with looming inflation is a screaming good deal.

    2. “I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I have seen inventory levels this low”

      That’s the exact problem I’ve been warning about for years. Before the 2009 crash the average time-on-market for houses was six months, and it was common for apartments to be empty for one or two months or more. The equilibrium vacancy rate for apartments is 5-10% (some sources say 5, some 10), and for houses/condos it’s at least two months. But the vacancy rate has been below that since 2003, sometimes down to 1 or 2%, and that’s what’s pushing prices 5-10% per year.

      After the 2008 crash, the time-on-market plummeted to six weeks or less. Construction stopped, most buying and selling stopped, but the weirdest aspect is that so few houses were available — sellers had just stopped selling. They either wanted to stay put, were underwater, or didn’t think they could get something as good as they already had in this rapidly-rising market. Even with few buyers, the number of sellers was even fewer, so prices went up. That has continued ever since. The inventory is still very low (the equivalent of vacancy rate), so prices continue to shoot up. It’s so tight that buyers are willing to pay thousands of dollars above asking, to waive inspections that would reveal undisclosed flaws, and to buy sight-unseen — because they’re looking a year for a house and don’t want to look any longer or never get anything.

      1. Mike, you begin with a conclusion — we have too little (SFH) housing and then use vacancy rates to support that.

        Population levels have been level over the last two years, both for Seattle and King Co. In fact housing prices are increasing faster outside Seattle, dramatically so on the Eastside.

        The first factor is the big increase in the desire for a SFH during the pandemic. Then you have historically low interest rates that translate into lower monthly payments for the same house value. Third people have forgotten 2009 to 2015 and think housing prices will never decline. It took me three YEARS — from 2009 to 2012 — to sell my old house, that sold for $500,000 more five years later. Schools and public safety and a strong economy accounted for that price increase on MI, not increasing population to housing ratios.

        When it comes to multi family units Crosscut had an article noting there were 72,000 vacant apartments. My guess is landlords are waiting for the eviction moratoria to end before renting again, and there is a shift to SFH.

        Bernie is correct: it is the cost to build the housing, the interest rate that determines how much house you can buy, and AMI that determines housing prices, along with a shift toward SFH’s due to the pandemic and WFH.

        If your goal is a retail dense, walkable, true urban experience mildly upzoning the periphery of a large city (the SFH zone) won’t create affordable housing, and actually works against the density urbanism needs.

      2. Apartment vacancy rates in Seattle are significantly affected by college students. That’s why many were vacant at the beginning of 2021.

        The mid-2021 report reflects that. (https://kidder.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/trend_article/2021-Mid-Year-Apt-Update.pdf). Except for near UW, the Seattle vacancy rates are within 2 percent of the best Eastside market and are generally actually better than Kirkland.

        I think your statements would hold more weight if you would start citing quantitative references in your arguments, DT. Otherwise, it comes off as speculative biased thinking rather than factual.

      3. After the 2008 crash, the time-on-market plummeted to six weeks or less. Construction stopped, most buying and selling stopped, but the weirdest aspect is that so few houses were available — sellers had just stopped selling.

        People stopped selling because they were underwater on their mortgage. If you’re payment is less than renting and you have any equity at all you’re better off riding it out; which is exactly what people were doing after the crash. Even if it was more expensive people rode it out to avoid the huge black mark on their credit. The other factor was the people that walked away because they’d gotten a nothing down loan and the number of bank owned properties reached crazy levels. It took years for home prices to recover because banks were slowly putting property back on the market for years. During this period there were lots of empty houses. But the population was still increasing. There wasn’t the huge number of tents. People got roommates, moved back with parents or cut back on owning second homes. I’m amazed at how many homes around me are vacant (investors, usually foreign) or empty most of the year (sports stars, snow birds).

        Construction stopped, Of course it did. The cost of construction was more than what a home would sell for. Supply will meet demand where demand is actual buyers. Construction is booming right now because prices are higher than the ridiculously high price of new construction. I’m seeing a lot of vacant aparments in the Overlake area and right around where I work (Judkins Park). The large complex directly to the east has been leasing for over a year and still isn’t full. There’s two new multifamily buildings under construction just to the north of that and another 8 story complex starting soon as they kicked out the Peruvian Chicken place and the plumbing outfit. But the majority of the footprint for that building will replace the current parking garage for the office building we’re in which was empty for years after the dot.com bust and is still 2/3rds empty.

      4. @Al S.
        Thanks for that link:

        spanning mid-2020 to mid-2021: During the last 12 months, the apartment market experienced one of the sharpest freefalls in rental rates – and occupancy rates – on record. In fact, in some markets, rental rates declined by more than 25% and vacancy spiked to nearly 20%.

        Ouch, that explains why I’m seeing all the new apartments sitting empty. I wonder how much of the shift away from renting is fueling the wildfire in home prices. I also wonder if we’re going to see some of the projects under construction crater like we did with office buildings after the last crash. A 25% drop in rates means investors are seeing negative cash flow. And with the decreased demand for office space it might be cheaper to convert rather than build. Even if it’s a wash the owner of the office building is at least getting some income vs a cubicle desert.

  9. Sound Transit finally presented more detailed designs for the 2nd downtown tunnel and all the new stations as part of the community advisory group meetings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFqEkhDFpEg&t=6676s. Stations will be between 85 and 135 feet below surface, some look like they will be mined. Has anybody had a chance yet to review those designs?

    1. Thank you, Martin.

      There is no mention of IDS in this presentation, but it proposes FIVE levels between the platforms at Westlake??????????????? Has any of the consultants EVER ridden a subway train? This monstrosity will be so deep at Midtown that the only conveyance appears to be a huge elevator bank. WOW, just wow!

      No build. That’s my choice if this is the “alternative”. Few people will ride this.

    2. The depths are ridiculous. Plus, given ST’s track record of vertical circulation, I imagine that there is little redundancy in elevator or excavator systems — and no commitment to a higher service level beyond 95 percent. Heaven forbid a rider gets stranded down there!

      How do these depths compare to sea level?

      I hope that the more detailed layouts start to make people more aware of the actual effort it’s going to take to get to these station platforms.

      1. The Midtown platforms are roughly horizontal from the BNSF tunnel which is flat, according to the diagram. So they ARE above MSL about fifteen feet.

        ST is obviously not planning to put a “hump” in the middle to make Midtown shallower. Wow, just wow.

      2. Yeah, I was looking at this and I just went blegh. New Westlake will have more ridership than Bloor/Yonge, yet zilch about upgrades that would be needed for the existing station?

      3. Yep. The mid-range projections say 41K boardings at Westlake on 2040. What i don’t know is whether this includes the transferring passengers or not. I don’t think so. So it’s at least 82K weekday station users — and possibly another 10-30K transferring riders.

