Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times:

Above all, the position “requires incredible soft skills,” the search firm, CPS-HR of Sacramento, heard from staff and interest groups. “Most often, we heard about the need to listen,” a report said.

While relevant to any top executive, the feedback reflects worries by the board about reliving Rogoff’s first year, when colleagues complained to the human resources department about his abrasive manner. Rogoff apologized, narrowly escaped being fired, and completed executive coaching.

“I think it’s a great callout. A leader does need to have soft skills and we certainly need that in a CEO,” said board Chair Kent Keel, a council member from University Place near Tacoma. Keel mentioned a distinction between hard-charging “East Coast” and a subtler “West Coast” public agency culture.

Are we building consensus or are we building public transit?

Soft skills are fine, if what Keel means balancing stakeholder interests while building useful and usable transit projects. If he means the Seattle Process on steroids, that’s deeply concerning. The primary goal is to provide excellent and useful transit, not simply appease the squeakiest wheels, who often times don’t actually care about great rider experiences.

There is simply no transit agency in America attempting to build anything as ambitious as ST3 (arguably excepting Los Angeles?). The agency probably needs to look overseas, to Europe or Asia, where complicated transit projects actually get built in a reasonable frame for a reasonable budget.

155 Replies to “Sound Transit’s CEO search”

  1. I agree. I view the Keel comments very surreal. In particular, transit managers of large systems usually get experience in many parts of the country. As an example, there is the Sacramento RT head:
    He worked for JTA and MARTA earlier in his career.

    If anything, this just confirms my dread that Keel and others are hiring someone who plays politics rather than commands the skills of either running and/or building a system.

    ST2 expansion is on track for opening in the next 30 months. The huge problems today are nasty cars, safety, broken escalators and other things that dont require consensus as much as leadership. Riders want these problems addressed. When someone leaves feces on a train or an escalator is broken, the situation isn’t about “consensus”.

    1. Totally agree.
      Worst possible outcome is to get someone that makes no waves, makes everyone feel good, and it clueless and incompetent about running and building a transit system. By the time those weaknesses become glaringly obvious, he/she/they get a nice severance and slink away.
      Please let us not have to go through that.

  2. “Are we building consensus or are we building public transit?”

    The Seattle process demands the answer to this question to be, “Yes”. I don’t believe there is a consensus issue with riders, we all want accessible and frequency grade-separated transit to destinations we want to go. Consensus in ST seems to be they want to build a system that doesn’t impact any existing infrastructure (cars) by burying it deeper than nuclear waste, along freeways with terrible walksheds, and outside of neighborhood centers. We need a CEO who can rationalize these two opposing needs.

    1. Is there a consensus among riders? Many the public who don’t yet have access to frequent transit expect access to parking when they become riders, and many current riders focus on retaining their 1-seat riders during any network restructure. Several frequent commentators on the blog, myself include, mock the focus on 100% grade-separation as value-destructive because it increases cost with negligible benefit for riders.

      1. Are you saying riders don’t universally want accessible stations?
        Are you saying riders don’t universally want a system that serves destinations they want to go?
        Are you saying riders don’t universally want fast and frequent grade-separated service?

        If you are, you’re just wrong.

      2. Yes, they want all those things. And free ice cream.

        AJ’s point is that grade separation is expensive and, while sometimes very valuable, not so universally useful that it should be obsessively pursued as if resource constraints don’t exist.

      3. 1. “Are you saying riders don’t universally want accessible stations?”

        Yes, but “accessibility” begins at the doorstep, with first/last mile access, something ST never considered part of its mission. At least if you want drivers to become riders.

        2. “Are you saying riders don’t universally want a system that serves destinations they want to go?”

        Yes, but without a transfer.

        3. Are you saying riders don’t universally want fast and frequent grade-separated service?

        Not sure. They want fast and frequent service. Link is not particularly fast for the distances it must cover. Plus it usually requires a transfer, and there are so many areas it does not go so requires another transfer. For example the 554 will be more popular than East Link without grade separation because it leaves directly from a park and ride, is one seat, and goes to where the riders want to go, Bellevue Way, during peak times.

        And as AJ notes there is cost. East Link is mostly surface and grade separated, but that is not what downtown Seattle, West Seattle or Ballard want (and Mercer Island would like its station between the east/west lanes of I-90 capped too, and the subarea has the money for it). They want tunnels and underground stations, but want someone else to pay for it. That is the rub. Pass a SB5528 levy in N. King Co. for around $7 to $10 billion for WSBLE and I will believe.

        4. “Do they want clean and safe stations and trains?” [Added}

        Absolutely, and without safe and clean stations and trains forget the rest, especially with a car sitting in the garage, little traffic today, and free parking in most areas.

      4. No, Jack, I do not think there is any consensus in Seattle around the most central trade-off in transit, ridership vs coverage (https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe), which your questions all run into (mostly by assuming the goal is ridership over coverage)

        As to your specific questions:
        “Are you saying riders don’t universally want accessible stations?” Accessible to whom? Walkers? Bikers? Drivers? There is not a consensus in the details that matter.

        “Are you saying riders don’t universally want a system that serves destinations they want to go?” To which destinations? There are many riders who only care about how Link will get them to the airport or the baseball game, as those are the only times the will use the system. By which framework do we prioritize white collar vs blue collar destination? CBDs vs industrial areas? Shift work vs late night destinations? Connect to jobs or amenities? Etc.

        “Are you saying riders don’t universally want fast and frequent grade-separated service?” No, they do not. Many riders will prefer a slower or infrequent service if it ensure they have a 1-seat ride or minimizes walking. Some riders want a fast service but don’t care about span of service as long as it runs during their commute window, while other riders just want their bus to show up on time but don’t really care if it takes 20 or 40 minutes.

      5. “the 554 will be more popular than East Link”

        Only a small fraction of the Eastside lives in the 554’s corridor. East Link both adds and subtracts one-seat rides. There is no ST Express from Wilburton, Spring District, Bel Red, Overlake Village, or East Main to downtown Seattle. The Spring District is a rapidly-growing area, and Bel-Red is following it. Overlake Village will probably get in on the act too one of these years. The Sears building at least will be redeveloped into something denser. Crossroads will have better 2-seat service on Link than it has with the 550. It will have transfer options at Wilburton, Bellevue downtown, and Overlake Village, and a Link ride from Overlake Village to Redmond. Crossroads is an equity-emphasis area, which the governments are keen about serving. What is Issquah’s counterpart to these?

        East Link will run every 8-10 minutes all day and evening every day. No existing ST Express route does that. Not the 554, not the 550, not any other. Some people will gain one-seat rides, some will lose them, and some will gain new 2-seat express rides to more destinations. Even those who lose a one-seat ride will have a lot more Link frequency. They can drive to a Link P&R if they don’t want to take a bus to Link. You say they won’t, but some will, just as people drive to TIB, Angle Lake, Northgate, and ST Express P&Rs now. If they’re angered at now having to go to a P&R, we can’t please everybody. Most people aren’t Issaquahites. Link is for the high-volume corridor Seattle-Bellevue-Spring District-Redmond, and that’s what it serves.

        “without grade separation”

        Freeways are grade-separated from local streets, so the 554 is grade-separated from Issaquah to Mercer island (current) or to South Bellevue (proposed). It’s not grade-separated from freeway cars and congestion, but it doesn’t cross them except at exits, and HOV/T lanes where they exist minimize those. East Link will be grade-separated from Lynnwood to Spring District, and partially grade-separated the rest of the way.

      6. Mike, I said eastsiders won’t take a bus to catch a train. I agree they will just drive to a park and ride that serves East Link, which is why more should be built (and are part of ST 3). Eddie was arguing against park and rides along East Link.

        East Link might have 8-minute frequencies during peak times (not sure about non-peak) but historically transit ridership on the eastside has been very heavily skewed toward peak service.

        The ridership you list assumes one can or will walk to an East Link station, and mostly assumes you are going to Seattle since that was the original focus of East Link. Not sure how large that demographic will be. Based on the parking requirements and cost new development in The Spring District and Wilburton will have cars, and Uber will be very popular for short trips to Bellevue Way or around the Bellevue area.

        Without the peak rider most eastsiders will drive, because most own cars, because it is very hard to live on the eastside without a car, first/last mile access can be a hassle, and parking is mostly free. You see a future in which eastsiders adopt a car free life and live within walking distance of Link, and Link is going where they want to go (Seattle). Maybe, but why now just live in Seattle in that case.

        My guess is combined transit ridership once East Link opens will be around the same as today on the eastside.

      7. Define “grade-separation”. If by that you mean only under- or above-ground, then that is foolish. Westside MAX is a gigantic success while being “at-grade” all the way from Beaverton TC to the east end of downtown Hillsboro. Its “secret sauce” is that it has absolute pre-emption at road crossings with freight-rail crossing gates.

        Now I grant that there is no surplus rail right-of-way running down the middle of the economic center of the region in King County, but there are two in theeriphery to consider: the ERC and the Seattle-Everett Interurban. Either or both could host superb “tramways” passing adjacent to major trip attractors. So please do not rule out “at-grade with gated road-crossings” for future low-cost Link extensions at the periphery of the system.

        The powers that be chose overhead power distribution with the significant extra costs it entails for the Link system. While median running in the center city has proven perilous for the south line, let’s not throw the baby out with the rubber ducky.

      8. eastsiders won’t take a bus to catch a train
        I’ll take a bus to catch the train when it’s a walk to the one seat ride to catch the train. I don’t consider walk time as part of my commute; it’s mental/physical health time. Waiting is factored in which is why a multi seat ride is a non-starter. It’s also a factor squared in decreased reliability.

        Right now eastside transit is useless for me but if East Link opens before I’m dead I’ll have a 20 minute walk to the train. That’s WAY better than a 15 minute walk to a 15 min. bus that transfers to another 15 min bus that doesn’t even go where I want.

        Commuting into Seattle from north Bellevue via I-90 is a 15-25 minute drive (free parking & afternoons are 10 minutes longer). Transit would steal a minimum of an hour a day, cost ~$6 more and still entail all the cost of owning and maintaining a car. Work would offset that by a whooping $3/day; yippee skippy!

        That promised train I’ve been paying ST for? No sign of intelligent life.

        Bottom line… ST; if you can’t deliver on the train, pivot to ST Express bus service that comes as close as possible. Otherwise, I’ll probably join the large number of people that have just thrown in the towel and retired. Or offer the company the choice of 100% work from home vs 3 days per week or I’m gone. Seeing a lot of that now and the company is obviously opting to keep employees it can’t replace. When new hires are supposed to be 100% in office for the first year I’m even seeing that requirement being waived for people that are there less than 2 months. This is partially in response to the lease required number of parking spaces being in doubt due to construction of a new apartment complex where our existing parking garage is.

      9. Daniel:
        2. “Are you saying riders don’t universally want a system that serves destinations they want to go?”

        Yes, but without a transfer.

        You do realize that any and every public transit system in the world be it here in Seattle, Paris, or Shanghai will have transfer points to connect people quickly and efficiently between lines and destinations people want to go. One seat rides are great if the distance is short enough, but the father you go, the less it’s practical or cost effective for a public transit system. It’s why Houston’s METRO reformed their radial bus system into a grid based one, which paid off in increasing frequency and efficiency for passangers and operators.

  3. Frank asks good questions.

    Lindblom quotes the smart and well-connected Smith (e.g., TCC, Nickels, ST, KC Executive): Rachel Smith, a former Sound Transit staffer and current CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said it’s possible a great leader without a transit background can succeed: “Sound Transit, King County Metro, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, all have a ton of transit experts who work there. It is possible to find someone who is a leader who doesn’t have transit experience, who is excellent with capital delivery, finance and crisis management.”

    During the crisis of 1999-2001, ST fired its top leadership, partly due to their supposedly hiding the fiscal issues of Sound Move. ST is proud of hiring Joni Earl, to get the initial segment built; the agency survived and prospered. Earl did not have a transit background, but a general government one.

    A contrarian viewpoint: the south-first initial segment was the wrong choice. It did not maximize ridership or benefit; it placed tremendous pressure on downtown Seattle streets for a decade or more. Today, with ST2 Link in our sights, it may be the time to hire a practical transit manager (like Ron Tober); ST has operations to emphasize as well as capital delivery. It is not clear how well ST uses the expertise of its partner agencies; it is not clear how much ST allowed transit experts to influence the ST3 project list; was ST3 closer to a decorated Christmas tree than an efficient transit network? Can soft skills be too soft?

    1. If ST was building from scratch, Rachel Smith could be right. But it’s not. This is not 2001.

      There are 19 Link stations opened and another 19 opening in the next 3 years. Tacoma Link stations are set to double in number this year. The number of trains is set to double. ST is building Stride, which is more responsibility than ST Express is.

      ST is no longer an idea. It’s a system that operates daily and has some serious issues with its day to day operations — and the system set to hugely expand its buildings (stations), track as well as its fleet in the next few years.

      1. I’ll add that when Rogoff was hired, ST was responsible for only 8 stations, and just four (Beacon Hill, Mt Baker, TIBS and SeaTac) had any vertical conveyances. Angle Lake, U-Link and Northgate opened during Rogoff’s tenure (note these were under construction well before Rogoff’s start date) and ST took over the DSTT and its stations.

        I’ve still not seen a comprehensive improvement plan for the now 30 year old DSTT stations.

      2. Thompson: Lake City is part of Seattle; Mercer Island will be a major transfer point for East Link; it would have been a better one if ST and MI had not signed a bi-lateral agreement forcing long walks for transfers that cross North Merce Way. For the I-90 market, it is better than South Bellevue. One-seat ride express routes can not scale well; Link is the answer; more so, if ST provides short headway and waits. The new leader should know that. Park-and-rides also cannot scale well; dirt is too costly; the land next to frequent transit is better used for housing; the funds needed for garages is better used for service frequency; see routes 542 and 554 in East Link. The new leader should know those things. Those who assembled ST3 did not seem to know them.

      3. A few points of clarification Eddie:

        1. Mercer Island is suing ST to enforce the 2017 settlement agreement that requires drop offs on the south side of NMW to avoid bus riders having to cross NMW to access East Link. Metro wants drop offs on the north side for driver breaks. No one today thinks capacity (number of off-Island buses) will require drop offs on the north side of NMW. The irony is post pandemic the litigation is mostly about saving some trees along NMW a bus bay would remove (Islanders take trees very, very seriously). Metro is also indicating Mercer Island might now work for bus layovers as it electrifies.

        2. If you oppose park and rides in east King Co. tell me how Metro will provide fast and frequent bus feeder service to the Sammamish Plateau, or on Mercer Island, or really anywhere in East King Co.?

