Hey, try to fix YouTube-Google integration when you’re a DEC’er.
I’m only riding Link once or twice a week right now, but ridership during the past month or so feels well up from where it was in the fall and early winter. The first time I noticed this, the person waiting next to me exclaimed “whoa!” when the train arrived at our station and we saw how many riders were on board.
It seems like ST is trying to accommodate increased ridership by going back to usually running 4 car trains, after a period of running mostly 3 car trains, at least when I’m riding Link.
I was seeing several three-car trains a few weeks ago, but this past week I’ve only seen four-car trains.
Metro bus driver says Metro has threatened to fire drivers who complain about fentanyl being smoked on the the bus.
Notice the hyperbole. “Public transit new drug den”, “all day every day”, one driver and passenger interviewed, “every other bus”, passed-out or sleeping people assumed to be fentanyl users (are they really?, how does the reporter know?), “smell of burning peanut butter mixed with drain cleaner”, “hundreds of buses and light rail trains became littered with scorched foil”. I wouldn’t ride buses either if they were all like that. But this is just a small fraction of buses. I ride buses regularly and haven’t seen people smoking or passed out like that, and I’ve never smelled chemical fumes. (Whatever burning peanut butter and drain cleaner smell like; I assume it smells like industrial chemicals.) At first I thought this was on a right-wing news site or KOMO, but KIRO is more mainstream. (Er, not so much KIRO-FM, so maybe that has affected the TV station.) There’s a way to report this without being so sensationalistic or giving the impression it’s happening on all bus runs and hesitant passengers will encounter it. This is like when the media overplays shootings and gives the impression you’ll get shot if you go to southeast Seattle or downtown, when tens of thousands of people have lived for over five or ten years and have not been shot or even threatened.
I give more credence to ATU than to these news stations trying to sensationalize stories.
Metro may have a policy of taking complaints to one’s supervisors rather than the media. That’s pretty standard in any industry. Taking it to the union is usually okay, too. I’m pretty sure there is no special cover-up of fentanyl-smoking complaints by drivers. Indeed, Metro should be able to provide data on the complaints. If Metro or ATU provided the data for the claim that hundreds of drivers have complained, they should get credited for providing that data. Failure to name the source of that claim or that it was provided anonymously is a journalistic sin.
Fentanyl, as a death-inducing drug, is unfortunately common well beyond the population experiencing homelessness (and certainly not prevalent among the population experiencing homelessness).
I don’t know if this recent rash of fentanyl smoking on the bus is going away. But I do know the ridership is coming back. The drop in ridership opened the door for more non-transit-purposed rides. Fentanyl, I’m pretty sure, played little to no role in the ridership drop. Heck, if the news stories are to be believed, it may have even bolstered ridership a trickle. The story could have at least mentioned omicron in passing as the primary cause of ridership drop. The piece of context will be missing when people view this story in the archives.
Chasing any particular group of riders won’t make a dent in the fentanyl epidemic. Nor will chasing any particular group off the sidewalks make a dent.
But behavior that threatens the safety of other passengers should not be treated as a personal choice. It should be treated as an illegal offense. As in get a copy of their ID and give them a trespass warning. If no ID, skip to step 2. Step 2: Spend a few hours under arrest the second time they are caught doing it on the bus. Maybe after those few hours, they might even voluntarily agree to enter a detox facility.
Stopping the bus and getting everyone off is exactly the right procedure when toxic smoke is filling the bus.
For trains, the operator will remain oblivious in most cases, so get a hold of Metro Customer Service and get your fellow riders off that car at the next station. Warn others not to board. You can then push the emergency button from the safety of a different car, to get the operator’s attention. The car can be taped off or the doors kept shut so the train can continue, once transit security gives the all-clear.
I have not actually had to deal with fentanyl smoke on any of my countless rides. If you realize the smoke is toxic, quick action can save the lives of other riders, and maybe even the culprit, too.
Sometimes companies only respond after hyperbolic news stories about them. I imagine the way the local news got this story is, first, some drivers on some problem routes complained to their bosses that some passengers were smoking fentanyl sometimes. The employees didn’t see any response or results from their complaints, so they contacted the news, to see if that will get their bosses’ attention.
Mike, you said you took Russian at Bellevue High. I know the teacher took students to Russia during the summer every once in a while. Did you ever go?
There’s also a fentanyl epidemic throughout society. Its manufacturers have no relationship to transit. It’s easier to obtain and cheaper than previous drugs, so it’s more widespread. Most fenalyl use probably takes place in buildings rather than on buses.
Here’s where Sam can do some investigative reporting. You post videos of “people say fentalyl is a major issue on the bus” but have you seen it? When’s the last time you rode a bus or train?
“Mike, you said you took Russian at Bellevue High. I know the teacher took students to Russia during the summer every once in a while. Did you ever go?”
First, how do you know about Olga Mihailovna Penrose? Did you take her Russian class? No, I didn’t go then, only after college. But students who had gone told us about it. This was in the early 80s so it was just starting to open up. One student said a guy wanted to trade his bicycle for an American frisbee. Another insisted Pepsi was a Russian product, not an American product. (Pepsi was one of the few Western products that had been available there for a long time.)
You see, the problem is that for Link and any bus based system, the operator doesn’t have the help of a conductor, as the railroads do. They’re tasked with keeping the vehicle operating, not babysitting what are assumed to be adults, regardless of their position in society, or color of their clothing.
While the media might sensationalize it for the “oooh, transit is scary” crowd, the bus drivers and LR operators get to put up with it at least some time during their day.
Whatever drug it may be, it’s still Public Intoxication, and it should be handled the same.
Taken of the vehicle at least.
Should read “taken off” , and railroad conductor
There is a huge difference between drinking on the bus and filling it with toxic smoke. With the mere drinking, the bus can keep moving. Fentanyl smoke really is that toxic that the bus needs to be evacuated. Smoking such a toxic substance on the bus needs to be legally (not tactically) treated as assaults on every other passenger on the bus, plus the operator.
While drinking on the bus is a rules violation, public intoxication is not.
Being intoxicated doesn’t excuse any resulting behavior, of course. But in my experience, most annoying behavior on the bus is done by sober people, who appear to have a home somewhere and access to laundry, and who appear to know what they are doing, and appear to know it is a rules violation. Sure, they may crouch behind a seat while spilling potato chip fragments all over the seat or floor, or just sit up and keep an eye on the rear-view mirror. The boombox may go into loud mode until the operator gets on the loudspeaker. Rarely do these rule-breakings result in having someone get an official warning or escorted off the bus.
Nor does masklessness on ground transit seem to get anyone in trouble, but the politicians seem to be giving in to the loudest most obnoxious voices when it comes to policy around fighting the pandemic, anyway. While there may be the rare case of someone who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons, wearing a mask on a bus or in a grocery store for a half hour really is not that difficult. It really isn’t. Claims otherwise are just pathetic. That the governor is getting ready to legalize this kind of behavior, because every other politician has waved the white towel to the freedom-to-be-dangerous absolutists, is also pathetic. If they are asserting a right, it is based not on the First Amendment, but on the Second. But I digress.
That said, toxic fentanyl smoke on the bus is way more dangerous than masklessness. It appears to be happening more than I realized (and I have never been one of the unlucky ones to witness it), and probably less often than the news portrays it, but I’m glad operators are aware of it and know what to do when they see or smell it. Train passengers are relatively on our own, until we alert the operator or transit security. The plan for transit security needs to evolve to a more humane approach than letting the culprit OD if that is their choice.
Given my irrevocable STB typing error, and subsequent attempt at correction, the flow of my statement was lost, and my meaning seemingly lessened.
“Whatever drug it may be, it’s still Public Intoxication, and it should be handled the same. Taken off the vehicle at least.”
(emphasis -at least)
My point was zero tolerance for public use of any deleterious substance.
I’m on the same page as you for all the other public misbehavior.
“While drinking on the bus is a rules violation, public intoxication is not.”
Washington state law covers public intoxication in a conveyance.
Drinking in public conveyance—Penalty against individual—Restricted application.
Every person who drinks any intoxicating liquor in any public conveyance, except in a compartment or place where sold or served under the authority of a license lawfully issued, is guilty of a misdemeanor. With respect to a public conveyance that is commercially chartered for group use and with respect to a for hire vehicle licensed under city, county, or state law, this section applies only to the driver of the vehicle.
[ 1983 c 165 § 30; 1909 c 249 § 441; RRS § 2693.]
and not to be too pedantic but although all are technically trains, Sounder and Amtrak have conductors on board walking the train. Link has only the operator (a.k.a. motorman)
Jim, all that law says is that it’s illegal to drink on a bus, not that it’s illegal to be drunk on a bus.
Being disorderly, however, is a different misdemeanor: https://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.84.030
When Metro offers free rides home on New Years’ Eve, I think it is understood one of transit’s purposes is to get drunk people home so they don’t attempt to drive home intoxicated.
At one time, not tooooo long ago, turning right or left across a painted cross-walk when a “Walk” light was illuminated was a ticketable offense if there was anyone in the cross-walk at all. And tickets were issued.
Now we have the bizarre “two lanes buffer” rule which is violated with impunity.
Texas, Florida and many other states have “stand your ground” defenses for killing someone.
Perhaps progressive Washington could consider passing a “walk your ground” law and let pedestrians blast away at cars turning right in front of, in back of, or especially over them?
After all, “cars don’t kill people, people kill people”, right?
Not even two lane rule but “upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling” (RCW 46.61.235)
Of course all you hillbillies have problems with cars and pedestrians,
You have to learn where jaywalking is an art form,…
New York City!
NYC had a head start with the machines taking over. It had a passenger rail line starting in 1870. The Model T started rolling off the assembly line in 1908.
I prefer jaywalking in the middle of the block, myself.
That way I only have to look two directions.
At crosswalks, it’s all 4 compass points, plus I have to deal with the goofy gophers drivers of the Pacific Northwest
I’ve regularly resort to fake turning or averted glances just to get some drivers to go in front of me, so I can keep my regular walking pace.
You make a great point for having all streets one-way for horizontal conveyances.
Sure, the cars go faster, but there are breaks in between while they obey the traffic lights.
My main concern though is all the blind spots from allowing parking along the whole block. We have to allow parking somewhere so it doesn’t take out basements or even whole buildings that could be used for better purposes. If we line the streets with parking, there need to be buffer lanes where the horizontal conveyances are not allowed, but there is plenty of space for families to stand and see what is coming. Of course, the parked cars will have to cross the buffer lanes, so maybe stacking the cars in garages makes better geometric sense.
Deliveries will still need to cross buffer lanes somewhere, regardless. That does not mean we have to have them in the middle of transit mall streets.
There are transit counterarguments, like, do we really want to have bus routes split between streets a block or two apart, knowing how poor the wayfinding is for 1-Line stations, much less bus stops?
There are also ADA issues, like how does this work for pedestrians with vision disabilities? I’m no expert, but mid-block traffic lights seem a lot safer than the ones with traffic in four directions and allowing cars to turn into crosswalks where people have been told that it is safe to cross.
“My main concern though is all the blind spots from allowing parking along the whole block. “
Alternate side of the street parking!
Alternate-side-of-the-street parking makes it safer to Irish-walk one way across the street, but not the other.
I suppose some businesses like it that way, similar to making it free to cross the Sound to the west, and inordinately expensive to the east, so as to get all the Irish to the west side of the Sound.
I learned to look both ways on a one way street when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, after the Pot/Vaping customer decided the wrong way was a valid choice.
In NYC, it was more a matter of judging speed… as in… how much faster than the speed limit are they approaching, and whether the light was changing at that time. (i.e. red and green illuminated simultaneously)
At 5 PM last Friday, I boarded a bus at 3rd and Pine. The good news: 3rd and Pine was clear. The bad news: all the crazies and drug addicts were hanging out one block over, at 3rd and Pike, instead – in the middle of rush hour and in broad daylight.
Needless to say, on the way back, I took a different bus, which avoided the need to transfer in that area.
One person shot and killed at 3rd and Pine this afternoon.
I want to note how ST is no longer providing monitoring reports to the public. Very few reports outside of mandatory Board meeting info is appearing on their web site:
In particular, ridership reports have pretty much stopped. The last quarterly report was 7.5 months ago for 2021 Q1.
Meanwhile, ST has been submitting data for the National Transit Database with FTA to stay compliant and get funding from them.
So this appears to be a deliberate decision somewhere in ST that monitoring info no longer should be shared with the public. To me this is quite concerning. Is anyone else concerned? .
I look forward to seeing the data for lessons learned on how pandemics affect ridership. I don’t feel the need to see it every week or month. Accurate data is important. Rushing it out for media and critic consumption, not so much.
“Is anyone else concerned?”
Yes. I have posted about this in the recent past as well.
This is clearly a deliberate change under the direction of senior management. It is also a clear violation of the agency’s own internal policy.
The issue of reporting accuracy is also a bunch of nonsense.
Now queue the ST apologists to offer their unpersuasive rebuttals….
I’m no SoundTransit apologist and have said at least a few critical things about their operation,, but I would point out that they have some 110 vacancies posted on their web site right now. If you know anyone that hates their current job, maybe have them take a look?
This type of thing doesn’t get done by magic.
Well, based on some of the comments made about ST’s report on the Apple Cup Train Stall, maybe by filling the most important position first, the rest should come into line.
Nobody actually read the Q1 2021 report, huh?
Last line of page 1:
Future Service Delivery Quarterly Performance Reporting will be delivered through an interactive dashboard
that will be found on soundtransit.org
Which admittedly wasn’t immediately obvious, but appears to be located here: https://www.soundtransit.org/ride-with-us/system-performance-tracker
“Nobody actually read the Q1 2021 report, huh?”
Lol. You really shouldn’t make such an assumption. Yes, many of us have read the report and duly noted the dashboard comment.
Have you tried to use the dashboard on a mobile device? If so, have you seen the output? This is a far cry from the previously published quarterly performance reports. (Examples: no comparison to plan, no breakdown between Sounder North and Sounder South, weekday/Sat/Sun averages by mode data not available, etc.) And, the last I checked, the board reporting internal policy requirement has not been changed by any subsequent board-passed motion.
Thanks for the link Nathan. That is great info.
When I compare Central Link to ST Express, TL, and Sounder it looks like the increase in Link ridership may have to do with the opening of Northgate Link in October 2021. The others don’t see much of an increase in ridership, especially on weekdays.
Ridership rose on Central Link on weekdays from 36,900 daily boardings to 60,700 in October, and a little less in Nov. (60,600) and Dec. (55,800). The difference between Sept. and Oct. daily boardings is 23,800, and between Sept. and Dec. is 18,900, which are large percentage increases over Sept. boardings which are obviously low due to the pandemic.
Does anyone know what pre-pandemic daily weekday boarding estimates were for Northgate Link, or what estimated weekday daily boardings were for Central Link including Northgate Link? I know for East Link the pre-pandemic estimated daily boardings were 43,000 to 52,000.
I found this but it is only through 2020 (and ironically at the bottom of the chart is a warning about overcrowding). https://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/Linkpassengercount.htm#:~:text=As%20noted%20in%20Table%205.1%20of%20the%20FTA-required,an%20entire%20month%20go%20above%20the%202011%20goal.
According to this link the forecasts negotiated with the U.S. DOT were 37,800 boardings by 2011, 66,400 by 2016, and an additional 28,400 with NL (Angle Lake was an additional 1000). In 2011 actual ridership was 21,400 below estimated ridership.
It could also be boardings increased in Feb. 2022 when the UW went to in person learning.
Does anyone have a link to monthly farebox recovery rates or revenue? Considering Rogoff brought that issue up to the Board I would think there is a link like the one Nathan links to for Farebox recovery/revenue month by month pre and post pandemic that would include evidence for Rogoff’s statement non-fare paying riders equal 30% in some situations.
To the best of my knowledge, ST has only formally published an annual fare revenue report, which I think is an authorizing legislation requirement (but don’t quote me on that).
Well good, I’m glad the info is still available.
Interestingly, the last quarterly report never called it a “system performance tracker” and its not linked to Documents and Reports web page. It’s not even on the “Get to know us” web page! It’s parked under “Ride with us”. and even then it’s only linked on the pull down bar (and not on any other part of that page). So how the heck is that being transparent?
It’s also not providing the station breakdowns that used to be in the quarterly report. So it’s still not sharing some current data.
@Tslgwm: I see no other mentions of the dashboard – it seems to me that if you were offended by (or aware of) the switch to a online dashboard as the ridership reporting mechanism, you would mentioned that you feel the dashboard is inadequate.
The data are revealing. It suggests how impactful the Northgate Link Extension is (20-30K). It also shows how much fleeing from Sounder is occurring — and less so from ST Express.
If I was looking at this page, I would seriously question the need to add expensive Sounder parking garages in Auburn and Kent. Those projects should be tabled until there are more riders back on Sounder. Personally, I think many drivers will drive the extra 2-3 miles to Link even though it’s slower than Sounder — because high train frequencies and 17 hours of service are very attractive to riders who drive to transit.
“@Tslgwm: I see no other mentions of the dashboard – it seems to me that if you were offended by (or aware of) the switch to a online dashboard as the ridership reporting mechanism, you would mentioned that you feel the dashboard is inadequate.”
Ok. The dashboard is inadequate, particularly when utilizing a mobile device. Fair enough?
Also, as I alluded to in my earlier comment, the agency has not updated, or rescinded, its own internal policies regarding performance measures and the periodic reporting of said measures to the board since 2018:
“The annual agency budget sets specific service performance targets for each transit mode. The service standards and performance measures provide a framework for evaluating each mode and how well it meets those performance targets. Performance data is reported annually in the agency’s Service Implementation Plan (SIP) and reported in monthly and quarterly reports to the Board of Directors, which can be found online at soundtransit.org/ridership”
–Sound Transit Service Standards and Performance Measures, 2018 Edition
I don’t think anything meaningful can be taken from Sounder ridership while the downtown offices are closed. It will be very interesting to see how future travel patterns change due to remote/hybride work, new Link extensions, and other changes, but travel patterns today during the pandemic & lingering lockdown are irrelevant for long term planning.
I don’t think anything meaningful can be taken from Sounder ridership while the downtown offices are closed.
Agreed. If people aren’t commuting, than the commuter rail line isn’t going to have many people.
More than anything, this just shows we are still in a pandemic. Weekday Link ridership has recovered somewhat, while weekend Link ridership has fully recovered. But that was with one of the biggest, most important extensions ever. This increase in trips in the heart of the city makes up for the loss of commuter trips downtown. It shows that these trips are more pandemic resistant. If Link had a suburban extension, I would expect much lower numbers (similar to how Sounder still struggles).
This is likely to change dramatically in the next few years, as businesses open up downtown, and people get back to commuting there.
Fyi regarding Sounder South…
Per the March 2022 service changes announcement:
“The following trips are restored on the S Line:
“1501 (6:05 a.m. from Seattle)
1509 (3:15 p.m. from Seattle)
1514 (7:20 a.m. from Tacoma)
1522 (4:30 p.m. from Tacoma)
“There are no changes to N Line service.”
“So how the heck is that being transparent?”
It’s not. Let’s hope things change under the leadership of the agency’s next CEO. The current one frequently talked about accountability and transparency but those became largely empty talking points to this observer.
“I don’t think anything meaningful can be taken from Sounder ridership while the downtown offices are closed. It will be very interesting to see how future travel patterns change due to remote/hybride work, new Link extensions, and other changes, but travel patterns today during the pandemic & lingering lockdown are irrelevant for long term planning.”
I agree, except that massive long-term planning is going on right now, from the WSBLE DEIS to transit restructures on the eastside to a number of state bills to change zoning around transit.
The reality is ST and state Democrats are proceeding with long term planning under the PSRC’s 2050 vision statement as if the pandemic will go away and things will return to pre-Covid patterns because that kind of TOD vision is a vision they want, and one that benefits downtown Seattle, and produces Seattle’s tax revenue. Probably unlikely. Meanwhile most cities in the Puget Sound region are beginning their 8-year cycle rewrite of their comprehensive plans with this huge ideological push for TOD, with downtown Seattle the hub and transit the spokes.
I agree with Tisgwm that the Dash Board is incomplete in many ways. Is the increased ridership beginning in Oct. 2021 due to more riders returning to Link or due to NG Link opening. Are they going to and from downtown Seattle as expected in this hub and spoke system, or someplace else. Why did ridership decline in December?
Still, Link is around 66% of estimated ridership after NG Link opened, and those are by far the densest lines. It is almost certain to have a further decline when East Link opens because ST really inflated ridership on East Link to sell ST 2 and 3, and DSTT2. (and by the way, did anyone else find it odd that NG Link is estimated to have around 28,000 new riders and East Link 53,000).
Probably the biggest impacts from the pandemic and working from home are on the eastside, in large part because it is such a car centric area, people have jobs where they can WFH, especially during non-peak times when there is little traffic congestion with so much free parking. These are folks who rode transit because they had to, not because they wanted to, have alternative forms of transportation that better fit their lives, and with Link running along 112th and cross lake ridership (east to west) likely down and 8-minute maximum frequencies I think the writing is on the wall (and the transit restructure reflects that to some extent, especially the 554 running along Bellevue Way– one seat rides, baby). The good news is fare payment will be higher on East Link.
I am not too concerned with the DEIS for WSBLE and DSTT2 because I think that is a political document designed to make someone in the future break the bad news it is not affordable. N. King does not have the money for the actual costs for DSTT2, and neither do three other subareas. Mode even more than coverage and frequency comes down to money. And in many ways it worked: transit advocates and West Seattle and Ballard got so excited about the fantasy design they forgot about the money. Imagine spending probably close to $20 billion to connect Ballard to West Seattle. No wonder Seattle has so many funding crises.
What I want to see is farebox recovery. 66% of estimated ridership is a lot worse if 30% are not paying, especially when ST chose a 40% farebox recovery rate. I am sure if Link were free more would ride. You have to be able to fund operations (and that includes replacement although that is usually the first area skimped on).
Look, I know I harp on the money, but Jesus Christ when the total cost of ST is now around $130 billion, and the Board simply votes to extend taxes to raise an additional $48 billion during a pandemic when ROW and construction costs exceed the revenue in the extension years, eastside projects are basically cancelled because they are extended so far (probably because those park and rides will never be necessary, which is not good for ST — and I had to laugh at ST revisiting charging for park and rides), and there is no way ridership and farebox recovery can come close to a 40% recovery rate, I think some adults need to PLAN, because the writing is on the wall.
Instead, all I see is just more engineering fantasy, and let’s face it transit and rail appeal very deeply to engineers: a very deep DSTT2 still budgeted at $2.2 billion no one can afford, and tunnels from West Seattle to Ballard that look good on paper but cost about $10 — $20 billion more than N. King Co. has including DSTT2, even with the realignment, IF they began construction today.
Yes, it is time to PLAN. The writing is on the wall. ST’s project cost estimations, general fund revenue estimations, and farebox recovery rate estimates, were cooked before the pandemic. The realignment was a political document. Even if we returned to 2019 it was not affordable. To pretend everything will return to the way it was when it comes to ridership and commuting and fantastical future population growth who all live in TOD’s despite current housing trends (which means farebox recovery and passing a transit levy on the eastside) is living in a fantasy.
Here is the Planning I would like to see: a truly honest estimation of future transit revenue and project costs including the likelihood a transit levy will pass, and farebox recovery based on rigorous and independent future pattern estimations and fare payment including population growth, and then either decide to wait and hope for change or make the tough decisions now: eliminate DSTT2 and WSBLE, use the DSTT2 set aside revenue to complete projects in the subareas, realize TOD is about commuting, and figure out a system to make people pay to ride Link, both for farebox recovery, and to make the experience cleaner and safer.
If the “Plan” is to wait and hope, then wait and hope, and stop planning as if everything will return to pre-pandemic transit and housing patterns, which were coerced in any case pre-pandemic. Do the DEIS in 2025, shelve the 2050 Vision Statement until 2025, and stop the state and local housing bills that at least right now are contrary to housing trends, because as I always say it is almost impossible to make people do things they don’t want to do, and I worry that right now we are “planning” based on what some want them to do, not what they want to do, and are doing now. “Now” is the best prediction of the future.
Long term planning for Sounder is on pause. WSBLE continues, because as Ross points out it has very little to do with commuting.
The business case for two parking garages well underway (ROW acquired, design completed) doesn’t change (if you thought they were a bad investment before COVID, then COVID probably doesn’t change that…)
“Long term planning for Sounder is on pause. WSBLE continues, because as Ross points out it has very little to do with commuting.”
If WSBLE has little to do with commuting then why does it run through downtown Seattle as basically its only destination (say rather than south)? Where are these riders going on Link? All of Link is heavily based on commuting. It is all about getting lots of people into and out of the downtown core at the same time because there is/was where the jobs were, the density, traffic congestion, expensive parking, all the things grade separated rail had advantages in. Otherwise the operational costs are not supportable.
In essence West Seattle and Ballard are suburbs. My guess is over 90% of residents have cars, which is why their number one goal is to get the bridge back open despite transit running. Why would someone in Ballard or West Seattle take transit during non-peak times, especially to someplace that is not downtown Seattle? West Seattle has fantastic access to I-5 and I-90. A non-commuting West Seattle resident would have to get to Link, take Link to a station which for them is downtown Seattle, and then transfer if their ultimate destination is not downtown or work related. Much easier to drive, or to catch a bus to where they are really going (east or south).
I may misunderstand Ross’s point, but it isn’t running light rail to West Seattle is a good economic or transit idea, or build WSBLE because it isn’t designed for commuters. His point — which I agree with — is you spend the enormous amounts on grade separated rail in the very few areas where job and population density make rail necessary over buses, and even then the cost of bridges or tunnels may make rail too expensive an option.
In any case, when it comes to WSBLE my point was the DEIS is simply a political document, and not a transit “planning” document, because the design demanded by the stakeholders is not remotely affordable for N. King Co., or three other subareas. Planning for something you cannot afford to build is not planning. It is wishful dreaming. My guess is the Board sees the DEIS and waiting and seeing, and somewhere down the line around 2025 or 2027 someone will come in — again — and say it isn’t affordable without more levy revenue, and this time really not affordable.
“If WSBLE has little to do with commuting then why does it run through downtown Seattle as basically its only destination (say rather than south)?”
Because Seattle’s geography and predominant travel patterns are an X, and WSBLE is the western half of the X. To get from Ballard to West Seattle or SeaTac or Southcenter you have to go through downtown. To get from Ballard to Eastside you have to go either through downtown or 45th/520.
“Where are these riders going on Link? All of Link is heavily based on commuting.”
We’ve said countless times. 75% of people’s total trips aren’t work commutes. A comprehensive transit system should serve all of them well, at least getting to the nearest neighborhood center even if it can’t serve every house directly. Since Northgate Link opened I have taken it for shopping, parks, farmers’ markets, etc, and when in-person events and clubs return I’ll take it to those. Others in that corridor take it to see relatives or to go to North Seattle College for classes or ad hoc reasons. People who live in Ballard or West Seattle or are going to there will use it for similar things.
The reason to build it is to have a comprehensive high-quality transit network, in a way that Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco, and many European cities do but San Jose, Dallas, Atlanta, and most of the US don’t. That’s a good and an end in itself, and is the reason all these cities have comprehensive transit networks more or less.
The reason not to build it is budget limitations, or because maybe we can get by with improving Ballard and West Seattle’s bus access since we do have the Spine, or because ST will design it so badly it can’t fulfill some of its goals (like a Ballard station on 14th).
“It is all about getting lots of people into and out of the downtown core at the same time”
That’s just one aspect of Link, and of light rail/metros in general. If it were all about going downtown peak hours, we could have focused on a peak-only solution. Sounder is a peak-only solution for southeast King County, for instance. But the point of light rail is to have robust all-day service. Crowd spikes don’t just happen at 8am and 5pm Monday-Friday. They also happen at ballgames, parades, and demonstrations. UW’s, Microsoft’s, the airport’s, and the hospitals’ peak hours don’t fit into the 8am and 9pm timeframe. East Link is not just about going to downtown Seattle at 8am; it’s also about going to Microsoft at 10am (when entire busloads of 545s and Microsoft shuttles run every five minutes and are full); going to downtown Bellevue’s destinations throughout the day, etc. Many voters focus on peak hours because that’s when they’re stuck in freeway congetion, so a lot of the marketing is geared toward that, but Link is about something much broader, and all the city/county officials understand this. That’s why they wanted light rail running like a 10-minute full-time metro and not some peak-only one-destination solution.
In essence West Seattle and Ballard are suburbs. My guess is over 90% of residents have cars, which is why their number one goal is to get the bridge back open despite transit running. Why would someone in Ballard or West Seattle take transit during non-peak times, especially to someplace that is not downtown Seattle?
“In essence West Seattle and Ballard are suburbs. My guess is over 90% of residents have cars, which is why their number one goal is to get the bridge back open despite transit running.”