        Hyperlink: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2020/01/27/sound-transits-station-ridership-in-2040/

        It’s also important to note that the vertical distance appears to be substantial between the new Westlake platforms and the existing ones.

        This is one more reason why advocates need to push ST to design SODO station for cross-platform transfers! It’s inane that we don’t get as many riders as possible transferring with a level walk at SODO and expect them to do it at ID or Westlake with a huge vertical distance! Currently, ST alternatives have no cross platform transfer at SODO or anywhere else.

      4. Do you see anything interesting about Graham’s ridership? It’s higher than any of the other Rainier Valley or Beacon Hill stations.

      5. It’s a good question, Mike. Even though these are computer models, I think they should be looked at before making station recommendations. Otherwise, decisions get based much more on what person or stakeholder or company has the most political influence.

        In Graham’s case, I suspect it’s partly because the station is further from Rainier than any other RV station is. My friends in ridership forecasting tell me it’s hard to get the demand estimated right when there is a frequent bus route like Metro 7 close by. Also, ST did not explain what the assumed feeder bus routes and frequency would be (and what redevelopment assumptions are made) and that affects the forecasts.

      6. All the development along MLK is centered around Columbia City and Mt Baker with Othello starting to get into the race. I don’t see why Graham would leap frog any of them. A lot of the numbers don’t make any sense. East Main higher than DT Bellevue? Not a chance when DT has tens of thousands of jobs and is the largest transit center on the eastside. And the Spring District less than Hospital Station when there’s already Facebook and Amazon plus all the new apartments? The Issaquah line numbers are pathetic and undoubtedly high. For one, it won’t be built by then. But 1100 for S Kirkland P&R. There’s only 800 parking space plus two apartment buildings. Most people using it are going to DT Seattle or UW because that’s where most people are going period. That leaves bus transfers. But transfer to where? DT Bellevue it doesn’t really go there; you still have to transfer so why not just use the 250. I don’t see more than a couple hundred people a day using this and the ridership would be essentially the same if they just ran a single track spur from Hospital Station to the P&R which is already half way there to serve OMF-E. Why would people from Issaquah want to go to S Kirkland P&R? I guess some would use it to get to DT Bellevue which must be why Hospital Station gets a bump. But really is it worth the cost when you get essentially the same ridership running a bus to S. Bellevue P&R (or MI P&R) or direct to BTC.

        Another one that looks way off is Angle Lake. How is that going to generate 7100 from an 1160 stall parking garage? It’s numbers at best should be the same as Marymoor at ~3k.

      7. “I don’t see why Graham would leap frog any of them”

        It has more development potential around it, and it’s closer to all the NewHolly housing. The biggest shopping-center plaza on MLK is on the north side and could support a large commercial/residential complex. The McDonald’s lot is likewise ready for TOD.

        In contrast, both sides of Othello station have small immigrant-built strip malls full of low-cost shops and storefronts that cater to those communities, and very walkable with small parking lots. They’ll be reluctant to change that.

        Columbia City station has only a few small restaurants and a smaller cluster of housing; most of the neighborhood is three blocks away on Rainier with the 7.

        Mt Baker station is zoned for the biggest commercial development with an office building or two (a hub urban village), but it has only gotten a couple buildings and they’re residential.

        Rainier Beach station, who knows when that area will develop or what it might turn into. The city slowed down upzoning that area to give residents more time to prepare for growth and avoid displacement. It’s at a disadvantage because it’s the furthest from downtown, has no Belleve or Lynnwood immediately beyond it, is far from Federal Way, and Federal Way itself is the least desirable edge city for employers.

      8. Mike, use Google street view and look at Othello from Webster to Willow. Do the same for Columbia City from Edmunds to Genesee. It took years after Link was built for this development to occur. For Graham to surpass this it first has to catch up and it’s starting from zero. It’s the critical mass thing; development begets more development. Until those areas have reach their potential there’s not going to be interest in Graham. A lot of these units aren’t online yet or the Covid thing that’s clobbered interest in apartment living accounts for all the empty units. But so far Link ridership at these stations remains way below initial estimates. If Graham had some magical development advantage it would have made the cut first time around.

    3. Intl Dist has four alternatives: shallow 5th, deep 5th, shallow 4th, deep 4th. Shallow 5th is the representative alignment, lowest cost, highest-ridership, and the shortest walk to International District businesses. Both those same businesses are objecting to it because they’ve already been through building the original station and the streetcar and don’t want more temporary disruption, and now they’re playing the equity card. But if we can get the representative alignment through, that would be best.

    4. It reminds me of Alon’s article about early commitment: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2021/10/27/early-commitment/
      If ST3 commits to particular stations and ST only allows for two alignment alternatives, then cost or complexity doesn’t matter anymore – engineers will make it work at whatever cost and whether it makes sense or not, they deliver!
      West Seattle is not much different, Ballard is a bit easier.

      1. Realistically, what other option is there besides deep bore? Surface rail? Cut-and-cover? Is it possible to relocate all of the utilities along the length of downtown and SLU? We knew this is what we were likely to get.

        I don’t see the big deal with deep stations. Everyone fights for the elevators at the stations that multiple slow escalators. Beacon Hill is the easiest one to get out of despite being the deepest. One fast elevator and you’re at street level just like that. Put in enough elevators and there’s no problem.

        Plus we know Sound Transit can deliver that type of station on time and on budget.

      2. I don’t see the big deal with deep stations. Everyone fights for the elevators at the stations that multiple slow escalators. Beacon Hill is the easiest one to get out of despite being the deepest. One fast elevator and you’re at street level just like that. Put in enough elevators and there’s no problem.

        My understanding is that Beacon Hill can get buy with just elevators because very few people use the station. You can’t do that with a downtown station. That is why we don’t. Even Capitol Hill (which is pretty deep) has escalators and stairs — there are just too many people for just elevators.

        It is a big deal because it takes a while to get from a really deep station to the surface. No one is expecting the thing to be cut and cover (although we have done that in the past for sections). What they are objecting to is a station deeper than it needs to be. If it is really deep, then it becomes hard to justify. For example, let’s say I’m taking a trip from South Lake Union to Midtown. I spend extra time getting to the platform and back, along with maybe some extra walking to the station. Next thing you know, taking the bus seems like the better option. When that happens, train ridership goes down, and the huge amount of money we spent on a second downtown line seems like an even bigger waste of money.

        It is like everything else. We want to maximize our investment. Poor station locations cuts into ridership, which effect frequency, which effects everyone. I may never use the Mount Baker Station, but my transit experience is worse because it is bad station. Same with the UW Station (U-District, on the other hand, is great). Station details are a big deal.