        3. Metro and the eastside transit restructure realize Mercer Island will not be a major transfer point. ST widely inflated ridership estimates, and Seattle has imploded. Intended bus frequency has dropped from one bus every three minutes to one every 15 minutes during peak times, probably one every 30 minutes during non-peak times. The reality is eastsiders will not take a bus to catch a train. They will either drive directly to a park and ride that serves East Link or find another mode of transportation (like the SUV in their garage).

        4. You may think mode trumps all, but we don’t. First/last mile access, one seat rides, clean and safe trains, going directly to your destination is exactly what you get from a car, employer shuttle, employer subsidized parking, Uber, and so on. The 554 and 630 are the future, if transit has a future.

        5. You sound like the old Soviet style ST planning model, which doesn’t work very well as Link moves into non-urban areas (and isn’t working so great in urban areas). We already tend to not take transit. Everyone has a SUV sitting in their garage. There is WFH, Uber, free parking, employer shuttles, employer subsidized parking, the 554 and 630. Why would any eastsider somehow get to a bus to get to a train that does not go where they want to go, either Bellevue Way, First Hill, SLU, or basically anywhere in Seattle? Why not just take their car if you and ST want to make East Link shitty?

        If the next CEO of ST intends to tell the eastside how it is going to be he will get a big yawn, as he rides along 112th. There wasn’t even a peep when ST announced East Link won’t open until summer 2024, around four years late. Who cares?

        Al is right: the next CEO better know how to run a transit system, and better learn to understand his customers, or intended customers, or he won’t have any customers, except those not paying a fare who have to take transit. He better also hope the Seattle City mayor and council figure out a way to make Seattle’s streets and ST’s trains clean and safe, and he can’t control that.

        You do your subarea and I will do mine.

      4. > 1. Mercer Island is suing ST to enforce the 2017 settlement agreement that requires drop offs on the south side of NMW to avoid bus riders having to cross NMW to access East Link. Metro wants drop offs on the north side for driver breaks. No one today thinks capacity (number of off-Island buses) will require drop offs on the north side of NMW. The irony is post pandemic the litigation is mostly about saving some trees along NMW a bus bay would remove (Islanders take trees very, very seriously).

        I hope you are not being serious here, the Mercer Island bus transfer lawsuit has always been about Mercer Islanders not wanting bus riders on their station for their fear of ‘poor’ people, it is pretty disingenuous to pretend it’s about the trees.

        “One notable group, the Moms 4 Safe Mercer Island (M4SMI), has banded more than 215 families together in the last three months over shared concerns of public safety and the perceived potential increase in crime, given the increase of people.” and plenty of other comments keep citing “crime”

        > Metro and the eastside transit restructure realize Mercer Island will not be a major transfer point

        Mercer Island is set to be the major transfer point, as is Bellevue Transit Center and many other light rail stations. If that is really Mercer Island’s attitude, perhaps we should just have the light rail trains skip the station if the attitude is the station will only serve the rich people there and no one else.

        > If you oppose park and rides in east King Co
        Park and rides cost a huge sum of money for basically only one rider per day. I’m sure you’ve seen the other articles about the 50 to 200k cost per parking spot it is a pretty ludicrous cost per daily rider versus building apartments on the same spot. Not saying none should be built — but centering ridership on park and rides doesn’t work well.

        > Why would any eastsider somehow get to a bus to get to a train that does not go where they want to go, either Bellevue Way, First Hill, SLU, or basically anywhere in Seattle? Why not just take their car if you and ST want to make East Link shitty?

        I do partially agree on this point, people do heavily underestimate express busses and while it isn’t practical to have it point to point to everywhere the transfer penalty isn’t that great with the light rail in some cases. (Also fyi that doesn’t mean one can ignore Mercer Island trying to get rid of busses for crime fears.)

      5. Thompson.
        One. The 2017 bilateral agreement is the problem, not the answer. It banned buses south of I-90; but for that buses could have served stops at the ends of the stations and not stops on North Mercer Way. Transfer walks could have been shorter.
        Two. In 2019, pre-Covid, all Eastside lots were full except for Houghton and Woodinville; those two have poor service. Bus routes are proposed to connect the Issaquah, Highlands, Sammamish, and Eastgate P&R with Link. ST has built a large garage at South Bellevue. We can expect all the parking to fill in the a.m. peak post pandemic.
        Three. Yes, Covid ridership is lower. Yes, the plan may be flawed. East riders will take a bus to/from Link. It all breaks down to minutes and dollars. Note that the vast majority of pre-Covid Eastside riders were walk access. The 2011 network was based on connectivity and transfers between routes; Link will be added.
        Four. Yes, Route 554 will be strong; stronger still if ST runs it on a very short headway. Route 630 will fail to be cost-effective; it duplicates Link; it is one-way; it is a small bus.
        Five. Link does not serve non-urban areas. Many in the East have fewer cars than you assert; many want to leave them in their driveways for trips to congested markets with paid parking; in transit, they can read or use devises. Consider what the Microsoft Connector service is about; those workers can afford SUV. The Soviet aspect of our transport system is the under priced freeway lanes that lead to queues (or congestion) just as they had bread lines.

      6. WL, let me address your comments out of order:

        1. Park And Rides.

        Pre-pandemic, structured or underground parking cost a private developer around $85,000/stall and ST $115,000/stall. Not cheap, but in the larger scheme of things not a significant cost. For example, all the towers going up in Bellevue have lots of underground parking, otherwise the building is not attractive because drivers can’t get to it. Somehow those private developers are able to afford the underground parking.

        ST 2 and 3 include funding for park and rides. The eastside has lots (billions) of excess ST tax revenue, and the cost of the park and rides is well within the eastside subarea’s budget. For example, the S. Bellevue park and ride increased from 500 to 1500 stalls. On the flip side limiting cross lake transit to East Link renders some eastside park and rides like in Eastgate less attractive.

        But the real point is how do you propose to provide first/last mile access to these vast and undense areas if not park and rides, whether Issaquah or Angle Lake. Feeder buses and micro-transit are expensive too, plus Metro has to pay the cost of the vehicle, its maintenance, driver and fuel, and cannot possibly cover these vast areas.

        I think the animus on this blog towards park and rides has a lot to do with the urbanist/anti-car crowd. But the mistake they make is they fail to understand there are so many better transportation alternatives than transit to begin with, even with first/last mile access, that are safer, cleaner, faster, more convenient. After all, someone driving to a park and ride is already in their car, and today traffic is mild. So they simply won’t take transit. Whether it is WFH, free parking, employer shuttles, direct buses like the 554 or 630, employer subsidized parking, or just driving to a park and ride next to Link.

        The question I never got an answer to is if not park and rides how would you provide first/last mile access to Sammamish, Angle Lake, Mercer Island, Snoqualmie, and so on, realizing many of those riders think getting on a bus is their first seat, and they won’t take a second, although for some reason they don’t consider driving to a park and ride a seat?

        Some transit advocates — and to an extent ST — are so ideologically driven they would rather discourage riders than admitting the inherent flaws transit, and light rail, have. Absolute worst customer thinking and service I have ever seen. Luckily there are so many better alternatives available, and no one is complaining about East Link being delayed another year.

        2. Mercer Island’s Objections To the Intensity Of The Bus Intercept

        In 2016 MI had a very dumb mayor who signed off on the SEPA permits ST needed to build East Link on the one Island in Lake Washington and they vested, so MI lost all its leverage. Cities like Bellevue had used these permits to negotiate moving East Link to 112th and a tunnel plus cash, S. Kirkland used them to prevent Link from reaching its downtown, and Seattle used them to insist on tunnels and underground stations for its wealthy white neighborhoods north of Yesler.

        The litigation is not over the intercept, but its intensity. From the beginning MI agreed to a roundabout on NMW that is being built today so buses did not have to travel to Seattle to turn around.

        In 2017 the parties agreed to no drop offs on the north side of NMW because their traffic engineers said having 100 commuters exit an articulated bus and cross NMW (the busiest arterial on MI) behind the bus next to the park and ride entrance while rushing to get to a packed train that only runs every 8 minutes on the south side was dangerous. Duh. Better to have riders get off on the south side where the train station is.

        Then when Metro began to structure its intercepts it relied on ST’s incredibly inflated ridership estimates. Metro stated these — if true — would require 20 articulated buses per peak hour on MI, (the “optimal service configuration” according to ST) which could bring up to 14,000 commuters/day to MI. This is more than 50% of the entire population of MI.

        Plus Bellevue at the time did not want S. Bellevue serving as an intercept for non-Bellevue riders (mistakenly thinking these buses were from Renton and areas south of I-90).

        This raised a lot of issues. Number one was capacity on Link. The MI station platform is 35′ below grade between the east/west lanes of I-90 and quite narrow because MI was only estimated to have 3000 total riders/day in 2017. Where would the riders at the very end of the line going west wait when the trains would be full when reaching MI?

        There were also concerns over safety, not because the (Issaquah) riders are poor but because any time you have 14,000 hurried commuters crossing streets or coming to MI there are safety and police costs. ST offered no funding for police or traffic police. (Today the real concern is Link coming from Seattle without any fare enforcement).

        Metro just does not have the budget to be dishonest like ST, so when it began the eastside transit restructure post pandemic and post Seattle implosion it had to get honest about ridership on East Link, including cross lake. Metro can’t afford to run empty buses.

        Metro determined ST’s estimates of 43,000 to 52,000 riders per day on East Link was about double actual ridership, and probably even less cross lake. Bellevue changed its mind and decided it wanted those high value (Issaquah) workers to go to Bellevue and not Seattle (and so did the workers) but wanted one seat access to Bellevue Way so the workhorse the 554 was rerouted to Bellevue and Bellevue Way rather than “intercepting” at MIas originally planned, or subsequently at S. Bellevue for the last leg to 112th. Commuters HATE transfers. ST might want to discourage these riders/workers but not Bellevue.

        In 2017-2019 MI agreed to the “original service configuration” as ST called it (and was one of the configurations ST offered), which was 12 articulated buses per peak hour. But Metro claimed based on ST’s ridership estimates and Bellevue’s objection to S. Bellevue serving as the intercept for these riders 20 articulated buses per peak hour would be necessary, which would require drop offs on the North side of NMW to handle the volume. If buses dropped off all their passengers and picked up riders on the south side just the logistics would limit buses to 8-12/hour.

        Today under the eastside transit restructure peak off-Island bus service will be two buses every 15 minutes, or four per hour, and probably one every 30 minutes non-peak, and there is a good chance those will be half empty because everyone believes just like the 554 Issaquah will demand a one seat bus to Seattle for its commuters, WFH, and a shift to Bellevue for eastside workers, and Issaquah generally gets what it wants on the eastside (like a $4.5 billion line). It is true these express buses will be point to point, but eastside transit ridership is heavily commuter oriented, and is point to point.

        Plus everyone expects commuters to drive directly to a park and ride that serves Link rather than catch a bus from a park and ride to Link if they must go to Seattle, which is Mercer Island (453 stalls) or S. Bellevue (1500 stalls).

        ST never really considered first/last mile access, and that has always been its Achilles heel. A transfer is a huge turn off when there are so many alternatives to transit, and to link, and your intended rider is already in their car when driving to a park and ride.

        So it wasn’t MI, or the litigation, that resulted in MI becoming such a tiny intercept. It was the pandemic, WFH, commuters hatred of transfers, shitty ST planning, hubris, lack of first/last mile access, eastside workers moving to the eastside, the implosion of Seattle, etc.

        Metro and ST still insist on building the infrastructure for the optimal service configuration, but mostly for driver breaks and I think ST’s ego. MI does not want to have four articulated buses parked on its main arterial throughout the day (which city does — do you think Bellevue would allow that on Bellevue Way), or to have riders running across NMW to catch East Link which will run once every 8 minutes, and the bus layover on the north side of NMW will eliminate that section of the Sound to Mountains bike trail so bicyclists will have to find another route through our town center.

        In the end, the dishonest ST ridership estimates, a pandemic, the implosion of downtown Seattle, the dumb idea to place a bus intercept at a location folks don’t want to go to anyway, the animosity toward transfers, lack of first last mile access to East Link, and the likelihood Issaquah to Seattle commuters will demand one seat buses (certainly to SLU or First Hill) solved the dispute, not to ST’s advantage.

        ST and urbanists and transit advocates think that by building transit– even shitty transit — they can force people to ride it. They can’t. Sure, they built an exorbitantly expensive system, but not many want to ride it, and there are so many better options in a subarea these folks never understood. That is the ultimate lesson out of the MI intercept dispute.

        Imagine spending years litigating an intercept on MI to handle 20 articulated buses per peak hour to end up with at best four buses/peak hour. That says more about ST than MI.

      7. Thompson: see https://elc.participate.online/. Between routes 215, 218, and 269, the conceptual network has 12 trips per peak hour serving the Mercer Island Link station.

        Where did you derive the 14K transferring riders for MI? That seems high. In fall 2018, the westbound sum of loads of routes from Sammamish, Issaquah, and Eastgate was only 4K. With growth, could it become 5K; doubled for both peaks, it would be 10K. Route 554 riders will be taken to South Bellevue.

        When the pandemic ends and commutes return, the park-and-rides will fill early in the a.m. peak period. They fill quickly as they provide value and today, are priced at zero.

      8. Eddie, 14,000 boardings/day was based on 20 articulated buses/peak hour carrying 100 passengers which is standing room but not crush load for an articulated bus, plus the 453-stall park and ride — 53% of which was off-Island pre-pandemic — that also requires crossing the same area of NMW to access the light rail station. Plus return trip. Plus non-peak travel. We were working off of Metro’s numbers which was working off of ST’s ridership estimates cross lake for buses and riders/bus in its original intercept concept. Metro was reverse engineering the intercept based on ST’s ridership estimates, plus Bellevue not wanting to serve as the intercept (and those Issaquah riders will now be mostly on the 554). But we are talking about 2017.

        You are correct, I made a mistake. It was 8 not four buses per peak hour. The current plan for the intercept would be 8 — 12 buses/peak hour with the three combined buses, although there may be bunching. At the last eastside transit restructure meeting Metro indicated the proposed 15 minute peak frequency on the 269, 218 and 215 might be high (and 20 minute more realistic), based on current cross lake ridership because cross lake ridership on the 550 and 554 just is not returning.

        What is still unknown is how many riders post pandemic will: 1. simply drive to the S. Bellevue Park and Ride from these areas to avoid a bus transfer (originally this was a concern when capacity at the MI station was an issue); 2. skip Mercer Island and take East Link to S. Bellevue to transfer back to these areas; 3. direct buses like the 630 from Issaquah to Seattle; 4. switch to Bellevue or WFH. Metro does not want to run buses that are empty or nearly empty over such a long distance as from Issaquah to MI.

