Sound Transit:

Timm is currently CEO of Greater Richmond Transit Company, where her more than 400 employees operate successful regional bus routes serving the Richmond, Virginia area. Timm is known as a highly collaborative leader who forges strong relationships with community groups and partners, and for building an agency culture focused on dedication to public service and equity. 

From 2016 through 2019 Timm served as Chief Development Officer for WeGo Public Transit in Nashville, Tennessee. Her efforts included directing development activities and agency staff across functions including engineering, outreach, customer care, planning, grants, marketing, communications, service quality and Innovation. She oversaw the implementation of major regional capital projects associated with the more than $6 billion nMotion Strategy that the Nashville region adopted in 2016.

We wish her the best of luck.

171 Replies to “Sound Transit’s new CEO: Julie Timm”

  1. Don’t tell me what your priorities are. Show me who you appoint as CEO and I’ll tell you what your priorities are.

    So what have we learned?

    Experience extracting large federal dollars, not so much. (Rogoff, with an assist from a freer spending Congress, solved that problem perhaps).

    Experience running large capital projects, not so much. That’s an interesting omission for an agency with $2.5 billion a year in capital outlays.

    Experience managing thorny local politics, yes.

    I don’t mean to sound dismissive about the latter. Timm may be exactly the right person to figure out the political mess about how to build the new Chinatown station, for instance. And she’ll do what the Board wants on fare enforcement, for better or worse.

      1. IIRC from GGWash’s coverage, Richmond has done some good stuff with BRT(ish) transit, so yes I’m excited to see what she can do with Stride and STExpress.

    1. Generally, when an organization has failed (think of your favorite sports all team), they try not to hire the same person.

      Rogoff almost got canned because of the toxic environment he created, particularly towards women. Reading between the lines, Timm sounds like a better manager. And we don’t have to spend half a million on HR training, like we did with Rogoff. If you believe ST has competent people worth keeping, you hire a good manager.

    2. The biggest weakness with Sound Transit has been their planning. Too often, they have focused on symbolic accomplishments instead of meaningful ones. There are numerous examples of this, going back to the very beginning. For a more recent example, consider Kirkland. As part of ST3, Kirkland will have light rail. This sounds great, until you realize where it will go. In contrast, building BRT on the Cross Kirkland Corridor would have saved way more people way more time (which is why an independent transit expert recommended it). Sound Transit went with symbolism instead of substance. Again.

      So far as I know, Timm comes to this job with more transit experience than every previous CEO. This could be great news as once again the agency seems on the verge of making numerous poor decisions that we will likely live with for decades. It is possible that Timm will have the foresight to listen to transit advocates when we say — for example — that a station at 14th NW would be stupid.

      Whether she will have that much power, or wield it in that manner may be optimistic. The timing is terrible (we needed her before ST3, not now). There is only so much she can do without feeling like she is breaking the commitment made to voters. We have done it before though. Sound Transit went against the will of the voters and didn’t include a station on First Hill (a bad decision we will likely live with forever). In contrast, replacing West Seattle Link with bus service could actually be better for riders. A few would be worse off, but a lot more would come out ahead. Unfortunately, asking the new CEO to abandon the symbolic achievement of West Seattle Link and replace it with something a lot more useful is probably asking too much.

      1. The new GM may facilitate better discussion and decision making by the board. Keeping riders in mind is hopeful. In considering whether ST3 should be reset, it should be noted that it already has been delayed and reset a bit, ST2 was reset a bit, and Sound Move was substantially changed by vote of the ST Board. The stand by option is delay. How many ST boardmembers see the ST3 plans as flawed?

    3. It would probably be easiest to get ST to retrofit DSTT1. There are no NIMBYs down there to object. The ST3 candidate list had a project for it, so it’s feasible. Why ST chose DSTT2 instead is a bit unclear. It seems to be maximalism, and a guarantee we’ll have plenty of capacity. We can’t afford maximalism anymore. Canceling DSTT2 would yield more than enough money to retrofit DSTT1 and some other TBD enhancements.

      Replacing West Seattle Link with multi-line BRT would be sensible too. But I don’t see a brand-new CEO putting political capital into it.

      1. They chose not to “retrofit DSTT1” [by which I assume you mean “interlining Ballard”] because, Ross’s opinion notwithstanding, it is hard to do! As you say, it would almost certainly be considerably cheaper than digging a new tunnel, but look at how ST has uckedfay the integration of East Link when there were already ramps for a flying junction! They didn’t have to do anything to connect East Link except add two track turnouts and a pair of wyes to the overhead.

        For this they had an extended outage three years ago, a short one last year and now they’re going to have another set in October. Will they be finished then?

        Yes, I understand that part of all that was the pocket track at IDS so that trains can pass (almost) directly between East Link and Forest Street without going out to Lynnwood or wherever and reversing. So it’s not ALL just connecting up East Link. But they could have done all those sub-projects during the first outage and just let them sit there unused for the interim.

        How much harder would it be to demise at least two walls in the existing tunnels and dig a rapidly burrowing underpass on the northbound side, threading it around building foundations? The quick answer is: a WHOLE lot harder than adding two turnouts and a pair of overhead wyes.

        The whole project is a teetering house of cards. What’s going to happen is that there will be a poorly sited “commuter train” between Everett, Redmond, Tacoma and downtown Seattle because “Subarea Equity!”, and little or no improvements to transit in the core city. East Link will be good, regardless of Daniel’s bloviations about it, and of course Northgate to downtown will be greater and greater, but most of the system will a Toonerville Trolley with pretty trains.

      2. “How much harder would it be to demise at least two walls in the existing tunnels and dig a rapidly burrowing underpass on the northbound side, threading it around building foundations?”

        ST already did it when they built the extension to Capitol Hill and UW. That part actually finished on time and under budget.

      3. Just for the record, I agree that interlining the tunnel from CID to Westlake (and branching at Ballard) is hard. As it turns out, so is adding the other tunnel. To me, that’s the crux of the matter. I think the board assumed it was going to be easy (or at least relatively easy). If it was easy to add the stations and create “world class” transfers — Why Not?

        Turns out it is really difficult. Every station proposal involves very bad transfers, and longer trips to the surface. They all involve lots of disruption on the surface (in the CID especially). The service disruption will likely be bad as well. Theoretically there shouldn’t be much if you are adding a second tunnel, but somehow we have a bunch now, for some weird reason.

        What’s going to happen is that there will be a poorly sited “commuter train” between Everett, Redmond, Tacoma and downtown Seattle because “Subarea Equity!”, and little or no improvements to transit in the core city. East Link will be good, regardless of Daniel’s bloviations about it, and of course Northgate to downtown will be greater and greater, but most of the system will a Toonerville Trolley with pretty trains.

        Yeah, pretty much. There will be some good things added (e. g. it will be easier to get from Ballard to Uptown) but very few. It will be a huge waste of money — enormous sums spent for only a small amount of benefit.

      4. “They chose not to “retrofit DSTT1” [by which I assume you mean ‘interlining Ballard’] because, Ross’s opinion notwithstanding, it is hard to do!”

        ST didn’t say that. The project was in the list so it was considered feasible. ST never really said why it chose the second tunnel, so it seems to be an arbitrary “two is better than one”. Building a whole new tunnel is harder than just adding a branch at one point. Is it harder to add a second house to your lot or to add a family room to your first house?

      5. Thanks, Ross, for the moderate reply. I certainly agree that the underground temples that ST calls “stations” will be “difficult” as well if they are actually built. Mining two-hundred foot deep stations two-and-half blocks long will be stratospherically expensive and very disruptive.

        asdf2, the connection of the new tubes to the then existing tunnel required construction of a TBM-removal vault between The Paramount and I-5 and into the Pine Street ROW and then demising one forty-foot section of shallow wall in the middle of Pine where the existing bus tunnel made the wiggle into the Convention Center station. That was roughly the equivalent of making either of the connections that would be required for the “dogbone” connection suggested by Jonathan Dubman that several folks discussed on the blog about four months ago.

        A similar southbound connection could be made at Third and Pine pretty straightforwardly for southbound trackage.

        Connecting northbound, though, whether one does it under Third or Pine requires widening the footprint of the tunnel enough to accommodate the diverging track, and the abutting buildings are just too close along both streets.

        South of University Street / Symphony the tubes are far apart, extending to the outer sidewalk line. North of USSS they are closer together, making it potentially feasible to diverge there. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough distance between USSS and the south wall of the vault at the Pine Street curve to be able to under-run the curve.

        Had a diversion been planned there and the level of the existing tubes risen half the distance required for the clearance, the diverting tube could drop the other half of the clearance height and made the underpass, but it wasn’t planned for.

        Ross has suggested curving the new track inside the radius of the existing northbound track, and that should certainly be investigated. It would give another half block to get down underneath the southside (northbound) platform at Westlake, and that might just barely work, though there may be (probably are?) supports below the vault which might interfere.

        Pine Street is simply too narrow to add a divergence on the south side of the existing tunnel.

      6. The issue is that any alternative to use the DSTT wasn’t studied. Automated technology wasn’t studied. Branching wasn’t studied. Existing station reconfigurations weren’t studied.

        The WSBLE studies began in 2018. They were already unreasonably limited in technology, station areas and line configurations. After taking even more options off the table, we then got the bad news that the original designs and related costs were a problem. That led to a two-year delay for “realignment” — which merely evolved to a rescheduling exercise.

        The hard part is that ST would now have to backtrack either to 2018 or to 2015 to open up new alternatives. They won’t want to do that, and instead will just plead for more money, appealing to our “green” sensibilities and communal guilt about global warming.

        That comes in the form of more sales taxes and auto tags, which disproportionately affect poorer people more. Plus, poorer areas like South King and SE Seattle get worse Link connectivity. Nothing like paying lots more taxes for a worse outcome than if they had just left things alone.

        But no, we have to give West Seattle a rail line! We have to even site it in such a way that those stations miss the poorest areas of West Seattle! We have to use existing Link trains because we want to use the DSTT too so let’s instead kick out residents from SE Seattle! The subtext of privilege is hidden just underneath the surface but won’t speak its name.

        That’s why we are willing to destroy large areas of CID and Youngstown so we can get a train to the new Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in West Seattle while making it more difficult to take a train from Westlake or CID to Othello.

      7. I never said adding new branches to the existing tunnel would be easy or cheap. But, as long as it’s cheaper than building an entire new tunnel with entirely new stations, it needs to at least be considered. Yes, TBM mining would be involved with new branches, but you’d need to do TBM mining to build DSTT2 anyway.

        The ideal way to stage the construction would have been to leverage Convention Place Station. You first demolish the old station, then use the construction site as a staging ground for TBMs to SLU and Interbay. And, only after those tunnels are dug, then you replace the pit in the ground with the new convention center. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed and the convention center construction was started first, without bothering to think about the utility of that space as a staging ground for Link. Now, it’s going to be harder, and would likely require digging up streets. The surface parking lot at 9th and Howell could also prove useful as a construction staging area.

        But, whatever it takes to get the job done, common sense says it cannot possibly cost more than mining an entire new downtown tunnel and constructing three new, deep downtown stations.

      8. asdf2, “cheaper”, yes, almost “certainly”. “Easier”, though, definitely not, because it will again “almost certainly” require an extended single-tracking interruption. The single good thing that can be said for digging a new, separate tunnel is that the only “breakthroughs” [literally] would be in platform or mezzanine walls, not operating train tubes.

        Given the clear and probably permanent decrease in peak demand, the capacity argument for a second tunnel is moot. But that’s just shorthand for “Why build WSBLE at all?” A short bus tunnel between Third and Cedar and the hillside under West Mercer or Republican would get buses past the Lower Queen Anne congestion, giving Ballard access to downtown for express and BRT buses as reliable and quick as that West Seattle will have when bridge repairs are finished.

        But that then becomes an enormous “screw you” to Snohomish and Pierce, who don’t get their extensions. That mile of bus tunnel would be one-eighth the cost of a full WSBLE, so the financing package goes out the window. North King would raise billions in “unspendable” funds. “Unspendable” because the enabling legislation excludes “local bus improvements” as generally understood.

        If the law is changed, of course, more options become available.

      9. “the enabling legislation excludes “local bus improvements” as generally understood.”

        It allows RapidRide capital upgrades, as ST2 is doing for RapidRide G, and ST3 is doing for RapidRide C and D and PT 1. Seattle has a half-dozen planned-but-unfinded RapidRide lines, and King County has a whole alphabet. Snohomish County has three remaining Swift lines, plus the UW Bothell extension. Pierce County could improve the 1 even further and upgrade the 2, 3, and 4, and the northern half of the 1 that’s not in the current project.

        There might even be opportunities for more Stride lines somewhere. Aurora is in ST’s long-range plan for some kind of BRT maybe someday.

      10. Mike, you could put fancy, internet enabled bus stops at every intersection in Seattle and call it “RapidRide Improvements” and make barely a dent in the $11 billion North King will raise from ST3 taxes. You can’t run the buses with the money. That’s where the big money is in “bus improvements. There won’t be a STRide route between Northgate and Ballard.

        This is the flaw in Daniel’s triumphal glee at North King’s inability to create a good urban subway. The money has to be spent on rail, but ST seems unable to build even minimally useful urban rail.

        That’s probably because The Board is so heavily weighted with suburbanites who have little clue about or much sympathy for the needs of a real city.

      11. Y’all are talking about subarea equity like it doesn’t matter. But y’all have no problem taking my money, taking my taxes, and offering me nothing in return.
        If you don’t want subarea equity, then, I ask, please give back all of the money that you’ve taken in from South King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties and pay for Seattle/Bellevue transit with money exclusively from Seattle/Bellevue.

      12. Engineer, you are right that Subarea Equity matters. And if the Board agrees that WSBLE can’t be built, that won’t stop “The Spine!!!” from being completed. It’s just that the balance between the Subareas will radically shift from what has, yes, been development primarily in North King to North King raising gobs of money from now on with nowhere to spend it legally. Construction of Lynnwood Link is pretty much complete in North King with the exception of the 130th and Graham Street Stations. So the taxes North King raises from some time around 2024 when Lynnwood Link opens until whenever the ST3 bonds are retired either goes to WSBLE or into hibernation.

        So far as Link in being built in North King coming first, do you really think that the LR line between Tacoma Dome and South Federal Way (Pierce’s third priority behind Sounder and Tacoma Link) should have been built first? Building in the core wasn’t a cabal against Pierce County; it’s the way transit systems are and ought to be built.

        Nobody is trying to cheat you. If ST3 had not passed Pierce votrs might have a good case that they’d been sold a Bill of Goods. But you’re getting what you signed up for; West Seattle and Ballard likely won’t, but they’ll still pay the taxes because the bonds are backed by the agency, not Subareas.

      13. East King Co. got no subsidies from S. King Co. in building East Link. In fact EKC is probably the biggest subsidizer in all of this.

        The legitimate complaint N. King Co. has is since the three county board decided to run commuter rail from Everett to Tacoma, and Snohomish, S. King and Pierce Co.’s are poor, the N. King Co. subarea is disproportionately long since only it had the money to pay to run Link to the Snohomish Co. border and to S. King Co., when the design is to make it easier for riders to get TO downtown Seattle, not to Everett or S. King Co.