That’s the problem we’re trying to solve. For the past sixty years West Seattle and Ballard and the rest of Seattle and King County have had medicore transit that’s not competitive with driving and often requires extraordinary time and patience sacrifices to use (like West Seattle to Bellevue or West Seattle to North Seattle). Part of the reason people drive is ideological, but part of it is because transit is so limited and people won’t make that much sacrifice. There’s evidence all over the world that when you improve transit, people come, including in lower-density areas like West Seattle or Bellevue or Redmond. It has worked in similar Canadian areas, so it should work here.
A 90% drive rate is what areas like Overlake or Issaquah or north Kent have. West Seattle and Ballard would probably be around 70%. All those trips on the C, 120, 21, 50, 60, 128, and peak expresses add up.
“north Kent have”
Er, the northeastern Kent residential area; e.g., SE 192nd Street or SE 240th Street. The northwest Kent industrial area is a different issue. It’s also probably a 90% drive rate, or maybe less, like 85%, for similar reasons, but what specific incentives would get then onto transit are different. In a residential area, people are going from it. In an industrial area, people are going to it, from all over the surrounding area wherever they live.
The mere fact Sounder ridership hasn’t recovered well, but Link has done much better, illustrates that people use Link for general purpose transportation, rather than only commuting to jobs.
As far as why it goes to downtown Seattle as opposed to somewhere else, where would you have it go?
Bellevue? Oh, wait, with the proposed line, you can get to Bellevue much easier from Ballard.
Maybe you mean like the UW? Like many on this web site have been promoting? Like would supplement the eternally slow but busy 44?
Unfortunately that isn’t what assorted elected people decided was useful.
West Seattle is much more of a suburb than Ballard. Of course it is a judgement call, but consider a few relatively common characteristics:
1) Cut off from the rest of the city (i. e. isolated).
2) Connected to the core of the city via a freeway, carrying huge numbers of people.
3) Pockets of apartments, but mostly low density single family.
These all describe West Seattle, but they don’t describe Ballard. You can walk from Ballard to the UW (I have). It is continuously urban. Oh, there are plenty of places with houses, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you find that a lot of the areas zoned for single family actually have small apartments, while much of the area along the way has been rezoned. There is no freeway, or expressway connecting Ballard to the UW (quite the opposite). There is an expressway connecting Ballard to downtown though (Magnolia is much more a suburb than Ballard, despite being closer to downtown).
Why did they decide to run the trains that way? The choice was completely arbitrary. Seriously, I challenge anyone to find any study anywhere that supported either route. There isn’t any. They started with the assumption that going to West Seattle and Ballard was a good idea, and *then* studied some options. Rail to places like First Hill or the Central Area was never studied. Rail from Ballard to the UW was rejected, *despite* their own studies that showed it performed as well as Ballard to downtown, and much better than West Seattle rail. Oh, and why was rail chosen for these corridors anyway — why not bus improvements? No reason — again, the choice was arbitrary. Oh, they studied “BRT”, but with minimal amount of funding for improvements, and only one corridor, they found it was slow and wouldn’t carry that many riders. It is like they compared a Ferrari with a moped and decided the best value for going really fast is a sports car (not a high performance motorcycle).
You can come up with reasons for why the choices were made for ST3, but none of them stand up to reason, because that wasn’t how they were chosen. The “spine”, West Seattle rail, Issaquah to South Kirkland rail — they were all arbitrary choices. Every last one. There is no evidence it is the best, most cost effective option for commuters, or for non-commuting transit riders. They just thought it would be nice.
It didn’t have to be that way, or course. They could have hired a firm — maybe several to get differing opinions — to study options. They could have simply told them “Hey, we are going to spend dozens of billions of dollars improving our transit system — what is the best value?”. They could have looked at increase ridership, or time saved per rider, or any number of metrics. But ST wasn’t interested in any of that, but ultimately, that isn’t their mission. ST is not trying to create the best transit system for the money, they are simply trying to build a bunch of stuff.
Ross, SoundTransit is legally obligated to join the “Regional Centers” of its service area with trains as a preference or buses if there is insufficient demand to justify the capital expense of rail service.
As you certainly know, neither Ballard nor West Seattle is a “Regional Center”, so WSBLE is not really Kosher; “bus improvements” would certainly not be allowed. They would have been local bus improvements, completely off the table. Grant, WSBLE, even as a train, is still a “local improvement”. At least, north of Gates Foundation it is, so I’m kind of surprised that Delirium Tremens hasn’t cobbled up a citizens’ suit. Pro bono of course.
In fact, since the only ST3 projects not included in “WSBLE”, Graham and 130th Stations, total about $350-400 million, you could say pretty accurately that, regardless what Delirium babbles, it’s North King which is building a line so that Snohomish and Pierce can have their Subway to Nowhere Spine completions.
Tremens should direct his wrath about East King having to waste its transit money at South King, Pierce and Snohomish.
Of course, the thing never would have passed without the votes of those folks in the Not a Regional Centers.
“As you certainly know, neither Ballard nor West Seattle is a ‘Regional Center'”
That’s a problem in King County’s formula. Regional growth centers are defined by a minimum zoned job capacity. So Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, and Federal Way dutifully zoned the Spring District, Totem Lake, northwest Issaquah, and central Federal Way to meet that so they’d be must-serve by Sound Transit.
Ballard-Fremont and Lake City are clearly Seattle’s fourth- and fifth-largest urban centers and rival the others, but they fall short of the formula because they have a more even balance of jobs and housing. That’s what urban centers should have, but in King County’s formula they fall short on the number of jobs. So the county should either fix the formula or grant them exceptions.
If they had been official county growth centers earlier, ST would have had to look more closely at the Lake City Way alternative for Lynnwood Link, and Ballard would have been in play in ST2. We missed that boat but they should still get the role their population and jobs and potential deserve.
so WSBLE is not really Kosher; “bus improvements” would certainly not be allowed.
There’s a difference between not being must-serve and not being allowed to serve. Ballard and Lake City are clearly large enough to be “regional transit” nodes, and far enough away from downtown, the U-District, or Northgate to justify some kind of service to them. The original route 560 alignment went from Bellevue TC to the West Seattle Junction, in order to give North King some ST Express service beyond the freeway stations and Lake City. It was truncated to Westwood Village due to low ridership, not because WSJ didn’t qualify for service. And Westwood Village is not an urban growth center either, even though to Seattle it’s a hub urban village intended to eventually have a couple office buildings. And ST is contributing to RapidRide G and PT 1, and will contribute to C and D if they eventually reach their turn in the realignment. (And by that time they may be canceled because the need for them is now, not after WSBLE is running.) So it could theoretically contribute to a larger Swift or RapidRide network if ST wanted to, or at least ST could explore whether it could.
They would have been local bus improvements, completely off the table
Man these are lovely treatises on West Seattle and Ballard!
I will note that WSBLE Ballard extension runs through South Lake Union and Uptown RGCs too (and by Seattle Center with its regional role). The part of the corridor between Smith Cove and Stadium is inside a regional growth center district and is also a substantial part of the cost.
If anything, the WSBLE project is a bit misscoped and misnamed. For starters, it probably should be two separate EISs — the West Seattle Link Extension (WSLE) and the Ballard/ Uptown/ South Lake Union Link Extension (BUSLULE or SLUUBLE) or just Northwest Seattle Link Extension (NWSLE). I could get behind just Ballard/Uptown Link Extension (BULE) too.
I’ll finally observe that West Seattle’s justification may look less robust if it had to be scrutinized on its own and that any tunneling in West Seattle’s case will add a few more years to the already unrealistic opening date (consider that East Link’s original DEIS was published 14 years ago in 2008 and had a least two supplements to that — and that’s just a short new tunnel and no new subway stations). With no consensus, significant property takes, complex construction around tall buildings and lots of earth moving and subway stations, I don’t see how either branch can open before 2040 as is now planned (unless WS is all above ground and even then it’s probably 2036-7) even if there wasn’t a funding gap.
“In fact, since the only ST3 projects not included in “WSBLE”, Graham and 130th Stations, total about $350-400 million, you could say pretty accurately that, regardless what Delirium babbles, it’s North King which is building a line so that Snohomish and Pierce can have their Subway to Nowhere Spine completions.
“Tremens should direct his wrath about East King having to waste its transit money at South King, Pierce and Snohomish.”
Since this is one of your 3:28 am posts TT (what are you doing up at that hour, let alone on a transit blog) I will cut you some slack, but still I don’t see your point, and still think you misunderstand subarea equity.
I have long noted that N. King Co. probably paid a disproportionate amount to run the spine to SnoCo and S. King Co. But if ST wanted a spine from Everett to Tacoma based on some kind of PSRC/urbanist utopia that was the only way to afford it. Unfortunately, the merry-go-round ended with ST 3.
It is why I try to point out that assuming these same three subareas will magically come up with 1/2 to pay for the actual cost of DSTT2 — no matter how the language of ST 3 is interpreted — when they don’t have that money, or even the $275 million/each based on the $2.2 billion cost estimate, is pointless. You can’t get blood out of turnip. It would be suicide for N. King Co. to start digging DSTT2 based on the assumption the three other subareas will “somehow” find the extra $275 million, or N. King Co. the extra $1.1 billion plus the extra $825 million the three other subareas don’t have. These are huge numbers I don’t think some really understand (Seattle Subway Syndrome).
Graham St. and 130th IMO are value engineering once the decision was made to build the north/south spine. Light rail is supposed to have some connection to urban areas. But what accelerating those stations really means — when Rogoff is announcing an $11.5 billion shortfall at the same time — is this is the money N. King Co. has once WSBLE has been “extended”, or really eliminated. The “realignment” is just a political document,
Compare the cost of two stations to probably close to $20 billion for WSBLE and DSTT2. That is E. King Co. kind of efficiency.
It is true the ST Board has “reallocated” around $2 billion from E. KC to N. KC from the express buses, “realignment”, and having E. KC pay for 100% of rail across the bridge span including post tensioning ST missed (and those same trains continuing north in Seattle increasing frequency by 2X). But S. KC, SnoCo and Pierce Co. needed that subsidy, which was simply funneled through N. King Co. We knew that on the eastside.
I don’t mind that subsidy although I never thought running 90 miles of rail from nowhere to nowhere was good economic sense (even before the pandemic). Pre-pandemic I can see Ross’s point that running light rail from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue along public ROW’s and on the surface made sense (although not along 112th), but sense for the eastside. The point in 2004 of ST 2 that I think Mike misses was not to get folks from Ballard to Bellevue because why would we pay for that, but to get eastsiders to downtown Seattle (and not Ballard since eastsiders never go to Ballard). We would have never voted for ST 2 if the benefits were primarily for N. King Co. (which it turns out they probably will be).
Ross has a long post pointing out what he has pointed out before: ST 3 makes very little economic or transit sense because it was designed to SELL ST 3 because that was existential to complete ST 2 and not for actual transit, except it was necessary to complete the north/south spine. But it made less than zero sense on the eastside. We just didn’t understand that at the time.
E. King Co. had/has the revenue from ST 2 alone to complete rail to Redmond, even though I think running light rail to Redmond (or even Microsoft based on its current employee demographic) makes little sense. It has the revenue from ST 2 alone to build all the park and rides it wants, and express bus service along 405. Last I heard ST 2 will have a surplus of over $5 billion after East Link is completed. ST 3 was completely unnecessary, except to rope E. KC into contributing to DSTT2, that N. KC can’t afford.
The irony about Tom’s lament is that yes, subareas were drawn up way back when based on the economics at the time and desire to build light rail from Everett to Tacoma, but even if we redrew them today they would probably be the same on the west side because the economics among the four subareas haven’t really changed. The only change would be to include the E. KC subarea in the north/south spine more, except the lake makes a very clear demarcation line and east KC does not see the benefit to it from a spine from Everett to Tacoma.
It bothers me morally to see a $4.5 billion (estimated) line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland, because we have other social needs than spending $4.5 billion on a line between two very privileged cities that will never use that stupid line. If that money were reallocated to some extent to S. KC or SnoCo or Pierce Co. for worthy projects (like Graham St. or 130th or express buses) I could live with that because that is what progressive taxation is about.
But to reallocate a dime for something as ridiculous and expensive as WSBLE and DSTT2 that actually takes money from these three other subareas — money they don’t have — is immoral IMO, and I think the current and future price tag of ST is immoral.
Maybe the biggest problem with ST 3 is it jaded the eastside towards these transit levies which now seem so dishonest, and E. King Co. is always the swing vote on these county-wide Metro levies or ST regional levies. With the loss of the commuter, passing any transit levy in E. King Co. becomes nearly impossible. That is the real reason why WSBLE won’t get built: it was predicated on ST 4.
So N. King Co. is on its own. E. KC can cut a check for $275 million for DSTT2, and probably even a check for $550 million for DSTT2 although I think the subarea will object on moral grounds for that amount, but that leaves all the rest of the costfor N. King Co., just like most of the spine.
Take the gift from E. KC, complete Graham St. and 130th stations, complete Lynnwood Link and Federal Way Link since they have been waiting for nearly 14 years, and see what the ridership is in 2025 or 2026, or 2035, because that will tell you what the farebox recovery is (which won’t be 40% and will probably need turnstiles), and whether a future transit levy is possible which will be necessary for WSBLE.
Tom loves to rail against those he thinks have the money and his own poverty, but the issue when it comes to DSTT2 and WSBLE are the poorer subareas, which now included N. King Co. The gilded age of transit is over, and all those PSRC assumptions irrelevant after the pandemic, but still the spine can be finished at some point (although Pierce and SnoCo will have to make cuts because Rogoff’s project cost estimations didn’t spare them either), and Graham St. and 130th will be added.
That is it unless someone can sell ST 4 and 5 to the eastside. We talk about value engineering, but with transit advocates, progressives and especially ST value engineering is sneered at, until the money runs out.
“ST wanted a spine from Everett to Tacoma based on some kind of PSRC/urbanist utopia”
NON-urbanist utopia! Suburbanist utopia! An urbanist version would double Seattle’s population to 1.6 million, not extend Link beyond Redmond/Lynnwood/KDM, and contract the exurbs (meaning no growth in Issaquah, Woodinville, Spanaway, Orting, Monroe, or Marysville/Arlington but instead bulldozing the worst residential-only sprawl).
It wasn’t ST who pushed for the spine, it was Snohomish and Pierce, and East King and South King. They insisted on a three-county structure rather than a mostly-King County plan like Forward Thrust. Talk of a spine beyond that emerged in the 1990s and has never stopped. ST3 wasn’t just McGinn wanting Ballard and West Seattle, it was also Snohomish wanting Everett/Paine, Pierce wanting Tacoma Dome, and East King wanting Issaquah. If they hadn’t pushed for them, ST3 would be very different or may not have happened.
“An urbanist version would double Seattle’s population to 1.6 million, not extend Link beyond Redmond/Lynnwood/KDM, and contract the exurbs (meaning no growth in Issaquah, Woodinville, Spanaway, Orting, Monroe, or Marysville/Arlington but instead bulldozing the worst residential-only sprawl). It wasn’t ST who pushed for the spine, it was Snohomish and Pierce, and East King and South King.”
Mike, this is the kind of urbanist delusion I was talking about. You can’t make people live in Seattle (especially after many had fled Seattle) because you want them to ride transit.
And zoning is (or should be) a local issue. Again, Issaquah is not going to downzone because you want everyone in Issaquah to live in Seattle multi-family housing and ride transit.
I think a mistake some on this blog make is thinking because land is not built upon it is somehow zoned to remain unbuilt upon, or can be rezoned to some kind of public wilderness. All these parcels are zoned for development even if they have not yet been developed, with residential SFH being the least intensive. That is called a taking under the 5th Amendment and would require someone (ST?) to compensate all those property owners for the taking for their property so they would have to live in Seattle, which would consume the ST budget before an inch of rail was built.
Once ST included S. King Co., Pierce Co. and SnoCo of course they were going to insist on subarea equity (and no they were not going to move to Seattle to live in a shoebox). So they had to spend their ST tax revenue somewhere.
ST naturally thought everything begins and ends with downtown Seattle (which to be fair is usually where you build tunnels and subways) and so the spine was built. Probably not a bad assumption, pre-pandemic, except N. King Co. was going to have to pay a disproportionate share of the spine since the other subareas don’t have a lot of money and 90 miles of light rail is very expensive. Seattle benefits from workers commuting to the downtown core, not the other way around, and we are seeing that tax reallocation with WFH.
Some of us believe running a light rail spine along a freeway so it mimics both the freeway and buses in HOV lanes from Everett to Tacoma was not a best use of the money (especially with questionable east/west feeder bus service, and even at $74 billion). I have always thought that it would have been better if each subarea used their ST transit revenue intra-subarea, based on what they thought best, rather than trying to complete a spine from Everett to Tacoma. Use buses to connect to the outer light rail stations for a subarea, like Northgate for downtown Seattle, but don’t run light rail from Lynnwood to Northgate.
For the eastside there is a case to be made about running light rail from downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle because the distance is not too great and is mostly public ROW (with a lot of nothing in between including a lake), with a massive station and park and ride at S. Bellevue to keep commuters to Seattle from clogging downtown Bellevue. But not to Redmond. And under Bellevue Way, not along 112th, which is basically the same mistake made with the spine running along I-5 and hoping for new TOD that on the eastside will be too affluent to use transit.
I think what is happening is Seattle is remorseful about spending so much on the spine because it thought there would be ST 4 and 5 that would create a lot of ST tax revenue for downtown Seattle/N. King Co. subways now that the spine is completed, but that did not happen, and so Seattle probably put too much into a spine. The eastside paid 100% of East Link to connect with downtown Seattle, but the other subareas did not have the money for that.
It could be that when the north/south spine is completed downtown Seattle will be filled with shoppers and diners and workers from Everett and Tacoma and Federal Way with fistfuls of cash in their hands to spend, and if so ST will be proved right about the spine benefitting downtown Seattle. I doubt these folks would have wanted to go to West Seattle or Ballard anyway.
How do you know 1.6 million people wouldn’t want to live in Seattle if it were possible to do so for less money?
As long as zoning is the limiting factor, we don’t actually know how many people want to live here.
Mike was talking about downzoning the eastside to non-buildable lots to force eastsiders to live in Seattle to reach 1.6 million residents so ST’s ridership assumptions could be reached. I didn’t think that was practical or realistic.
Who knows if your assumption that 1.6 million people would like to live in Seattle if it were upzoned is correct, or whether your assumption that upzoning would make housing more affordable is correct? London is not very affordable, and it has around 10 million residents. Many cities in WA including Tacoma have much lower housing costs than Seattle but smaller populations, so maybe the cost of housing is not the primary factor when it comes to population, and maybe upzoning to incentivize new construction does not create more affordable housing. I certainly don’t think doubling the population of Seattle will make housing more affordable, with or without upzoning.
DT, you’re deluded by the propaganda that Seattle is dying. No one is forcing anyone to live in Seattle – If anything, residential zoning and restrictive design code is preventing people from living where they’d like to live. The “Urbanist Vision” would be to upzone Seattle to easily allow for a million housing units instead of the maximum of half of a million units theoretically possible right now (https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/OPCD/Demographics/Development%20Capacity%20Report.pdf). Where housing prices are high is where people want to live – surely that’s simple enough math for you.
I am bewildered by the volume of mental gymnastics you must do with your contradictory beliefs. You believe that new housing is necessary, but also developers only build unaffordable housing which shouldn’t be allowed to be built. Therefore, you believe that new housing must be subsidized, but also that no government can afford to build enough subsidized housing for all interested residents. So who’s building your kids’ future housing? And where?
In regards to transportation, you appear to believe that everyone wants and ought to be able to drive to all destinations, but also there isn’t enough space to widen all roadways enough to eliminate congestion. Therefore, you agree governments should provide high-capacity transportation to reduce travel-time costs, but then say there is not enough density to support high-capacity transit. You believe that high-capacity transportation should be provided to existing high-density neighborhoods, but also believe that high-density neighborhoods should be built and populated before the transit gets there. You also believe that high-density neighborhoods shouldn’t be allowed where there isn’t already high-density transportation. So there’s no chicken without the egg, but no egg without the chicken.
As they say: “make it make sense”.
Al, I specifically said “north of Gates Foundation”. I should probably have also said “and south of IDS”, because DSTT2 is certainly “within a Regional Center”. But without the Ballard and West Seattle extensions, it really is not needed. So please don’t lecture about SLU being a part of the Seattle CBD Regional Center.
Mike, sure, you’re absolutely right, they should be “Regional Centers”. But they’re not, and nor are Fremont and Lake City. Complain to the PSRC or King County or even the State Legislature who created the ST enabling legislation, but deal with what is.
Nathan, you are putting a lot of words in my mouth.
I am so tired of people on this blog stating that I alone am somehow “deluded” about Seattle is dying when I work in downtown five days/week, and have since 1988. Two weeks ago at 1:30 pm on Wednesday I heard gunshots from my office window and the victim died. The week before someone was shot at a bus stop on 3rd two blocks from my office, and the other day someone shot and killed on 3rd and Pine. Is that dying enough? I walked to the Polyclinic today and not a single lunch place was open including in the Columbia Center food court.
Did you follow the election for mayor or city attorney? Do you read the Seattle Times? Or God forbid an eastside Nextdoor? Do you ever come downtown? Yes, right now it is dead. The only question is whether it will come back post pandemic. Personally, I don’t care because I am out of here in June. Too many people on this blog believe what they want to be true without actually experiencing any of it.
When it comes to zoning what I am saying is that is a local issue. A city better understands the zoning its residents want, which is how zoning has been done for decades until the Master Builders Assoc. and Democrats got into bed together.
Yes, the GMPC has housing growth targets, but like recently those can be allocated among cities like Shoreline that want greater growth and density vs. say Sammamish. Seattle can figure out its own zoning, not my city’s zoning (and the residential zoning is not that much different). I am not aware of any city that is not meeting or close to its housing targets. Mercer Island is one city that is well ahead of its targets. Upzoning an entire city with no hope of serving those upzoned areas with transit is just stupid.
When it comes to housing — affordable not emergency/supportive — the reality is the private market is not geared to create affordable housing because the profit motive is the opposite, and new construction has a baseline that means it excludes the 30% and 50% AMI resident (if living alone). The problem is there are just too few progressives in the very Republican property game, so they don’t understand it or the motives.
In a built environment new construction has to replace existing construction (even if more units) and the replaced housing is usually the least expensive and most affordable BECAUSE IT IS NEW. Or do you plan to move to a new unit in The Spring District? That is why the state legislature is appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars for subsidized affordable housing: it needs public subsidies. If you knew anything about ARCH you would know they would tell you the same thing, and affordable housing begins with affordable land.
When it comes to transit my point is the money has run out. Does that make sense enough? Not enough riders. Dishonest project cost estimates and revenue estimates. Our transit systems have depended on transit slaves, and now those fare paying slaves are gone, and without traffic congestion, the need to commute peak hours, and awful, dangerous and unclean transit people have chosen to drive. Suprise surprise, when just about everyone has a car in their garage which is their first/last mile access and there is no transfer.
The good news is traffic congestion is still very mild without the peak commuter, parking is free or less than a round trip transit fare, and the peak commuter is much happier not spending their lives on packed smelly transit. If someone wants to ride transit good for them.
I don’t tell you to not live in multi-family housing in the urban center, or to not take transit. Get the best housing you can afford. But I do ask that people on this blog stop whining to me about the cost of housing because the rest of the world doesn’t give a shit, it ain’t going down, or the fact the money has run out for transit.
I live in a world (the other 90%) who think gentrification is great, SFH are great, private schools are great, multi-family housing is for poor people (unless in the downtown Bellevue skyscrapers they are building), rising rents are great, transit is for losers, and if you can’t afford the housing or life you want work harder. They don’t read transit blogs.
They make a killing finding older buildings like you probably live in and tearing them down (because they are concrete so inexpensive to demolish) and building much taller very expensive buildings, and they could not care less that you are displaced. I think they are a little harsh but they believe that 100%, and think it is absurd to spend $130 billion on light rail they are paying for but will never ride when those folks can take a bus. That part I tend to agree with based on the cost and design of Link.
I could be wrong. The commuter may return to downtown Seattle. Downtown Seattle may clean up its act and become safe and attractive again so retail density returns. The tents disappear. People riding Link will start paying their fare. People may flock back to transit even though they don’t have to take transit. Developers will build huge buildings with brand new affordable non-subsidized apartments filled with beautiful furnishings and stainless steel (electric of course) appliances even if they take a loss, and you will get one. The Board may suddenly find the money for WSBLE, and Pierce, SnoCo and S. King Co. will all cut checks for $550 million for DSTT2, and N. King Co. will find another $1.1 billion lying around. And King Co. will pass a huge Metro levy even though no one on the eastside is riding transit so there is some kind of first/last mile access to Link, and the ST taxing district passes ST 4 and 5, and Seattle Subway’s proposed levy, and Seattle passes a separate HB1304 levy, and all the roads are turned into bike lanes and the $3.5 billion in bridge repair funds itself. And Democrats hold the House and Senate in November.
Who knows, but my guess is there is a much better chance that that great transit project Issaquah to “South” Kirkland Link will get built before any of the dreams above. The real irony is the eastside folks I mention above all agree building a light rail line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland is about the stupidest idea they have ever heard (they really don’t know about WSBLE), but don’t know who came up with such a stupid idea.
“this is the kind of urbanist delusion I was talking about. You can’t make people live in Seattle”
You can’t have it both ways, urbanism meaning concentrating everything in Seattle (my ideal) meaning channeling growth to suburban centers (the suburban cities’/counties’ ideal); they’re the opposite. You said the Spine is an urbanist ideal but that’s the second definition, and it’s not what the word “urbanism” means. UrbanISM means preferring dense walkable mixed-use areas like Manhattan or Chicago. The suburban centers can be called “urban centers”, but only relative to a lower-density alternative. If Bellevue were urbanIST, the downtown core would be larger and would have a higher percent of the population (at least 50% say), and it would eliminate parking minimums in those areas and make all core bus routes full-time frequent (245, 250, etc).
I’m not expecting my urban ideal to happen because I know it doesn’t have sufficient political support, and King County rejected it in the 1980s when it was deciding how to channel growth. It chose what it calls “metro towns”, which is what those suburban growth centers are.
“And zoning is (or should be) a local issue. Again, Issaquah is not going to downzone because you want everyone in Issaquah to live in Seattle multi-family housing and ride transit.”
No it shouldn’t me. That leads to a tragedy-of-the-commons like situation: every little municipality chooses what fits their narrow interests or prejudices and beggar-thy-neighbor. Every city tries to get the cream of the crop and avoid everything else. But that’s like if every country exports more than it imports: it doesn’t work, or it turns into severe inequality and deprivation like we have now. Instead, Seattle should have continued to annex; Burien and Shoreline and northern Tukwila at least. Or there should be statewide or countywide zoning like Japan’s national zoning.
Japan’s zoning is pretty good, by the way; every density level allows all the (less-dense) uses under it rather than saying “only this here, only that there”. And it allows housing in odd-shaped small lots, even a narrow 2-3 story house. As a result, housing prices are lower than here, even in Tokyo. You can still get a house for $200K there. It just won’t have a three-car garage or big yard or no stores a block away, and it will be on a frequent subway or bus line.
“All these parcels are zoned for development even if they have not yet been developed”
…in the 20-30% of the buildable land that allows multifamily/commercial. It’s the size of the single-family area that’s the problem: 3/4 of the land. 3/4 of a 200K or 700K population can’t fit on that, so it becomes an aristocratic perk for the wealthiest. That might be tolerable if it’s 20-30% of the land but not when it’s 70%. 70% is only reasonable for small metro areas like 20K or under — like Seattle was a hundred years ago when it adopted mostly single-family zoning. (And it was tightened again in the 1970s; it was looser in the 50s and 60s, which is why apartments and corner stores exist in areas where they’re not allowed to be built now.)
“someone (ST?) to compensate all those property owners for the taking for their property so they would have to live in Seattle”
It would not be ST; it would be the county changing its zoning policy. In this counterfactual scenario where the county would be willing to.
“Once ST included S. King Co., Pierce Co. and SnoCo of course they were going to insist on subarea equity …
ST naturally thought everything begins and ends with downtown Seattle … and so the spine was built”
That’s not at all what happened. It was the non-North King subareas that insisted on the Spine, the creation of ST’s structure, and who pushed to get Everett Station and Tacoma Dome into ST3. The network converges on downtown Seattle because that’s (A) a transit best-practice to converge on the largest city, and (B) necessary given Pugetopolis’ geography which is a T shape. Downtown is not just where the offices are. it’s the largest downtown within 800 miles south, 1600 miles east, or 100 miles north. It’s where Amtrak, Sounder, Greyhound, and the most-used ferries are. It’s where the courthouse and county government is. Several regionally-significant hospitals are there. It’s the tourist capital of the region. All those generate ridership, or conversely generate car traffic. So ST did what was natural, and what the suburban cities expected. What else are you going to do, have a Spine on 405 with a 520 spur to Seattle? That would both miss the largest population/ridership center and be a longer distance and more time-consuming, and the FTA would probably say it’s illogical and refuse to grant it.
