Senate Bill 5528 is moving!  It passed the Washington State Senate with Bi-Partisan Support and is now scheduled for public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, at 1:30pm.  

We need your help to make this bill become law. 

To show your support for more and better transit:

  1. Go to the House Committee Sign In
  2. Select position:  “Pro”
  3. Enter your information
  4. Verify that you are not a robot
  5. Click “Submit Registration”
  6. That’s it!

A huge thank you to all of the sponsors of this bill in the Senate:  Senators Pedersen, Liias, and Hawkins; and in the House:  Representatives Hackney, Berry, Fitzgibbon, Ryu, Valdez, Wicks, Chopp, Pollet, Bergquist, Macri, Lekanoff.

If you support more transit service at local levels, you can help make it a reality, it takes under 30 seconds: sign in pro for the House Hearing of 5528.
State Senate Roll Call results: thank you to the Senators that voted in favor of SSB 5528

70 Replies to “Action Alert:  SSB 5528 In House Transportation Committee”

  1. I see that Sen. Hasegawa is still my state senator. I appreciate his lone votes against freeway spending sprees when given the chance, but this I don’t get. In all my years of trying since I was at his campaign kick-off at Cleveland High when he ran for the House the first time, I still have yet to successfully meet with him to hear out why he apparently so hates Sound Transit.

    His miserable defeat running for Mayor of Seattle seems to have taught him nothing.

    1. I can think of plenty of reasons to dislike Sound Transit. Everything from terrible planning to huge cost overruns. Perhaps the biggest problem is their fixation on rail service. The vast majority of the city (and region) will use buses more than they use trains, even after we build one of the biggest (and most expensive) subway systems in North America. It won’t be like Chicago either (where it is at least close). This proposal — which doesn’t allow additional bus funding — simply doubles down on this mode fetish. It isn’t that hard to understand — rail makes sense in some areas, buses make sense in others. Limiting ourselves to one mode just encourages making the same mistakes we’ve made in the past.

      1. It allows “interim” bus service, as in buses to serve routes that Sound Transit intends to run rails on in the future. Bus service for routes where you never plan to upgrade to rail service would not seem to be covered, at least not by my inexpert reading.

      2. As I interpret that section of the paragraph it would only be for corridors approved by voters for Sound Transit projects. In other words, it would only be for something like Lynnwood to Everett bus service, since voters approved rail between Lynnwood and Everett. It would not cover improvements to the 44, even though rail between UW and Ballard is part of the long range plan. Spending a bunch of money in Tacoma or Bellevue to get decent bus service (outside of the ST3 corridors) would not be allowed.

      3. I am fully aware of your distaste for ST3, Ross. I was more interested in the reasons my senator (who did not campaign against ST3) has an axe to grind with Sound Transit.

      4. Ross, in ST’s defense, their “fixation on rail service” happens to be mandated by law. They are allowed to run buses between “regional centers” [or some synonymous wording] when one of two situations pertains:

        1) There will be a rail link between the centers which is not yet complete or

        2) There will never be a rail link between the centers, but they are still defined as “regional centers”.

        That’s it. They can’t run local buses anywhere. They can’t run “BRT” buses anywhere. They can run express buses between regional centers. That’s it.

        I agree that the State should revise its anathema toward local bus service, and should certainly subsidize intercity service provided by contract carriers at least on the west side of the Cascades and in a few identifiable corridors on the east side. But none of those things are in any way Sound Transit’s legislatively determined responsibilities.

    2. Sorry Brent, I figured your comment was more general (as in “Why would anyone hate ice cream?”). Have you tried writing him?

    1. Showing your support would merely be an exercise of free speech. You don’t need to be a citizen (or even a resident) to do that.

  2. Rather than quickly ask for the right to more money from subareas inside ST, how about the legislature first take a hard look at the structure of transit agencies and funding decisions here? It’s not clear to me who is accountable for making decisions when funds come from just a small area but the entire ST board is spending the money. It’s not clear if spending money can be switched from ST to KCM or another bus operator if it would make the transit system more cost effective.

    Unlike referenda which assesses taxes uniformly across a district, having differences within a district sets up potential for “unfair” distribution of funds. If DSTT2 is funded by all subareas, why should one subarea be assessed to fix the cost estimation mistakes that ST made?

    If Seattle is assessing more funds for transit, I feel that the City Council and Mayor should be managing where those funds go and not a majority of suburban board members that sit in the ST Board.

    1. I was assuming that the elected officials of the Enhanced Service Zone would be responsible for deciding how the money would be spent. The decision would, I assume, come before the public vote in any case.

      I believe the idea is that the City of Seattle would say to Sound Transit: here is where we want a new light rail line; tell us how much this will cost. Then they put it up to a vote of only residents of Seattle, and if it passes, only residents of Seattle would pay for it.

      I suppose Sound Transit has to agree to any of the expansions, but I doubt they are inclined to oppose anything. They are already quite a bit more accommodating to local guidance than they should be. The board is made up of local elected officials, after all.

      In theory this system can also be used to expand local bus service without requiring exurban and rural areas to either vote for or fund it. But I think we all know it’s really about Seattle.

      1. Yeah, it’s all about Seattle. What other sub area would even put another round of car tabs on the ballot? I’d think the same legislation that allowed Sound Transit to kick some dollars to rapid ride in ST3 would allow a similar provision this time.

        Christopher is right in theory about how a light rail expansion would work. Practically, this bill doesn’t fund any new light rail. It barely raises enough money to fill half the capital overrun on West Seattle – Ballard. So if it ever passes and wins voter approval, it’s a modest payment toward getting ST3 back on track. (Assuming Dow doesn’t divert too much of it to building West Seattle tunnels).

      2. Seattle seems the most likely to take advantage of a new funding rule, but I could also see this being a tool for small towns and cities to enhance a needed transit service, but otherwise lack the funding pool available to the larger cities. For example, my small town of Langley has major parking challenges, especially in the summer, because there’s little option for coming here except in a car. We barely have enough funding to maintain our streets and sidewalks as it is, so something like this might allow us to enhance bus local bus service from the Clinton Ferry, or even help to subsidize a foot ferry service of some kind. You never know what communities might be able to do until you give them the tools to make it possible.