        It will come down to cross lake ridership (east to west) post pandemic according to Metro. The transit restructure is not set in stone. So far MI has gone from 20 buses/peak hour to 8-12. You will note how few buses there are coming to MI during non-peak hours, which highlights how peak oriented transit ridership is on the eastside. My best guess at this time is there will be around 8 buses per peak hour unless Metro thinks frequency is more important than making sure buses are filled.

        If you are correct and post pandemic ridership returns to 2018 levels before ridership on the 550 and 554 cross– lake plummeted then there could be up to 12 buses per hour coming to MI, which of course MI agreed to in 2017 and is fewer than today although not all riders disembark today on MI. 20 peak buses/hour was based on ridership estimates that are unrealistic and were pre-pandemic.

        Or if Metro thinks 15-minute frequency is worth running fairly empty buses, although the number of riders more than the number of the buses has been the issue. Today more than 12 buses/peak hour stop on MI but only a few riders get off. If Issaquah does insist on direct one seat buses to Seattle (and SLU or First Hill) that would probably eliminate one of the buses coming to MI. The reality is it makes little sense to place an intercept where most people are not planning on going as their destination.

        My guess is ridership post pandemic cross lake (east to west) stays around current levels because these folks are working somewhere now but not commuting to Seattle, that Issaquah/Northbend/Sammamish insist on direct one seat buses to Seattle if the commuter does return, more riders from the Issaquah region use S. Bellevue either to drive to or take a bus to transfer, but Metro at first does go with 15 minute frequency for a total of 12 peak buses/hour depending on bunching, until Metro’s budget gets squeezed.

        Of course, the parties could have avoided years of litigation if ST had been honest with the ridership estimates, and ST/Metro accepted MI’s offer of 12 buses peak/hour (actually originally proposed by ST) in the beginning, which I think will be more than needed.

      9. Daniel, you forget several key points. I say “forget” because this has been mentioned, over and over again. Here they are, once more, in bold, so you can focus on the key points:

        1) East Link is not about Issaquah and Sammamish. It is about serving downtown Bellevue (mostly) but also about Microsoft headquarters, downtown Redmond and the Spring District. That will make up the bulk of the ridership, and everything else is gravy.

        2) Issaquah riders will trade one-seat rides for more frequent service. Many will hate the transfer. Many will like having buses that run all day, at relatively frequent intervals (every 15 minutes to both downtown Bellevue and Mercer Island, where they can transfer to Link).

        3) Express buses are not cost effective. Essentially, Seattle buses subsidize express buses like the 214. Some of the other East Side express buses do OK, but in general they underperform a typical Seattle bus. It is quite possible that ridership will go down for some (peak) buses as they are truncated at Mercer Island. But the cost per rider will go down significantly as well, more than compensating for this.

        4) Park and Ride lots don’t scale. Feeder buses do. Small park and ride lots are typically leased from churches, or other organizations that are doing very little with the land. This allows Metro (or ST) to pay very little for the lot. There are also de-facto park and ride lots. These are simply places where someone parks, so that they can catch a bus. These exist all over the county (there are a few in my neighborhood). As these small park and ride lots get crowded, ridership on the feeder buses increase. New feeder routes are created. This enables many riders to switch from driving to a lot to walking to one. Others drive to different lot, much closer to their home.

        This is what happened in Seattle, for the 41 (ridership switched from the big park and ride lot, to smaller ones, to mostly just walk-up ridership). This happens in various suburban areas across the country. It is quite likely it will happen in Issaquah, assuming it continues to grow. As it is, Issaquah Highlands has a huge park and ride lot. Of course some riders would rather continue driving, all the way to a Link station. But plenty more would prefer avoiding the congestion and extra cost of driving, especially with the buses running so frequently (as they will). As ridership grows, and the park and ride fills up, satellite park and ride lots become more attractive, and service increases. The system becomes better for riders, and more cost effective. Transit scales.

        In contrast, park and ride lots don’t. Building upward is expensive. Replacing an existing structure with an even bigger one is especially expensive. The cost per car increases. At the same time, things are worse for drivers. Instead of parking in a level lot, they are forced to drive up several levels, increasing the time it takes to park. Congestion around the lot also increases.

      10. FDW, there is a significant elevation difference between the upper end of the Nalley Valley where it passes a half mile west of Tacoma Mall and the mall property itself. And, of course, it’s all developed in between. I really don’t see how you close the gap between South Tacoma Way and the mall property. Maybe a gondola would work, but the train isn’t going to run often enough that anyone would be on the gondola 80% of the time.

        Are you proposing that the stretch between South Federal Way and Tacoma Dome be run by those same multiple unit trains instead of LR? That would be a way to avoid the cost of overhead power distribution, but you’d almost certainly end up with diesel powered trains. Batteries simply aren’t up to the task of propelling heavy-weight rail passenger stock thirty miles between charges. Since Amtrak runs on the Bypass, the FRA would require that the MU’s meet standard rail impact standards.

        There is a nasty hill west of Tacoma Dome Station and a not insignificant one between Fife and South Federal Way. Those hills would drain the batteries dramatically. Also, you’d need rapid charging at South Federal Way and Dupont in order that the trains be available in a reasonable time frame.

        That said, perhaps hybrid D/BMU’s would work and not create too much smog. Such an “eLink” extension would certainly match the likely traffic loads better and allow running at higher speeds south of Federal Way.

      11. “there are so many better transportation alternatives than transit to begin with, even with first/last mile access, that are safer, cleaner, faster, more convenient.”

        Cars may be better for individuals, but in aggregate they harm the environment immensely, and they take up a ridiculous amount of space. If you’d asked people in the 1920s or space aliens whether future cities should devote half their buildable space to roads and parking lots, they’d say that’s insane, but that’s exactly what American cities are like, especially suburbs. And you want to keep on doing that?

        And even for individuals, driving isn’t always more attractive. Some people drive unwillingly, because there are no viable alternatives. Some people hate to drive in congestion, hate looking for parking, hate parking at the far end of the lot, feel stressed worrying about accidents and other drivers, don’t want to concentrate on the road for forty-five minutes, hate to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car, and seven thousand on annual gas and maintenance. And those electric cars that will solve everything? People will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get one. Some people have trouble affording a car, and only do so under duress because there’s no viable alternative. Others can afford a car but don’t want to throw away so much money on one; they’d rather spend it on something more worthwhile or save it.

      12. Mike, I can’t go back to 1920 to replat our cities. They are what they are. My guess is the design of cities and roads are what they are today because voters over the last 102 years wanted that.

        Drivers do hate traffic congestion (hence the demand for more or wider roads) and inadequate parking. That is why cities like Bellevue –and the financiers — demand buildings have adequate parking, like Home Depot, so public streets don’t become de facto parking lots.

        Urbanists want to eliminate parking to force folks onto transit, while planning departments and financiers want to see the migration to transit first before eliminating or reducing parking minimums. Unfortunately, transit is not helping with that voluntary migration.

        Traffic congestion is pretty good today. If it returns during peak hours and folks need to commute to areas with expensive parking my guess is transit ridership will go up, but not to 2018 levels because there will be fewer commuters. Some areas like eastside businesses make part of their business plan offering free and adequate parking, even for something as intensive as Bellevue Mall. They obviously think parking attracts customers with money, so the parking pays for itself.

        My point was I think your assumption that if you just build transit — especially light rail — it will result in drivers giving up their cars for transit, no matter where you build it, how safe it is, or how clean, or where they want to go, is not accurate. Changing the mode of transit doesn’t automatically increase transit ridership, and going forward post-pandemic all travel will likely contract, especially transit.

        I think the big switch will come with micro-transit, at least in urban/suburban areas, when EV’s and driverless technology merge with Uber/Lyft. Folks will buy a monthly pass to make it easy and drive less and less, and keep one car for longer trips. Not unlike a bike/scooter share program but with cars constantly in motion and an account like Uber. Then with subsidies the poor will have the same exact transportation as the rich. At that point we will be happy we built all the roads, although they may be over capacity depending on the decline of the peak commuter.

      13. “Drivers do hate traffic congestion (hence the demand for more or wider roads) and inadequate parking. That is why cities like Bellevue –and the financiers — demand buildings have adequate parking, like Home Depot, so public streets don’t become de facto parking lots.”

        Drivers can hate traffic congestion, and demand as many more lanes as they fantasize about….
        I have no problem with that.

        What they should be doing is paying for them.
        Just like drivers do with the tolls on the bridges in the area, and the car fares on the ferries.
        What seems to be happening is those drivers demanding wider roads are having everyone else subsidize that desire.

        Unless they paid a toll that actually paid off the construction of those ‘congestion reducing’ lanes.

        I’ve laid out how much drivers contribute to the new lanes (e.g. I-405’s addition of 4 GP lanes), and at most it hits 30%.

        If they were charged a toll to access those lanes, say as if they were an exclusive thoroughfare like a bridge, and wished to pay off those lanes in 30 years (the horizon year for the I-405 analysis), a back of the napkin estimate that I’ve done is roughly $7 for an end-to-end trip.
        (It’s never been analyzed officially, because it was never assumed roads are there to make a profit, or even break even. (i.e. as if it were a private enterprise). The financing of any major highway always takes more taxes from those not driving on them (if allocating the gas-tax/mile burnt for the drivers on any given roadway).

        Simple solution:
        Privatize the roads. Then you would know how much roads would cost.

        Less simple solution (but more politically acceptable):
        Put any given road project on the ballot, explaining what the costs are, where the benefits will occur, and what taxing scheme will be used…
        and Let let Voters Decide.

        Why is that not happening?

      14. Drivers pay other taxes, both for their vehicle and general taxes. Since around 90% of this region’s trips are by car I imagine those drivers pay for 90% of any roads through their various taxes (and somehow I doubt the 10% of those riding transit pay 10% of the taxes). And they pay 80% of Metro and at least 60% of ST’s operations, and 100% of its capital costs. We could privatize those as well, but what idiot would privately fund such stupid investments.

        I am sure my taxes are used for things I don’t use, or would prefer to not pay for. There are lots of things I would like to see privatized if it meant I didn’t have to fund them through my taxes. But I do like roads for freight, and deliveries, police, fire and EMT, workers who need to use tools, and buses too including school buses. Maybe if they were privatized and drivers paid the cost of roads we could force more low income drivers off the road and onto transit and reduce congestion. Now you are talking…. Oh wait, that is tolling.

        I agree, let the voters decide, and it looks like they voted for more roads. Or at least the politicians who just passed a huge transportation package at the federal and state levels that both parties are trying to take credit for, which means transportation spending is very popular among voters.

        Many very wealthy citizens and politicians have argued for more privatization over the years for all sorts of things (like Medicare) although I am not sure they were being totally altruistic. My guess is there are many, many programs or government costs that would be more popular to privatize (at least if it lowered taxes) than roads. Most people I know love roads, if they are maintained. The popularity of the two transportation bills leads me to think maybe privatizing roads would be way down the list, after all the other things are privatized first, probably beginning with transit.

        After all, what would be the true cost of riding Link from Northgate to Sea-Tac if it were privatized? (Or a bus if each rider paid their actual cost). $100? $200? More? I guess if you take the capital costs plus future operations and maintenance/replacement and divided by the number of riders you could get that number.

      15. “I agree, let the voters decide, and it looks like they voted for more roads.”

        But why didn’t their politicians put a Roads measure on the Ballot?

        Are you saying that Sound Transit’s measures shouldn’t have had to be voted on?
        If the politicians in the region decided it was a good idea, they should just have raised taxes to get it done?

      16. Only $17 Billion?
        and only $7.5 Billion of that is what would have to appear on a ballot measure… (Unmet Need).

        How could the citizens of the Puget Sound Region NOT vote YES?

      17. and then the poor will have exactly the same transportation as the rich

        Um, “Not on your life, bucko!” Do you really think that suburban women will ride in an eUber after a “subsidized” homeless rider has done so? You have continually held them up as exemplars of Antoinette Transit and sung paeans to their economic heft. Will they suddenly recognize that everyone has a right to lovely little cakes?


      18. “I think your assumption that if you just build transit — especially light rail — it will result in drivers giving up their cars for transit, no matter where you build it, how safe it is, or how clean, or where they want to go, is not accurate. Changing the mode of transit doesn’t automatically increase transit ridership,”

        What attracts riders is the quality of transit. Here, I’ll pull out the Human Transit “Seven Demands”.

        1. It takes me where I want to go.
        2. It takes me when I want to go.
        3. It is a good use of my time.
        4. It is a good use of my money.
        5. It respects me in the level of safety, comfort, and amenity it provides.
        6. I can trust it.
        7. It gives me the freedom to change my plans.

        #1 implies it should serve widely-used corridors. #2 implies it should have high frequency. #3 implies it should be fast. #4 implies fares should be reasonably low. #5 is the safety you’re talking about, and the comfort/pleasantness of the vehicles/stations. #6 implies it should reliably come on time. #7 implies it should accommodate spontaneoous trips.

        The way to implement #1 and #2 is with frequent routes on well-chosen corridors, typically grid arterials or between two major transfer points/destinations. #3 is implemented with transit-priority lanes or grade separation.

        Jarrett has a newer metaphor too: “Transit is access to places, the freedom to go to many destinations at any time within a given travel time (15-, 30-, 45-, or 60-minute circles).” I.e, the freedom to choose from those destinations any job, any store, any social venue, any friend’s house, and have convenient transit to it.

        Those are the metrics. The question is how well do the proposed transit networks meet them? East Link is one line and should serve the largest single travel corridor in the Eastside, with good transfer points for bus routes. The ST/Metro network as a whole is what gives overall access to places.

        East Link and the proposed Metro network is not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction. STB exists to debate how to make it more perfect, and how to convince the politicians to make it so.

      19. “Um, “Not on your life, bucko!” Do you really think that suburban women will ride in an eUber after a “subsidized” homeless rider has done so? You have continually held them up as exemplars of Antoinette Transit and sung paeans to their economic heft. Will they suddenly recognize that everyone has a right to lovely little cakes?”

        I am not sure why you would say this Tom. Suburban women take Uber/Lyft today, including alone, and in this area most of the drivers are not white, and not every rider is rich. My wife takes Uber without hesitation. So does my daughter. Neither take public transit.

        There were some high profile cases of predators posing as Uber drivers, but now that Uber/Lyft send you the driver’s name and license plate number that issue has been resolved. I know many parents who insist their kids take Uber/Lyft rather than transit at night.

