140 Replies to “News roundup: cracked up”

    1. I am surprised that Ljubljana is not on the list. I read that they have the third highest bicycle mode share in Europe, after Amsterdam and Copenhagen. For all I know though, it might be that their infrastructure is not that good, and it’s just that their relative poverty (compared to cities in Western Europe) leads to more bicycle use.

    2. Well, only 11 cities can make the top 11, so there will be plenty of other good cities that don’t. I wouldn’t read to much into it.

  1. I believe the 44 (or the old 43) has gone to the west bound stop on Ne 45th and the Ave since I was about 10 or possibly younger. I think the old 46 did also. I might have to go ride it again just to see the changes.

    Also I am not sure I have ever seen buses on 43rd. Maybe someone else knows if that is true or not.

    1. The 44(43) was already stopping at the Key Bank stop when I started riding Metro in 1979. The 30 also served it, from Laurelhurst to Fremont (and Magnolia?). The 46 may have served it; it made a V shape to 40th and back north, so it likely went to 45th & Brooklyn. Campus Parkway wasn’t the major transfer point it became in 1990, and the only buses on campus were suburban routes, so it’s less likely the 46 went that way, but it might have. There was also a route 70 that went on 45th to I-5 and downtown midday. (I think the 71X and 72X were peak-only, and the 73X was on Eastlake off-peak. All that was restructured when the DSTT opened in 1990. The growth of Campus Parkway started then, and the routes from Campus Parkway to campus and U-Village may have started then or a bit later.)

      1. That is cool to know. Thank you. I guess I remembered it wrong. I just cannot remember the 43 on that street. But I had to have ridden it through that area.

      2. Also I only remember taking it when it was a trolley route. Was there wire on 43rd as well back then?

      3. Yes, the 43 was wired. It went up 15th and turned left at 45th to Ballard. The only new trolley route since 1979 that I remember was the 70 on Eastlake-Fairview, which replaced the 71/72/73/7474 local daytime. There were splits and extensions and renumberings, but no new routes.

        For instance, the eastern half of the 13 was split to form the 12. The 1 trolleybus ended at S Dawson Street (between Jefferson Park and Othello), and an alternating 1 diesel continued to south Beacon (and Rainier Beach?). The 7 was split to 7/49, the 14 to 14/47, and the 43 to 43/44.

        In the 80s there was a proposal to electrify the 15 and 18, with a flyer saying “Trolley wires are coming to Ballard”, but it was never implemented. RapidRide D can be seen as a successor to this.

    2. Between 1940 and 1963, an electric trolleybus route turned around using NE 43rd Street between the Ave and Brooklyn Avenue NE; it was the equivalent of Route 43. Routes 7 and 8 served the Ave and Eastlake Avenue East.

      1. That makes sense. It really should be the way things work in the future. Buses that layover by the station (e. g. the 49) should use 43rd. The through-routing bus (the 44) should not. The time saved by avoiding the bad turn onto 45th is lost by making two additional turns in an area with lots of people (the turns are time consuming). The issues with the turn should be dealt with directly (e. g. by adding a bus or BAT lane to 45th) which would improve other buses as well (the 31/32). Riders making a transfer should just walk across the street. There are worse things than walking an extra block to the station, and the reroute of the 44 is one of them.

      2. That was route # 4 Montlake and it was signed 4 Montlake-45th & University Way. It turned left on NE 43rd from University Way and then right on Brooklyn Ave NE to its terminal midblock.

        On the return trip right on NE 45th and again a right on University Way to a stop just south. There was no stop on NE 45th on the west side of University Way in those days. The stop for the 30 Laurelhurst and 40 Sand Point was on the east side between the Ave and 15th Ave NE.

        The 4 would go south on the Ave and the same route as today for the 43 except it would turn on Madison to Pike and to Union before turning north on 3rd Ave and continue as the 4 East Queen Anne.

      1. There’s also several old Seattle transit maps from 1955-2011 at the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington

  2. ST is going “to pay contractors for lost time due to Covid-19”, and I’ll bet every one of them already received business continuation payments. At the very least ST should ask the IRS which of them did.

    The article doesn’t say, but I hope they have to make repairs on their own dime.

    1. Visible construction has begun on the route 44 and route 40 improvements on Market Street. The snarl at 45th and Aurora will be an interesting knot for a while as they rearrange the west side of the underpass and ramps to Aurora.