“I think what is happening is Seattle is remorseful about spending so much on the spine because it thought there would be ST 4 and 5”
Most Seattlites know nothing about these issues. They either think WSBLE is needed and want it now, or they think it’s not needed and probably voted against ST3, or they’re struggling to pay their annual car tabs.
“Seattle probably put too much into a spine.”
Northgate-Rainier Beach was justified on its own. There could have been variations like Ballard and SLU before Rainier Beach if Seattle were doing it in a vacuum and had sufficient tax authority of its own, but it was out-clouted by the suburbs which have 3/4 of the region’s population and representatives. So the only parts of the Spine North King might have overpaid on for the other subareas are Northgate-185th and Intl Dist-Judkins Park. And those are a small part of North King’s total length and cost.
“It could be that when the north/south spine is completed downtown Seattle will be filled with shoppers and diners”
Even if downtown isn’t filled, the U-District, Capitol Hill, Roosevelt, downtown Bellevue, the Spring District, Microsoft, the airport, and the colleges and high schools will be. People will be taking Link to/from all those for all sorts of reasons.
“I doubt these folks would have wanted to go to West Seattle or Ballard anyway”
Only because you’re looking at a narrow subset of the population and ridership. People do go to Ballard: they work in the offices/industry/retail, they take out-of-town guests to the Locks and Nordic Museum, they go to see bands whose only northwest show is in Ballard, they go to the farmers’ market, they go to visit friends and relatives, etc. They go everywhere else to, and from everywhere else. That’s why Link connects a lot of neighborhoods together, so that people can do that. If the transit trip is convenient, people will use it. Some people won’t; maybe only 30-40% will. But 70% of downtown commutes are non-driving, and you see that across entire cities like New York and London and Amsterdam and Copenhagen if the transit network is good.
“I am bewildered by the volume of mental gymnastics you must do with your contradictory beliefs.”
It’s Escher housing! One stairway goes both up and down. Chairs have legs that are both in front of and behind each other. White birds are flying east, or maybe it’s really black birds flying west.
DT, I appreciate you taking the time to immediately and completely regurgitate all the words I’ve “put in your mouth”. I hope your clients find it worth their dime for you to blather on a transit blog about how transit is for suckers. Do you find it a fulfilling and productive use of your day to argue like a flat-earther on a geography blog?
It must be so exhausting being to have such a strong compulsion to incessantly troll the comment section of a blog which advocates for basic ideas that you fundamentally oppose. I almost feel sorry for you.
City Attorney Ann Davison released a statement on Monday about the crime along Third Avenue, that says, in part, “the situation on Third Avenue is intolerable for our city. It’s not possible to run a business, commuters feel unsafe taking the bus to get to work
At least the current administration admits there is a problem. That’s the first step to recovery. Harrell was on the local news (K-5) with the byline “DT Seattle is not safe”.
“20K or under — like Seattle was a hundred years ago”
Wait, Seattle was 200K a hundred years ago; it was 20K in the 1800s. So that’s all the more reason it shouldn’t have adopted restrictive zoning in the early 20th century. It was tolerable then because the total city extent was small and the land was empty beyond it so it seemed like there was endless room for more houses, and the zoning was looser (missing middle housing and corner stores were allowed). But it isn’t empty anymore: the houses extend for fifty miles both directions beyond the city limits.
Fair enough Nathan, I do sometimes challenge the accepted orthodoxy on this blog, and part of that is because I live among citizens whose orthodoxy is pretty much different than the ideology on this blog, and I think some on this blog live with blinders on when it comes to transit, housing and public safety. You just never hear from those I tend to live and work among, although they make up the majority, and build and own a lot of the housing.
When it comes to the cost of rent I am reminded of a saying: If you are hungry don’t plant an apple tree. Any kind of upzone would take at least a decade to implement and bear fruit, even if builders found it attractive, or more attractive than the alternative, in this case the SFH.
Whether I am right or wrong about certain zoning proposals (and I support UGA’s) the reality is rents will increase around 10%/year on average (last year was 31%) in this region for the next decade for the following reasons:
1. Underlying property values are increasing, especially if property is upzoned.
2. Property taxes based on property values and just the many different levies are increasing quite rapidly.
3. Property and liability insurance has surged with the ban on using credit scoring to set rates.
4. Salaries and the AMI are increasing.
5. The cost for materials and labor — especially concrete — are increasing.
6. New housing construction is replacing older construction.
7. Investor pools are becoming a bigger share of the rental housing market and so have pricing power. Seattle is now over 50% rental housing.
8. Favorable tax laws now make multi-family rental housing attractive to large investors.
9. To a minor extent population is increasing, although probably not as much as housing is today.
10. More and more federal and state housing assistance will funnel into vouchers for non-public housing which will drive up the price of that housing in the 0% to 30% AMI segment if you don’t have a voucher.
11. And according to your point a lack of housing that will take decades to fix.
There are solutions to increasing rent prices that have existed in places like Manhattan for some time.
1. Smaller units. I think Seattle leads the nation when it comes to “micro-units”, but then Seattle has one of the lowest percentages of having kids in the nation.
2. Increase the number of tenants per unit. In NY it is common for tenants to sleep on sofas and on the floor.
3. Move to a cheaper area of the city that usually has a higher crime rate, or even outside the city like Angle Lake and use Light Rail to access downtown.
4. Move to a cheaper city. People have been saying this about San Francisco forever.
5. Buy housing, although upzones increase the cost to buy. Then you will be happy at increasing property values, especially if your house gets upzoned.
6. Qualify for a voucher or for subsidized public housing.
7. Rent control.
My suggestion if you rent and are not very wealthy is to not rely upon the private market to keep your rent affordable. Property owners and property trusts have exactly the opposite incentive, and more and more they control the rental housing market, and any kind of upzone that allows the property owner to live offsite will only increase that ownership.
Bernie, there must be a new city program. Outside my window in Pioneer Square I can see and hear the police going around with a megaphone stating, “STOP DOING DRUGS”. I assume they are targeting the announcements at folks doing drugs in Pioneer Square right now.
SouTh lake union / Uptown / interBay / Ballard Link Extension
AJ, LOL! Very good.
Paid parking moves forward.
Did you happen to review the assiciated motion and budget resolution? What a mess. The staff report for the motion concerning the $35 million contract* for the vendor (Passport Labs) contains multiple errors.
I found it interesting how staff has moved the budget numbers for the program around so significantly just since the 2022 TIP was adopted at the end of last year:
2022 TIP – (000’s YOE$)
Parking Management Program
Agency Admin- $4,330
Prelim Eng- $6,580
Third Parties- $400
Motion 2022-18 – (000’s YOE$)
Parking Management Program
O&M- $1,782 (+$600)
Agency Admin- $1,230 (-$3,100)
Prelim Eng- $1,080 (-$5,500)
Third Parties- $400 (no change)
Construction- $9,200 (+8,000)
Total- $13,692 (no change)
One other thing I found interesting was that according to the current TIP the entire cost of the Parking Management Program (project #600133) is allocated to the North King Co subarea.
*The contract has a 5-year base component at $12.3 million plus ten 1-year options totaling another $20.1 million for a grand total of $32.4 million. Associated sales taxes bring the estimated total contract value to $35.7 million.
Curious for thoughts on the following hypothetical, where Seattle gives up on tunneling because it’s simply too expensive (under current American costs). Assume the State would authorize an ST4 vote with the following scope:
Snohomish & Tacoma continue ST3 more or less as-is, working to complete the Spine, and set aside what East King would do.
Seattle builds no new Link alignments (infill stations remain). Instead, ST funds the following projects:
1. Permanent replacement of the WS high bridge, including high quality bus infrastructure along the entire corridor between the Junction & Downtown, as needed.
2. Permanent replacement of the Ballard bridge, including bus-only lanes. Could be 1 new bridge, or a car bridge at 14th and a transit/bike/ped bridge at 15th.
3. Rebuild the Dravus interchange to facilitate an in-line bus stop.
4. Money for transit improvements elsewhere in the city. For example, extend RR-J to Northgate, complete the Accessible Mt. Baker Plan, and fully fund the Monorail improvements. SE Seattle still gets Graham Street. station. Probably need something to better serve SLU, so something to improve the 8, perhaps a dedicated crossing of I5?
5. Capacity improvements for KCM (since more buses are needed within Seattle), and probably a ton of money for electrification of bus fleets (perhaps for all 3 counties)
So this doesn’t even include Ross’ new bus tunnel, but it does make real improvements to transit access for Ballard & West Seattle, while tackling some of the biggest unfunded liabilities facing SDOT. In theory, could be done without raising taxes above ST3 levels. Aside from OMF-N being scaled back to a much smaller footprint (would look more like OMF-E), I don’t think any of the other 4 subareas are really impacted (opponents of the DSTT2 would argue South King & Pierce are actually better off) aside from being off the hook to fund their share of the DSTT2, the Complete the Spine mandate is still achieved, and East King can do whatever.
I think using Sound Transit to fund car infrastructure sets a very bad precedent. In the worst case, we eventually end up like Houston, where a large chunk of the money that’s supposed to be spent on transit actually goes to freeway widening. And they justify it by saying that the widening will reduce congestion for an express bus that runs three times per day.
Yeah, but this is Seattle — a city that voted down “Roads and Transit” even though it had major transit improvements. Simply put, we won’t vote for a package like the one for Houston. The proposal AJ outlined would have no improvements for drivers. Nothing. The only money spent on a general purpose road (the Ballard Bridge) would be for a bridge *replacement*. There would be the same number of general purpose lanes, not an expansion. Everything else (in Ballard, West Seattle, Interbay, and the rest of the city) would be for transit improvements.
Good clarification, Ross, thank you. If anything there would be a modest road diet, particularly if the interchanges in Interbay were simplified and the WS bridge was rebuilt to be only 2 GP lanes + bus lanes.
I anchored on the Ballard and WS bridges because 1. they are critical for transit, 2. they are at end of life, and 3. the Link bridges over the Ship Canal & Duwamish are primarily valuable as alternatives to existing fragile & congested bus corridors.
I’ve been a defender on WS Link because even with a project like Ross’s downtown bus tunnel, a long term solution for a reliable transit connection across the Duwamish river would remain unsolved. With a permanent WS Bridge replacement, the case for WS Link really goes away.
Also, it would be nice to see SDOT toll the WS bridge, which I think would really mitigate the “isn’t this bridge just for cars” line of argument. The toll would be presented primarily as a form of demand management, to allow the freeway to remove a GP lane each way, and then the revenue can be dedicated to maintaining the freeway from Delridge to I5.
Use ST money to rebuild to the high bridge and the toll revenue to rebuild the Spokane Street Viaduct, which doesn’t have any transit relevance but is important for freight & also needs a replacement.
There’s probably room here to partner with the Port, perhaps allowing freight in some of the bus lanes.
I think we may be talking past each other, so I want to clarify a few things. Part of the confusion has to do with what people mean when they talk about the “West Seattle Bridge”. The entire roadway, or just the part that had to be fixed. For sake of argument, I will use the term to only reference the part that is being fixed.
This bridge itself is not at the end of its life. It is expected to last forty years. Replacing it in ten to twenty years would be crazy. The slowdowns that buses endure have nothing to do with the bridge. Replacing it would not make transit travel any faster.
The bottlenecks occur for a few reasons:
1) People entering from Delridge have to drive through the bus lane to continue east (towards I-5).
2) Drivers heading northbound on SR 99 have to drive through the bus lane.
3) Almost all of the buses head northbound on SR 99, abandoning the bus lane. They drive through general purpose traffic on the big looping exit, and along a significant part of SR 99 (https://goo.gl/maps/QbxEBocj9YewnWsS8).
These first two are often referred to as “the weave”. There are a number of ways in which all three of these problems can be fixed, but they have nothing to do with building a new bridge. The first thing to do is add ramp meters for Delridge, which would largely eliminate the first problem (the smallest issue). The second and third problem could be eliminated a couple of different ways:
1) Do as I suggested earlier. Build a bypass ramp for buses so that they can continue onto the Spokane Street Viaduct. Add a bus-only exit to the SoDo busway.
2) Expand SR 99 as well as the looping ramp. By itself this would eliminate the third problem. The bus lane would then slide over to the outside somewhere over the Duwamish, eliminating the second problem. Anyone trying to exit to SR 99 has to be in the second to right lane, not the far right lane (reserved for buses).
If you look at the diagram I referenced earlier (which is from this) it is easy to imagine the same basic idea for the second option. Instead of the dashed red line heading east towards I-5, it simply loops around to northbound SR 99.
I have no idea what is cheaper, or what makes the most sense, but neither would involved replacing a bridge that is in the process of being fixed to last another forty years. None of the work would benefit regular drivers. It would all be designed to benefit buses, and buses only (like a bus stop under the Dravus overpass). It would be expensive, but nothing compared to our light rail plans (we are talking hundreds of millions, not billions).
Yet it would provide a “reliable transit connection across the Duwamish river”. That problem would be solved.
40 years is long enough that it is very much worth it to spend $100M to do the 3 things you suggest, but also short enough that I wouldn’t consider any of those investments a ‘permanent’ solution, whereas a new bridge (Link, bus, or whatever), whether it’s rail in 2040 or bus/car in 2060, is a permanent solution.
Also, in 40 years the entire superstructure will need to be replaced, not just the short segment that is failing.
You wouldn’t need state authorization for a revenue-neutral vote. The reason ST3 needed state authorization was to raise the tax rate above the ST2 limits. Otherwise it could have built ST3 with its existing tax authority, but it would have taken much longer because it couldn’t start until ST2 was finished and there would be less money available each year.
I’m assuming North King is relative to today; i.e., no Ballard or West Seattle Link or DSTT2. In that case, there’s plenty of money for bus lanes on TBD Ballard and West Seattle bridges, a Dravus interchange (smaller and simpler than NE 85th Street I assume), and the bus improvements in #4 and #5.
I hesitate to have ST lead or build primarily car bridges, however. That’s where most of the bridges’ cost would be, and what might exceed ST3’s existing budget size. A multimodal bridge would have two bus lanes, two inexpensive (narrow and lightweight) bike lanes and sidewalks, and 4-6 car lanes. So the car lanes would be 50-75% of the width and almost as much of the weight. (Remembering that freight trucks are heavy. We could allow some freight in the transit lanes if there’s spare capacity and they’re not slow.) ST’s mandate doesn’t include car bridges or car freeways, and I hesitate to add them.
Since these aren’t WSDOT highways, Seattle could take the lead and ask the legislature for tax authority for multimodal bridges. ST could contribute the transit part, or leave ST out of it. We don’t need ST Express or Stride-branded buses in these corridors because they’re so short. Metro RapidRide and regular buses would do. RapidRide C and D exist, H (Delridge) is under construction, 40 could be revived, and something could be done for the 21 and 55+Alki. There could be Metro Expresses with fewer stops than RapidRide. Metro has already suggested an all-day express on Fauntleroy-WSJ-SLU. Perhaps a 55 express stopping at WSJ, California & Admiral, Alki Point, and maybe a couple other stops. Or a 56 express, although I hesitate to leave out West Seattle’s center.
I hesitate to have ST lead or build primarily car bridges, however.
Yeah, but that would involve one bridge: Ballard. This bridge needs to be replaced, and no one — even the most ardent transit fan — has suggested otherwise. They may disagree about scope (big or small) or location (14th versus 15th) but they all agree that we need another bridge there, even if it never carries a single bus or train. Furthermore, the vast majority of people just want the bridge replaced where it is. While urbanists would like a smaller bridge on 14th, and planners suggest a massive bridge on 15th, most people want the compromise — just rebuild it where it is.
It would be more about getting the bus and bike improvements here much sooner. The bridge is two general-purpose lanes each direction. Again, I think the vast majority of people believe this is the right amount. If you add transit lanes and bike lanes, it would dramatically improve both modes of travel, while simply replacing what already exists for general purpose travel (and what almost everyone believes is appropriate).
Everything else in the package would be designed to improve transit. The improvements to the West Seattle Bridge/Spokane Street Viaduct, the improvements to the Dravus Street underpass; all the similar little things would be transit focused. Unless, of course, money also went to improving biking and walking.
Keep in mind that Move Seattle was billed as a transit/bike/pedestrian package. Yet 41% was for street and bridge maintenance. The key word here is “maintenance”. This isn’t like the state, who is spending billions building new freeways — this is really maintenance. That, combined with spending money on transit infrastructure (and maybe bike/pedestrian infrastructure as well) would be extremely popular.
ST wouldn’t be the lead agency for any of the projects within Seattle. SDOT would be the lead for the Ballard bridge, and for the WS Bridge I’ recommend SDOT be the lead agency but ask WSDOT to step in and do the project management (since a project of that scope is in their wheelhouse).
More importantly, both bridges would remain the property of city of Seattle. ST has a long history of funding roadwork (e.g. rebuilding entire streets whenever Link or a Streetcar runs at-grade) and freeway construction (I90 post-tensioning, many new freeway stations), but always ensures that the resulting infrastructure is the responsibility of an agency (WSDOT, county, municipality) that has the resources & processes to maintain roadways.
And most importantly, this would be billions cheaper than WSBLE. Even at 6~8 lanes, a car high bridge is a fraction of the cost of 1 mile of underground rail tunnel. The central fact of this hypothetical is two new car bridges are 1. massively cheaper than WSBLE, and 2. much less risky than WSBLE as the scope, environment, and technology are well understood.
And most importantly, this would be billions cheaper than WSBLE.
Exactly. You are essentially doing everything you would have done with a new bus tunnel, but without the cost and complication of the tunnel itself. You fix the West Seattle delays, as I wrote up above. You fix the approaches to the Ballard Bridge, if not the bridge itself so that buses don’t get delayed after the bridge has opened and closed. You fix the Dravus Street delay. All of this was proposed by people who wanted (and still want) the bus tunnel, because even with all that (and a bus tunnel) it would be a lot cheaper than building rail.
This would be even cheaper. A new bus tunnel would have many of the same issues as WSBLE, such as really deep stations. You would fix the problem with Aurora buses, but that would cost more and make things more complicated, not less. In contrast, this avoids all of that.
I’m all for it. This would enable similar improvement in way more places, saving people way more time. There would be plenty left over for increased service (arguably the first thing we should spend money on). Buses could run a lot more often, which in turn enables a much better network (transferring is a lot more palatable if the buses are running more often).
The only problem is the politics. If we weren’t able to build a new bus tunnel (along with all of the other improvements) why will we be able to build this instead? A new bus tunnel along with these other changes would mean that a bus would leave West Seattle and not encounter another car or traffic light from Delridge to Elliot — why would this be more appealing?
Would be able to build it because it’s not a tunnel, and it’s not downtown. The hypothetical is that the problem with WSBLE is not that it’s the wrong mode or puts the stations in the wrong spot, but that under our current financial, environmental, and political constraints, digging a transit tunnel (rail, bus, or whatever) the length of downtown simply isn’t the best use of North King’s ST3 funds.
A new bus tunnel, while shorter than WSBLE’s primary tunnel, would run into the same technical and financials issues, notably deep stations driven by a need to go under the 99 tunnel and high cost due to an unwillingness to do cut & cover. Pivoting to another type of tunnel solves none of the affordability or station access problems bedeviling WSBLE, so I was intrigued by the idea of simply pivoting away from any tunnel.
4. Money for transit improvements elsewhere in the city.
I think that is the crux. I could definitely see it working. There would be an enormous amount of money to spend on transit in Seattle, which could pay for the most ambitious parts of the transit part of Move Seattle, and then some. For that matter, it wouldn’t have to be focused on only transit (pay for some sidewalks, and safety improvements on streets like Aurora as well). In many ways, this would be like a bigger, fully funded Move Seattle, which passed at higher margins in Seattle than ST3.
But I could also see some political problems, as Al suggests. It becomes a little like “Roads and Transit”, which failed because neither side liked it. We don’t have to worry about the anti-tax or anti-transit folks in Seattle, but the opposite. Transit advocates might object, even though you could make the argument that this serves way more people, and saves them way more time. Seattle Subway would certainly object, and talk about how we should think about “100 years”, not the next few.
Then there are folks in West Seattle that really want the train. Way more people care about the bridge, but the bridge is being fixed. The bridge is expected to last until 2060, so I doubt that many people would be thrilled with replacing it sooner, just because the buses would be able to go faster on it (especially since they go relatively fast).
The good news is that you wouldn’t have to replace the bridge at all to eliminate almost all bridge-elated bus congestion. Build a bus-only bypass lane to get over to the Spokane Street Viaduct, and then add a bus-only exit to the SoDo busway (https://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/14212356/WestSeattleNew.png). You would have a merge with regular traffic coming from Delridge, but that is relatively minor (and could be minimized by metering general purpose traffic on Delridge). This would be similar to what you have proposed for Ballard, but without the dramatic improvement (because it doesn’t need it). This could be done way sooner than West Seattle can be connected to downtown (2037 at the earliest). This could be a big selling point for West Seattle commuters (improve your commute in five years, not twenty).
So yeah, I could see some opposition, but I could also see a lot of enthusiasm. Most of the city will get nothing (or almost nothing) out of West Seattle to Ballard rail. A more balanced package, with improvements throughout the city could be a lot more popular. You might lose some votes in Ballard or West Seattle, but not many. Now that we’ve seen what West Seattle to Ballard could entail (a station a long ways from Ballard or the Junction, mowing down dozens of houses in West Seattle, extremely deep downtown stations, gigantic cost overruns, etc.) there wouldn’t be that much enthusiasm to push ahead.
So yeah, I could see this happening, but it would likely take political leadership that understands transit and the inherit trade-offs involved with it. I don’t think there is anyone (or any group) that would actually lead this.
Correction: I wrote “Al”, but meant “asdf2”.
Exactly – #4 is the fun part. As I said above to Mike, the key to this hypothetical is that it meets the spirit of ST3’s improvements for WS, Interbay, and Ballad for a fraction of the cost, thereby unlocking other improvements elsewhere in North King (with ST3.5 overall megasize still justified while Pierce & Snohomish work to complete the Spine).
“you wouldn’t have to replace the bridge at all…” I think this would be covered in project sequencing. Do what you recommend first, and then the long term replacement of the bridge itself can be placed near the end of the plan (so I’m not suggesting to replace it ‘sooner’). That will allow for a rapid (5~10 years) deployment of most of the other projects, and then perhaps a lull within Seattle while the Spine is complete and North King banks revenue for the bridge replacement. Even if the bridge does last until 2060, it remains a massive unfunded liability for SDOT and a massive connectivity risk for West Seattle). I think fully funding a permanent bridge replacement is critical for the politics (otherwise WS voters will feel that are being told to eat table scraps and like it) and is good policy (like the Ballard bridge, even an ardent urbanist would concede there needs to be a replacement, even if it’s just a 4-car drawbridge)
As I wrote up above, replacing the bridge would do nothing for transit — the congestion the buses endure are not on the bridge (it is the approach to and SR 99 itself).
To a lot of people, a bridge working until 2060 is a permanent replacement. No bridge lasts forever, but to a lot of people, that is their lifetime. They really have no interest in replacing the bridge (not now), especially since it would likely entail a lot of short term disruption (something we are trying to avoid). Keep in mind, 2060 is just an estimate. Sure, it might need to be fixed or replaced before then, but it also might last longer than that.
I get why we would want to improve things even more for West Seattle, but that goes with the rest of the package. Fix the West Seattle delays for the buses (as described up above). Run the buses more often, along with buses everywhere. The 21 — serving the most densely populated part of West Seattle (High Point) — only runs every 15 minutes. That is the most it has ever run. In the evening it is worse. Buses like the 125 and 128 only run every half hour! Alki doesn’t have direct service to downtown in the middle of the day! Clearly there is opportunity here to dramatically improve transit for the peninsula. We don’t need to stoop towards rebuilding a bridge that is about to be fixed for forty years, and would do nothing to improve transit.
In all likelihood, that would *lose* us votes. Very few in West Seattle would be swayed in favor of this, figuring that eventually the bridge gets fixed no matter what the city passes. People who are focused on transit would consider it a waste of money. Even people who aren’t focused on transit would consider it a waste of money. We’ve got a lot of bridges that need to be repaired (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/west-seattle-bridge-is-a-surprise-crisis-but-plenty-of-other-aging-seattle-bridges-are-also-vulnerable/). Once the West Seattle Bridge is fixed, it bumps way, way, down the priority list. This would be like replacing your car right after you put in a new engine, even though your mechanic says it is in great condition, and you other car is like that car in Ghost Busters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CPss95p3Ck).
OK, here is another idea:
Let’s dust off Mayor McGinn’s idea of building another bridge at 3rd West (next to SPU). Build it as a general purpose bridge initially. Then replace the Ballard Bridge with a bridge that is better for bikes as well as transit. While the construction of the Ballard Bridge is going on, drivers detour to the new Third Avenue Bridge, instead of everyone converging into Fremont. When the Ballard bridge work is complete, convert the Fremont Bridge into a transit/bike only bridge.
The package would pay for the new bridge at 3rd, but not the replacement of the bridge at 15th. It would be for a general purpose bridge at 3rd, but it would mean converting a general purpose bridge (Fremont) to transit-only. It would be essentially building a new transit-only bridge.
Traffic during the Ballard Bridge replacement would not be that bad. Once you close the existing bridge, all traffic can easily be pushed onto Nickerson and Leary and over the new bridge, which would have just as many lanes as the Ballard Bridge (two each direction). Traffic would be a bit slower, but it would be nothing like what drivers experience in West Seattle on a daily basis. For folks in Ballard (as well as Fremont) this is a huge selling point. The city is basically waking up to the fact that our bridges are old, will need to be replaced, and that there will be lots of really bad traffic when the bridge is being replaced, unless we make big changes.
It is possible that the Ballard Bridge could be replaced without major traffic during the day, but you would still have nighttime and weekend closures. This also dramatically increases the cost, especially if improvements are planned.
The new Ballard Bridge would of course be better for bikes, pedestrians and buses. At worst it would have a long bus-only approach from both directions, similar to what is being built for the Montlake Bridge. This allows buses to skip to the front when the bridge is up, instead of waiting for traffic. It is the Fremont Bridge that gets the major upgrade. Buses there would essentially have their own bridge. Traffic along each side of the canal would change dramatically, as only buses would be allowed to cross the Fremont Bridge. Given that the buses that cross the Fremont Bridge carry way more riders than the buses that cross the Ballard Bridge, it is appropriate that it get the superior treatment, and the Ballard Bridge gets “merely” a major upgrade.
Meanwhile, we end up with another bridge, on 3rd Avenue, connecting SPU easily with Fremont. This would benefit bike riders if nothing else.
This is an excellent idea, and as you say is actually helpful to more riders and perhaps cheaper. The 2-lane bridge near SPU would be much shorter, so if the new Ballard bridge was only 4-lanes (plus bike/ped lanes) over the water, it would overall be a much cheaper approach.
I wonder if there’s room for simillar creativity on the WS side. Perhaps the high bridge could be only 2 lanes but have a dynamic toll*, but then the low bridge is expanded to 4 lanes. Buses uses the high bridge for free, and then cars & trucks can take the high bridge if they value their time accordingly. Buses would still get bypass infrastructure on both sides of the river, where it’s much cheaper to have additional lanes.
*Similar to the 405 HOT lanes, the toll would be dynamic to ensure a minimum speed.
Perhaps the high bridge could be only 2 lanes but have a dynamic toll*, but then the low bridge is expanded to 4 lanes. Buses uses the high bridge for free, and then cars & trucks can take the high bridge if they value their time accordingly. Buses would still get bypass infrastructure on both sides of the river, where it’s much cheaper to have additional lanes.
You wouldn’t need anything else if buses get bypass infrastructure on both sides of the river. The Delridge buses would need very little work to the east. All you would really need are ramp meters. You still have cars from Delridge and 23rd merging, but with ramp meters on both of those streets, only a handful. You could widen the ramp so that Delridge buses would never be in their own lane from Delridge to the SoDo busway (or SR 99) but the meters also help the other buses (as explained below).