        Other than the easy online system, what Uber/Lyft changed was the driver was a private entrepreneur, in his/her own vehicle, and both the rider and driver are rated online for everyone to see. Unlike when I drove a cab in the early 1980’s the cars are spotless, and so are the drivers. My cab I was handed smelled like urine and BO. And Uber/Lyft show up on time, and your phone tells you exactly when they will be there. Payment is automatically deducted from your bank account. How can you beat that.

        If Uber/Lyft went to a driverless model I imagine each car would have a camera, and the owner of the fleet of vehicles would keep a log of complaints, or improper behavior like urinating in the car or doing drugs, which no doubt the next rider would complain about. Those riders would then be banned. I think it is a shame you lump in all poor people with the homeless or those using inappropriate behavior on transit. I doubt is the subsidized fare riders on public transit that are the problem today. In fact, since they are often the non-discretionary rider they are the most impacted by lack of fare enforcement or safety and cleanliness.

        The reality is Uber/Lyft are such an amazing product their use and miles driven will continue to explode. In Urban areas or with more than one rider they are often cheaper than public transit, with perfect door to door service and no parking hassles or costs. (Which of course is why public transit is trying to disadvantage them). I think as pooled Uber/Lyft gets better they will begin to cut into longer transit trips, especially to common stops like the airport.

        I don’t really think Uber/Lyft will need to go driverless to drive their demand. In fact some may prefer there is a driver. Uber/Lyft are just very good transportation modes in the right density and depending on parking costs and availability, and filled a market public transit was failing or really is not designed to serve.

        The irony is public transit advocates and urbanists worked very hard to eliminate parking or make it very expensive in urban areas, which is a big draw for Uber/Lyft which tend to undermine public transit. The lesson is the market generally responds, in ways you might not anticipate.

      20. I agree, Daniel. Uber and Lyft are great. But last time I tried to take one it was $130 for 10 miles, and I would guess the driver got substantially less than half of that. So transit it is.

        They have become a service for the rich, to make the rich richer.

      21. “What attracts riders is the quality of transit. Here, I’ll pull out the Human Transit “Seven Demands”.

        1. It takes me where I want to go.
        2. It takes me when I want to go.
        3. It is a good use of my time.
        4. It is a good use of my money.
        5. It respects me in the level of safety, comfort, and amenity it provides.
        6. I can trust it.
        7. It gives me the freedom to change my plans.”

        Mike, these are the same factors the discretionary rider uses to determine which mode, or whether to even make a trip (e.g. WFH). The question isn’t whether so much what factors determine whether someone takes a trip on transit, the factors determine the competing mode someone chooses to go from A to B.

        Let me take them slightly out of order because my guess is some “urban planner” or transit advocate ordered them:

        “5. It respects me in the level of safety, comfort, and amenity it provides.”

        Safety and cleanliness are numbers 1-3 because they are deal breakers. It doesn’t matter how good transit is with the six other factors. If it isn’t perceived as basically 100% safe and clean people won’t make the trip, or will choose a different mode, every single time, and changing that perception can be impossible, and begins with the perception public transit is riskier. Probably the best observation on this blog recently was Dan Ryan explaining the different sensibilities and risk avoidance of urbanists and transit advocates (male) and the “normies”. Which is why there is so little discussion on STB about people with kids.

        “1. It takes me where I want to go.
        2. It takes me when I want to go.
        3. It is a good use of my time.”

        This is where public transit cannot compete for the discretionary rider. First there is WFH and deliveries. Next you have a car, and often free parking. And then in urban areas you have Uber/Lyft. Light rail takes you where ST thinks you want to go. A transfer or park and ride or long walk means it didn’t really take you where you wanted to go, did it? About the one area transit can compete on these three factors is grade separated peak hour commuting with high parking costs, and I think WFH and fewer workers commuting to urban centers will affect that, along with subsidized parking and employee shuttles.

        “4. It is a good use of my money.”

        Since we are talking about the discretionary rider they already own a car, and likely have an Uber/Lyft account, and once there is more than one rider in a car or Uber it is often less expensive than public transit for short trips. For the non-discretionary rider then public transit is the only choice. Unless parking is very expensive the difference in cost to the discretionary rider who owns a car is less than transit folks think, and often not much of a factor for which mode to take.

        “6. I can trust it.”

        I am not sure what this means. Trust what? That transit shows up on time, or at all, you and your kids will be safe, or your car works, or there is traffic congestion that could affect your trip time. Trust what?

        “7. It gives me the freedom to change my plans.”

        Well, a car allows you to change your plans at any second. So does Uber. Transit requires a good knowledge of the routes and frequencies, disembarking, getting back on transit, to get to your new destination.

        East Link is now set to open probably around July 1, 2024. But life goes on on the eastside just fine. What I am saying is because of the size of the area, its preference for driving, free parking, lack of density, the fact most are discretionary riders, many have kids, women, route, transfers, East Link will move very few folks from their cars to transit.

        If Martin’s research shows West Seattle Link will move a total of 400 drivers from their cars to transit how many drivers on the eastside do you think East Link will move to light rail?

        Ross is correct, the original impetus for East Link was moving folks from downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle, with Microsoft demanding it continue to its campus. Ok, made sense at the time. But with WFH, the switch to eastside offices and not downtown Seattle, the fact East Link runs along 112th, the rerouting of the 554 to a one seat ride to Bellevue Way, the need for a light rail line in the huge geographic region of east King Co. is less and less.

        But if isn’t clean and safe, and I mean 100% clean and safe, then game over. No one on the eastside will ride East Link. Same if downtown Seattle does not return to a commuting hub because eastsiders are not moving to shoe box apartments in the urban core, and the peak commute is the purpose of Link. I don’t know if you read the letters in last Sunday’s Times in response to the article comparing Seattle and Bellevue, but eastsiders see Seattle like Fallujah. Link better get going on turnstiles or some other way to secure the stations or trains or it is doomed.

      22. Having lived in cities with real transit, I know unequivocally that the “100% clean and safe” nonsense is simply not true. That’s way down on the list for both women and men, well behind 1 and 2.

        If it gets you where you want to go fast and it runs at all hours so you can get home, you take the train. Period.

        It’s simply too high a bar for a public amenity. There is simply no way to guarantee 100 clean and safe.

        One thing I can guarantee is that is that Link is orders of magnitude safer than driving. There is simply no comparison. And probably cleaner than my truck. ;)

      23. Poor reading comprehension, Counselor. I think you may be trying the wrong case.

        You mooted “subsidies for the poor” so that they can ride eUber and eLyft, “and then the poor will ,,,, [same quotation]”. But the eUber might be stinky, barfy or have a needle lying in the seat when it pulls up in front of the Suburban Queen and her Princesses.

        The homeless — heck, just plain “the poor” — don’t ride Uber or Lyft these days, precisely because they aren’t “subsidized”. I was just pointing out the myopia in your vision of a “classless” future for “transit”.

        I’m sure you’re right that there will be cameras and offenders will be banned, but to hear you tell about it, there’s an unending torrent of such offenders polluting the buses, so there will always be the possibility of grossness when there is not driver monitoring the ride.

      24. Tom, the process to establish subsidies for e-Uber/Lyft would be like the process to determine subsidized ORCA fares. For example, I recently posted a link to an article noting Seattle’s program to provide subsidized Uber and micro-transit to those with mobility issues. I am sure they went through some kind of screening process, and are wonderful riders who appreciate door to door transportation. So yes, the poor do ride Uber/Lyft these days.

        I doubt folks who need subsidized transit fares and who established that through a process are the ones causing the problems on transit today. It is the non-fare paying rider and lack of fare enforcement that is allowing people to ride and basically live on transit when their purpose is not to go so somewhere. They see Link as a free warm home.

        An Uber or Lyft would not even dispatch to those folks, let alone unlock the doors, because they would not have gone through a process to establish the subsidies and open an account and build a profile. Pretty much the same process if Link had turnstiles or some way to secure access to the stations and trains to fare paying users like nearly every other transit system.

        The reality is the discretionary transit rider will likely move more and more to Uber/Lyft, certainly in an urban area, or if there is more than one rider. The loss of the discretionary transit rider is part of the problem on public transit today as well, because it creates a perception of less safety. I suppose we can leave the poor (and subsidized) public transit rider on public transit with the crazies, or why not allow poor citizens to have the benefit of Uber/Lyft, even if not disabled, at least for some trips? At least ask poor citizens which they prefer.

        That is what Boston did. https://www.metro-magazine.com/10034393/mbta-expands-uber-lyft-subsidized-paratransit-ride-program

      25. Again you move the goalposts so your flaccid field-goal attempts can reach the cross-bar. YOU prophesied the replacement of transit with eUber and eLyft, I didn’t. When I pointed out that the people who you constantly blame for transit’s loss of mode-share will be in the subsidy pool you conjured up some techno-babble security system that Seattle would simply not permit if it follows your suggestion and replaces transit with private services. If there will be no more local bus service, then equity –and probably laws at both the State and Federal levels — will demand that everyone gets to use the alternative.

        Not to mention that a system for disabled people won’t scale to all riders either financially or physically with the roadways.

  4. I think Al hit the nail on the head in a prior post when he wrote that the fundamental problem with ST is the agency does not know how to operate a transit system, but now has one it needs to operate, with additional lines coming on board. Rather than focus on additional ST 3 projects ST needs to focus on ST 1 and 2 operations, and the likelihood future ridership is going to be a fraction of what ST predicted.

    This idea that transit or ST can mandate routes or designs over the objections of the areas it will run is a fundamental mistake some on this blog make. That is how you end up with East Link running along 112th.

    For most stakeholders transit is not the most important factor for their community, not even close, whether it is downtown businesses, or the character of West Seattle and Ballard. If 90% of trips are by car, and those folks tend to have the most money, it shouldn’t be a surprise car access is a political and business priority. The current state of Link operations, and the station and train experience, is not helping either. More and more the major stakeholders are thinking to themselves Link might be a dud because it is unsafe and unclean.

    The other problem — from the beginning — is the urbanist ideology that infects ST as Link moves into non-urban areas. Link is not going to get rid of cars. It won’t create “urbanism”; at best some low income TOD. Martin pointed out WSBLE at a cost of $12 to $20 billion will move 400 car drivers onto Link, when the West Seattle Bridge moves 100,000 cars/day, and buses 25,000 riders.

    AJ makes a very good point. When Link was sold to all these suburban/exurban areas people imagined park and rides because park and rides are the fastest, most convenient, and safest first/last mile access in these undense areas just like the buses they took pre-pandemic (and no they don’t want to change their density for Link, they just want a park and ride). They also thought Link would somehow be a one seat ride. Who spends $138 billion to create transfers? They don’t give a shit about “mode”.

    Some on this blog write well, they should have read the fine print in ST 1 or 2 or 3. But their response is ok, then we just won’t use Link. That is how humans make decisions.

    We will go to our Issaquah, Lake City or Bellevue city councils and demand a one seat bus from the park and ride to where we want to go. Or demand from our company to WFH or a private shuttle. Like the 554, 630, buses from Lake City Way to downtown, or the private shuttles that will start up again if folks return to the office. ST and Metro are not going to dictate to Issaquah and Bellevue the route or design of Link.

    The reality, and this one goes to Ross who has pointed this out from the beginning, is light rail really makes sense in subways, over short distances because as TT has pointed out it is slow, but there are very few places in this area with the density to support the cost of subways. It hasn’t helped that the Seattle City Council decided to gut downtown Seattle as the regional destination.

    Ideally ST would complete Link to Federal Way and Lynnwood and Redmond, although ridership won’t be strong at the ends of the line, and hire someone who can really make those lines work. I think it will require first and foremost secure stations because that is how you secure trains, and safety is a deal breaker for riders, especially the discretionary work commuter. Ballard, West Seattle, S. King Co. and the eastside don’t want trains arriving that are filled with homeless or smell because ST and Seattle decided to make light rail a housing/equity program.

    The original concept for Link made some sense if cost was not considered (which is why Rogoff lowballed costs): Seattle was quickly becoming a world class city, but many of its workers preferred to live in suburbia/exurbia for various reasons, they needed a quick, fast, safe and clean way to get downtown and back home that was overwhelming some bus lines, downtown Seattle didn’t have the parking, folks would want to live right downtown, so retail and restaurants would boom, and the region (Seattle/King Co.) would realize a fortune in tax revenue, and so would N. King Co.

    Is any of that true today? Not really, and we see that in decisions to run East Link along 112th, run the 554 from Issaquah park and rides to Bellevue Way, remove Mercer Island as a major intercept because who wants to go there anyway to transfer, an explosion of car miles from Uber and just driving, and declining transit ridership. This current environment would suggest not building any of Link. I will be able to take Link from Redmond to downtown Seattle but not from First Hill or SLU. Does that make sense.

    Link is at an existential moment. I think Al is right. ST must hire a CEO who can figure out how to make the system we have today work, incorporate the suburban/exurban lines coming online with customers who are VERY picky about safety and cleanliness and have many transportation alternatives, and pause the rest of the construction.

    Hire someone as CEO who understands how to make Link attractive to the hoards of suburban and exurban commuters and riders that Seattle simply has to attract back, or this whole thing makes no sense, and might as well move your office to Bellevue.

    1. “I will be able to take Link from Redmond to downtown Seattle but not from First Hill or SLU. Does that make sense.”

      – Or even from Belltown. It really does NOT make sense, that some of the highest population density in this city doesn’t have, and won’t have, access to Link.

      ST’s mission is regional and that really shows in what they have built, and are proposing to build within Seattle.

      The new CEO should look at everything when they come on board, but even if they do that I’ve no optimism that outcomes will be any better. It seems like the ST3 build is chugging along on inertia, and that nothing is going to change it.

      1. Belltown and First Hill will have link access via bus connectors similar to what some neighborhoods in West Seattle will have to link–Gatewood, Highpoint, Westwood Village, Delridge.

    2. [L]ight rail really makes sense in subways

      Actually, Daniel, Light Rail makes no sense “in subways”, except in short stretches in center cities or to cross a barrier ridge. Heavy rail [e.g. third rail power distribution] makes “sense” in subways and on elevated structures.

      Overhead power distribution is safe for humans in its vicinity, but it costs a lot of money to build the supports and requires tunnels to be about a meter larger in diameter to accommodate the pantographs. LR in most systems saves more money than that spent on the power distribution and larger tunnels by utilizing Street medians or old rail rights-of-way with level road crossings.

      That is not true of Link because even the terminal stations are going to be elevated or in subway. That’s dumb. Yes, Link has some stretches of “at-grade” running along I-5, but those are heavily engineered because the freeway was built with rubber-tired vehicles in mind and has several sections where adjacent hills have to be severely carved or valleys filled or bridged. Look at the enormous structure from about 200th to 232nd through Mountlake Terrace. SR 99 is almost completely without such topography.


