- Via expands to the Renton Highlands
- Pedersen will remain Seattle Transportation chair
- The website for the new ORCA is live
- Metro canceling some trips through Jan. 21 due to driver shortages
- Teamsters strike still delaying Link projects
- A list of all the transportation-ish bills in Olympia
- WSF neglect is starting to show
This is an open thread.
164 Replies to “News roundup: shortages”
Amid driver shortages, KC Metro decided to cut service the stupid way.
If you take an every 5-minute route and cut it to every 10-minutes, a rider that hasn’t heard about it will barely even notice
But if you cancel an entire damn route, the rider that hasn’t heard about it is completely screwed – standing at a stop for an hour wondering where the hell the damn bus is
I don’t think there are any 5-minute routes to cut to 10 minutes. The alternative to cancelling some routes entirely is to create 30-minute gaps between buses that are supposed to run every 15 minutes, or hour-long gaps between buses that are supposed to run every 30 minutes. Considering that the routes cut entirely are presumably the ones with the lowest ridership, the number of affected people is kept to a minimum.
Fortunately, there is a pretty reliable trick you can use to get OneBusAway to tell you whether you not a bus is coming. It doesn’t work if you’re getting on near the beginning of the route, but it’s still useful a lot of the time. The trick is to view the trip details of the trip in question and pay close attention to the “early/late/on-time” status. If the bus shows as early or late by any nonzero amount – even just a couple of seconds – this means OneBusAway has received a confirmed signal of the bus leaving its terminal, so you can probably depend on it actually being there for you. If a app shows just the “scheduled arrival”, this means such a signal has not been received, so your trip is at a high risk of having been cancelled (it could also mean that the bus is running, but its location transmitter is broken, but it’s usually easier to just assume the trip is cancelled and plan on getting the next bus at that point). Similarly, OneBusAway has a bug where, sometimes, unknown arrivals taken from schedule data show up in the app as exactly on time. The key to distinguishing a bus that’s really on time from the app bug is that, when it’s the bug, the bus will show up as exactly on time, down to the second, whereas, any real bus will always appear at least one second early or late.
As stated, the above trick only works once a bus has actually departed from its first stop on the route, which means if you’re trying to catch it at or near the beginning of the route, it is not going to be of much use. But, if the bus has to drive 15-20 minutes to get from its first stop to your stop, I find this trick extraordinarily useful. It is correct the vast majority of the time.
if you cancel an entire damn route …
There are very few routes that are actually cancelled. To quote the report: The exceptions during this recovery period are that routes 162, 177, 304, 320, and 330 will not run on weekdays, and route 125 will not run on Saturdays. So let’s look at these routes:
162 — This is a peak-only bus that probably was not very cost effective in the best of times, and likely carries very few people now. I believe there are alternatives at every bus stop, although some would provide a slower ride to downtown.
177- Peak only express that goes from Federal Way Transit Center/Park and Ride to downtown Seattle. There are other alternatives, that were probably just as popular. In that regard, this is essentially just a loss in frequency.
304 — Peak express to Northgate with no unique stops. It is yet another express meant to deal with crowding, that no longer exists.
320 — Peak-only overlay for the 522. Again, no longer needed given the 522 isn’t crowded.
330 — The only bus that runs in the middle of the day, and provides unique coverage. In the past it performed well, even though it ran infrequently. But most of the ridership was to Shoreline College, which now has a lot more online classes.
So the 330 is the only place where a rider could be left “standing at a stop for an hour wondering where the hell the damn bus is”. Except it isn’t clear that they would. One of the few people still taking that bus might see a “rider alert” message, or a bag over the top of the bus stop, alerting a rider that things have changed. It is also likely that given the very low frequency of the bus, and the fact that it doesn’t have clock-face scheduling, it is quite likely that riders consult a schedule before walking to the stop. At that point, they would see that the route has been cancelled, and find an alternative.
I’d never heard the term ‘clock-face scheduling’ before. Thanks for introducing me to it!
A frequent rider will remember the schedule and might not be carrying an app that sends alerts – such an app might not always get the alerts – a paper schedule won’t tell you that it’s cancelled – seeing the bag on the bus stop isn’t very helpful if someone has already spent 20 minutes walking there – the bag on the sign might not even be there if it’s a last minute route cancellation
So, yeah, cancelling infrequent routes is simply not an okay thing to do, every, no matter how few people ride it (with the possible exception of those that merely duplicate something else and all of the exact same stops)
Also, 320 is a peak-only overlay for 522? Why? Why not just schedule extra runs of the 522?
I walked past a bus stop that only serves the 330. I can confirm there is NO signage at all to alert riders the route is cancelled.
My guess regarding the 320 is that it comes down to who is financing the busses in question. The 522 is ST, and I believe the 320 is Metro. This happened a lot on I-90 from Issaquah to Seattle, with a number of the 210-219 routes running practically the same route as the 554 (with a few variations, namely skipping a freeway stop or two to try and prevent standing room only).
RossB is generally correct. But Route 304 serves unique stops on North 145th Street; it is weak. Route 177 serves the South 320th P&R; Route 577 does not; ridership is weak. Route 320 uniquely serves SLU; ridership is probably very low today.
ST Express provides a baseline level of service from its ST 1/2/3 budget. Additional capacity beyond that and super-expresses are Metro’s responsibility. Before covid at least two or three other routes supplemented the 522 on Lake City/Bothell Way, the 215-218 supplemented the 554, and the 190-199 supplemented the 577 and 578. In Metro’s previous long-range plan, Stride 2 and RapidRide 372 overlapped on Bothell Way and there was thought of an all-day express route to downtown. Surely you wouldn’t need all three? But Bothell/Lake City Way is busy with transit riders peak hours, partly because it’s the only way to travel between those linear communities.
23 on 522.
One thing Metro has to consider is what routes the drivers are trained on. Metro requires drivers to run non revenue “check rides” with a qualified instructor before they can be assigned that route. Routes that are infrequent have very few drivers trained on that route so if nobody is available that is qualified to drive that route they have no choice but to cancel it.
Long time reader, first time commenter. Since this is an open thread I wanted to ask a question I haven’t seen covered yet. What use will the freeway station at Mountlake Terrace have after light rail arrives in 2024?
Routes from the north will truncate at Lynnwood, and buses that currently use the freeway station to go downtown and to UW will shuffle riders to Link there rather than at MLT. So what good is the freeway station part of the MLT transit center? If obsolescence is the answer that’s too bad, because based on it’s appearance it’s fairly new and could still have a long service life ahead of it.
Most likely, it simply gets mothballed. Maybe Greyhound or other buses drive through the station without stopping, as a way to bypass congestion when the HOV lane is backed up.
There are other potential use cases if you think outside the bus. It could be converted into a pedestrian overpass to allow people west of the freeway to access the Link station. Or, perhaps it could be opened up to private cars who want to pick up or drop off passengers at the station without exiting the freeway. But, the path of least resistance is to simply board it up, until it eventually gets demolished as part of some future freeway widening project.
It probably makes a lot of sense as a stop for private bus services – ST can rent it out to Greyhound or whoever, and it’s got both parking and rapid transit right there
The facility isn’t that old as it opened in early 2011. It was a Sound Move (1996) bus capital project delivered late by ST for about $35.5M.
I believe that there have been some previous discussions on this blog about how the facility might be used in the future. Perhaps the search function the blog has might direct you to those prior discussions?
In a perfect world, plans to use the bus station as a bridge station in case of Link failure/emergency, or future maintenance, or as a part of supplementary bus service would only require minimal annual maintenance.
The project was designated #312 Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station/236th SW in the planning documents. It appeared on ST’s maps as “FS” and was frequently referred to as the flyer station. In 2005, it was expected to be completed by Q3 2008, two years after all Sound Move projects were supposed to be finished. It didn’t open until March 2011. When ST went through its 2010 capital program realignment, the project was kept in the highest priority bucket, presumably because it was a Sound Move project.
The 2005 budget, when the project was at 30% design, had the total project cost at $25.5M, some $10M less than what the final price tag ultimately turned out to be. In June 2005, the board passed a resolution that allowed the agency to transfer about $20M out of the Snohomish County Subarea Regional Express Program Reserve to counter the $21.75 funding shortfall at that time.
As I stated earlier, the project ended up costing about $35.5M, with Sound Transit’s portion (charged to the SnoCo subarea) at about $22.6M. The remaining cost was funded from state and federal grants, including ARRA monies.
Sadly, I think it will ultimately be torn down at some point in the next decade.
What use will the freeway station at Mountlake Terrace have after light rail arrives in 2024?
No one knows. There has been a lot of speculation. Everything from keeping it open for car pools and van pools, to intercity transit. Community Transit has an extensive van pool program, so I could see people stopping there. For example, let’s say I live close to Alderwood Middle School, and commute to the Animal Medical Center of Seattle, in Shoreline. So my drive is essentially this: https://goo.gl/maps/CY4Chhoho9YpysYW8. While this isn’t a miserable drive, it isn’t fun either. Traffic sucks. I find out that a half dozen of my neighbors are in the same boat, except they aren’t going to Shoreline, they are going to downtown Seattle or the UW. Next thing you know, I am driving them to the stop at Mountlake Terrace, and picking them up on the way back. I avoid a lot of traffic, while saving money.
This is in any planning document yet, but I would love to see good express bus service (Stride or simply ST Express) between Everett Station and Bellevue TC, with the MT freeway ramp as a Link transfer . There would need to be an investment for direct access from I5 HOV to 405 HOT (like the new 167-405 direct access ramp, though in this case hopefully not a big flyover ramp).
An Everett-Bellevue Stride line could go Everett downtown, Everett Mall (new infill), Montlake Terrance, and then all the 405 Stride north stations. For Everett, taking the bus and transferring to Link at MT is a helpful bypass of not only the Paine Field alignment (if heading to Seattle) but bypassing Seattle entirely (if heading to east King), simillar to how Redmond will still have express bus service to UW even though it’s also 1-seat ride on Link.
Otherwise, private bus service is probably the best option.
An Everett-Bellevue Stride line could go Everett downtown, Everett Mall (new infill), Montlake Terrance, and then all the 405 Stride north stations
I’m going to reiterate Mike’s comment below by saying “Huh?”. Mountlake Terrace is well south of the I-5/405 northern intersection. A bus could go that way but it means skipping the stops at the north end of 405 (https://goo.gl/maps/7Pzyob5GQmtw3s6M8) or making an enormous detour (https://goo.gl/maps/QGiVjc59URgiZcac6). If you do skip the north end of 405 (and go over 520) it means you have to drive on the regular lanes of I-5 over the ship canal (which have no HOV lanes). Eventually the HOV lanes will extend all the way from 520 to the express lanes, but I think they will connect to the southern express lanes, which means the bus has to leave the HOV lane and slog over the ship canal. Of course the I-5/405 interchange has the same problem, in that the bus has to leave the HOV lanes.
It may actually be a wash. Given that, I could see it, although it would be a trade-off. It means you combine Everett to Link service with Everett to Bellevue. But it also means you have fewer buses stopping at the northern 405 stops; only the Lynnwood to Bellevue bus would stop at those stops. The only significant loss would be direct service from Everett to Bothell, and since that doesn’t happen now, it is hard to say how much that matters.
My guess is that would only make sense if Everett to Bellevue has a lot more riders in the middle of the day. Then I could see the following:
1) Buses from Everett to Lynnwood all day long.
2) Bus from Lynnwood to Bellevue via 405.
3) Peak-only bus from Everett to Bellevue via 405 (making all of the 405 freeway stops).
4) Midday bus from Everett to Bellevue via 520, with a stop at Mountlake Terrace.
I think that makes the most sense if item number 1 is weak, and both CT and ST have trouble running buses from Everett to Lynnwood. Otherwise it doesn’t seem to add much value.
I’m sorry, I completely mixed up in my head the location of the Ash Way freeway station and the Montlake Terrace station.
@RossB, you’ve stated empirically that nobody will use poorly designed stations and you posit that Montlake is poorly designed. So it seems you’d support 520 buses going to the superior Bus Tunnel station at Westlake.
you’ve stated empirically that nobody will use poorly designed stations
No, I have never stated that. I never said it, nor have I ever wrote it. Stop lying about me you lying liar. Find another hobby.
(Don’t we have a comment policy on this blog — or is it just the Wild West and we are allowed to slander people? I’m cool either way — I can talk shit as well as the next guy. I just wanna know the rules.)
@AJ — That’s cool. That makes sense — easy to do. It turned out to be an interesting thought experiment anyway. It isn’t really a crazy idea — it just doesn’t pencil out.
Scott, the ST and CT public process about to begin about the Lynnwood Link restructure will help decide what routes, if any, will serve the Mountlake Terrace freeway station. https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/lynnwood-link-extension
I’ve wondered that all along. It seems like a wasted investment to build expensive in-line bus stops that were only going to be useful for a decade. But the agencies and WSDOT love to spend on highway infrastructure; there are also direct-access ramps to the Lynnwood P&R that were built in the same era and will also be obsolete. If only we had focused on trains rather than highways in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, then we would have had useful trains all along and we wouldn’t need that highway infrastructure.
A different Lynnwood Link might have had two lines: Link on SR-99 between Northgate and Lynnwood via SR-99 and express bus between Northgate and Everett via Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, and maybe even NE 185th Street. The Link line would have served more land that could be developed, community colleges, and hospitals. As freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish, development and access at freeway stations is difficult. That choice was made years ago. Access to Stride2 and 3 will also be difficult and costly.
Access to Stride at Mountlake Terrace is important? There will be access to Stride 2 at Canyon Park, so what’s needed is a frequent east-west bus route to it. I’m hoping CT will provide that.
It seems like a wasted investment to build expensive in-line bus stops that were only going to be useful for a decade.
Not necessarily. It is quite possible it was one of the better values in the region. Just because something lasts longer doesn’t mean it is a better investment. Every capital project — rail or road based — costs money, year after year, just in terms of maintenance.