For the Avalon buses there is a bus lane, but it has a gap, from Avalon to where it starts up again, close to the freeway ramp (https://goo.gl/maps/HTMFsZnUMrHwxHSL9). The first thing I would do is add traffic lights where cars from Avalon/Harbor and Admiral Way merge. This would improve safety, and mean that the Admiral Way cars immediately get out of the right lane (instead of leaving when they find an opening). This would extend the bus lane (about 700 feet) but you would still have a gap. To eliminate it completely you enlarge that section from 2 to 3 lanes. The lane in the middle is for buses (coming from Avalon, this is the far right lane). It would have a ground detector. When the bus comes, the two signals (that are alternating between green for cars from Avalon/Harbor and cars from Admiral Way) would both turn red. The bus would cruise through, and then change into that right lane (a bus lane) and get on the freeway (merging with the bus lane from Delridge). That leaves Avalon itself, which could be widened with another lane to the east, extending the current bus lane to the spot where the bus turns right (into its own lane across the water). There would be cars coming from Delridge who would have to move across the bus lane to get to the general purpose lanes, but with meters there, only a handful.
I would probably do all of this later. I would start with the work on the east side, because it would provide the most benefit, and not upset drivers. If we wanted to improve things further, than I would add everything else.
That would be about as good as you can get, really. To get any better, you would have to run the buses down the middle of the road (like they do on 520). This isn’t out of the question, as it would leave the part of the bridge they are fixing alone (https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/BridgeStairsProgram/West%20Seattle%20Bridge/WSHB%20Replacement%20Planning%20Study%20Extents.png). It would be extremely expensive though. You would have to widen the viaduct to the west from at least Delridge to Avalon (realistically a bit farther). You would somehow connect up the ramps from the west (which looks difficult). You would have to do a lot more work around the Spokane Street Viaduct as well. This would be a very expensive project (although still likely cheaper than the West Seattle part of WSBLE) for relatively little gain. You are far more likely to encounter a significant delay on the surface streets, or simply because of traffic lights.
Another problem with the West Seattle buses is the slog through downtown. Once the bus reaches 3rd Ave., it moves just fine. But those few blocks between the Waterfront and 3rd, it’s like molasses. It feels like the bus is stuck waiting 2 minutes at a red light, every single block.
It may be a very expensive way to do it, but for better or worse, West Seattle Link, as planned, *will* solve this problem.
I also haven’t ridden the C-line downtown when there’s a Mariners or Seahawks game going on, but having the bus share an exit ramp with regular cars, right in front of the stadium just seems like it’s asking for trouble, even if the bus does get its own lane on Alaskan, once it finally makes it off the ramp.
Of course, those who drive and are headed anywhere other than right downtown have options to avoid the worst of the gameday congestion. They can stay on SR-99 through the $4 billion tunnel and come out on Aurora. Or take the West Seattle bridge to I-5. Transit riders, on the other hand, have very limited bypass options. From the junction, the only one I think of is to take the 50 to SODO, which runs far less often than the C-line, and switch over to Link, using its dedicated right-of-way through the downtown transit tunnel. Even then, if you’re headed to, say, Bellevue, there is no equivalent option to taking the West Seattle bridge to I-5 to I-90. You can take the 550, but it will be stuck in traffic. To avoid the traffic, you have to stay on Link all the way to UW Station and ride the 271, which, of course, runs much less often, most of the day, than the 550 does.
I think these are the kind of frustrations that leave West Seattle pushing for direct Link service. If you can catch Link at the junction and ride it straight downtown, you avoid not just the bottlenecks leading to the West Seattle bridge, but also all of the stoplights and traffic problems downtown, plus you get the option to stay on Link through downtown, and have a one-seat ride to Capitol Hill, the U-district or Northgate.
One problem with this is: where do you turn back the trains, as the Everett to Tacoma section is supposedly too long for a single sitting?
Maybe make Mt Baker multi-track and turn the Everett trains there?
Maybe build the new tunnel as a branch just to Seattle Center or Aurora, to turn the Tacoma trains?
The data and reports should be released. But we know what they show because Rogoff told the Board what the data show: ridership is down significantly, and farebox recovery is down even more steeply, and the deficit is at least $11.5 billion.
The real question is to what extent this is permanent. Ridership was inflated to sell the levies, even without a pandemic. Have we built a system we can’t afford to run based on dollar per rider mile?
The fact is this situation will only get worse. The highest volume runs are open. East Link will have a higher fare paying percentage but much lower ridership than estimated. I don’t really know about Federal Way Link.
There are basically three groups of riders:
1. The peak commuter. This rider has a high fare paying percentage with few fare subsidies. Since light rail costs are fixed this is critical revenue. I don’t think this rider is returning for many reasons.
2. The discretionary rider. This rider also has a high fare paying percentage, but has alternatives. The price of gas is high, but there is little congestion but plenty of parking (and the Link fare for one round trip is $5.50). The bigger issues for this rider are time, safety and the current atmosphere on transit. I think the solution to getting this rider back is 100% clean and safe trains and stations, and that will require turnstiles that keep non-paying riders out of both. I don’t think Metro has the funding to provide much feeder frequency that can make up for one or two transfers.
3. Those who must ride transit. This group has higher fare subsidies and lower fare paying percentages, and can’t afford operations on its own. The reality is Link was never built for this group, but the current issues on the streets and on trains and in stations affect them most. They more than any group need turnstiles or some other method to keep non-fare paying riders out of the stations and trains, and an improvement in street safety that I think will take years, and may be impossible with the Seattle Council and the current extent of the decline in downtown Seattle and flight to the Eastside. Maybe best to just buy these folks cars.
My hope was the public firing of Rogoff for dishonest project cost estimates would lead to the hiring of a new CEO who would pull the band aid off on costs, especially WSBLE and future operations. However the fantastical DEIS where tunnels under water cost the same as bridges (that also need to be replaced), and WS and Ballard can have underground stations and lines with an extremely deep and expensive DSTT2 none of the subareas can afford — tells me the DEIS — like the ever shifting deficit estimates and “realignment” —is just a political document designed to postpone the truth until Dow has run for Governor (which he thought would have been in 2021) and the Board members have left office. What the DEIS is designed for, like the disingenuous realignment, is to make someone else far into the future break the bad news.
So publicly releasing formal ridership and farebox numbers would undermine the real purpose of the DEIS, efforts to get legislation to allow ST to levy subarea specific levies, and the desire of Dow and the Board to get the hell away before the basic truth is revealed: we have built a very expensive light rail spine that won’t have the ridership to fund what has been built, let alone a $20 billion WSBLE as demanded by N. King Co., and promised by ST, the levies, and the Board.
Ironically the first one allowed off the sinking ship is Rogoff, and he is the one trying to tell the passengers the ship is sinking, or at least not affordable.
Tisgwm is a very clever lawyer. He knows two things: 1. Always look for what isn’t being disclosed or produced. That is the real point of discovery; and 2. There are very few surprises. Lawyers ask questions they already know the answers to. Tisgwm knows exactly what the missing reports show because they are missing, which tells him why they are not being released.
The real question is what to do now. I can’t imagine the Board will begin digging DSTT2 when none of the subareas have the funding for the actual cost (plus contingency). Even Putin wouldn’t be that rash. No, the goal is to release a fantastical DEIS that allows Dow and the Board to get off the sinking ship before ringing the bell, although they might want to shut Rogoff up.
Certainly not a new tunnel in this hypothetical – the point is to avoid building Link is Seattle because it’s too darn expensive. As Reddoch say, just do an operator switch. Trains can turnback at Mariner during peak and perhaps Lynnwood during nights/weekends.
Glenn, the deep stations are just impossible. The only rational choices for SLU are your great idea of using the CCC track to connect through downtown to Link to the south with shallower stations at Denny, Aurora and LQA or revamping The Monorail including new stations in Belltown and west of Seattle Center and dogbone loops.
Connecting to a tunnel from the surface trackage is hard to design, though. It is also admittedly tough to envision where to put the Westlake dogbone loop. And, there would have to be a new MF for the Monorail trains.
IF there is to be a wholesale abandonment of Link within Seattle, something still needs to be done to provide some sort of grade separated transit to the new North side Downtown zones.
Addendum: for the south dogbone, the Monorail could cut across the park at Fifth and Olive have the station before Sixth, continue on Olive to the next to the freeway, loop around Amazon to Minor and Howell, station, and return on Howell.
where do you turn back the trains, as the Everett to Tacoma section is supposedly too long for a single sitting?
Lynnwood. So you would have two trains, like so:
Everett to Redmond
Lynnwood to Tacoma
That means that downtown Seattle to Lynnwood would have double the frequency of every other section (3 to 5 instead of 6 to 10). For cost reasons this is likely to be the pattern (or something similar).
Each line would run about 90 minutes. Lynnwood to Federal Way (which we’ll have soon) will about 75 minutes. If that extra 15 minutes means these lines are too long, then do an operator switch, as AJ mentioned. I would switch operators on the Everett line in Lynnwood. If that doesn’t work (because it would be too close to the other train) use the next stop to the north. If the other line is too long, I would switch at SeaTac.
This idea that the lines are too long is really a recent one. It have never been a requirement. ST has talked about “the spine” from Everett to Tacoma the entire time, and there was never a talk that this would require two lines through Seattle. Splitting the lines in this way is more of a “nice to have”. Basically someone said “Hey, since you are building another line through downtown anyway …”.
I would also look at automating both lines, with remote observation. You would need far fewer operators, and “switching” would consist of a simple overlap. I’m picturing several monitors showing the brief periods when the train is on the surface, along with the same sort of monitoring that SkyTrain has (they don’t have one train assigned to each driver).
“In theory, could be done without raising taxes above ST3 levels. Aside from OMF-N being scaled back to a much smaller footprint (would look more like OMF-E), I don’t think any of the other 4 subareas are really impacted (opponents of the DSTT2 would argue South King & Pierce are actually better off) aside from being off the hook to fund their share of the DSTT2, the Complete the Spine mandate is still achieved, and East King can do whatever.”
I know that you intended this hypothetical as a thought experiment, but nevertheless I don’t think you can so easily dismiss the other four subareas in this discussion since a subsequent capital program, i.e. ST4, would impact the tax rollback provisions. I think what your experiment highlights is the inherent structural problems with the RTA and the imbalance of needs across subareas.
Personally I doubt that there will be an ST4 type of plan anytime soon (if ever) unless it is really more of an ST 3.5, or, in other words, a wholesale revision of the 2016 plan which seems to be what your hypothetical entails.
Who says the train has to turn back? You just need to relieve the operator, maybe at International District or some other location where there is an operator breakroom, while the train continues on to Everett.
You’d want to do that at a station with a third track, such as TriMet’s Rose Quarter, Civic Stadium, Beaverton or Gateway stations. This allows the operator time to adjust the seats, mirrors, etc and otherwise do whatever safety checks are needed without blocking through trains.
Link doesn’t seem to have any such stations with three through tracks. You could probably do it at SoDo or Stadium pretty easily though.
It takes about six minutes to replace the operator. As Glenn notes, that can only be done in a “side track”, not in line on the main line, especially not at IDS where trains will be coming as frequently as every three minutes in each direction.
“It takes about six minutes to replace the operator.”
I think it’s quicker than that. Based on actual experience being stuck on a train during operator changes in SODO, I can say that it actually takes something like 2 minutes, not 6. And, I don’t think SODO has a side track there; the train just stops on the mainline.
A mapped proposal for an E-W oriented Ballard station between 20th and 22nd Ave NW, along NW 56th Street:
Interesting. You have this on 56th, not Market. Holy cow, that looks dirt cheap. The construction block looks like it is almost all parking. You wouldn’t need all that space of course (the U-District Station used a lot less). This would be a lot like the U-District Station. Sure, you would rather have the station at The Ave, but this is close enough, and way cheaper. The five minutes walkshed still extends down to Ballard Avenue (https://goo.gl/maps/RQRxduBQije5XaB27) and the entire medical complex that is Swedish Ballard. With another entrance closer to 15th, you can get across 15th easily as well (SDOT would add a crosswalk for 56th, sparing pedestrians the hell hole that is 15th and Market). For a seven minute walkshed, this avoids running into the water. It is arguably *better*, in that respect. The only significant drawback is that the transfer to the 40 take an extra minute or so — I can live with that.
Yeah, that looks great, really. If you feel like writing up a proposal, let the folks here know. I really think this idea needs to be bumped up to more people. Keep in mind that folks here have connections to the Seattle Times reporters. More than once an idea here has made it to the main newspaper in the city.
I am unsure how much acreage ST really needs at the end of a new construction line, but it seems like the North Link used quite a bit of staging area to keep the U-District station footprint small. Based on the intention to take the entire Safeway block, in addition to the other blocks (depending on 15th or 14th), It seemed that ST really wanted to hit a mark of about 5 acres. This station is just under 4 acres, including some takings that are less than ideal (particularly the Greenfire Campus and the restaurant/housing block to the east, which I would be very sad to see go but maybe Mr. Gyros and Golden City aren’t long for this world anyways). The benefits of this location are that it does not impact the Historic Core of Ballard, does not directly impact freight traffic on 15th or Market, and provides some obvious opportunities for new bus stops/layovers.
The D could just turn right from 15th onto 56th, then turn left from 22nd onto Market then back up 15th. The 40 would probably just divert to 56 from 24th and then run down 20th to Leary. The 44 could either divert to 56th from Market for a block or just stay on Market and force a 1-block transfer walk. Most bus routes serving the area would probably just shift to running on 56th. The 40 could cut back down to Market at 20th.
A motivator is that the TBMs could be launched from much closer to the surface since they would run under the ROW of 56th, then dive down to get under the deeper foundations around Market/15th and continue diving to get under Salmon Bay and the combined storm-sewer containment project.
Since northward extensions of the Ballard line aren’t in the formal LRP, and the Ballard-UW line is, it seems justifiable to turn the line eastward, since the UW line could save a literal billion dollars by sharing the Ballard station platforms.
it seems justifiable to turn the line eastward
Nathan, in your last paragraph are you proposing ping-ponging trains between Ballard-Downtown and Ballard-UW? Unless you can be certain that ST will adopt automated trains for the combined line this would be a fuster-cluck of the first order.
It takes several minutes for a single operator to reverse a train, so you’d be consigning riders to a delay of four to six minutes every “through” trip.
Not to mention that the track on which the reversing train was standing would be occupied for the duration. You really can’t stop for discharge, roll into the tail track, have the operator walk the train in the tail track, and then reverse into the station for loading with passengers on board so the reversal would have to occur in the station at a platform.
Even if the train stopped at a platform only one time and rolled through the other direction to save dwell time, there would be objections to locking the passengers in a train in a stub tunnel while the operator walked the train outside.
You could avoid this by having a second operator board at Dravus northbound, take control at Ballard, drive to UW, transfer control again to the original operator, ride back to Ballard , take control and have the original operator at Dravus southbound. I grant that doing so would mean that both stations could be a single track lowering the cost considerably, though it might be wise to have Ballard be two tracks just so folks don’t get on a train going the wrong way.
“alight at Dravus southbount”
Yes, just assume the system will be automated.
I like the ‘ping-pong’ metaphor.
From the map it appears that you are proposing a level crossing under 56th for a future Ballard-UW subway and the tail tracks (and possible connection to the north) of the 15th Avenue station proposal. Am I reading it correctly?
You’re proposing to terminate both Ballard-UW and some Ballard-Downtown service in the new 56th Street station, is that correct? Having a complicated junction at 15th and Market and a terminal station (with just two tracks?) just two blocks to the west seems like a LOT of potential track fouling. A train approaching from the south would cross first the southbound main line (if an extension is built, but the tail track otherwise). It would then cross the eastbound track of Ballard-UW and merge with the westbound track. Then immediately there would be the scissors for the terminal station, unless you intend to do have trains stop to discharge, pass on through the station and then have the scissors and reversing tracks.
That essentially means building two station boxes, because the operators have to reverse the trains to leave. Now of course all that would be immaterial if there were no operators; a single tail track can be an effective way to reverse automated trains.
An eastbound Ballard-UW train would have to cross that northbound interchange track and then both of the extension tracks, if they are built.
And you’re advocating underpassing the Urbana Apartments building, so ST is going to insist that the tracks be that 75 feet deep at the platform level. You can’t rise very much to the platforms at 20th.
I think that this is too complex to operate reliably and would be better done as a “double deck” station and junction. Dig the station box for two levels, with Ballard-Downtown occupying the lower level since it would have to underrun the Urbana and Target, but put Ballard-UW a level above since it’s entirely within the footprint of 56th. It would not have to cross an extension, leaving only one level-crossing of northbound to the station from Downtown-Ballard crossing southbound north extension trains.
The location on 56th is actually superior to one directly under Market, because it pushes the walkshed up to 62nd or so along 20th and 58th on 24th.
Overall, this is an excellent solution, but it’s expensive and won’t work as a purely shared single-level terminal and junction. There is just too much train operation through too little track at the junction.
Fair enough – I don’t know enough about railway planning to properly propose how the station could be future-proofed to support a Ballard-UW line, but it seems like a fair assumption that a Ballard-UW line could also operate under the 56th Ave ROW to get a head-start heading east. Any other proposal would require crossing the Ballard station perpendicularly, which seemed extra expensive. If a second island platform would do the trick (like the Santa Monica station of LA Metro’s Expo Line), then it seems plausible to have a shared grade for both lines.
Regarding foundations: the curve I’ve proposed starts about 1000′ east of the station. Assuming a generous 300′ scissor switch (UW does it in 200′), and some space to change grade, the train could drop 24′ over 600′ at the design max 4% grade. So, if the station starts 50′ underground, that hits the 75′ clearance easily. Another option is to do a broader curve to 14th. Basically, launching from 56th gives a lot of station depth options that stations on 15th or 14th don’t have.
Another option is biasing the station to the north or south to leave space for a second island platform, much like what’s been adapted at the Chinatown station to accommodate East Link, or what was built as the terminal for LA Metro’s Expo Line in Santa Monica. That reduces the crossings to only one switch serving both lines.
Nathan, yes, having the Ballard-UW line use the same station and 56th is an excellent idea, assuming that funding for such a line is a reasonable expectation for the future.
There is one way that this might be made much less complex: explicitly adopt Ross’s idea that any extension to the north would go through the station then turn north, perhaps immediately or perhaps along a 24th Avenue NW alignment. Ballard-UW could be platformed in a pocket track in the middle as you suggested with a wider station and two platforms.
That does require a mezzanine, though.
With this explicitly planned, the yellow line would not continue into the stub to the north. It would end at the junction with the Green line. Maybe that’s what you intended, but it would have been a good idea to say so or change the color of the stub and say “deleted” or something.
In any case, doing so would eliminate the four diamond crossing of the north line and Ballard-UW.
Then immediately there would be the scissors for the terminal station, unless you intend to do have trains stop to discharge, pass on through the station and then have the scissors and reversing tracks.
Having the scissors after the station seems like it would work. So would having the scissors before the merge. Either way, this would work until the new line is built. Once the new line is built, we could simply treat it as an extension. That would mean that the scissors wouldn’t be used at all. A train coming from Interbay would be on the east side. Then it would curve and serve Ballard from the north side of the station. Then it would reverse direction, and head to the UW from the northern track. The train coming from the UW would do the opposite.
The only issue I see is the crossing. A train going from Interbay to Ballard would cross a westbound train going from UW to Ballard. Given that the trains would run every six minutes at most, and this crossing would be close to the station (when trains are running slow anyway) I think a level crossing would be fine. If not, then you build two tunnels from the UW to Ballard. The northern one looks like the one on the map. The southern one splits from the other track almost immediately after leaving the station. It would parallel the other tracks, except that it would stay up high, instead of diving down low. It could then clear the other tracks as they round the curve. If there isn’t enough room for that, then it simply follows the other track(s) around the corner, heading towards Ballard. It goes low enough to get under the buildings (i. e. to make the turn) but then stays high, and turns somewhere around Leary or so (high enough to go under buildings, but nowhere near as low as the other train, which had to go under the ship canal). The two tracks meet up again before Fremont.
The main thing we want to do is enable this for the future. This does mean a little bit of planning, but nothing beyond answering these questions, as opposed to where the other stations would be. As I see it, all you really need is two holes. We have a good idea where the northern hole would be. For the other one we need to know whether a level crossing is OK or not. If we don’t want to make up our mind now we can add three holes.
Ross, yes, you certainly can have two tail tracks pointing west with a scissors immediately after the platform. If there’s any real likelihood that Ballard-UW is to be stationed here, that would probably be a good idea. There will be a lot of trains reversing and it’s a good idea to allow each line its own track to maintain headways.
And, yes, your means by which to separate the crossing makes sense. However, you sound like you are buying into the idea of ping-ponging. That’s expensive as I explained below unless you can be certain that ST will adopt automated trains. Then it’s no big deal.
However, if Tremens is anywhere near right about the money — I don’t think he is, but IF he is — then nothing is going to get built except the useless West Seattle stub.
If reversing direction takes a while, so be it. From a rider standpoint, it really doesn’t matter, as relatively few people would continue on. They simply need to move the train before the other one gets there, six minutes later. The part from Ballard to UW could be automated as you suggest, if they want a faster turnaround. The train from downtown pulls into Ballard, the operator pushes a button, and after a few seconds the train pulls out, headed to the UW. The operator does nothing at that point (although it is nice to have someone on the train if something goes wrong).
That’s not the way that New York does it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42nd_Street_Shuttle). They have two operators, which would dramatically increase the cost. That train runs every 2 minutes, and automation attempts failed in the 1960s. Given the huge number of riders, and the relatively short distance, I can see why they just went with two operators, and haven’t bothered to look into automating. The New York Subway system could use a massive investment in operations, but they just don’t have the money.
Without a doubt though it makes sense to put the scissors beyond the station, as that would enable the most flexibility. To a large extent, this could all be done later. If we add the scissors before the station now, it isn’t the end of the world, as long as we extend out the track tunnels past the station to the west a little bit. When Ballard to UW comes along, we push that out much farther, and add scissors then. My guess is this would be much cheaper than putting a station underneath another one.
Still, the best long term solution is to have the scissors after the station, along with the two holes as described earlier (for future expansion to the UW). I would be tempted to build stub tracks now (get that bit of engineering over with). Then all you have to do is tunnel through to the stub tracks and connect it up. This would be easier than connecting East Link to the main line, which was pretty darn easy, really. It would cost a little to enable future expansion, but relative to everything else, every little.
Ross, you didn’t read what I said about reversing with a single operator in a tail tunnel: it would not be allowed.
I recognize that’s an opinion, because to my knowledge nobody has ever done [or possibly even suggested] it. It’s pretty obvious that unfamiliar riders would panic when they saw the operator step off the train or walk by outside the cars when they’re stuck in a tunnel. We know how that goes from recent experience.
I do like your idea of automating the Ballard-UW leg, assuming that it’s subway all-the-way, but Rainier Valley and IDS-SoDo operations still aren’t automated. That’s a good outside-the-box thought that might get some traction. The operator would have to change ends at UW in order to be ready to drive south from Ballard, but the trains should be there long enough for her/him to do that. Control would stay with the automation so the normal shut-down and start-up protocols necessary for reversing could happen during the dwell times at Ballard before departure to Tacoma. It’s more than just “pushing a button”, but if both shut-down and start-up plus the walk don’t have to happen in one dwell, but be spread over three, it should result in no net delay.
Thank you for that idea!
It has the added virtue of providing one-seat rides from U-District to the Airport. Sure, it would probably take two headways longer to get there, but some people will prefer the security of knowing the train they board is going to the airport if ANY trains are going to the airport.
I think Ballard-UW could and should be operated as a separate line, but connectivity should be maintained so trains can be serviced at one of the other OMFs.
In the ideal case, riders could just get up, walk across the platform, and board the other train.
Ballard-UW won’t operate until the 2050s; Link should be fully automated by then. The only reason to operate it as a separate line may be if Ballard-Downtown is a 4-car line and Ballard-UW is a 2-car line.
Protip – don’t look to the NYC on how to efficiently operate subways. They have plenty of money for operations, they just spend it poorly.
60% of the MTA’s ops budget goes for personnel costs. Some 16% is spent on debt servicing. This leaves 24% for everything else, including the fuel and electricity to run the MTA’s buses, subway lines and trains, as well as all of the maintenance costs. So, where are the savings to come from in your “protip” opinion?
Fwiw…..Prepandemic, the MTA received half of its total revenues from fares and tolls. As a result of historical drops in ridership and travel during the pandemic, the MTA ops budgets through 2024 were forecasted to show multibillion dollar deficits. I would hardly call this an agency swimming in surplus funding.
The primary concern with MTA is outsized spending on their personnel. Too many operators.
Thanks for the link Nathan! I missed that piece on streetsblog from Jan. Great article. Yeah, the union there is very resistant to changes. One of my brother’s kids has been an operator there for a long time so I frequently hear about their concerns from them.
Ross, you didn’t read what I said about reversing with a single operator in a tail tunnel: it would not be allowed.
That seems like an unnecessary restriction. After all, automated trains do that all of the time — why can’t an operator (with all of the modern technology at their fingertips) do that for a very tiny section?
But fine, assume that they can’t. So now we are back to putting the scissors before the future merge. Then, when the other line is built, we just “through-route” the trains. This means a “layover” at Ballard, while the operator switches places for the final leg to the UW. At the UW, there would be a new operator. Automating travel between Ballard and the UW would speed up the trip through Ballard, as you wrote (the driver would switch places at the UW, not Ballard). The dwell time for Ballard might be fairly short.
I could also see the UW to Ballard line being independent and automated. That being the case, it wouldn’t need to switch tracks. If we wanted it to, those could be added later (as part of the other line). That could get messy though — it might be simpler to just through-route the trains.
For *this* line, the only thing we have to do is make sure the scissors aren’t where the merge would be. Putting the scissors before the merge seems like it would make things simple, but I don’t think it would be terrible in the long run if it is afterwards (since the trains might not switch tracks after the extension). The other parts of it (to allow for future expansion to the east) sound like they would require more planning if we wanted to minimize future costs.
Protip was mostly around labor deployment, in response to Ross’s suggestion of simply employing two drivers at the same time. MTA’s cost problems in capital spend are multifaceted, but for operating cost it’s primarily labor – as you noted, it’s by far the largest source of spend.
Here’s a good example: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2021/05/24/labor-and-new-york-bus-and-subway-frequency/
Yes, PLEASE ST MORE PLANNING! I agree with everything you say.
There is, possibly, one more thing though [well, maybe two; please read to the bottom]. Unless Ballard-UW is automated when it begins but terminates at Ballard [e.g. non-through routed], you might have traffic jams at the platform if trains on the Ballard-Tacoma line are late.
I was under the impression that both you and Nathan were all excited about the prospects of “turning the line east” to quote Nathan. That is, ping-ponging at Ballard as a through service. That would mean a brief dwell at Ballard for those trains; either they’d be automated and leave after a couple of minutes, or they’d have to be double-drivered on the round-trip between Dravus and U-District. There would be little dwell at either platform.
However, since you both have temporized on that, basically saying “Well, it’s not that terrible to transfer there”, then let’s just drop it and assume that they will be operated independently with single drivers. Al reported at the bottom that the ST consultants are basically stonewalling at public meetings when someone suggests automation.
That means that you really should have a three-track station with two-platforms, probably two-and-one like MAX at Beaverton TC and Gateway. That allows the “short-turn” to stay out of the way of potential future through trains.
Now, if it is determined that there will never be an extension to the north, then two tracks with one platform and a farside tail is probably sufficient because the dwell for Ballard-UW would still be relatively brief. It could be operated always to change drivers at U-District. Ballard-Tacoma probably requires an operator switch anyway, so it can be relatively brief.
In fact given the reality that Ballard-Tacoma probably won’t need a “walk-the-train” reversal, it might be possible to run the station as two side-by-side single-track stubs with a center platform making transfers very quick. Ballard-Tacoma would be on the south side and Ballard-UW to the north. This removes the level crossing!
Here’s the track layout from the west end bumpers eastward for three blocks. There would be two platform tracks with a center platform leading as in MAX terminal stations. Immediately east of the platform would be a set of scissors for emergency use with one platform only. Then, about mid-block between 15th and 17th the Ballard-Downtown track would curve away to the south as in Nathan’s map. As soon as the curve has taken the track far enough away to have a separate bore there would be a turnout to split off the northbound track to the left.
The Ballard-UW track would go straight at that curve and as soon as possible sprout a turnout to the right for the eastbound track.
The sections from 15th to the station would effectively be “single track”. However, that’s pretty short, and the short trains on Ballard-UW would be walkable in less than a minute giving a reversal time of perhaps three minutes (45 seconds to “shut down”; a minute to walk and 1:15 to boot up the other end).
As stated above, the Ballard-Tacoma trains would almost certainly be re-crewed so there’s almost no walk time at all. The shut-down for the incoming cab overlaps with the time needed for the new operator to board, walk to the cab, open it and settle in. About the time that s/he is ready to receive control, the shut-down at the other end will be complete. Then the incoming operator gets up, locks up and exits the train. During that time the outgoing operator would go through his/her system tests.
I think that could happen in three minutes as well.
For ST’s ease of mind a farside tail, or maybe two, could be included so that disabled trains can be shoved through the platform out of the way of other traffic until a retriever can come to drag them to the MF.