        After all, East King Co. had to pay 100% to run East Link to Seattle, including 100% across the bridge span.

        I think now that ST 4 looks very unlikely and N. King Co. can’t afford WSBLE, N. King Co. is rethinking all the money it spent to run rail to Snohomish Co. and to S. King Co. Without a doubt N. King has raised the most ST revenue, and spent the most, but ended up with a single line through downtown that doesn’t access SLU or First Hill, and is above grade south of Sodo, although north of Yesler the design is very gold plated. Not a very good return on the dollar IMO. How many Seattleites are going to take Link out of the city to Everett, S. King Co. or Tacoma?

        The other subareas do have a point about contributing to DSTT2 because that was based on a lie: that the capacity would be needed from a second tunnel based on inflated ridership estimates, and despite the fact East Link trains — paid for by the eastside — will continue to Northgate and increase frequency in DSTT1 to every 3 minutes.

        The sad truth is it was foolish to run Link to S. King Co. let alone the Snohomish Co. border. Downtown Seattle does not need riders from S. King Co. Buses should have been run to Link stations at the borders that then accessed a more complete intra-downtown Seattle rail system including First Hill and SLU for the same amount of money.

        I live on the eastside but work downtown. People take or took transit to downtown because of traffic congestion and parking rates, and because downtown was the commercial hub. But no one is going to take transit to S. King Co. or Everett from the eastside, or probably Seattle. They will drive. It is a terribly foolish design going to very undense areas with little commerce, in large part because ST does not understand suburbia, and thought it would kill the car.

        There was a good argument in 2004/8 to run light rail across the bridge from Bellevue to Seattle, but for the benefit back then of eastsiders. Now I guess the benefit is for Seattleites. East Link should have tunneled under Bellevue Way and ended there, but Microsoft insisted it continue to its campus which made going to Redmond seem reasonable. Still at $5.5 billion from Redmond to Judkins Park across a floating bridge is not a bad outcome for a subarea that has more ST revenue than it knows what to do with, although post pandemic ridership will be weak, and non-existent south of CID or north of probably the UW.

        Personally I think S. King Co. probably got the best deal because it paid little to have light rail to Tacoma and Seattle, although again ST way overestimated how many S. King Co. residents will ride rail anywhere.

      14. Please stop the subarea bean counting guys! ST is created to connect people across the region, and not to have five local transit systems. People travel between subareas.

        Further, the major sources are auto tags and sales taxes and property taxes. The first one is entirely paid to the subarea of residence, the second one mostly to the subarea of residence (groceries and local restaurants) and the third is paid from property value at both ends.

        So the subarea money is less prevalent at the place of work trip end.

        Finally, the purpose of DSTT2 is to increase capacity through Downtown. If East Link didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be needed. It rightfully benefits everyone in the region.

      15. “So the taxes North King raises from some time around 2024 when Lynnwood Link opens until whenever the ST3 bonds are retired either goes to WSBLE or into hibernation.”

        Tom, if in fact N. King Co. has a surplus but decides to not build WSBLE, or all of it, I am sure that if Seattle came up with an alternate use of its own subarea funds no one or subarea would object. Same with the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line. We shouldn’t assume every subarea is bound by some questionable promises and designs used to sell ST 3.

        I think once Dow Constatine is no longer KC exec. the city should have a very public discussion about: 1. how much money will the subarea really have left over (which won’t be able to complete WSBLE anyway IMO); and 2. where is a better use for that money. I certainly hope East King Co. has the same discussion when it comes to the Issaquah line. One way or the other the eastside is going to have to figure out where to spend its excess ST tax revenue so at some point some subareas will need to address this issue without a ST 4.

        All of East Link should not cost $5.5 billion while WSBLE alone costs somewhere between $12 to $20 billion. There simply has to be better value engineering for light rail in Seattle.

        If nothing else I think Seattle power brokers should at least begin exploring whether ST 3 funds can be reallocated within the subarea, although Dow wants WS, although I think Seattle does not want to lose the $1.1 billion match for DSTT2 which it probably thinks is recompense for building so much of the spine.

        ST 3 was rushed. It was not well thought out. The best thing to do now is to “extend” the DEIS to take a breather, especially with so much discord among the Stakeholders, rather than assuming Seattle has to unwisely spend or lose its ST 3 revenue.

        To be honest, when I look at the streetcars and WSBLE and even Central Link I can’t imagine the N. King Co. subarea spending all that money any more unwisely, usually because transit agencies and advocates argued any transit spending no matter how stupid is better than no transit spending, when the better question is good vs. bad transit because the funding was always the same.

        If I am willing to acknowledge spending $4.5 billion on the Issaquah line is a poor investment of that ST revenue even though the subarea can afford it why can’t N. King Co. transit advocates admit the same about WSBLE. N. King Co. won’t somehow lose its ST 3 tax revenue, but can get something much better IMO.

      16. “Finally, the purpose of DSTT2 is to increase capacity through Downtown. If East Link didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be needed. It rightfully benefits everyone in the region.”

        I disagree Al. East Link reduces congestion in DSTT1 and will double frequency in DSTT1 to Northgate. Telling a subarea like East King Co. that after building 100% of East Link to Judkins Park, and then subsidizing the trains that will continue to Northgate after East Link opens that will double frequency, when few eastsiders will be on the trains, somehow is the cause of the need for DSTT2 that really serves West Seattle and Ballard is not correct.

        DSTT2 is needed for WSBLE. Period. Post Pandemic I am not sure WSBLE even needs DSTT2 (in large part due to the doubling of frequency in DSTT1 by East Link).

        The capacity argument for DSTT2 was based on dishonest ridership estimates pre-pandemic. I think the four other subareas have a very good complaint about having to contribute $275 million to DSTT2 based on a lie, and seeing such a gold plated plan as WSBLE when just about everyone east of Seattle, north of Northgate, or south of Sodo got economical rail lines and stations.

        I think what drives a lot of the subarea territoriality is the incredible excess and profligacy of Link stations and lines in Seattle north of Sodo. It is N. King Co.’s money so I guess it can spend it however it wants, but when I see a $20 billion plan to connect WS to Ballard I just want to make sure my subarea is not paying for that gold plated plan, or on the hook for any of it. I think it is obscene to be honest.

      17. Y’all are talking about subarea equity like it doesn’t matter. But y’all have no problem taking my money, taking my taxes, and offering me nothing in return. If you don’t want subarea equity, then, I ask, please give back all of the money that you’ve taken in from South King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties and pay for Seattle/Bellevue transit with money exclusively from Seattle/Bellevue.

        Unfortunately, that is the attitude that has lead to crap. It lead to the whole concept of “subarea equity”, which is complete BS. Imagine a light rail line with two stops — downtown Seattle and Lynnwood. Who benefits more? Clearly Lynnwood. The people of Seattle rarely go to Lynnwood. Metro never ran service up to Lynnwood, while Community Transit *still* runs service to downtown Seattle. It isn’t even close as to who would benefit more.

        The same is true for every urban system. If the train allows Lynnwood riders to get to UW, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Belltown, Northgate, Fremont and Ballard as easily as you can get to the handful of downtown locations, then they come out way ahead, as long as they have express service connecting them to the trains. There are way more jobs in Seattle, and way more places people want to visit than there are in the suburbs.

        Unfortunately, this provincial attitude has lead to the creation of crap that hurts suburban and urban residents alike. It is much worse than if we simply focused on building a traditional subway system (like those found in Europe and Asia). If we had built something like that, then folks in Snohomish and Pierce County might have to be on the bus longer (or the commuter rail line) but once in the city, be able to get around anywhere. Instead, the vast majority will spend longer getting to the places they want to go to, or they will simply ignore it, and drive.

      18. Transportation intrinsically connects neighborhoods in a two-way relationship. Transit to all neighborhoods is needed. Only in the US is this controversial, the way gun control and climate change and public-health measures are controversial. (While other countries have resisted vaccines and masks, I think most of that was due to the American Right’s example.)

        The point of transit is to make it available to everyone who’s going between Seattle and Redmond, Seattle and Tacoma, Redmond and Lynnwood, etc. That’s not just commuters going to jobs in downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue, or Microsoft. It’s people going everywhere for all reasons. That’s why Link is frequent all day. And in a few years there will be a Stride line between Bellevue and Lynnwood. It may not make sense to take Link from eastern Bellevue or Redmond to Lynnwood, but if you can take Link to Bellevue and transfer to Stride, some people will. Because Stride will be faster and more frequent than the 535, and will run on Sundays. Maybe people in Medina mansions won’t, but that’s not everybody in the Eastside or Snohomish County.

      19. “Finally, the purpose of DSTT2 is to increase capacity through Downtown. If East Link didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be needed. It rightfully benefits everyone in the region.”

        I disagree with this sentiment as well.

        The two lines will work fine for many years with the single tunnel.

        8 minutes headways on the Eastside and 6 minute headways on the south line is still 28 trains an hour. The limited capacity MAX surface lines peaked, pre-pandemic, at 33 trains per hour. They should be able to get that out of the current tunnel.

        The real situation is more correctly stated as “If West Seattle Link didn’t exist, [DSTT2] wouldn’t be needed.” Once you start looking at it that way, it really becomes much more clear how poor a value the West Seattle line is compared to almost everything else. It winds up being what? $20 billion between the southern part of DSTT2 and West Seattle for a line that will make transit worse for a large number of people, with very, very few people within walking distance of the line itself.

      20. Daniel, for an officer of the Courts, you show a surprisingly cavalier attitude about the Legislature’s clearly stated intent. ST may provide bus service ONLY for two purposes. The first is to serve a corridor linking one or more “regional centers” which is slated to receive a rail connection in the future for the interim. The second is to serve a corridor linking regional centers that –at least currently — are judged not sufficiently traveled to support a rail link but generate enough potential ridership to warrant some transit service.

        Local bus service is explicitly omitted.

        So, yes, North King could do “something else” with its tax revenues. It might, for example, replace the ten-minute headway 44 with the vaunted Ballard-UW subway, or dig “The Metro Eight” loop around downtown (my preference). But doing either would involve a LOT of “losing face” to use a phrase popular around the Internatiinal District.

      21. Tom, laws are made by politicians, and can be changed by politicians. Things change, especially after a pandemic.

        My guess is the prohibition on using ST revenue for local bus service is based on:

        1. A concern local jurisdictions would cut their spending on local bus service and use ST revenue.

        2. An ideological preference for all things rail, like Seattle Subway, but with little understanding of the cost/rider, and the lack of density in the region. Plus wildly inflated ridership and population growth projections by ST.

        3. A total misunderstanding by ST about first/last mile access, and almost a pathological misunderstanding of suburbia.

        4. An assumption the voters would pass a ST 4, 5 and 6, at least by transit advocates.

        5. And maybe a belief levies need bling like light rail to pass.

        The only thing I am asking is that ST not begin WSBLE without the revenue to complete it. All of it. You can’t extend project completion along with taxes and create net revenue in a high inflation market. That means honest project cost estimates, honest future ST revenue estimates in N. King Co. post pandemic, a single preferred alternative so we know if the stakeholders will agree, and a 30% contingency on costs.

        Plus a cap on my subarea’s contribution at $275 million no matter how much DSTT2 costs.

        If ST has the money to build WSBLE in a design the major stakeholders find acceptable — even if it is crap for transit riders and sets back Harrell’s goals — then begin construction. I am sure inertia and powerful voices like Dow Constantine will demand that.

        If however ST does not have the money for WSBLE, and is smart enough to not start pieces of it to basically nowhere, then a SB5528 levy will be necessary, and IMO that could be the change agent at the legislature.

        If powerful Seattle voices went to the legislature and other subareas and said post pandemic it does not have the money or riders for WSBLE, and a SB5528 levy is too expensive to pass, I am sure the legislature would be sympathetic. The rub I am guessing is N. King Co. will still want the $1.1 billion match from the four other subareas for any other project on the basis N. King Co. built a disproportionate amount of the spine that really does not benefit Seattle even though the new project won’t be a “shared regional facility”. But then neither is DSTT2, and it will cost around $4.4 billion if started today.

        My guess is maybe 50% of WSBLE can be built with the true costs and contingencies factored in, plus true future revenue in N. King Co. post pandemic, and no disasters with so much of it underground. Building half of DSTT2 would not be good.

        So as I have argued before begin with the SB5528 levy for $10 billion. Certainly if it fails ST will have to approach the legislature about a plan B, although I think it would be smarter if ST and transit in general did not float a $10 billion SB5528 levy that pretty much confirms the emperor has no clothes, and could set transit back decades if it failed.

      22. “ 4. An assumption the voters would pass a ST 4, 5 and 6, at least by transit advocates.”

        IIRC, ST3 was designed to complete the Spine. It was likely intended on being the last regional measure because it would be too difficult to fund further expansions of the system that could be warranted. That’s borne out by ST3 containing a much longer tax collection period than Sound Moves or ST2. Even the attempt at including SOGR reduces the need for further local funding needs.

        Of course the major screw-up was incredibly bad design assumptions, leading to more property takes and more costly construction needs. The biggest problem in costing and contingencies was the DSTT2 portion, which was done pretty badly. Hence the need for the shortfall today.

        Of course, HB 5528 is intended to only apply to subareas. It’s clear that the region would likely not support more ST taxes, and that the reason for HB 5528 is precisely because it’s pretty much a consensus that a regional affirmative vote is no longer realistic.

        So on this minor point, I don’t think anyone believes that more district-wide funding of significance is possible any time soon. Sure an advocate may dream about it, but even they would quickly understand the systemic uphill battle it would take to get another affirmative vote.

        And as a poet script, I think it’s important to go back and look at those studies from 2012-15. A summary is here:

        It’s quite remarkable! The second tunnel was never studied prior to ST3 packaging as this summary shows!! It was instead created by SDOT/ City staff/ ST staff who were cavalier about understanding subway building in a major downtown. The Ballard study ended at Westlake, and the West Seattle study always assumed using the DSTT all the way from SODO to Westlake. In sum, I think the public and advocates were duped about the specific DSTT2 segment details and got caught up in the “build frenzy” before the 2016 vote.

      23. It’s quite remarkable! The second tunnel was never studied prior to ST3 packaging as this summary shows!!

        The second tunnel wasn’t taken seriously as a candidate for ST3 until late in 2015. ST3 was a 15-year plan, and there was no money for second tunnels, and the DSTT had plenty of capacity anyway, so DSTT2 was a ST4 or ST5 priority.

        Then the pols failed to agree on a 15-year ST3. Snohomish insisted it had to go to Everett in ST3, which required a monster subarea loan that nobody else would agree to. So the compromise was to build all the things – Snohomish could pay for Everett Link over 25 years, and Seattle suddenly had enough money for the tunnel it didn’t urgently need (and South King/Pierce got a slush fund for Sounder and East King got Issaquah Link).

        The downside of the lack of discipline in 2015 was the extra projects were so much less flushed out than they needed to be. And that came back to bite them in downtown, because it’s a super-complicated environment where a rushed analysis is going to miss a lot of expensive stuff.