I should add that this doesn’t strike me as being anywhere near the worst investment, given the timing, and the uncertainty at the time. In contrast, consider the HOV lanes from the Montlake Bridge to the I-5 express lanes. It isn’t clear whether a single bus will ever use those lanes. It would make sense for all of the buses to get off at Montlake, and serve Link at the UW. That is a huge amount of money that will only benefit a small number of people.
“This is in any planning document yet, but I would love to see good express bus service (Stride or simply ST Express) between Everett Station and Bellevue TC, with the MT freeway ramp as a Link transfer .”
How would a bus get from I-5 at Mountlake Terrace to Bellevue?
Stride 2 will go from Bellevue to Lynnwood, and a future Swift line will go from there to Everett and Smokey Point. that service already exists with the frequent 201/202 and 512, which both go between Lynnwood and Everett and are express in Everett.
Can the components be relocated? There is a lot of steel, glass and concrete. If a use can’t be found for that site, it may be valuable to find other uses of disassembled pieces .
Curious if they’ll ever end up sunsetting ORCA 1.0 in favor of ORCA 2.0. The FAQs on the website don’t mention any planned shutdown and people will be able to keep using their ORCA 1.0 cards for the time being. But maintaining backwards compatibility indefinitely is potentially a big ask.
If the day ever comes that ORCA 1.0 gets phased out, it’ll surely be a herculean effort to shift everyone over to new cards. Probably with a multi-year timeline.
Just a random thought on this Thursday AM.
This presentation from December 2020 indicated that full legacy ORCA phaseout is TBD after implementation of 2.0 this year: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/citizen-oversight-panel-next-gen-orca-presentation-20201202.pdf
Slide 20 shows a rough plan to end staffing support for ORCA 1.0 in July 2023. I expect they’re expecting to run a “free ORCA replacement card program” until mid 2023, when the legacy contract ends.
The website doesn’t say 2023 is a hard stop on ORCA acceptance, likely because they don’t want to assume that all partner agencies will be able to fully implement ORCA 2.0 acceptance on all vehicles by that point. Since you won’t be able to load fare onto an ORCA 1.0 card by the end of this year, it’ll be a very small set of riders who will be trying to use legacy ORCA cards in 2024.
That seems to coincide with the timeline for allowing payments directly from phones/smart watches. If backwards compatibility is what is keeping smartphone payments from going through, that is a little disappointing, but there does need to be some phase-out period.
“Since you won’t be able to load fare onto an ORCA 1.0 card by the end of this year”
Really? I load my card at a TVM.
One thing I’ve noticed about TVMs though is some of them can’t read my debit card sometimes, and some ORCA readers can’t read my ORCA card. So the agencies are neglecting maintenance and letting the equipment run down. The cards work fine at other readers and ATMs, so it seems to be those specific readers and TVMs. This month I couldn’t use either of the TVMs at Capitol Hill station so I couldn’t reload my card. They read my ORCA card but not my debit card. I’ll have to try the ones at Westlake or somewhere, but I may have had problems there too. However, in the past it has only been one reader or TVM that was dodgy, not all of them at a station entrance.
Mike, my understanding is that ORCA nex-gen/2.0/whatever is a completely different backend system from legacy/1.0 ORCA, so the powers at be will have to cut off access to legacy ORCA at some point after the rollout of ORCA 2.0.
Based on published materials, it seems that the plan is to stop allowing purchase of new legacy ORCA cards, and to stop allowing for reloading of said cards, at the end of 2022, and fully stop accepting them sometime in 2023 or later. I’ll just be excited to know that I’ll be able to share a balance between a physical card and a digital one.
If I recall the current cards will be deactivated in a later phase, maybe in five years. If they agencies are smart they’ll do it the same way as the initial card distribution: the cards were free for a year or more. You just had to load an initial minimum e-purse value or pass, without which the card is useless anyway.
This makes much more sense to me. Invalidating all the low income ORCA cards that are valid after the July 2023 date would be both a hassle and cause a tremendous uproar within the disabled community. Better to just let them expire and give out 2.0 cards when people filter in for their replacements.
I love the new ‘name’ ORCO Card! It’s a cute nickname! Kind of like ORCO the Orca!
“Pedersen remains City Council Transportation Chair – UPDATED”
“Seattle has an enormous opportunity to be a national leader in sustainable transportation with a bold ballot measure in 2024, a high-turnout Presidential election year. Mayor Bruce Harrell and the Transportation Committee will both have opportunities to craft this measure, and they won’t have a ton of time to do so. Committees could see another shake-up in early 2024 after the 2023 City Council election, but much of the transportation measure will likely be developed by then.”
Although I don’t understand the title “Shortages” in the main article, I think the headline and quote above from the article titled the same — along with very public sacking of Zimbabwe — might be a disconnect. I also don’t understand what “transportation measure” will be developed by 2024, or what changes in the council the author expects in 2023.
I do agree a Seattle specific levy will be necessary however, but it will be to complete WSBLE, which will likely cost Seattle billions, which doesn’t leave a lot left over for Move Seattle 2.0 (especially if the $3.5 unfunded bridge repair/replacement is addressed responsibly, without having to close bridges for years first).
I just don’t see where there is time considering the DEIS is underway right now. It may make sense to postpone the DEIS for WSBLE if the options with the money available — notably do nothing — are a reality, and the other options are unacceptable to the communities affected, until some kind of legislative authority and a vote in Seattle for a specific levy can both pass. The earliest I can see that — since I am pretty sure SB5528 won’t pass and is way to complex — is 2024-25. Unless of course the Board simply extends the ST taxes another five years, but not the completion dates, which still may not be enough for WSBLE as currently designed.
The roundup titles are almost always a direct reference to one of the bullet lines – in this case, the 4th bullet, ending in “driver shortages”.
You’ve got public financial shortages living in your head rent free, so it’s easy to understand your confusion.
Again, the WSBLE DEIS will not likely recognize significantly (or, likely, any) different cost estimates than the ones presented to the board in 2021. The updated cost estimates likely came out of the early stages of the DEIS process, when they established the conceptual designs as the basis for the rest of the study, and cost estimating was the first step after conceptual design. The rest of the work of the DEIS relied on those designs staying the same.
Many aspects of the preferred design for WSBLE, as revealed to the Community Advisory Groups over the last week or so, are bad. Well, bad for system users; probably relatively good for civil engineering. Extreme depths for the preferred DSTT2; extreme heights for some preferred aerial stations.
If ST actually listens to design-oriented comments following the DEIS comment period, there will have to be some significant reworks of the preferred designs which will result in cost estimate changes and significant rework of the DEIS. We shall see how ST responds when the comment period closes.
The DEIS is apparently scheduled for publication any day. A postponement should have happened in 2019 but the huge costing mistakes were not brought to light until after the DEIS was authorized for preparation. It seems too late practically even though I think it’s warranted in theory.
I think there is an open question about timing in 2019 and 2020. Was the huge cost problem known before ordering the EIS preparation, and the info was deliberately withheld? Who knew what and when? Were board members kept in the dark by senior management, or did some board members know and told the management to keep quiet? Any opponent of an existing board member could even make a campaign issue of this incompetence or deception if it implicated their opponent.
The board is always at liberty to add a supplemental EIS at any time before the grant agreement and construction. It’s the FTA New Starts funding that is likely the bigger hurdle, as FTA is well aware of costs, financial commitments from other sources and ridership forecast games that come with applications and will be rigorous in their review. FTA merely has to declare an EIS to be sufficient but the grant agreement details are subject to close scrutiny.
I think the initial work of the DEIS is what found the cost estimate mistakes in the first place.
With the conceptual drawings being released to the public last week, I’m curious what ST’s response will be to a hopefully strong backlash against the depth and height of many of the preferred stations.
And for the record, the WSBLE DEIS is literally scheduled for release on January 28, 2022 (two weeks). I’m curious how it will be presented to the CAG groups in the weeks following.
“Was the huge cost problem known before ordering the EIS preparation, and the info was deliberately withheld?”
That’s a very good question, one that I’ve been wondering about for some time. The timing of the disclosure memo from Deputy CEO Farley about the ST3 capital program huge affordability gap (Jan 2021) has always seemed suspect to me. The finance committee and board had just gone through the fall budgeting cycle in which they updated the financial plan. That very plan that every member signed off on in Dec 2020 with passage of the 2021 annual budget was OUT OF BALANCE by $2.7B already.
I suspect senior management was well aware of the magnitude of the cost estimate problem long before the Deputy CEO’s letter to the board.
I think everything on the current Monorail line was supposed to have been built so trains could pass. But then we had a collision which IIRC was they knew trains weren’t suppose to pass there but did? I think that was “fixed”. But assuming it is doable and a good idea (facts not in evidence) there’s still the issue of getting a private company to “buy in” and figure out who pays for what. I do think that with good design it could make 5th Ave better for pedestrians and transit use. And yes, it’s a “study” order of magnitude less expensive that a 2nd DT tunnel.
The monorail’s historic status (legal or not) probably makes it a bit “untouchable”.
Since it is already 58 years old, it’s going to really tough to rely on it for any high volume urban use in 2038, when it will be 75. A major refurnishment of the tracks and structure as well as new vehicles will be eventually needed.
My suggestion is to consider moving the tracks (relocate the operation), and rethink 5th Ave between Westlake and Seattle Center as the Link corridor. It could be an aerial or a cut and cover underground segment. It already ends at Seattle Center and Westlake so it’s the tie-end engineering that would have to be overcome.
I like the idea because it saves going deep under 99 as well as possibly going deep under the Westlake tracks. If aerial, it could save building three deep station platforms and 1.5 to 2 miles of tunnel. The resulting cost savings could make DSTT2 much shorter and much more affordable. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest doing it unless it saved billions.
I could see it rebuilt as a waterfront attraction, a connection from BAR to the Museum of Flight or any number of other short segments.
What is the PSRC like? It’s a middle way between urbanism and sprawl. If it were full urbanist, Seattle would have Chicago’s density, most people would live in a contiguous urban area, the suburban ring would be smaller, and exurban growth in places like Arlington and Highway 9 wouldn’t exit.
In contrast, if it were full sprawl, there would be no urban growth boundary, there would be less emphasis on growth centers like the Spring District and Totem Lake, and there would be a lot more low-density sprawl, tower-in-the-park offices, and six-lane arterials like in Silicon Valley, Dallas, Atlanta, and other horror stories like that.
The PSRC seeks to channel growth to satellite cities across the 4-county area, while still allowing a lot of lower-density residential-only peanut butter around them. The growth centers are 5-10 miles apart, and the largest ones are 12-15 miles apart, so there’s a lot of travel between them that would be less necessary if they were closer together. Ubiquidous parking minimums put a ceiling on walkability. You can’t get denser than Los Angeles without reducing parking minimums, because the cars and garages and 4-6 lane roads themselves push things apart. So we’ll end up with a Spring District and Totem Lake that look like Los Angeles, and low density houses immediately around these little islands because you can’t upzone there.
I do feel like there is an unintentional — or perhaps intentional — obfuscation about the WSBLE project costs being so out of whack. The narrative from Seattle Subway is that the added tax is to pay for new extensions or lines. The narrative from others is that the added tax is to pay for tunnels wanted in Ballard and West Seattle. However, given the likely conclusion that it can’t generate more than $2B, it probably would all go for the baseline DSTT project ($4-6B short) with nothing left over for either more tunneling nor extensions.
That’s my take Al, although Nathan states there is plenty of money for WSBLE. (Of course he thought that before the realignment).
In 2016 transit folks knew DSTT2 would cost much more than $2.2 billion, but ST had to sell four other skeptical subareas to pay half, so it low balled the cost. I mean, I remember during ST 3 eastside groups like ETA howling that the $2.2 billion estimate was a fraud (along with ridership estimates on East Link). Since I didn’t know enough about tunnelling costs, and at that time thought ST was marginally honest in its cost estimating, I blew the comments off. After all, that is Seattle’s problem. All I want is to make sure my subarea is liable for no more than $275 million for DSTT2 no matter what it ends up costing.
The ultimate cost review is done by the companies who will bid on the project, with cost contingencies. That is why nearly every large public project comes in well over budget estimates. The agency desperately wants to greenlight the project, but the companies doing the actual construction want to make a profit. The agency simply assumes more public money will be found, a la ST 4, and the project once started must be finished.
It sounds like the FTA New Starts program will do a vigorous cost review. I would have to think the FTA would be skeptical to begin with after the realignment, and the fact ST was almost decertified in 2000 for this same kind of dishonesty.
But in the end it will be the construction and design bidders who will properly estimate the project, because they have skin in the game to get it right, which is why project cost contingencies could be as high as 50%. ST really doesn’t have any extra funds lying around to cover WSBLE.
I read the DEIS and the alignment proposals. Elevated lines and stations in West Seattle unless a “third party” comes up with billions, very very deep tunnels from ID nearly to Ballard, and the two things that struck me: no way the N. King Co. subarea has the funding for this, and “the preferred alignment” still won’t be acceptable to West Seattle or Ballard.
Nathan hopes ST will read the comments and change the design for WSBLE. The problem is the comments will demand a more expensive design and alternative, not less. I think ST could find itself in the embarrassing situation of having Ballard — and/or more likely West Seattle since it has a great bridge and car access — to opt for the do-nothing option, which would default to buses.
ST and N. King Co. are simply going to need more money to complete WSBLE in a design the stakeholders agree on (one of whom, Dow, is vice chair of the Board and lives in West Seattle). I suppose ST can proceed with the DEIS to determine what that design is (and it isn’t a secret what Ballard and West Seattle want) and then figure out the money, or it can postpone the DEIS to make sure an alternative that is acceptable is selected, and the actual amount of money is found somewhere.
It makes no sense to tell West Seattle and Ballard you will get an alignment you hate, or to go to the FTA to find out the project is underestimated which would be a huge blow to ST, or wait for bids that exceed what ST promised Ballard, West Seattle and downtown Seattle. Even worse would be to tell West Seattle and Ballard they will get what they want, but then have to come back to them after the FTA and tell them there isn’t the money for that, so now they will get an alternative they don’t like.