      1. You are correct, but Daniel is talking from an abstract standpoint. Light rail makes sense as a surface running form of rail — basically a streetcar. This is because it allows for very cost effective level boarding. Light metro systems are taller, which means the surface stops would have to be taller (or the track lower). Thus light rail is only useful in Rainier Valley.

        Of course that ignores the history of our system. At one point the light rail line shared service with the buses, in a tunnel downtown. For the buses and the rail to both serve the same stops, it made sense to run light rail. Otherwise, riders would have to step up for the train (or down for the buses). I suppose they could have used higher boarding buses (if they exist) but that would cause problems for the buses when they left the tunnel.

        In any event, we have what we have from a technical standpoint, and that is what Daniel refers to when he writes “light rail”. He is basically just referring to Link. He is making the case that it only makes sense to run it underground, over short distances because there are very few places in this area with the density to support the cost of building the system. I disagree. I believe it is a little more nuanced than that. East Link is worth it because downtown Bellevue is dense, and there are several places on the East Side that are fairly dense as well (Spring District, Microsoft, downtown Redmond). In some cases (Microsoft headquarters) it is largely about employment density, but in most cases there is a mix of both employment and residential density. By itself, these destinations — even downtown Bellevue — might not be big enough to justify rail. But together (with the dense Seattle locations) they are.

        A side benefit is that express buses to downtown can be run more efficiently. This is the part that Daniel objects to most. He has a point, but he misses the big picture. If the line consisted of only Mercer Island and South Bellevue stations, it would be a terrible value. But those stations actually increase the cost effectiveness of the overall line (those additional stations are cheap — new lines are not).

        Overall, Daniel has the right idea, just the wrong project. East Link may not be as successful as ST hopes, but it is highly likely it will be a cost effective project, and much better in the long term than running express buses all the time. In contrast, that isn’t the case with Everett Link, Tacoma Link, West Seattle Link or Issaquah to South Kirkland Link. None of those extensions or new lines provide enough ridership to justify their cost, especially since the *vast majority* of riders will not be saving a significant amount of time (if any). That is simply not the case with East Link. Some riders will lose a little time making a transfer, but the vast majority of riders won’t.

      2. FDW, there are no “90 mph” low-floor LRV’s, and I doubt there ever will be.

        Do you want the trackage south of Tacoma Dome to be Link also? I don’t think that works, because it hosts Amtrak and Sounder trains also. LR overhead won’t clear the Sounder double-decker cars. And there us no way BNSF will allow LR overhead on its Seattle-Tacoma route. Double-stack trains are even taller than double-deck passenger coaches.

        Your reply is kind of confusing.

      3. If Link runs in the Nalley Valley, it would be parallel to Sounder/Amtrak’s track, like how Boston’s Green Line shares a trench with the MBTA. In theory, ST wouldn’t need to acquire real estate, but it will need to rebuild the trench and add dedicated tracks for Link. I don’t think anyone has proposed for Link to run on the same tracks as heavy rail.

      4. I’m sorry AJ, but FDW did. Or maybe he didn’t; his reply was quite confusing, castigating Al for having a “BMU” obsession and then ending by saying that battery EMU’s are a great thing. I was very confused reading it.

      5. Oh, yes, I forgot to say, “I got confused when I hit the reply button, too. This should be a reply to the following thread”.

    3. I do agree that Lynnwood and Federal Way are natural end points, but only if Federal Way up-zones further. Otherwise Midway would have been just as good a bus intercept, though it would need a south-facing half interchange for the HOV lanes. Since the grading is well underway south of there, Federal Way seems inevitable.

      I don’t know how to make Pierce whole and happy, though, without TD Link.

      1. South FW is a good endpoint since that’s where OMF-S appears to be built.

        To make Pierce whole without Link, an option could be to bus in bus-only center access ramps at both Tacoma Dome and Fife (i.e .something like Eastgate or Totem Lake) and ensure the HOV lane flows well between the Dome and FW. Local (i.e. non-freeway) PT routes would terminate at S FW, while express buses would terminate at FW or Midway. The funds for the Streetcar could be redeployed to build some of the planned Stream BRT lines.

        The problem is the HOV lane grinds to a halt during rush hour, so either WSDOT needs a dedicated bus lane on I5 … or build Link.

      2. As someone ins Tacoma, those options sound like a massive downgrade, for our billions.

        I currently take local transit only occasionally, but well, locally. It’s slow and infrequent, and there is only 1 line (the 1) and the streetcar that are barely useable locally. The streetcar will be very usable for me personally, though I don’t think it was the best way for transit dollars to be spent. A grid of frequent bus service would have improved the lives and options of the transit user in PC the best.

        I more often take transit north. Usually one of the ST express buses. They are very good, until they go to hourly after 9. Then they become difficult to use.

        Your suggestions would make transit substantially worse. I can’t think of too many riders who would think moving from a 1 seat ride that often takes under an hour to get to downtown Seattle, to a local bus, or an express stuck in traffic, to Federal Way to get on a slow-boat link through the Rainier Valley, is an “upgrade”. That trip would be pushing 2 hours. I could get to Portland as fast.

        For the foreseable future, the destination that needs to be served for non-local trips is Seattle. Making transit unusable to get there, after spending billions of dollars is just inconceivably stupid.

        The solution, of course, is the Sounder. All day, every day including weekends. Early morning. Late at night. If you decide to screw Pierce, than that means you got to pay the piper with the railroads.

      3. A basic problem with Tacoma Dome Link is that it does go far enough. It would be similar to stopping at Stadium Station but not go into Downtown Seattle.

        The intermediate stops at Portland Ave and Fife appear to be casino stops — required because of tribal cooperation. They are however decent car parks however drivers could just drive north to Federal Way or 272nd. As abhorrent as serving a casino may sound to some, it honestly does attract lots of trips and the site employ lots of employees. (I’m not sure that the forecasting model handles casino trip demand well but that’s a whole other issue.)

        I see that the problem isn’t the corridor; the problem is the technology. It’s just too slow and too expensive for what’s needed. A cheaper battery EMU system that could go 70 mph and run through Tacoma and further southwest would seem to work better. A same direction cross platform transfer somewhere in Federal Way would have provided a seamless connection (something that ST seems blind to) and the faster trains would still have been faster even with the waiting to transfer. ST paid to upgrade the tracks west of Tacoma Done anyway. With creative tracking and a JBLM to Federal Way EMU running every 15 minutes, I think ST would have had more support in Pierce. It’s unfortunately too late.

      4. Ok. I looked up EMU. Still unclear on their advantages here.

        JBLM staff and soldiers overwhelmingly live in the census tracts immediately adjacent to the base – Lakewood, Spanaway, Steilacoom – some brass down in Dupont. There is a small contingent that rent in downtown Tacoma, but not enough to justify anything more than shuttle. It doesn’t seem like the military is the ideal demographic to be spending huge fixed-rail resources on moving a mile or two up the road.

      5. The advantages of a diesel EMU in this corridor are:

        1. ST owns the tracks east of Tacoma Dome and can’t use them for light rail. That means that train sets could run all day, rather than only at alloted train slots like South Sounder service has. Once a short Downtown Tacoma through tunnel is built (and the service could work without this diversion too), the rest of the tracks are there waiting to be used by something like an electric DMU.

        2. The trains at top speed are faster than light rail. That’s huge when a rider only stops three times to go over 10 miles.

        3. Going to JBLM or DuPont is not just for workers. Lakewood has over 63,000 people. Plus, JBLM has 28,000 civilian employees. While many live nearby, many commute far distances too. Traffic between Tacoma Mall and Lacey has had decades of congestion because of this — something that most people are aware of.

        4. Such a great service would make frequent connecting Olympia buses more viable. In case you are unaware, Olympia is the state Capitol and tens of thousands of state workers commute there.

      6. Cam, the I5/bus ramp solution would presumably be billions cheaper, freeing up money to be spent elsewhere (a frequent bus grid, more Sounder, etc.). If the goal is to the provide transit dedicated ROW between Tacoma and FW, I do think Link remains the best choice (where the main alterative is a bus-only lane the full length of I5).

        I think Al is suggesting an EMU (or DMU) to run on the Sounder ROW between JBLM and Tacoma Dome; JBLM would the terminus and base employees would be the ‘reverse commute’ demographic, with ridership focus on western Pierce population traveling to Tacoma and points north. Frequent Sounder east of Tacoma Dome is very expensive, but running a train frequently with Tacoma Dome as the eastern terminus is a plausible alternative to extending Link west and south of Tacome Dome … and I think Al wishes we ran an EMU from JBLM to FW, rather than Link from FW to Tacoma Mall.

        I agree that with buses truncated to FW, the connection from Pierce to Seattle should focus on Sounder. But I’m not sure all-day, all-week Sounder is a viable goal. Outside of peak periods, frequent express buses are probably still the best option.

        FWIW, I’m not too concerned about the last mile into Tacoma downtown. Tacoma Dome is more like Sounder ending at King Street; the Dome neighborhood should grow such that it is the southeastern most neighbor within downtown, not a neighborhood just outside of downtown. It should be possible to structure PT’s bus operations such that routes arriving from west and north of downtown flow onwards to Tacoma Dome, much like King Street arrivals transferring to the many buses traveling on 3rd. At worse, just buy a few extra streetcars to give T-Link better frequency.

      7. JBLM is a gigantic freeway snarl; even after spending mega millions on upgrades. The vast majority of the commuters are not enlisted but civilian contractors. Many live in Lacey and more will be moving south as Lakewood home prices have started to soar. Since the bypass is already in place I can see DMU service from Olympia Amtrak to Tacoma Dome being fairly well used. Not 15 minutes at 70mph but whatever it takes for one (maybe 2) train(s) to make the round trip with some padding to keep on schedule and allow operator rest periods. The only stops that need to be built would be for JBLM and Dupont. Maybe only Dupont since there’s access to JBLM at the Madigan gate. With JBLM employees, hospital visits, retail, access to government services and decent transfers I can see all day demand.

      8. “ Al, what are your 3 stops in only 10 miles?”


        Once a Link vehicle leaves Tacoma Done, the third stop is South Federal Way.

        Sound Transit declares that TDLE is 10 miles here:


        They also declare here that the trip between South Federal Way and Tacoma Done will take 20 minutes. A faster electric EMU would make that trip within 12-13 minutes — and a timed transfer connection with a same platform transfer would add less than 2-3 minutes.

      9. Ok. Using existing tracks might make it viable. I know Lakewood has a big population, but it’s also, well, big. It’s almost half the size of Tacoma, area-wise, and Tacoma isn’t exactly a model of density. There are a couple small pockets of density around the town center, but it’s really just a giant sprawlsville. I still don’t get why an EMU would be more advantageous than just increasing the frequency and southern terminus of the current S. Sounder.

        My wife makes the drive from North Tacoma to Lakewood every day at rush-hour in 10 minutes. This is not a place that will be pushed to transit through congestion any time soon.

        If I could trade an EMU for their planned highway expansion project south of Tacoma, I would do it in a minute. I don’t think that’s in the cards. You would think 20 years of work on the current expansion project, only to see the same bumper-to-bumper traffic would sink in, but I guess not.

        I think much of the problem with JBLM is rigid schedules and only limited capacity at the gates, backing cars onto I-5. Staggered shifts and improving the flow at the gates (maybe move them east?) without expansion should be tried first.

      10. And honestly, the dirty secret in my line of work is SOV congestion is a feature, not a bug.

      11. Maybe. I am not that familiar with Bay Area transit. BART is more commuter rail than all-day service, right?

      12. I still don’t get why an EMU would be more advantageous than just increasing the frequency and southern terminus of the current S. Sounder.
        Sounder trains lay over in Seattle for the return evening SB trip. Oly/Lacey to the T Dome has all day potential. JBLM happens to be on the way and could be a major trip generator. Sounder is for moving masses of people during peak demand. Think of DMU service as Link Light.

        Staggered shifts and improving the flow at the gates (maybe move them east?) without expansion should be tried first.
        They moved Main Gate east several years ago. Madigan Gate was moved east and extra lanes added as part of the I-5 project. Shifts are already staggered. In fact their is all day demand because of the hospital and wide variety of jobs (construction, medical, retail, flight ops, etc.). It’s not so much cars backing up onto the freeway as the weave and merge. Besides, even if the mega millions did improve the situation slightly it induces demand which is the opposite of trying to reduce VMT.

      13. Be careful, guys. MU service south of TD is a LOT like WES in Portland which is a colossal money-pit. Just like WES, the Sounder tracks pass near — but not very near — several all-day trip attractors.

        On WES most trips begin or end at Beaverton TC for transfer to MAX or a local bus or in Wilsonville. Try a freeway stopping express bus first, to see if people will ride.

      14. I agree. I don’t think it calls for all-day service. Until I see evidence to the contrary, absent being car-jacked or needing to take a leak, you aren’t going to get the 99% out of their cars.

        The built environment is so warped and twisted to the automobile in south and east Pierce County that any mode beyond cars has no fertile ground. Walk, and people stop and offer you a ride. Bike, and they laugh and buzz you. Take a bus and they assume you are poor, homeless or both.

        I would love to be proven wrong.

      15. Unless a public entity buys the tracks, Sounder will be forever limited to just a few trips a day and almost exclusively going only in one direction when it does run..

        There is a difference between regional rail and commuter rail. That difference is both offering bi-directional service at peak times of day as well as operating at some frequency all day.

        A Pierce ÉMU Line would give ST control of the track use, and the ability to have a short line through Tacoma Line and a long+short less frequent line to JBLM, DuPont or Thurston County. Adding or reducing any service would not require negotiations with a private railroad.

        I’ll even add that half of Link 1 Line trains will probably eventually end in Federal Way unless ST goes fully driverless. Paying every 1 Line driver an extra full hour of time each trip to carry less than 3-4 people per train car many hours a day when abysmal farebox recovery on the segment is not good transit financial management when the result is people at Beacon Hill can’t squeeze into the same train. It isn’t official policy but that’s what I read in the tea leaves based on how many other light rail systems reluctantly reduced the frequency of train when ridership and fare revenue was low.

      16. I genuinely think that your EMU line would be so lightly used as to be a joke, and it might poison transit for the long-term.

        There is simply no demand for it, unlike the line east connecting Seattle. I’m starting to realize completion TDLE is approaching useless. It gets you to the airport in a reasonable time, but not much else. Very few people want to go to destinations before or in Rainier valley, and using it to Seattle is prohibitively slow, and far worse transit than exists today.