      24. Daniel, sure, the Legislature could loosen the constraints on bus service. But counting on that is not wise.

        As to “building half of WSBLE”, actually that’s a very good idea. If some way to connect it to the main system for non-revenue maintenance movements, building a segment from Westlake to Smith Cove would be a great line. Notice I did not say “Westlake to Ballard”, and that’s specifically to ensure that “neighborhood rivalry” doesn’t arise.

        If The Snake becomes the selected alignment there might be a way to connect a ramp track to the Streetcar tracks and use the Center City Connector to get individual out-of-service cars to and from the south end of town, though whole Link trains of four cars definitely couldn’t use such a path. They are far too long

        Alternatively, “New Westlake” could be a center platform stub with the westernmost track not bumpers, but rather curving “behind” the existing southbound platform and then making trailing-point junction with the existing southbound track right at the curve to Third. A northbound facing-point cross-over in the middle of USSS could feed trains returning to service to the new connection by running out-of-direction on the southbound track.

        These sorts of moves would obviously be during off hours in all but the most dire circumstances.

        This might require narrowing the western end of the southbound platform at Westlake a bit, but adding a center platform would be quite easy in that capacious, full-mezzanine station.

      25. Oh, duh. I just remembered a good idea from Al: move the southbound track into the center lane and extend the southbound platform into the area where the southbound track is today. That hives a large space in the eastern half of the platform to hold passengers when queuing is required. It also makes the addition of the connection track much easier. It would be within the existence station box.

      26. I think Dan’s historical-political analysis is correct.

        A good outcome of ST3 is to deliver on what would have roughly been the 15 year package (accelerated ST2, 3 Stride lines, and TDLE, and perhaps West Seattle Link [sorry], some South Sounder trips, and an early Phase of Everett Link), get the EIS completed for WSBLE and Everett Link, and then return to the voters in 2024/26/28 with a more informed ‘ST4’

      27. “ST3 was designed to complete the Spine. It was likely intended on being the last regional measure because it would be too difficult to fund further expansions of the system that could be warranted. ”

        Dan is right: ST 1 and 2 were 15-year plans (by their original schedules), and so ST3 was initially the same, because ST assumed that was the most voters would authorize in one phase. The plan didn’t go to Everett or Paine Field, and Ballard had a Westlake streetcar extension instead of light rail. (West Seattle got light rail.) I don’t remember about the other subareas. It was assumed the rest would be in ST4.

        Snohomish said that was unacceptable and we need to complete the Spine in this phase rather than having the uncertainty of a future vote, since they had been waiting since 1996. Snohomish also insisted on Paine Field, a demand that appeared sometime in the 2010s after a German company rejected the site for not having a high-capacity transit plan (something which wouldn’t be allowed for an industrial center in Germany). Transit fans said a Ballard streetcar was unacceptable. Those were the primary factors that led to ST3 being expanded to a 25-year plan.

        North King count have moved light rail from West Seattle to Ballard and given West Seattle multi-line BRT, but the politicians and West Seattle activists wouldn’t hear of it.

      28. What did East King, South King, and Pierce not have in the first ST3 proposal?

      29. I couldn’t find the 15-year map, but it was sometime between the menu of options on December 4, 2015, Seattle Subway’s concerns about the 15-year proposal on March 31, 2016, and the 25-year proposal on March 24, 2016. There’s an inconsistency in the dates I don’t understand: the third article is dated before the second one when it should be after, and the second article links to the third article calling it the 15-year plan when it’s actually the 25-year plan. Maybe dates and links got mangled in the database. I’m remembering an article by Martin H Duke that blasted the 15-year plan, and had a map with a Ballard streetcar, and got a record-breaking number of comments. I can’t find the article now; maybe others can.

      30. I couldn’t find the 15-year map, but it was sometime between the menu of options on December 4, 2015, Seattle Subway’s concerns about the 15-year proposal on March 31, 2016, and the 25-year proposal on March 24, 2016.

        There was never a proper 15-year map, except in the minds of staff and Board members. What was in the public domain was a rather wacky set of illustrative options, sometime in late Summer or early Fall 2015. (That’s the set of maps you’re recalling that Martin panned). Among other things, they drove home that finishing the spine would massively shortchange King County projects.

        By the time staff presented the more realistic options on December 2015, they were also floating the 25-year funding proposal. Like many of those meetings, it was a pre-rehearsed presentation where board members applauded the proposal they had already agreed off-camera and instantly removed any prospect of a shorter plan from consideration.

        The only questions after that were (a) the intra-Eastside imbroglio where the rail obsessives went to war with Kirkland, and (b) how aggressive the timeline would be. Seattle Subway and others imagined that they had won a victory between March and June 2016 where the plan was ‘speeded up’, but it was powered by financial assumptions that left no margin for error, so we ended up reverting to something like the March 2016 schedule.

      31. Long thread so I hope this comment nests correctly.

        Sound Move, which some folks call ST1, was a 10-year plan, not a 15-year plan. ST2 was the 15-year plan. Both failed/will fail to meet their original timelines.

        Snohomish County was promised light rail to Everett in a phase two of the system’s expansion by the board way back in Dec 1994:

        “A MOTION of the Board of the Regional Transit Authority for the Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties region clarifying the RTA Board’s intent with respect to future light rail service to the City of Everett.

        “WHEREAS, on October 29, 1994, the Board of the Regional Transit Authority adopted a Regional Transit System Master Plan and a Phase I element of that Master Plan; and

        “WHEREAS, the completion of the Master Plan will require multiple phases; and

        “WHEREAS, the Master Plan on page 2-8 provides that priority shall be given in subsequent phases to linking the four major centers of Everett, Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue;

        “WHEREAS, Phase I will complete light rail connections between Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue; and commuter rail connections between Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma.


        “The Regional Transit Authority Board intends that, in order to complete the planned connections to the four major centers, extension of light rail service to Everett shall be a first priority in Phase II.

        “PASSED by the Board of the Regional Transit Authority for the Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties region at a regular meeting thereof held on the 2nd day ofDecember 1994.”

        Just to set the record straight.

      32. In the extensive STB discussion of the second DSTT several weeks ago, I expect the notion of having the Ballard line reach Westlake and stop was advanced. The DSTT could carry three six-minute headway lines on West Seattle, MLK, and East Link, providing a combined two-minute headway north. Some variants might turnback at the UW or Northgate.

      33. eddie, yes it was, both as a “pure” stub just north of the southbound platform and a “dogbone” where southbound Ballard-Downtown trains would merge with the existing tracks at the curve into the Capitol Hill tunnel and then exit at the curve at Third and Pine. In the dogbone, a center platform could be added to allow direct train to train transfers to and from northbound trains without changing levels.

        The dogbone is the best idea, but it means having some weirdness at the Denny Way station because soutbound trains have to swap sides with northbound trains and there is a long loop over to I-5 on the inbound side.

  2. While I’m happy that the Board is bringing in someone not bred internally, I remain seriously concerned about not having someone who understands how to accept new stations from contractors and then how to deal with daily station maintenance and safety issues.

    ST has a growing major “property owner and manager” responsibility as legal station accepter and maintainer with ST growing to 38 stations by 2026 including 29 with vertical conveyances. This role as a building manager serving hundreds of thousands of riders cannot be underemphasized. Without good and safe stations working properly every single day, Link will be universally panned and avoided. Every rider must use at least two stations.

    This is to me the number 1 measure that should determine her success or failure.

  3. Interesting choice.

    Also of note is the structure of the transit system she currently oversees.

    From wiki:
    “As a public service company, GRTC is owned equally by the City of Richmond and neighboring Chesterfield County. Henrico and Hanover counties currently purchase services from it, but hold no ownership interest.

    ‘It is managed by a private transit management company that provides the CEO, COO, and Transportation Manager, as was its predecessor, Virginia Transit Company (VTC). GRTC itself has 400 employees.”

    I’m trying to keep an open mind until I learn more about her skill set and actual accomplishments. Hopefully ST won’t need to fork out the money for another tutor at least.

  4. Richmond and Nashville sound, um, small. They probably have simpler, more bus-based transit systems with no “regional transit” routes like ST specializes in. Pugetopolis spans 3 counties, the Bay Area 6, Chicagoland 9. How many Pugetopolis-sized counties and cities do Richmond and Nashville have? What’s the longest distance between them (aka Everett and Tacoma)? What experience does she have to oversee a large existing Link operation and major expansions?

    1. Richmond GRTC had, before COVID, just over 8 million riders per year. So comparable to Community Transit (10 million) or Pierce Transit (8.4 million).

    2. Nashville is decent size, and growing fairly quickly. Like much of America, it sprawls. In terms of the overall physical size of the metropolitan area, they are similar. The biggest difference is that Seattle has a lot more density (in the core).

      The nMotion project is a regional one, although it makes clear that the focus should be on Nashville itself. It more or less sounds like Sound Transit in the early days, but with a more comprehensive (and frankly better) approach. But it is really early, and everything at this point is general in nature (it is worth a read — They haven’t actually built anything.

      WeGo (the local bus agency) is relatively small compared to Metro, but my guess has more buses than ST. Like so many transit systems in the United States (and especially the South) it is woefully underfunded, and has been for years. They are a local agency (serving Nashville and the surrounding county) but do coordinate with the regional agency.

      Overall, this is the closest we’ve come to actually having someone with some relevant transit experience since the very beginning. Bob White came from Metro, but had trouble dealing with the cost overruns. Toni Earl fixed that problem, even though she had no transit experience (before being hired by ST). Rogoff was basically a giant schmoozer. Great for getting the feds to pitch in money — not much good for vision.

      This is definitely a bigger job, but not a gigantic step up. Besides, there are only a handful of regional agencies similar to ST, and frankly, this doesn’t look like a plum job. It reminds me of when Murray was kicked out as mayor. The city was bound to go through some tough times, and the new mayor was going to be blamed for the problems (that were largely the old mayor’s fault). A truly exceptional manager might be able to fix everything, but there are very few people like that in world (and often they are prevented from doing their job, like Andy Byford). It is quite likely the board picked the best candidate.

      1. The only transit/railroad manager in North America with a reputation for really solving major problems quickly is David Gunn, and he’s retired to Nova Scotia long ago.

        Eg, He’s the one that got NYCTA from the crime infested graffiti ridden operation it was in the early 1980s to the respectable agency it was later in the 1980s.

        Before he is gone completely (he’s 85 now) someone really should see if he would be willing to write a basic course in how to actually accomplish things. Nobody else seems to know how.

      2. We can hope that –
        1) She won’t just be a ‘yes-woman’ to the board,
        2) She actually knows what she’s stepping into.

        Although Joni didn’t have transit experience (excluding her stint as a Link Light Rail Vehicle operator), she had a very important quality –
        She understood the Local Politics

        She provided good direction and support to her staff. The ST staffers I know enjoyed working under her, and at the board meetings she was always one to recognize the hard work the staff was doing .

        When the next candidate starts their tenure, let’s hope they are mentally prepared. This will be a really unique time, since Sound Transit is in that transition phase to an actual transit operator, and at the same time being an infrastructure planning agency.

        They also need to be honest about the options that the board needs to consider. The flavor of what they’re presenting to the board should not be colored by what they think the board members want to hear.

        She needs to give it to them without apologies.

      3. How is ST turning into more of an operator? The Link extensions and Stride will presumably be operated by the local agencies like Link and ST Express currently are.

      4. I think the point is the buck stops with ST, and the amount of operations has increased, and will increase, significantly. Or as Al points out, ST now has a transit SYSTEM to operate.

        The name on the trains and stations is Sound Transit. ST sold the levies. It doesn’t matter that ST contracts with someone else to actually operate Link. ST is responsible for the operations.

        I think another point is many of the issues arise out of design, construction and maintenance. Again ST contracts for those but is the ultimate responsibly agency.

        As I noted in another post if riders on Link, and soon East Link, felt that Link was an excellent experience they want to keep they would better understand requests or levies for more operations funding due to the pandemic, WFH, an overly optimistic ridership projection or farebox recovery, because the actual tax increase for a citizen would be small for something dramatic they don’t want to lose.

        But if the experience is “meh”, at best, when some areas like East King Co. are probably limited to “meh” unless you have a one seat ride on East Link to the CID or downtown then passing an operations levy, or SB 5528 levy, becomes impossible.

        Folks forget cost overruns and frustrating construction errors if in the end the project works. Few today complain about the errors building 520. It works.

        If ST 3 (or 4) were put on a ballot today it would lose by a large percentage. ST needs to ask itself why. It’s because the experience for the rider has been not just better than “meh” but compelling.

        Some are suggesting ST learn to operate the Link system it has now — which will always be the busiest — before adding more stations and trains. For too long ST’s mantra has been build baby build (and bond asap) but then the experience the passenger gets leaves them underwhelmed, and unlike a construction delay they are underwhelmed every damn time they decide to ride Link.

        If ST can’t make Northgate to CID compelling what is the chance East Link, or Federal Way and Lynnwood Link, will be? Those folks vote for levies too, although they usually vote no anyway, although don’t give them a reason to vote no.

      5. Maybe I should have worded that differently.

        ST Must take on the role of Operator, and behave as a separate agency.
        Obviously some expertise (Sounder train operations) require more specific skills, but light rail operations is a different ballgame than bus operations.
        That’s the metamorphosis that needs to happen.

        I’m different than some that post here, in that I don’t believe ST should be operating regional bus service permanently. ST Express was created as a place holder. Extending Link is the primary function, but once they open Lynnwood and East Link, they will need to be tuned to providing a very reliable service, and not have political decisions get in the way of what needs to be done to keep it that way.

      6. Mike, even if ST isn’t directly operating the transit service, they’re still planning the routes (especially the bus routes), plus they have lots of stations to operate with all of the safety and maintenance that goes with them.

      7. I was in Nashville several years ago and those back woods southerners had a transit system that was way more technologically advanced than Seattle. Imagine this, you go to visit a city for a convention, get on the bus and have the option of paying with your credit card or cash. And if you choose cash it spits out an RFI card valid for the change. Unfortunately the new ST director isn’t able to drag the local regional agencies into the 21st century. Oh, and someone from Nashville isn’t going to be prepared to deal with the Seattle… it’s OK they’re smoking crack on the bus, enforcing rules is racist even if it’s an old white dude (most of the problem).

    3. Both Richmond and Nashville transit involve serving a major city plus multiple counties as stakeholders. While Seattle/Central Puget is bigger, I’m not sure it is more complex operationally or politically.

      1. Nashville’s bus system is a department of their merged city-county government that the locals call Metro. They do have a few express routes that extend beyond the limits, but it’s not run by a multi-county board.

        Notably, the Nashville Metro Council has 41 members with 35 from districts and 6 elected countywide. That is much bigger than the ST board. It’s population is about what Seattle City’s is. Imagine how hard it would be to get anything done if Seattle had 41 council members with 35 from districts!

  5. My only question is why she didn’t stay longer at her previous jobs. Four years at one agency. After that, three years at another agency. After that, three years at yet another agency. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior …

    1. She probably left prior jobs for better pay and more responsibility. It is always difficult for a huge agency with billions in expenditures to compete against private companies for top CEO’s.