      3. Part of the problem with the elevators is the speed used.

        The 260 foot depth of the Washington Park MAX station is reached in 25 seconds. Husky Stadium station seems like it’s about double this even though it’s not as deep. Beacon Hill has doors only on one side of the elevator, while Washington Park has doors on both sides so there is an exit and entrance side to the elevator at the top, facilitating faster exiting and boarding of the elevator.

        Beacon Hill also suffers from a lack of elevators on one side of a busy road, making access a bit more difficult than it should be.

        In any event, if SoundTransit goes this route, it’s going to have to rethink its elevator methodology.

      4. “ My understanding is that Beacon Hill can get buy with just elevators because very few people use the station. ”

        This is a major point that Ross is making. I’ll put some numbers from ST to make it clearer.

        Westlake is listed as 28,900 second tunnel station boarding’s in 2040 while Beacon Hill is listed at 3,063 in Q4 of 2019 (before Covid). So that’s about 10 times more.

        In other words, that’s 30 people on an elevator ride at Westlake compared to 3 at Beacon Hill.

        Midtown is forecasted 12,900 average in 2040 and ID is forecasted at 12,700 average. Even these are 400 percent more boarding’s than Beacon Hill had in 2019. So for every 3 people on an elevator at Beacon Hill, there would be 12 to 13 on average at these stations.

        No one would expect a minor street to carry I-5 traffic volumes. It’s why freeways are designed differently. Similarly, stations should be designed differently based on volumes. That’s a rather obvious and basic fact.

      5. Glouchester Road tube station in London is elevator-only because of the depth. That’s the reason Beacon Hill can’t have esclators according to ST when the station was built. Woodley Park in DC has a very long 5-minute escalator to reach a deep station, but ST seems to rule that out. The UW lower escalators are split into two with a second landing.

      6. UW isn’t too bad if that’s your destination. However, it sucks as a transfer point. It not only has the depth issue but crossing Montlake sucks. After using Mt Baker to transfer to a 7 I think it gets a bum rap. It could be better but it’s not that big a deal to go up/down and walk over to Rainier. Certainly it could be better but before that investment is justified it needs higher ridership which will come only when the station area is more developed. Although a cheap improvement would be better way finding and fix the real time arrival sign that’s stuck in 2019.

        Beacon Hill has proven to be a very expensive waste of money.

      7. Kuo wrote about a “station kinetic bump” in https://www.theurbanist.org/2020/10/30/st4-should-focus-rail-in-densest-areas/ to make stations come to the surface a bit more and at the same time slow trains down as they come into the station and give them a head start when they leave. That seems like a good optimization to keep the utility relocation to a minimum and still help with the rider experience. I wonder whether the designers considered such design.

      8. UW isn’t too bad if that’s your destination.

        It is the worst possible location for a station in the area. If you are headed to the hospital, you have to cross a busy street, twice. If you are headed to campus, you have to go from a deep bore tunnel platform to an elevated walkway, then walk across a large promenade before you are even close to a building.

        If it was inside the triangle it would be better. Riders could get to the hospital without crossing the street. Riders headed to campus would take escalators that would get them much closer to their destination. If it was inside campus it would be better. If it was next to the hospital it would be better. I realize there were reasons why they put the station there (as there were with the Mount Baker Station ) but it is an awful location too. The fact that it doesn’t work well for bus intercepts is just another flaw.

      9. [Mount Baker Station] could be better … but before that investment is justified it needs higher ridership

        The low ridership is because it is such a bad station! Put the station on Rainier and get ridership from both sides, and make the transfers much easier. That wasn’t done (to save money) and as a result, it will forever have poor ridership. Nothing will ever be done to “fix it”, although the city may do things to make it less awful. https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2012/04/18/the-awfulness-of-mt-baker-station/

      10. Joe Z, yes, of course bored is better through the financial district because of the footings and in-street utilities. It worked along Third for the existing tunnel; it will work here. But the profile should have a hump up to Midtown to minimize the vertical distance there. If the platforms are at the same elevation as the flat parallel BNSF tunnel at about 15-20 feet above MSL — as is shown in the diagram — then there is no hump. Instead the track profile is implicitly a constant gentle rise from New IDS to New Westlake except at the Midtown platforms which are best built dead flat for wheelchair stability. Such a profile is optimal for operations, and probably makes the boring simpler, but it will make ingress and egress at Midtown very slow and claustrophobic.

        Transfers at New Westlake will also be time-consuming with either proposed alternative. There is no mention of New IDS in the video, but Mike has asserted that the “preferred alternative” would be Shallow Fifth. I don’t see anything in the document implying that there is a preferred alternative between Midtown and the south tunnel portal at this time. There are no red dashed lines.

        So the transfer at New IDS might be another five-minute zigzag down to Hell, too.

        It certainly makes sense to bore between the south portal near current Stadium and the south wall of New Westlake, but I’d assert that, if possible, squeezing the platforms ABOVE the existing trackway at Sixth and cut-and-covering along Westlake north of New Westlake would make for a much better transfer experience. If one looks at the height of the tube east of existing Westlake and the height to the street above it in the cut-away diagram, it’s clear that it’s just about the same.

        Of course, putting platforms in that slim vertical space would mean that they would have to be on the sides rather than a single one in the center; there can be no mezzanine above it. Digging it would mean moving all the utilities alongside to the east and deepening them. It would be tricky, no doubt.

        But it would allow a much higher Midtown and a cut-and-cover Shallow Fifth at New IDS as well. Each of the three downtown stations would be vastly improved forever, and transfers between the two lines would be absolutely minimal at Westlake, a single twenty-foot level change. Extensions of the existing Westlake platforms to the east about thirty yards would provide the lower connections with folded escalator banks between. The southbound platform of New Westlake could also be connected directly to the Mezzanine of the larger station, but getting to the northbound platform from the Mezzanine would involve a half-story drop and underpassing the southbound platform and tracks.

        Boring makes sense between the north wall of Denny and the portal along Elliott, because of the large diameter curves that most alignments require for decent speed. But closing Westlake to traffic for a few years and cutting-and-covering that segment is a small price to pay in order to create permanently better stations at Denny, New Westlake, Midtown and New IDS, the heart of the system.

        Westlake would have to be decked during excavation in order to allow the streetcar and Rapid Rides to continue running, and when it re-opened it should do so continuing as a transit-only street like Market in San Francisco.

      11. “Mike has asserted that the “preferred alternative” would be Shallow Fifth”

        I said the representative alignment in the ballot measure was 5th shallow. The EIS according to the prerelease map somebody found, has no preferred alternative there. It has the four alternatives debated in the alternatives analysis: 5th shallow, 5th deep, 4th shallow, 4th deep. That tells me that either stakeholders were too evenly divided, or ST didn’t want to say no to the minority businesses objecting to 5th shallow yet.

        if ST deviates from the representative alignment it has to write a statement justifying why. That was its excuse for rejecting the Lynnwood Aurora alignment, moving 145th station to 130th, or splitting 145th to 155th and adding 130th; it didn’t feel it had enough reason to override the representative alignment. But other times it has I think, and this situation is different because a stakeholder ST listens to is objecting, and it feels bad about the previous disruptions of building the First Hill streetcar and DSTT1.