      3. Does this allow any bus service or bus improvements at all? Last time I read it, you had to spend the money on grade separated projects (which means even Madison BRT wouldn’t qualify). It basically limits itself to underground or elevated modes of transport (which could include gondolas, but are mainly subways).

      4. @Al S: The issue with Seattle doing it is that they don’t build the stuff so there is a lot of money moving between municipal corporations that is generally always bad. But your ST board members would recommend it and you would vote on it, and it would have to serve the ESZ directly, see:
        Page 1, Lines 10-13, Section 1., Subsection (1)
        Page 2, Lines 3-27, Section 1., Subsection (2)

        @Christopher Cramer:
        You’re correct on all accounts except I think Sound Transit cannot fund local bus service. ST can contract with KCM to provide “interim bus service” or other “interim express [bus] services” as it already does. And ST can do capital improvements for buses as was in the ST3 plan for RR C&D and Madison BRT (I think?).

        Theoretically, this is a great tool for exurban bus service, as cities outside Seattle could raise funds to “reduce headway times or add interim bus service” in the Sound Transit system.

      5. @LawGreg — Thanks for the link. I still don’t think it would allow much in the way of bus improvements (see comment above — I don’t think Seattle could pass another MoveSeattle project using this funding mechanism; I think they would be limited to improving Ballard to West Seattle. Similarly, the East Side would be limited to Issaquah-South Kirkland; Pierce County to Tacoma Dome-Federal Way; Snohomish County to Lynnwood-Everett. From a bus perspective, at best this could be used to shift money around (Seattle might pass a bus measure with this, and then Metro would use the savings from not paying for the C and the D to fund other bus service).

      6. @RossB: See response about how adding Sound Transit bus service is totally possible, below.

        As far as King County Metro bus service hours not on Sound Transit branded routes, I agree, this couldn’t do that.

        What does Move Seattle have to do with this? I agree, likely no Move Seattle projects would be included. But good news, there’s a Move Seattle Levy for that.

      7. If the language means ST can fund improvements to existing ST Express corridors, then I think it’s plausible (if unlikely) for cities to tax themselves to boost STX service. The problem for Seattle is that is doesn’t have any ST Express service after the 522 goes away.

        Also, the tax isn’t just MVET, correct? Cities can levy a parking tax or a rental car tax (if I’m reading the bill correctly). So here’s a plausible use case: Burien and Tukwila riders are irritated by the Stride detour to the S Renton station; ST creates an ESZ covering Burien+SeaTac+Tukwilla on rental cars (mostly at the airport) and parking (mostly long-term parking lots) and runs an express overlay that stops at Burien and TIBS Stride stations but skips Renton. That would be an “improvement to service” to an existing HCT, with the benefit highly focused on the ESZ.

      8. AJ, I think your reading is correct, but your hypothetical seems strange. Where are those Burien and Tukwila riders going that they would be “irritated by the Stride detour to the S Renton station”? Bellevue? Kent?

        I can’t imagine that there are or will be very many of them.

      9. Burien & Tukwila heading to Bellevue. If they are heading to Kent, the S Renton stop will be useful, but if they are heading to Bellevue, it’s just a detour off the freeway. Bellevue will be the region’s 2nd largest job center, I would imagine it would draw sold ridership; it’s a big enough job center that people commute from literally everywhere in the region, much like Seattle, and since Stride runs in the HOT lanes, will be a compelling alternative to driving (with and without the S Renton stop).

      10. Law Greg: ST has funded local bus service and intends to in the future. When the Mercer Island P&R was expanded, ST funded interim local service on MI. When the NE 128th Street project interfered with access at the Kingsgate P&R, ST funded a special route between Kingsgate and BTC. In the future, ST3 will fund a special Woodinville service to allow ST3 Stride 3 to be truncated. The Tacoma streetcar is very local. ST2 funded to First Hill streetcar; it is very local.

    2. Al, the four other subareas should not be contributing to DSTT2. If N. King Co. does not have the funding for tunnels do like every other subarea and build surface or elevated lines.

      I fully expect any revenue raised in a city specific levy would be spent there. Unfortunately for Seattle the levy will have to be huge just to finish ST 3 (WSBLE and DSTT2).

      Every subarea got hit by ST’s dishonest cost estimation and inflated revenue estimates. They just don’t have $20 billion projects with tunnels from one end of the city to the next. That is why each subarea should be refunded the $275 million they are to contribute to DSTT2 when that money will be much better spent in those subareas.

      1. The DSTT2 is a shared regional facility proportionately funded by all of the subareas, and whatever cost changes happen in that area will be shared. The extensions to West Seattle & Ballard outside of downtown are North King facilities and North King is on the hook for those costs. It’s helpful not to conflate the two.

      2. No one is conflating DSTT2 and WSBLE. But simply stating DSTT2 is a shared regional project doesn’t make it so anymore than the East Link tunnels in Bellevue are a shared regional project. All Link is a shared regional project, but that doesn’t negate subarea equity.

        ST sold DSTT2 based on highly inflated ridership estimates, and claiming DSTT2 was necessary for capacity for the other subareas. We now know that isn’t true. East Link is limited to 8 minute frequencies.

        There is plenty of capacity for lines 1 and 2 in DSTT1. Even if there wasn’t the extra cost between a surface line and tunnel should be the responsibility of Seattle and the N. King Co. subarea, just like the tunnel in Bellevue (which should have run under Bellevue Way). All King Co. paid for this region’s share of DSTT1.

        The four other subareas are not on the hook for 1/2 the cost of DSTT2 no matter what it costs (which right now is close to double the dishonest cost estimate in ST 3 of $2.2 billion). The reality is that SnoCo, Pierce, and S. King Co. subareas don’t have the $275 million each, let alone $550 million. It is ridiculous to tell these poorer subareas with more modest surface lines to pay 1/2 of an extravagant and deep tunnel through nearly all of downtown Seattle when they will have funding issues for their own projects because of ST’s dishonest estimates.