      For example Amazon’s new CEO was just awarded a $210 MILLION pay package while Jamie Diamond who has become a billionaire as CEO of JP Morgan had his $50 MILLION bonus for one year voted against. I think Rogoff made $$384,000 which is not much more than a rookie coder at Amazon or Microsoft.

      The other factor is Timm will experience a big increase in cost of living moving here, especially housing, and if she has kids in school that is an extremely important factor if you don’t want to pay for private schools that can run $20,000/year in Seattle. I doubt she will live in TOD.

      Following Rogoff should be easy because he is such an unlikable person. Dealing with issues like open stations in downtown Seattle and a huge drop in commuter riders and fares in an area that has a high percentage of WFH will be a challenge.

      Capital wise her only big problem is WSBLE. She should just pull the bandaid off that and “extend” the entire process. Open East Link that may bring Eastside money to downtown if Harrell does his part, and then complete Lynnwood and Federal Way that have low expectations.

      Then pass an operations levy because Eastside swing voters like taking East Link to the CID or Pike Place Market, because I can guarantee you they won’t take East Link east (or obviously to Bellevue Way).

      East Link’s purpose was not intra-Eastside travel or ST wouldn’t be trying to figure out how to run light rail over a floating bridge for the first time. Eastsiders drive if the trip is on the Eastside.

      Whether East Link is a success in the eyes of eastsiders is how it gets them to downtown Seattle, more for play than work.

      Turn downtown Seattle into something like San Antonio’s river walk and I assure you eastsiders will vote for an operations levy, although ironically their subarea won’t need it. Use some of the capital budget for the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line because no eastsider will ever want to take that line. Talk about boring and pointless.

      But if eastsiders don’t WANT to take East Link to downtown Seattle East Link fails and so does an operations levy. Their lives will go on just fine, but downtown Seattle desperately needs that revenue to support a vibrant retail/restaurant scene now that the work commuter is gone.

      I am an eastsider. I like to go out. I don’t always want to stay in suburbia. I want the sophistication of a city like Seattle. But my wife won’t risk our safety for that. If we won’t go to downtown Seattle in a car we are not going to take East Link there, and will never take it east (to S. Bellevue, 112th, an office development in The Spring District, or Redmond which is our Ballard: a pain to get to with better dining options in between. I don’t want to go from suburbia to suburbia on a night out on the town, , certainly on transit

      Make Seattle Great Again.

      1. After the U-Link escalator debacle along with recent escalator troubles in Northgate Link stations, I’m thinking that the acceptance of new stations and track could quickly emerge as a risk problem.

        1. Both LA and SF have had several years of delay on new light rail openings due to shoddy contractor work. It’s not uncommon. We already have seen mention that East Link is pushed back many months to fix problems.

        2. The Board will push to open stations on schedule as much as possible (before an approaching Election Day). That adds pressure for ST to accept shoddy work or mechanical devices. The CEO will have to take the heat for any delays, and take the heat for accepting shoddy work or materials. That’s a no win situation if that happens.

        3. Once open, it’s very hard to shut down a line for repairs (unless you don’t care about what happens to riders). Even a few weekend closures create lots of grumbling.

        Along with managing the current stations and track, accepting the new stations and track and their supporting systems could prove to be the hardest “capital” part of this job between now and the end of 2025. It only takes on system failure — unstable track, bad signage, signaling malfunctions, rapid wear due to weather or misuse, safeguards giving with false warnings or no warnings, or many other situations.

  6. I wonder what ended up happening to Rogoff. Is he getting a $500,000 salary to lead a different transit agency in another city? Or, did he switch to something more lucrative, like private equity?

    1. Would you hire Rogoff to lead a transit agency after he received a Performance Improvement Plan from his bosses and then let go?

      1. “Would you hire Rogoff to lead a transit agency after he received a Performance Improvement Plan from his bosses and then let go?”

        Rogoff was a bad person and boss, but ironically he was fired for honesty to the public. When he first arrived he extolled the benefits of buses, but the ideologues had their minds set on light rail even though 90% makes no sense in this region.

        In January 2021 he told the open Board ST had an $11.5 billion deficit because ROW and construction costs had risen faster than “estimated”. He was not involved in ST 3, or the estimates ST used to sell ST 3 (and ST 2) on ridership, farebox recovery, general tax revenue, regional population growth, and project cost estimates with a ridiculous cost contingency a contractor wouldn’t use for a bathroom remodel.

        In fact read Al’s recent post with a link to see how back of the envelope DSTT2 was during 2016, even though several groups on the eastside were calling BS on a $2.2 billion price tag.

        The Board was not surprised (except maybe the dimmest bulbs on the Board). Everyone had hoped the truth would come out way down the road, when they were gone, except the pandemic accelerated all the lies.

        Rogoff got his severance when he agreed to sign off on the “realignment” that claims you extend project commencement and completion in an inflationary environment (which was 1%/year at the time) and collect the same rate in taxes and magically save $6 billion during the extension years. Kind of like having the same salary and waiting to buy a house in Seattle so you can get it cheaper.

        Then Rogoff went rogue again and told the Board hey, remember we sold the public on a 40% farebox recovery rate, which was dishonest pre-pandemic if 100% of riders paid a fare, and “equity” does not pay the bills. The Board gave a lot of handwringing, and then on June 1 decided yes, I guess we will need that farebox recovery but don’t have a system to collect the fares.

        Here is my question: would you hire ANYONE on the Board to work in your company, let alone as CEO? I would hire Rogoff before anyone on the Board, although I might want him to work alone.

  7. In the past, the comment section has portrayed Sound Transit as weak and powerless. “ST wanted to run Link to Southcenter, but Tukwila said no.” “ST wanted to run Link up Bellevue Way, but Bellevue told them no.” “ST wanted a station closer to Bellevue Square, but Kemper Freeman told them no.” “ST wanted to call it the Red Line, but someone complained the name offended them, so they scrapped it.” “ST wanted a new station on 5th Ave, but some people complained, so they’re now looking at 4th Ave.” “ST initially didn’t want a station at 130th, but someone told them to include one there, so they did.” There are a hundred more examples of ST backing down at the slightest bit of pushback. So, my question is, if ST is completely spineless and weak, and simply does what others tells them to do, what does it matter who runs the organization?

    1. I often wonder what kinds of pressure gets placed on ST management and staff by the Board.

      The University Street renaming is a good case study of that. That whole saga could have been a miniseries. Every month or two was a new plot twist! That situation was handled badly.

      I even hope that they asked the CEO candidates how they would have handled that renaming situation. It would be an excellent question for finalists.

  8. People probably wondered if Joni Earl was ready for the Great Game, but she was the CEO ST needed at the time.

    If the outgoing CEO could go back in time and change one thing, I bet it would be making sure someone is in charge of Amtrak Cascades, and responsible for seeing that the crew running revenue service trains are those who tested running the trains over the bypass Z-curve. Or go back further in time, and get the Lege to not cheap out, and build a straighter curve instead.

    I honestly still don’t know who is in charge of Amtrak Cascades, and I remain befuddled that they, whoever “they” are, didn’t decide to go back to the Lege to ask for funding to fix the Z-curve. The latter probably won’t happen until the former gets sorted out. And, oh yeah, build overpasses or underpasses in the neighborhoods where the train is running 70 mph at grade.

    1. Although the curve catastrophe occurred on Rogoff’s watch, Earl is not without some blame. The design and most of construction including the signals, warning systems and training manuals were done during her watch. Rogoff should have not rushed to open the line without better driver training, but the core design failure was before he arrived.

      And let’s not forget that there have been many more involuntary (non-suicide) fatalities on MLK since 2010 than have occurred on the Point Defiance bypass.

      1. Which agency approved the design? Which agency wrote the training manuals? Which agency conducted the training? Which agency set the opening date? Which agency designated staff for opening day?

      2. The curve was identified as a problem early on. The FRA said the only way they would consider it safe to operate is if PTC signals were operable.

        The line being approved for operation without the required PTC signals seems like a Rogoff problem to me.

    2. As the NTSB discovered, the problem wasn’t with who was in charge, it was that apparently NO ONE was in charge.

      I’m of the mindset that it was rushed into service, and that led to inadequate training. I haven’t pinned down what that deadline was, but it’s rumored that qualifying for federal funds was a reason.

      But all sorts of things aligned to set that failure up.

  9. Brent raises a good point: Rogoff got off pretty lightly for something between involuntary and voluntary manslaughter. So have those who created such dishonest estimates used to sell ST 1, 2 and 3. There is just no personal responsibility for those in a government agency, and they know that.

    1. Management of private companies pretty much works the same. Management comes in, makes a huge mess of things over the course of a few years, then gets paid a big bonus to go away.

      Why would you expect a public agency to operate any different?

  10. She is not yet the new CEO. The Selection Committee has announced that they’re recommending her to the full Board of Directors for consideration.

  11. I will note that the Nashville chapter that Tim participated in resulted in a referendum failure. The vote that resulted from nMotion was only 36% in favor and 64% against.

    There were many reasons for the failure, including a effort to pursuance the poor black community that it would lead to worse transit service by a conservative group funded by the Koch brothers. So it’s not a personal ding on Timm.

    1. So the city is is going to axe a station at Dravus to keep a not-yet-built $60 million basketball practice facility — which could be just about anywhere?

      You know that will be the upshot since ST refuses to consider putting the station underneath Dravus. I guess they just don’t want to pay for a new bridge there.

      Wow, just wow. What a Parliament of Fools.

      1. I guess Amazon wasn’t keen on closing Westlake for a decade. I would consider Amazon a “stakeholder”.

      2. Mike, that’s the result if the site north of Dravus is forbidden by the City, because ST refuses to put the station under the Dravus bridge for some unspoken reason. It’s an obviously ideal site because it allows buses to stop directly above the platform, but they’ve pretzeled the options to be the elevated cathedral above 15th or the site a block north of Dravus. If the City blocks that site AND elevated above 15th (because “sightlines”), there’s no place left for a station.

      3. Daniel, I actually think the Terry site is better (if there is an entrance south of Denny, a big “if”), so I don’t think The Snake is a bad idea. If they’re going to spend $3 billion on stations between Virginia and Elliott and refuse to use cut-and-cover, putting the southernmost station under Terry is an improvement. It’s closer to the centroid of development along Denny Way.

      4. Losing Dravus would be disastrous from a grid perspective. No transit grid is perfect. Jarrett Walker does call the one in Vancouver almost perfect though ( Those east-west buses run very frequently because the north-south trains run very frequently (and quickly).

        We have a little of that in Seattle, especially north of the ship canal. Buses run on 45th and 65th, connecting with the stations. They do make turns (eventually) but they are largely east-west buses complementing the north-south train.

        There is very little of that with Ballard and West Seattle Link. Partly it is the geography. The train runs on the west side of Queen Anne hill — you can’t run a bus down that side of the hill. Even if you did, there is nothing there (Expedia is a minor destination). There is a little bit of it on Queen Anne, as riders can head down the hill (towards downtown) and then get to a SLU, Denny or Ballard. But the first two are very short trips (involving deep tunnels) and might be just as good with the 8. Meanwhile, Ballard requires backtracking (a more frequent 29 would be better). It will be an improvement for getting to Ballard, but will be similar to transferring to the D.

        The biggest improvement to the grid for all of ST3 is Magnolia. With a station at Dravus, you could funnel all buses there, and all the buses would then go to the UW (via Nickerson). This would be a dramatic change for Magnolia, as they would have good service to Nickerson, Fremont and the UW, as well as a good connections to Ballard Link.

        All of that would be blown up without a Dravus Station. There is no way the bus would head down to Smith Cove and then turn around and head to the UW. OK, sure, anything is possible, but it makes the grid worse, not better. Either service from Magnolia to the UW runs less often, or is less direct (or both).

        Magnolia is not high density, but that could easily change. The east side is reasonably dense, but the middle especially could use more low rise. Seattle policies are definitely trending that way. It would be a shame if Magnolia increases its density right about the time they finally finish Ballard Link, only for Magnolia to be screwed out its station.

      5. I don’t think The Snake is a bad idea

        I agree. I think it is the prettiest lipstick we can put on this pig.

        1) With the snake, the “Denny” station is farther to the east, which is a good thing. I would but it even further east, but this is better than the alternative.

        2) The Harrison Stop is much better than the one by Mercer and Aurora, although neither are great.

        3) The Urbanist criticizes the Mercer station because it is farther away from the Seattle Center. That is actually a good thing (they have it backwards). The Seattle Center is not as big a destination as the surrounding neighborhoods, and people are more likely to walk farther to the Center. Besides, the monorail covers the Center reasonably well (a stop at Mercer has more coverage). That being said, the other argument against the Mercer stop — its depth, and lack of elevators to the surface — is a concern. It is a trade-off, and because of that, the 1st and Republican Station may be better (but not by much).

      6. Ross, I agree that omitting Dravus would be folly. I was not trying to advocate that. But in the absence of a willingness by ST to put a station underneath Dravus — yes, it would require raising the roadway a bit, adding costs to replace the current viaduct across Interbay Yard — if not Thorndyke the only other option is center-running elevated down Fifteenth West, which the City seems determined to reject because of “sightline” issues for drivers.

        Your comment about The Snake and LQA is spot on. Gates Foundation basically sucks, but maybe having the southern SLU station on Terry or even a block farther east means the middle one could be under Dexter and Harrison perhaps? That hasn’t been studied and it doesn’t give an “Aurora Intercept”, but it would serve the neighborhood better.

        There is some development in the triangle between Elliott and First North West of Seattle Center that would be better served by a station adjacent to the stadium, but I agree strongly that Mercer and Queen Anne reaches most of that and goes further into the dense bottom-of-the-hill neighborhood for seven-day demand.

      7. Agree with Ross on #3 RE proximity to the arena… but I do tend to think there is most density south of Mercer than north, so I would prefer the station a smidge further south, ignoring the arena.

        RE: replacing the Dravus viaduct – is this a bit like replacing the 4th Ave viaduct with the ID station? Sure it’s a bummer to fund all that with ‘transit’ money, but if the bridge/viaduct needs to be replaced this generation using Seattle’s money, having it funded by ST3 isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      8. AJ, yes, it’s very similar, but I believe considerably easier and less expensive.

      9. I do tend to think there is most density south of Mercer than north

        I doubt that. I would guess the opposite based on an aerial view, but it is likely fairly close. It is hard to draw a conclusion from the census data (because the census blocks are too tracts are too big) but the biggest ones are north of Mercer.

      10. AJ, whether more or less is south of Mercer, it is incontrovertible that the walkshed south of Mercer is half Seattle Center. Yes, it has big pulses of activity, but most of the time it’s not that much of a trip origin or destination.

        The triangle to the south means that nearly all the development, certainly all of it north of John and east of maybe Fourth West, would be in the walkshed of a station at Mercer and Queen Anne.

        Of course, it’s also true that the hill truncates the walkshed to the north, at least for some people. A LONG time ago I worked for DSHS in downtown and lived on top of the hill. I was just a poor “adminstrative trainee” (glorified typist) so I walked both ways most days.