      12. The low ridership is because it is such a bad station! Put the station on Rainier and get ridership from both sides, and make the transfers much easier.

        Gee, if all there was to it was station design it would follow that UW would also have pathetic ridership. Nothing but a Stadium that’s empty save a few times a year on one side. As bad or worse situation than crossing Rainier on the other. But UW is a major destination. Mt Baker… there’s no there there. Not nowhere within the same size walk shed as the UW campus and it doesn’t lose half of it to a lake.

        If they’d put the bus bays and layover space on the west side of Rainier and put that TOD building that adds nothing on the east side it would have helped. Or at least incorporated a covered pedestrian walk in the design of the building that crossed Rainier at platform level. It’s only 200′ from the station to the east side of Rainier. Bring up Google satellite view and look at Franklin HS’s pointy ball field for perspective. Bellevue Transit Center by comparison is 400′ end to end and the East Link will double that. Not to suggest the Link station is well done, it’s not. But it’s still looking to get 10k boardings a day with the expensive tunnel and crap layout.

      13. Gee, if all there was to it was station design it would follow that UW would also have pathetic ridership.

        That is an idiotic interpretation of what I wrote. Look, it isn’t that complicated. Station placement has an influence on overall ridership, just like every other aspect of transit. Run the trains every 20 minutes and you would still get decent ridership between the UW and downtown. But it would be a lot less than if you run the trains every 10 minutes. Put the station at a poor location relative to the neighborhood and ridership is reduced. It is really not that complicated.

        But if you expect the stations to compete with UW in terms of ridership, we would have a very short system, consisting of downtown to UW, and nothing more. That misses the point. Mount Baker *underperforms* stations in Rainier Valley. As of Spring 2019, these are the numbers northbound (ons and offs):

        Rainier Beach 1,722, 405
        Othello 2,299, 530
        Columbia City 2,295, 497
        Mount Baker 1,683, 812

        I would never expect a station in Rainier Valley to compete with the UW, but I would expect a station in Mount Baker to have more boardings towards downtown than Rainier Beach, given its proximity. Mount Baker Station should outperform stations like Columbia City and Mount Baker. It would, if it was in a better location.

        For that matter, the UW station would also get significantly more riders if it was in a better location. This is just the way the system works. I remember someone saying “even ST couldn’t screw up UW to downtown”. Of course not. It is a fundamentally outstanding transit corridor. Even without First Hill, the scarcity of stations in general, and all the flaws with the UW station, it is strong enough to get a lot of riders. It is just that it would get a lot more riders if they had done things better.

      14. I meant to write “Mount Baker Station should outperform stations like Columbia City and Othello”. Oops.

  10. I would expect the new development at the Northgate mall to have a grocery store. The only stores in the area are Target and QFC, which are a ways away for a lot of folks on 5th, let alone the new apartments they are adding inside the mall. (I’m not sure if “mall” is the right term. Maybe “the area formally known as Northgate Mall” is better.)

      1. Intl Dist: Uwajimaya, two blocks away.

        From the Intl Dist station you can also take the street car to the original Viet Wah to get authentic Asian foods without the Uwajimaya/Whole Paycheck/Metropolitan Market prices. This seems to be the pattern; to pay the high rents urban locations command you get really expensive stores. Not sure how the prices at Seattle Safeway stores compare to their suburban counterparts. I think they still work off the same weekly sale flyer? Kroger uses the QFC brand to up-sell the same stuff as Fred Meyer. Before they were assimilated QFC did put a better quality product on the shelf. They still do when it comes to things like fresh produce but on staples and frozen food it’s exactly the same stuff for a hefty markup.

    1. The Northgate QFC moved from the mall to Roosvelt & Northgate Way. I don’t know if it’s because the mall went upscale and didn’t want a supermarket anymore or if QFC decided to move. Northgate Mall used to have both QFC and a Farrell’s ice-cream parlor, while Bellevue Square never had anything like that. Southcenter might have had a Farrell’s but not a supermarket.

      As I was making my list I wished Northgate station had similar destinations now but it doesn’t. The mall is mostly gone and it’s unclear what kinds of businesses will be in the future development. Thornton Place has fast-food joints and a movie theater. QFC is too far for a non-resident to walk to.

      The new non-mall is called Northgate Station.

      1. Wife worked at the Northgate Farrell’s shortly after HS when we moved to Lake City. Northgate was a happen’ place and Lake City was a safe, pretty suburban place. We tried to buy our 1st home in that area but it was too expensive to buy in City. Cheapest place we could find was $60k and that was about $10k above what any bank would lend us. Moved out to the Woodinville Cottage Lake area. Boy, has that gone upscale since we had cows for neighbors!

        Bellevue Square has always had a Safeway kitty corner to it. It was one of the Mid-Modern Marina designs and is now one of the urban mixed use Safeway projects. It would be interesting to know how much of it’s business is still auto dependent. Bell Square has been rebranded as The Bellevue Collection. A rowdy place like Farrell’s was that catered to HS students doesn’t fit the demographic. Sam linked a while back to the plans to level the entire mall and build residential over retail. Needless to say, it’ll be pretty swanky. But affordable because lots of people will be able to spend the million dollars plus to live there. I OTOH probably won’t be able to afford an icecream truffle :=)

      2. “Bellevue Square has always had a Safeway kitty corner to it.”

        Outside the mall, and looking like a regular suburban Safeway with a big parking lot in front. Nobody would mistake it for part of Bellevue Square and think the Square wasn’t swanky enough.

        “Bell Square has been rebranded as The Bellevue Collection.”

        I thought The Bellevue Collection was the umbrella term for all of Kemper’s buildings collectively.

        “Sam linked a while back to the plans to level the entire mall and build residential over retail.”

        He did? That would be great. Kemper could have done it thirty years ago. Now if only U Village, Southcenter, and the Kent Station shopping center did the same.

        I thought The Bellevue Collection was the umbrella term for all of Kemper’s buildings collectively.”

      3. The new non-mall is called Northgate Station.

        Yeah, like that isn’t confusing, especially on a transit blog. :)

        I do remember when the QFC was in the mall — I doubt they moved because the mall went “upscale”. If anything it was the other way around (the mall went “downscale”). The Thornton Place area has more than fast food — there are a number of very good restaurants and bars (along with the movie theater).

        I do miss Farrell’s. Anyway, I’m just speculating, but I think the new Northgate Station development will have a grocery store. It would fit well with what they are trying to build. A PCC would be nice, given the gap between Green Lake and Shoreline.