        Why does the “region” need to bail out Seattle because ST’s cost estimates were dishonest for every subarea, and now Seattle want the most expensive option?

        The irony — at least to me although I predicted it — is as soon as the DEIS was released the Seattle neighborhoods and some folks on this blog immediately wanted the most expensive option and completely forgot about who will pay for that, while at the same time Seattle legislators introduce bill after bill to allow Seattle to raise the money to complete ST 3.

        Ok, that is fine by me, but raise all the money for projects in your subarea, including DSTT2, or get real about the design. Right now what I see in the DEIS and DSTT2 is people (subarea) spending other people’s (subareas) money. After all East KC subarea has been bailing out N. King Co. since ST was formed.

        I agree with Mike that if a specific city or subarea votes to raise additional transit taxes they should be able to. For N. King Co. that should include 100% of DSTT2.

      3. “No one is conflating DSTT2 and WSBLE. But simply stating DSTT2 is a shared regional project doesn’t make it so anymore than the East Link tunnels in Bellevue are a shared regional project. All Link is a shared regional project, but that doesn’t negate subarea equity.”
        You need to read the ST3 plan. This is a settled question and the answer was approved by voters more than five years ago.

      4. The point you made was the four other subareas are responsible for 1/2 DSTT2 no matter the cost. I agree ST 3 obligates the four other subareas to pay 1/2 of $2.2 billion, but not 1/2 of the cost of DSTT2, especially now that these other subareas know this deal was based on dishonest ridership and capacity need estimates. If WSBLE is not built DSTT2 is not needed. DSTT2 is not a shared regional facility. DSTT1 is but all of King Co. paid for that.

        The ultimate problem with the argument the four other subareas must pay 1/2 of DSTT2 no matter how high the cost or how extravagant and expensive the design is three of the subareas don’t have enough revenue for their own projects. If Seattle thinks it is going to build a $4.5 billion tunnel and S. King Co. is going to chip in $550 million good luck.

        Same with SnoCo and Pierce Co. Those subareas simply don’t have the money. The “realignment” was a ruse because ROW and project costs rise faster than revenue during the extension years.

        I suppose if three of the subareas had extra money we could debate the language and intent of ST 3 and funding DSTT2, but they don’t.

      5. “But simply stating DSTT2 is a shared regional project doesn’t make it so …”

        That’s literally incorrect. ST Board determined that the DSTT2, specifically between ID and Westlake, is a shared regional asset, like building an OMF or deploying ORCA Gen 2, and documented it as such in the ST3 voter approved plan.

      6. The thing about Dan is that he simply can’t imagine that a Board dominated roughly 12-5 [in the most generous definition of a “Seattleite”] by suburbanites over Seattleites would be such Quislings as to think about the needs of the entire Service Area instead of their own provincial fiefs. In other words, he can’t believe that they are not him.

        It’s a common error of MOTU’s. Look at Putin.

      7. TT, what is it you would like the Board to do it is not doing? Your post wasn’t clear. Ignore subarea equity? Fund DSTT2 no matter what the cost is when the ST tax revenue is inadequate to complete ST projects in three of the subareas?

        The levies themselves underestimated project costs and inflated ST tax revenue. Like most we on the Eastside only learned of this recently, when Rogoff announced the budget deficits and the Board passed the “realignment”, and we realized how inflated ridership estimates were to sell ST 3 and DSTT2. Does it surprise you we are angry at being lied to by ST? Part of that anger is that we actually trusted an inherently dishonest agency.

        I am not sure what your definition of “suburbanite” is. Are you angry that S. King Co., SnoCo and Pierce Co. won’t contribute more money they don’t have so N. King Co. can build a tunnel from West Seattle to Ballard before they even get light rail. Where do these poor subareas get this money? Do you really think light rail is the most pressing social need in these subareas, let alone a second tunnel in Seattle that is unnecessary for their capacity. That seems kind of selfish.

        Or is it East KC that built a moderately expensive surface line using public ROW’s that cost much less than its ST tax revenue because the Eastside has grown much faster than estimated, and sees light rail as a complementary form of (very expensive) transportation that doesn’t really serve the subarea, and will have 50% of the estimated ridership (although probably a 95% fare paying rate).

        What exactly do you want the four other subareas to give Seattle, considering three of the subareas don’t have anything extra to give. Should S. King Co. really fund DSTT2? What is it the Board has demanded N. King Co. give to the other subareas? East KC has paid 100% of the cross lake buses ($1 billion), 100% of Link across the bridge span, 100% of the tunnel in Bellevue, and had its projects delayed — despite having the money for them right now — to meet the debt limit for WSBLE. Is there something more you want?

        You sound like Marie Antoinette.

      8. Daniel, I don’t care what SnoCo, South King, Pierce, and even East King do or don’t do WRT the tunnel. I was just pointing out your, bluntly, insane obsession with the supposed domination of the ST Board by “Urbanists” in Seattle.


    3. I read the bill provided in LawGreg’s hyperlink.

      It appears that the City of Seattle is not involved directly. The designation and referendum is wholly given to the entire regional transit authority (meaning ST) board.

      My complaint here is about controlling the money. I don’t want a bunch of Board members outside of Seattle imposing an extra tax burden on me while it doesn’t affect them at all!

      Look I get that more money is needed for transit. Still, if it’s Seattle that wants the enhancement it’s Seattle that should provide the oversight and not ST!

      1. Al, with subarea equity any additional funding raised in a specific subarea must be spent in that subarea. Whether the Seattle City Council would be wiser stewards of the additional ST revenue (that will all go toward completing ST 3 in N. King Co. and not new transit and would be reflected in the depressing ballot measure) is a scary question with no good answer.

      2. The issue isn’t subarea equity as much as it’s overall financial control. The ST Board could say that they will fund projects in City A but that city B has to raise more money, even if both cities are in the same subarea. It sets up arbitrary tax situations with no accountability .