        All day, all week Sounder would actually make everyday trips to Seattle reasonable, beyond the commute, and spur development in the south sound substantially.

        Take the money from TDLE, do some hard negotiations with the RRs, add a third track if you need to, and actually improve regional transit rather than cripple it.

      17. I’m with Cam. Put a second track alongside the UP between Black River Junction and Tacoma Junction with a couple or maybe three full double-cross-overs . It would be built and owned by ST but dispatched by UP. It would require paying UP for the right-of-way; over most of the distance there is enough room to separate the lines a few yards for maintenance crews to work under traffic. Through Pacific it would not be possible to do that, though.

        Then trade “slots” on the common line to be used by BNSF freights for “slots” on the BNSF line for Sounder. Given the speed and reliability, I think hourly in each direction through the middle of the day and into the evening would be very acceptable.

        Two main tracks with frequent cross-overs can host at least six trains per hour in each direction with very high reliability, especially if they all go a consistent speed. Given the distance of about 30 miles between the junctions, a common speed limit isn’t going to knock the I/M trains too badly. That should allow diversion of more than half of the BNSF “through” trains to and from south of Tacoma.

        Several road crossings would need to be grade-separated as has been accomplished on the BNSF line.

        This doesn’t do anything for access to the airport, though, and that is a big goal for Pierce. In all honesty, though, how many people take trains to the airport anywhere except a mega-city? Not a critical number.

        So far as BART, yes, the outlying arms south and east of Oakland and south of Daly City are primarily commuting oriented. But the “core” between Daly City and downtown Berkeley is high frequency, high use throughout the day and well into the evening.

      18. Oh, I forgot to say why I prefer doubling the UP. There is not room for a third track a couple of places in Kent and Auburn on the BNSF. Quite a few buildings would have to be demolished. It’s better to double the UP; it takes a lot of freight out of the CBD’s of four towns. That’s a big win.

      19. Cam – No, BART is a heavy rail mass transit system that operates around the same hours (5am-1am) as Link with headways ranging from 5-20 minutes. It covers an enormous amount of area and is regional in scale, although it operates more like a standard subway in San Francisco and Oakland (Which, combined, only have 16 stations). Its a bizarre hybrid and I don’t think there’s any other system that’s really comparable to it. Combined with MUNI light rail in San Francisco it sort of does the trick but could be far better, and is generally inefficient. For those out in the suburbs that BART goes to (it doesn’t go to Marin at all, and misses most of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties) it’s pretty cool to have frequent train service to the city 18-20 hours a day. But for those living in SF and Oakland who want a subway that provides good coverage of neighborhoods in the Bay Area’s massive urban core – BART leaves much to be desired.

        The eBART thing Al was talking about is a light rail spur (essentially) that connects the Oakland Airport to the nearest regular BART station. (This is what ST should have done with Paine FIeld, by the way, but tenacious and stubborn Snohomish County politics won out over common sense.)

      20. Here is what I think Tacoma needs:

        1) Better service within Tacoma (and Pierce County).

        2) Good commuter rail (we’ve got that).

        3) Good express bus service to Seattle (we’ve got that too).

        4) A good freeway bus intercept for Link, south of SeaTac. That way the express buses can continue to Seattle (without much of a delay) while allowing riders to easily access SeaTac and Rainier Valley**. We are building that.

        So basically, after Federal Way Link, the biggest unmet need will be decent transit service within Pierce County. Everything else will be covered reasonably well. That would pretty much cover it, but there are a few things that would be nice to have:

        1) Faster trains. The railway line is not a straight shot from Tacoma to Seattle. It is fine for places like Puyallup and Kent, but it means extra distance for Tacoma. The train could make up for that if it ran faster (like MARC in Baltimore/DC).

        2) Faster express buses. The easiest thing to do is just change HOV 2 to HOV 3*. Fortunately, the combination of Sounder during rush hour (when the buses are slow) and buses the rest of the day (when they are fast) does work reasonably well though.

        3) More trains in the middle of the day. I don’t think makes financial sense. There would be very little ridership, and it is expensive. The problem isn’t running the trains themselves, it is that BNSF charges to use the tracks. The more times we run the trains, the more they charge. It isn’t linear, either, it is exponential. That is because BNSF doesn’t care if we use the lines a little bit, but the more we use them, the harder it is for them to get stuff through there, so the more they will charge. Thus the cost per person is terrible. Ridership per train goes down, while the cost to run a train goes up.

        4) More bus right-of-way within Tacoma. This includes bus ramps from the Tacoma Dome to I-5 (each way). I’m not sure if WSDOT is building that. Nor can I assume that is the highest priority (I’m guessing there is more delay due to congestion within Tacoma itself). There is a tendency to focus on freeway delays, as opposed to surface street delays.

        * I think the long range Link projects make changing the HOV 2 to HOV 3 difficult. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the places that have no plans for rail either have HOV-3 (SR 520) or HOT (405) while the places that have future Link projects (I-5, I-90) lack those improvements. This is a reasonable trade-off on the East Side. The distance is short, making a subway line (Link) a good alternative to express bus service. It doesn’t work well north of Lynnwood, or south of Federal Way though. Buses running in HOV-3 lanes would get riders to downtown — or even just the suburban Link station (Federal Way, Lynnwood) — much faster than the extended Link line will.

        ** It is possible that ST will stop running express buses to downtown, and that is understandable. I would continue them, but just charge more for the ride (since it is very expensive). With only a handful of stops, I could see ST treating these like BRT, with off-board payment, and tap-on, tap-off service, like Link. That would allow them to charge more for the Federal Way to downtown Seattle segment. You could probably just have a tap-off station in Federal Way, or automatically deduce the extra cost if you transfer on to Link. Going southbound isn’t an issue, while very few northbound riders get off the bus before Seattle. Even the 594, which connects Lakewood riders to downtown Tacoma, has very few riders using it for that purpose. At worst they are overcharged.

      21. No – eBART, not BART more generally. I was specifically thinking of the timed mode transfer Al suggested. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EBART

        My sincere hope is that if Link is extended to Tacoma Mall, it will run at-grade within the Mall, whereas the EMU would likely run along the Sounder alignment to Lakewood. That EMU alignment is mildly interesting as a short term win, but not that interesting as a long-term megaproject. (Ross & other would say, “good, Pierce doesn’t need megaproject”).

        ” almost exclusively going only in one direction when it does run.” 25% of the current Sounder runs are bi-directional. ST3’s improvement is most likely to be to boost peak frequency from 15 minutes to 20 by adding additional roundtrips. I expect any additional trips to be directional – there isn’t room in Seattle to store trains midday, so it’s cheaper to buy roundtrips, rather than buy 1-ways and find places to store 10-car trains.

        For Ross’s ‘make the train faster’ suggestion, the next move would be the electrify the line. Caltrain is doing this, and electrification creates travel time improvements by allowing the train to stop/start faster, rather than making the train run ‘faster’ per se.

        For Ross’s #3, ST staff already concluded it didn’t make sense (https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/sounder-south-strategic-plan-final.pdf). Instead, the focus is on creating more peak capacity, as that is the time when 1. Sounder has the largest advantage over express buses in speed & reliability, and 2. Link has the most crowding. I think this is the right approach from Sounder, whether it’s a final growth phase for Sounder or just another small step in the journey to all-day Sounder.

      22. How do you make the Pierce subarea whole, then? Screwing the poorest subarea with the greatest need is very uncool.

        PSRC has been doing it for years, but that doesn’t make it okay. They’ve been playing the “Nobody crosses that river so Pierce doesn’t need a bridge” game forever to overfund Seattle at the southend’s expense.

        Now ST too?

      23. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2020-subarea-report.pdf

        Can we just take our billion back and start building a grid of BRTs? I don’t think that’s legal.

      24. According to your shaman Jarrett Walker, access is key, not ridership projections. He doesn’t even do them if he can avoid it.

        For Pierce county, in the regional transportation context, that means providing all day, all week service to the biggest regional draw: Seattle.

        If ST were to cut express bus service and terminate at FW, that access would be crippled. It would multiply the time it takes those who need to access Seattle from Pierce by a factor of 1.5 to 2, outside the narrow “commuter hours”. That basically is eliminating access for those who don’t have 3 or 4 hours to waste in travel time daily.

        That goes against everything Mr. Walker preaches. Yet you seem to be supporting it.

      25. Yes, I believe with a fresh vote Pierce could repurpose its already collected subarea funds to entirely new uses, for example to fund the 5-line BRT grid that PT has already sketched out.

      26. I wouldn’t get too deep in the elaborating details of a battery EMU corridor. They can go anywhere a Link track can go. As I said at the outset, it’s the easier/ cheaper infrastructure and faster top speed that are its advantages over the Link technology.

        While it sounds like EBART, regular BART can run at 79 mph. Link cannot go over 55. Link is awful for long trip making because of this.

        Also, I’m suggesting battery propulsion. The big problem with diesel trains are it’s acceleration and deceleration distances needed to even reach top speeds. Battery propulsion is really advancing in application this past decade, after EBART and WES technologies were chosen.

        Everything I see suggests that the Link track design requirements and costs are more expensive than a battery EMU would be — for a slower train. The main advantage to staying with Link technology is that a rider doesn’t have to transfer — and I think ST is incapable of making cross platform transfers a priority. So ST has validated avoiding transfers because ST doesn’t design transfer stations well.

        As far as “skipping” the Tacoma Mall area goes, it’s always possible to add in one or two infill stations or maybe put down track so it can be reached as a diversion from the track or as one of two line branches. With clever signaling and trains only every 15 minutes or less (a great frequency for Tacoma’s density), it could even be possible to build single track sections in sensitive areas. These kinds of details would need to be studied.

        And that is perhaps the most important point. ST philosophically locked itself into Link technology in 2014-15 when they studied the corridor. If you only put one dish on the menu, people focus on what version of the dish they want rather than consider a wider menu. Then they “locked” the “representative alignment” station locations once a yes vote passed in 2016.

        I fully expect TDLE to be Link technology at this point and this discussion is merely academic. I just regret the Pierce riders get slow-moving Link only to Tacoma Dome when a faster battery DMU could go to Tacoma Mall or even down to DuPont and JBLM for what seems to be the same capital budget.

        ST is taxing and spending billions for a slower technology whose two of three Pierce stations are geared to serve a tribal casino! No wonder many Pierce voters want to bail!


      27. But wouldn’t any speed savings from your long-legged, battery-charged EMU be chewed to shreds by the by cheetah transfer penalty?

      28. “ But wouldn’t any speed savings from your long-legged, battery-charged EMU be chewed to shreds by the by cheetah transfer penalty?”

        Generally, no. Cross platforms are basic and found on dozens of multi-line metro systems around the world. For example, at MacArthur BART, two trains meet at either side of the platform. Riders have 30 seconds to walk the 20 feet across the platform from one train to the other.

        Of course, given ST’s inability to design transfers to be level and seamless — instead requiring two or three or more escalator rides — could easily result in a more punitive transfer.

      29. No, move freight from BNSF to UP. A thirty-mile two-main-track railroad with double cross-overs 10 miles from each end can handle nearly all the “through” Tacoma-Seattle freight for both lines. That’s what UP would be after double-tracking. Yes, UP goes through Pacific, but it’s the only CBD it penetrates. BNSF goes through Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn and Kent. It’s much more constricted.

      30. @I wouldn’t get too deep in the elaborating details of a battery EMU corridor. They can go anywhere a Link track can go. As I said at the outset, it’s the easier/ cheaper infrastructure and faster top speed that are its advantages over the Link technology.

        While it sounds like EBART, regular BART can run at 79 mph. Link cannot go over 55. Link is awful for long trip making because of this.

        Also, I’m suggesting battery propulsion. The big problem with diesel trains are it’s acceleration and deceleration distances needed to even reach top speeds. Battery propulsion is really advancing in application this past decade, after EBART and WES technologies were chosen.

        Everything I see suggests that the Link track design requirements and costs are more expensive than a battery EMU would be — for a slower train. The main advantage to staying with Link technology is that a rider doesn’t have to transfer — and I think ST is incapable of making cross platform transfers a priority. So ST has validated avoiding transfers because ST doesn’t design transfer stations well.

        As far as “skipping” the Tacoma Mall area goes, it’s always possible to add in one or two infill stations or maybe put down track so it can be reached as a diversion from the track or as one of two line branches. With clever signaling and trains only every 15 minutes or less (a great frequency for Tacoma’s density), it could even be possible to build single track sections in sensitive areas. These kinds of details would need to be studied.

        And that is perhaps the most important point. ST philosophically locked itself into Link technology in 2014-15 when they studied the corridor. If you only put one dish on the menu, people focus on what version of the dish they want rather than consider a wider menu. Then they “locked” the “representative alignment” station locations once a yes vote passed in 2016.

        I fully expect TDLE to be Link technology at this point and this discussion is merely academic. I just regret the Pierce riders get slow-moving Link only to Tacoma Dome when a faster battery DMU could go to Tacoma Mall or even down to DuPont and JBLM for what seems to be the same capital budget.

        ST is taxing and spending billions for a slower technology whose two of three Pierce stations are geared to serve a tribal casino! No wonder many Pierce voters want to bail!

        @Al S. : Link is not locked into 55mph max. Consider that Dallas and Houston have LRV’s than can go 70, getting vehicles and infrastructure to go 80 or faster.

        And you’ll lose more monry building heavier viaducts and infrastructure to support battery trains than you’ll gain getting rid of Catenary. Catenary is only a small percentage of costs in Electrification. It only SEEMS complicated because SF/Toronto are doing way more than just electrifying, and they’re management is even more moronic than ST. (Well, SF is criminally moronic, while Toronto is only as mediocre as ST is)

        BMU’s are a dumb idea. Kick all freight off Sounder, make it a branch of Link (DSTT2 has spare capacity)

      31. Mike, eBART is NOT the Oakland Airport stub (the “Grey Line”). That is indeed an automated rail stub rather like the Times Square shuttle. EBART is standard gauge trackage running east of Pittsburgh (CA) to Antioch. It is DMU, not EMU, and terminated on the west end in a “pocket track” east of the Pittsuburgh Bay Point station with a cross-platform transfer to a tail track ending standard BART service. The eBART extension runs in the middle of California Highway 4. It may has been designed to allow extension to Tracy and the ACE line.

        Ross, double-tracking UP — not “cheap” but also much less than a billion dollars, with most costs being for the needed overpasses of major arterials — would make “slots” on BNSF much cheaper, because ST would own matching “slots” on the resultant shared UP track and could simply trade them for slots on the BNSF.

        This cannot transfer all traffic from the BNSF route; there are lots of industrial spurs off it, and traffic using the old NP over Stampede Pass must travel over it to the wye at Auburn. But it would take enough that there would be plenty of capacity.