      4. QFC in the mall yes. Did Farrell’s have a location in the mall before it was on Aurora?

        I still remember them banging that drum before every happy birthday song they would sing, and the candy section on the way out was very cool. :)

      5. The question Bernie asked was whether residents in Bellevue’s new residential towers — especially along 112th — would take Link to grocery shop. I replied that based on their demographic, age, wealth, likelihood of owning a car (or using a delivery service) and the difficulty of carrying groceries on a train made it unlikely. And the place they would go if they did use Link to shop for groceries would likely be Mercer Island because it is safe, flat, good access from I-90, and there are two very good grocery stores, QFC and Met Market, (and a weekly summer farmers’ market), which is why folks drive to MI from Seattle and to a lesser extent the eastside to grocery shop.

        I never stated you can’t use transit to shop for groceries, especially if you are single, don’t mind shopping every other day, you are retired or have lots of time, the store along your route has everything you need, maybe you eat out a lot, avoid heavy items like glass, liquids, cat litter, don’t buy in bulk, etc., and have some way to schlep the groceries back home. But it doesn’t look like the large grocery stores are located towards transit, and have massive parking lots for a reason.

        The ability to carry things –groceries in this case — is just one of the advantages of driving a car or SUV that transit will never overcome, which is why my guess is on the eastside around 95% to 99% of grocery sales by volume is to shoppers using a car. Better for transit to focus on its own advantages, which is mainly cost, although I support anyone wanting to grocery shop by transit, and can accomplish that.

      6. There are multiple grocery stores in downtown Bellevue, with a Trader Joes, PCC, and Whole Foods on 116th, Uwajimaya off 120th, and the on the other side of downtown a Safeway and QFC off Bellevue Way. People living on 112th won’t take transit to go grocery shopping because they don’t need to – walking will be faster.

      7. “Now if only U Village, Southcenter, and the Kent Station shopping center did the same.” No housing within either of those malls strictly defined, but plenty of new housing going in super close by all 3 of those.

        “level the entire mall.” The mall has the same zoning as the east side of Bellevue Way, so it will likely happen eventually. There are residential towers going up west of Bellevue Way both north and south of the existing mall.

      8. I suppose residents on 112th could walk to grocery shop, but I am not sure if you have walked in Bellevue, or in this area. The blocks are looooooong, and 405 sits between 112th and 116th with some very unpleasant overpasses to cross that are not set up for pedestrians. The Safeway is several very long Bellevue blocks uphill from 112th. To be honest I would rather take Link to MI to shop than walk to 116th or Bellevue Way and then carry my groceries home.

      9. I was focusing in places less than a five-minute walk, which are most likely to get Link riders, and where people might go a further distance to because it’s adjacent to the station. I included Trader Joe’s and Central Co-op on Madison because they’re important to me and it’s convenient to have both next to each other. I didn’t know about the ones on Mercer Island. I was hesitant about the Overlake Safeway and Trader Joe’s because I’m not sure where the station is and I didn’t want to underestimate the distance. If the station is just behind Safeway, then Trader Joe’s is up a hill.

        Fun history: When I lived in east Bellevue in the 1970s, our Safeway was where Trader Joe’s is now. Supermarkets then were smaller. Safeway moved to its current location when I was in junior high or high school. The old space became Uwajimaya and then Trader Joe’s.

        Yes, Northgate had Farrell’s. I didn’t know there was a Farrell’s on Aurora. It’s too bad it’s gone; there’s nothing like it now. A whole menu full of sundaes and ice-cream floats, a 1920s soda-parlor atmosphere, and its own birthday tradition.

      10. “I suppose residents on 112th could walk to grocery shop”

        It’s a premature question because we don’t know whether there will be a supermarket next to the station. Nobody is expecting people to walk from East Main to Safeway or Uwajimaya, and even the long-gone Lucky might have been a stretch because it was up a hill. We’re just speculating that if a supermarket appears in one of the three TOD corners adjacent to the station, it would get riders, and Surrey Downs residents would be able to stop there on the way home. Since it’s becoming a denser area with no supermarket, and developers are now building mixed-use, it’s at least somewhat likely there will be a supermarket in one of the future buildings.

      11. If you are going to take Link to grocery shop anywhere along East Link including Judkins Park Mercer Island is likely the best location unless you go to downtown Redmond. The two grocery stores are a few blocks from the two station entrances (and there is a Walgreen’s there), it is an easy escalator ride up or down, the city center is flat, safe, there is little car traffic in the town center, the stores are very well stocked, and they have large parking lots which are necessary if a large grocery store is going to have the volume to survive, even if you are arriving by transit. Guaranteed both grocery stores will be open when East Link opens. Walking just about anywhere from 112th in Bellevue to grocery shop would be a chore with a large hill to the west and 405 to the east. Better to take Link to MI. Or drive. Parking is free and plentiful, and there is very little traffic congestion on Bellevue Way or I-90 today.

      12. If you’re right about Mercer Island attracting shoppers, it will get more with Link, and that will be good for its tax base. That’s what I’ve said all along: Mercer Island should focus on getting more businesses and services downtown that would attract off-islanders. People won’t go to a generic restaurant that has an equivalent closer to them, but they will go to a unique shop. They’ll go to a supermarket there if it’s closer to the station than at other stations. Safeway, Trader Joe’s, PCC, Whole Foods, and independents attract different clienteles, so while some people just want “a supermarket”, others want a particular kind, and will bypass others not that kind or that are further from a station.

        I haven’t seen much in Mercer Island’s downtown of interest to off-islanders, but I’ve only been there a little bit so I may have missed something. But that gets into Mercer Island’s marketing: I’ve never seen a Mercer Island ad promoting what’s there.

        I plan to take a walking tour of the island when the weather gets better. Do you have any suggestions? I’m vaguely thinking about going to the Stroum Center, down Island Crest Way, and maybe up West Mercer Way. East Mercer Way looks more hilly on the map, and I want to minimize hills unless it’s the only way to get to south Mercer Island or something worthwhile. I’ve been to Luther Burbank Park a few times because my parents used to take me there (and pointed out the amphitheater), and I went there on my own on the 550 a few years ago.

      13. Cities get a tiny portion of the sales tax. You need a Costco or car dealership to realize $400k or $500k for the city. Sales tax revenue from grocery sales on MI from Link will be miniscule, although with the pandemic and WFH MI is realizing record online sales tax revenue, and record REET tax revenue from some very large sales, like over $200 million for Shorewood apartments. Most expect the older multi-family buildings to sell in the next few years and be converted to very expensive condos with the relaxation of warranties on new condo construction, which creates REET tax and construction sales tax revenue.