        Bluntly put, this is an ST power grab. I would much prefer that if Seattle wants more transit investment, it should be developed by Seattle in a transit benefit district rather than gave ST get to set it up.

      3. Given how deferential the Board is to cities’ wishes, and how Seattle usually has multiple members on the Board, I don’t see what the concern is here.

        As much as ST merits criticism, ST is clearly more capable at large project management than SDOT (see: Streetcar CCC stop/start, Madison BRT rolling stock, Northgate ped bridge delays). I can’t imagine any HCT project where I would want SDOT as the lead agency.

        Seattle has the TBD for regular bus improvements. SDOT should focus on what it is good at, in particular executing on a steady diet of spot improvements for buses, and not get distracted with an HCT project or study.

      4. AJ, controlling money is not the same as building a project. ST3 contains funds for KCM and PT projects and Seattle Moves funds KCM service, for example. Unless you feel that Seattle can’t even manage tax funds, your point is irrelevant.

      5. The ESZs could cover multiple cities and could cross county lines, so it’s logical the ESZ taxation would be managed by Sound Transit.

        The voters within the ESZ need to approve the new taxes, so nothing is being imposed.

        I suppose if I lived in Shoreline, I would be very irked at being included in an ESZ used to fund WSBLE work, but since the ESZs must include the whole of a municipality, I find it rather bizarre to fret about an ESZ being gerrymandered to impose higher taxes upon Seattle over the objection of Seattle voters.

        There’s nothing stopping the city of Seattle from taxing itself to provide funding for ST projects. IRRC, Move Seattle included funding for Graham Street station? The ESZ is an additional tool, which may or may not be used.

      6. “The voters within the ESZ need to approve the new taxes, so nothing is being imposed.”

        Not entirely. The legislation allows for the inclusion of unincorporated areas into the designed ESZ. This is my problem with the bill. An adjoining unincorporated area that really gains little to nothing from its inclusion could certainly be roped in and then simply be overrun in the public vote.

        The legislation has other flaws as well which I’ve commented about previously. I think Al S. has it correct with his takeaway.

    4. McGinn gave ST city money to accelerate the Ballard-downtown study and add a Westlake streetcar study for the city; it could not be spent on anything else. Seattle’s Transit Benefit District controls what Metro service it’s spent on. The actual routes are in an agreement between the TBD and Metro, and reflect Metro’s underservice list and long-range plans and the city’s preferences. When Metro stopped funding the night owls in 2014, Seattle stepped in with city money to keep them running, and later they were folded in to the first TBD.

      I expect Link projects would be similar. The city would accelerate projects ST is already building, and the money would go to specific goals and couldn’t be spent outside it. Subarea equity and other factors wouldn’t come into it because it’s not subarea-raised money.

      1. It’s important to understand that this is not set up like a TBD. At least a TBD has oversight and can negotiate what enhanced transit funding means. This gives the power solely to ST to unilaterally say “this part of the project budget counts as a subarea project and the other part does not” for example. There is no negotiation required.

  3. If the vote was bipartisan, there must be at least some interest on this outside of Seattle. I wonder who was the one Republican to vote in favor, and which area they represent.

  4. This bill sounds like the “third party funding” in the WSBLE DEIS, and so far the DEIS and much of the commentary on STB seem to assume the funding will be found for tunnels and underground stations.

    Like HB1304 any Seattle levy will need to raise billions simply to complete WSBLE and DSTT2 as desired by the local communities. I wonder how Seattle voters would feel about another round of tax increases when no “new” rail will come from the new taxes, just at best the completion of ST 3 in N. King Co.

    I can’t see any other city in the ST taxing district passing additional transit levies (on top of the realignment). East King Co. doesn’t need additional tax revenue, and the other areas are generally hostile to transit levies.

    Like HB1304 I am not sure such a Seattle centric bill will pass just due to momentum. Both Ross and Dan raise very good complaints about this bill.

    1. Regardless of what Seattle is/isn’t willing to fund, this bill seems like it really doesn’t have any downsides. If an area needs more service, they can fund it. If they don’t, they don’t have to.

      If a bill helps city A and has no effect on city B, or the state budget, the representative from city B should be polite and vote “yes”, not be a jerk and vote “no”, just to screw over city A. Unfortunately, that’s not how actual politics works.

      1. Seattle elected officials and voters will have to balance using its two tax sources (e.g., commercial parking tax, MVET) for ST3 v. other purposes. Some councilmembers have suggested increasing the parking tax for bridge maintenance. What is the elasticity? In 2009, the MVET was suggested for Metro; a local service tax may be considered for 2024.

      2. “has no effect on” is doing the heavy lifting in your point. It’s pretty straightforward to argue that levying taxes in city A has an impact on residents in City B, given we all live in the same state.

  5. As usual, people here don’t actually read the bills. So while I’m not the state’s legal counsel writing it, I am at least reading it: I can safely say that all *Sound Transit* bus service is currently defined as interim express services per 81.104.015(2), and therefore can be changed with funds from this mechanism. I don’t know exactly how they funded Rapid Ride C & D improvements, but this is the same RCW chapter that authorized that as well, so at least RR Capital Projects are possible if not KCM service hours. And the rail service need only be in entirely exclusive right of way in Seattle.

    Here’s the bill:

    1. I’ve read the bill before, but since this didn’t have a link, I was too lazy to hunt it down. Thanks for doing that.

      As I interpret this, at best any bus improvement would be limited to Sound Transit Express corridors, and areas where the voters already approved rail (and haven’t built it yet). That isn’t much, really.

      I don’t know exactly how they funded Rapid Ride C & D improvements, but this is the same RCW chapter that authorized that as well.

      I would imagine Sound Transit’s charter isn’t as limiting. If they want to pay for bus service, they just include it in the proposal. Same with running trains on the surface. I’m pretty sure there is nothing stopping ST4 from being nothing but trains running in traffic, new bus routes and subsidies to various agencies to improve their bus routes.

      This wouldn’t allow any of that. Bus service must be part of a ST proposal previously approved by voters (whether it was rail of bus). Any new rail service must be grade separated. At least, that is the way I interpret it.