        Fortunately it was downhill in the morning……

    2. What’s the status of WSBLE? The feedback period ended over a month ago, so why is the CID community sending a letter now, and why is the city introducing new alternative preferences now? I thought they did all that a month ago. Is ST revealing a summary of the feedback and more new preferences now, or what is it doing?

      1. “What? There were ‘comments’? We never heard about any ‘comments’!”

      2. I am sure there were many public comments which makes those folks parties of record with the right to appeal. We are just getting to the publicity part.

        Usually an agency will create a matrix of the comments that shows the name of the commenter, date, and brief summary of the comment that the agency manipulates. Sometimes I have seen a summary of my public comments that is completely different than what I wrote. To get the actual comments you have to file a PRA request.

        Then the agency culls a few public comments that support its preferred alternative and creates a PowerPoint presentation for the decision makers — who never read the actual public comments — and manipulates the process and decision.

        The difference with WSBLE is the stakeholders are so powerful and no doubt have very sophisticated folks representing their interests. Amazon, the CID, Ballard, West Seattle, Harrell, the Chamber, Seattle Center, are not going to be rolled.

        Usually if the project makes sense, like Northgate Link (certainly pre-pandemic) and there is enough money to buy off neighborhoods like Roosevelt an alternative can be found that overcomes the years of disruption.

        I don’t see that with WSBLE. First ST is looking for ways to cut costs. Second the major issue is whether to put all the inconvenience on the surface for staging and shallow tunnels or underground on Link users with interlining. And third any compelling case for light rail post pandemic is weak because congestion is weak and fewer folks are riding transit. The CID stakeholders oppose WSBLE because they correctly believe it won’t benefit them, or be worth the years of disruption with East Link set to open in 2024 now.

        I think the major power player will be Harrell because he will be the prime advocate for moving any inconvenience (to business and car mobility) from the surface to underground which means either a deep bore DSTT2 ST cannot afford or interlining that mostly inconveniences — for years — transit riders.

        Harrell needs to revitalize downtown business and retail NOW. WSBLE will never do that (although East Link could help and it is basically finished in downtown although that depends on revitalizing downtown).

        So any inconvenience from the construction of WSBLE needs to be underground, even if it means closing sections of DSTT1 for years and busing riders between stations.

        WSBLE is just such a bad transit project it doesn’t benefit any of the stakeholders except WS and Ballard, and only then marginally if the lines and stations are underground and someone else is paying. Contrast that with the anticipation of the reopening if the WS bridge that will change every resident’ life in WS.

      3. “Comments weighted based on the STAKEHOLDERS vs. mere stakeholders.”

        Written public comments from individuals are irrelevant. The decision makers never read them, half or more are gibberish, and the agency manipulates their summary to support the project since the agency and its staff have a vested interest in seeing the project begun, even if they know they don’t have the revenue to complete the project.

        Real Stakeholders hire attorneys and lobbyists, like the stadium group hiring the former mayor of Redmond. Some Stakeholders are so important — like Amazon — the powers that be reach out to them. Others like the CID merchants have good relations with the press, and can use race and privilege as a lever.

        This time the Chamber and business interests have an ally in Harrell, and Harrell promised he would clean up the parks, streets, reduce crime, and restore business and retail vibrancy downtown. He better because that is where Seattle gets 2/3 of its revenue. The voters did not vote for Harrell because he promised to deliver WSBLE, and probably at least half don’t even know what those initials stand for.

        Many on this blog see transit — and especially light rail — as a good in itself. Others see transit as some kind of equity or ideological weapon, or the funding is unlimited. It is neither: transit is simply another (heavily subsidized) mode to get from A to B, although you need to want to get to B. Otherwise pretty stupid to spend billions and billions of dollars on light rail to where folks don’t want to go since its route is fixed, and post pandemic the reality is we really don’t know where folks want to go to, on transit or in a car. Except we know not downtown.

        What is killing ST 3 right now (despite it is unaffordable) is virtually every powerful Stakeholder from Ballard to the Seattle Center to downtown business groups to Amazon to Nordstrom to the CID to the stadium groups to West Seattle (which is hyperventilating over the reopening of the bridge this year) to most importantly Harrell don’t see how WSBLE benefits them at all. How will WSBLE help Harrell restore downtown Seattle business and retail? It won’t even if it could be completed in the next five years. No transit can do that. Transit in fact depends on the vibrancy which creates the congestion and parking shortage that is transit’s best advantage.

        Part of that is the route itself. Spending billions to move folks from West Seattle and Ballard from buses to light rail — often with worse first/last mile access — does not benefit the stakeholders. Plus with the bridge WS has fabulous car access to I-90 and I-5. Second compared to say East Link those “customers” are not very coveted, and are on transit to boot.

        Naturally the posts on this blog analyze WSBLE from a transit user’s perspective, although some very intelligent voices still don’t see the value in spending $12 to $20 billion on WSBLE, although others believe ANY transit, no matter how bad, is good transit. But transit riders are stakeholders with a small “s”.

        My advice is to identify the big Stakeholders, and then explain how WSBLE benefits them, because right now they don’t see it. They don’t want a bunch of ideological crap, or transit for transit’s sake crap, or how they don’t understand how great switching transit riders from buses to light rail after 10-15 years of construction will be for them when the current light rail post pandemic isn’t a real benefit to them, or it will help transit riders who live in small apartments or help densify the city, because again those are stakeholders with a small “s” and you can do that with buses better and for way less.

        I bet Timm is going to look at WSBLE and say, “I don’t get it. Is Seattle this rich? Is the transit budget this flush post pandemic, because Rogoff gave some pretty dire warnings as he was leaving. Is there a pot of gold I missed? Why is every major Stakeholder opposed? Why aren’t Central and East Link bigger deals, before WSBLE”.

        Watch Harrell. It is existential he keep Amazon and Nordstrom, and the CID customer, and then somehow attract the commuter back downtown. If WSBLE does not help him do that — in his eyes — then I don’t see it happening because we are spending up to $20 billion for a fixed rail route when folks today don’t want to go to that “B”, on any mode.

        Don’t tell me how WSBLE benefits you, tell me how it benefits Stakeholders with a big “S”.

      4. When we talk about stakeholders, how are they defined?

        What came to mind is that if Amazon is a Stakeholder,
        WHO Exactly is Amazon?

        Jeff Bezos?
        Amazon Management?
        Amazon Employees?

        How do we know who speaks for who?

      5. “But transit riders are stakeholders with a small ‘s’.”

        This is a wonderful statement!

        By the same logic – SOV Drivers are also stakeholders with a small “s”.

      6. “But transit riders are stakeholders with a small ‘s’.”
        “This is a wonderful statement!
        “By the same logic – SOV Drivers are also stakeholders with a small “s”.

        Collectively car drivers are a bigger “s” than transit riders because there are more of them and they have more money. And they pay for a lot of the costs of roads that are necessary for buses and freight. But SOV’s are not stakeholders when it comes to WSBLE because they won’t use it, although some want to see cars as the bogeyman for everything, even the ridiculous cost of WSBLE.

        My criticism is of WSBLE, not all transit, because I think it is a poor use of funds, and the Stakeholders can’t see how it benefits them. Putting aside the argument of “induced demand”, generally roads and highways are built not just where folks want to go, but where they are going now so the capacity needs increasing. Not surprisingly much of Link parallels those roads because the planners didn’t try to tell drivers where to live or to go, just built where they do. People like to drive. Live with it, and plan for it.

        Of course, just like transit and electricity we spend all our money making sure to meet peak capacity. Most roads and most transit today — certainly Link — are over capacity due to the loss of the peak customer, and I don’t see a lot of need for new roads, although our existing infrastructure is in dire shape. This means lower gas tax revenue and lower transit farebox recovery, but ideally lower road and transit costs/investment due to not having to meet peak demand.

        Car owners have an advantage because they can synchronize frequency and need immediately simply by not driving. I think more of the future of transit should be a reservation system because the money is just not there to continually run a frequent grid to every place if the riders are not there. Buses and trains should be full when they run. Either cut runs with low ridership, or cut frequency, but make up for that with a reservation system so transit can plan.

      7. As far as I can tell, the more a neighborhood is low income and bipoc, the greater the likelihood they’ll be called stakeholders. I don’t think I’ve ever read the words “the stakeholder community of Hunts Point.”

      8. There’s no Link project in Hunt’s Point for them to be stakeholders of. They were surely stakeholders in the 520 rebuild, although the state may not use that terminology.

        The ST projects affecting Hunt’s Point were a concept study in the 2010s of a 520 Link line Ballard-Redmond, separable at U-District. The study concluded the eastern half was too close to East Link and would cannibalize riders more than add any benefit. I don’t know if Hunts Point paid attention to it or what they said, and I doubt there would be a Yarrow Point Station, although you, our star reporter whom we’re luck to have, could investigate it and write a Page 2 article on it. There are other ideas of a UDistrict-Kirkland line that might go past Hunts Point or on a Sand Point-Kirkland crossing or around the north end of the lake, but none of them have advanced to concrete projects.

        Hunts Point is also very small, so it would get a small amount of consideration. The towns west of Bellevue would probably all be lumped together into one stakeholder. We transit advocates and riders are one stakeholder. Each city, large business, and entity like the Port is another stakeholder. But I doubt that tiny towns would get equal status to real cities like Redmond or Mountlake Terrace. And they wouldn’t have permitting power over the 520 right of way I would think.

      9. On the contrary, Hunts Point has the money to punch way above their own weight. You piss them off, they have the $$$ to delay Link indefinitely with endless lawsuits, just like the Missing Link for the Burke Gilman Trail. And since nobody that lives there will ever ride it, neither the residents for their council members will care how long it’s delayed, or even if it gets built at all, so long as whatever impacts to their neighborhood they oppose don’t happen.

  12. “The Seattle Center Foundation submitted a letter opposing the Republican Street option and backing Mercer Street [for construction reasons] and also expressed worry about losing “’legacy trees’ on the Seattle Center campus, which the City’s presentation flagged as well, in addition to arguing the transit-oriented development (TOD) potential would be greater with Mercer.”

    Zoning in SLU tapers down to the lake, so TOD on Mercer would be shorter than further south and wouldn’t be able to accommodate as many people. Also, Mercer Street is a wide stroad, and probably noisy, so not the best place for TOD.

    The more we move the alignment away from where the pedestrians are, the less there’s a point to building it at all.

    “In West Seattle Junction and Ballard, the City’s resolution backs tunnel options, in the case of Ballard, at 15th Avenue NW.”

    At least somebody besides transit advocates doesn’t like 14th anymore.

    “Mayor Harrell has criticized the very deep stations (about 190 feet deep) as untenable however… King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci criticized the very deep options”

    That sounds encouraging.

    Now if only even one official would stand up for good transfers between the lines.

    1. Mike, the snake looks like it uses the Gates Foundation site for SLU, and then slithers over to Mercer for Lower Queen Anne. That was one of the many options in the original spaghetti bowl of multi-colored lines around Seattle Center.

      It does use the Terry site which is closer to the centroid of development in “south SLU”. That’s more like Jonathan’s idea for a third SLU station around Fairview and Denny, which I like, but probably is off the table.

  13. Please, take her off of our hands. She did a bad job of mismanaging Hampton Roads Transit’s light rail so we pawned her off to GRTC with its half implement bus system with very little express bus service (the 95x to Petersburg, for example, used to run all day and the 102x to Doswell has not been restored even though it had huge summer seasonal ridership because of Kings Dominion).

  14. Daniel, I guess I shouldn’t have left off the “/snark” tag….

    Jim, I expect those “STAKEHOLDERS” are probably “Steakholders” as well.

    /snark [for Daniel]

  15. This article showed up in the Urbanist today. It’s about the Columbia City tile replacement and the draconian service reductions proposed to fix it:

    It makes several obvious points which I won’t rehash here.

    I list it here because this is the kind of thing where a good CEO would make a difference. They would get that the service disruption would cost them riders in the short-term and even in the long-term, reducing their revenue more than the added cost of doing the work on nights and weekends. I even doubt that Rogoff would have endorsed this planned disruption.

    Perhaps more disturbingly, it calls into question the entire work culture of ST in 2022 to me. Why would staff even let such a ridiculous proposal reach the announcement stage? I’m afraid that any CEO won’t have the power to rewrite these pea brains under her. Will Timm rescue the agency bureaucracy from itself, or will she play nice and not change anything?

    The Board, this week, needs to demand that “tile-mageddon” needs to be prevented and shame those that propose it. It’s not offensive to shame someone when you damage the lives of tens of thousands of riders when there are other reasonable options.

    1. “would have local media conjuring Armageddon if it was primarily motorists affected rather than transit riders.”

      Interesting because I-5 has having the same thing this summer: lane reductions to replace the expansion joints in SODO. And the media is concerned about traffic jams, which would add more than 20 minutes to travel time. It’s also interesting that the CID wants — and ST might agree — to move the station away from the bulk of everyday riders to avoid temporary construction impacts — but ST is making no effort to mitigate the impact of single-tracking Rainier Valley. It could run a bus bridge in parallel with Link to compensate for the lower frequency.

      1. A bus bridge should be the default. Even with the extra few minutes it takes to change modes twice, it would still be faster than waiting at least 10 more to board a less frequent train. Plus, service to other stations north of Mt Baker or south of Othello would continue to operate at more frequent current headways.

        It’s stupid to reduce the DSTT and northward to 20 minutes. Just flat out stupid! It’s incredible that they even propose this after the Northgate Link restructure.

    2. I emailed the board and Alex Pedersen (not a fan of him, but he’s my council rep and chairs the Seattle transportation committee) over the weekend. No response yet but hopefully if there’s enough complaints it can make future work planning take into account actual riders rather than just treating Link like an engineering lab to be tweaked whenever there’s a whim.

    3. They had so much time to get this done when Link service was already reduced. They could have done it during connect 2020. Or during the COVID service reduction period. The fact that this is requiring a separate service reduction seems to suggest poor planning.

      1. Mike, not knowing in 2020 that the catenary in the DSTT was wearing badly enough to require shutting down the system on short notice in 2022 is actually worse than making a decision not to fix it during Connect 2020 because…because…well, JUST BECAUSE, damn it!

    4. Why did the tile fail in 12.5 years? Is this going to be another escalator problem? Or is it a one time mistake?

      1. Cheap tile; cheap escalators; cheap catenary wire. Cheap-cheap-cheap…

        Sound Transit needs to upgrade its procurement.

      2. @Tom. I agrree with you 100% with the escalator situation in ST built stations since 2009. I also agree with you that they may have cheaped out on other things. I just don’t know. The escalators in the original Metro Tunnel are old. They should have been replaced when the tunnel was closed for 2 years in 2005. The 2 year dusruption was already there. I do not remember those escalators breaking down as often until the last few years. So Metro bought better equipment. At least that is my conclusion. They did not keep them up. Unfortunate for us. Maybe they didn’t care because they knew they were going to eventually lose access to the tunnel. Or bad planning. That is another issue to debate all together.

        There is more than one rain exposed above ground station with tile that looks the same to me. They are only replacing one station. What happened at that station? Did they mess it up? Did they get bad contractors that month, or are they not telling us that all the stations ST built above ground will need this soon?