        MI has always had a difficult time attracting off-Island shoppers, and never really decided whether it wanted to (not really). The town center has no commercial only zone and is mainly housing because that is where the quick money is, and it preserves the SFH zones with their very large minimum lot sizes.

        However recently Game Stop bought the old Farmers building for $117 million and will move 400 employees there when the same building sold for $46.5 million in March 2020, which many see as a comment on downtown Seattle rather than MI. Hopefully the new younger employees will result in another restaurant and bar because that is what is missing, although I doubt many will live on MI.

      14. I agree with Mike and David that Mercer Island could emerge as a good specialty destination. I think its strongest potential is with restaurants for dinner. There are some good ones there already but more could arrive with off-island customers.

        Link will help with that out-of-town visitors like to meet up with local friends for dinner, and a n upscale restaurant that can be reached from a hotel in Downtown Seattle or Bellevue via Link — combined with easy free parking (reuse of the daytime commuter parking at the station) make it a locational win for all parties. Plus, the freeway access makes the restaurants very acceptable from a large driving market from 7 pm onward. In addition, a spouse could meet the other one who uses Link for commuting. Even those spouses picking up the other one who took a bus from Issaquah that morning could drive into MI and stay for dinner.

        I’m reminded of Rockridge in Oakland and Downtown Pasadena. While their situations are unique, both have an active upscale restaurant scene partly for these reasons — transit access, after-hours transit station parking and freeway convenience.

        I even expect some of the fast food places and low-volume retail to get priced out to make way for more upscale dining.

      15. The old space became Uwajimaya and then Trader Joe’s.
        It’s the same location but a new building. It’s divide up between TJ’s, Walgreens, PetSmart and a sandwich shop. TJ’s is much smaller that when they were at the old REI location (now 5+ story MF). And yes it’s a long hike up a pretty decent hill. Safeway OTOH is level and a 3 minute walk on a side street with sidewalks and no traffic. From looking at Google Streets it’s about exactly the same as Othello.

        Freddie Kroger involves crossing 24th and 148th and an unpleasant/unsafe walk across their sea of parking. But there is Apna Bazar in the same lot. They deliver so I bet if you had a decent order (get a couple of people to go in) they’d run it over to the station for you.

      16. The question Bernie asked was whether residents in Bellevue’s new residential towers — especially along 112th — would take Link to grocery shop.

        No it wasn’t. I asked if “people”, could be from anywhere, but I was thinking primarily of “people” who work at Microsoft and commute via Link from anywhere would stop at Safeway on their way home. Secondary market would be people riding past Overlake taking the time to stop, shop and get back on the train. A distant 3rd would be people that use Link for a trip just to grocery shop.

      17. The Fred Meyer at Gateway Transit Center in Portland has a fair amount of people that shop there and arrive by transit (bus and light rail). So many arrive by transit, in fact, that Fred Meyer installed special security screening just for the door closest to the transit center, because apparently people never shoplift and leave by driving or something.

        My nearest WalMart is on TriMet bus route 17 and 72, and whenever I take those there is always two to five people getting on or off there for shopping.

        The Fred Meyer store at 99E and Oak Grove Blvd has a fair amount of transit traffic too, as does the Safeway at King Road and 44th on the same bus route.

        Therefore, as long as access is fairly easy (eg, no vastly dangerous parking lots to scramble across or crosswalks 3/4 a mile away or some other obstacle course), I don’t see why people wouldn’t use transit to shop there. There’s no special gravity fields that differentiates what Portlanders or Puget Sounders would choose to do.

      18. If Wilburton has three supermarkets, and Whole Foods is adjacent to the station, then maybe a supermarket at East Main is not needed. I could see people at East Main shopping at Wilburton and not thinking it’s too far away. It’s what I do when I go from Capitol Hill to Roosevelt, and that’s further, but still less than ten minutes away. (Thank you Link! It was 20-40 minutes before the Northgate extension. Compare trying to get from East Main to Overlake Village before and after East Link. Or even downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond when peak-hour ST Express isn’t running. That’s why I’m so bullish on East Link, even without 9-5 commuters to downtown Seattle.)

      19. Hospital Station has Whole Paycheck and Uwajimaya (90% paycheck). I don’t know what the 3rd possibility is. Reaching Uwajimaya will depend on what happens crossing NE 8th. The promised ped bridge is vaporware. This is setting up to be another game of Frogger like Montlake. King Co was the lead and supposed to provide funding as part of the EastRail project. I don’t know what’s happened. The optimist in me hopes they are switching the alignment to be east of Link instead of crammed into the Sturtavant Creek “daylight” ROW.

      20. The third is Trader Joe’s on 116th. Uwajimaya is no more expensive than a mainstream supermarket, at least not for the stuff I buy (vegetables; fish; ingredients for miso soup, pho, and tom yum soup).

      21. For the stuff you buy that’s probably true. Uwajimaya is a specialty market. For weekly specials Uwajimaya is 30% more today for boneless pork loin when they are both on their weekly specials list. I routinely get close to 50% savings shopping the ads for Safeway (who has a higher base price than FM). We put a couple of dinners in the chest freeze (something most apartment dwellers don’t have). Saving 50% on my food cost is big to me.

      22. Trader Joe’s on 116th will be almost equidistant between East Msin and Wilburton. Since East Main is downhill that could be the better Link station to return to with a sack of groceries even if one uses Wilburton to get to the store.

        Savvy transit riders will often choose downhill stations when distances are similar, and will thus use different stations coming and going.

      23. From a pedestrian standpoint, I really don’t like the way the retail around 4th/116th was developed. 4th is just too wide, and the crossing points, too limited. Even if a retail area is car-oriented, the streetscape should still encourage people to park once and walk from store to store once they get there. This streetscape does the exact opposite. It encourages you to park at one store, and one store only, do your shopping there, then go home and go to the other store another day, because both walking across the street and driving across the street are too exhausting.

        I recall one time in particular, when I was shopping at REI (by car) and wanted to then visit the PCC. Crossing the street looked like more hassle than it was worth, so I ended up just getting back into the car and stopping at the Kirkland PCC on the way home. The Bellevue PCC essentially lost my business for that trip because of its poor pedestrian environment – even though I had driven there. A narrower street and a mid-block crossing would have made all the difference.

        Speaking of which, does 4th St. really get enough cars east of 116th to justify a 5-lane road? Considering that there is really no reason to drive on 4th through that stretch except to shop at the retail there, I have my doubts. The stores are busy, but not that busy, to fill up a 5-lane road, just from people going in and out of their parking lots.

      24. Another thing I’d like to note about the 4th/116th retail is that the transit there is really subpar, and has not improved at all since 10 years ago, when the area was nothing but abandoned car dealers.