      1. @RossB: I’m going lawyer a little too much here, but the way that sentence is constructed means enhancements include improvements to service such as “*adding* interim bus service”:

        “Enhancements include[…a bunch of things… followed by a comma], *and* improvements to service, such as reducing headway times or *adding* interim bus service.” All sound transit buses are “Interim Services” no matter where they are 81.104.0125(2) RCW.

        *Adding* any bus service is a separate sub-clause and power granted.

      2. “As I interpret this, at best any bus improvement would be limited to Sound Transit Express corridors, and areas where the voters already approved rail (and haven’t built it yet). That isn’t much, really.”

        It seems like it ought to be possible to play budget games to make it work. For sure example, shift $$ in the base budget from west Seattle to greenwood, then use this to backfill west Seattle service. The net effect becomes no change to west Seattle service, but better service in greenwood.

      3. I’m going lawyer a little too much here, but the way that sentence is constructed means enhancements include improvements to service such as “*adding* interim bus service”:

        Right, but the phrasing implies that “enhancements” of any sort are dependent on that first sentence. Each “enhancement” can be done independently, but each and every one has to adhere to the limitations of the previous sentence.

        If I wrote a bill containing a paragraph that started with: “The money can be used for enhancements to public shelters” and then in the very next sentence wrote “Enhancements include new bathrooms” then it is clear that the bathrooms have to be built in the shelters. I can’t just use the money to build bathrooms anywhere.

        Just go back to the beginning:

        (3) The ballot proposition authorized by subsection (2) of this section may authorize improvements that are:
        (a) Enhancements to one or more high capacity transportation systems contained in an existing voter-approved regional transit plan. Enhancements include …

        The second sentence simply clarifies what “enhancements” means in the first sentence. Take out that first sentence and the second sentence doesn’t make any sense.

        It doesn’t make sense on its own for grammatical reasons, as it starts with “Enhancements include …” (enhancements, what enhancements?). But there is also this phrase “… and safety or the completion date of the system but do not change the mode or route alignment of the system previously approved by voters …”. What system are they talking about? I suppose you could argue any system, but I think it is clear that by “system” they mean “high capacity transportation systems” and by “previously approved by voters” it means “an existing voter-approved regional transit plan”. Clearly the second sentence is dependent on the first, as it makes numerous reference to it that otherwise would be vague or meaningless.

        This means that you can only enhance the bus system if is was part of a previously approved Sound Transit package. This means that every ST bus corridor and every train corridor that voters ever approved (whether they are built or not) could see a variety of improvements, including bus service. But it does *not* mean improvements to existing bus corridors like the 3, 4, 7, 8, 36, 40, 44, 70, RapidRide A, B or E, or brand new bus corridors.

        If they really intended for bus money to be used anywhere, it would be worded like the other subsections. For example:

        b) New rail improvements on alignments that are not contained in an existing voter-approved regional transit plan and connect to the high capacity transportation system;

        That definitely stands alone, and is very clear. You can build a new rail line, as long as it isn’t part of an existing plan, and connects to the high capacity transportation system. Or how about the next one:

        (c) High capacity transportation system planning for future system expansion within the enhanced service zone;

        Again, very clear, as “High capacity transportation system” is defined on page 7 (to essentially exclude regular buses).

        It wouldn’t be that hard to break this out, if the intent is to allow bus improvements everywhere:

        (d) New bus improvements on alignments that are not contained in an existing voter-approved regional transit plan;

        (e) New bus planning for future system expansion within the enhanced service zone;

        Again, this clearly stands alone. But the key sentence of the section in question doesn’t stand alone, because it is merely a clarification of the first sentence, which is where the limitations are.

        For that matter, they could simply use the word transit throughout the document, and define “transit” to include improved bus service. But that wasn’t the intent.

      4. It seems like it ought to be possible to play budget games to make it work.

        Yeah, sure, but it wouldn’t pay for much. The entire funding of the C and D would be tiny compared to the overall network, even just in Seattle.

        It would also be a very weird proposal to put to voters. We are going to pay for what already exists, so that we can shift money from there to other parts of the system. Although yeah, Seattle voters would probably still vote for it.

      5. I tend to free with Ross that the limiting language does not afford much flexibility to funding other transit service.

        And of course that’s on top of a regional transit agency collecting taxes and spending money in an area that only a minority of the district’s residents reside in. ST as an organization has no motivation to add corridors. I don’t see a dime of anybody this going to anything but an existing ST corridor when the combination of limiting language and decision bodies are combined.

        I’d be more supportive of granting the right to a referendum if the taxing and allocating agency was the City and was not so limiting. But this — this — is fiscally reckless. In several ways in my opinion.

      6. My reading is an ESZ can be used to provide new ST Express service, but only on corridors with existing or planned HCT in the ST Plan.

        I suppose ST could launch an ST Express route that runs between Ballard and Downtown, and then invest in some bus improvements on that route. But that feels like a stretch.

        A more intriguing loophole might be if the ST Express routes need to follow the same route as the permanent HCT service. Could Kirkland run a STX route along the ERC, if they indicate that the ROW will be converted to Link in the future? Could Mulkiteo run STX to Lynnnwood Link as a way to enhance Sounder North off-peak service?

      7. “ST as an organization has no motivation to add corridors.” Is there any evidence for that? If anything, a criticism of Sound Transit is Manifest Destiny to keep expanding into new corridors. ST1>ST2>ST3 steadily added corridors, and the LRP includes many more corridors that could be included in the next voter approval regional transit plan.

        Only 3(a) and 3(b) are limited to the existing voter-approved regional transit plan. 3(c), “High capacity transportation system planning for future system expansion within the enhanced service zone,” does not contain the same limitation, so for any new corridor that a city (or group of cities) wants to pursue, they can tax themselves to do planning. Funding & completing planning work would be a solid step to then getting that corridor included in the next voter-approved regional transit plan.