Seattle is supposed to be a very pro-transit city. So figure out a design West Seattle and Ballard will agree to that does not shunt the line to a 112th like Bellevue did, find out how much it will actually cost, and ask Seattle voters to pay for it (maybe including bridge repair/replacement although I know that isn’t transit bling — but neither is simply finishing ST 3 voters thought was paid for) while telling Seattle Subway and the author of the article on Pederson this is the whole transit wad for a very long time.
My guess is Seattle residents would start asking what else Seattle could use the ST money on if WSBLE ends up buses, although I doubt ST wants that. Seattle Subway is maybe the one group less realistic when it comes to estimating the costs of tunnels and subways than ST, and then you have the Move Seattle constituencies who want bike lanes and sidewalks and transit bling.
I am guessing that with the “realignment” WSBLE is around $4 — $6 billion short if the preferred alternative is adopted and West Seattle and Ballard don’t object, and around $11.5 billion short if West Seattle and Ballard get what they want. Now where have I seen those numbers before? Would Seattle voters vote for those kinds of numbers to complete WSBLE? I don’t know, but that is what it will cost.
ST needs to be honest about a design West Seattle and Ballard will accept, then the cost of that alternative including contingencies, and then whether the subarea wants to spend that kind of money on WSBLE. It isn’t often a public agency has to actually accurately estimate the cost of a large public project, but this is one of those times.
“…and at that time thought ST was marginally honest in its cost estimating,..”
I got a chuckle out of that part of your comment. I guess there has been a bit of an evolution in your thinking about this since then? For the record and in full disclosure, I did vote for Sound Move and ST2, despite the terrible cost estimating involved in those packages. However I did not support ST3 and one of the reasons for that decision was that I just didn’t believe the cost numbers. (The other major reasons involved the projects themselves that were ultimately included in the proposal. Most are a poor value.)
I’ve said this before, but I’m not convinced that a second downtown tunnel is really required for WSBLE. If the new trains could just run downtown on the existing tracks, it would save billions. Especially if the justification of the second tunnel was to enable extremely high peak frequency that it turns out, they don’t actually need.
If the second tunnel provides no meaningful coverage improvements, it’s only purpose is capacity, and if you don’t need the capacity, you shouldn’t build it.
I agree with you on this point, asdf2. I’ll add that I have seen no conceptual analysis how to do this. It’s like there is this invisible hand demanding the second light rail tunnel downtown.
Hopefully the EIS diagrams will demonstrate the depth of the line, making it undesirable for one je two station hops. I notice that they already somewhat deceptively show the “floors” are about 20 feet apart so that 100 feet deep looks like five floors rather than the actual 10.
So many ways to do this. Just a few off the top of my head:
1. An automated line with three minute trains from Ballard that end at 5th/ Olive/ Westlake so riders can have a level transfer walkway to existing Westlake Link.
2. Closing University Street or Westlake and using the opening to build a track grade separation underground in the vault for tracks to SLU and Ballard. Then put a new station around 3rd/Olive or 5th/Olive (closer to Amazon HQ and further from University St).
3. Design a one-way underground loop under 3rd, Pine, 6th and Olive so no underground grade separation is needed. Build crossover tracks (open the tunnel) so that the existing Westlake platforms are for northbound trains and new parallel ones under Olive are for southbound trains.
I’m sure there are many others. The bigger issue is that ST has been so unwilling to innovate that the only choices that they are putting on the table are to give them years more time and billions more money. As an agency, they are unreasonably stubborn.
It’s too late now, but with a bit of foresight, I think the most efficient way to do the single-tunnel approach would have been to utilize the convention place stub that’s already there, previously used by buses to go between Westlake Station and Convention Place Station.
The way the construction would work would be like this. Going back to 2018, you first demolish the old convention place station. Then, you launch a TBM in the construction site and start digging the SLU/Lower Queen Anne tunnel, just like what was done when constructing the downtown->Capitol Hill tunnel a few years back. Use the open pit construction site to haul away all the rock and dirt. When the tunnel digging is finished, cover it, and build the new convention center on top of it.
It would have delayed the opening of the new convention center by a few years (hardly a concern, given hindsight knowledge that COVID was going to hit), but would have saved an enormous amount of money for the transit project, both compared to DSTT2 and compared to punching a new hole through the existing tunnel, north of Westlake Station.
Who exactly are these “transit folks” who conspired to hide the costs of ST3 from the public? Name names you logorrheic slanderer or shut the effyouseekay up about this.
“Who exactly are these “transit folks” who conspired to hide the costs of ST3 from the public? Name names you logorrheic slanderer or shut the effyouseekay up about this.”
Tom Terrific, another 2:20 am post. The other day it was 2:42 AM. Are you a night watchman?
The folks who conspired to hide the true costs of DSTT2 were ST and Rogoff. It was why the Board just fired Rogoff for dishonest cost estimation. Were you not aware of that?
It is why Rogoff announced in the beginning of 2021 that ST 3 was $11.5 billion underfunded due to underestimating project costs, and later $6 billion, although none of the data had changed, and why the Board adopted the “realignment” extending ST taxes five years. This has been discussed repeatedly on STB.
Now, if your real question is why I didn’t learn about this earlier, or who first explained this to me, let me explain.
In September 2016 I co-hosted a citizen seminar on Mercer Island to discuss two issues:
1. The fact the MI mayor had signed off on the SEPA permits for East Link without a written mitigation agreement, and not disclosed that until the permits had vested, and our limited litigation options going forward.
2. Capacity. The concern at this time was capacity on East Link. ST had issued fantastical ridership estimates — even pre-pandemic –on East Link, and convinced the eastside subarea and three other subareas DSTT2 was necessary for THEIR capacity so they needed to contribute 1/2 to DSTT2, while at the same time discovering or disclosing for the first time the hinge between the bridge plate and bridge span would force trains to reduce speeds to 20 mph across the bridge span (this was before ST discovered the issue with post-tensioning), or the concrete on the bridge would micro-fracture like old china from four car trains dropping from the plate to the span all day long. Based on ST’s ridership estimates cross lake, the hinge, and the fact MI is the last stop in both directions, there would not be enough peak capacity on East Link for MI (and this was before ST had announced it would end all buses across the bridge span and make MI a major intercept).
The first speaker was Vic Bishop from ETA. He explained three things I did not know: 1. ST 3 required the four other subareas to pay half of DSTT2 based on the claim by ST that DSTT2 would be necessary for East Link capacity, although there might not be capacity at MI; 2. there was plenty of capacity in DSTT1 for Lines 1 and 2 based on realistic ridership estimates; and 3. the $2.2 billion cost estimation was about half the actual cost of DSTT2 based on similar tunnels, and was lowballed because ST was desperate to finish ST 2 and pass ST 3, so everything was done (low balled project cost estimation and inflated ridership estimates for farebox recovery) to low ball the general tax increases to pass ST 3.
Then Kevin Wallace spoke. At the time he was a Bellevue councilmember. He echoed Bishop’s presentation and pointed out how ST 3 was a terrible deal, especially for East King Co., and why Bellevue didn’t want East Link along the surface on Bellevue Way, the only logical location (if underground).
Finally, a representative group of local engineers called “Vision Mercer Island” spoke. VMI was organized at the time to work with ST and MI over mitigation and the loss of SOV access from Island Crest Way, and had gotten involved in ST 3. The engineer who spoke also noted $2.2 billion for DSTT2 was probably half the actual cost. Not surprisingly ST and MI blew VMI off.
Since ST and ST sycophants had done a pretty good job of smearing Bishop, ETA and Wallace as Kemper Freeman plants, and I lean liberal, I tended to believe ST, which worried me because it meant there would not be peak capacity on Mercer Island. Later in late 2017 ST would announce it would terminate all buses across the bridge span and MI would become a major bus intercept, so that became the major issue.
Was I foolish? Yes, I know that now. Tisgwm apparently had his doubts all along, but he follows this stuff much closer than I do, certainly in 2016. I think nearly all of us — except maybe you, Lazarus and Nathan — understand now.
What blows me away is some like you on this blog still believes DSTT2 can be built for $2.2 billion, despite Rogoff’s disclosure of the project cost deficits, his firing for dishonesty, the realignment, HB1304, and now SB5528.
At the same time you post fantastical “value engineering” alternatives for DSTT2 that are not part of the DEIS, and have no chance politically of ever being adopted even if they were possible from an engineering standpoint, and pretty much everything is possible from an engineering standpoint if you have the money and public support.
I try to be a realist. I now know ridership on East Link — especially post pandemic — will be a fraction of what ST claimed in 2016 (and still claims on its website today). I know cross lake ridership will be very low, and MI will never be a major intercept. I know placing East Link along 112th probably doomed it, although I hosted a second seminar on ACES (autonomous electric shared vehicles) with Steve Marshall from Bellevue who explained Bellevue’s intent was always to run East Link along 112th and use driverless electric shuttles to loop from NE 8th to Main St. and from 112th to Bellevue Way).
I also now better understand subarea equity, and the changes in revenue among subareas from when subarea equity was first formed. East King Co. will have a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland (even without the realignment) while WSBLE is many billions underfunded.
I know DSTT2 will cost somewhere between $4 and $6 billion depending on complications, and I have always understood the DEIS process as a lawyer, so I know West Seattle and Ballard will not go quietly without underground stations and tunnels like other neighborhoods got. Whether those other lesser (to West Seattle where the King Co. Exec. lives and Ballard) neighborhoods are on hills is irrelevant to their neighborhoods, and the harm from surface or elevated stations and lines.
So, what does that mean. It means a 90-mile spine that will carry maybe 1/2 to 1/3 the estimated ridership post pandemic because it spent too much money on areas of nothingness between “urban” areas chasing the commuter while shorting true urban rail transit, with a cost for WSBLE at least double that estimated.
Still, as a realist I know the only solution to WSBLE is more money, hence 1304 and 5528, although with subarea equity the costs are huge. 1304 would raise too little, and 5528 is far too complex. Which is why my guess is still a second five-year extension, but this time without an extension of completion dates because otherwise the inflation for project construction and ROW increases the same or more during the extension years. This will likely require some kind of extension of the DEIS until the money is found.
One of the nice things about this blog is I got a very good education about everything related to ST for free, and the reason I joined this blog is to learn everything about ST and ST 3 for Mercer Island and the intercept, so I didn’t make the same mistake I did in 2016. As fate would have it, a pandemic and ST’s own dishonesty solved most of my city’s issues with ST. I hope you stop with the corny insults late at night, probably with a few drinks, and also take advantage of this free education.
Correction: 1/2 to 2/3 estimated ridership post pandemic.
I’ve said this before, but I’m not convinced that a second downtown tunnel is really required for WSBLE.
I agree with that. It adds next to nothing in terms of coverage, so the only thing it could add is capacity. So lets’ break that down a bit:
1) Downtown to Ballard, East Side or South End. Trains every six minutes on each line — same as planned.
2) Downtown to North End. Twenty trains an hour — same plan. To be fair, they would be staggered differently (2 minutes then 4 minutes) but it would be the same amount of throughput, just some additional waiting for some.
3) Travel within downtown. This is the only place where improvement occurs. But it sure looks like it won’t be needed, given that surface transit can do the job adequately. If you need to get from Westlake to Pioneer Square, you can take a bus.
If we do have capacity problems, it won’t be *within* downtown, it will be *leaving* downtown. The new tunnel isn’t needed.
My understanding is East Link is limited to 8-minute headways, and I doubt 8-minute headways would be necessary except for peak hours, especially across the bridge span.
I don’t think any of the feeder buses — many of which at least to MI that are peak only — have 8-minute frequency and are closer to 15. So East Link won’t need nearly the same capacity post pandemic in DSTT1 as once claimed because East Link was always going to open before DSTT2.
If ridership across the bridge span returns to pre-pandemic levels post pandemic my guess is Issaquah will demand one seat express buses, certainly to SLU, so that will reduce ridership, and of course Bellevue is now wanting all that Issaquah commuter ridership to go to downtown Bellevue, much of it via the 554.
The one big problem with eliminating DSTT2 is N. King Co. loses $1.1 billion (based on the $2.2 billion cost estimate) from the four other subareas, and I imagine Seattle does not want to give up that $1.1 billion for its subarea even though it doesn’t have the extra funding to complete WSBLE/DSTT2 even with the $1.1 billion from the four other subareas.
I think Seattle will fight like hell for more revenue to complete DSTT2 and WSBLE as the stakeholders want before throwing in the towel on DSTT2. The key is where will that money for N. King Co. come from?
“ At the same time you post fantastical “value engineering” alternatives for DSTT2 that are not part of the DEIS, and have no chance politically of ever being adopted even if they were possible…”
I sadly must agree. Other agencies look at alternatives when the original project is unaffordable — but not ST! They gave the public just one systems and technology alternative in 2016, and by golly they are going to eventually build it — no matter how long it takes to raise the money (or it has to do with First Hill)!
So, Daniel, are you prepared to make a formal complaint to the US Attorney naming Peter Rogoff, one or more at this time unnamed other Sound Transit employees and possibly members of the Board as members of a conspiracy to defraud the governments of Washington State and the United States?
Go to it if you have the guts! Rogoff and the Board members are arguably “public persons” and therefore cannot be slandered. But the people who worked for the Agency and had to have been parties to such a conspiracy, aren’t and can sue you.
We’ll all the waiting for the headlines in The Seattle Crimes!
You’ve repeated almost word-for-word your classist scorn of Seattle and especially its people, your triumphant flackery of Holy Belly-Wash as the coming Manhattan of the West, and these inflammatory slanders of the staff and Board of Sound Transit OVER AND OVER AND OVER in response to nearly every article on the Blog for the past year and a half. Enough.
I have to say that like all “Big Lies” it does appear to be working. Al and asdf2 seem have gone over to the “ST is a criminal syndicate” meme. Tlsgwm has always been headed that way.