        It would be a “win” for BNSF, too, because it would ensure that their through freights would not be delayed by passenger trains on the original route.

        And the cities on BNSF would remove thirty freights a day from their downtowns. People living near the UP in Pacific would suffer though.

      32. FDW, please see a reply I meant to place here, but clicked the wrong “Reply” link. It is in the thread above this one.

      33. For those who are having difficulty with Reply links, they only go three deep. The trick is to go straight up until you come to the one that’s slightly to the left of the message you’re replying to. It took me a while to figure that out, and I sometimes make a mistake.

      34. @Tom Terrific: No, I just want the LRV’s on the TDLE, and the entire Sounder Corridor. LRV’s with max speeds of over 90 mph. I’m not asking for the world here.

        It’s Al S. that has an unhealthy obsession with BEMU’s. I say Turn Sounder into Link, because that’s what Electrifying Sounder would do.

      35. Sorry to ruin your stupid-Al fantasy, FDW. I am not obsessed with battery EMU. Heck I have no intention of ever going further than Tacoma on rail unless I’m going to Olympia or Portland.

        I am simply saying that no other rail technology was studied but 55 mph light rail. I’m saying too that other rail technologies go faster.

        You wanting an electrifying of South Sounder is a different technology than Link is. Building the Link light rail tracks and vehicles to run 70 or 80 mph is a different technology than Link is.

        So the blunt truth is that you actually agree with me on this broader point that other rail technologies should be considered .

        Look, it could be diesel. It could be a different type of catenary-powered train. I’m only saying that 20 minutes is too long a time to ride rail between South Federal Way and a Tacoma Dome — and that ST should have assessed other rail technologies before locking themselves into the Link vehicles and systems.

        I’ll add as a separate thought that absent clever negotiations between the railroad and the State + ST District, significantly more Sounder service will be very costly and probably prohibitively costly to offer. It’s not like CalTrain or some NYC rail systems where the tracks are already in public ownership, The thing is too that ST could add more rail service between Tacoma Dome and DuPont because ST had that segment of track built.

      36. “Building the Link light rail tracks and vehicles to run 70 or 80 mph is a different technology than Link is.”

        Is an industrial-grade escalator different technology different than a consumer-grade one that breaks down after a few Husky games or days of college instruction? Or does it just have higher-quality parts and engineering and vendor support? Maybe light rail can’t go up to 90 mph, but it could go up to 65 or maybe even 80. ST just wrote a lower minimum spec, because initially it anticipated Link would be mostly on the surface as previous American light rails had been and wouldn’t need such high speeds. So it allowed tighter curves and less stringent train quality than light rails that run at 65 or 70 mph. It even mentioned this in the run-up to ST3, at a board meeting where they said they’d look into making future extensions faster and retrofitting the Rainier Beach-TIB segment could be retrofitted for highser speeds. I don’t know how it could have escaped them how long a trip from Intl Dist to Tacoma Dome would take running on all surface streets at 30-35 mph, but somehow it did when the first proposals were to go on 154th and Tukwila Intl Blvd and around the northeast side of Beacon Hill.

      37. The Siemens S70, of which ST is receiving several dozen, is supppse to be good to 70 mph, according to the manufacturer’s data.
        Note data sheet has two lines: one for service on TriMet and the other for actual limits of the car design.

        A bunch of light rail operators settled on 55 mph as their maximum speed some decades ago, but that was the best being offered at the time.

        The American Public Transit Association does have in place additional standards above 60 mph, so maybe that’s why few operators operate over 55?

      38. “ Is an industrial-grade escalator different technology different than a consumer-grade one that breaks down after a few Husky games or days of college instruction?”

        I’m not a rail safety engineer. I could easily see that faster trains could affect track superelevations at curves, braking systems, signaling systems, switch responsiveness and other things that go into light rail design.

        I do find it telling that ST gave 6 minute trains such a prominent place in ST3 yet faster trains were never discussed or proposed. It just goes to demonstrate how many don’t get how riders would use rail. A train arriving 2 minutes earlier is not as advantageous as a ride being 5-10 minutes faster (unless there is overcrowding).

      39. Glenn, I think that the idler trucks on low-floor cars are the limiting factor on speed. There is no axle in the idlers, because the floor is low over the truck. There is a low box-like structure that barely clears the rails serving as the cross-link, but it is not an axle; the wheels are mounted on the side members of the box which is under the diaphragms.

        I personally would not want to ride 90 miles per hour on a railcar which did not have an axle connecting its wheels. Others are free to make their own choices.

      40. Talgo trains operate fine with stub axles at speeds approaching 200 mph, and have for some decades.

        The Alstom light rail cars for Canada have stub axles (100% low floor in fact) and supposedly are good into the 65 mph range.

        You may be thinking of the weird oscillation thing that was going on with MAX along the Banfield? The Bombardier cars with conventional articulation joints and axles had the problem worse than the Siemens cars. They seem to have solved the problem. I’m guessing it was something to do with the wheel profile not matching the rail profile well. The problem seemed to go away about the time they did some rail grinding through there.

        SkyTrain had an issue with some wheels not matching their rail profile well some time back as well, which makes me think it might have been a similar origin.

        But, not knowing where the 55 mph limit comes from when the manufacturer clearly says they have the capacity for higher speeds, it’s hard to know how to go about disputing it.

      41. I did not think of Talgos being low-floor through the suspensions, so not having a solid axle must be less of an issue than I thought. I would point out, though, that the tall suspension ring / box of a Talgo or Pendolino truck segment is likely a more rigid mount than the eight-or-so-inch-thick pancake box that is the “axle replacement” of low floor LRV idlers.

        In any case, FDW’s plea for 90 mph low-floor LRV’s “to run on Sounder” would make them much less quick-accelerating. Te gearing would have to be almost twice as “high” to attain those rotational speeds at the wheels with the same motors.

        I guess there could be two separate fleets.

        In any case, BNSF is not going to allow LR overhead on its tracks.

  5. The entire CEO search process has leaned hard into asking staff what they want their boss to be. Management styles matter of course, but ultimately the way accountability works is that you are accountable to your boss for performance, not the other way around.

    I can’t help thinking that this is related to how weak the Sound Transit Board is versus staff. This agency spends $3 billion a year and there’s not a single board member with expertise in reading a budget. That’s how a several billion dollar over-run becomes a who-could-have-seen-this-comings moment weeks after the Board approves a budget and financial plan.

    I have never seen any hard evidence that Sound Transit has an excess of people chewed out for failure. Quite the opposite. Every adverse piece of news is “whoops, this just happened”.

    1. ST needs an executive who will transform and improve the agency culture and senior leadership. Asking staff what they want is what you do when you have an organization that has demonstrated track record of successful leadership. ST has some teams that have a demonstrated ability to execute and manage, but I can’t think of much when it comes to leadership.

    2. This agency spends $3 billion a year and there’s not a single [ST] board member with expertise in reading a budget.

      Oh, I would imagine Roger Millar knows how to read a budget, but I get your point. The bigger problem is that Millar is also the only one with any transportation expertise, and his focus has never been on public transportation. Making matters worse, he has never been head of the board, and probably attends the fewest meetings. He likely acts largely as a liaison with the state; I doubt he examines the plans and critiques them from a cost/benefit perceptive.

      No one on the board does that. When the city of Kirkland hired their own transit consultant to look at the CKC, the ST board ignored their findings. No one on the board knows much about transit, and they don’t seem to be interested in it. My guess is they assume they know more than they do. This is common — I’m no different. There is a tendency amongst the ignorant to favor distance, and to ignore the particulars about station placement, and modal integration. That is how we get the misguided spine, or Issaquah to Kirkland rail. If you live in Kirkland, it is easy to assume that the latter will greatly improve transit travel for you (given the high cost). But for the vast majority of riders, it won’t.

      1. We got “the misguided spine” from the state legislature. Sound Transit wouldn’t even “be” without the mandate for the spine.

    3. Considering the last CEO had to take mandated training because of his abuse towards underlings (especially women), I don’t have a problem with it,

  6. If you were interviewing a candidate for ST CEO, what’s a question that would you ask them?

    1. Here’s my interview question for the candidate … The motto of Sound Transit is Ride The Wave. Recently, we received a complaint that our motto isn’t inclusive. They said some people may not be able to afford a surfboard or boat, and may not know how to swim, so they feel the motto is targeted toward privileged communities, not disadvantaged ones. Would you, as CEO, knowing that our motto has offended somebody, keep it, or find a more inclusive one?

      1. How do feel about our trains and stations being used to shelter the unhoused? Why not build tiny villages under all of the elevated sections? Why is demand for free housing, free pizza, free needles, and free transit so high?

    2. We are the NY Jets of transit. What are 3 things that you can accomplish to make us closer to The New England Patriots of transit?

      1. “Glad you asked. I worked on the Big Dig and I assure you I can take budget over runs to a Super Bowl level”

        You’re hired ;-)

      2. Plenty of local candidates, cough….tunnel viaduct dismantling…. Cough, who would throw the ball on the opponents 1 yard line instead of the obvious hand off to the possible MVP.

  7. “What other transit systems have you run, or at least worked at”?

    “How does ST’s system differ from the other transit systems you have run or worked at”?

    “Which is better and why”?

    “How would you change ST’s existing system to make it better”?

    “How would you ENCOURAGE more riders to ride ST, without a bunch of ideas to disadvantage the competition”?

    “How much money does ST really have for future capital projects and operations, per subarea, and what can that buy”?

  8. To respond to any number of comments above, it is NOT the CEO’s job to reimagine the voter-approved plan. That’s between the Board and the voters. The new CEO will inherit a non-negotiable project list. Don’t blame him/her for sending too many subways to the burbs.

    1. I disagree – the project list is definitely negotiable. I can’t imagine the board never going back to the voters between now and 2040. There will be an ST4 in some form or scope, and at that point some ST2/3 projects that are no longer a priority of the board will be discarded. There is definitely a role for the CEO to provide advice to the board and to manage the technical advice from the broader staff as the board continually evaluates the project pipeline.

      This is distinct from the legal obligation of the CEO to execute the ST3 until the voters say otherwise. But the voters will most certainly say otherwise, at some point. ST1 and ST2 both had project discarded in ST3. ST2’s bus base remains fully funded but mothballed because KCM’s union opposes competition. ST3’s corporate HQs remains fully funded but mothballed because of remote work. I expect neither of those projects to be funded in an ST4.

    2. Just a little background: ST3 was a misguided, terribly flawed proposal. It has gotten worse. Small mistakes (which have been common in Sound Transit’s history) could quite likely make this one of the most wasteful set of projects in U. S. transit history (and that’s saying a lot). A second downtown tunnel no one wants to use; transfers so miserable no one wants to take them; stations rendered useless by very long walks; these are all quite likely at this point. These sorts of things are common in the U. S., but rarely do agencies spend the kind of money we are going to spend on them.

      As I see it, there are two types of CEOs that the board might hire:

      1) Someone with transit expertise who is unafraid to state that the emperor has no clothes. We simply can’t build anything worthy of the money we are planning on spending. This goes for both the suburbs and the city. It is time for an overhaul, which would likely require a new vote.

      2) Someone who will try and mitigate these problems, and assuage the feelings of those hurt by them. A leader who can both defend a poorly designed project, but make it a little less terrible.

      My guess is the board is strongly leaning towards the latter. They don’t want to go with the former, because most of them have no idea how poorly designed ST3 was, and would rather not be faced with the truth. They see this as implementation problems, not major design flaws.

  9. ST has already signaled their intent by joining the moronic ‘fares are racist’ movement in terms of enforcement. Finding checking EVERY person’s fare is a racist affront is bad policy and optics to most people.

    Seattle area has enough dysfunctional and virtue signaling governmental bodies. ST needs to build a system, not see racism in everything or pretend they can solve it.

    1. It might be that they’re conducting an educational program to deal with the issue that is in front of the Washington State Supreme Court.

      Why target Sound Transit?

      unless it’s just to target Sound Transit.

      1. No fare, no ride. Applies to everyone. Post it, repeat it. Here’s how you get a discounted fare. Do that or expect to be removed from transit and fined.

        Those who think this is too complicated spend too much time looking down their nose from their own supposed superiority and ability to ‘save’ others.

      2. No fare, no ride. Applies to everyone. Do that or expect to be removed from transit and fined.

        OK, and what happens when they don’t give you their ID? If you didn’t pay the fare, do they have a right to search you, looking for illegal substances? Do they have the right to check your ID for outstanding warrants? Is the process the same, every time? By that I mean, imagine a white guy in a business suit gets checked, and they find he forget to pay. Maybe they take his ID, and just fine him. Or maybe they don’t fine him at all. In contrast, with a black guy in a hoodie they fine him and run a background check. Do you think people get treated exactly the same, unlike just about every police force in the United States (including the SPD)?

        I don’t normally quote Dave Ross, but consider:

        when three officers boarded the bus to check for non-payers, he got caught and was escorted off the bus.

        But the real trouble started when they checked his ID and it turned out he had outstanding felony warrants. … That’s what got him arrested.

        Exactly. So why the hell are they checking for outstanding warrants for the equivalent of a parking ticket? That is the part that seems way out of line. The transit agency (Community Transit, in this case) has every right to expect payment, and to fine the guy. But arrest him for something that doesn’t involve riding the bus? That’s nuts. As a former security guard, I would never do that. Our responsibility is to the site — nothing more, nothing less. Community Transit should have taken the same approach, and it wouldn’t be in this mess. They should have looked at his ID, written him a ticket, and then gone back to work.

      3. The end state here is going to be some form of a turnstile for ST link stations. It makes enforcement/ law-breaking clear, is immune from spot-checking racial bias and makes ID’s irrelevant. St Louis recently gave in to their fare evasion problem by choosing this path. It’s possible to have turnstiles without station agents. That “virtual turnstile” design idea was part of the motivation for ST proposing demarking the paid fare area better a few years ago.

        As far as “racist” policies go, I think it’s the Orca employer unlimited pass system that is more racist in practice. The employees that offer it mostly do so for full-time employees who are generally not people of color and who take home more income. Orca Lift counters that, but the bias still remains.

      4. With a really cheap chip, could one-ride tickets be created that allow buses and platforms to become “Fare Paid Zones”?

        Depending on the range, a Fare Inspector wouldn’t have to care what’s in the rider’s pockets, just that a scanner could tell if a person is carrying a valid ticket. No more intrusive than what’s at the entrances/exit in retail stores.

        Then the non-payer could be escorted off the property.

        Hire ex-football players, ex-hockey players, ex-rugby players as fare ambassadors.