        I could see lots of HCT studies to introduce corridors not considered in ST3. Since these are just studies, the voters are approving only a few million dollars to spend, easily covered by a parking taxes or a very small MVET increase.
        – Renton and Tukwila partner on studying infill stations for Stride
        – Kirkland tries again with a study on BRT on the ERC
        – Redmond and Kirkland partner on studying 520 Stride service
        – Everett studies Stride between Everett & Bellevue, to help guide WSDOT investment on that corridor.
        – Pierce uses an ESZ to more forward planning work on its 5 line Stream network, corridors which could become Stream or Stride lines.
        – Tacoma studies Link into downtown Tacoma, in lieu of or in addition to Link to Tacoma Mall
        – Seattle studies Link from Ballard to Northgate, in addition to the authorized Ballard-UW-Lake Washington study

        And these examples are all in addition to the opportunity to accelerate study work already included ST3, such as Seattle accelerating Ballard-UW study work or Ortig accelerating its Sounder study.

      8. Could Kirkland run a STX route along the ERC, if they indicate that the ROW will be converted to Link in the future?

        Not using this funding mechanism. The future improvements have to be approved by voters, and voters never approved running anything on the ERC. (At least that is how I read it.)

        Could Mulkiteo run STX to Lynnnwood Link as a way to enhance Sounder North off-peak service?

        I think so, although it might be a stretch. It would probably be easier (from a legal standpoint) to run the bus to Edmonds and then downtown Seattle (it just wouldn’t make much sense).

        I will add that I’m not a lawyer, or a paralegal. But my mom was a lawyer and one of my kids is a lawyer so I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading laws and bills. I have a pretty good record guessing how state courts will decide cases (although this case surprised me: The way I imagine this going down is like this:

        Seattle forms its own enhanced service zone. They get together and decide to spend most of the money on bus improvements. Some infrastructure improvements (like fully funding the transit part of Move Seattle) but also a widespread improvement in service (leading to a widespread increase in frequency, and an improved transit network). It passes easily. Some anti-tax group sues to overturn the results, saying that the agency approved money for things not specifically allowed. Like all cases, you never know for sure how things will go down. But my guess is the agency would lose, and the case would be overturned.

        I should add that there are things I really like in this bill, like the creation of an expert review panel. This is outstanding — something that I wish Sound Transit had. My main complaint (which has been my biggest complaint all along) is that it is needlessly restrictive. In all likelihood this will only be used in Seattle, and Seattle does have rail projects that are worth building (UW to Ballard) along with fixing the ST3 projects. But the more immediate need — and more cost effective need — is just better bus service. In cities like Bellevue, Kirkland and Tacoma, which are becoming increasingly urban, the same thing is true, and they stand a better chance of improving their transit system if they aren’t tied to the county (which includes a lot of anti-tax voters). Unlike Seattle, these cities do not have new rail projects that are worth building. At best they could speed up things like Issaquah to South Kirkland, or Tacoma Dome Link, but these projects would help only a handful of people, and should be very low priority.

      9. I could see lots of HCT studies to introduce corridors not considered in ST3 …

        I agree, and I think every one of your examples could be studied. On page 7 it defines “High capacity transportation system”:

        “High capacity transportation system” means a system of public transportation services within an urbanized region operating principally on exclusive rights-of-way, and the supporting services and facilities necessary to implement such a system, including interim express services and high occupancy vehicle lanes, which taken as a whole, provides a substantially higher level of passenger capacity, speed, and service frequency than traditional public transportation systems operating principally in general
        purpose roadways.

        Every one of your examples seems OK. But improvements like that of the 40 (which I consider to be huge) would not.

        It definitely takes a “corridor” approach to improvements (which has been one of the main planning weaknesses for every agency in the area). This means, for example, that Madison BRT would be OK. However, fixing the bottleneck around the Fremont Bridge (which effects buses carrying tens of thousands of riders) would not be. Unless, of course, it was part of a project that included a bus line that was mostly in exclusive right-of-way. To put it another way: (mostly) closed BRT is OK, but open BRT is not. The old bus tunnel couldn’t be added, unless you did some tricky maneuvering. You have a bus go from one end to the other, and say that the project is built for that bus. Then when it is done, you start sending other buses in. You would have to keep service on the shuttle bus, even though it would be redundant. Looking ahead, running a bus exclusively on the Eastside Rail Corridor (or even mostly on it) would be OK. But a bus that used only a small part of it (to address its worst bottleneck or simply because it makes the most sense from a coverage standpoint) would not.

        This is another one of the silly restrictions on this bill.

      10. @RossB
        “Again, this clearly stands alone. But the key sentence of the section in question doesn’t stand alone, because it is merely a clarification of the first sentence, which is where the limitations are.”

        As a nonpracticing attorney who used to do this kind of stuff for a number of years when I worked in the NYS Legislature, I agree with your reading of the legislation. Furthermore, I think any legal challenges that potentially might ensue in the future, should this bill be enacted, will focus exactly on the constructive language you’ve highlighted in your commentary above.

        That’s my legal two cents’ worth.

        (Fwiw, you seem to have absorbed some of your mom’s and your kid’s legal acumen along the way. :) If I’m not mistaken, your profession is technical writing, correct?)

      11. Not sure what you mean by “Open BRT”? I think RapidRide A & E would have been eligible, as they are mostly in dedicated bus lanes, while RR B & F would not. The word “principally” is doing most of the heavy lifting.

        The issue for Seattle is that it has already done most of the planning work for its bus corridors; the 40 already has good plans, they just need to be implemented. Actual improvements require the corridor being included in voter approval regional transit plan.

        So if Seattle wanted to study the Aurora corridor and do some planning on converting Aurora to a center running BRT line (as I have advocated), I think that would cleanly fit within ESZ funding, but Seattle wouldn’t be able to go deploy enhancements on Aurora until that corridor is included in the next voter approval regional transit plan

      12. If I’m not mistaken, your profession is technical writing, correct?

        No, my brother is though. I wish I could write like him. I’m a retired programmer.