    2. I don’t think all the blame has been assigned quite yet. Even if it’s design build the contractor can say ST bought off on the plans so it’s their responsibility. And same for construction, if for example the contractor followed the approved first time ever done procedure for the lightweight concrete plinths with nylon fasteners they will say ST assumed the risk of failure. And presumably ST inspectors gave the green light.

    1. Thanks for passing on the info (as I stopped reading The Urbanist a while back).

      I’m pretty upset to learn about this as well.

      If they had just listened to our input about station siting/design maybe this could have all been avoided.


      1. 130th was never promised to open in 2023 (and I use the word “promised” here to emphasize that “scheduled” always gets turned into “promised” by the entities whose job is to try to defund public transit).

        I don’t recall you ever advocating for additional stations. I thought you always wanted fewer stations. RossB did not want 148th St Station built.

        RossB voted no on ST3, so, yeah, it is hard to feel sorry for him that a station he wanted added that ST did not want to add is going to open later than he wanted. But thanks for offering your joint anger that ST is going to open a station neither of you voted for later than you wanted it to open. I guess.

        ST never once offered to open 130th before the rest of Lynnwood Link. Arms had to be twisted to get it built at all. I agree that refusing to open it at the same time as Lynnwood Link will lead to disruption that could have been avoided. But I’m just not feeling your anger. I’m glad it is being built, and now *projected* only one year after the earliest date ST ever projected or “promised” in the jargon of light rail skeptics.

        That’s not too shabby for a station that had to be retconned into the line design. Congratulations on convincing ST to build it, and to have it opening so quickly after it was added to the plan.

      2. Sorry Brent, but the whole premise of your argument above is false.

        “130th was never promised to open in 2023”

        This is simply a straw man argument since no such assertion was ever made.

        “I don’t recall you ever advocating for additional stations. I thought you always wanted fewer stations.”

        Your recollection is faulty then. I have always advocated for an additional station at 130th. Additionally, I have noted multiple times that it was shortsighted for ST to reduce Lynnwood Link in its second version of ST2, lopping off the Ash Way and Alderwood stations from the 2007 proposal in their 2008 package.

        “RossB voted no on ST3, so, yeah, it is hard to feel sorry for him that a station he wanted added that ST did not want to add is going to open later than he wanted. But thanks for offering your joint anger that ST is going to open a station neither of you voted for later than you wanted it to open. I guess.”

        Wrong again. I also voted against ST3 as it is a terrible package of projects as a whole. I stand by my 2016 vote. But the rest of your argument is completely false as I did support a station at 130th in both my “yes” votes for ST2 in 2007 and 2008. You either have forgotten or are simply misinformed about the fact that a station at 130th was included in the alternatives in the early scoping, the subsequent levels of plan development and even in the Lynnwood DEIS and FEIS processes. “Jackson Park/145th” was the placeholder.

        “ST never once offered to open 130th before the rest of Lynnwood Link….”

        This is yet another straw man argument. Again, no such assertion was ever made.

        “Congratulations on convincing ST to build it,…”

        Even though I can detect the snark that’s included in that last comment, I’ll take the bow anyway, as should everyone else who pushed ST on this matter. Furthermore, I think we are entitled to express our ire, in whatever proportion we may feel it, over the announcement of the delay for this station, particularly given the agency’s “weak sauce” explanation.

  3. That is cool to know. Thank you. I guess I remembered it wrong. I just cannot remember the 43 on that street. But I had to have ridden it through that area.

    1. It has never gone on 43rd before, except possibly for diesel turn-backs. When it was the 30 it just went straight across 45th. When it was through routed with the 4 to become the 43, and electrified, westbound buses continued north on 15th NE to NE 45th and turned left there.

      You didn’t “ride through there”; not on a 43 at least.

  4. That Seattle Times article about concrete cracks also mentions other things, including that East Link will be delayed, possibly until 2024. But it was this part that really got me smacking my head. Even if they came up with a fix for it, how could this happen in the first place?

    “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.”

    1. “A few inches” seems like a huge possible issue for the future. For example, not all vehicles have the exact same dimension as the Siemens vehicles, so it could re-emerge as an issue if another vehicle is used and it has different clearance needs . Has ST even confirmed that it’s not an issue with Kinkisharyo cars?

    2. Having been involved in the I-90 bridge span issue since around 2015–16, and having been through the deck/span joint issue, post tensioning, raised rail beds, and now the plinths, and of course the years of delay, I think micro fracturing of the concrete from a four-car train dropping from the fixed span to the deck every 8 minutes, and then running across the span, will lead to micro fracturing of the concrete, and will at least accelerate the deterioration of the center roadway.