So maybe you’re right, but you’re a coward if you just make these charges without following through with filing a formal complaint.
And so far as my posting at night, no I’m not a “night watchman”. I’m retired.
“We’ll all the waiting for the headlines in The Seattle Crimes!”
Sam will probably scoop it.
asdf2, yes using the stub would have been a great idea, and, in truth, if a level crossing (of the north track to Ballard track and the south track from Capitol Hill) were allowed, it could still work by putting the new tunnel under the Pine Street I-5 reversible lane off-ramp and using Minor to go north.
However, I doubt that ST would put a level crossing at that critical point.
Had the DSTT cut-and-cover section retained the full width of the Westlake platform instead of narrowing about six to eight feet, a plunging junction could have been constructed for that north track to Ballard on the incline between the Westlake platforms and the curve to Capitol Hill, under-running the south track from Capitol Hill. But it is narrowed and therefore not wide enough for three tracks.
Al’s idea of a shallow stub-end tunnel for Ballard and SLU ending in Westlake Plaza is probably what should be built. I analyzed doing the same thing a few weeks ago. [I’ve looked but cannot find the particular comment. I need to write down the post when I write long things.]
It could be cut-and-covered along Westlake Avenue to the Denny Station, but would have to be bored beyond that point to the Elliott portal.
Even with short automated trains, the cars have to be serviced from time-to-time and there isn’t much room for even a small thirty-some car MF anywhere along the route. So some single-track “service track” for non-revenue service would have to be built between the existing tunnel would have to be dug. Breaking down the north retaining wall at the curve just east of the platforms at Westlake for a non-revenue “service” track between the two tunnels and adding a cross-over within University Street is quite doable and would not be expensive.
Sure, the demising process would require closing Third Avenue for a couple of weeks while a shallow hole is dug there and decking added for the passage of buses afterward. Some sort of strong steel support wall would have to be erected on the inside of the wall to be punctured to ensure that debris wouldn’t fall into the tunnel. The street decking would have to be supported by some sort of falsework while the hole is punched and the new portal strengthened. But it could be done.
To ensure that non-revenue moves toward the Ballard-SLU line wouldn’t have to run out-of-direction all the way from SoDo, a cross-over within University Street Station could be built. ST seems to have ruled out ever using the bus-bypass lanes as center platforms, and even if it did, having one new one at Pioneer Square would be sufficient to ease out-of-direction transfers between Lines 1 and 2.
The service tunnel would be under the west side of Third in the block between Pine and Stewart which would make the curve into the diagonal Stewart Street right of way easily passable, albeit at relatively low “service tunnel” speeds. Cutting-and-covering the segment between Westlake and Denny Stations under Westlake Avenue would allow the service track to connect to the southbound SLU track with a trailing point crossover immediately to the north of the junction so that trains entering service could attain the northbound track immediately.
Trains would exit service southbound from Denny.
A disabled car south of the cross-over would have to be towed back to the junction.
This would make for much better transfers at Westlake and obviate the need for deep Midtown and New IDS.
If a second tunnel were to become necessary it could be added later with a junction north of the cross-over.
Does the idea of extending the Monorail on 5th to the ID mitigate the need for a 2nd DT tunnel? Obviously it doesn’t help one iota with headway issues in the current tunnel but if that’s not a show stopper it seems like it would help with the mobility issue both DT and getting to the Seattle Center. Of course the Monorail is a private company so that complicates things when you’re taking about using public ROW.
This idea relates to a W Seattle line (train, gondola, hyperloop, flying cars, whatever) that only goes to the ID rather than through routed to Ballard.
The Monorail is not very high capacity. There are lines multiple trainfuls long at the north end when a lot of people leave at once. Extending it to Pioneer Square would increase downtown’s total north-south circulation, which would make DSTT2 less necessary at least. The city owns the Monorail; it’s just operated by a private contractor.
Thanks for the clarification. The Monorail is indeed owned by the City of Seattle but it also is solely operated by a private company. It’s a little bit more than just hiring a subcontractor. The entire Seattle Center and all the associated entities (Opera, Kraken, etc.) are a rather unique public/private consortium. Anyway, it does complicate trying to incorporate any such project into regional planning.
Was the station upgrade at Westlake funded entirely (or almost entirely) with private money? The Monorail serves 2 million people a year. That’s less than 1/3rd of the number of Link Boardings at Westlake but it’s not insignificant. If it was more than just a fancy way to get to the Center that number would grow. Having more demand than capacity would be novel.
The monorail is rubber tire on concrete beam propulsion, so it should be able to climb hills decently. Say, from international district to the hospitals on First Hill.
It could be operated at higher capacity, but would need some modification and modernization. However, if the alternative is a kajilion into a new tunnel, just about every option needs to be considered.
I like the idea of it being able to reduce some of the congestion that is likely at Westlake.
One thing that could be done is build a loop at each end so you get a “dogbone” shape, and run it as a loop of trains every several minutes. You’d have to rebuild Westlake so the trains can pass, but what’s at Westlake now seems like a jury-rigged solution anyway.
Glenn, a dogbone monorail with a stop at Wall and a curve up the hill into the First Hill health care complex might be a great solution, but it’s very unlikely “to fly” by the owners of expensive properties along Fifth Avenue.
If they would agree to it, University Street should the turning intersection up to Ninth and then south to Harborview. The grade would still be considerable and the curve fron Fifth to University very sharp. However, there’s a middle-aged fairly low building in the northeast corner which could be razed, the guideway built and then a tall building with a corner missing put in its place. It could even include a station for the Financial District.
The thing about University is that it runs into the freeway just north of Freeway Park, allowing a transition from elevated to tunnel. I believe that it makes sense to bore a pair of small diameter tunnels down Ninth because of the narrow width of the street and to make the overall elevation change less severe. But whether bored or elevated there should be three single-level, side-platform stations, one just after the curve at Seneca, another between Madison and Marion, and a third at Harborview.
The south dogbone could be around Eighth, Yesler, Broadway and Fir. There would be a station under Yesler where drivers would change off every three or four loops and have a break.
A spur to an MF down in Dearborn Gulch could connect to the south dogbone at Eighth and Yesler, but that’s a tiny bit more tunneling and then some fairly steep, high elevated alongside the freeway.
This would do a pretty good job of reaching First Hill and Lower Queen Anne. It would not be effective for SLU.
If people reject the costs and disruptions of ST’s Edifice Complex, Seattle should have something like this in its back pocket.
Of course tunneling increases the cost, but not nearly to the level of DSTT2. If this is done, the line should also be extended across Seattle Center and the dogbone put around Queen Anne (which is wide) up to Roy then down 2nd West which is also pretty wide. There could be three stations, one in front of the Arena, one at Queen Anne and Roy and one at second West and Harrison. Trains would not lay over at this dogbone, but at the southern one.
I know, I know, “Seattle already rejected a monorail,” But that was for a full mini-spine system, not a CBD circulator. Some day the McGinn Rapid Streetcar could be built via Fremont with a short tunnel section under the Ship Canal and through Fremont to connect Ballard to the core and UW along the Lakefront.
I suppose it could also go above I-5, or if providing transit to an area without current service is a desire maybe above Alaskan, since that’s also a really busy, loud road. At lower levels any view over the sound is mostly blocked by the buildings on the water.
@Bernie — The monorail is publicly owned (you can read about it on Wikipedia). Having a private contractor only complicates things during that contract. For example, if they wanted to take it out of operation for a while, they would need to compensate the company. The contract comes up every ten years, and there is nothing stopping the city council from having Metro (or some other public agency) run it next time, just as Metro and the Seattle Center operated it before 1994. The operations agreement really isn’t an issue.
What is an issue is what Mike mentioned — capacity. They are in the process of making these improvements, effectively doubling capacity to 6,000 riders an hour. That is still less than a Link train running every six minutes, (although not a lot less). But if your whole argument for a second tunnel is that you need the extra capacity on that one little section, providing something else (a monorail) doesn’t really solve the imaginary problem. We already knew that buses could supplement the rail just fine, or that the trains can run every 2 minutes (or faster) in a pinch. But folks wanted another tunnel.
I didn’t know the Seattle Monorail Services company has only been operating the system since 1994 and that it was part of Metro prior to that. How long was Metro’s tenure? Metro (as a transportation entity) didn’t exist until about a decade after the World’s Fair. I thought the monorail was all rolled into the agreement that formed the Seattle Center as an independent organization post Fair. Did Seattle Transit run the Monorail?
The designation of the cars and track as a historical landmark could be a problem. If a monorail extension were ever to happen I don’t think these vintage vehicles are up to the task. I suppose they could operate only on the current track and be supplemented by new trains that run the entire length. But that creates operational issues as the trains run on a dedicated track with no switching involved.
Is more buses really an option? When they kick the buses up to the surface I though there wasn’t room for all the routes to continue through DT. Maybe it’s just 3rd that’s at capacity and turning 5th into a transit mall would do the trick. But to take that much street capacity I think Seattle would have to get serious about a Cordon Zone for DT. That’s another whole political fight.
Isn’t Westlake Monorail station going to be redesigned anyway? There was something about making a station with improved access and a more prominent elevator. Any additional changes would run against those and have to be coordinated with them.
I thought the redesign is what they already did for the Kraken. Hard to see them doing all this and then doing it again. It seems the existing Monorail is just fine for what it does; connect Seattle Center to major transit alternatives. “Moving” it would be extremely expensive. Probably as much or more than building a whole new 2 mile segment and the political fight would be immense.
Could any use be made of the old Battery St tunnel route? It’s basically a concrete cap right now. I don’t know if that helps or hinders construction of a new tunnel below. Looking at the inflation adjusted cost of the bus tunnel it would be ~1.2 billion in today’s money. We’re not building the Ballard tunnel today and it’s about twice as long as the DSTT. So, really rough back of the napkin guess is expect YOE to be in the $2.5-3.0B range minimum just for the hole in the ground (half the current budget for the whole shebang). The old Battery St/Hwy 99 route looks like it would be decent and if it helps with “value engineering” then…
“I thought the redesign is what they already did for the Kraken.”
I’ll look to see if it has changed.
“Could any use be made of the old Battery St tunnel route?”
It’s filled with viaduct rock pieces. Those could be removed I suppose.
I thought the tunnel had just been piled full of debris but according to Mining Engineering, WSDOT “filled the last 7 feet with lightweight concrete pumped through the street’s ventilation grates.“. I suppose they did this to eliminate collapse at some point in the future. Assuming the concrete entombed the debris and is structurally sound I’m wondering if they could bore a shallow tunnel just below this cap, turn around and bore the second tunnel on the other side. Appears there are still utility relocates that would have to be done. Depending on how “solid” the old tunnel is another option might be a mined tunnel.
Also don’t know if a 1st or 5th Street connection would be better. I think there’s a better chance of pushing through cut and cover on 1st than there would be on 5th from a traffic disruption perspective. Is 1st even high enough above sea level for this to work and would it destroy “Underground Seattle”? It would avoid having to tunnel under the existing 1 Line.
They did it to prevent future transit, high lines, mushroom farms, etc in the tunnel.
I looked at the Westlake Monorail station this afternoon. The waiting area has expanded into the hallway, the ticket booth is gone, the entrance is like fake ticket gates, and there’s an ORCA reader. The train still stops at the same place and the elevator are unchanged.
There were many creative ideas for the Battery Street Tunnel. Given it’s economic impact to the State I thought it should have been turned into the worlds largest wine cellar. A white wine section for Democrats and a small red wine section for Republicans (located under one of the ventilation shafts so cigar smoking could be accommodated ;-). Seriously, it all came down to the cheapest way to get rid of the debris from the Viaduct. I’m pretty sure the reason for filling with lightweight concrete was to prevent future collapse or sink holes. I found this on Al’s Interweb, LWC is thus ideal for constructing additional flooring on top of older or even newer structures, as it reduces the risk of collapse.” This suggests the structure may be stable enough to tunnel under at a reasonably shallow depth. And if 1st is a viable route you don’t have to “dive, dive, dive” to get under the 1 Line. 1st may be too narrow for parallel tracks. A thought if this is an issue would be to double deck like I think they do on a portion of Skytrain in Vancouver. One direction in a shallow cut and cover tunnel and the other elevated or perhaps even at grade. I know that creates problems but the bigger problem right now seems to be not enough money to do anything but the no build alternative. Any chance 1st could be vacated of cars? Maybe allow for a BAT Lane? I don’t think 1st is that important to DT traffic flow and the new AK Way should make up the difference, right?
The problem with the monorail at Westlake involves the cobbled together method of boarding trains in the east track. They run a bridge plate from the side of the building across the west track to the side of the train sitting on the east track. The only other place I can think of where this is done are indoor warehouses where there are two tracks of unaligned boxcars being unloaded. I can’t think of anyone that would try to operate a passenger service this way, especially two floors up. It’d be like boarding Link trains at TIBS with a single side platform, and running bridge plates across one track to reach the other, completely blocking one track while boarding the other.
If it were me, I’d either rebuild the station with two platforms to allow for better boarding (or three) or install a switch (they do make monorail track switches, though they are expensive) and just use one track at Westlake. It’s not not like you can have two trains there as it is now.
My understanding is the most crowded part of the ST3 system will be Capitol Hill to Westlake. If so, DSTT2 won’t really help with passenger capacity issues. It will only help with train throughput.
Extending the existing monorail to ID would help train throughput a bit because you might be able to keep the Ballard section of the line to a lower frequency if the most crowded areas of that line have an express elevated line through downtown Seattle. They would be able to skip University Street, Pioneer Square and whatever stations are on the Ballard line in SLU. They might be able to skip Westlake, depending on where they are going. This gets them to a location where Link trains are less crowded, and if they need a bus on the south side of town they’d be able to get to those faster too.
I suggest going up the hill to the hospitals because there is a major trip generator up there.
As I propose skipping over most of downtown Seattle (there’s already a lot of other transit there) it would be possible to route one line above one street and another above another street (say 5th and 4th?) so that it’s not directly outside anyone’s windows.