        I did take a class in technical writing in college, but I think my biggest influence was taking a debate class in high school. It taught me to think logically and specifically with wording. I was never great at it, but I got the gist of it, and got better over the years. My other brother was a philosopher, so that helps as well.

        Not sure what you mean by “Open BRT”?

        I was thinking of buses that used to run in the bus tunnel, for example.

        The key wording is “operating principally on exclusive rights-of-way”. Is an HOV lane exclusive? I would say no. How about a BAT lane? Nope. Exclusive means only transit can use it, and we have very little in our system that is like that. Madison BRT might qualify, but I would have to do the math to determine whether it is principally running on exclusive rights-of-way, or outside it. Ironically it might qualify if it was shortened (a perverse incentive to reduce the value of a line and one of the key advantages of BRT).

        I would call Madison BRT Open BRT. That is probably the only system I would call BRT for the foreseeable future (although obviously it is a judgment call).

      13. Actually, Ross, ST recently made a decision never to run at-grade in street right of way again. So that eliminates trackage to surface stations in West Seattle and Ballard, at least, built by Sound Transit.

        They’ve painted themselves into a corner. Once The Spine is complete there is literally no other place in the Puget Sound Region to extend Link. Outside Seattle and Bellevue there is insufficient density to warrant elevated or subway expansion lines, but there might be some corridors which could have West MAX-like stretches of running between occasional gated street crossings. But those are now embargoed.

        Within Bellevue and Seattle ST cannot even consider an at-grade tramway between Ballard and the U District, along Lake City Way or the old Interurban ROW up to Shoreline.

        So we’ve built a system that by all rights ought to be third-rail for higher speeds with slow LR technology and embargoed ourselves from the one thing that LR does better than anything else: extending into buildable-land and making it dense instead of auto sprawl. All because some narcissistic and/or clueless SUV idiots thought their Chevvy could stop a train on King Boulevard.


      14. There’s nothing inherently low speed about having overhead wires. In fact, most subway / elevated car designs also have a 55 mph top speed. I’m not sure why this speed was chosen to be the maximum speed on so many systems, but it was. There are definitely systems out there that have ordered faster light rail cars. It does tend to be a balance between top end running speed and better acceleration from a stop though.

        Maximum speed really only makes a big difference with long distances without stopping, so the real problem here is the lack of an express through track in the stations so trains from the hinterlands are able to pass through. That would add a lot of expense to benefit only few riders. For that construction expense, you could probably dump that same money into better Sounder service that would get you better bang for the buck.

      15. “Outside Seattle and Bellevue there is insufficient density to warrant elevated or subway expansion lines, but there might be some corridors which could have West MAX-like stretches of running between occasional gated street crossings. But those are now embargoed.” Are they actually embargoed? Or just not considered in WSBLE? I’m unclear if this is an ST3 legal requirement or just the current Link designed standards that could be changed by the Board.

        FWIW, Kirkland-Issaquah will likely done without at-grade crossings. The ERC doesn’t have any at-grade intersections (it’s elevated over 68th and under 8th), and an Eastgate-Issaquah line will run at-grade in the I90 ROW. Where the prohibition on MAX-esque operations becomes really foolish would be in an extension like to Tacoma Mall, where the best option is to leverage the Sounder ROW through Nalley Valley and the existing at-grade rail crossings; that would be much closer to SoDO than Rainier Valley in impact, and I’m optimistic at-grade would be tolerated there since its an industrial area (same for segments around Paine Field).

        I agree with Glenn. If there is a concern about end-to-end speed, then Pierce/South King should invest in Sounder electrification, and Snohomish & East King can invest in STX bypasses (Everett-Lynnwood TC, Redmond-Husky Stadium, Issaquah-MI, etc.) plus STX routes that run orthogonal to Link (Everett-Bellevue, Auburn-Kent-Bellevue, etc.), all of which would be more effective than investing in express capabilities within Link itself.

      16. Guys, low-floor LRT’s have stability problems at higher speeds. It’s not the pantographs; HSR trains have pans.

        We have built what is basically a Light Metro (like Skytrain) with long distances between stations almost everywhere, but we did it using low-floor, idler wheel LR vehicles. They cannot go faster than they do now; they hunt too badly.

        Of course low-floor cars are much more convenient for passengers in at-grade, walk-up stations. But ST isn’t building any lines in ST3 that will have stations such as those, even in West-Seattle Ballard where the overall distances are a tiny fraction of The Spine.

        Thus far ST has only five such walk-up at-grade stations in service with five more to come in East Link (East Main, 120th [sort of; it’s actually in a trench], 130th, Overlake Village and Redmond Tech Center). They actually did the “suburban street-car” thingy, pretty closely out there; the stations are pretty frequent.

        But every other station in ST2 is designed to be elevated or in a tunnel. Will ST build Issaquah-Kirkland using at-grade stations or will it insist on elevating them, too?

        When ST2 is finished, ST will have ten out of twenty-five, such at-grade stations, only four of which have to be low-platform.

        I understand that when Link was first envisioned it was assumed that it would run on the ground almost all the way to the Airport. So LR was the right technology, because third rail fries people when its in an un-fenced right-of-way.

        In answer to your question, AJ, I think it’s “current design standards”. The South Seattle Emerald had an article on the 17th by Lizz Giordano which says bluntly

        Sound Transit plans to elevate or bury future light rail routes rather than run them along the street.

        That sounds pretty final to me.

        Now maybe it doesn’t rule out cross-country running with gated crossings like Westside MAX, and there are a few places, especially under high voltage lines, where that might be a cheap way to spin branches off the main stem. Renton, in particular might use the City Light right of way southeast of Rainier Beach, though some of the hills are pretty steep.

        But nobody is going to get lanes out of 900, so if Renton is to have some sort of HCT link in the future this should be investigated.

        Up in Snohomish County

        But when the system was extended beyond the airport (ST2) it started having bloat and edifice complex. WTF is that palace at TIBS???? Where are the 5′ 6″ gauge, eighty mile per hour trains that call at stations like that?