    2. Since nearly all stations other than in the RV will be elevated, subway or in a cut, use waist or even full height turnstiles at the station access points. The homeless people don’t have ORCA cards.

      Eventually the RV line will be bypassed and downgraded to a tramway or put in a tunnel itself, so the system will be airtight like SkyTrain. That will end the fare-checking fiasco.

      1. use waist or even full height turnstiles at the station access points

        So basically you want to spend way more money enforcing fares at every station. You also have to pay for the installation of the gates, as well as the maintenance of them (by an organization not known for great maintenance). Who is going to pay for that? Do you really think fare revenue will increase as a result? Get real.

        Prior to the pandemic, fare evasion was minimal. For buses, evasion goes down as you implement proof-of-payment (POP) systems (e. g. San Fransisco). The vast majority of riders don’t want to pay a fine, or be escorted off the train/bus. The people who are willing to take a chance make up a small minority of the riders. Chances are, they will never pay. This means that all you do is prevent them from riding, which means that you haven’t actually saved the agency any money. This is an important distinction that folks often forget (it isn’t like shoplifting).

        Fare enforcers also provide security on the trains. Many a criminal has paid full fare.

        Proof-of-payment systems work. There just needs to be a subtle adjustment to the system. In the case of ST, they need to back to having it. But the main thing is that the fare enforcers shouldn’t consider themselves an extension of the local police. Check for payment, and if they don’t have proof, ask for ID. If they provide it, write them a ticket. If they don’t, escort them off the bus or train. Only a handful will do that (or give a fake ID) and again, those are the type of folks that would never pay.

      2. Yes, I do “spend way more money enforcing fares at every station”, because people do not like to be cheated. It’s a very high priority for every demographic, including cheaters themselves.

        The vast majority of riders will approve of the change.

        POP systems are necessary for surface light-rail, but Link has moved beyond that to something more like SkyTrain, your ever-ready exemplar of excellence.

        After more than a decade of installation and problems, SkyTrain went full faregate in 2016 and remains so today.

  10. Well, it’s America, and useful transit is never really any politician’s priority. In Seattle, I suppose it’s important to be nice to all the car-driving stakeholders so that they will allow you to build and operate marginally useful transit.

  11. If anyone has time this afternoon, ST’s expansion committee is meeting 1:30 – 4pm. Near the end is a report: “Preview of West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions System Expansion Committee Workshop”.

    Interesting that “Extensions” is plural.

    1. I believe internally, they’re treating WSBLE as WSLE and BLE. Externally, they’re treating them as one megaproject.

      1. More specifically, it’s a single EIS but WS and Ballard/DSTT2 will be two separate projects thereafter. So it’s more about project stage than internal/external presentation.

      2. yes, operationally, ST3 has WS linked with Lynnwood and Ballard linked with South. One of the ST3 oddities is the choice to build and open WS as a costly Link shuttle and not tie it to Lynnwood right away or to delay WS while time and funds are spent on the much higher ridership Ballard line. STB is asking whether it makes sense.

      3. Seattle Transit Blog or Sound Transit Board?

        If you mean the Board, I don’t follow their meetings very closely – when did they start questioning the phasing of the project?

    2. For the interested, ST posts their board meetings next-day on livestream.com.

      This meeting is now posted here: https://livestream.com/accounts/11627253/stboardmeetings/videos/231094347

      Everett Link Extension & OMF North Alternatives Development starts at 1:12:00.

      WSBLE Workshop Preview starts at 1:35:00.

      Nothing of real interest – mainly a summary of outreach efforts during the Comment Period and what will be discussed during the Workshop on May 20.

      1. Thanks. I couldn’t get any sound from the livestream so I saw the boardmembers talking but I couldn’t tell what they were saying.

    1. Future ST CEO’s can’t address it. Homelessness on Link is here to stay, and only going to get worse. Kicking the homeless off of Link is cleverly portrayed as “criminalizing poverty.” ST also doesn’t have any political support to address the homeless and fare issue. As I’ve said before, I think Link ridership in the future will be just fine, but the rider experience is going to degrade considerably.

    2. Dude, we got your money, and we’ll keep on getting it until the bonds are paid-off.

      If you and the rest of your cohort don’t want to ride, fine. We can turn the Northend Line 2 trains at Judson Park. You can turn the Eastside Line 2 trains at Main Street and Never The Twain Shall Meet. Except for non-revenue moves and football games of course.

      That should keep the riff-raff away from the Eastside Line 2 trains.

      Happy now?

    3. Yesterday evening, riding home from Seattle, we had a mentally ill rider on the 255, a phenomenon which is generally unusual for eastside routes. It was clear she had all sorts of problems. Constant loud talking and invasion of my and other riders’ personal space. To make matters worse, there was a construction detour, so I was stuck putting up with her for 30 minutes for what would normally be a 15-minute bus ride (of course, the construction detour impacted only the bus route, not the driving route).

      Which is a shame, because the trip into Seattle earlier that day worked exactly the way transit is supposed to work. Lots of people, but minding their own business. 35 minutes, door to door, including walking and waiting, from Kirkland to Roosevelt – essentially travel-time parity with driving (taking into account traffic and parking), in spite of having a bus->train transfer that some believe makes transit impossible.

  12. The new CEO should study the likely long-term effects of Working At Home, what that phenomenon is doing to commuting habits, commuting needs in the region. Will we still need to provide large scale transit capacity into a handful of urban centers? And if not, where and how can ST3 be trimmed back to something more more in-scale, more befitting the revised outlook?

    1. Exactly. SLU/LQA needs to be linked into the regional system some way, but more of it needs to be served. Al and AJ’s repeated suggestion that a cross-SLU line that’s mostly elevated and connects at Capitol Hill seems ideal. The problem of course is that a lonely line like that needs a maintenance facility. Maybe the big empty truck parking lot west between Interbay and the foot of Magnolia Hill just north of Galer? It could have a connection to the outside world through the BNSF yard.

      So far as Ballard-Downtown, a short bus tunnel through the west edge of Lower Queen Anne ending on Third would make a world of difference to the performance of buses.

      1. If the vehicles are rubber tired, an elevated line doesn’t even need an adjacent maintenance facility, simply a ramp for vehicles to drive on/off the alignment. If it’s a stub line, I’d simply elevated the 8’s most congested segments rather than build something with a different mode.

      2. You’re going to have an elevated version of the Paris or Montreal Metro whose vehicles can be driven on the street? Well that’s unique!

        How would that happen? The side-beam guide wheels would retract? Every car would have a battery big enough to get it from the ramp to a maintenance facility?

        Or would you just have a two-lane elevated freeway for ordinary buses across SLU, remembering that operator-guided vehicles require a wider structure?

  13. Are we building consensus or are we building public transit?
    ST (and all projects associated) are about building consensus. Until we change the way the ST board is configured (i.e. direct elections for a start) it’s just going to keep getting worse. The positive, the “progressive/transit advocate’ has finally started to realize that the status quote sucks rocks.

  14. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/developer-hopes-to-pull-off-retail-to-office-makeover-at-downtown-seattles-pacific-place/

    This is bad. The loss of a retail core — at 5th Ave. — is the death of a city. After all, what is a city without a retail core?

    Without a vibrant retail workers will never commute to the city, and this decision shows the property owners know that. The owners are desperate to preserve some value from their property, and know the volume of workers and visitors won’t support their mall, despite being on the heart of Seattle.

    Bartell’s, Macy’s and now this tells me it is too late. Retail space never returns. Vibrant retail density is the purpose of transit. Otherwise take Link to Angle Lake for an afternoon. Transit can’t survive if a city has no retail core because that means the city is dying.

    Very very sad for someone like me who has lived and worked downtown for most of my life, and spent many years shopping in Pacific Place or going to movies there, until it became too dead and creepy.

    1. First. Wrong thread.

      Second, i remember before Pacific Place. So retail clearly comes and goes.

      3rd, it was a crap mall. I almost never went, despite working across the street. Should have been built in Bellevue. As a pedestrian i could barely find an entrence.

      There is lots of retail that can thrive in downtowns, but some weird car-oriented mall was doomed from the start.

    2. Retail has been dying since Amazon put everything online. Frankly, I expect that most of the clothing retailers that have downtown space are doing it purely as exposure marketing, since I assume the vast majority of the their sales are online. Grocery and home goods are confined to a few small bodega-style stores, with the notable exceptions of Target, H Mart, and now PCC. The new economy is all service (food, coffee, bars). I’m happily surprised PCC is making the attempt at opening in Rainier Tower – it means they, too, think there’s a high-end grocery base that wants to be served.

      Dan, your problem is that you’re stuck in the white-flight mindset of the 50’s and 60’s – you think downtowns are a place people go, not a place people live, in addition to working or playing. Which, to be fair, is how a lot of American downtowns hollowed out in the midcentury, but hopefully the glut of new condos and apartments will help refill the population with locals, not interlopers.

      1. I forgot to include Pike Place as a grocery/home goods core.

        Also, in checking myself, I discovered that the grocery density in downtown is actually… better than I had thought! I didn’t realize there’s a Safeway in Pioneer Square, and I’d forgotten about the Whole Foods in SLU. Apparently, just the blocks around my office (from University to John, 1st Ave to 6th) are a grocery/bodega desert, which I projected on the rest of downtown since I’m usually on a bus or bike going through it to work and hadn’t noticed the other large grocery stores in the area.

        So, with that, Downtown is Fine, Actually. We just need more social housing and services to move people off the streets and into stability.

      2. It’s not Safeway, it’s Saveway. It’s a run-down convenience store selling a lot of alcohol to winos. I also mistook it for Safeway in the early 90s when my dad was considering renting an apartment/work studio in Pioneer Square and I was looking to see what the closest grocery store would be.

        (There’s also Uwajimaya a few blocks away, but I wasn’t aware of it as much then.)

    3. Pacific Place was great! It very much was a great lifestyle center for the 1990’s. Many retail places were once great.

      The decline of shopping malls was happening before Covid. There are pleut of other pretty dead malls. Just go to Auburn and the Outlet Collection. Even Crossroads in Bellevue and Redmond Town Center are looking pretty sad even though they are in probably the hottest housing markets in our booming region.

      Even though Pacific Place had stores, they never had that many. I think most people saw it as a “date night” destination or “business lunch” destination as opposed to a “shopping” destination. And did anyone buy more than 5 things at Barney’s?

      I would even go as far as to say that Link has probably kept Downtown retail from declining faster. Had the original DSTT not opened, Pacific Place would have never had the amount of business that it had before Covid. It would have been just too hard to get to — as DSTT pulled buses from congested streets that would have been more congested if lots more buses were added to the traffic mix.

      Once 2 Line is running in 2024, it will offer great and frequent access in three directions. The best thing will be the hours with transit frequency. With Link running past midnight, a Downtown office worker no longer will feel the need to hurry to leave on the last express bus or Sounder train.

      I think everyone would agree that the experience of using transit Downtown affects whether people will choose to visit places other than a place of employment there . That means having available and working elevators and escalators, reasonable security, zero tolerance about uncleanliness, and general attention to rider experience. To me, this is what ST needs to shift its priorities to, as system expansion is a slow process and ST goes from maintaining 9 newish Link stations back in 2015 to 29 in 2025 (including the 4 DSTT stations now over 30 years old).

      In other words, we need a CEO who can run things well on a daily basis from the first month rather than keep important people who don’t use transit happy through backroom consensus.

      1. Al, commuters to Seattle are not going to board light rail at midnight to go home. Pre-pandemic we could not get staff to take transit (from DSTT1) past 6 pm, or from a surface bus stop at any time.

        Those workers are not coming back to work downtown, so Seattle will need to find another way to attract them.

        If transit is unsafe and unclean then increase parking and make it free, or have the city or retailers subsidize Uber.

        Retail, restaurants and cultural events will be the draw for Seattle in the future, and a reason for someone to ride transit. But it is a two edge sword: if there is no retail vibrancy there is no reason for someone to travel to downtown Seattle, and if transit is unsafe and unclean no one will take it downtown.

        In the past Seattle’s work and retail environment proved you could still have a vibrant downtown with bad transit, because there are many transportation alternatives that folks with money to spend prefer. But with the need to commute downtown eliminated with WFH and the rise of Bellevue and a dead retail scene no one will go there no matter how good transit is, or how free parking is.

        There is a reason Bellevue Way is the class A retail and office space in Bellevue. Creating a vibrant retail dense area is very hard, and takes safety, access (transit or parking), workers, the right stores and restaurants and LOTS of them, lots of parking, and most of all people with money.

        People on transit are the same as people in cars in one sense: they are going someplace they want or need to go. They are not driving or riding transit for fun. A city can survive with crummy transit if people want or need to go there (and the need — work commute — often subsidized the want — retail) because they will find a way to get there. Look at Bellevue. But transit can’t survive if people don’t want to travel to the urban core, because they can drive to the other areas, and parking is often free.

        I think Dan Ryan raised a real truth on this blog: it is dominated by male transit urbanists, many elderly, probably the least desirable demographic for retailer without a good understanding of the demographic that buys most of the stuff in America: women.

        To think increasing frequency on Link to midnight with the opening of East Link will revitalize downtown Seattle retail misses the entire problem.

    4. Pacific Place is between 6th and 7th, east of Nordstrom’s, on the periphery of the retail district. Why was it built? To have a mall. Compared to suburban malls, downtown Seattle had the department stores but it didn’t have several small boutiques under one roof. It also gives a place for national chains to concentrate and be visible, like U Village. I don’t shop there much because I don’t want national chains or their products, especially the kind that tend to be in shopping malls or Pacific Place. And I’m not a target market for women’s clothing or cosmetics, so so many of the shops are just irrelevant to me.

      However, I like the interior architecture and the spiraling escalators up to the top floor, so it’s a treat when I occasionally go to go to the movie theater or a restaurant or shop and get to go up those escalators. I don’t go to movies much now for the same reason I don’t go to the shops: it’s mostly superhero crap, too-hip Disney animations, etc, and now after the pandemic I weigh whether some movie is important enough to risk getting a serious disease.

      Everyone is focusing on reducing retail, but the company is also considering “adding 1 to 3 towers on top of the existing structure, potentially residential, office and/or hotel”. That would greatly add to the square footage, so focusing on the retail is secondary. It’s not like Pacific Place is the only or even the most retail space downtown. It’s just a handful of boutiques that would have to find a new home. And if they withdraw from downtown Seattle, who will miss them?

      I agree it seems shortsighted to reduce retail when that seems to have a stronger future than office space and what downtown should lean into. But it’s one company’s decision, a tiny fraction of downtown’s total retail space, and the plan may end up not happening that way anyway.

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