If, however, not even that is palatable, then perhaps just leave the existing monorail as the Westlake-Seattle Center it is and building a new one above Alaskan to serve the same purposes.
There is no reason to use expensive tunneling, except if needed for aesthetic reasons. The monorail can climb just as steeply as any trolleybus as it uses rubber tires. In fact, as a trolleybus operates in the street while the monorail has an exclusive track, it should be possible to give the running surface some surface treatments that would increase adhesion beyond what can be done in the street.
As for the suggestion of running a Ballard -Westlake Link line with a maintenance tunnel connection at Westlake, I think this would be a bad idea. Such a track connection, even a low capacity maintenance only link, is probably in the hundreds of millions.
For the price of that track, you could just as easily put a Link line on the surface on 1st that connects the two through Belltown and have a separate Elliott Bay to ID line. Maybe connect that south of the East Link junction so they would be Elliott Bay to Mt Baker trains or something? Taking advantage of the limited capacity south of Mt Baker.
Sure, light rail on the surface is slow. However, there’s already going to be a lot of north-south train traffic in the tunnel, so maybe adding Belltown and stations closer to the waterfront would help reduce the need for as many trains in the tunnel, and give local passengers the option of riding on the surface if they aren’t going too far and don’t want to deal with the deep stations?
Examples of parallel, duplicative subway tunnels seem fairly rare, even in cities with far more heavily used systems, and I’m just trying to explore what might otherwise work.
While a level crossing next to Westlake Station between the branch to SLU and the branch to Capitol Hill is not ideal, it’s also not terrible.
At worst, trains would have to wait a minute or so, to allow other trains to pass. Signals could be coordinated so that such waiting happens at the stations prior to junction, with the doors open, so that passengers, who would have just missed the train would be able to get on. We already put up with trains getting stuck behind buses in the tunnel for 9 years. Multiple train routes merging together doesn’t seem nearly that bad – there will never be nearly as many trains in the tunnel as there were buses.
Would it better for trains to pass over or under each other in separate tunnels and have no delays at all? If money is infinite, yes. But, money is not infinite, and if the cost savings of routing all trains through the existing tunnel saves billions and allows Ballard Link to open in 2035 instead of 2050, this feels like a tradeoff that’s well worth it.
Furthermore, for some, the rider experience would actually be better with a single tunnel. Consider riders descending to DSTT2 at Westlake, who would have a longer elevator/escalator ride due to the new platform being at a deeper elevation. Or, people transferring between the lines. One platform means a same-stop transfer. Two platforms means a transfer requires riding an elevator/escalator and walking a few hundred feet.
This is something that ST should be considering, as it has a very high cost savings relative to its rider impact.
Yes, I think the existing Monorail system should just stay as is except for improvements in capacity that are done or already in the works. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and it seems they have all of the fixes worked out to keep this running for a 100th anniversary. That seems remarkable until you compare it say London where 100 years is recent history.
Yes, this is a thought exercise. Toss something out that probably can’t work but maybe pieces of it can or it leads to new ideas. The dogma that lies deep within ST won’t work so we need something new. And anything new isn’t something ST has ever really done well. We’re talking about projects that are a generation away and trying to keep it from being multiple generations or never.
Are you suggesting an underground crossing of two double track lines? That’s certainly possible but ST is Uber conservative and would be hard to push through. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen (maybe) but even getting it in the realm of consideration is beyond hard with the way things currently work (hint, change the board structure if you want any change… Poly wants a cracker).
For the single tunnel to work using the existing bell mouth casting, you’d need the southbound line from Capitol Hill to cross the northbound line to Ballard. The other track sections would just diverge. Plenty of systems out there run a hell of a lot of trains through such junctions.
ST already created a division in the tunnel when they added the Capitol Hill line to the 1980s tunnel. So, that process shouldn’t be too far out of question if they decide to do it that way.
For movement of people, Westlake would be best served by a center platform. However, for movement of trains, Westlake would best have a third track where trains are able to wait for the track ahead to clear without blocking trains behind them. I think you’d be better with a center platform due to the huge number of transfers.
One major problem running light rail on the surface is the length of the trains. They are almost two blocks long. That means that cross streets would have to be closed at every station location.
Of course, the need for cross streets has been dampened by the closing of 99 ramps and the discouraging of commuters downtown. These streets could be severed for through traffic and the streets themselves could be for local traffic only.
It’s not exactly a fatal design problem. For example, Calgary closed cross streets to have surface light rail stations downtown there. It could be done.
The much bigger issue is more political. What does it mean when voters approve taxes to build and operate a wildly underfunded transit promise? Did the voters approve the literal project or the funds? How literal is a “representative alignment” approval presented as an early conceptual design?
The paradigm shift that seems needed is in interpreting the “representative alignment” promise. Right now — after the year-long misnamed “realignment” — ST just says spend more money, make the stations higher or deeper, and make the public pay for more years.
I’m not yet convinced that leaders are willing to revisit the major problem. If they did, the realignment process would have laid it on the table.
I ultimately see the issue landing in protracted court battles. Too many homes are on the demolition block. Too many anti-tax advocates want to look for ways to take potshots at referenda. The most obvious solution is finding more funding and trying all sorts of ways to get a yes vote for more funds using a smaller geography.
So ST is coming to the next decision round — stay the course of realignment and endure the extensive court battles and property takes that await them, or radically revise the technology and its associated design.
ST3 was inspiring! Now comes the repeatedly ugly side of fantastical transit promises. The realignment is presented as the resolution but I think more rounds are on the horizon as the ST3 idea gets clarity.
Glenn, it would not cost “several hundred million dollars” to dig a single track cut and cover tunnel from the north wall of the Pine to Third curve one short block north to Stewart then three relatively short blocks to Westlake.
Obviously we don’t know the utility situation, but if it’s too bad boring such a short stretch would not cost much more. The curve at Stewart would have to be in a vault, though. LRT-sizedTBM’s can’t turn that sharply.
If you insist on a level crossing at a place with a train in each direction every three minutes — a long train that will be moving slowly if the junction is right at the Westlake platform — ST will just ignore the suggestion.
If that darn cut-and-cover section east of Westlake hadn’t been dug with only 2-1/2 lanes’ width, the problem would be solved fairly easily, and with a VERY good station at Denny and Minor. But it’s too narrow, so Al’s proposal for a temporary stub end tunnel is the best alternative.
ST obviously has “service” turnouts at several points in the system, so a level crossing right at Westlake just for out-of-service trains might be fine with the operations folks.
The history I quoted about the monorail is all from Wikipedia. There are references of course, so that might answer your questions.
My take, based on personal experience, is that the arrangement with the city is ignored by most. The monorail makes money for the city (and the company that runs it) so there isn’t a lot of thought given to it. Prior to the last ten-year contract, folks on this blog mentioned that the monorail works well for trips to their apartment in Uptown. In other words, plenty of people said it really is public transit, not just a toy. Their main gripe was the lack of ORCA support. A few questions were asked, and next thing you know, we had a letter writing campaign to the city council. They required ORCA support as part of the new contract (after a long study, of course). We got lucky with the timing. If the discussion had occurred a month later, we would have had to wait another ten years. The same is true if folks had continued with their cynicism about the council and the process. I was one of the few that figured the council was merely ignorant, and a letter writing campaign would work.
Of course like most public/private partnerships, it is quite likely this one is bad for taxpayers. This is not like subcontracting construction, where dozens of firms offer up a bid. Only one company wants to do this, and they split the profits. It would probably make more sense to just have a public agency run it — we would have had ORCA support a lot sooner. But as problems go, this is a very small one.
The monorail has been moved around a bit in the past. The monorail trains themselves are historic, but not the tracks. (https://www.historylink.org/File/4159, https://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Monorail-to-ride-into-the-sunset-1120972.php). Thus they could rebuild the entire route and it would be OK, as long as they run those trains. I assume it is possible to run additional trains (that isn’t clear).
Anyway, I would consider it a pipe dream. I seriously doubt anyone will ever extend the monorail, anywhere. Even a stop in the middle (in Belltown) seems unlikely.
Is more buses really an option?
Of course. Or rather, have those buses carry a lot more people. We have a lot of buses during peak on Third Avenue (as much as anyone in North America). But they don’t carry as many riders as those other streets*. Fifth Avenue in New York City has about half as many buses (150 instead of 290), but carries well over twice as many riders (115,000 instead of 50,000). Either we have a lot of extra capacity, or there are ways of improving efficiency that we haven’t implemented. (It’s probably a lot of both.)
Then there is the fact that bus volumes are projected to go down before the second tunnel comes on board. This makes sense, as buses no longer go through downtown at the same volume (the train takes a huge chunk of them). But if the goal is simply to move people from one end of downtown to the other, the bus can do that easily, just by getting back to the volumes they had prior to the pandemic.
Then there are other streets, of course. Second and Fourth are nowhere near capacity. Fifth (as you mentioned) as well as First. But more than anything, it is clear that we could move a lot more people through downtown on buses, even on Third.
* See Page 9 of this: https://cdn.downtownseattle.org/files/advocacy/dsa-third-avenue-vision-booklet.pdf.
Looking at the peer cities it appears the Seattle approach is really missing the mark. Seems like the key is to start using the other streets. Even with skip stop operations and bus passing it appears we’re just trying to jam too much into the space. Just like a freeway moves more people when there aren’t so many cars that congestion lowers capacity. I also wonder what the traffic signals are like in the peer cities. Seattle short blocks mean a lot of signals. The other thing is all of the peer cities were a shorter stretch which means less stops/dwell time. Portland came closest to Seattle in length and even with light rail moves fewer people per day. That could simply be that they don’t have as many people using transit.
One other thought related to using more streets. East/West transit is hard in DT and walking is hard too because of the steep hill. If someone’s only route uses 5th but they need to get to 1st, that’s a problem (especially with 5th being one way). Maybe some smaller shuttle vehicles (ideal for electric application) could be added that are able to climb the hills and not bottom out because of the grade breaks. Of course that costs a fair chunk of change because you have to invest in the rolling stock and pay a driver for every limited capacity vehicle.
I would move the EIS until later in 2024. That will allow East Link to open and run for a year or so to figure out volumes across the bridge span (which I believe are limited to 8-minute headways) and the real cross lake volumes (and whether cities like Issaquah demand one seat express buses). This will help determine whether DSTT1 can handle the volumes of WSBLE. I doubt West Seattle will care because they are just excited to get the bridge back open.
It hopefully will allow Covid to end or wane to gauge peak ridership and commuting into and out of Seattle, and how much traffic congestion there is because without congestion Link loses one of its main advantages. Ridership will probably never reach ST estimates, but we really don’t know what levels it will return to post pandemic. At some point Link comes down to dollar per rider/mile, both for capital and operational costs, which is pretty high.
It would also allow for a new CEO to get up to speed, and start with opening East Link and Federal Way Link.
The reality is Seattle is not going to agree to surface rail through the downtown core. One of the desires of Link is it removes buses from the downtown core, and might return 3rd Ave. to a more desirable avenue for business. Seattle wants fewer, not more, buses in the downtown core. It wasn’t too long-ago Seattle was considered one of the hottest, prettiest, and most up and coming cities in the world, and everyone in this region should want that to return because the entire region prospers. We don’t want to design a 50-year transportation system based on Seattle’s current situation. Let’s hope — or assume — that someday Seattle gets the Council it deserves and needs.
West Seattle and Ballard have to consider what they are willing to accept, or whether the money can be found for what they want. If they don’t want surface or elevated rail then explore buses to a light rail station just outside their cores. Link is not critical to their communities.
But let’s not spend the money, political backlash, or possible litigation, repeating the same mistakes made with Bellevue and East Link in which both communities site Link in less desirable locations because it is above ground. This is — finally — urban rail, and urban rail is supposed to stop at the heart of a community, which is why it is usually underground. It drives me crazy that I will have to take East Link to 112th, which means I won’t.
The Board also has to come clean. The deficit didn’t go from $11.5 billion to $6 billion in a matter of months without any changes in the data, and the “realignment” in which taxes AND project completion are both extended did not cover that deficit. No one has any idea what the real deficit is for WSBLE and DSTT2.
We all need to know exactly how much each alternative will cost, with project cost contingency since we are dealing with tunnels. The four other subareas need to know just what their contribution to DSTT2 could be and whether it is capped which is vague right now, and N. King Co. can’t start digging a tunnel it can’t complete. You can’t tell S. King Co., SnoCo or Pierce Co. to plan their projects if they don’t know if they will be on the hook for $500 million for DSTT2.
While I find some of the “value engineering” alternatives on this blog interesting, they just are not realistic politically. The tunnel is very deep through Seattle for good reasons, and West Seattle and Ballard don’t want an elevated or surface rail line through the heart of their communities, and most communities don’t site “transit malls” or surface stations in the hearts of their communities. Transit is a need, but you don’t want to see it.
The best solution is more money, although ST has spent so much to go to distant areas to try and connect a huge and undense three county region based on some kind of PSRC urbanist utopia that would need 20 million residents to pan out. So the Board and ST have to be brutally honest with us and themselves what the real alternatives cost –and real means tunnels and underground stations the different stakeholders would accept — and whether that is even remotely possible.
So in the end, IMO, it really is a binary choice: 1. the alternative the stakeholders want which of course is the most expensive (and according to the DEIS reliant on “third party” funding, whatever that means); or 2. the do nothing option which probably is finding the capacity in DSTT1 through Seattle and extending it to SLU with the $1.1 billion from the four other subareas and bus intercepts in Ballard and West Seattle. If a bus intercept is good for Mercer Island West Seattle and Ballard can learn to live with it.
I personally think the real preferred alternative for WSBLE (tunnels and underground stations end to end) is too expensive if honestly budgeted with cost contingencies, but I would like to see honest numbers about what another five-year extension in ST taxes without extending completion dates would fund. The benefit of that option is N. King Co. is paying for the WSBLE alternative it wants, and the four other subareas only have to contribute $275 million each to DSTT2 and will realize a bunch of transit tax revenue their politicians didn’t have to own or sell.