        Sadly, what’s done is done,

      17. SE Redmond and Graham Street will also be at-grade, walk up stations. Perhaps 220th (unfunded infill)? South Kirkland station is at-grade in the representative alignment. Also, I believe some station (Judkins?) require pedestrians to cross the tracks for some of the exits, which is only possible with low floor LRV technology?

        TIBS was a Sound Move station, built before the airport station, and ST actually changed the design standards because the public & politicians did say “WTF” when it opened.

        I agree that East Link did very well leveraging the flexibility and access advantages of LRV, and the Bel-Red segment is the best example outside of the Rainier Valley segment. But aside from TIBS-Rainier Beach and MI-Judkins Park, I wouldn’t call any of the stop spacing “long distance.” TIBS to RV is very curvy, so probably the only spot in the ST2 system where the 55mph speed limit is relevant is for the 2 minutes the train cruises across the floating bridge.

        It’s a bummer the region went with freeway running for Lynnwood & FW extensions, but not in a way that LRV is really problematic, and it’s still super useful that a train that departs Lynnwood TC can then run at-grade through either MLK Ave or Spring Street. I wholeheartedly agree that is appears LRV is the wrong technology for WSBLE & the 2nd downtown tunnel, but elsewhere I think Link is still very useful, with several good opportunities for surface running (ERC in Kirkland, Nalley Valley in Tacoma, and Paine Field area in Snohomish). And I hold out hope that Tacoma Dome’s terminus station will be switched to at-grade in some last minute value engineering to cut costs (I think Fife at to be at grade because of the Tribe’s requirements)

      18. The stability issue at higher speeds may be a problem on Siemens S70 and the Kinki-Sharyo cars of similar design, but even the Siemens S70 is supposedly able to be operated in the 65 mph range.

        The Alstom Citadis lacks the small for wheeled center section, and could probably be built for operation at a higher speed.

        SkyTrain maximum speed is 50 mph, despite what you refer to as wide station spacing.

        The Stadler FLIRT can be built with a low floor, and has a maximum speed of 75 mph, and could technically probably be built to produce higher speeds, but I think the UIC requirements faster than this (120km/hr) in Europe may require some collision protection that isn’t possible in a light rail car cab.

        However, even if cars with a maximum speed of 75 mph were ordered for Link, the station spacing and route choices really doesn’t work for that. As noted before, to use it you’d need express tracks at many of the stations, and this gets expensive and you’d probably be better of financially in just improving Sounder and Cascades so that frequency and span of service is better. As an example of what other places have done, DB Regio trains in Berlin are about what would be similar to Sounder service, typically only operate every half hour but are quite popular, even fairly late at night. RE1 has station spacing in the 7-10 mile range, with maximum speed around 100 mph (averages around 73 mph including station stops).

        Nobody is making any sort of metropolitan equipment, be it subway equipment or light rail, that operates in that speed range.

        One of the problems is that in the USA, you pretty much have to build a new line for a lot of this because the freight railroads control the existing infrastructure, and even if you do have access to a freight railroad the equipment has to be really heavy to be able to be used on the standard railroad network. In Europe, this is a much different picture. Most places on earth just don’t have that big a market for equipment designed for short distance metropolitan service to also operate at higher speeds between cities. Most places just use the standard railroad network for that. RE1 type service would be extremely difficult here with our much heavier equipment requirements for operation on the freight railroads, plus the ownership of those lines.

      19. I have not advocated “express capabilities for Link”, except possibly a single-track peak-period bypass along Airport Way if downtown commuting ever returns. The stations are plenty far apart for BART-like or Atlanta-like modern heavy rail trains to reach maximum speed and maintain it for a reasonable time.

        There’s a significant amount of “on the surface” running along I-5, and “hooray” for ST for having used it. But that “surface” is being remade wholesale, and the need to thread around freeway interchanges is making the alignment rather roller-coaster like. Without the higher clearances for catenary required for LR, some of those gyrations could be less severe.

        BART runs on the surface alongside railroad tracks and freeways in a few places also; there’s no reason that third-rail powered “heavy rail” trains with their much more rapid acceleration could not be running over all of the system except the Rainier Valley segment and the trackage along the busway.

        Yes, the new trench at 120th would have had to continue to 132nd and that station been depressed as well, but otherwise, all this alongside-the-freeway surface running could just be fenced off.

        So far as the pedestrian crossing at the west end Judkins Park mentioned, sure, it would have required a second set of stairs down to Rainier. A small price to pay for higher speeds and accelerations.

        I’m not saying that LR is bad; it’s great when it makes use of long stretches of at-grade running, either in street medians as on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd or Interstate Avenue or uses old railroad grades as does Westside MAX. But as the percentage of required or chosen-by-design grade separation passes 75% or if virtual separation is provided by freeway fencing anyway it becomes foolish to encumber the system with the need for overhead and low-floor cars.

        What’s done is done, but it was not thought through very well.

      20. Glenn, BART trains have a maximum speed of 80 mph, and regularly cross the Bay at over 75. It also reaches those speeds along the Yellow Line to Pittsburg and and the Blue line to Dublin. It doesn’t go that fast on the west side because the stations are closer together.

      21. BART operates over distances and speeds that anywhere that outside North America would probably be served with something mare akin to RE1 equipment at 100 mph. It’s not really metropolitan equipment like SkyTrain, etc. You can’t get up to 80 mph between stations that are closely spaced.

        BART equipment is also expensive because it is unique. You can’t order an off the shelf CTA or NYCTA car design. Both of those have 50 mph maximum speeds too.

        WMATA cars top out at 75 mph, so the same maximum speed as a Stadler FLIRT, which is usually built as a low floor design. So, you’ve almost hit the *average* speed of RE1 with the maximum operating speed.

        Regional city to regional city, with either BART equipment or WMATA equipment, you still haven’t dealt with the stations every 2-4 miles, which is necessary to actually serve the traveling public.

        This is why, say Berlin, has an s-bahn system that operates at lower speeds, and such regional trains as the RE1. Link does the s-bahn thing quite well, but the regional express stuff at higher speeds would be better suited to Cascades and Sounder improvements.

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