Just a minor clarification: My original thought was that the lines operate independently. From a user standpoint, I don’t think we get that much out of through-routing. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that through-routing actually simplifies operations. The trains would stay on their own tracks the whole way. (I assume no level crossing).
You do need to switch drivers (or have the drivers switch places) and reverse directions before the other train gets there. But with six minute frequency (max) that seems fairly easy. This could be sped up by having two drivers overlap, as you wrote. It could be sped up by automating travel between the UW and Ballard. But worse case scenario, I think they could reverse directions and be out of the way of the next train within six minutes.
This might mean a big delay at the Ballard Station, but I don’t see that as a big problem (obviously, based on that first paragraph).
@AJ — I think you missed my point. I mentioned a train in New York that never changes its tracks. New York City looked into automating it in the 1960s, but this failed, in disastrous fashion (you can read about it on Wikipedia). They haven’t tried since, even though automation has come a long way in the last 70 years.
The big reason they haven’t tried since is because they simply don’t have the money. The New York Subway system could invest billions in operational technology and the trains would run a lot more smoothly. This would probably save money in the long run. They don’t, simply because in the short term, they don’t have the money. They always have more pressing needs in the city.
It’s like fixing a car with duct tape. It isn’t ideal. You know it will probably cost you more money in the long run. But you simply don’t have the money to fix it right now (not when you are behind on your rent).
This isn’t unique to the New York Subway system. It is true of our infrastructure system in general. The problem isn’t local, it is national. The federal government should have focused on maintaining our infrastructure system (including the New York City Subway) instead of giving away huge tax breaks to the rich, fighting a couple of stupid wars, and constantly building new things.
Operator shortages continue to plague our local transit agencies….
Sunday afternoon I tried to take the 45 westbound from Roosevelt but it didn’t show up. A message on the display said six 45 trips and eight 62 trips are canceled on Sunday. It didn’t say which ones beyond the first ones of the day, but if it’s like the 512 it would have the effect of 15-30-15 minute frequency. I waited for the second 45, which did come. I’m not sure if it’s every Sunday or just that day, but since these cancellations are widespread it’s probably every Sunday. I just never expected them to affect core routes like the 45, 62, 255, and 512 in the middle of the day.
“I just never expected them to affect core routes like the 45, 62, 255, and 512 in the middle of the day.”
Yeah. That is very discouraging to hear. Thanks for sharing your personal observations.
The 62 at Roosevelt has a new style. In addition to the 8 cancellations on Sundays, there are 6 cancellations weekdays. The schedule at the bus stop between 6:30am and noon just says “Every 14-17 minutes”. Between 12:15pm and 10pm it says “Every 9-18 minutes”. Saturdays it says “15-20” and “13-20”. Sundays it says “15-16” and “13-20”. So all the runs except early morning, noon, and late night are unscheduled, or at least the schedule is hidden from passengers. The next-arrival display was accurate, so that’s something. But it also said the 45 was coming, even though the 45 is rerouted away from the stop.
This is not the worst Metro service — that was in the 80s when Seattle routes were half-hourly, suburban routes were hourly, and there was no route on 65th or between Roosevelt and Fremont — but it’s the worst deviation from normal service that I can remember.
And I’m wondering if these driver shortages are becoming permanent because I don’t see what will fix them. Metro has the money, it just can’t find candidates, and neither can other transit agencies or trucking companies or retail stores or restaurants or libraries. So will infrequent and unreliable service become a fact of life in spite of the region’s recent commitments to better transit?
If Metro does not have enough drivers to run its current schedule, then Metro needs to reduce the number of trips in the schedule to something they can run. There is simply no alternative.
Yes, it sucks to see frequencies reduced. But, having it happen via cancelled trips is much worse than reductions in the official schedule. At least the latter, you know when the bus is going to come and can depend on it to show up. Plus, the trips that do come will be spaced evenly, rather than three buses 15 minutes apart, followed by 30 minutes of nothing.
To eliminate cancelling trips Metro would have to drastically reduce frequency to where they have a surplus of drivers. Drivers are not interchangeable like deckhands on WSF. Drivers have to be trained on a route and are assigned to a specific base. With something like Covid you’re likely to see one base hit hard and others hardly at all. Metro just doesn’t know what trips are going to get cancelled until drivers call in sick. And then any shuffling has to be according to seniority. Unfortunately I don’t see any better alternative than to schedule routes as if all available drivers will show up for their scheduled shift. Hiring is tough for everyone right now. More cross training, especially on the core routes would help but then you’re taking two drivers to do one route which right now probably translates to a cancelled trip.
The other alternative is to eliminate some routes entirely (like the 249). It was crazy to just restore all service at the flip of a calendar page when demand wasn’t there and staffing was inadequate. The mess of cancelled trips was foreseeable and inevitable.
Considering the driver shortage, the 249 should not have been restored.
Same story with Community Transit….
Interesting tidbit from the linked CT service change announcement:
“Service to and from the newly opened Northgate Station will see the greatest changes as ridership to the northernmost light rail station remains low. This will also affect Sound Transit’s Routes 511 and 512, which Community Transit operates.”
Looks like Lynnwood Link won’t be much of a hit, at least not for a while. If it’s a bust after a year or two, time for a re-vote. North and East King will owe Pierce quite a bit for monies spent getting the Spine to ST2 destinations.
At least everyone (except North and East King) will have their ST3 projects chopped. NK will have 130th, and EK will have Downtown Redmond.
Don’t hold your breath. This is one claim of low Northgate ridership. Anyone looking at the platforms or doors can see quite well that ridership at U-District and Roosevelt is robust all day, larger than anywhere south of Westlake. Northgate I’m less certain of and may be more variable, but many of the mall destinations are gone and their replacements don’t exist yet, and an ice rink is relevant to a smaller demographic than retail stores.
CT is looking at Northgate usage from Snohomish County, especially the 4xx routes it funds. They and the 510, 511, and 513 are hampered by still-closed offices downtown. The 512 has robust ridership all day, so much that ST raised it to 10-minute service weekdays and Saturdays and 20-minute Sundays, alone among ST Express routes, and surpassing the 550 which for most of ST’s history had the highest ridership. I doubt that ridership has suddenly crashed in the past three months. Its cancellations are because of driver shortages, not lack of riders.
Link+512 trips are also 15 minutes longer than 512 trips to downtown used to be, according to my friend in north Lynnwood who rides it weekly or more. Part of it is the lack of coordination between its schedule and Link. Part of it is that new riders don’t know where the bus stop is or about the elevator that goes all the way down so they spend more time on two elevators or escalators. Better signage and schedule coordination would help with those. But the problem will go away in two years when Link reaches Lynnwood.
North King and East King don’t owe Pierce anything.
The idea that Lynnwood Link would go bust is ridiculous. There are still almost a dozen 4xx and 5xx routes between Snohomish and King Counties, so at minimum those people will be on Link. That ensures it will be like the Rainier Valley stations at least. When service between Snohomish and King County actually improves (the slowing down of the 512 is a counterexample), that will bring new riders. Ridership is still being held back by the office closures and people’s reluctance to go to all the places they used to. That will diminish if we don’t get another major wave in the next few months.
The most justified parts of Link are clearly Lynnwood, Redmond, and KDM. We can extend that to Federal Way, Ash Way, or Mariner as a compromise with the Spine enthusiasts. The most critical thing is a line across Seattle’s long axis, and it should be where the largest urban centers are (downtown, U-District, Northgate). Ballard and West Seattle are secondary, and there are arguments both ways on whether a second north-south axis is necessary. But if you’re on the high side of the argument, that’s clearly a natural place for it.
Service to and from the newly opened Northgate Station will see the greatest changes as ridership to the northernmost light rail station remains low.
It is worth noting that the Community Transit (CT) Northgate Link restructure kept the peak express buses to downtown, while the peak buses to the UW were truncated at Northgate. My guess is the buses to the UW always had relatively low ridership. It isn’t clear whether this is proportionately worse. For example, a bus to downtown might have run completely full, while now it runs half-empty. In contrast a bus to the UW used to run half empty, and is now one quarter full. For perspective, the 586 (the express from Tacoma to the UW) only carried about 30 people per bus at most, despite being extremely convenient for its riders.
Making matters tougher, they may have given the buses to Northgate more service (to make up for a two-seat ride to the UW). Normally you see an uptick in ridership as a result. But the combination of commuter type trips (that tend to be less influenced by frequency) and less overall transit ridership meant that this merely spread the diminishing number of riders over more buses.
The 511 is quite similar to these CT buses (it only runs peak direction). The 512 is not. It runs all day. There have already been cutbacks in service due to staffing shortages, and this memo is just saying those will continue. This really has nothing to do with ridership, and everything to do with staffing. Community Transit can not decide to run the buses less often just because they aren’t carrying that many riders. That isn’t their call. That is Sound Transit’s.
In any event, by the time Lynnwood Link opens (2024) I expect the pandemic to be in the rear-view mirror. Demand to downtown Seattle (and other Link stations) will have rebounded. Staffing shortages may still be a problem — or not. If anything, staffing shortages may push CT to truncate all the buses, instead of keeping a few express buses to downtown. If CT decides to keep the expresses (because they are popular) then it could lead to very low ridership, and a rethinking of an expansion. Either way, by then, we should have a much better idea of how popular Lynnwood Link is, as well as some idea of what a future extension would get us.
Chief of Staff Brooke Belman selected as Acting CEO at Sound Transit and will assume the role following Rogoff’s May 31st exit.
Following up on one of the items included in the last news roundup post, last Thursday, Feb 24th, the ST Board voted to squander another $30 million to rebaseline (again) the budget for the Tacoma Link Hilltop extension project as well as to push the service date into 2023, rather than May of this year. This resolution puts the new total project budget at $282 million (YOE$) for a project that went into the FTA pipeline with an estimated YOE$ cost of roughly $166 million.
In the private sector, the project director, Ms. Greathouse, would have long since been given her walking papers.
Considering the number of expensive messes I’ve seen in the private sector, I’m not at all convinced construction project management there is any better.
That hasn’t been my experience in my professional career (management, financial and risk consulting) at all. The scholarly literature seems to support this as well. For example, see the study out of University of Singapore from about a decade ago where they looked at some 300 large scale projects in both the public and private sectors. Their findings were pretty conclusive that projects of private industry companies significantly outperform those of public agencies.
Regardless, the point being made here was in regard to the consequences of such poor performance, not whether it existed any more or less within the private sector compared to the public arena.
I often wonder if private projects would have similar rates of blown budgets if they were subjected to as much public oversight/demand as public projects. In my experience, the fact that public entities are motivated by service instead of profit tends to lead to a mentality that the marginal cost of providing a “better” service (subject to opinion) is worth the delay rather than staying within the original budget.
Although, my experiences are largely with WSDOT and various housing authorities.
That all depends on the reasons for the blown budgets.
Were there a bunch of utility relocations needed on this project that weren’t expected? Did Tacoma require a bunch of modifications to stuff before permitting?
I can tell you that in the distant past, on a certain SoundTransit project, the architectural consultant insisted upon the use of custom, one of a kind products that were significantly more expensive than what everyone else on earth uses for the same purpose, and due to it not being off the shelf was also more time consuming to manufacture. I never found out why. Weird local code requirements? Some outdated bit in a city specification someplace?
Another project for a different group, this one involving entirely private parties on all sides except the root funding, was significantly over budget because the consultant involved insisted on a 100% capacity power system. They did the equivalent of adding all the circuit breaker capacities in your house up, and deciding that is what the power supply needed to be. Your house wiring would cost about 8 times as much if this were common practice, because virtually nothing in a house runs simultaneously. A typical house might have 200 amp service, but if you add up all the breakers in the box you might get 1,000 amps or so because those are the maximum of what might be there, not what actually is. Anyway, the customer, and the unfortunate taxpayers of that district, were conned into paying for a 150,000 watt generator set under the railroad car when 30,000 watts would have worked fine.
There are definitely legitimate reasons for prices to be higher than expected. Certain parts from Europe are now at 8 months lead time, and 4 times the price than a year ago. Certain wire that is only used in railroad cars has nearly a year lead time.
A problem with publicly financed projects is that it is extremely difficult to cancel these projects if the various vendors and contractors come back with prices significantly higher than the original estimate. Private enterprise can usually figure out a way to limp by an extra year or whatever, and so I don’t think consultants and the like are as likely to bilk entirely privately funded projects (though I’ve seen it happen).
The way contracts are written can be a mess too. I know someone working on a certain federal contract, and for some bizarre reason they are required to put the thing out for bid every 3 years, and hire someone different than the existing contractor. This means everyone working on this stuff has to go through a steep learning curve every three years. Some outside consultant wrote the contracting specifications that way, and it doesn’t matter to them because they get paid the same, no matter how big a mess their concept works.
In any event, a lot goes on with this stuff and you can’t always point to one person to blame.
Ballard might be able to have a tunnel without 3rd party funding– but only if it is on 14th.
“Sound Transit’s Executive Corridor Director Cathal Ridge said in an interview that acquiring an estimated 487 homes and demolishing them appear to be completely necessary due to the inability to fit the station in the street right-of-way because of the City’s fire code, which he said wasn’t likely to change to accommodate a snugger station.”
I hope this isn’t like small towns with huge streets and intersections so that two hook-and-ladder trucks can turn around simultaneously or two 19th-century carriages could turn left simultaneously (even though those are vanishingly rare and one could wait for the other). This is what’s wrong with transit: the city doesn’t prioritize it or put it in its proper role given how much it benefits people every day; instead transit has to bend to other issues and the result is substandard transit that’s not as useful or transformative as it could have been.
Headline unfortunately not from The Onion, “Engineer thinks fire code is immovable object, demolishes 487 homes instead”
Yeah, basically the worst options are the cheapest. From a rider perspective, underground offers no advantage to elevated, unless the station is at a different location. An underground station at 14th is still crap, because it is at 14th. Even a station at 15th is less than ideal. An underground station at 20th should be studied in more detail — they simply need to consider crossing the canal to the east, and then curving west.
It is worth noting that in West Seattle, a lot of the problems are caused by the insistence of running the station north-south. This obsession with a future southern expansion — which was not part of the public vote — is the cause of a lot of the problems.
A bridge/tunnel from the west side of 15th to a platform on 14th is better than nothing but still not great. This would be a longer distance than to the west side of Broadway like Capitol Hill station has. 15th to 14th is three ordinary blocks. It’s probably as long as the long transfer tunnels in St Petersburg and New York — for something that’s not an interchange between two major lines like those transfers are.
I’ve emailed my letters to the ST Board, to the Mayor, and to Councilman Strauss. Anyone who might be able to get ST to study the 14th tunnel to 20th station idea should get a letter. It’s clearly the last, best hope to get a station in a place where people want to go!
Who else should I write to?
Official comment on the WSBLE DEIS, if you haven’t already. Attending the public outreach meetings may help.
Al, this process sounds quite familiar with East Link. The reality is the design is chosen, and as noted above this process is to defend it. The only entities that can influence the process are major players (like the Bellevue or Issaquah city councils), and the major players like Dow, West Seattle and Ballard have already shaped the design. MI citizens couldn’t even influence the exterior design of the stations, which are very inconsistent and out of scale with the town center and an (orange) ode to ST.
All of these public processes begin with the assumption everything is affordable (hence the tunnels), and ST will be upfront about the fact this process is not to look at value engineering options because who wants to discuss value engineering proposals with an angry community.
At the end ST collects the written public comments or comments staff claim citizens made at the meetings and culls them to support the option(s) ST had already chosen.
The only real difference between East Link and WSBLE is everything is not affordable with WSBLE, but ST will never admit that, until it has to. Public agencies tend to believe that if the project is approved and begun the responsible governments will have to find a way to complete it, like The Big Dig in Boston. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig#:~:text=The%20Central%20Artery%2FTunnel%20Project%20%28CA%2FT%29%2C%20known%20unofficially%20as,the%201.5-mile%20%282.4%20km%29%20Thomas%20P.%20O%27Neill%20Jr.
Personally, I find it a little surreal ST is holding public meetings about escalators to a tunnel the subarea could never afford that now cost the same as a bridge, except ST probably believes it will have to be completed if begun, and paid somehow. That basically is the definition of ST 3 (and ST 1).
I’ve been watching some of the recent WSBLE Community Advisory Group meetings. It’s hard to do because 75 percent of the meetings are canned presentations or fluff discussions (akin to “What do you love about your neighborhood?”) so I’m fast forwarding through lots of the meetings. A few observations:
1. ST is treating these meetings like PR events. The ST representatives appear to be more trying to brush aside any constructive comments.
2. The community members are almost universally concerned about bus transfers and walk access in its many components. They keep asking for deep dive questions like what guarantees are there for escalator and elevator redundancy, and whether the 3-5 minutes to get and and down from the platform are a factor in their forecasting. Staff appear to respond with vague platitudes and have yet to explain how the additional transfer walking time is favored into the forecasting. They keep saying they are doing a “deep dive” but appear to present nothing more substantive than the original information.
3. The topic of escalators is particularly whitewashed. The ST staff admit that their transfer time calculations are based on escalators. However, they don’t talk about if the escalators will be so crowded that it will take extra time to get into them. They ignore that existing Westlake and IDC stations have no down escalators to the existing platforms! They never mention that down escalators were pulled from Lynnwood Link stations after the EIS was finalized. They brag about things like the transit travel time will fall from 30 minutes (note the published schedule is 27 minutes) on RapidRide D from Ballard to 11 minutes, but no mention of the extra time to walk further and ride the escalators (hopefully working and going in both directions) to get to Third and Pine (seemingly making the trip via Link always 20+ minutes long in the future anyway).
4. The staff approach is that money is no object. There is no discussion about the components of recent cost increases. There are no metrics showing the value of the investment.
5. There is tacit agreement that no driverless option should be considered or even discussed, although many new lines today across the world are being built driverless.
There really is a need for citizens to do more than respond directly to ST. These community members are doing their best but it’s way too big of a responsibility and they have way too little time allotted to discuss things and there is a notable absence of technical experts.
The next CAG meeting (at least for Ballard/Interbay) is supposed to be about some potential refinements for cost savings. I’m very curious what sort of information they’ll be presenting then. In the meantime, I’m hoping to have time to get to Union Station on March 17 to see if anyone there will be able to discuss the 14th-to-20th Ave idea.
It was clear from this group’s prior meetings that options to connect west of 15th Ave are being nudged.
One staff point about the underground station on 15th was mentioned — the deeper station depth (like Capitol Hill) is required to get the tail track under the building north of Market at 15th. Reducing that depth by closing Market and dropping a station underneath adds another advantage about siting any underground Ballard station alternative in an east-west orientation.
I asked about the depth of the 15th Avenue station to get the explicit response that it’s necessitated by the Target building’s foundations. While it hasn’t been explicitly stated (as far as I’m aware), I’m assuming that any attempt to site the 15th Avenue station in the street ROW to allow for a more shallow station is a non-starter due to 15th Avenue being a critical Truck Street for Ballard/Interbay industrial connections. Significant closure for the ~3 years of station construction would face incredible opposition, and ST knows it.
Hence the off-street station location on 15th vs the 14th ave location which is in the ROW and reasonably shallow.
That’s why I’m hoping to get some consideration for a 14th-style station but East-West on 56th off 20th.
Hence the suggestion to first build a car bridge on 14th and then later build the station on 15th, whether it’s elevated or underground.
I wonder which is more likely of the two extremely unlikely options: ST studying an E-W oriented Ballard station on 56th, or SDOT finding funding to begin replacement of the 15th Avenue Bridge and adopting the Urbanist’s extremely progressive vision of a new Ballard Bridge in the same timeframe as ST3.
Given the politically milquetoast leadership we just elected, for the next six years I expect no significant divergence from total deference to rubber-on-road to move people and products around.
On that point, though, in any political climate I have a very hard time imaging the Ballard Bridge will ever fully be replaced. Even BNSF, with total ownership of the Salmon Bay Bridge, is rehabbing their bascule instead of building a new one.
To be fair, it’s kind of apples-to-oranges since while there are 5 other ways to across the Lake Washington Ship Canal by tire, and the only way to get north of Seattle by heavy rail (west of Spokane, at least) is over that bridge. However, it would require some real creative political leadership to consider reducing general traffic capacity/service west of Fremont.
Frankly, it would take some real leftist/progressive leadership at the Federal level to update traffic engineering guidance to change how Level Of Service is calculated and applied/required for traffic planning.
Nathan, I am strongly supportive of your 56th Street Station idea. I think we need to do the same sort of due diligence about the building on 56th west of 15th under which it would pass, but other than that it seems like the best of all possible worlds and probably would cost only as much as 14th plus whatever the extra tunnel length (about three blocks) would cost. I can’t imagine it being more than $50 million.
We need to beg ST to include the bellmouths for Ballard-UW or rough in a basement for a separate station. That would of course be the cheapest and most flexible option; a non-revenue connection could be made by coming up between a farside double tailtrack. Ballard-UW won’t be built until automation is accepted, so it will probably be frequent two-car trains.
If a northern extension were ever built, this would mean that the curve to the north would have to be under 24th or perhaps even a block or so farther west.
AJ, I agree that a new car bridge is needed, but I expect that you’d get serious pushback against moving to 14th. For one thing the street is narrower, but for another if it were two-way, there would be a tricky weave from southbound 15th to southbound 14th. I guess if you did it south of Market it wouldn’t make downtown Ballard trips go out of the way.
The best option is the tunnel with Nathan’s station. I’d build a station box about 52nd, though in case the area southeast of 15th and Market gentrifies. A station box without the innards isn’t ruinously expensive.
First of all, The Urbanist did the cause for a bridge at 14th no favors with that article. I get it, though. They are the Urbanist. Of course they are going to push for a world with much slower cars, and much lower bridges. But this is not what most people had in mind. Most people envisioned the same sort of car bridge, but at 14th. It would be two lanes each direction, and at least as high above the canal as the current bridge (SDOT is studying much higher bridges for 15th). You would add bike lanes, but that would be about it (since the buses wouldn’t be going over it).
There would be two big selling points that would appeal to lots of people with different interests. First, you build a new bridge at 14th. That means that drivers never have to put up with a shutdown. Everyone is well aware of the shutdown for West Seattle, which really sucks (for drivers). Even the shutdowns for the Montlake Bridge are annoying. But if you build a second bridge before touching the first, there would be no disruption at all.
Second is the obvious advantage from a transit perspective. You get a pretty good station while saving a lot of money. But it still isn’t ideal (a station at 20th would be). Nor is it super easy to build. It is simply easier. Getting to Market becomes much easier, but you still have to deal with Market and 15th. The only way that becomes a lot cheaper is if 15th becomes a minor street north of Market as well. That means shifting more of the traffic from 15th to 14th. You still have to deal with Market. It is worth noting that the cheapest, worst elevated option (with the stop at 14th and Market) is still not that cheap. This means that even if 15th becomes as quiet as 14th is now, you still have an expensive project. The entire reason that folks wanted an elevated line to Ballard was because it was supposed to be significantly cheaper than underground. Even with a deserted 15th Avenue, that might not be the case.
Then you have the impact on drivers. Despite the value of building a new bridge before the old one is torn down (a huge benefit for drivers) there will be people that hate this idea. They will envision more traffic (which seems likely) as cars dogleg around Ballard High School. Speaking of which, people who live off of 14th will hate this idea (because of the additional traffic). You can talk about a much slower street than 15th, but it will still probably be five lanes wide.
To be clear, I think this is a great idea. I definitely support it, and I can see how it could easily be the most cost effective transit option, while meeting the needs of drivers. But it would be hard to pull off. For ST to even study a station there (i. e. get an estimate of the costs) would require a commitment by the city for 15th to go on a major road diet (while 14th bulks up). This would have to happen within months, not years. Unless, of course, you expect ST to go back to the drawing board well after property has been bought, or at the very least, they have an official recommendation for a route. I wouldn’t rule that out, but you would have to get lucky with the timing (e. g. The Ballard Bridge has another hiccup, and everyone is reminded that it needs to be replaced). I just don’t see this happening any time soon.
Studying an east-west station at 20th is far more likely. It isn’t even close.
“ Studying an east-west station at 20th is far more likely. It isn’t even close.”
I think Ross’ statement is true. Seattle is not creative enough to package a two-crossing project. Further, the planning silos of ST and Seattle are pretty clearly viewed as distinct. Seattle seems to think about only one street or mode at a time.
With Lynnwood Link, the Shoreline South station was moved after the DEIS. Thus I don’t think that a station location is completely a done deal even after a preference in the DEIS is chosen. In particular, a subarea funding vote could legislatively move the station or even add funds for two stations on either side of 15th.
As there is a strong interest in pedestrians crossing 15th Ave, I would suggest a broader request to study the position anywhere from an east edge near 15th to a west edge near 20th. Exact positioning would need more research, and premature fixating on a platform location could undermine the broader concept. No matter where it goes, I think that having pedestrians being able to cross 15th Ave without worrying about car traffic is going to be a strongly embraced feature when adding the alternative.
Sorry about forgetting to close the italics.
I think Ross is right; there isn’t enough time to get a 14th Avenue car bridge planned, pre-engineered and agreed before ST has to start with pre-construction activities.
However, I am more than a bit concerned with the width of 56th. It’s pretty narrow and lined with five- and six-story apartment buildings on both sides east of 20th all the way to 14th. Would there be enough room to run two TBM’s down it?
You could certainly fit in a double track railroad between the foundations if you cut-and-covered it, but whoooeee would there be some blowback to that! I’m worrying that ST is going to insist that a station west of 20th be as deep as the one at 15th and Market.
I agree with Tom about 56th. It’s way too narrow to build a station vault.
Just go back to looking at Market. It’s the widest east-west street by far. Then some of the other parallel streets can be engineered to temporarily carry more traffic for the years when Market will need to be closed.
56th isn’t that narrow. It doesn’t seem crazy to have this be cut and cover, either. 56th is not a busy street.
I don’t understand the urgency around a finalizing a Ballard station location. As Al noted, Shoreline’s station location has demonstrated that the station can shift a few blocks if the technical limits require it; moving between 15th and 14th or Market and 56th, for example, shouldn’t require reopening the EIS. ST needs to pick a specific location to accomplish the EIS, but I wouldn’t consider it particularly meaningful (aside from bureaucratic inertia).
Furthermore, STUBBLE (let’s make it happen!) can easily be done in phases. If SDOT pivot to a street crossing at 14th in a few years, it is very straightforward, both politically and technically, for ST to simply build out Link to Smith Cover or even the Interbay station and delay the Ship Canal crossing until the new bridge is in place. I think y’all have very good thoughts around underground station options, but dismissing “the car bridge at 14th and transit at 15th” (CB14TB15) option because “we don’t have time” makes zero sense to me. Not only should it remain on the table until ST gets into 90% design, it’s likely to gain more support over time (particularly if ST moves forward with an elevated option) when people start to actually understand how disruptive the car bridge replacement will be.
Regardless of the alignment selected, I’m deeply skeptical the Ballard station will open the same time as the LQA station; when I was at ST, operations staff hated East Link because that’s just too many stations to open at the same time; something like Northgate, U-Link, or Redmond Link is far more digestible. I expect one of the official ‘lessons-learned’ post-ST2 will be to open segments in smaller phases, and I expect both Ballard-ID and Everett-Lynnwood projects to be broken up into multiple phases. LA’s 3 phase purple is a good example, where all 3 phases can steadily progress through design & construction but phases complete a few years apart.
“For ST to even study a station there (i. e. get an estimate of the costs) would require a commitment by the city for 15th to go on a major road diet (while 14th bulks up).” Right, which is why this option will not be covered within the EIS but will need to come later, once SDOT has made the first move. I reject the idea that ST & SDOT plan in silo; the planning staffs communicate frequently, and at a policy level ST has consistently deferred to municipal plans, in particular with SDOT around alignment choices. CB14TB15 certainly needs a political champion, but if the Seattle mayor, SDOT director, and/or a councilmember really leans into the idea, Sound Transit (board & staff) will happily oblige. It would be an easier political lift than something like 130th station; outside of North King, the Board members simply need to be told CB14TB15 is a cheaper delivery option.
As you all note, 14th has some political headwinds, but I think the advantages outweigh the cost, politically, technically, and financially. Politically, “hey we don’t need to close the car bridge during construction” is a powerful pitch and something that a low-information vote (aka most people) can easily understand and support.
FWIW, I don’t think the Salmon Bay Bridge has any relevance to the crossing at 15th; it’s different length and a very different construction technology? RE: LOS, how are the Feds relevant? 15th would only be impacted by city & state rules, and California is already pivoting away from LOS.
“… I’m deeply skeptical the Ballard station will open the same time as the LQA station; …”
I see your point. However, I’m very doubtful that the LQA to ID segment will be easy to complete. I could even see a scenario where the Smith Cove to Ballard segment gets finished long before the central subway section just because it appears less difficult to build. The years of delays with many other recent urban subway lines with new tunnels (San Francisco, Los Angeles) shorter than this one seems to be typical.