        The stores here are not just a routine QFC/Safeway, but Trader Joes, REI, Best Buy, and Home Depot, which have some uniqueness to them, which may result in some people taking transit there – if, of course, the transit doesn’t suck like it does today.

        Right now, it has nothing but the 271, but I feel it needs more. Maybe the 226 could be rerouted to go through there on its way east. The B-line could do it also, but would have the side effect of making it harder to get between Crossroads and Link, so might not be worth it. Whereas, the 226 goes in the same general direction, but has fewer people on it. One way or another, a trip there from the northeast should not require walking from 8th or a detour to Bellevue Transit Center, plus a transfer.

        I will say this, though – at least this car-topia does have some nice painted bike lanes, even if they’re unprotected. I have ridden my bike to Home Depot from Kirkland several times, and I do appreciate them! (Contrary to popular belief, not every trip to Home Depot involves buying bulky items, too large to carry on a bike; sometimes, all I need is just a light bulb or a screwdriver. Now, if only Home Depot could install a bike rack, so shopping by bike does not require walking your bike through the store aisles…).

      25. Given the proximity to 3 Link stations, I’m not sure 116th needs a frequent bus route, just a better pedestrian environment. It should improve dramatically when the Grand Connection provides a nice crossing over 405 from the Bellevue TC, and then once Eastrail is build out that’s a nice pathway coming south from the Wilburton station.

        If I’m walking from Wilburton station to REI or Trader Joe, I’m taking the trail and then turning left on 4th; there’s a nice outdoor escalator on the backside of TJ/REI to avoid needing to haul groceries up the incline between 116th and Eastrail, which will be a nice hack for anyone coming back from that cluster of stores around 4th walking back to Wilburton station.

        From East Main, the bridge across 405 won’t change but the new developments between 112 and 114 should result in a better sidewalk on both sides of Main right before the freeway.

      26. “I routinely get close to 50% savings shopping the ads for Safeway”

        Ah, no, Uwajimaya doesn’t have loyalty-card ads with 50% loss leaders. I don’t chase those; I just get basic things, and if something I’m getting anyway is on sale, then I get the discount. If you’re looking to save money on a lot of food, I’d try the restaurant-supply store in SODO. I don’t remember what it’s called or where exactly it is, but somebody took me there once.

      27. I think you’re talking about the US Foods Chef’Store (aka Cash & Carry). We have one within walking distance of my house (the old Bellevue Prairie Market location). It’s good for some things like wedges of Parmesan cheese, 12 count frozen salmon burgers. They tend to carry either large containers, like gallon size Mayo, 20# bags of rice, etc. or small individual or table size. It’s all catering to restaurant supply. Most of the middle stuff like salt, bread, milk can be found for less other places. They are good for cooking utensils and cleaning supplies. The best economy and best selection depends on having a variety of stores accessible and close to your regular routes; which seems to work well with Link.

        If the hole in the wall Vietnamese store you went to on 12th & Jackson is Viet Wah it is very much still there. They closed the store on MLK but still have the original location and there’s one in Renton somewhere.

      28. @Bernie
        Yeah there’s a Viet-Wah (as well as a Grocery Outlet) right on NE Sunset Blvd in the north end of the Highlands Park neighborhood and just south of McKnight Middle School. At least there used to be. One of my spouse’s siblings lives in that area and has shopped there for years. If you’re down in that area for any reason (Jimi Hendrix Memorial?) maybe you can confirm.

        As far as this notion that people don’t use transit to get to the grocery store or get groceries in general, as others have stated, that’s just not the case or I would’ve starved to death a long time ago.

        1. I grew up in NYC. My family never owned a car my entire time growing up there. We took a bus for shopping trips all the time.
        2. When I moved to Seattle in the late 80s I lived for 5 years in the CD and then for more than 10 years in Wallingford. I never owned a car the entire time. While living in the CD I shopped for groceries at the QFC’s and Safeways on Capitol Hill and Roger’s Thriftway on MLK. I used Metro routes 2 and 3/4 frequently to get home (or to get to Roger’s in the first place). When I lived in Wallingford, I shopped primarily at Food Giant/QFC on 45th and Safeway on Stone Way at 40th. And, yes, I took buses to get to and fro (the 44, the 26, etc.). Many other riders on these buses were doing the same thing. You just plan accordingly and don’t buy more than you can carry/cart with you unless you have some help/kids tagging along.
        3. When I was in college (long before going to work for the firm….wink, wink, nudge, nudge), I worked at a grocery store to help pay my way and support myself. Many, many of our customers used transit to get to and from the store. I can’t tell you how many times I helped a customer load up or even fix the folding cart they lugged to the store with them. It was way more common to see a customer using transit than taking a cab.

      29. @asdf2 — It looks like transit on 116th will get worse before it gets better. With the East Link restructure, the 271 will be replaced by the 240 (a half hour bus). Eventually though, it is likely the RapidRide K will go on 116th: https://www.kirklandwa.gov/files/sharedassets/public/boards-and-commissions/rapidride-k-line-briefing.pdf.

        If they extend NE 6th all the way across and extend the HOV lanes, then I could see the 226 going south on 116th, and then turning there. Still, that bus is infrequent, so it doesn’t get you much. They could send the 250 there, and it could run opposite the new K, for 7.5 minute frequency though. I’m sure if that is a good idea though. It seems like the other side (110th/112th) would be underserved if they did, and that area has a lot more people. My guess is it will have 15 minute frequency (or maybe 10 if there is a wide spread increase in frequency) with the one bus, along with the ability to walk to a Link station, as AJ mentioned. It looks to be about a ten minute walk from either station to the REI, but the Grand Connection freeway lid might shrink that distance a bit, while making it a lot more pleasant. As you wrote, so much depends on the layout of the parking lots and streets.

      30. Or Metro could make the 226 frequent. I can’t believe there will be no frequent east-west route in the Spring District; that would contradict the planned urban center.

        The hole-in-the wall was Hop Thanh in the southwest corner of 12th & Jackson. It closed around ten years ago. Viet Wah is in the northwest corner or the block west of it. When I was looking for certain Thai ingredients and couldn’t find them at Uwajimaya or H-Mart, online sources said the only places were Mekong Rainier and one of the northwest ones, which may have been Viet Wah.

        Later another Hop Thanh opened in Oak Tree, much larger, but when I asked the staff whether it was related to the former Hop Thanh, they didn’t recognize it.

      31. Or Metro could make the 226 frequent. I can’t believe there will be no frequent east-west route in the Spring District; that would contradict the planned urban center.
        The 226 runs on Bel-Red (snow route for RR-B). There’s actually not much on Bel-Red that’s not auto related (e.g. tire stores). There’s a Safeway at 140th and some apartments east of there. But the Spring District diverges from Bel-Red. The issue is Spring Blvd doesn’t go through and won’t for years/decades. It stops short of the 130th P&R at 124th and that gap is going to be expensive to fill in while serving absolutely nothing. My hope (tilting at windmills) is Bellevue will remake this area and re-establish the drainage and creeks that were once there.