I think West Seattle especially can live with a bus intercept to light rail because it has such great bridge and car access and really does not want to become an urbanist utopia (especially if that intercept connects with East Link), and so can Ballard. Seattle doesn’t want to lose the $1.1 billion contribution for DSTT2 and that is the extension in DSTT1 to SLU and maybe to Interbay that gets more buses out of the downtown core, and you can run surface rail through Interbay and have it terminate there because Interbay is more nothingness. I think West Seattle and Ballard would rather have a bus intercept so to speak than surface or elevated Link stations and lines, but Seattle has to have a tunnel through the downtown core to SLU.
There is no way we will get the information we need by January 28. I think that date is based more on the Board’s unwillingness to be honest about the funding and “realignment”. This decision needs more information about the permanent changes due to the pandemic, future ridership, actual costs, and more time for West Seattle and Ballard to consider their options without forcing litigation on them.
“It wasn’t too long-ago Seattle was considered one of the hottest, prettiest, and most up and coming cities in the world, and everyone in this region should want that to return because the entire region prospers.”
Lucky for us then that we still are considered one of the hottest, prettiest, and most up and coming cities in the world. Local “Seattle is dying” rhetoric doesn’t change the fact that people from other continents and even ither regions in the US would love to come and live in Seattle, even downtown Seattle, if they had the chance. There’s no need to return to where we already are.
“The reality is Seattle is not going to agree to surface rail trough the downtown core.”
Nobody said it would; that’s a straw man. This was debated in 2016 after the initial ST3 proposal. which was only large enough for DSTT2, West Seattle Link, and a Ballard streetcar. That was the only time Seattle Subway and much of STB threatened to vote against ST3, because if we can’t get it grade separated downtown, what’s the point of building it? It would just have MAX’s slowness, and Seattle is a larger city with more congestion. The Moscow Metro, London Underground, NYC Subway, and Chicago El don’t run on the surface downtown because that would defeat the point of building it and leave them with an unmet transit need: there would still be no fast and high-capacity way to get to/through downtown. It must be grade-separated south of Smith Cove. North of Smith Cove there may be room to compromise, because it’s less congested there and would only affect people at the end of the line. If ST can’t afford all of WSBLE, it will defer or delete some parts of it, not replace DSTT2 with a surface alignment.
If anything can be surface, West Seattle can be replaced with multi-line BRT to downtown. But the politicians don’t want to hear about that. They’d probably cancel West Seattle Link before they’d convert it to BRT. It remains to be seen what will happen if all of WSBLE is flat-out unaffordable. Would the politicans kick out Ballard again to avoid affecting West Seattle, or would they go the other way so they can still get some high-capacity transit to SLU and Ballard? We’ll find out in the next few months or years.
“ST has spent so much to go to distant areas to try and connect a huge and undense three county region based on some kind of PSRC urbanist utopia”
Stop right there, it’s not urbanists pushing the Spine, it’s suburbanists. Urbanists want to increase Seattle’s population to 1 million or 1.6 million and contract the exurbs instead. Urbanists want Link only to Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way. An extreme hard core wants it even shorter: to Northgate and Rainier Beach. Urbanists would then add more Seattle lines, and make Seattle’s land use like a European city or Chicago.
The people pushing the Spine are the suburban/exurban cities themselves. Everett, Tacoma, Federal Way, and Issaquah want Link in order to attract jobs and tax base to them. They don’t want to move to Seattle or the Eastside; they want prosperity where they are. That’s what’s pushing the Spine.
But, you say, Seattle Subway wants the Spine, and Seattle Subway is urbanist. My impression is Seattle Subway wants a robust inner-city network, and is compromising with the Spine advocates and extending additional lines out as a way to “have it all” and avoid telling anybody no. They’ve said many times it’s an initial negotiating position, not a make-or-break. Negotiators start with their 100% request, or maybe even higher, in hopes of eventually getting 50% or 75% in the end.
The PSRC is not urbanist. If it were it would do what I said above. Concentrate the population in an inner core, don’t build satellite urban centers in Totem Lake, Issaquah, Federal Way, and Everett. Make it all contiguous so it has a smaller footprint and fewer environmental impacts. The rest can be parks or farmland or something.
Seattle is like Fall City compared to these major metropolitan areas. And London started century’s ahead of us. At grade would have been OK with London 400 years ago. With the more realistic budget than what was sold to voters; it’s “something else” or the no build option that are the choices. I’m OK with no build. There are many reasons this should be completely reevaluated “post covid” (whatever that means).
Germany has rail with downtown tunnels in cities smaller than Seattle. In college in the 90s I had a friend from a town called Bielefeld, something like Spokane. One day he told me excitedly, “Bielefeld is getting a subway!” That was in 1994. Now in 2022 we’re still afraid to do the same in Seattle or Bellevue or Renton or Spokane.
In 1998 I went to Germany and stayed in Ratingen, a suburb of Duesseldorf. Doesseldorf is the size of Seattle, and Ratingen is about the size of Kirkland (with no large employers like Google that I could ascertain). There were two S-Bahns that skirted the eastern edge of Ratingen and the airport to the west, but none to the areas where people lived and worked, so we had to take a bus from Duesseldorf, or transfer at an intermediate S-Bahn station to the same bus, or take the S-Bahn to the airport terminus and transfer to another bus. Now on the map there’s a light rail line from Duesseldorf to Ratingen. We could have been building these the past forty years like other countries do.
“ The reality is Seattle is not going to agree to surface rail through the downtown core.”
There was a whole series of events called the “central city circulator” that suggest otherwise.
I was not, by the way, suggesting that the Link main line be on the surface. What I was suggesting was that such a surface route could provide additional capacity beyond the tunnel once the tunnel reaches capacity, and a desire for DSTT2 happens.
Two parallel tunnels doesn’t really provide great value because there is no additional coverage of areas that need service. Of the major cities mentioned above, very little of that has two duplicate tunnels. The one case I can think of is a section of the London Underground where one is the express tunnel and the other is a local trains tunnel. Piccadilly for example skips a few stations that are served by the District line where they parallel.
Right now, Link operates in the tunnel at 15 mph. This is not especially fast, and it includes a lot of time lost in vertical distance. Much could be done to make surface running faster than what MAX does. In fact, MAX does some of this already by the Lloyd Center. Not having stations every 2 blocks would improve things a lot. Signal priority as done on ML King in the Rainier Valley would help.
But again, I only suggest the surface line as something that would provide added capacity and coverage, while those wishing to get quickly through downtown would still have the ability to do so with the existing tunnel. Something like adding Ballard – Belltown – ID – Mt Baker surface service to the Ballard – SLU – ID – Tacoma tunnel service would keep a bunch of local traffic out of the tunnel. The local traffic doesn’t want to have to climb 100 feet out of a deep level tunnel.
“There was a whole series of events called the “central city circulator” that suggest otherwise.”
Surface Link. The thread was about replacing DSTT2 with a surface line. As secondary corridors, the streetcars exist, and the City Center Connector proposal is to connect them on 1st Avenue. But having just a streetcar from Midtown to Ballard would be as slow as the existing buses so it’s not a solution. The point of Ballard Link is to make it much faster to get in/out of northwest Seattle, to eliminate the half-hour overhead that urban village has.
In the past year, Tesla’s stock is up 22%, and Proterra’s stock is down 58%.
Tesla’s stock is propped up by a bunch of fanboys.
Tesla also was able to maintain product delivery despite the chip shortage.. I bet Proterra’s dealing with a lot of deferred contracts. Tesla’s cars may be poorly designed, but their tech-standard “churn-n-burn” staffing philosophy does, occasionally, produce some real results.
Tesla investors have made a fortune. They understand Tesla’s valuation is based on Tesla’s battery and technology systems. As the world’s large auto manufacturers switch to EV’s they will end up licensing Tesla’s technology. Tesla’s car manufacturing capacity is limited and always has been, but if the world switches to EV’s its licensing capacity is unlimited. John D. Rockefeller did ok with gas stations, and someone is going to make a mint off of rapid charging stations.
The Seattle Times has an article today noting that in Norway only 8% of cars sold are traditional combustion engine. The rest are EV’s or hybrids. Kudos to Biden and Inslee for seeing EV’s are the key to lowering carbon emissions without making it about transit v. cars or suburban vs. urban.
Battery range and Tesla technology that tells you every charging station within a certain distance of your car will make EV’s better than combustion engines because EV’s — if the price is comparable — ask nothing of the owner but do the most to lower carbon emissions.
Hopefully at that point transit decisions can get back to what works, and zoning decisions can get back to what people want, and agencies like the PSRC finally accept TOD’s are not going to manufacture ST’s inflated ridership projections.
Even the S&P 500 index was up 22% over the last year. So why was Proterra down so much in one of the best years ever for EV stocks, and stocks in general?
Proterra has only been a public traded company since January 2021. Here is a chart of its stock price. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/funddetails/fi-bwvfcw?ocid=ansMSNMoney11&duration=1M
The analysts’ consensus appears to be Proterra stock price declined in 2021 because it was overpriced it in its IPO due to euphoria over anything EV based. https://dbtnews.com/2022/01/13/proterra-inc-ptra-stock-trading-around-10-20-per-share-whats-next/
As cities mandate electrification of public vehicles the market looks strong. https://stocksregister.com/2022/01/12/what-are-expectations-for-proterra-inc-nasdaq-ptra-in-the-short-term/ Proterra is a player in that space, but a bus and battery manufacturer is never going to be a darling on Wall St.
I don’t think Proterra’s stock price reflects the strength of the EV market or reflects on transit in general, although transit usage is certainly down during the pandemic. But at the same time certain federal stimulus programs and the infrastructure bill have billions for EV’s and electrification of transit, and that certainly looks like the future to me.
Metro’s cancellations have made the one bus away app much harder to use. When I tap a stop, the screen fills with alerts about cancelled trips and I have to hide nearly all of them before I can see when the next buses are coming.
The Urbanist ran an article about running Link on 15th, and the replacement Ballard Bridge on 14th (https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/01/07/moving-the-ballard-bridge-will-remake-northwest-seattle-for-the-better/). While I would much rather see two stops in Ballard (one on 14th and one on Market in Old Ballard) I think the proposal seems like the most realistic, affordable option. There are some really good advantages, such as:
1) The station is at a better place (closer to the bulk of the people).
2) The road is on 14th, in an industrial area.
3) Construction would be far less disruptive, as the process would work like so:
1) Build a new auto bridge on 14th.
2) Close the old auto bridge on 15th.
3) Build light rail on 15th.
You still have to deal with a busy intersection (at 15th and Market) with Link but everything south of there would be a lot easier. Even from an auto standpoint it will be easier, as the alternative would involve completely closing the Ballard Bridge while telling everyone to use Fremont Bridge. I’m not thrilled with the article (for various reasons) but I give the author credit for focusing on the most likely solution to the current mess we are in.
Thanks for the hyperlink, RossB!
I’ve advocated for this approach (build 14th Ave as the new traffic crossing first and then use 15th Ave for the light rail crossing) as a good systemic sequencing of the inevitable way to replace the crossing and add light rail.
The details of how to jog traffic from 15th to 14th Ave becomes the curious challenge, particularly on the Ballard side. In addition, arranging for bus transfers and overall access to Leary Way are also detailed design needs.
Another design challenge is defining the elevation for both crossings.
I don’t think it would preclude a future second Ballard station somewhere on Market if the platforms are further south to allow for an eventual turn.
It is also a good macro strategy to lower the cost of the north end of the WSBLE. Currently there are substantial property acquisition and structural or tunneling costs for the alternatives in the EIS.
It would seem wise for Seattle to pursue engineering alternatives and (if doable) environmental studies to consider this. Then, based on the findings, they can then add the preferred option onto the WSBLE EIS.
SDOT has no ability to coordinate major capital projects with ST like this, and even if it did, the study alone would require the delay of light rail to Ballard by several years. SDOT barely delivered the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge on time.
The Ballard Bridge will not be replaced unless it catastrophically fails like that one episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”. Instead, it’s most likely we’ll see the “low-level bridge rehabilitation” implemented sometime in the next decade, as described here: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/BridgeStairsProgram/bridges/Ballard/BBPS_AlternativesComparisonReport_Final_withAppendices.pdf
ST is most likely to build the aerial station on 14th in Ballard, and the Smith Cove Station above the Galer St. Bridge. I think the only truly undecided station location in the Interbay-Ballard segment of WSBLE is the location of the Dravus/Interbay station, since they’re considering either putting it above 15th Avenue, or behind the QFC. I feel like plowing down the Seattle Storm’s brand new facility (which was just illegally spot-rezoned into permission by the City, and will likely be completed in the next 5 years) will be a political non-starter. Although the conceptual drawing for the Dravus/15th station looks horrendous, I think it’ll get more commuters from the west side of Queen Anne happy to have an escalator jump-start their climb up the hill.
Because the DSTT2 tunnel is so underfunded and tunnels take several years more than bridges do, I don’t think it will delay the Ballard Station opening at all. There is an unavoidable money problem.
Even in a worst case, it would simply delay just the Ballard Station opening rather than the whole line — and RapidRide will serve the corridor until Link opening day. Keep in mind that a new auto bridge would be taller so RapidRide would have many fewer drawbridge interruptions.
If anything, the sequencing would seem to free up opportunities for less time-consuming construction impact mitigation.
At worse, it would delay only the Interbay to Ballard section, in which case the delay is likely worth the better alignment. WBLE can still open through Smith Cove ‘on time.’
Yes, it’s much easier for cars to go three more blocks than it is for pedestrians. (The gap between 15th and 14th is three blocks wide.) 14th is wide because it apparently had a streetcar in the middle, so there’s plenty of room for several car lanes, and parts of it are industrial so there are no walk-up businesses or apartments who might be bothered by a car sewer.
I wrote about the jog a couple of years ago. The way to make it work best is to make 54th eastbound one-way and 56th westbound one-way, with one left only and one left or right-only lanes to Market south of 56th, the next two lanes dropping down to underpass Market and a bus-only lane at the curb. Put the Link station straddling 54th on the west two lanes of 15th.