        Further down the road when Link becomes a more mature rail system, will this become the norm? I am less annoyed by the handling of the disruption. I am really annoyed by the cause of it.

  16. Here’s an interview question I would ask ST CEO candidates. “The San Francisco School Board recently eliminated the word chief from job titles, saying it is offensive and racist. Sound Transit has numerous jobs with the word chief in the title. If you become CEO, will you eliminate that word from job titles? If not, why not?”

    1. Hopefully the candidate is more literate than the SFSB and is aware Chief is a term from Latin (via Old French) and is not borrowed from Native American culture.

    2. Is that the board that got voted out of office for focusing on renaming schools and school mascots rather than on the real problems?

      1. I don’t recall a school board being voted out but SF just recalled their City Attorney that didn’t want to prosecute and did away with cash bail. The vote wasn’t even close which is surprising in SF when presumably most of the 7% that moved out were the more conservative voters.

      2. The board members were out earlier this year. So this is the “more moderate” mayorally chosen school board, I think.

      3. The first ouster was after the board tried to rename George Washington school because he was a slaveholder. That burns me up because he also gave us our democracy. Would they rather have slavery under a democracy where they might be able to change the situation, or would they rather have slavery under a king or dictator where they can’t change it? The San Francisco voters were not amused and booted the board.

        There are also a few people who want to rename our state for the same reason.

        So adding up moderate gains in the past two years, that’s Mayor Harrell, Attorney Davidson, the San Francisco school board, and SF’s attorney.

        Eliminating “chief” is distasteful but at least it’s not canceling our founding fathers, who tried hard to create a balanced democracy and prevent autocrats from taking over. And who hoped that a future generation could do what they couldn’t, ending slavery. is great for getting detailed etymologies. ‘Chief (n) c. 1300, “head, leader, captain; the principal or most important part of anything;” from Old French chief “leader, ruler, head” of something, “capital city” (10c., Modern French chef), from Vulgar Latin *capum, from Latin caput “head,” also “leader, chief person; summit; capital city” (from PIE root *kaput- “head”). Meaning “head of a clan” is from 1570s; later extended to headmen of Native American tribes (by 1713; William Penn, 1680s, called them kings). Commander-in-chief is attested from 1660s.’

      4. The question is what do these elections in CA mean for the rest of the country, and transit specifically.

        The problem is progressives vote for folks like Thomas or the DA from San Francisco, but then seem shocked when the candidate the independents and more moderate voters vote for to stop crime is right wing when it comes to all the other progressive issues. Ironically the people who voted to retain the DA in San Francisco were mostly wealthy white progressives whose wealth shields them from crime, whereas minorities and the working class voted overwhelmingly to remove him.

        No one cares about transit when the residential parks are filled with tents or citizens are afraid to go to downtown Seattle. Harrell is not a hard piping conservative like we will see in Congress next year (and possibly sooner depending on some congressional elections in CALIFORNIA) but he isn’t interested in transit right now, that is for sure.

        “Defund the police” may have been the dumbest political slogan in history. Of course the police were not defunded, and now every northern blue city is beside themselves trying to hire back police officers while citizens are irate over crime, but that slogan and the riots and rising crime will do more harm to transit than anything else over the next decade because crime and public safety were on the ballot in 2020 when R’s swept the states during a census year, and the Supreme Court is about to give the greenlight to gerrymandering. Politicians who are “tough on crime” generally are not transit advocates.

        Independents and moderate voters are interested in peripheral issues when crime is low, public safety high, there is no war, they have jobs, and schools are good. After those, all the rest is fluff. My guess is next year, and through the rest of the decade, transit will be as popular in Congress as “intersectionality” and CRT (after the hearings start on the Jan. 6 committee members).

        Yesterday’s elections, and the Supreme Court considering whether to preempt courts from interfering in state gerrymandering when R’s control 2/3 of states that likely to go to 3/4 in Nov., spell bad news for transit. If CA is going red better batten down the hatches and forget about the feds being part of WSBLE’s “third party funding”. Progressives in this part of the country really don’t see someone like Tom Cotton very often, who truly BELIEVES he is doing God’s work. Trump is just a charlatan: Cotton is the real deal.

        Many times before I have noted that when crime and public safety are on the ballot they are the only issues on the ballot (although high gas prices and inflation don’t help). The folks the moderates and independents vote for to end crime tend to be very conservative on every other issue. I doubt anyone in Congress right now is thinking about transit, certainly R’s, and if I were planning for transit I would suggest little to no federal funding through the rest of the decade. Don’t be surprised if R’s take all three branches in 2024 that $108 billion in the infrastructure bill for transit somehow gets reappropriated with a new Sec. of transportation.

        If I were Timm, I would assume “third party funding” for WSBLE does not include the feds, probably through the decade. “Transit” is going to need to hibernate for the next 8 years or so, at least until crime and public safety are not issues on the ballot so independent and moderate voters care about the peripheral issues again.

      5. I agree, nobody in Congress is thinking about transit right now, and it is quite likely that whatever money was allocated to transit in infrastructure bill will quietly worm its way over to the highway system. I expect no less of national politicians, given that transit riders, as a group, have always has had so little political power, even compared to other groups with lower numbers (e.g. transgenders). They’re all concentrated into a tiny number of congressional districts like WA-07, with huge Democratic leans. Nor do transit riders have much of a presence in swing states. According to Wikipedia, just 1 of the top 10 transit cities by per-capita ridership, is in a swing state, along with just 3 additional cities in the next 10. Transit riders also tend to be disproportionately immigrant (can’t vote) and disproportionately poor (unlikely to vote).

        However, none of this is really news. It’s been like this forever, and always will be. The only way to get anything done, transit-wise, to speak of, is through local tax dollars. On the bright side, this means that the nationwide political pendulum switching between D and R has negligible impact in the quality or quantity of everyday transit in the Puget Sound reason. That stuff’s decided by the local races which the national pundits don’t pay attention to.

        Yes, Defund the Police was a dumb slogan, and progressives are paying for it. Good news, for them, though: voters have a very short memory, and after a few years of Republican rule to put the GOP shortcomings forefront in voters’ minds, “Defund the Police” will be long forgotten about, and, if they play their cards right, progressives will get a second chance. Time will tell if they find a way, again, to screw it up.


    This is an interesting article if you have an online subscription to The Seattle Times, and I think reminds us that tunneling is always risky, which is why at least a 30% cost contingency is necessary for DSTT2, probably closer to 50% for the tunneling part if it is running along or under very expensive office tower foundations.

    It should also be a reminder to the four other subareas to confirm that their obligation to DSTT2 is $275 million each, not a combined 50% of whatever DSTT2 costs. Of course I don’t think three of those subareas even have the $275 million so it would be like getting blood out of a turnip.

    That was always the irony IMO. The subareas were originally designed to force N. King Co. to pay a disproportionate amount of the spine because Snohomish and S. King Counties did not have the money. But then ST 3 assumed these same subareas — along with Pierce which is just as poor — would each have an additional $275 million lying around, let alone $500+ million, for their share of DSTT2, when ST had to have known the cost estimates and revenue estimates in ST 2 and 3 would mean these poor subareas did not have the revenue to even complete the projects in their subareas.

    1. As you note in passing, the buildings on the hill in downtown Seattle have foundation elements that go down as much as two hundred feet into the hillside. Since there’s one on nearly every block from Madison to Union between Fourth and I-5, the geology of that hillside is pretty well known!

      The article you referenced about the storm sewer TBM states the boulder in question “got dropped by a glacier about 15,000 years ago”. But you know what? The hill in downtown Seattle wasn’t covered by that glacier (the one that gouged out Puget Sound), or it wouldn’t still be a hill.


      1. Tom, I’m pretty sure everything around Seattle, including the hills, were covered in ice. I believe it was 3000 feet thick.

      2. Tom, I am assuming you are too cheap to subscribe to the Seattle Times. If you did, and read the article, you would note King Co. is the lead agency, along with SPU. As a property owner in King Co. I pay well over $1000/year for my King Co. sewer service because it is a regional service. So there is no glee.

        You would have also learned that the agencies were able to break up the rock and continuing drilling.

        And maybe you missed it, although it was repeated in the Times’ article, but the issues Big Bertha ran into in 2013 were in the same area of fill as 4th and 5th Ave. downtown.

        Did I state this unanticipated issue with the rock prohibited building DSTT2. No, what I said is the project cost for DSTT2 needs to be upgraded to the actual cost, and ANY project of this size requires the standard 30% cost contingency (as opposed to 10%), and probably higher if digging a deep bore tunnel next to foundations that as you note extend 200′. Do you really think a large rock is as big a financial risk as a 200′ foundation for a very expensive and very tall office tower? On each side of the street the whole way up 4th or 5th? Do you even understand the purpose of cost contingencies for large public projects? Have you learned nothing from ST 1, 2 and 3?

        How you get to the Koch brothers or environmental banditry from my request that DSTT2 be properly estimated for cost with at least a standard 30% cost contingency because tunnelling up 4th or 5th will have unanticipated risks is beyond me. From what I can tell nearly every poster on this blog is concerned about the costs for DSTT2, cost contingencies, and whether it is affordable for N. King Co. or the four other subareas. Are they all shills for the Koch brothers? Sometimes you badly hurt any credibility you might have about tunnel design with your anger and foolish posts,

      3. Bertha ran into the pipe in the flat mudfill used to turn the Duwamish swamps into SoDo. Yes, there is similar fill underneath Union Station and on down to the proposed portal at Massachussetts, so there might indeed be junk in the fill there. But the area on the hillside is completely disssimilar; it is not fill.

        I did read that article and of course the operators were able to break up the boulder. As it said, they had to change the cutting head to be more like it would be drilling through solid rock, rather than soil.

        By the way, this is a very good argument against a deep bore station in the International District and a bored tunnel south of it. Cut and cover may be messy, loud and ugly, but it does not depend on a (very slowly) whirling cutting blade not getting jammed by a piece of old pipe in landfill.

        I admit I mis-spoke when I said “from Madison to Union”. I meant “from James to Union”, or even Washington and north. And I guess Sam is correct that the ice was wider than the gashes it made (modern Puget Sound and Lakes Washington and Sammamish). So I was just flat wrong about that.

        Still, unless First Hill was a terminal or lateral moraine, and according to an in-depth article in the Times from 1997 ( it doesn’t appear to be, the soil isn’t filled with boulders. The deepest of the glacier-deposited layers is the one with the mega-rocks and tends to be closest to the current water.

      4. The cost estimates include contingency, Dan. You keep repeating that you don’t trust ST’s estimates, and then demanding that they produce more estimates. You set an impossible standard, and are therefore not worth engagement.

        Tom, I’d suggest reading “Too High and Too Steep,” an excellent chronicle of local geology.

        I’ll put on my Licensed Geologist hat to explain that Seattle is underlain by a comically thick layer of various glacial deposits which are variable in composition, and routinely frustrate any attempt to model subsurface geology with precision. “Bedrock” is extremely deep below the surface. The depositional environments that created our landscape were chaotic and the subsurface environment is extremely difficult to predict.

        Bertha ran into a stainless steel monitoring well casing that was not supposed to be there (was listed as “decommissioned” but decommissioning was supposed to include removal, not just closure-in-place). The only reason WSDOT didn’t have to foot the bill was because the contractor (Hitachi Zosen) tossed the evidence. In our neck of the woods, our TBMs must be designed to handle all possible lithologies, from sticky clay to saturated sand to solid granite. Unfortunately, stainless steel is neither mud nor stone, and as Hitachi Zosen discovered, it tends to make a mess of your metal-headed machinery.

        Mudhoney was designed to handle solid granite, but it seems a boulder of this size burned through their cutting heads faster than they expected. I’m reminded of the story of how during the excavation of the BNSF tunnel, a large tree stump was encountered and had to be chopped apart deep below the streets of the city. All sorts of wild stuff is down there.

      5. Nathan, several groups on the Eastside questioned the $2.2 billion cost estimate for DSTT2 in 2016. I didn’t understand.

        What I ask for is:

        1. An honest cost estimate for DSTT2, especially deep bore. I am no expert but the best estimates I have seen in today’s dollars is $4.4 billion (Seattle subway estimated $3.65 billion a few years ago).

        2. At least a 30% cost contingency, which is standard on much less risky projects than a DBT along 5th or 4th where the real estate is so expensive. Maybe you have seen the problems ST has with the I-90 bridge.

        3. That my subarea — the only one that can afford its contribution to DSTT2 and has already subsidized N. King Co. and its gold plated transit with billions — has its contribution to DSTT2 capped at $275 million based on ST’s estimate of $2.2 billion to complete DSTT2 that you apparently believe.

        If you tell me, and my subarea, to deposit our $275 million and that is the end of our obligation to WSBLE. I can live with that.

        But don’t take our $275 million — and you KNOW the other subareas don’t have their $275 million — and ask for more or another dishonest “realignment” or half complete DSTT2 and cry for help because you are an imbecile.

        Tell me and my subarea we are truly spectators to WSBLE then my concerns end. But I know they won’t end if N. King Co. begins digging.

      6. Dan, your first two points are already well-accounted. You simply must learn to read, and then must learn to do your own research.

        Subarea contributions are going to be up to the board. Write an angry letter to Claudia Balducci and whomever else you feel represents you.

        The floating bridge problems are interesting, but we always knew the first-in-the-world floating train was going to be difficult. I suppose you (as the sole vocal representative of the Eastside) want thanks for personally paying for the entirety of East Link, and this engineering feat.


      7. I just don’t think you quite understand Nathan. Yes the Eastside has subsidized the east/west/east ST buses and built Link across the bridge span and had its park and rides extended in the realignment even though it no longer needs them and will pay for the trains to to Notthgate, but:

        1. The Board cannot abrogate subarea equity. All the “realignment” does is raise more revenue in east King Co. it doesn’t need; We built East Link for $5.5 billion although few will ride it, but we can afford our own folly. How many Issaquah to S. Kirkland rail lines do you want us to build?

        2. The three other subareas don’t have $275 million — let alone $550 million — for DSTT2. Do you understand that reality? They don’t have the ST funding for their own projects, even with the realignment. THEY ARE POOR. That is the reason the N. King Co. subarea runs from the Snohomish Co. line well into S. King Co. I don’t think you get that.

        Why do you think progressives in Seattle first tried to pass HB1334 and then SB5528 to allow Seattle to raise the “third party funding” to complete WSBLE?

        What do you think the amount a SB5528 levy would need to be to complete WSBLE with a standard 30% contingency, even assuming three broke subareas magically came up with their $750 million?

        My guess is $10 billion. Pass a SB5528 levy in Seattle for $10 billion and will believe.

        But don’t be stupid or naive enough to start digging without that $10 billion SB5528 levy.

        It isn’t always other people’s money. Subarea equity means it’s your money.

      8. “you (as the sole vocal representative of the Eastside)”

        Several STBers are on the Eastside.

        “the N. King Co. subarea runs from the Snohomish Co. line well into S. King Co”

        It runs to the south edge of Seattle. North King is Seattle, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park.