It’s a reason why I’ve pondered if there are ways to use the segment for transit before a full opening (like a streetcar between Ballard and Belltown or use by Metro buses).
Regardless, the East Link opening is scheduled to have more new stations becoming operational on the same day (10) than this extension will (7 or 9 depending on how added Westlake and IDC get counted). That’s on top of doubling the frequency of the current segment (as compared with switching that segment from the 1 Line to the 3 Line when IDC to Ballard would open).
@Al — Good point. I think it is quite possible that a car-bridge-14th/Link-15 project will be done much later, especially if ST continues to default to 14th. Likewise, a tunnel to 20th could easily happen later, especially since Seattle would likely have to chip in for it.
I disagree with this though:
It would be an easier political lift than something like 130th station.
130th was quite popular with the neighborhood. The mayor and the the city council member from that station (both of whom were on the board) supported it. There was no local opposition — quite the opposite. The only push back came from other board members who didn’t want to spend the money on it, but wanted to make sure their project got built first. This is true of every project.
In contrast, a car bridge at 14th will get local opposition from various sides. Truckers will oppose it, along with people who drive. There will also be people who live in the area who would oppose it, especially if the arterial extends to Ballard High. The board would be fine with it, but it might not even get that far. It could easily end up as one of those “crazy ideas” like getting rid of the viaduct and not replacing it with anything. (That wasn’t exactly the plan, but that is how it was viewed.) It is worth noting that Seattle is very left leaning, but also very conservative (in the classic sense). Folks here don’t like change. When put to a public vote, replacing the viaduct with a new viaduct was the most popular choice. There will be no new bridge next to the Montlake Bridge (despite WSDOT offering to pay for it). The West Seattle bridge will be fixed, not replaced. We looked at a bunch of potential locations for a new hockey/basketball arena, and ended up just having it in the same location it has always been.
There will be a lot of people that just want the new car bridge where it is — they can’t imagine it working any other way. It will be way more controversial than an underground station at 20th, and way more controversial than the station at 130th. I’m not saying it won’t happen — I think it would be the best value — but I’m saying it will be tough to pull off politically.
Fair, I thinking more regionally; I was presupposing local support. Without a mayor or councilperson as an advocate, it won’t go anywhere.
FWIW, I don’t think the industrial special interest would oppose it; truckers and local businesses presumably would find the idea of minimal disruption to freight movement very appealing, and the Port will like the 15th bridge staying within the existing envelope (and presumably doesn’t object to the car bridge at 14th). I think the biggest risk is the new bridge doesn’t fit an urbanist vision and Interbay is still stuck with a freeway interchange and in Ballard where the dogleg occurs is a bad pedestrian environment.
Al, I really like the idea of investing in Ballard/Interbay first, but it will need to be for buses; a streetcar project would need a standalone OMF (or a massive expansion of an existing one, such that it would effectively be an new one), so I don’t see that going anywhere, but admittedly I’m deeply skeptical of streetcars in general.
Al, I’m not worried about the station vault. There are available parking lots for the vertical conveyances and a two track station with a center platform can certainly be fit between the curbs of 56th.
What I am worried about is whether two eighteen foot diameter tubes and the necessary safety space between them can fit between the two curbs. TBM’s are quite precise, but their operators prefer to have at a zone of undisturbed earth about ten feet larger than the bore when they are digging.
Look at the two ends of University Street. On the south side, both tunnels enter the station at an angle; the tubes between there and Pioneer Square are quite widely separated. The tubes connect at the north end perpendicularly to the wall; they continue with the separation of the tracks in the station. But that’s still fairly far apart. There’s at least thirteen feet between the tunnel rings in the north wall of the station box. That’s a total width of forty-nine feet.
I haven’t “stepped off” the width of 56th, but on Google earth it shows two fairly normal driving lanes bounded by narrow parking lanes, probably nor more than eight feet. Here’s what it looks like at 17th Avenue: https://email@example.com,-122.3789365,3a,60y,90h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sFcSpXOL2fVN6wZZewHXi2A!2e0!7i16384!8i8192
So that’s twenty-four plus sixteen or forty feet. The outer edge of the TBM’s would be very close to the foundations of those apartment buildings if they are anywhere near the surface. Certainly the safety zone would extend well into the basements.
That means that the same problem with 15th will likely be encountered here, though not quite as severely. The tubes could probably rise toward the west end of the block as it approached 20th, because to the south there are only one- and two-story buildings which could be demolished allowing the tubes to shift that way a bit. The centerline of the platform level of the station would have to be south of the middle of the street, but that’s fine; there are just parking lots there now, as Nathan stated.
Ross, yes, cut-and-cover would work. The tracks in a cut-and-cover box can be directly adjacent which means that, even with the retaining walls, the width through the narrow section could be as narrow as about thirty feet. That is easy to fit within the forty feet available in the street. The southside track would jog to the south in that section with legacy buildings just east of 20th to accommodate the platform.
But there are going to be howls of indignation from the residents of those brand new buildings about two or three years of noisy, dusty construction right below their balconies. And who knows what will happen to that third of a block just east of 20th in the coming years. That is crucial to having a fairly shallow platform level to the west of 20th.
AJ, the need to finalize the station location is that at a minimum the development rights on it need to be bought. Now! It would be best actually to buy it before the price goes through the roof for anything at all in Ballard.
Tom, have a look at the West Seattle tunnel plans on 41st which is pretty tight, too. It’s on page 101 on https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/10b-wsble-drafteis-appendixj-drawings-wseattle-202201.pdf
I think that’s just as tight if not tighter.
Could you fit a small OMF at Interbay and just build Ballard to Westlake as an elevated line along Mercer and Terry? At Westlake people could transfer to the existing line and CCC… Would be easier than a long underground transfer.
Martin, I’m not saying you can’t run two TBM’s along the 56th Street right of way. I’m saying you can’t do it shallowly. That’s part of Nathan’s advocacy of an east-west station on 56th between 20th and 22nd.
The platform level at the 41st Avenue SW tunnel station is just about fifty feet below the surface, requiring escalators with a rise of approximately thirty feet between the mezzanine level and the surface.
Sure, you can tunnel ANYWHERE in Ballard except right around the Ship Canal if you dig fifty feet below the surface. I guess that, given ST’s recent decision never to run at-grade with street crossings, anything other than an elevated or sub-surface station in either Ballard or West Seattle is off the table.
So we should be doing whatever we can to ensure that these edifice complexes are as close to the surface gradient as possible. That means no soaring mezzanines for aesthetics in the elevated stations and find a location that can be approached at a shallow depth for subway stations.
This can be done at 56th. Kudos to Nathan for finding the location; the only other options would be under Fourteenth with TBM-bored tubes or in one of the diagonal streets between 15th and Leary, Barnes, Tallman or Russell. Fifty-Sixth or the diagonal streets would all have to be cut-and-covered to fit in order to provide a shallow depth.
Martin, on the Maintenance Facility for a Ballard-Westlake orphaned section, Glenn’s idea of using the CCC to connect through downtown and perhaps a single-track “non-revenue” connection along First and then Western would be better than building a to-be-orphaned MF.
But here’s another idea which is a barely-possible alternative. It is possible simply to store and clean the trains on a side-track or two in Interbay and provide a track connection to BNSF there. Cars requiring movement to Forest Street for major maintenance could be moved dead-in-tow by BNSF switchers with a short string of a few “idler” flat-cars, the last of which would have an LRT coupler on its open end, rather than a standard rail knuckle. The switch engine would use that “handle” of flat-cars to reach into the interchange track and couple to the car(s) needing repair, pull them out, travel down to a new connection added to the spur track from the busway that passes underneath the Link main line on Forest Street.
Yes, this is expensive to operate; ST would want to do it only once a week or so for a multi-car cut, but it would mean that the cost of an MF — even a smallish one — could be largely avoided. Obviously, there would have to be some sort of building and a cover over the side tracks to make doing the work more palatable. There’s room under the Ballard Bridge southern approach and a BNSF “siding-to-nowhere” leading into it which could be used for this.
ROWs Based on the SDOT Asset Map: https://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=b826e5b6d4df4564a91a05604e8cd671
NW 56th Street: 66 feet
14th Ave NW: 100 feet
15th Ave NW: 104 feet (at Market Street)
Market Street: 100 feet
Tom’s right – 56th street is about 30 feet too skinny for side-by-side TBMs near the surface. The conceptual 10% design plans assume ~90-100 feet for parallel tunnels. To have a platform be near-surface (<70' below grade) the station at 56th would have to be a "stacked" station to fit the tunnel alignment in the street. Which wouldn't be a terrible arrangement, but not great. My first instinct is to propose a cut-and-cover excavation that dives to the required depth for safe TBM usage, but that may not be feasible while still providing access to the adjacent buildings east of the station.
I've made a few updates to my map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1QlgnP_qYdEvfaePOKmh3wk8SfYve5Obe
I think closing Market Street for three years would be completely intolerable to the community, similar to how closing 15th Avenue is a non-starter. There's already significant pushback against SDOT resuming the Market Street rebuild/repave project that was put on hold for COVID (https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/maintenance-and-paving/current-paving-projects/nw-market-st), and that project is planning to maintain traffic flow in both directions at all times.
My focus on Ballard is largely due to it seeming like a feasible and significant improvement to a line that has many other significant problems that do not seem feasible to overcome – particularly the depth of DSTT2 and the associated stations. I have no idea how to get ST to consider lighting a fire under HNTB's butt to concoct a more reasonable alignment, because 130-foot-deep stations are ludicrous.
Also, the Shoreline station location refinement did require a supplemental EIS. I’m largely expecting that study of a 56th avenue station is probably going to have to be in a supplemental EIS as well.
Based on the expected passage of the Enhanced Service Zones legislation, I’m expecting the Board to want to do an ST4 (or ST3.5) bill in 2024 establishing a ESZ for Seattle to get the money to put the Ballard and West Seattle stations underground in better locations than the current preferred alignment and on time for the original schedule.
Tom, it’s great that the 56th option can be envisioned. I’m just not convinced that anything but a deep bore could turn the corner underneath the apartment building. In contrast, Safeway and Walgreens on Market are just one story buildings and can easily be repositioned on their sites of needed (and TOD could go above them) to allow the tracks to turn the corner.
Admittedly, the best location will be determined by what lies underneath the ground. That’s why I would suggest two or three east-west platform positions.
Al, I agree that the curve between 15th and 56th would have to be deep bored, and I think Nathan’s idea of a descending cut-and-cover trench to transition to TBM depth is not only good, it would be essential were c-n-c to be used at all.
I’m just trying to pre-determine the objections that the consultants are going to raise to any alternative to their proposals, which are de facto the “correct” solutions. At least in their minds.
We all need to think like they do in order to cut their objections off at the pass.
I’m thinking that we might want to take a close look at Tallman. It doesn’t align perfectly with 20th, but it would require only one or possibly two building(s) to be taken on the north side of Market for a curving tail headed up 20th and it aligns with 52nd VERY nicely at 17th to curve east. By the time it got to 15th it could be TBM deep for the curves toward the Ship Canal.
It also sets up very well for heading north under 20th while deepening to TBM level for the jog over to 15th. And it’s possible to imagine a two-level ramp under 52nd to set up Ballard-UW at the curve into TBM territory.
How about going a bit further West and take over the BofA parking lot and may be Umpqua bank? That might provide enough space…
About Tallman: The Wells-Fargo Bank building at the north end and the Central Ballard Residents’ Association at the south end that could be used for construction staging and permanently for vertical conveyances. Combined, the are considerably smaller than the U-District construction footprint, but in a pinch the small building just south of the Association could be taken also.
Clearly building here would be more complicated than on 56th. There is more traffic to and from the Swedish garage which would have to maintain its access, so the street would have to be decked. It could not be closed.
But it’s right in the center of the activities in Ballard, it can Go North with relative ease, and its swing east along 52nd makes it possible to have a shared station for Ballard-UW with relative ease.
I think ST simply trucked the cars from OMF-C to OMF-E. I suppose they could do the same from Interbay to OMF-C, if there is a facility for daily cleaning and some basic maintenance activity.
Continuing the saga. The station wouldn’t have to be south of Market in the middle of the Swedish campus. It could be just north of Market under 20th, essentially right where Nathan proposed, but oriented orthogonally. It would lie from the alley between Market and 56th to about 58th. The parking lot could provide construction staging and the headhouse for north of Market access.
You’d be digging a trench across Market for a shallow tunnel, so leave a walkway at mezzanine level to provide access for folks from the south side of Market.
This might be the best-of-all-possible worlds for a shallow station in Ballard. Really.
I know most of you think I’m weird, but I’m very happy to give Nathan full credit for the idea. He got us out of the 14th/15th Avenue box by finding a place to stage construction in Central Ballard.
The great thing about using Tallman as the “ramp” street is that it has that little plaza at 17th that can be used for the curve to 52nd while still at a relatively shallow depth. You’d be almost deep enough for TBM’s there, but the curve would be a bit too sharp for them, so cut-and-cover there would be perfect.
AJ, OK, I’m fine with that, too, if the city is. The cars are pretty tall to be waddling down Elliott and the hill down to Alaskan Way is kind of steep, but if it works technically, then sure, truck ’em.
I see what you mean about 56th being a possibility. I’ve warmed to you presenting it..
I would note that Market St is wide enough to perhaps allow at least one direction of traffic to continue even with a vault being built. A Market eastbound with a 56th Westbound one way pair may work as a temporary condition for example. So I still feel Market could work.
In your proposal I would suggest reserving a possible future infill station around NW 50th St or Leary. That would future proof its addition that could then be funded with extra referendum funds.
Wouldn’t a TBM need to go as far as 56th anyway? Perhaps guiding it to turn to/from the west would actually be a better place to pull it out of the ground! Then the station site moving could be a design refinement even after the DEIS.
Ultimately, the Ballard station siting “problem” is that it should be two stations with both having development in all four directions . It’s a stark contrast to both Smith Cove and Dravus station areas with so much walkshed land taken up in tracks, areas that can’t be developed and unstable soils. It’s why just one Ballard station has 13.1K boardings (6.5K non-bus) while Dravus has 4.2K (1.4K non-bus) and Smith Cove has 2.6K (1.9K non-bus).
Does the station vault need to be under a single street? If 56th isn’t wide enough, could one platform be shallow under 56 and another under Market, allowing some of Market to be open during construction? Particularly if the station curves under 14th (or even has a station at 14th opening before the 2nd station in Ballard, as some suggested), if there is cut & cover at 14th to put in the switch, can the two ‘tail tracks’ curve into Ballard and have single planform station? Since it is a terminus, it’s OK if a rider needs to exit to the surface and walk over a block to access the train going to other direction.
Probably not ideal. Just an idea.
To have a platform be near-surface (<70' below grade) the station at 56th would have to be a "stacked" station to fit the tunnel alignment in the street … My first instinct is to propose a cut-and-cover excavation that dives to the required depth for safe TBM usage … In contrast, Safeway and Walgreens on Market are just one story buildings and can easily allow the tracks to turn the corner [with the station on Market] … I’m thinking that we might want to take a close look at Tallman
I think these are all good ideas. I think the fact that we’ve discussed them in such great depth and they all seem plausible just shows the potential for the basic concept. As I wrote way up there, one of the key advantages of going underground is the flexibility. The station might be oriented east-west, or it might be oriented northwest-southeast. It might be close to Market, or a short block away to the north. The crossing might be at 14th, 15th, or somewhere in between. All of the options should be studied. The sooner the better, because (as Tom mentioned), we want to buy the land before it is developed.
Any of these options would be a huge improvement over every official option being considered. Which one we actually settle on doesn’t matter that much to me, as long at it adheres to a few key goals:
1) Be close to 20th and Market.
2) Provide for a Link expansion to the UW.
3) Be relatively close to the surface.
How that gets accomplished will require a lot more study. We aren’t the ones to do it — Sound Transit is.
“Also, the Shoreline station location refinement did require a supplemental EIS.”
Are you sure about that? I thought that the 2018 SEPA final documentation concluded that the 2017 and 2018 refinements to the Lynnwood Link extension project would NOT require any supplemental for the 2015 FEIS.
Perhaps you could provide a link to said supplemental?
@T: my mistake, I conflated the SEPA addendum with a supplemental EIS, which aren’t technically the same thing. In my experience, the WA SEPA is a very similar checklist to the EIS checklist – it’s still a complex document requiring environmental impact study. Not as simple as scrapping down escalators, for instance.
Here is my procedural recommendation (albeit not likely to go anywhere:
1. The comment period needs to be extended. If for no other reason, a better understanding of post-Covid travel challenges will be clearer.
2. The City of Seattle or King County Metro needs to organize and hold comment meetings with no ST staff participation with the intent to propose new options. The ST staff on these calls do not have the right temperament to do anything but defend the current proposals.
3. Pressure needs to be applied to add new station layouts now that the major vertical deficiencies and need for access are better understood. I hardly doubt that the the Board actions on assigning alternatives for the DEIS would have happened had these been substantively considered in 2019-20.
4. Specific new alternatives need to be proposed by the City of Seattle or King County Metro after a process of more community discussion. I don’t trust ST will allow any alternatives to be added if it was up to them.
All in all, it feels like there is nothing to change the mind of the ST bureaucracy. ST staff is ready to invade Seattle neighborhoods with convoys of construction equipment and impose billions of extra cost on its citizens to build stations that are difficult to use. City response seems the last best hope to prevent this eventual 20 year boondoggle resulting in these many planned user-unfriendly stations.
All very disappointing.
First off, thanks for taking the time to watch the videos and report your observations. It is much appreciated by this commenter and I’m sure many others here as well.
Secondly, your observation #1 doesn’t surprise me. I had the same takeaway when I attended a few of the Lynnwood Link public outreach meetings several years ago during the EIS process and again after the alignment was finalized and the project was baselined in Q2 2018 (after some nine months of “value engineering”). The meetings just were not that informative and a lot of very good questions were just brushed aside. Sound Transit also canceled a couple of the scheduled meetings once the blown estimate disclosure from Aug 2017 as well as poor performance from the agency’s ROW acquisition team became more problematic than they had anticipated. So much for transparency.
Finally, I find your observations #2 and #3, which are interrelated, to be quite troubling but also not terribly surprising either given the agency’s track history when challenged on station design issues. You’ve given some good examples (and there are plenty to choose from), including the elimination of the down escalators at the Lynnwood TC Station as part of the “value engineering” exercise that I referenced earlier. There was no outreach concerning that change. It was just made to save some money on a project that had been significantly underestimated on its total cost.
I wasn’t planning on watching the videos of these meetings but now after reading your comments I think I will make the time to do so. Thanks again.
About the escalators: I hooted at the video when the staff said that the vertical travel time was assuming escalators for transferring at Westlake and IDC! That statement borders on lying!
Oh and on the walksheds: In the Ballard meeting they kept showing concentric circles for walksheds even though many committee members complained about the extra time it takes to walk across that busy, higher-speed dangerous 15th Ave! Even the committee pointed out the circle walksheds are inadequate. Surely given the number of stations walksheds should be taking into account street grids and slopes — as well as presenting them as time rather than distance (and adding the walk time once inside the station all the way to the platform).
At one of these meetings, someone needs to make some noise comparing the Mt Baker station mess to the 14th Ave Ballard station. The transit center is just across the street and access is an issue due to the amount is traffic. In Ballad, it would be multiple blocks plus a really terrible intersection to cross, unless they’ve a plan to extend the mezzanine as a 9 block over-street walkway or something.
Anyway, after all the agreement about how bad Mt Baker is, it seems like building an even worse station for Ballard might get someone’s attention.
The advisory committees are looking at that station and every other station. ST says Metro will turn buses off of 15th Ave. A committee member then asked how much time that adds and the non-technical PR staff didn’t know. Of course, they apparently didn’t ask for a Metro planner to participate.
Nathan, thanks for the detailed update to the map. That is one fat snake coiling its way through Ballard! I’m amazed that only two of those huge buildings along 56th have foundations deeper than 10 feet, but it certainly looks like that it’s entirely feasible to TBM through there at a depth of 50-ish feet or a bit more without making them collapse. If folks can life with platforms at 50 feet below the surface, then the original proposal seems plausible. It’s a lot shallower than most of the monstrosities ST is proposing for the line.
Darn, got the nesting wrong again. This is in reply to Nathan’s recent post about updating the map.
East Link bus restructure comment period ends Monday, March 7. West Seattle – Ballard Link DEIS comments go until April 28, although I thought I saw a March 31 deadline somewhere.
At minimum, comments to the draft EIS will go into a report of how many people said what. Comments to the final EIS in the next round will be included in the EIS for everyone to read.
In the Lynnwood Link process, the most comments were about the location of Lynnwood Station. The alternatives were on various sides of the transit center. A several-hundred person petition didn’t want it on the north side enroaching Scriber Lake Park or a certain row of businesses. The second-most comments were for adding a 130th Station for Lake City and Bitter Lake and a potential (small) village at the station.
I remember one Lynnwood Link open house where I was the only one who spoke about specific alternatives and things ST could do for passengers. The largest number of speakers were from a Ukrainian community center just north of the station that didn’t want to be demolished. All the other speakers said just “Light rail is good; we need it now” or “Light rail is unnecessary and taxes are too high”, saying nothing about which alternative or modification would be best.
Understandably, you must have Ukraine on your mind. It was actually the Latvian Community Center.
From the FEIS (Apr 2015), Chapter 7:
“7.1 Overview of the Draft EIS Comments
“Sound Transit and FTA received 634 comment submittals from the public (individuals), agencies, tribes, businesses, and organizations. The comment tallies in Table 7-1 include the spoken comments made at the public hearings, as well as written comments. Some of the written comments came in the form of petitions, including one that had been posted online and endorsed by more than 1,800 people.
“The two most common topics were the impacts to the Seattle Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church and Community Center in Seattle in Segment A, and to Scriber Creek Park in Lynnwood in Segment C.
“Most of the other comments focused on a preference for one or more of the light rail alternatives or station locations, but many people also had specific comments on potential environmental issues discussed in the Draft EIS. These topics notably concerned acquisitions, displacements, and relocations; ecosystem resources; transportation; noise and vibration; visual and aesthetic resources; social impacts, community facilities, and neighborhoods; and parks and recreational resources.
“Table 7-1 shows the number of comments Sound Transit and FTA received by commenter type during the comment period.
“Table 7-1. Comment Submittals Received by Commenter Type
(Commenter Type, Number):
Federal Agency, 5
State or Regional Agency, 4
Local Agency, 15
Organizations or Groups, 46 Individual, 555”
Do you happen to recall where or what meetings you attended in regard to Lynnwood Link? Or during what phases (early scoping, post DEIS, or post FEIS)? As you surely know, the agency can summarize received comments in any fashion it so desires. The thing it cannot do is alter the actual written comments which ultimately are included in the relevant appendix. Whether the summary narratives accurately capture the takeaways from the commentary is open to debate.
It was during the Alternatives Analysis I think. I remember two hearings, the one above, and one in which the P&R vs non-car alternatives came up. I think both were early in the process.
Btw, if you ever want to see the comments you submitted for the Lynnwood Link DEIS back in 2013, they can be found on pages 467-469 of appendix P for posterity. :)
I just wanted to follow up on something commenter Mike Orr stated in a comment up above, but placing my reply comment here instead (since the relevant thread is quite long and covers numerous discussions).
“Japan’s zoning is pretty good, by the way; every density level allows all the (less-dense) uses under it rather than saying “only this here, only that there”. ”
Snohomish County’s residential zoning matrix emulates the former strategy rather than the latter. What follows are a couple of examples to illustrate the concept.
In the urban low density use category, there are three residential zones, R-9600, R-8400 and R-7200. Taking the R-7200 zoning as an example, the residential structures allowed include:
•Single-Family Detached- a residence containg a single dwelling unit, provided that the term may also include a residence with an attached accessory apartment
•Single-Family Attached- a single-family dwelling unit constructed in a group of two attached units in which each unit extends from foundation to roof and with open space on at least two sides and which is developed as a zero-lot-line development
•Duplexes- residential structure containing two dwelling units that have a contiguous wall in which the structure is located on one lot
•Cottage Housing- a single-family detached dwelling unit within a cottage housing development and clustered around common open space
•Townhouses- a single-family attached housing type constructed in a group of three to eight units in which each unit extends from foundation to roof and has open space on at least two sides
•Planned Residential Development (PRD)- provides for flexible developments of differing housing types (i.e., single-family detached and attached, duplexes and townhouses)
In the urban medium density and urban high density use categories, there are three residential zones, T zone, LDMR zone and MR zone. My own property is currently zoned as MR so I’m going to use this zone as my next example.
The residential structures allowed in the MR zone are:
•Planned Residential Development
•Single Family Detached Units (SFDU) Development- consists of two or more single-family homes, two or more duplexes, or a combination of single-family homes, duplexes and multifamily on a single site or lot
•Multifamily- a building containing three or more dwelling units, except that the term does not include townhouses
•Mixed Use- a development containing residential uses and non-residential uses either in the same structure or on the same site
(Cottage housing is not allowed in MR zoned lots.)
Snohomish County just needs to stop cherry-picking what areas get moved up to urban medium and high density use classifications, particularly in the SW UGA. For instance, if one goes just a couple of blocks over from my property, one is right back in urban low density land.
SB 5528 moved out of the WA State House (with one amendment added) by a narrow vote.
Boo, because I’m not a fan of this flawed legislation as I have expressed in previous posts on the subject matter.
Because of the amendment, the bill now goes back to the Senate side for its concurrence as passed.
One of the interesting questions for me is where the enhanced zones are that the Board thinks would pass additional transit levies, mainly to fund or accelerate ST 3. Drawing those lines would be an interesting exercise.
I don’t put a lot of stock in the NPI poll linked to in the article Tisgwm links to, and have posted about that before (as has Tisgwm). Basically, a local ST 4 with no new projects; just finishing ST 3 because like Move Seattle the project cost estimates were basically dishonest in order to pass the levy (which is what ST 3 was for ST 2).
I also wonder if N. King Co. or Seattle passes an enhanced zone levy for ST 3 will that free up room under the debt ceiling for ST 3 projects in E. King Co. that can be funded today by the subarea without any additional revenue. I guess one irony is about the only way for the eastside to “accelerate” its “extended” ST 3 projects it has the money for is if N. King Co. or Seattle passes an enhanced zone levy to open up room under the debt ceiling.
Regarding the NPI poll…..agreed.
Honestly, one would think that the legislature in an odd year cycle, would have more pressing matters to attend to rather than this scheme. Oh, I don’t know, perhaps fixing the resulting mess that was created from the poorly constructed long-term care insurance legislation is more deserving of their time and attention? Silly me for thinking that way.
Edit: should read, “…the legislature, not in an odd year cycle, would…”
While I can support Seattle adding supplemental funds, I cannot support the idea that non-Seattle board members on ST should be setting up, calculating what’s “fair” to assess the share that Seattle needs to add, managing that money responsibly, or any other details with subarea tax measure.
In a public vote, the opposition simply has to point out that suburban lawmakers want to impose more taxes just on Seattle residents to cover up their own ineptitude in believing the ridiculous cost estimates in the first place. I believe a share of normally transit-supportive Seattle voters won’t support this particular governmental arrangement (subarea taxation without subarea oversight) and won’t trust the ST Board with more money.
More significantly, I think there is an upcoming increasingly loss of confidence in ST by Seattle voters. There are now only two more stations (130th and Judkins Park with Graham now delayed) inside Seattle slated to open before a proposed West Seattle Link extension opens so there is going to be little opportunity for ST to demonstrate to Seattle voters how transformative a rail station can be. Instead, ST is going to be facing the realities of escalator and elevator failures, accidents on MLK, service disruptions with poor response like the recent tunnel incident, and declining productivity as the more suburban extensions soon opening will not have the fare-producing benefits that u-Link and Northgate Link provide. The ST afterglow has peaked inside Seattle.
ST’s image is going to shift from the builder of dreams to just another transit operator. It’s no longer going to be seen as the tabula rasa college student but will instead be seen as the middle aged adult who has many past mistakes that can’t be easily fixed.
Al, I understand your concerns about levy oversight in an enhanced subarea by the ST board. But I think it would help if you clarified some terms in your post such as “Seattle”, “suburban” (and whether “suburban areas exist in Seattle), which project cost estimates were underestimated (or were not), and why “suburban” subareas were stupid for not realizing the estimates — ridership, farebox recovery, general tax revenue and project cost estimates — were dishonest, but “Seattle” was not when it comes to the mother of all project cost underestimation that is driving all of this including the “realignment”: WSBLE.
Where were the doubts raised by Seattleites about the cost of this project during ST 3, especially the transit advocates who live and breath transit?