There would be a single northbound bus-only lane on the extreme east side of the street with a bus-priority and pedestrian signal to allow it to enter the northbound traffic flow.
The same sort of design with a left-only (or two), two underpass lanes and a right-only could be built at 14th for the northbound traffic.
Southbound buses would diagonal across 15th to what is now the center lane, stop next to the station to discharge, then continue around the Leary Way triangle or turn toward Fremont.
Northbounds completing the triangle would stop eastbound on 45th then get a bus jump to diagonal across the intersection to the NB bus lane. Routes from Fremont would stop by the Safeway. Their riders would have to cross 15th, but it would be MUCH less busy.
Good article about ticket cameras and race
https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/schedules/pdf/09212021/rt-105.pdf Note the Via trial in the Renton Highlands duplicates Route 105, so the two services will compete with one another. In the Via graphic, the bus network is not shown at all. In the last System Evaluation, Route 105 attracted almost 30 rides per hour.
Now that VIA creep is expanding and accelerating, how long until it becomes a major impediment to adding bus service?
Orr: the impediment is directly proportional to the service subsidy expended; funds spent on one cannot be spent on the other. In the System Evaluation report, it was reported that each Via ride cost more than $10. So, that measures the opportunity cost. How much is being spent on Via? will Route 105 productivity fall? How about routes 106 and 107 in Skyway?
It’s a good question. VIA is increasing in scope because of pressure from taxi enthusiasts and concerns about equity in lower-income areas. But demand-response can serve fewer people per hour than a fixed or semi-fixed scheduled bus route, so if we need to add a lot of coverage and frequency with limited money we should really focus on bus routes. Why not make the 105 run every 15 minutes and interline it with the 106? That would solve much of the problem VIA is trying to solve, and the interlining would avoid three-seat rides.
I don’t think there’s been a post about the recently adopted 2022 budget for Sound Transit, but perhaps I just overlooked it. Regardless, I was just reviewing this the other day and in so doing I took a look at the agency’s updated financial plan that is part of the annual budget cycle. For comparison purposes, I pulled out just the CapEx portion and juxtaposed it alongside the fall update from the prior year’s budgeting cycle. (The latter was the plan that was out of balance by some $2.7B but adoptee by the board nevertheless.) This is how the two plans compare in this regard:
Financial Plan – Sources & Uses Summary
2020 Fall Financial Plan
2017 through 2041; YOE Dollars in Millions:
Capital Expenditures (Including Service Delivery)-
Light Rail Transit $41,562
Tacoma Link $1,180
Commuter Rail $3,244
Regional Express Bus $754
Bus Rapid Transit $2,194
Service Delivery $144
Total Capital Expenditures $50,463
Financial Plan – Sources & Uses Summary
2021 Fall Financial Plan
2017 through 2046; YOE Dollars in Millions:
Capital Expenditures (Including Service Delivery)-
Light Rail Transit $58,853 (+17,291)
Tacoma Link $1,743 (+563)
Commuter Rail $4,552 (+1,308)
Regional Express Bus $1,077 (+323)
Bus Rapid Transit $2,436 (+242)
System-wide $1,508 (+124)
Service Delivery $123 (-21)
Total Capital Expenditures $70,291
So while the 2021 realignment process, i.e., extending the capital program out for an additional five years, may have allowed the agency to once again balance its long range financial plan, let’s not kid ourselves about the magnitude of the increase in the cost estimate for completion of the ST2 and ST3 capital programs. There’s more involved here besides the inflation that comes with the territory for the extension of the timetable.
Wow! Almost $20B more?
The 2016 ST3 cost deception and/ or incompetence gets wildly more obvious with each passing year.
I guess we all missed this little gem in ST’s press release about the 2022 budget. Oh, that’s right; that’s not how it works at ST. Please forgive me for thinking otherwise.
Do those figures include SOGR? If yes, $20B for 5 additional years, in 2042-2046 YOE, isn’t surprising.
No, the $70.3B YOE figure shown above for CapEx does NOT include the SOGR “use of funds” category. (ST shows that figure, $9.4B, in the section with reserve contributions and debt servicing costs.) I understand where you were going with this premise but it isn’t the cause of the $20B increase noted above. In other words, the additional funds expended on asset preservation because of the longer timeline don’t come into play here since they aren’t in this $70B+ bucket to begin with.
Welp, look for the YOE figures to keep getting bigger and bigger as long as this current high inflation period continues.
Indeed. This reminds me of the situation we were dealing with back in the late 70s when I worked in the NY state legislature and the NY MTA was in dire need of increased funding. High inflation at that time caused a bunch of the models to become pretty much worthless and like the situation with ST’s current capital program, the base estimates were woefully underestimated to begin with. The inflation climate just exasperated the funding shortfalls.
Thanks Tisgwm, your work on the budgets and the hidden numbers is very impressive.
The hope, at least my hope, was the realignment would raise a few dollars, or at least keep the deficit the same, by extending project completion with taxes five years, even though it was increasing project construction and ROW costs that caused the deficit and realignment. It looks like increasing inflation means the realignment actually goes backward because the project costs exceed increased revenues in extension years by more than I (and the Board) had hoped.
The reality is ST 3 (at least in the N. King subarea) was always predicated on a ST 4 down the road. So now what?
My suggestion to explore another five-year extension but not completion dates probably is inadequate to fund ST 3. HB1304 or SB5528 on top of ST 3 taxes are a punishing burden on subareas, certainly N. King Co., as opposed to extending current ST taxes.
This is where subarea equity becomes interesting.
The two largest projects left to go are WSBLE and Issaquah to S. Kirkland. I always found it more than coincidental that Rogoff’s first deficit announcement, $11.5 billion, is pretty much the same as the estimated cost of WSBLE ($12 billion). S. King Co. really doesn’t have any large expenditures left, and Pierce and SnoCo haven’t dipped into their ST revenue yet and can manage their projects pretty well, and they got what they wanted: the spine to Seattle. The extension to Tacoma Mall always seemed unnecessary.
Plus if DSTT2 is scrapped every subarea will realize a $275 million windfall for their projects.
Issaquah to S. Kirkland may still be affordable due to eastside revenues under ST 2 and 3, but it is such an unnecessary line — mainly based on the fact the subarea didn’t really know where to spend its excess ST revenue — it could be cancelled without a lot of grief, especially if as anticipated ridership on East Link is much lower than ST estimated.
All of East Link cost less than 1/2 the estimated cost of WSLBE because it used public rights of way and mostly surface lines. A better investment on the eastside would be to accelerate the park and ride construction because East Link needs first/last mile access, the bus feeder routes cover little of east King Co., and micro-transit is too expensive because Metro has to pay for the vehicle and driver. Of course, any project on the eastside probably is better than Issaquah to S. Kirkland.
All that leaves is WSBLE. Personally this is the kind of line I always thought light rail was about: urban rail through urban congestion that ties together a large north and large south neighborhood. DSTT1 will probably have plenty of capacity post pandemic for lines 1 and 2. N. King Co. spent a lot of money running rail to the county borders for the benefit of Pierce, S. King and SnoCo, but that is water under the bridge. ST/Seattle prioritized getting rail to Federal Way and Lynnwood rather than West Seattle and Ballard.
These numbers Tisgwm posts suggest to me DSTT2 is out. WSBLE at $12 billion (which assumes surface/elevated lines and stations in West Seattle and Ballard) is out. Does it even make sense to pretend in the DEIS any of this is affordable? Why go through this exercise because the Board won’t be upfront and honest. N. King Co. can’t start digging DSTT2 without a fixed contribution from the other subareas — three of which don’t have more than $275 million — without knowing it has the money, and it doesn’t right now.
All I can see as the ONLY alternative at this point are buses from West Seattle and Ballard to the nearest rail station that serves DSTT1. West Seattle has great access with the bridge, and some buses could run to line 1 and some to line 2 so there is only one transfer. Ballard I am not sure about, and ideally DSTT1 could be extended to SLU, but there probably isn’t the money for that in N. King Co.
It may be ST rather than West Seattle and Ballard has to choose the do nothing alternative, at least at this point. Complete Federal Way Link and East Link and see if the region is interested in ST 4 down the road.
Daniel, you are starting to sound like a Ross acolyte, arguing for the no-build alternative to ST3 and rooting for just better bus service to Ballard &WS.
I actually won’t mind just walking away from ST3 – the early wins of Stride are in the bank, and the region raised a bunch of tax revenue to complete ST2 (+ Redmond Link and 130th) in a timely manner. Get the EIS done for projects like TDLE and WSBLE, complete some strategic land purchases like OMF-South, and then wait for the next regional consensus (aka ST4) on how to move forward.
However, I do believe DSTT2 is still very much financially feasible within the ST3 funding structure, so I hope ST3 slogs forward and any ST4 reboot makes some adjustments around the margins (i.e. convert Tacoma Streetcar Phase III and Issaquah Link to Stride projects) but mostly builds upon the core ST3 plan of Link from Tacoma to Everett with a 2nd Seattle tunnel.
@Tlsgwm, yes it will become more and more difficult to disentangle where ST had bad forecast from a technical/engineering perspective and where the economic forecast is simply a complete miss.
“I actually won’t mind just walking away from ST3”
I’m not wedded to it either. The most critical things are the 2024 extensions and the Stride lines. Since the WSBLE EIS is already in process it should be finished. That would make it easier to move forward later, whether it’s building one of the alternatives or adding an alternative that should have been there in the first place. Planning costs much less than construction, so we might as well do the planning now. Then it will be shovel-ready for any federal grant or other funding opportunity that might come along.
A project isn’t shovel ready unless you’re prepared to put it out to bid. That’s a whole lot more design work than an EIS requires. And it’s kind of pointless to do until you’re ready to build because years out into the future there are likely large changes in design required; engineering advances, zoning/code changes; different demographics, etc.
How do you plan if you don’t have the money for any alternative? AJ has always based his opinions on his belief a ST 4 would pass. That is the only reason to complete the DEIS for WSBLE at this time. Generally the EIS and alternative chosen are used to request the funding, generally from a general fund. Here that is not an option.
Get a ST 4 and then conduct an EIS. That is how it is supposed to work. For example, ST 3 was supposed to fund WSBLE.
AJ believes there is funding to complete DSTT2 (despite my subarea losing its park and rides to meet the debt ceiling limits). I don’t know how he knows that. Rogoff one year ago released a deficit figure of $11.5 billion. A realignment that extends completion dates along with taxes doesn’t close the deficit, even in a zero-interest rate environment, let alone during 7% inflation. Am I really to believe Omicron has not affected ST revenue assumptions?
The Board has an obligation to PROVE there is the money for DSTT2, or any alternative in WSBLE, before we conduct an EIS. Otherwise it is pointless. If WSBLE needs ST 4 then go get ST 4 first. Or HB1304 or SB5528. Otherwise a pretty serious process like an EIS becomes something not serious, like a Seattle Subway map.
I live in the east King Co. subarea, so my only demand is our contribution to DSTT2 is capped at $275 million. But at the same time I can’t let a foolish ST or N. King Co. subarea begin digging a tunnel it KNOWS is underestimated by at least half because the only factor is mode, so why even conduct an EIS. Might as well promise every stakeholder the moon since funding is not a factor in the chosen alternative.
I hoped Rogoff’s firing had signaled the Board was going to get serious about project costs plus contingencies and revenue and hire a new CEO who would be brutally honest. Even if a ST 4 is placed on a ballot we need to know how much it actually needs to be, with contingency, not more Rogoff dishonesty. I don’t need an EIS or ST 4 to tell me what downtown Seattle, West Seattle and Ballard want and will demand. But it looks like the Board is going to continue on in its Sargeant Schultz mode it which is sees nothing.
Go pass ST 4 and then I will believe, and I will know what can be built.
Daniel – it’s my professional opinion, based on my time at ST (from a few years ago) and my current experience as a finance professional, that the ST3 plan can be built as-is. It may take much longer than planned, but the statement “there is not sufficient authorized tax revenue to complete the representative alignments for the ST3 program” is false. Independently, in my amateur opinion, I also believe an ST4 program will pass, likely in 2028.
Bernie – I think it’s a both/and. A project like Tacoma Dome could be ‘shovel-ready’ in a “ditch ST3” path forward, with critical ROW acquired and 60%(?) design complete, while a project like WSBLE would simply be through EIS and waiting on a new regional vision before moving into design.
How many years is a DEIS or EIS valid for. It can’t be eternity because the base assumptions and environmental regulations change all the time.
The current I-405 Master Plan is the result of the EIS from the original I-405 Corridor Program study completed back in 2002, massaged with what is called an “Impact Analysis” report.
You then have the Legislature increase the taxes as necessary, as they did back in 2014.
NO VOTE Needed !!
No need for a new EIS.
Well, at least when it comes to our beloved Highway Mega-projects.
The legislature could appropriate general fund or transportation fund revenues to ST 3, or more specifically WSBLE. My guess is the four other subareas would object, as would the rest of the state. Even bills like HB 1304 that would allow cities the size of Seattle (which is one) to levy itself for certain transit rail projects failed.
AJ believes there is sufficient revenue to complete ST 3 as designed so additional revenue is unnecessary, although I don’t understand why projects in East King Co. were extended if there is sufficient revenue in ST 3 to complete all projects, and E. King Co. has no revenue issues.
I personally felt the $11.5 billion deficit announcement followed shortly by a $6 billion deficit announcement followed by the “realignment” that extended both taxes and completion dates and balanced ST 3 followed the firing of Rogoff for project cost dishonesty did not pass the smell test.
At this point all I want is a written agreement that under no circumstances will East King Co.’s contribution to DSTT2 be more than $275 million, and projects in East King Co. that were “extended” be accelerated to their original commencement date since ST has the funding under ST 3 for WSBLE.
I don’t think it’s realistic to cancel ST3. What I think is needed is broader thinking outside of the box.