        The other option is 20th/Northup. I think that’s better and never seems to get any love. It’s especially important since ST didn’t put in or even leave space for a station in “the Arts District”.

      32. Either Bell-Red or Northup, at least one of them should have a frequent route. The B is too far away to be a local Link shadow.

      33. ” I can’t believe there will be no frequent east-west route in the Spring District”

        Link will be a frequent east/west route in the Spring District. To add an additional frequent bus there as well would result in duplicative service. Once Link opens, the 226 becomes essentially coverage. It’s only reason for continuing to existing is to serve destinations on Bel-Red road for people that don’t want to walk 3/4 mile from the nearest Link station. If that’s its purpose, you may as well send it down to 4th at 120th. It’s only a marginal difference in travel time to downtown Bellevue, and it would add coverage to a retail-dense area that lacks it.

        I wouldn’t consider the future RapidRide K (if it ever happens) to really be a substitute for the 226. If you’re trying to get to a store, a bus from Overlake and a bus from Kirkland are not interchangeable – you need the bus that comes from your neighborhood, or it’s of not much use to you. Coming from Overlake, going downtown and transferring is out of the way and adds a lot of extra traffic, with no bus priority lanes, so the 226 would be superior to that, even if it’s not all that frequent. From Kirkland, I’d lean towards leaving the 250 as is, since adding coverage to the retail area would take away coverage from the north part of downtown, which is bigger. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have a one-seat ride from everywhere to everywhere without creating Sphaghetti.

      34. Wait, the upzone area goes down to 8th so it’s on both sides of Bel-Red.

        “Link will be a frequent east/west route in the Spring District. To add an additional frequent bus there as well would result in duplicative service.”

        So we can delete the 67, 106, and A.

      35. East Link won’t duplicate service on Bel-Red. The only stops are between 120th & 124th and between 130 & 132nd (nothing at 136th-140th). The next stop is all the way to Overlake (152nd). Some service needs to stay on Bel-Red and east of 148th it starts to be quite dense. The reason I like 20th/Northup for additional “shadow coverage” is for more people oriented stuff as opposed to tire stores, auto glass and commercial equipment rentals. There’s also more distance between 20th and the Link stations. At 140th they are equidistant from the Safeway. Between 140 & 148 there’s a lot of green space on Bel-Red but also some apartments whereas 20th is all strip mall retail. At 148th they are equidistant to the Fred Meyer but 20th provides a short walk connection to Link at Overlake.

    1. Yesterday I tried to take the 255 to South Kirkland to look at the Northup cycletrack I had glimpsed the previous day, but two buses didn’t show up so I gave up. I knew Metro was at 10% cancellations but I didn’t expect it on a core route like the 255 at 1pm. Or maybe there was a big traffic jam on the bridge or in Kirkland. The next-arrival display didn’t show the first run. It showed the second run for a couple minutes but then it disappeared and there was no bus. I gave it ten more minutes (half the 20-minute headway) but nothing appeared on the sign, and even if I got to Kirkland I didn’t want to be stuck there like that so I gave up.

      I did confirm the Triangle garage has an exit on the east side of Mountlake Blvd, but it’s one-way only (out of the garage, and locked the other way). So if you walk from the medical center through the tunnel and through the garage, you get to the western door. The stairs had what looked like work equipment on them so I didn’t go up. There was something next to it that might be an elevator, but it appeared closed, and other black doors in front of the elevator doors, if it was an elevator and not just a room.

    2. I’m guessing it’s a combination of bus drivers testing positive and bus drivers calling in sick because they’re afraid of getting it. And, of course, with Metro already short-staffed, they didn’t have any extra drivers to fill in for them.

  11. RE: Mt Baker (deep in a thread above). Does the need to fix Mt Baker go down after Judkins opens? If Judkins has a really strong transfer to the 7, 106, and 48, so Mt Baker become much less about bus-rail transfers (since Judkins is the more direct transfer to Seattle) and more about having a good pedestrian access environment?

    1. From Rainier it’s going to be a 3X longer walk up/down more stairs than Mt Baker. You can cross Rainier without going down to street level but not if you need escalator or elevator access. In that case it’s a long walk/roll up to Charles or down to Massachusetts to a crosswalk. Either way you have to cross freeway on/off ramps. Or you can go up to 23rd and then back down to Rainier on the I-90 trail. The station was sited to be better accessed from 23rd. But even from there it’s farther and has more elevation gain than Mt Baker. It’s not a busy street but it only has the 48. And it’s 1/2 mi or so to hike over to MLK and get the 8.

    2. Does the need to fix Mt Baker go down after Judkins opens?

      Realistically, Mount Baker will never be fixed. This would be the case with or without Judkins Park. It is the case with other failings as well. It is just too expensive to fix previous flaws.

      Mount Baker station will forever be awful. It will have reduced walk-up ridership because it is too close to a greenbelt, and some of the space next to the station is a parking lot. Transfers are awkward, making Link (or transit in general) less appealing. Very few of these trips were ever going to involve downtown. They could involve stations to the north, so in that case, Judkins might provide a decent alternative. But I’m not convinced that Judkins would ever be better in that regard than a station next to Rainier Avenue, just north of the MLK intersection. Either way, there are plenty of trips for which East Link simply won’t work. If you are going from one of the other Rainer Valley Stations or SeaTac towards the Central Area, you have an awkward transfer. If you are headed from from some place on Rainier Avenue to Beacon Hill you have an awkward transfer. For these reasons, it will always be flawed, and it will always matter.

      To be clear, I’m not saying I would have done anything different with the original line. Sound Transit was in a heap of trouble then, and the last thing they could afford was a cost overrun while they tried to optimize station placement. I’m just saying it isn’t nearly as good as it could be, and this will forever be a flaw in the system (although nothing compared to skipping First Hill not once, but twice). Station placement matters, in all directions (including vertically).

      1. It is worth noting that there are other stations that are just as flawed, being built as we speak. The only reason to add a station at 130th is to enable good bus to train transfers, and they appear to be on the verge of completely screwing that up. Holy cow, instead of straddling 130th, the station is further north, surrounded by a golf course on one side, and the freeway on the other. It is completely the wrong direction if the goal is to maximize what little walk-up ridership will exist. The station placement is very poor, while they spent too much money on escalators that no one will use. And yet it will still get decent ridership, because for a lot of people, it will be the best option.

      2. About 130th, I’ve been suggesting a small lid north of 130th over I-5 on which to put a small bus turnaround and transit center. It’s not gotten any feedback positive or negative.

        I’d like to explore if there are solutions since the big investment of tracks and stations has already be committed.

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