I have no problem allowing the enhanced subareas to have oversight over levy funds raised in their area. At the same time I think 1/2 the cost of DSTT2 should not be the responsibility of the four subareas outside N. King Co.. because that deal was based on dishonest ridership and capacity estimates for lines 1 and 2, which ironically is why these subareas are having problems completing the ST projects in their subareas.
The reality is the only enhanced subarea that will even place a levy on a ballot is “Seattle”, which is a huge geographic area with diverse neighborhoods. The other subareas have the funding for most of their modest projects.
My guess is any enhanced zone levy — if it is to pass — will have to contain just two neighborhoods: West Seattle and Ballard, because those are the only neighborhoods that will benefit from WSBLE as they demand it. The levy cost per resident in this “enhanced zone” will be huge to complete DSTT2 and WSBLE, and quite frankly I think their enthusiasm for WSBLE is more muted than transit advocates think, especially if they have to pay more for it.
There is no reason for any other area in Seattle to vote yes on an enhanced levy to complete WSBLE, unless of course like ST 3 the levy is loaded up with Christmas presents for every neighborhood with dishonest cost estimations. I hope that after ST 3 and Move Seattle Seattle residents this time are finally skeptical enough to not believe the project cost estimates in an enhanced zone levy, especially considering the actual cost of WSBLE in the DEIS is still wildly underestimated.
WSBLE and DSTT2 are not shared regional projects because there is no benefit to the four other subareas (which I admit we didn’t understand in 2016 because ST lied to us), and in fact most of Seattle didn’t understand.
Seattle should have the ability to raise as much transit revenue as it wants, and oversight over those funds, but also 100% responsibility for the costs of those projects. What you are really arguing for is Seattle oversight over its levy funds and oversight over the other subarea funds. Seattle should build whatever it wants but pay for it.
Don’t forget fixing the terrible police “reform” bill that substituted probable cause for reasonable suspicion in order to detain a suspect, which the police — not wanting to be sued or disciplined — interpreted to mean they had to personally witness a crime in order to apprehend a suspect. As a result crime has soared.
Or limiting Inslee’s “emergency” Covid powers that are now past 700 days with the legislature fully in session in 2021 and 2022.
Plus their budgets just blew a huge hole when a superior court judge in Franklin Co. ruled the capital gains tax unconstitutional. Friendly jurisdiction, but I think the judge is legally correct.
I believe that was Douglas County, but yeah this judge was not buying the “excise tax” argument at all.
Is there some use of the governor’s emergency powers that you think the Legislature should override?
Has the governor abused his power by, say, using his emergency authority to make matters more dangerous for the public (e.g. banning local mask and vaccine mandates)?
Is there some emergency order he should have issued and failed to do so, so the Legislature needs to step in and make it happen?
Brent, just because someone agrees with the King’s edicts doesn’t mean we abandon our political system of checks and balances. This applies to every state, red and blue.
I thought Inslee’s decisions on which businesses to close were influenced by politics. Same with school closures. I thought it was a mistake for Inslee to unilaterally lift the mask mandates one month before his re-election bid, and that decision would cause a large spike in Delta cases in the following December and January before vaccines were available, which did happen.
I also have questions about Inslee’s recent unilateral decision to lift mask mandates indoors, and the changing dates, which apparently you support because it is Inslee’s decision.
Governor’s by nature are usually highly partisan and Inslee is no different. If a Governor’s proposals are the best decisions I trust the legislature would codify that. Instead Inslee’s power grab and royal behavior turned off the half of the state who do not support him, and I believe contributed to their reluctance to mask or get vaccinated. If those legislators had been part of the decision making I think there would have been less reluctance because masking (both to mask or not to mask) and vaccination were viewed as part of Inslee’s royal edicts.
I was glad to see a legislature controlled by Inslee’s party make circumscribing a Governor’s emergency powers a top priority this session. I just think the legislature should not have waited 700 days to do so.
I did not support Inslee’s (or the CDC’s) decision to lift the mask mandate back in 2021. I don’t recall the 2020 mask mandate lift, but I certainly would disagree with doing that. During the time before the mask mandates started, Trump had given away the emergency mask supply, which put the CDC on the spot not to recommend masking in order to have the remaining supply available to the medical providers. I’ve been calling businesses where I shop to beg them to keep the mask mandates even after the county and state ones go away.
To the extent that the Legislature removes the power of governors in the future to proclaim emergency public health policies (ones that protect public health, not undermine it), I generally don’t support such legislation.
But the actions of some other governors to undermine efforts to protect public health suggest the Legislature should make it clear the governor can only use emergency powers (1) to protect the public; and (2) must base the decision on data (or at least be able to provide such data within a certain period).
And then courts need to be able to step in and say the governor abused his power if the order does not comply with those two basic requirements. It’s clear that several other governors abused their power extremely, and courts needed to step in and say the orders were clearly in opposition to the public interest and not based on data, so order is nullified. Waiting for the legislators in those states to act preventable countless preventable deaths, and then the death toll kept going as the legislators did not challenge their abusive governors.
Better yet, how about a state equivalent of the county health officers? Have an actual scientist appointed to make these sorts of decisions, which would then still need the approval of the governor. Sure, they could eventually replace a health officer, but at least that keeps a check on the power of governors to wreak havoc for a few months during the next public health disaster.
I owe a few months of being able to shop for groceries safely to our King County Health Officer.
As to the purported cause and effect of mandates leading to less mask-wearing or fewer vaccinations, I did not observe that and have doubt you have data to back up the claim. Indeed a strong majority of employees who fell under those orders and had not yet gotten vaccinated ended up doing so. Even more would have gotten vaccinated (and some of their lives saved) if their baloney religious exemption arguments had been turned down.
The notion that more people would have worn masks if only they had not been ordered to is just laughable.
I wish the two-party Sithdom would go away, so half the politicians don’t caucus and then decide they need to cause life to get worse for everyone in order to flip party control in the next election.
My mistake Glen, I meant to say Inslee reopened businesses shortly before his election.
The issue is not eliminating the ability of governors to declare emergency powers but the length of time such powers exist, especially if the legislature is intact and in session. Most states have limited the powers to 30 days.
74% of Americans have now received one dose so education and cajoling do work. I think many people will choose to stop wearing masks — and already proper mask wearing is declining — because they felt the orders were dictatorial. Of course the greater the percentage of vaccinated the less need for masks.
I will be very interested to see if there is a spike in infections is WA and around the US as mask mandates are lifted. So far there has not been any significant increase in states lifting the mask mandate. In any case I don’t make the rules. According to the Governor on March 12 I think it will be safe for me and others to not wear a mask. I assume Inslee is following the science as we are one of the last states to lift the mandate.
I know I will be wearing a mask after March 12th. N99 at that. I suspect the doctors and orthopedic specialists I will be visiting during my recovery will be too. That’s all the incentive I need.
The problem with “following the science” is that there are really three types of COVID questions: 1) Those that science can answer in a straightforward way, 2) Those that science can theoretically answer if you set up an experiment exactly right, but for ethical reasons, setting up an experiment to properly answer the question is impossible, 3) Questions that are fundamentally political, not scientific.
An example of the first question would be what percent of viral particles are filtered by various types of mask material. Just blow viral particles through the material in a lab and measure what gets through. Done.
An example of the second question is how much COVID is actually prevented at the population level by imposing mask mandates in various situations. In theory, this is measurable by comparing case counts in areas with mask mandates vs. without. In practice, comparing is nearly impossible because there are too many confounding variables. If area X with a mask mandate has 20% fewer cases than area Y, without, is it because the mask mandate is working? Or is it because area X has a higher vaccination rate? Or, maybe because area X has a higher percentage of the population that is cautious about COVID and would be masking anyway, even without a mandate. Or, perhaps it’s simple dumb luck. Or, maybe people in area X with COVID are less likely to get tested than people in area Y for some reason. Or, maybe the difference is simply a mirage caused by an arbitrary window of time in which the experiment is conducted, and two weeks after the experiment ends, COVID surges in area X and doesn’t in area Y.
Also note that the the mere fact that masks work is not sufficient to prove that mask mandates work. That also depends on a bunch of human factors, for example, how many people would be masking anyway, even without a mandate? How many of those masking only because of a mask mandate are actually wearing their masks properly so they don’t leak lots of air around the corners? How much of the virus spread that mask mandates are supposed to prevent actually happening anyway when people gather unmasked in private?
While possible in theory, setting up a controlled experiment to address all of the above questions is nearly impossible. So, in practice, how much COVID mask mandates are actually preventing is not something that science is able to answer with any kind of accuracy.
Then, there’s the third type of question which science cannot answer at all. Questions of this type typically involve the weighing of tradeoffs. For example, even if science is able to tell us exactly how many hospitalizations and deaths an indoor mask mandate would prevent, the question of whether or not it is worth the tradeoff of making everyone wear masks to save X lives is a political question, not a scientific question. It’s no different than weighing tradeoffs where lives get saved by mandating pollution controls in factories or lower speed limits.
So, instead of complaining that politicians are deciding to impose or repeal mask mandates based on politics rather than science, we should acknowledge that the weighing of complex tradeoffs is inherently a political decision, not a scientific decision, and the job of politicians is to make political decisions. Like any political decision, you can disagree with it (different people will always have different opinions), but the fact that the decision is fundamentally political still remains.
There are also an assortment of questions science is able to answer, but the results are suppressed for political reasons.
Eg, science tells us that there is somewhere around a 200% increase in incidence of diabetes among children that have had Covid19 due to long term damage done to the pancreas. We don’t know the exact risks, as we haven’t lived with the virus too long, but what doctors are seeing in children isn’t very encouraging. Many will probably live with long term organ damage for the rest of their lives.
For political reasons, this has somehow been translated to “Open the schools. Kids don’t die from it, so they’ll be fine.”
Again, closing schools may eliminate virus caused pancreas damage for some kids, but only at the cost of loss of learning and social isolation for all kids. Evaluating the trade-off is, again, a political question, which the “keep schools open” argument has largely won.
Ideally, people on all sides would be able to debate COVID policy much more rationally, rather the system we have today, where fear of the disease or vaccine side effects has more to do with how far left or right you are politically than medical factors that actually impact your risk.
My personal opinion is that, for better or worse, enough red states have kept schools open without masks, that if it was going to be a cause of massive sickness, we would have known about it by now. And we should not let political pride and general disgust of Republicans get in the way of acknowledging this. Again, that’s just one person. Others may differ.
“I will be very interested to see if there is a spike in infections is WA and around the US as mask mandates are lifted.”
I’m watching that too. My practice has been to wait at least a few weeks after restrictions are loosened to see if there’s a spike. There has been no reported increase in the rest of the country this past month that I know of, BUT covid deaths are still ten times higher than flu deaths, and hospitals are still pretty full in some areas, and immunocompromised people exist. The “get back to normal” crowd is just ignoring that.
I’ll probably stop wearing a mask in non-crowded big-box stores but maybe put it on in the checkout line. And if the federal transit mask order is lifted, I may stop wearing it if there’s only a few people on the bus but not if somebody is sitting right in front of or behind me. These seem like reasonable strategies. I’ve always been in the middle, dutifully masking indoors, but incredulous at other countries that refused to allow people to go outside, or kept outdoor mask mandates longer than a month or two.
My decision will be made based on recommendations from ST…
Seattle Times Comment Section.
Curious question for the others here:
How many know someone who works in healthcare, particularly in hospitals?
What is their assessment?
My mother is a school nurse in the Highline District. She’s still seeing daily cases at her school, and fears a spike will definitely occur once the indoor mask mandate is lifted.
I think it is inevitable that another spike will occur, it’s just a question of when. However, correlation is not causation, and just because a spike happens after indoor mask mandates are ended, does not mean that ending indoor mask mandates caused the spike. For example, mask mandates did not prevent the Omicron spike. Nor did they halt the Delta spike last summer, when they were re-imposed.
My personal thought is that, while mask mandates may have been effective against the original COVID, their contribution to slowing the spread of hyper-contagious variants like Omicron is mostly noise (e.g. whether each infected person infects 4 others or 3.6, the virus is still spreading very fast, and will continue spreading until nearly everyone gets it and gets immunity to it). Even if masks work perfectly under ideal conditions, there’s just too many loopholes in the real world that mask mandates cannot easily prevent. For example, cloth masks that don’t block the tiny particles, masks that are too loose or droop down below the nose, people taking their masks off to eat or drink, or private gatherings between friends, not subject to the mandate, that are unmasked altogether(*). Of course, it is theoretically possible to close all of these loopholes by turning the country into a police state (see China for an example; their policies actually *do* contain Omicron). But, I think we can all agree that, at that point, the cure is worse than the disease, and you’ve done much more societal harm in preventing infection than what the actual disease does to a largely vaccinated population (**)
(*) At least among my social group, once we were all vaccinated, virtually all gatherings in homes and cars became unmasked, and remained that way throughout the spikes of both Delta and Omicron. I’m sure my friends are not the only ones. (We still continued to wear masks in public, though).
(**) Yes, there are vaccine holdouts who die of COVID every day, but at this point, I see it as their own fault, and the rest of society should not bend over backwards to protect people who will not take basic measures to protect themselves.
As of a couple weeks ago, Kansas alone had some 56 school districts closed due to number of staff out sick, number of staff quit, number of kids hospitalized, etc., so they can’t even meet their own low standards to stay open. Thus, I’m not convinced the “success” of schools operating without masks in red states is any measure of how well it works.
But, it’s happening no matter what past experience has shown will happen. We can hope cases are low enough for it to not have an impact when it happens. No healthcare workers I know are optimistic though.
Once again, I have to push back on the blame-the-unvaccinated narrative.
In King County, the remaining unvaccinated are ca. 40% children under 5 who aren’t eligible for vaccination yet, 35% or so children who are eligible, and 25% or less adults in control of the decision to get themselves vaccinated. I don’t think we should make policy based on blaming those 25%. I think we should continue to exercise some patience on behalf of those 40% (and growing percentage) who remain unvaccinated through no fault of their own or their parents. Moving on from taking the pandemic seriously when the vaccine for 2-5 year-olds may be just a month or two away is so incredibly American, in the worst way.
I will continue to wear a mask around strangers, indoors, outdoors, wherever. I will continue to wear a mask at work, any time anyone else is in the room. I will continue to urge businesses where I shop to keep their own mask requirements, so that everyone can shop there safely (especially grocery stores that purport to support accessibility).
For optional places I don’t have to go into, like football matches, I will support continuation of vaccine/test mandates to get in, and mask requirements to stay in. Though, I have a bad feeling, I’m losing on that front. For those who see vax mandates to enter a football stadium as authoritarian, I have to say that (1) private property owners still get to require proof-of-vaccination and mask-wearing on their property; (2) going to a sportsball event is not a Constitutional right; and (3) since one can choose to get vaccinated, not allowing unvaccinated people in is not discrimination.
I will continue to beg my Congressman to support funding for free not-about-to-expire vaccine shipments to countries that cannot afford what Pfizer and Moderna are charging. Ending the pandemic in the US&A is only temporary if we don’t end it globally. This is the dawning of the age of the variants if we don’t take seriously hunting the virus down globally.
Then how about protecting people who can’t be vaccinated, have a reduced or nonexistent immune response to it, and/or are immunocompromised?
Or are you just going to throw disabled people on the pyre because things feeling “normal” to you is more important than our lives?
I think what gets lost in all this is – that for the majority of us,
The are just numbers.
At the beginning of this, I remember the fear of the unknown, and the associated dread gripping us.
My familiarity with the pandemic comes from my association with a nurse working for the NHS in the UK. My own experience here is one of being fairly insulated from the negative effects, since my circle of friends and family know of only very few infections, all of which have survived.
At the beginning, my friend first treated it like any other flu, given that protocol for someone working in a cancer ward already employs many of the protective measures.
For myself, I remember just following the Johns Hopkins website hoping to understand it from a layperson’s view, by playing with the numbers. It dawned on me that the danger from Covid wasn’t necessarily its death rate, since initial pre-vaccine numbers showed that indeed it had a 98% survivability rate. (which seems to bolster the anti-vaxxer’s argument, until one applies those numbers further). (My numbers agree with Mike Orr’s , that it’s approximately 10x worse than the flu (I came up with 8x))
What makes Covid and its variants so ‘deadly’ is how easily it’s transmitted. What makes it so dangerous is all the asymptomatic carriers.
Very early on, prior to it reaching pandemic status, I could swear I had something whose symptoms mimicked what was described for Covid-19. My reaction to the Moderna vaccine was also a very much like the illness I suffered, although very minor. Who knows? I never got tested. I’ve never suffered any symptoms like it again.
When the UK was getting hit with the first wave my friend’s hospital was turned into a Covid hospital. All patients she was taking care of were now Covid patients. All of her coworkers were in the same state of ‘fear of the unknown’. She was at the Covid epicenter.
I can only quote some of her perceptions via texts she send, and that stuck with me.
“I’ve never seen so much death”.
Doctors and nurses see death every day. This pandemic most certainly has taxed their emotional abilities, and why we see as much burnout as we have.
When this started, appreciation for what they do created the Clap for our Heroes social media movement. She told me of getting free food, and wine when she went places.
When the second wave came around, and especially after the vaccines became available, the mood amongst her workers wasn’t as well received.
A quote from the article, which reflects about the same wording of my friend:
Meanwhile, Becky Gibbs-Brown said the clapping was “insulting” if people did not also follow rules around social distancing and wearing a mask during their day to day.
My friend also confirms what the evidence shows, and that it’s the unvaccinated now that make up the majority of serious cases and deaths.
They are tired. She has told me that the only glue holding her together is her faith (Catholic), and the support of her coworkers and local friends.
The current ‘experiment’ lifting the restrictions in the UK will prove interesting. However, they have a 80% vaccination rate.
Covid will find a way of getting to those willfully-unvaccinated susceptible persons. I see it way too much, mostly the white-male “nobody tells me what to do” crowd.
From my own amateur calculations, we’ve probably got another million to kill, and that’s assuming we don’t cook up a new variant.
One thing for sure, as much of a pain as this masking is (suffering with ‘covid-cataracts’ and hearing impairment), I’ve really enjoyed not having my wintertime colds visit for the last 2 years.
I’ll be one of the last to stop wearing masks in a crowd.
I really am so sorry you are going through this A Joy. We don’t always agree but you are an excellent writer — as good as any attorney I have dealt with — and I have truly learned things from your posts even if my ego obfuscates that (an ego I never let infect my legal representation of others thank God. I am only an ass when speaking for myself).
I can only imagine the enormous drive it must take to rehabilitate and truly wish you the best.
Thank you. I would go into details about what happened to me, but they are rather gruesome. The plus side is I am out of the danger zone, my skin has healed up, stitches will be out Monday, and I should make close enough to a full recovery. But it will take up to 6 months for the internal injuries to finish healing. I’ll be back to my usual posting levels once the broken arm heals though.
If a Wallingford historic district goes through, we may never see Ballard to UW come through.
That’s a stretch.
Ballard to UW was never dependent on TOD around Wallingford. Even if the folks who want to *increase* the amount of land zoned for single family are successful, it won’t alter the plans at all. At worst you wouldn’t have quite as much development around the Wallingford station as you would otherwise. You would still have plenty of existing development. This would alter ridership, but only by a tiny amount. By the time UW to Ballard gets built, the city would likely reverse its decision anyway.
And Wallingford the historic neighborhood isn’t the real node of density anymore, particularly with all the growth along Stone Way. “North Fremont” is more relevant than historic Wallingford.
If Ballard-UW is a subway, there may not be any stops between Aurora and I5 anyways. If I pulled out my crayon today, I’d put a station at 45th & Woodland Park Ave, aiming to be an easy walk for riders transferring to/from the E and the 62, and then not stopping until the U District. Most of the historic district wouldn’t be in the station walksheds, whether or not they are frozen in amber.
I would have a station in Fremont under the troll. That way it would serve lower Fremont (where most of the people and businesses are). I would add stops on Aurora by the bridge (something that people have suggested for years). That way riders of the E can access lower Fremont (as well as that station).
After that, I would put a station in Wallingford. I would probably put it at Wallingford Avenue. Given current zoning (based on the urban village) this works out well. In almost all directions it is zoned for future growth. It is only to the southeast that you run into single family houses, and only then after a fair amount of walking. Even so it is relatively dense there (no huge lots, a few old apartments, etc.). There is a commercial hub there as well. That is basically this: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1-N-dPTZ42WX_MTfyHubgywbZ0cL55-uQ&usp=sharing.
I could also see the station on 45th closer to Stone Way. Looking at the zoning (https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=f822b2c6498c4163b0cf908e2241e9c2) that could be a tiny bit better. I think from a spacing standpoint I still prefer something a bit further east (although anything within that range would be fine). You start splitting hairs really, worrying whether you are too close to the big park, or the distance to the schools.
I would be tempted to put a provisional station on 8th NW as well as Stone Way (which means the line would curve differently). In both cases you would have to get some commitment for growth. Stone Way has seen a lot of growth, but it is very narrow (similar to 45th in Wallingford). You go out a couple blocks either direction (well within walking distance) and you get into single family neighborhoods that are zoned single family. The exceptions are up by 45th (as you mentioned) and down south (close to a Fremont station).
One of the biggest weaknesses within Link is the lack of stations. There is simply too much space between them. The U-District should have three stations instead of two (there should be a station at Campus Parkway). Between downtown and the UW there should be at least three stations, instead of only one. It makes me nervous hoping we build a line (from Ballard to the UW) with only four stations.
On the other hand, building underground stations are expensive. That is why I like the idea of provisional stations. Just make a flat spot and do the necessary planning, but don’t commit to a station yet. If we end up with money, we can build it later. If not, then at least we have the main set of stations (Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, U-District).
Reminded me of this thread
Martin, I don’t fully understand your reply. The parking behind B of A is already included in Nathan’s proposal. So I don’t get what you mean by “go a bit west”. Neither the parking lot nor the bank building helps with the width of 56th through the apartment building corridor. He’s already assuming that the vertical conveyances will be in that parking lot and I assumed that the tracks would widen under the Gyros place in a shallow c-n-c tunnel.
I guess moving west would help recover from the loss of the Gyros building if that occurs. Was that what you were replying to? The big objection to c-n-c on 56th is all those people looking down from their balconies in horror.
Tallman doesn’t suffer from that, but it is quite a bit harder to build.
Whoops. Replying to the wrong comment, Martin. My apologies.
Sorry, got confused with Nathan’s map, never mind.
I’m not even thinking of TOD. Can you even build a station in a historic district?
Above-ground impacts to the Ballard Historic District are a non-starter. Even areas outside the Historic District along Market are still chock-full of century-old buildings (basically every building on the north side of Market between 24th and 17th) that face serious backlash when demolition is considered. South of Market in that area, though, there are a few parcels that have been “recently” redeveloped that would probably be tolerable to take.
For fun, you can click through the Property Reports of each parcel and see the age of each building here: https://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer2/
I think Martin is writing about Wallingford (replaying to my comment — https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2022/02/26/weekend-open-thread-adam-ruins-jaywalking-laws/#comment-890709).
The historic districts would not include 45th, even with their most ambitious plans (https://miro.medium.com/max/654/1*A2HX7B9idbOzzSYnw_dbKQ.jpeg). This is where the station would likely be. It basically wouldn’t change anything about the station location, or what is within a block or two of it, but would reduce development a few blocks away.
Can someone answer the following questions:
1. Does anyone — including ST — have a real cost estimate including cost contingencies for the design options in Ballard and West Seattle that include tunnels and underground stations, and the difference between what N. King Co. will likely have in ST tax revenue (after Graham St. and 130th stations), and the final cost of WSBLE/DSTT2?
2. Is the assumption the four other subareas will actually have $275 million each left over to contribute to DSTT2, and/or that they will be expected to contribute half of the eventual cost of DSTT2 no matter what it costs, and will have that money. Do they have it now? I still have not seen where ST has “re-estimated” the real cost of DSTT2.
3. Under the legislation allowing the ST Board to create enhanced subarea zones does the new zone have to include all of a city? Would all of Seattle have to vote to approve an enhanced zone levy to complete WSBLE? What about transit and progressive groups like Seattle Subway. Wouldn’t an enhanced zone levy to complete WSBLE/ST 3 basically exhaust any transit tax capacity for SS’s grand plans, and put all the transit levy funding under the control of the ST Board. What about neighborhoods like S. Seattle. Will they vote yes to higher taxes when they didn’t get tunnels and underground stations? WSBLE certainly seems to raise the equity issue to me.
4. Does the Board think any subarea or city other than Seattle will vote yes on an enhanced subarea levy to increase that subarea’s share of DSTT2 based on actual costs. Otherwise how will the four other subareas raise the addtional revenue if they can’t even raise the $275 million?
5. Depending on the cost do those on this blog think all of Seattle will vote for higher taxes to complete WSBLE in Seattle, and will those taxes mimic the tax forms for ST 3, and simply increase them? Or will there be different forms of taxes, and does the legislation allow that? Any idea what the amount of the new taxes would have to be to complete DSTT2 and WSBLE. Is it realistic to think any city other than Seattle would vote yes on an enhanced zone levy to complete WSBLE, or even DSTT2, or would it be too risky to include other cities in the levy.
6. Can anyone guess at what the maximum enhanced zone levy could be in Seattle before citizens would vote no, (both total and individual tax increases), and whether that amount will be enough to complete WSBLE and DSTT2 based on the designs in the DEIS?
I find the different ideas for Ballard on this blog interesting. I just don’t know if based on the money they are fantasies even if the political will was there to deal with the disruption to the neighborhoods. Is ST really going to demolish over 400 houses to build light rail to West Seattle during a housing shortage.
Re #3….the bill as passed by the legislature (the WA Senate concurred today) reads as follows”
“An enhanced service zone must lie entirely within the authority boundaries and must comprise no less than the entire portion of a city or town that lies within the authority boundaries. An enhanced service zone may also include one or more entire adjacent cities or towns and adjacent unincorporated areas, and must contain all or portions of one or more high capacity transportation projects included within an existing voter-approved regional transportation plan. There may also be multiple enhanced service zones encompassing the same city or town, and adjacent unincorporated area.”
So, yes, the ESZ must include the entire city if said city is entirely within the RTA district’s boundaries.
1. The cost estimates presented in the DEIS include contingencies. Chapter 2, Section 2.8.2 (Page 96): https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2-wsble-drafteis-chapter2-alternatives-202201.pdf
If you don’t consider these cost estimates to be “real”, then you’ve got to prove they’re not.
1. You can chose to believe ST followed the suggestions from last years’ series of reports by the Triunity team regarding the cost increases:
Or you can continue to believe that ST is fully pulling the numbers out of their asses. Given that the numbers changed (again) pretty significantly for the DEIS, there’s evidence that they actually did revise their cost estimation models before publishing.
2. Long Financial Plan is most recently updated here (October 2021): https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2022-financial-plan-proposed-budget-book.pdf
Also see Figure 2-72 in the DEIS for comparison to the DEIS estimate ranges.
3. Here’s the bill as passed: https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2021-22/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/5528-S.PL.pdf?q=20220307161226
You’ll find your answer here: https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2021-22/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/Senate/5528-S%20SBR%20FBR%2022.pdf?q=20220307161226
In the last two years of your posting, you’ve never posited what you think the actual “tax capacity” is, except for the idea that any tax increase would threaten to exceed it (despite tax increases continuing to be approved by voters). With the rejection of the capital gains tax (which would only have affected ~7k people), the only potential limits on tax capacity are those inflicted on the poor, not the wealthy with cash to burn.
4. Why don’t you ask the Board? Also, see ST3 vote map (with ST BRT/LRT lines in black: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_Transit_3#/media/File:Sound_Transit_3_Precinct_Vote_Map.png). Any attempted establishment of Enhanced Service Zone would only be at the behest of municipalities who think such a vote would be worthwhile.
5. Seattle consistently votes for transit levies. An “ST4” vote in Seattle to bring ST3 back on schedule would definitely pass if it were exclusively a commercial parking tax, and probably if it included an MVET. It would also be helped if it included instruction for ST to consider refined alignments.
6. The ESZ legislation allows for an additional 1.5% MVET tax and apparently unlimited commercial parking tax. Nothing else. Seattle currently doesn’t have its own MVET, and it appears ST does publish revenue beyond the subarea-scale. The Seattle Monorail projected about $48M in revenue from a 1.4% MVET in 2005, which would probably be about twice that today. Seattle does collect a 12.5% commercial parking fee, which provides about $45-50M in revenue each year. You can ask your accountant to do the math for you for potential revenues if you need to.
Regarding West Seattle residential displacements: I am able to propose improvements to Ballard’s station because I live there and know the neighborhood and its needs. I’ve been to West Seattle only a handful of times, and don’t really know what’s causing ST to propose alignments as impactful as they are. Maybe there really aren’t any good places to put the station that don’t knock down a bunch of houses. I’m hoping someone familiar with West Seattle can figure out a better way to get the train there.