        “Why do you think progressives in Seattle first tried to pass HB1334 and then SB5528”

        You certainly have a theory about that. And I wouldn’t call transit fans progressives, or that progressives heavily supported those bills.

      9. The floating bridge problems are interesting, but we always knew the first-in-the-world floating train was going to be difficult.

        Stupid beyond belief. ST is a joke on schedules, budgets and engineering. That’s a proven fact. WSDOT has the same historical record on ALL of our sinking bridges. Doesn’t matter if it’s trains or cars, sinking bridges have a proven history or failure. WSDOT==CheapMost_Expensive.

      10. You misunderstand, Dan, and I’ve already supposed why that’s so. Maybe my words are too multisyllabic. Who knows.

        My point is that Board will decide how subareas contribute to DSTT2, if at all. They will consult their legal and financial teams and either cancel DSTT2, or decide that equal spread of the cost across the subareas is legally defensible. I think they think they’ve already “found” the money – that’s what “realignment” ostensibly achieved. If ST wants to build a second (and shitty) tunnel, they will, and since I can read, I know they think they have the money to do it. Only time will tell if they can pull it off.

        Ever since the depths of the tunnel became public, I’ve been vocal that I think they ought to find a more shallow path, but they think that’s impossible because too many driveways rely on the downtown car sewers – and also rely on some bullshit about “tie-backs” preventing efficient excavation. I think they ought to fire their engineering consultant and fire some Europeans who know how to build since we’ve clearly forgotten how.

        Fundamentally, this region needs high-density electrified transit. You clearly don’t agree. Fortunately for you, Dan, you’ll be long gone before the consequences of your generation’s general myopia become excruciatingly apparent to mine and my children’s.

      11. Daniel, OK, I admit thT you anger me. That’s because this is a blog created to be a place where “transit-positive” citizens can trade insights and ideas which might be helpful to the agencies who provide transit to the area. It also has riders who read and occasionally comment on their particular service area.

        You, however, simply glory in the difficulties and gloat about the mistakes the agencies very obviously make, without the most infinitesimal hint of a solution. It’s just the same litany of “bad planning”, “dishonest promises”, and “there’s no way North King can do this”. At the very least you might compliment some of the “value engineering” ideas people suggest in passing.

        But No.

        You also get a kick out of talking down to the “Urbanist Libtards”

        I am reminded of a sixty-two year old Econ professor who still has to teach bonehead 101 every other year and takes it out on the kids.

      12. “You misunderstand, Dan, and I’ve already supposed why that’s so. Maybe my words are too multisyllabic. Who knows.

        “My point is that Board will decide how subareas contribute to DSTT2, if at all. They will consult their legal and financial teams and either cancel DSTT2, or decide that equal spread of the cost across the subareas is legally defensible. I think they think they’ve already “found” the money – that’s what “realignment” ostensibly achieved. If ST wants to build a second (and shitty) tunnel, they will, and since I can read, I know they think they have the money to do it. Only time will tell if they can pull it off.”

        I am sorry Nathan, but maybe I did misunderstand (maybe it was the multisyllabic words). I was talking about ST 3, and the contribution to DSTT2 from the four other subareas. I don’t think the Board can cancel ST 2 at this point. East Link will be done in 2024, and I think Federal Way Link and Lynnwood Link in 2024. I think the only tunnel involved in ST 2 was the short tunnel in Bellevue, and Bellevue paid half and the eastside subarea paid half, and it is done.

        If in fact you did mean ST 3 and subarea contribution to DSTT2 I am not sure whether the Board does have authority to increase the contribution of the four other subareas above $275 million/each based on ST’s original cost estimate of $2.2 billion that most think is about half the current cost if started today.

        Of course, Pierce, Snohomish and So. King Co. subareas have the perfect defense: they don’t have even the $275 million, even with the “realignment”, unless the Board knows something I don’t, like DSTT2 as designed will really cost only $2.2 billion, or the four other subareas have $550 million each to contribute if the cost is really $4.4 billion. In that case what was the need of the “realignment” that extends completion dates five years concurrently with taxes when inflation is the main problem, along with original lowballed project cost estimates.

        The risk is not to the Board or eastside but to the N. King Co. subarea IMO, because N. King Co. is on the hook for 1/2 the cost of DSTT2 no matter what that the stakeholders want very, very deep, and I don’t think three of the subareas even have their $275 million to contribute to DSTT2.

        I agree I may be dead when WSBLE/DSTT2 is completed and your generation is left paying off the bonds. Don’t be surprised if your fiancé decides to have kids and you find yourself on the eastside looking at SFH’s and SUV’s. At least that is how I ended up on the eastside. It isn’t as bad as some on this blog think.


    This is the elephant in the room for my subarea. From the beginning the unknown has been whether a floating bridge can support a four-car light rail train dropping from the fixed bridge deck to the floating bridge span and then running across the span to the other side every 8 minutes without micro fracturing the concrete. ST’s first engineering company said no.

    ST missed post tensioning, and then the special hinge between the fixed deck and floating span, then recent errors in the concrete beds for the rails, and the pontoon modification. The post tensioning required the rails to be raised on the concrete deck so other complementary forms of transit like buses cannot operate in the center roadway.

    If any damage is to only the center roadway buses could still operate in the HOV lanes like today (especially with such low ridership), and I guess East Link could be an eastside only transit system from Mercer Island to Redmond, with eastside buses truncating at Judkins Park, but if the outer roadways are damaged or the bridge replacement accelerated that would be catastrophic, especially for freight from the port. Most on the eastside familiar with ST doubt ST would admit it if testing showed damage to the bridge from light rail, and we hope WSDOT will be involved in any bridge inspections.

    1. I read the ST piece earlier today. It’s quite troubling but not surprising, as I for one have been very concerned from the very beginning about the technical issues involved with running Link across the I-90 floating bridge. I think all 7,800+ plinths now need to be inspected and those results made public as soon as they are known.

      Gotta love this part in Lindblom’s article:

      “The committee members raised no questions or comments following Lewis’ brief, illustrated presentation.”

    2. The article is basically an update on a situation discovered a couple months ago (bad pliths). They are still investigating the problem. To quote the report:

      Currently, there is no basis to assume the necessity of extensive repairs.

      It seems highly unlikely to jump from “minor repairs” to “extensive repairs” to “we can’t do it”. East Link is going to be built, eventually.

    3. It’s possible we are witnessing (and just don’t know it yet), the creation of the idea that one day Link will need its own rail bridge to cross the lake at I-90. It will be discovered that the floating bridge is not a viable long-term crossing for Link, and that a new bridge will need to be built next to, or above I-90, specifically for rail. I-90 can be used for a limited number of years, but because ST has to constantly repair and replace so many things on the floating bridge for Link to operate, eventually it’ll be concluded that a new bridge is necessary.

      1. Another floating bridge? As has been discussed extensively, Lake Washington is too deep for a regular bridge.

        The bridge has been carrying cars for thirty years, so the idea that trains will break it when cars haven’t seems dubious.

        ST will soon start testing trains on the bridge so we’ll have some preliminary results. If the bridge proves incapable of carrying Link, either right away or ten or twenty years later, a new bridge would have to be a new project, since ST3 didn’t budget for it and it would doubtless be expensive.

        That might cause East King to evaluate alternatives. If cross-lake traffic becomes insignificant long-term as Daniel keeps saying, maybe ST could restore the 550 and make it full-time frequent, which has always been my biggest beef with it and which ST already intended to do when the driver shortage hindered it.

        Another alternative could be to revive the 520 concepts. That’s another floating bridge so it could have the same problems, although since it’s newer maybe its train-carrying features are better. ST studied a Ballard-Redmond line and speculated about a UW-Kirkland line. But now Issaquah Link is right there so it could be extended to UW.

        All this gets say beyond what ST has considered so I don’t think it’s likely at this point. An Issaquah-Ballard line looks good in one sense as it creates a “+” shape that maximizes coverage and minimizes duplication. But would it be the only subway in the world whose main transfer point is three miles outside downtown? There would probably be Eastside objections to not going downtown, and making all of eastern Bellevue and Remond a three-seat ride to downtown. By the time this becomes ready for consideration, the future Eastside demographics and trip patterns will be more clearly known, so that will be a factor.

      2. It’s not that the bridge can’t take the abuse the train dishes out, rather, the train/rails won’t be able to take the long-term abuse the bridge dishes out. What if after a few years of rail service it’s determined Link can’t continue to use the I-90 bridge indefinitely? That they have to plan another way to get across the lake at that location?

      3. “It’s not that the bridge can’t take the abuse the train dishes out, rather, the train/rails won’t be able to take the long-term abuse the bridge dishes out.”


      4. Lake Washington is too deep for a regular bridge.
        BS, 520 is the same depth and span as Tacoma Narrows where they’ve built three bridges and only one of them sank. I-90 is relatively shallow with most of it in the 100′ range. WSDOT kept repeating the lie because they thought a pontoon bridge would be half the cost of a real bridge but because the design failed before it even left dry dock it ended up costing just as much as the suspension bridge estimate. The new Narrows bridge was less expensive than 520.

      5. It’s important to note that Lake Washington is not just too wide and too deep, but the lakebed is an apparently bottomless pit of unconsolidated mud that would be nearly impossible to stabilize. The footings for any off-shore towers would have to be incredibly deep, and an incredible engineering challenge far greater than getting trains to cross a slightly variable change in grade.

      6. 520 is 7.7K ft and 90 is 6.6kt shore to shore, while the Narrows full span of 5.4 ft presumably includes some elevation over land on the approaches?

      7. Not a single engineer — let alone an engineering firm — has suggested that the I-90 bridge can’t handle the train. Not one. What they have said is that a lot of the plinths are messed up. It will take some time to figure out why the plinths are defective, and it will take some time to rebuild them. But it is a huge stretch to suggest that this somehow makes running a light rail train on the bridge impossible.

        This sort of thing can happen with any project. If the materials are defective, then it won’t work. That doesn’t mean the engineering is faulty.

      8. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is 12,831 ft with a span between towers of 6,532 ft. How is the bottomless muck able to secure the anchors that hold the bridge in place or support the piers that support the fixed sections of all the Lk WA bridges? The Narrows opened in 1950 and is still going strong. The 520 Rosellini Bridge opened in 1963 and only made it 56 years with constant repairs of cracks that added so much weight it was floating 3′ lower by the time they had to replace it. Concrete is just a terrible material for a boat & the bridges are considered a vessel (actually many that are rafted together). Hood Canal needs to be replaced on ~20 year schedule (they do parts of it at a time) because of the extra stress in receives from storms and currents.

      9. I wouldn’t get too upset about the bridge crossing for now. The probability is good that the Link trains won’t be a problem. If it is a problem, there are rail technology solutions beyond abandoning the line. ST could look at more ways to distribute weight and vibration. ST could procure lighter vehicles. ST could run shorter trains, closer together if needed. ST could look to converting East Link to rubber tired trains or rubber tired carriers to get trains across the bridge without the PSI beating up the bridge as quickly.

        These are not pretty or cheap or speed enhancing solutions. However, I believe that there are ways to modify it to make it work that are much cheaper and faster than doing something from scratch.

        I have a concern on the impact of lake water so close to the vehicles and tracks and electrical, frankly. I am expecting ST to have to constantly fight back corrosion resulting from lake spray. I wouldn’t even be surprised if lightweight walls or more get eventually installed to reduce the impact. Lake water poses issues that simple rain likely does not.

        Coming full circle back to Tim’s hiring, I’m not convinced that she has the rail engineering and ops background to address this. I sure hope she’s smart enough to tell ST Board members that they also need to get a seasoned rail engineer with broad experience into the administration — and then trust them ( as opposed to an ST lifer who thinks they know everything but doesn’t).

    4. The Spokesman reprinted the Times article here:

      These other problems were noted in it:

      “This is the latest problem for light-rail construction, following a more serious finding that concrete supports near the International District/Chinatown Station had wrong dimensions or weak materials. Hundreds are being rebuilt this year.

      “In another discovery, part of the Bellevue downtown tunnel was too tight for trains to get through, Sound Transit revealed in a new monthly progress report, without further details. But Lebo said Thursday the problem’s been solved, by removing a few inches of concrete in a non-structural wall that houses utilities and an emergency exit, where trains will curve into Bellevue Downtown Station.”

      The magnitude of new tracks and stations planned to come on line is significant. It’s a huge system expansion scheduled in the next 32 months and every part is under construction.

      However, the mistakes noted here did not happen last month. These suggest huge incompetence on the part of ST inspectors.

      It may not be as dramatic, but it does appear that we are literally living out the Simpsons’ monorail episode. The tunnel geometry problem is particularly inexcusable.

      1. “it does appear that we are literally living out the Simpsons’ monorail episode.”

        What happened to the Simpsons’ monorail?

      2. part of the Bellevue downtown tunnel was too tight for trains to get through Come on guys! The minimum radius turns were a bad idea from the gitgo. And knowing they were “minimum” that wasn’t triple checked. Bejesus, build a damn scale model to be sure the computer modeling was done right. It would have made for a nice piece of station art. And now any future light rails vehicles will have a hard limit on size and turning radius which means they could be special order in the future.

        And nylon bolts not fiberglass? I hope this was a misprint and they are maybe using steel bolts into a nylon insert. But still; six top reasons NOT to use nylon fasteners in an application. I looked at commercial concrete fasteners and couldn’t find an example where nylon was used. Another “first in the world” what could go wrong? If they can’t get the damn tunnel right…

      3. This happens a lot more often than you might think. “Non-structural wall” is probably something like a switch box enclosure like you see above ground for traffic lights.

        When they were still operating, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus train was infamous for installing stuff on their cars that would be forcefully removed by an obstacle inside the tunnel under Baltimore. Their train always fit the second time.

        Anyway, that’s why they do clearance checks with a car at low speed to see if it hits stuff that contractors may have installed in the wrong spot.

        I am much more troubled by the failure to do anything about the uncut bolts in the Northgate line, as maintenance raised the alarm about an obstacle in the tunnel but nobody did anything until a train failed there.

        Anyone can have a dictatorial top-down management structure. What makes things actually work is how well stuff that happens at the bottom gets resolved by those further up. Stuff needs to flow both directions for issues to get resolved.

        The whole ISO 9001 system was designed around trying to get organizations, especially large, cumbersome corporations, to respond to quality problems discovered at the bottom because far too often their structure is too dictatorial for feedback from the bottom to go anywhere.

        Only a few transit agencies have organized themselves to this standard practice, though a fair number require it of their procurement.

  19. I am not an engineer so can’t comment on whether Lake Washington is too deep (including the sediment) for a regular bridge. We have always been told it is too deep.

    Mike is correct a separate bridge for East Link is not practical. First I doubt ST would admit such a colossal error, second it would have to somehow access the existing Mt. Baker Tunnel, and third it would have to go where the center roadway is now because property owners on both sides of the lake would object to a separate bridge deck for a light rail bridge, and this time Mercer Island would not foolishly relinquish its SEPA rights without a fight because this would be the opportunity to put the dagger in the bus intercept. I am not sure an EIS would support an expenditure on actual cross lake ridership rather than ST’s inflated ridership estimates used to sell East Link.