1. Broaden the alignment choices. There is nothing sacred about making Westlake the transfer station. University Street and Capitol Hill are options. Similarly, there could be a much more gradual alignment (and stations closer to the street level) in West Seattle if tracks could be routed under or through the golf course property.
2. Broaden the rail technology used. Automated shorter trains like Skytrain uses might save billions in shorter stations as well as longer distances between stations to create more elevation differences.
3. Reduce the number of stations. The three West Seattle stations combined are now appearing to have fewer boardings than the single Ballard Station — so drop one or two in WS! Can the project reduce the number of SLU/LQA stations from three to two (avoiding a deep station next to the 99 tunnel)?
4. Study if there are any ways to build the project with trains in DSTT1 rather than DSTT2.
For some odd reason, there is way too much obsession with sticking to the ST3 details. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to be more innovative. I’m not sure why more impractical solutions like gondolas get promoted while more reasonable ones like shorter and more frequent automated trains aren’t.
I felt like the 2016 ST3 packaging was like playing Supermarket Sweep with a stopwatch and no realistic prices on the items. I feel like the entire WSBLE work since 2018 has been merely to justify the basket of goods grabbed from the ST3 Supermarket Sweep game in 2016 rather than to plan what should be a more nutritious and delicious meal. When will a leader have the guts to look at the situation differently.
“There is nothing sacred about making Westlake the transfer station.” That may be legally incorrect (moving the transfer away from Westlake may be a material departure from the representative alignment in the voter approved plan) and that may be politically incorrect (voters may shrug at a transfer at University rather than Westlake, but might object to a Cap Hill transfer, as the Metro 8 is a rather different corridor than the current alignment).
” I don’t understand why projects in East King Co. were extended if there is sufficient revenue in ST 3 to complete all projects.” Loan covenants. ST lacks the financial capacity IN THE 2030s to complete the projects as originally timelined, but does not lack financial capacity OVER THE LIFE OF THE PLAN to complete the full set of projects. Due to the mismatch between tax revenue (generally linear) and expenditures (very lumpy, particularly WSBLE), the period of maximum financial constraint is only in the 2030s and the back end of the ST3 financial plan has plenty of spare debt capacity. There are some good bar charts explaining the period of maximum financial constraint in the various ST Board presentations. (sorry for the all-caps; I don’t know how to bold)
It’s like not being able to buy a nice house as a young adult, despite easily being able to afford the same house over your full lifetime projected earnings.
AJ, i am not an attorney but I believe that your logic would apply equally to every station named in ST3 including infill stations, and the Westlake transfer is really only diagrammed (a new station is named serving Westlake but I don’t see it having to be a transfer station). I reread the documents but I may be missing details elsewhere.
In any case, a substantial need to tax the public longer without future voter approval could also be deemed as illegal if ST3 is viewed as that engraved in stone.
Finally, I wonder how ST was legally able to forego First Hill in Sound Moves, or Federal Way and Downtown Redmond in ST2. As a practical matter, I believe that cost or environmental factors can be a legal justification for changing the station list or transfer station location.
IANAL, but in the Lynnwood Link Alternatives Analysis ST said the non-negotiable parts were the Northgate and Lynnwood urban centers. The AA’s alternatives included Aurora, I-5, 15th NE, and Lake City Way, both light rail and BRT. Some of these are miles from the I-5 representative alignment. 130th originated as an extra station on the Auora alignment ST proposed. That’s what inspired activists when the I-5 alignment was chosen, to argue for a 130th station there. Because if an extra station was possible in one alternative it should be possible in another. Transit fans also suggested moving 145th station to 130th, or splitting it into 130th and 155th. ST said that deviating from the 145th I-5 station would simply require ST to write a statement justifying the deviation. So it all boiled down to ST’s reluctance to write that statement. In the end ST chose I-5 over Aurora anyway for other reasons (four minutes faster travel time, and supposedly lower cost because it’s in the I-5 right of way).
In ST3 transit fans asked for the DSTT2 Midtown station to be moved east to 8th & Madison. ST rejected it for different reasons over time. Once it said there would be time later to consider it. Then it said it was too late and we should have asked for it earlier. Another time it said it’s out of scope for the downtown segment (i.e., too far east).
Piecing all that together, it seems that ST considers First Hill part of downtown since it’s so close, and it wasn’t designated as must-serve in ST2, just a nice addition. The must-serve areas are PSRC growth centers. First Hill is part of the downtown growth area, which 5th Avenue would serve, as well as RapidRide G.
Taxing the public longer without future voter approval is definitely allowed. The levy is very clear taxes are in perpetuity until the bonds are fully paid off.
FW and Redmond projects were deferred, not cancelled, which is an important difference. Simply deleting the First Hill station, however, is a strong counterexample. I concede dropping a station would be a bigger change than moving a transfer. Al, I think you had the idea of simply dropping the DSTT2 Westlake station (b/c it’s the riskiest & most expensive), use the Midtown station as the main DSTT transfer with University station, and then pull the Denny station a wee bit south to cover the general Westlake walkshed. I think that’s an idea worth evaluating and may pass legal muster.
That’s a different thing. Of course the taxes will remain until the bonds are paid off. (And a residual amount of about a third will be perpetual for operations and fleet maintenance.) Under the original schedule, construction would end in 2041 and the bills would stop coming then, so that part of the revenue could switch to paying off the debt. “Extending the taxes” means extending the construction period so that more bills would continue to come in and have to be paid.
Rode the ferry last weekend. 1 boat on the Bainbridge run, 4 hour delay on Sunday. This is worse than it ever is during the summer rush. The governor has a house on Bainbridge that overlooks the ferry. So yeah the funding will be increased, will it be enough who knows.
In fact just looked now the ferry is back to 1 boat again today Friday 1/14.
How about a 30% budget increase for free?
Ending “Build in Washington” rule would cut new ferry construction costs by 30 percent
As far as the Governor’s interest in the WSF budget he seems more interested in increasing cost to build hybrid design boats and eventually all electric. We recently had all of the mountain passes closed for days and the Governor wants the State to have an all electric vehicle fleet in something like 10 years. The irony is electric snowplows will be clearing (or not) the highway for diesel semis. Oh, and the power at Snoqualmie Pass was out for four days. How’s that going to work with electric plows? Big diesel generators to charge them every time a storm knocks out power?
So the Urbanist has a full article on the Ballard/West Seattle station designs and other alignment details that Sound Transit’s been dropping. https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/01/14/deep-seattle-light-rail-stations-other-st3-details-emerging-ahead-of-january-28-draft-plan-release/
Yeah. There are reasons that few deep stations are built world-wide, and here you have a bunch, on a single line, all right in a row…. just wonderful for the future riding public.
Most cities don’t have as many hills as Seattle does.
The Urbanist stopped supporting comments, which is a bummer because Ross and I seem to have much more civil discourse on the urbanist’s posts verses our ripostes here on STB. I had a long comments on the merits of sequencing the Ballard bridge at 14th vs 15th that appears to have now been lost to the internet.
In recent days even weeks I’ve been getting alerts from Sound Transit about commuter trains delayed due to “vehicle on the tracks”. Another one this evening.
This is something new. Occasionally there will be one alert after the next with the delay time increasing, all due to “vehicle on the tracks”. What exactly is going on here and why can’t the vehicles (if no accident is involved) be removed from the tracks so the train can continue with the least possible delay?
Track inspector needs to be called.
I am the most important transit photographer in America. And as such, I am interested in when the Overlake Village Pedestrian Bridge will open, because I want to photograph it for my worldwide fanbase. First they said it will open in spring of 2021. Then they said it will open in December of 2021. Now I’m told it will open this summer. Seems odd. A skyscraper can be built in under a year, but it takes over a year to open an already completed pedestrian bridge?
I want to know when they are going to start the NE 8th Ped Bridge. It was supposed to be done before they energize the catenary. The wire’s all up and I hope they’ll be energizing it soon to begin testing. I think the only place the wire isn’t install is on I-90 where they still have a lot of work to do.
I other news, They have started construction of the P&R at 130th. The “station” has been done for a while but this means they no longer need the land for construction staging in Bel-Red. And there is another new apartment under construction at Bel-Red and 130th. No signage as to what it’s going to be called or number of units. They have a mini construction crane on site. You can see the start on Google streets. They’ve got most of the ground floor structural work done now.
Work is slowly grinding along on the bridge to replace the Wilbuton tunnel on I-405. Funding is mostly in place for the Wilburton tressel but I’m not aware of any progress on that.
For the time being, the apt project at 130th and Bel-Red is called Big 1 Residential. 7 stories, 172 units. At 16th and 132nd, across the street from the station, will be SummerHill, at 7 stories, 250 units. Vicino apts is under construction at 128th and Northup, at 9 stories, 405 units.
Here’s a recent story that talks about the Wilburton Station pedestrian bridge. Project start date: March 2022. Completion: June 2023.
Where would we be without Sam?
All of these new apartments are displacing virtually every auto body repair shop in the area. Where are Bellevue residents supposed to go to get the dents pounded out of their Bentley? Gentrification sucks!
Cars cost less in Puyallup.
“I want to know when they are going to start the NE 8th Ped Bridge.”
Is there going to be a ped bridge? I was looking at Wilburton station a week ago and thinking it would be hard to get to the eastbound bus stop or down to the supermarkets. I’d thought Wilburton might be more popular than Bellevue downtown as a transfer point if it’s easier, but it looks like it may actually be harder if you have to walk west to 116th, wait for a light and cross, and backtrack east to the bus stop. This would be a perfect place for a station spanning the street, or a ped bridge to the south side of the street.
Yeah, the Ped Bridge has always been part of the plan for both EastRail and Hospital Station. It will have stairs and a long horseshoe shaped ramp on the south side for ADA and bikes. IMHO they are building it on the wrong side of the tracks. It’s north side is wedged between the station and Sturtevant Creek. Bikes coming down the ramp will “hit” the pedestrian crossing at exactly the same place. That would be avoided and there would be at least another 12′ open for what they are calling day lighting the creek if the Ped Bridge was east of the tracks. It all fits with the possible air rights easement of the Burger King property. I worked at getting this change two years ago but was told it was too late because it would interfere with the critical path for construction. Two years and they are just now actually doing the real engineering (assuming this is design build).
Well that sucks for you. I always enjoy reading your comments here so I would think that’s a net loss for the Urbanist blog. As I stated on another recent STB thread, I stopped regularly reading Urbanist pieces after their apparent censorship of a couple of my contrarian (but perfectly within the blog’s ground rules) comments. So I’m not totally surprised by your announcement.
Shoot. I got an error message after submitting this reply. This was meant to nest under AJ’s comment about the Urbanist up above. Sorry for the misplaced reply.
I’ll comment here (might as well). I agree. I think the quality of the Urbanist stories has improved, but getting rid of their comment section is a huge loss. It is possible it is just a mistake, and it will come back. They recently redid their layout it just got accidentally lost in the shuffle. Typically when a blog (or paper) gets rid of their comment section, they write a story about it (there was nothing like that on The Urbanist).
I had a couple of my comments removed from The Urbanist as well, but it became obvious that it wasn’t any individual’s doing. They used an automated filter, and those things are notoriously poor, especially for a long comment. This blog does a much better job.
Yes there was. Shame, I agree.
Yeah, your comment on The Urbanist not being able to handle criticism in the comment section was prescient
Does anyone know where I could find a list of all escalators/elevators operated by Sound Transit? Additionally if there is any published data about escalator/elevator downtime by station that would be great!
As this is the most recent open thread, I guess I’ll post this news story I came across on the West Seattle Blog today. They announced that the WSBLE DEIS which we were all expecting to be released by ST on Jan 28 has leaked out. The full DEIS is linked to in their piece and thus I’m reading through it now. In particular, I’m going to be paying close attention to the needed ROW and displacements estimated to result from the various alternatives given for the segments of the combined projects. Sound Transit has a history of getting this very wrong on its light rail projects, e.g., Lynnwood Link, and this was also one of the findings that came out of the Triunity report more recently.
Here is the link on the ST website:
I’m expecting an upcoming blog post about this so I won’t comment here.
Washington State supreme court considers whether fare enforcement is constitutional. ($)
“Magda Baker, an attorney with the Washington Defender Association, said this case is simply asking the court to affirm the status quo that limits search and seizures. Arguing that someone consents to questioning by using a public service disproportionately targets people of color and low-income communities, she said.”
If the court sides with the CT passenger, it “would place enormous burden on transit agencies. They’d be left with three options, he said: function on a true honor system, with no enforcement; build infrastructure such as turnstiles; or make the entire system free to ride.”
Other countries are probably shaking their heads. We have structural barriers to enforcing fares, mandating vaccinations and masks, suing newspapers for libel (which is a good thing), etc.
I would argue ST should have built a turnstile fare enforcement model. It also controls the environment in the station.
But isn’t ST operating basically on an honor system right now, with its “fare ambassadors”, and IIRC some have posted on this blog only around 3% or so don’t pay with effectively no enforcement, and that is without much of the commuter rider.
If I had to choose among the three options, it would be operate under a true honor system because at least that way you get some farebox recovery, and it is probably too late and too expensive to build the turnstile operation.
Of course the reality is the court won’t buy the defense. At least an appellate court would not.
I think it should have had turnstyles. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about whether you forgot to tap: it would be clear that you either paid or you jumped the turnstyle. ST says nonpayment is in the 3% range, and it would cost more than that to install turnstyles.
ST and Metro aren’t issuing tickets at present, so this ruling wouldn’t apply to their present practice. But it would prevent them from doing so in the future.
A lot of commuters have employer passes and others have monthly passes, so they pay the same regardless of whether they tap every trip or are fare-checked. The formula gives a proportional amount to each agency based on the relative number of taps and their nominal fare. So when I had a $99 pass when I was going to the office, probably 80% was on Metro and 20% on ST and the fares were similar, so Metro would get $79 and ST $20. Now that Northgate Link is open and East Link will open soon, ST’s portion will be higher.
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