Thank you for the answer Nathan to what taxes are allowed in an enhanced zone: “The ESZ legislation allows for an additional 1.5% MVET tax and apparently unlimited commercial parking tax. Nothing else. Seattle currently doesn’t have its own MVET, and it appears ST does publish revenue beyond the subarea-scale.”
[IIRC Seattle does have a $20 car tab fee that raises around $7.5 million/year that the council was planning to bond for ten years to raise $75 million to begin addressing the $3.5 billion in unfunded bridge repair and replacement. A city can increase the fee to $40 without a vote of the citizens].
The rest of my questions were not a test, and as far as I know have no concrete answers, certainly from ST (and admittedly I am a little suspicious of ST’s project cost estimates). But I do think they are worth considering when posting about new tunnels from Ballard to UW, or multiple underground stations in Ballard and a very deep DSTT2.
The two big questions (without answers I can see or believe so far) in my opinion are:
1. What is the real cost of DSTT2? I doubt we will ever get that from ST until the project is put out for bids with a 30% or 50% cost contingency. Based on estimates from groups as different as the ETA and Seattle Subway the true cost today is around $3.65 billion to $4.2 billion, before contingency. This is different than ST 2 because there won’t be a ST 4. The current ST revenue is it.
So who pays for DSTT2? I don’t think three subareas have even the $275 million for their share of DSTT2 based on the estimated cost in ST 3 (without cost contingency). Neither obviously does N. King Co. for its 1/2. Unless these three other subareas pass an enhanced zone levy how do they come up with their share — whatever that is — of DSTT2? A 1.5% MVET and commercial parking tax in these subareas would raise very little money even if an ESZ levy did pass, although I doubt one would, certainly to fund DSTT2 that the other subareas now understand is not necessary for their capacity.
Show me the money.
2. What is N. King Co.’s cost for its share of DSTT2 and WSBLE? Again all I get from the DEIS is third party money will be required. Based on estimates by others on the cost of DSTT2, Rogoff’s admission ST had an $11.5 billion deficit in January 2021, and the cryptic language in the DEIS and original surface proposals, I am guessing the deficit for N. King Co. for its ultimate share of DSTT2 and WSBLE as designed with tunnels and underground stations is around $5 to $7 billion short of the subarea’s (overestimated) future ST revenue, and that is probably generous and depends on what the other subareas can actually contribute towards DSTT2, and of course future inflation which is around 10%/year right now.
How in the world does N. King Co. raise $5 to $7 BILLION from a 1.5% MVET or tax on commercial parking above the current rate of 12.5% when the commuter might be gone forever?
I understand Seattleites have been supporters of transit levies in the past, but those levies like Move Seattle included projects throughout the city (that naturally were cost estimated at 50% of actual cost). But here we are talking about at least $5 to $7 billion extra just to complete a single line from West Seattle to Ballard that does not benefit any other neighborhood in Seattle, many of which have rail, based on two tax sources that could never raise $5 to $7 billion.
Maybe because I am a lawyer, and am not a train/tunnel nut or transit advocate, I begin with the money, rather than dreams and wishes of tunnels and underground stations and TOD and all kinds of equity in what are to me wealthy white suburban neighborhoods in Seattle. This includes farebox recovery that looks very dicey in the future. (Although I did predict that once the DEIS was released transit advocates would forget about the funding issues and become entranced on the design details).
That’s all. I read the posts about different underground stations in Ballard or West Seattle, but without the money they seem like dreams to me. Pretty dreams I guess, but dreams still the same, and not even dreams the neighborhood power brokers have signed off on. I don’t even know why the legislature would pass EB 5528 when its two tax sources will never come close to raising the funding needed to complete DSTT2 and WSBLE, and will never pass outside Seattle.
Dan, I know you can click links, so I repeat:
And in regards to funding:
This are the reports that ST has published. You keep asking questions that are answered in their reports. No one from ST is going to provide any different answers to you that aren’t in this public information.
Thank you Nathan, I had read the DEIS, but not Rogoff’s letter you link to that appears to have some misinformation on opening dates for Tacoma and East Link, and I take with a grain of salt. To say East Link is well within budget just isn’t true. Neither is the Tacoma project as Tisgwm has noted. I suppose the irony is Rogoff had just been fired for dishonest cost estimations.
According to the article linked to by mdnative surface ROW costs have increased so dramatically tunnelling is now competitive with elevated lines, which is not good for ST’s budget and an indication of total project cost inflation (and I also take with a grain of salt). https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/01/08/sound-transit-reveals-big-jump-in-cost-estimates-for-ballard-and-west-seattle-link/ (in Jan. 2021 ST acknowledged project costs for WSBLE had jumped from $7.9 billion to $12.1 billion, where it is still today).
I personally think the differential between the preferred alternatives and those that will need “third party funding” are greater than estimated (and no, ST has not agreed with me publicly, except I guess the “realignment”, but their track record on project cost estimating is not good and I tend to not believe ST when it comes to revenue or project cost estimates).
I also never understood how an $11.5 billion deficit in Jan. 2021 became a $6 billion deficit a few months later when none of the data had changed, and a realignment that extends project completion dates along with taxes actually raises addtional net revenue during the extension years when ROW and construction cost inflation were the problems in the first place, but as you have noted I probably just don’t understand ST math.
But you never answer the two questions I repeatedly ask: how will three of the subareas that are to contribute at least $275 million each (and up to $550 million based on the actual costs of DSTT2) raise that money, and how will N. King Co. raise billions in “third party funding” from an enhanced zone levy that is limited to commercial parking taxes (on top of the current 12.5%) and a MVET. It seems to me if Seattle legislators were going to go to the effort of passing EB 5528 to complete WSBLE they would have allowed tax forms that could actually cover the “third party funding” that will be needed, but my guess is then the bill would have failed. As it is written, why would a non-Seattle legislator vote no on such a silly bill.
Answer those two questions and I will be a little more optimistic about all the tunnel and underground station ideas on this blog for Ballard, Ballard to UW, DSTT2, and West Seattle. It isn’t that I don’t like subways or the ideas on this blog (although what are the chances ST will listen). I just don’t think they are affordable in a world in which a ST 4 is not going to pass.
I think the difference between us is you believe ST and ST’s projections — general revenue, farebox recovery, operational costs (noted to be up 16.7% last year in Rogoff’s letter), project cost estimates, ridership estimates — implicitly, and based on history I am just more skeptical, probably because you want to believe, and I don’t. You think the Triunity report is a kind of absolution and healing, while I wonder why the report was necessary in the first place, and represents a culture that will be very hard to change.
I can’t wait to see the SB 5528 levy on a Seattle ballot, and the necessary tax increases for commercial parking (when Harrell is desperately trying to resuscitate downtown Seattle commercial activity which is the driving force behind ST’s general (sales tax) revenue estimates and the work commuter including me is not coming back) and a MVET tax necessary to raise billions to complete DSTT2 and WSBLE.
I get SB 5528 to the extent everyone wants others to pay the tax but not themselves, which is why SB 5528 would be attractive to transit advocates rather than say fare increases, but still the taxes have to raise the necessary revenue.
The answer your subarea contribution question can be found in how ST has changed its estimates in subarea contribution over the course of Realignment.
I could do the work to compare Long Range Financial Planning from before and after, but that’s doing your research for you, and you’re the one asking the questions. It’s all online – you can keep asking questions all day, but all we’ve got is what’s been published. It’s like questioning whether the Higg’s Boson actually has mass or not – the fundamental data and mathematics are probably all technically accessible if you look in the right places and the results are accessible if you have the time and/or resources to replicate the work. I don’t have the time or the resources, so I’m simply going to trust that the publications are as honest as they can be. Otherwise, it must be hard out there for a Sound Transit Truther.
As to answer to your questions regarding potential revenues from a Seattle ESZ, that’s information that’s not going to be available until someone from the City Budget Office runs the numbers. Thanks for the reminder about the Seattle Transit Benefit District vehicle license fee (now $40). The extra $20 approved by the City in 2021 is going to get bonded for $100M and eventually cost $169M over 20 years. So, basic math would conclude that every additional $20 of MVET could generate $170M of income over 20 years. Unless you want to question SDOT’s numbers, too?
“I could do the work to compare Long Range Financial Planning from before and after, but that’s doing your research for you, and you’re the one asking the questions. It’s all online….”
I would skip the Fall 2020 financial plan as it’s out of balance by $2.7B. My suggestion would be to just compare the Fall 2017 plan, which reflects the incorporation of the 2016-passed ST3 plan, with the Fall 2021 plan, which reflects the realignment and the extension to 2046.
“I don’t have the time or the resources, so I’m simply going to trust that the publications are as honest as they can be. Otherwise, it must be hard out there for a Sound Transit Truther.”
Fair enough. As a lawyer I am not really trained for that kind of trust, and tend to be influenced by history.
I guess after Rogoff’s deficit announcements, the years we spent on the eastside dealing with capacity and ridership claims that were all inflated, a bus intercept on Mercer Island that was highly inflated and led to years of litigation until Metro put the knife into ST’s ridership and farebox estimates in the eastside transit restructure, the “realignment” that I don’t understand how it raises any net revenue if the projects are extended as well, the “extension” of eastside projects even though we have the money for them now, the enormous amount of excess revenue we (east KC) will have from ST 2 and 3 even after a ridiculous line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland, all of Tisgwm’s posts on spiraling cost estimates, and how three fairly poor subareas will raise $275 million for DSTT2 let alone $550 million, have made me something of a ST truther. The proof as always will be in the construction bids, although in the past ST has had a habit of beginning projects (ST 1, 2 and 3) knowing it did not have the revenue but assuming there would be another levy, or some other “third party funding”.
I will wait for the SB 5528 levy to see the alchemy of how a MVET on top of ST’s 1.1% MVET, and an increase in the commercial parking tax on top of the current 12.5% in Seattle, raises billions to complete WSBLE when commuter parking has disappeared, when Harrell is desperate to revitalize downtown commercial and retail businesses which are the engine of Seattle’s (and ST’s) tax base, and everywhere else has free parking and no additional MVET (and much less crime that is large part is the result of so few eyes on the street). To be honest, I am a bit of a Move Seattle truther too. I hope the SB 5528 levy doesn’t end up funding 1/2 of WSBLE like Move Seattle did.
Really as a resident of east King Co. I should leave this up to those who live in N. King Co. (assuming my subarea’s contribution to DSTT2 is capped at the original estimate of $275 million). It is your project, both to design and to fund.
Re: the car tab fee (Mercer Island has one too) $169 million (actually $100 million based on an estimated $7.2 million/year https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/how-seattle-might-turn-a-20-car-tab-fee-into-100-million-largely-to-fix-bridges/#:~:text=Four%20Seattle%20City%20Council%20members%20suggest%20using%20car-tab,It%20should%20rake%20in%20%247.2%20million%20per%20year.) over 20 years is insignificant when talking about WSBLE, and my understanding is allocated to offset the $3.5 billion unfunded bridge repair/replacement over the next 20 years, (leaving a gap of $3.331 — $3.4 billion). State law limits the tab fee to $40 today without a vote of the citizens.
“As to answer to your questions regarding potential revenues from a Seattle ESZ, that’s information that’s not going to be available until someone from the City Budget Office runs the numbers”.
Again, fair point, but my suggestion is to run the numbers (assuming a SB 5528 levy passes) before the DEIS. The basic rule of any levy is if you ask for $1 too much you get zero.
Why would an agency run a DEIS unless it knows it has the funding for many of the alternatives it knows the impacted neighborhoods will demand? Otherwise I worry the neighborhoods are set up for disappointment, or like Bellevue and 112th will choose a (surface) option that is well away from the critical part of the neighborhood core and closer to some other transit corridor like a highway or freeway.
From the beginning I have said — and many on this blog said I was wrong — West Seattle and Ballard would demand tunnels and underground stations if Link was going to run through its core, and downtown Seattle would demand a (very) deep DSTT2. The basic rub is if they don’t get the underground line they want, or ST can afford, I don’t think they will allow a surface/elevated line where many would like it to run.
From what I read, most on this blog think your suggestion of a station at 156th is quite intelligent. I don’t know enough about Ballard these days (last lived near there in 1979) but hope the funding is there for it, but do think citizens and neighborhoods should have a much better idea if the “third party funding” is there — or can be there based on SB 5528 — before a DEIS. A DEIS is not suppose to be a dream. Really we should be in a scoping phase for WSBLE, not a DEIS, considering the questions over funding. Maybe ST is hoping the DEIS coerces Seattle into passing a very large SB 5528 levy (although that does not solve the ability of three subareas to contribute anything to DSTT2)..
“Is ST really going to demolish over 400 houses to build light rail to West Seattle during a housing shortage”
Daniel, Sound Transit has not shown any hesitation on this issue, in fact the DEIS claims: “research indicates that there are adequate opportunities for most residents and businesses to successfully relocate within the project vicinity.”
“put a station at 45th & Woodland Park Ave”
have you looked at the topography?
I wonder whether that can be done with the slope up the hill from Ballard…
It’s a subway, would the topography be relevant? If the station is deep, then escalators can extend west and east, with a station entrance at Aurora and at Stone.
ST would probably need to acquire several whole blocks to put in a station in Ballard-UW. My point was that station likely will be at Aurora or Stone, not at Wallingford or Meridian, so the proposed historic district isn’t much relevant.
It would be like if Columbia City became an historic district. The midrise TOD is all west of 35th. The Link station is still clearly serving “Columbia City,” even if it’s well outside the envelop of a theoretical Columbia City historical district.
It would be like if Columbia City became an historic district. The midrise TOD is all west of 35th. The Link station is still clearly serving “Columbia City,” even if it’s well outside the envelop of a theoretical Columbia City historical district.
Yeah, but clearly if we could do it all over again (and cost was no object) we would put the station closer to the cultural center of the neighborhood. Even if growth is lopsided, it helps if people are in the heart of the neighborhood. It is like the U-District Station. It is one block from The Ave. The Ave itself isn’t allowed to grow, but it is the cultural center of the area. As with Capitol Hill Station, thousands of people will take the train to dine or be entertained. All of the density that is growing up around it (a few blocks away) or has existed for years is a bonus. If the station was on Roosevelt Way you would lose riders even if the area around there grew up just as much. (Given the UW itself this isn’t a great example, but you get the point). It is important to connect cultural centers, otherwise it becomes simply a commuter train, and ridership suffers. Being a block or two away is fine, but you don’t want to be too far (which is why the idea of a “Brand New Ballard” at 14th is a terrible idea).
Anyway, it is way too soon to tell what stations make sense for Ballard to the UW. My guess is it will be somewhere between Stone Way and Wallingford Avenue (inclusive). As I wrote up above, maybe the best option is a station on Stone Way (at roughly 40th) along with a station at around Wallingford and 45th (along with a station in Lower Fremont). The NIMBY forces at work could influence things, but I doubt it. The boundaries of an historic district could change, even if they create one.
Central Columbia City is a historic district if I’m recalling the signs right.
I think there is value in keeping the historical 1~3 story structures and allowing the cultural center to drift closer to the station as the new 5~8 story building age into urban vibrancy. I agree we won’t want the immediate station area to be just a bunch of apartment blocks with little else going on, but if a neighborhood like Columbia City could be vibrant with surrounded by low-rise density, then surely all those historical buildings can remain vibrant AND the new vibrancy can emerge closer to the station.
I’ll take Issaquah as a good example, as I’m more familiar with it. Front street (aka Olde Towne) is wonderful and vibrant, and should remain so. But all the growth is occurring 10~20 minute walk to the west, north, and east (Highlands). Front Street will remain vibrant, but Issaquah will gain newer, denser, larger neighborhood that will generate more ridership (by virtue of being midrise districts) than Front Street (a dense but nonetheless low-rise neighborhood). City Hall will remain on Front Street, but it won’t be the center of the city anymore.
Therefore, I don’t think it would have been worth the extra expense to run a train closer to Rainier Ave (unless it was Other People’s Money, I suppose); the best option is the station where is it (straight and cheap) and zoning to allow for CC to grow westward and envelop the station.
A station that straddled Aurora but mostly on the Wallingford side or was entirely to the east but with an underground passage to the west would be far enough from the crest of the hill at Greenwood to be feasible. It’s six “short” blocks between Greenwood and Aurora, and the station would have to be fairly deep to remain underground on the Wallingford side. 45th and Aurora is about thirty feet higher than 45th and Stone Way. A station there would also draw from the built-up area between Aurora and Fremont.
Remember that even if the line didn’t follow Market but served a 14th Avenue Station in common also and turned east under Leary, Leary is 50th, so there would be two long blocks north-south to consume as well. The angle would not be as long as Market to 46th, but about half way which is something.
West Woodland – it’s a real thing! Put a station at 14th (elevated or subway), call it the West Woodland station, upzone the 1/2 mile radius (i.e to 8th) to midrise, and then swing west to serve ‘Ballard.’ Greater Ballard is big enough to merit two station at half-mile spacing.
I’m on board with a second station in Ballard, especially if the Seattle 2024 comprehensive plan does some significant boosts to residential zoning.
Would have to be part of a Seattle ESZ/ST4 bid, though, in 2024.
Agreed. The general idea is “West Woodland” is the rebranded ST3 station, and then the “Ballard” station is an extension, funded through an ESZ, ST4, or whatever.
The specific idea is a station at 14th & 53rd-ish is a station worth having, with or without a Ballard station at Market & 20th-ish. ‘West Woodland’ is good enough it can be a temporary terminus (i.e. the terminus of the WSBLE EIS), though of course if the ESZ/ST4 funding starts soon enough, it could open alongside “Ballard.” (IMO, Interbay+ West Woodland + Ballard seems like the most likely project scope, to be delivered a few years after Westlake-SLU-LQA-Smith Cove)
Based on the CAG presentations, ST is planning on Smith Cove being a major bus terminus for several lines. Likely a contingency to support terminating RapidRide D at Smith Cove until the Interbay-Ballard section is built.
It should be the other way around. The main station should be where the people are (roughly 20th and Ballard) while the provisional station should be where we hope someday the people will be as well (14th). To be fair, there are *more* people to the east than there were before (and there will be more in the future). But for every development to the east, there is a bigger one to the west. To quote from the article about this part of West Woodland:
The dozens of townhomes immediately adjacent to the new apartment buildings beg us to consider why the city didn’t zone the entire block for larger buildings. The fact that these townhouse sites run one next to another show that it would have been very possible to have consolidated these lots into larger, more efficient, buildings. Having failed to do so, consolidation actually gets more difficult in the future. Instead of negotiating with six owners of aging detached homes, there are now 24 owners of brand new houses on 24 separate lots. Lack of foresight in zoning allowed the underlying land to be shred apart.
This means that in terms of population density in Ballard, it is unlikely that the east will ever catch up with the west. This doesn’t count the industrial land that is a bigger part of the east as well. Nor does it count the cultural or employment center of the area (to the west). It is impressive that the area to the east is finally growing, but it doesn’t mean that it will ever catch up in ways that generate ridership.
I think it is more about terminating buses from the south. You want to serve Mercer between Uptown and Elliot. Extending the 8 could do that. You also want to serve Western between Denny and Mercer. Right now the Magnolia buses do that. They through-route with the 124 (and occasionally the 27). The 124 (or 27) could terminate at Smith Cove. The 19, 24 and 33 would be eliminated, replaced by buses that go to Fremont and the UW (variations of the 31). The 15, 17, 18 and D would all end in Ballard (or follow the D east). That would be about it once Ballard Link is done, unless they want to add a shadow up to Dravus (which would mean going back to linking a bus like the 24 with the 124, via Dravus instead of the Magnolia Bridge).
If Link only gets as far as Smith Cove, then I wouldn’t expect much to change. It is possible nothing would. You can terminate buses from the north, but at that point you are very close to downtown. It would be like terminating West Seattle buses at SoDo — not a good idea. At most I could see the D staying west (following the route of the 24/33 to downtown) while the 8 is extended to Smith Cove. To get to Uptown, Ballard riders would have to transfer (to the 8 or to Link). Of course Metro could make that change right now if they wanted to. It is a simple trade-off (Ballard riders get a faster trip to downtown, but lose their one-seat ride to Uptown — the 8 is extended west). Link wouldn’t change the equation that much.
Yeah. In a perfect political and economic world, we’d see ST figure out how to put a station in Central Ballard and prepare a section of track around 14th to infill a station whenever the City figures out that the entire area between the Ship Canal and 85th should be upzoned to 85+’.
Nathan, would that then become “The Upper West Side” of Seattle?
IIRC, the CAG presentations indicated Metro’s Connect 2040 plan includes new feeder buses in Magnolia/Queen Anne that terminate at Smith Cove/Interbay. I’d bet any connections through Queen Anne would terminate at the Seattle Center station or just continue laying over at Queen Anne/1st Avenue.
The 2016-2020 Metro Connects had the D continuing until the Ballard line was finished. There was no intermediate Smith Cove phase then, but I can’t see Metro truncating it there because each segment would be so short; the transfer you’d be waiting ten minutes to transfer to a five-minute segment.
The 2040 phase had an 8 running from Smith Cove to Madison Park. There may have been other routes there. There was no bus across the Ballard Bridge. The D was replaced with the Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer route, from Ballard to Lake City on 15th and Greebwood. Different routes from northwest Seattle transferred to Link at Northgate, 130th, or 145th; I don’t remember which one that route did.
Maybe a Magnolia route crossed the Ballard Bridge? But not one to downtown.
West Woodland : Husky Stadium :: Ballard : U District.
The U District station is clearly the superior station vs Husky Stadium, but because Link was built south to north, Husky Stadium opened several years later. Similarly, Ballard is clearly the superior station, but Link will get to West Woodland first. If Ballard & West Woodland open at the same time, great! But it doesn’t make sense to just skip WW because the focus is entirely on a single Ballad Station, just like it wouldn’t have made sense to say, “let’s skip Husky stadium, maybe we’ll get back to it later, but it’s essential we open U District station ASAP.”
It ST goes with a different alignment, fine. But if ST goes up 14th, either elevated or tunnel, skipping WW while placing a station west of Market would be a major error. If it’s elevated I suppose it could be a planned infill (like 130th), but if it’s underground the station will need to be built from the beginning.
RE: Smith Cove, KCM would have assumed Ballard Link opened in its entirely, so the Smith Cove terminus was for a mix of bus routes, but not the D. IIRC, it was a combination of Magnolia and QA/SLU routes.
It is worth putting the growth in perspective. This is a nice website for tracking construction: https://www.seattleinprogress.com/. There is a filter at the top middle that might be hard to see. Filter out the houses and zoom in on Ballard. At first glance it seems balanced around 15th. But now start selecting the various projects. West of 24th, there are a couple 8-story and a couple 7-story buildings. Between 24th and 20th there are three 7-story buildings, and a couple 6-story buildings.
Now look east of 15th. There are fewer big buildings and they are stuck to the major arterials. You’ve got three 7-story buildings (one close to 15th, a couple on Market). There is a 6-story building and a couple 5-story buildings along Market as well. There are a couple of 4-story buildings (which can be found to the west as well) and everything else is townhouses.
West of 20th, there are nine buildings going up that will be 6-stories or higher. East of 15th, there are only six buildings that are higher than 5-stories. There is about as much tall development west of 24th as there is west of 14th. There is just a lot more low rise going on to the east.
Then there is the area in between 15th and 20th. Again, there is more to the west. There are a couple 8-story buildings, and a couple 7-story buildings very close to 20th. There are only three similar buildings between 15th and 17th. The tallest of which is no closer to a station at 20th (https://goo.gl/maps/DF96odihgnnjTH2i7) than a station at 15th (https://goo.gl/maps/j5Fu2DbokVVLPXr56). That assumes no crossing of 15th — the walk to 20th is also a lot more pleasant.
Anyway you cut it, the buildings to the west are bigger. Now I’m all for townhouse development. I think it should happen over the entire city. But the taller apartments just hold more people (especially the way we build townhouses, with lots of room for parking). The center of development — the center of density — has not moved to the east. Density has increased and spread (west of 24th, and east of 14th) but the center remains at 20th (https://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/18205002/better-Ballard-sta-Ballard.jpg).
Argg — Meant to only bold the phrase “West of 24th”. I wish I could edit this.
On the good side, it shows up when one is scanning for the new posts…..
Large lots are not a prerequisites for midrise construction, particularly if parking minimums are removed. Large lots certainly can make redevelopment occur faster, and are essential for high-rise, but not essential for midrise. And there would be plenty of large parcels between Leary & 45th, and the Fred Meyer superblock will be within the walkshed of any 14th street station.
Again – a station in the existing center of Ballard will be excellent. I just think you are underestimating how a 14th street station would facilitate a WW neighborhood with density equivalent to what exists today in Ballard.
Ross, your “right case” that West Woodland is a crap place and doesn’t “deserve” service for some reason is warping your otherwise good judgment. Just because some new townhomes have been built north of Market and a bunch of derelict industrial facilities litter the area south of Leary does not make West Woodland a vast wasteland. Given current official plans for Link in Seattle it is the single best location for further buildable TOD adjacent to a Link line in the City.
Central Ballard is pretty much built out now, and it’s great! But, really, what’s the point of spending 1.5-1.7 billion dollars to cross the Ship Canal for one station in an area that “got big” already with only bus service for support? Why spend the money at all? For that matter, what’s the point of the additional half billion to go north from Smith Cove to Dravus unless the western slope of Queen Anne and the eastern slope of Magnolia are significantly upzoned there.
If the line goes into Ballard, the obviously a station at Dravus makes sense, but does it as the terminus? It’s a better bus intercept because it gets Magnolia-Points East buses which simplifies service in Magnolia, but is that worth a half billion without a bunch of walk-up riders using the station directly?
Central Ballard can’t grow much more. Nobody is going to tear down almost-new seven story apartments to build high-rises, even were the City to permit it. Redevelopment certainly won’t cross Market and invade the Historic District. If a tunnel solution is chosen for the crossing, planning for two stations at a minimum should be in place, with the necessary underground infrastructure to connect them provided.
At a minimum that means development rights on station sites must be purchased now, even if the existing structures are not. If construction is to take place in stages and the “terminal” station is the first to open, any “bypassed” station(s) must be fully boxed with a jump for the TBM’s made through it. If, rather, the stations north of the Canal are planned to be opened consecutively from the crossing, the TBM bores out the “farside” of the initial station must be begun and lined so that connection later can be made to the initial station without interruption of service. ST did that at UW Station very well.
I said “at a minimum” because the same process of future-proofing should be undertaken for connection with Ballard-UW, should it ever be built, and for extension north should that be undertaken. Neither expansion should be effectively embargoed by physical decisions like that at U-District not to provide for an underground connection to a future east-west line.
Put another way – run buses where people are today, but build trains to where people will be tomorrow.
Let’s avoid a debate about where a single Ballard Station should go! I think the front line should be that there should be two stations north of the Ship Canal. It’s irresponsible to spend almost $2B and only get a single station while West Seattle gets 3 stations for well over $3B for about the same number of boardings as just the single Ballard station. (Yes that’s right that West Seattle Link is less cost effective by 50 percent!)
The fact that the two ends are not being compared for cost effectiveness is the core problem. It leaves us to speculate about things and that’s not convincing without the backup data.
So what to do?
1. Request that the single DEIS be split into four — West Seattle, SODO/Downtown, SLU/LQA and Interbay/Ballard. It’s laughable to think that a project as massive as this one can get by with one DEIS! Many supplementals are coming! Lynnwood Link had supplemental DEIS’s and that project is much more straightforward.
2. Start pulling the data from the community advisory committee meetings and include it in posts . I know it’s a pain to scroll through YouTube videos to find basic information like cost and boardings. ST has not been releasing the basic data in a succinct systemic way — and does things like grouping the boardings by segment rather than by station so that there can be a clear discussion about how many stations to have and how many people are walking versus riding a bus to the station. I also find it curious that they split segments in roughly $1.5B to $2.5B sections to mask the full cost involved — even more demonstrating the need to have separate DEIS’s.
I’m going to work through the numbers I can find and post them later.
“It’s laughable to think that a project as massive as this one can get by with one DEIS!”
I agree. It’s absolutely ridiculous. There should be at a minimum a separate NEPA process for West Seattle Link as well as Ballard Link, and probably a third for the DSTT2 segment. These projects were NOT combined in the ST3 plan (appropriately) and should be documented going forward as separate projects given their vast scope. We all know why ST is doing this: they don’t want West Seattle Link reviewed independently as that would only expose the weaknesses of the plan.
I was going to reply to your other comment (on the newer open thread) about the latest Link Progress Report that ST is doing something similar there as well, i.e., treating the two extensions as one big project for the purpose of this periodic reporting. This is equally ridiculous. Hell, ST stripped out LRV fleet expansion from ST2 projects to create a separate project tracking!
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