    A four-car light rail train running at 50 mph places much larger forces and vibrations on the bridge than cars or trucks on rubber tires. We have been through all of this. Here is the history:

    1. Bridge deck/span hinge.

    Because the bridge deck is fixed and the span “floats” there is a hinge to account for the movement up and down and sideways between the deck and span because water moves, both up and down and side to side. Apparently it works well for cars and trucks.

    However the forces of a four car train going 40 to 50 mph dropping from the deck to the span every 8 minutes would destroy the area of the span where the train drops. The solutions when this was discovered were: 1. run 2 car trains; or 2. run trains at 20 mph.

    The problem was ST had so inflated ridership estimates on East Link — especially across the bridge because ST decided to terminate all buses across the bridge span — even four car trains running every 8 minutes at 50 mph was not enough capacity. In 2017-18 this was the big debate: why bus riders to MI which is the last stop going west if there won’t be the capacity, and it is the smallest and worst station 35′ below grade between the north/south lanes of I-90 that is incredibly loud. Everyone would go upstream at least to S. Bellevue to get on the train, which would screw MI residents.

    So ST took its engineers to Colorado for some testing. Then ST flew Judy Clibborn down who was a state senator from MI and chair of the transportation committee with a degree in home economics and they all returned and said a hinge had been invented that would allow four car trains to run at 50 mph from the bridge deck to span every 8 minutes without damaging the span. We will see if this is true. My understanding is the current barge is laying more cable to reduce the side to side sway of the span.

    2. Post Tensioning and the Bridge Span.

    Long ago ST’s first engineers said you can’t run a four car light rail train across the bridge span because the vibrations run through the rebar like a tuning fork and microfracture the concrete including the pontoons, but ST got new engineers who said that was a not a problem, until around 2017–18 it became a problem again. (I was actually interviewed by King TV when ST first announced its plans to “post tension” the bridge span. My main comment is I certainly hope it works, but ST is not an agency that you can completely trust.

    The solution was post-tensioning, which is not ideal in the engineering world, or so I understand. Whenever concrete is poured the rebar is set in place and then tightened as the concrete dries to “tension” the concrete. ST said it could be done even though the concrete had dried.

    The solutions if post-tensioning does not work are the same as the bridge deck hinge: run smaller trains, or run them at slower speeds.

    The one problem with post-tensioning is it required the rails to be raised off the span surface onto plinths to reduce vibration to the span and rebar, which eliminates any other kind of transportation in the center roadway, (and apparently the design or installation of the plinths are the current problem on the span and the additional 12 month delay).

    3. Solutions.

    If East Link cannot run over the bridge span it would be embarrassing but not the end of the world as long as the outer roadways are not compromised, which unfortunately may depend on ST’s honesty.

    Some solutions may be the same: smaller or slower trains, which based on likely future ridership cross lake is not much of a capacity issue, but I don’t know if 2 car trains running at 20 mph would be adequate if there are no cross-lake buses, or how that would affect frequency from the CID to Northgate on East Link trains.

    The most likely solution is to run buses across the bridge span, and if necessary repurpose the center roadway. Today there is very little cross lake ridership or congestion in the outer roadways or HOV lanes. Buses going west could truncate at Judkins Park, and some could probably go directly to First Hill or SLU because those are not served by Link. Not unlike WSBLE, this would actually be better transit for eastsiders going to Seattle because it would allow more one seat rides from park and rides on the eastside to the ultimate destination.

    This is how eastsiders have gotten to Seattle on transit for decades, and how they get there now, and it works pretty well.

    Buses going east would likely terminate on Mercer Island depending on the ultimate destination, although the roundabout is west of the bus stop so I am not sure how the buses could turn around on MI. Again some buses would continue to S. Bellevue, but probably some directly to Bellevue Way or Issaquah giving more west side riders a one seat ride.

    IMO if any kind of eastside peak commuter going to Seattle returns I think buses will be part of the mix anyway, like the 630. Especially from Issaquah. I just don’t think these high value employees will drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to East Link if East Link does not go directly to their destination. I certainly wouldn’t.

    I think this is a good lesson for WSBLE, certainly from West Seattle that also has a great bridge. Sometimes light rail does not provide the best transit. It is a fixed route, very expensive, and has poor first/last mile access except in a very urban core. I also think the underground unsecured stations will haunt ST when it comes to female ridership unless it addresses those.

    The ultimate point is East Link will have a tiny impact on the eastside. If it never opened at all life would go on fine. The delay to 2024 for the opening did not impact anyone. So if some parts don’t work like across the bridge span there are many different alternative modes, from cars to buses to private shuttles to Uber/Lyft to staying on the eastside to WFH and so on that work quite well today.

    1. It’s only a mile and a third from bridgehead to bridgehead, so if a “permanent slow-order” of twenty is necessary — and possible of course — then it is only four minutes of slow running. I recognize that if the degradation of the structure is so great that twenty truly is necessary, it’s not a slam-dunk that it’s possible long term.

      Would slow-running across the bridge be frustrating for the riders? Yep, but it would have taken a minute fifteen at fifty anyway, so they’re only out two and three quarters minutes. That’s quite a bit less than the typical transfer, and once the train gets on the Seattle side, its access to downtown and points north is waaaaayyyyy better than that of a bus.

      So far as the dangers to female riders, don’t you think that ST can — and will — “protect its investment” of several billion dollars simply by having security on the platforms? Really, this is a pretty cheap problem to fix.

      I grant that they aren’t doing it now, though they certainly have the right to do so. But they’re not the only system with violence problems. New York, for instance, is not covering itself with glory on platform security right now. But Link will have, what, forty-some stations, roughly half above ground? New York has four-hundred and seventy-two. That’s would cost a chunk of change to protect, for sure, but I think that ST will wake up and buy some security.

  20. Here is a link to the bridge joint replacement project. When I get a moment I will look for a link to the original engineering report on this issue and the micro fracturing of the concrete.

    Ross is confusing the installation of the plinths with earlier engineering challenges to design the deck/span hinge or joint, and then the discovery of the need for post tensioning of the concrete (which came later), which is part of the installation of the plinths when it was discovered the rails had to be raised off the span’s surface, which of course eliminates the ability to run complementary forms of transit in the center roadway which is unfortunate.

    The question was not whether the plinths would work (hopefully they will although this discovery came well after the need for post-tensioning) but earlier engineering opinions that did not believe light rail could be run safely across a floating bridge, at least four car trains at 50 mph. Subsequent engineering firms have claimed they solved the deck/span joint issue, and that post tensioning of the concrete and pontoons will allow four car trains to run every 8 minutes at 50 mph across the span, although the need for raised beds and plinths are a recent discovery, and apparently not designed or installed correctly.

    Believe me there have been endless engineering reports or discussions about the first project in history to run light rail over a floating bridge, and until the discovery of the hinge, and then post tensioning of the concrete (plus installation of the plinths to raise the rails off the surface) the opinion was no, it could not be done.

    Believe me no one hopes it works more than I do, although if it doesn’t it isn’t the end of the world if the bridge itself is not compromised.

    1. Daniel, now THAT’s a very useful, informative and positive post. Thank you very much.

    2. I don’t quite understand why this has to be difficult, but of course I’m not directly involved so I don’t know the details of what they are doing. This may be the first time a light rail line has operated over a floating bridge, but several freight railroads have them. There shouldn’t be any problems that haven’t been solved before.

      Rail expansion joints are available as off the shelf products. Eg, one of many examples:

      1. There aren’t that many floating bridges in the world, and I can’t find a single example of a freight railroad operating a line on one of them. I can find examples of so-called “floating bridges” that use “car floats” to ferry freight across rivers, but that’s nowhere near the same as operating a contiguous shore-to-shore floating line like ST is trying to do.

        This is very much a first-in-the-world project, requiring several deviations from standard rail construction standards and development of a 3-axis transfer joint that can handle not just expansion in-line with the track, but vertical and lateral motion. It may seem like a small thing, but I will be very curious to see how the hinges hold up to the real daily beatings the trains will give them.

      2. Supposedly, Algoma Central / Ontario Northland has floating bridges of some sort over some of the deep tundra lakes they operate through, where the stable ground is too far down for them to reliably get pilings to hold.

        They probably don’t have any problems going slowly over those bridges either.

        I’d heard that the old Rutland RR bridge over Lake Champlain was partially floating when first built, but it looks like even if that was the case, by the time it got torn out in the 1960s it was mostly fill.

        Someone in Russia actually has a patent on a particular design of pontoon railway bridge, but obviously buying or licensing anything from there right now isn’t a good idea.


      3. The Milwaukee Road had a floating bridge on the Mississippi. I found a YouTube video of the Floating railroad bridges on the Algoma Central Railway. They aren’t pontoon bridges.

        According to the stories, when these bridges were first built across these bays, the ACR engineers found themselves driving piles into nearly “bottomless” mud and muskeg, and the bridge piles apparently “float”, held up by the friction of the pilings in the mud rather than any solid foundation. All trains cross these bridges at a severely restricted speed of 20 MPH, and the conductor on our train when I rode the line in October mentioned that if one were actually standing trackside when a train passes, you can actually visually see the bridge deflect by at least 6 inches!

      4. Going slowly is the problem with MAX and the Steel Bridge. Every time I crawl across it I think how much less effective it is than normal subways that don’t have bottlenecks. If Link has to crawl across the Mercer Island Bridge because there’s no other choice, that will be unfortunate and a lost opportunity.

      5. ST’s original ridership estimates on East Link, along with the plan to eliminate all cross bridge buses, made running less than four car trains or running them at 20 mph impossible because East Link would never meet peak hour ridership into Seattle. Based on ST’s ridership estimates Anxious commuters would be waiting at Eastside stations for over an hour to catch a train, and would likely go the stations upstream to get on the train.

        Post pandemic that cross lake ridership during peak hours looks to be less than 50% of ST’s estimates, and my guess is if peak ridership from the Eastside returns buses will complement East Link, either because they are a one seat ride or go to places Link does not, like SLU and First Hill, even if employer or city subsidized The 630 shows that eastsiders are not comfortable transferring in downtown Seattle, and just mentally no one wants to transfer after the train ride.

        That raises the question what would be the best solution if East Link can’t run four car trains across the bridge span at 50 mph.

        Off “peak” —to the extent there is a peak to Seattle today — there would be plenty of capacity. My guess is slowing the trains to 20 mph would be the best solution. It saves face for ST compared to going to (actually staying at) all buses, although cars would be zooming by the train, it would be cheaper than running East Link and buses, and I think four car trains would allow everyone to get on the train so waiting riders would be more relaxed. I am not sure how that would affect frequency from CID to Northgate but probably not much.

        If peak travel does return I think a combo buses and four Carv East Link trains (at 20 mph) makes the most sense if necessary since East Link does not access some key areas downtown like SLU and First Hill, and folks from the Eastside don’t want to transfer (again), especially downtown.

        The key for me is ST doesn’t ignore any problems until the center roadway is compromised and a transit agency shuts East Link down for lengthy repairs.

        At that point the only cross lake transit would be buses in the HOV lane, like today. If the trains have to travel at 20 mph it is the prettiest part of the trip and only about a mile.

        The key IMO is not just the pre-opening testing by agency engineers loath — like all engineers — to admit they were wrong, (and a Board of politicians), but constant monitoring of the bridge by an independent agency or expert. 20 mph is better than nothing.

      6. I don’t expect there will be an issue when East Link first opens; whatever decade that turns out to be. The issue is going to be as the bridge and the rails wear out/fail. As was pointed out the bobbing and twisting of running trains on a boat are going to stress the system and the electrical isolation sounds like a maintenance nightmare. The use of lightweight concrete also sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Think cinder block (CMU); it’s porous and like nylon generally isn’t used in wet environments or where chemical pollution exists (like in the median of a freeway). They did this because the bridge couldn’t support the weight of proper concrete sleepers. How many years of crack repair until that 30% weight savings is used up?

        If you read the info on the Russian patent it looks like from the detail drawings the pontoons are steel, not concrete. Russians are smart enough to pick the right material. It’s also very clear this is designed to be a temporary solution while a real bridge is replaced or repaired.

        Wikipedia, “Most pontoon bridges are temporary and used in wartime and civil emergencies. There are permanent pontoon bridges in civilian use that can carry highway traffic. Permanent floating bridges are useful for sheltered water crossings if it is not considered economically feasible to suspend a bridge from anchored piers. ” In other words, WSDOT cheaped out. Lk WA isn’t Lk Superior but we do get storms, like the one that sank the last I-90 bridge and the Hood Canal bridge (twice). And if climate change does mean more extreme weather that only serves to shorten the overly optimistic life expectancy WSDOT has put on all the sinking bridges.

      7. RE: The Algoma Central bridges.

        Yeah, if you’re crossing the middle of northern Ontario in a landscape where road construction isn’t particularly easy, nobody cares if you have to have a few slow spots. Apologies if my comment about them not having trouble going slow wasn’t clear. It’s not a problem because under those operating conditions nobody cares. When the competition is a few weeks in a mosquito infested canoe, 20 mph isn’t going to matter.

        Rail expansion joints should be able to accommodate quite a lot of bridge motion. They are independent on each rail, so if one needs to expand and the other contract (eg, with twisting motion) that’s not a problem. The 6 inches of expansion allowed on the example given is a hell of a lot of expansion – more than most common road expansion joints.

  21. That’s my subarea’s concern: when ST trains derail or tunnels don’t fit or all the other crap what are the odds ST is the agency that will successfully build the first light rail track across a floating bridge?

    We have been through the deck/span joint, post tensioning the span and pontoons, raising the rails, dishonest ridership estimates, redoing the plinths. Jesus Christ, I am not an engineer but this is terrifying.

    I-90 is the lifeblood for Seattle and the port. Without I-90 Seattle effectively is Port Townsend. The reality is there are alternatives to light rail across the bridge span that probably provide better transit post pandemic than light rail, when East Link will have a negligible impact on the Eastside.

    All I want is for ST to be honest if the testing proves light rail will compromise the integrity of the bridge so — as embarrassing as it may be in a subarea that has plenty of money and very little expectations from East Link — we move to plan B, which is exactly the mode we use today (buses) that work damn well. This truly is where transit and mode is irrelevant in the scheme of things.

    But if an agency was willing to kill and maim passengers on a train to meet a deadline for publicity what is the chance it will admit light rail across the bridge span won’t work? Forget about the billion or so on trying. Ok, it didn’t work, so we won’t build the Issaquah line. Don’t fuck up the bridge which is a thousand times more important for the region than light rail or transit.

    I would also like to point out to the fans of WSBLE that ST has never built a tunnel, let alone one up 5th or 4th Ave hundreds of feet deep, except for the small tunnel in Bellevue that is too small so the walls were shaved. If ST can’t get the tunnel correct what are the odds it can get DSTT2 correct, no matter the cost?

      1. I get agree with your points when it comes to ST’s lack of honesty in cost estimates. It bugs me too.
        But add the Beacon Hill light rail tunnel to the list of ones ST built. It seems to work pretty good because it has no ST purchased escalators in it.

Comments are closed.