      When the concept first arose about being the first agency in the world to run light rail across a bridge span a lot less was known about ST’s engineering and operational issues, and quite frankly there was a lot more trust in ST’s ethics and engineering. What is amazing is that ST placed East Link on the ballot in 2008 after conducting a EIS having no idea how it would run light rail across I-90 safely.

      The original engineering firm ST hired said it could not be done — at least four car trains at 50 mph — and since then ST has hired engineering firm after engineering firm to solve the issues with a determination it can and will be done, I think mostly for political reasons, just like buses were eliminated across the bridge span in 2017 when East Link opens mostly to help East Link come even close to its inflated estimated ridership, even those are just riders forced from buses onto light rail.

      The reality is if the design from the beginning had required buses across the floating bridge the money saved on trying to build rail across the bridge would have funded a perfectly adequate cross lake transit system, with a dedicated center roadway, and buses truncating at Judkins Park and on the eastside depending on location, and East Link truncating at Mercer Island, although that might have reduced frequency in the Central Link north from the loss of East Link trains. That is what we have used for years, and even pre-pandemic it worked well (especially when the 550 could access DSTT1). I do think however eastside voters might have rejected ST 2 if the bridge span was buses because they would have seen buses would have been better than East Link altogether.

      All I am saying at this point is there needs to be an independent third party reviewing both the testing data and carefully following the effects on I-90 from East Link after it opens. What cannot be allowed to happen is the micro fracturing affects the pontoons and destabilizes let alone sinks either of the two outer roadways. With today’s and like tomorrow’ cross lake ridership being so low we could even live with buses just using the HOV lanes in the outer roadway (like today and ever since we went to RA-8 that increased the lanes in each direction to 4 and eliminated a number of bottlenecks in both directions).

      The linked article on the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge shows just how existential a bridge like that is to a community, and I-90 is much more critical both east and west than the W. Seattle Bridge (and much more expensive to replace). Transit is important, East Link will have a negligible impact on the eastside, but they are not even close in importance compared to I-90.

      It literally would be criminal if ST compromised the I-90 bridge for political reasons and pride and arrogance, basically its intrinsic personality, although we have learned no matter how criminal the conduct and no matter how many are killed or maimed in a derailment no one at ST will ever be held accountable.

      It doesn’t help that our eastside representative is Claudia Balducci who has zero knowledge of engineering, and is the biggest ST cheerleader and who election has a vested interest in East Link working.

      1. Rail expansion joints are a known product.

        There should be no dropping of any trains from any height onto the floating span as rail expansion joints allow for a continuous running surface. They look something like this:
        Note the running surface is continuous, and the ended rail goes off to the side to provide the extra rail needed when the joint contracts.

      2. Glenn, I previously linked on STB to the engineering report and history for the I-90 bridge deck/span “hinge”. It was a big deal. According to the engineers it was a first in the world design, required much testing in CO, resulted in a number of engineering awards, and until that hinge was developed or invented trains would have been limited to 20 mph across the deck/span, and probably fewer than four cars. Whether it works we will see.

      3. http://network.wsp-pb.com/article/design-of-light-rail-on-the-i-90-floating-bridge-across-lake-washington

        This is the article I linked to earlier about developing a “hinge” on I-90 between the fixed deck and floating span. This was not an off the shelf design, although I am not a bridge engineer.

        I do know it was a big deal at the time when ST, its engineering team, and Judy Clibborn returned from CO and announced they had solved the problem, and four car trains would be able to run at 50 mph from deck to span because at that time the issue was capacity on East Link to Seattle due to ST’s inflated ridership estimates.

        I suppose the irony is that today two car trains could run at 20 mph across the bridge and meet capacity.

      4. [The I-90 bridge deck/span “hinge”] was a big deal. According to the engineers it was a first in the world design, required much testing in CO, resulted in a number of engineering awards, and until that hinge was developed or invented trains would have been limited to 20 mph across the deck/span, and probably fewer than four cars. Whether it works we will see.

        Bertha was the largest earth pressure balance tunnel boring machine. It was a big deal. It ran into problems as well, including a major delay. When it did, many people said “I told you so”, and proceeded to talk about how terrible our soils are, and how big the boring machine is, and how it won’t be able to finish.

        So far, there have been no engineering problems discovered. It isn’t like the 737 Max. This is about a construction problem, that could happen with any project. As I wrote elsewhere, the 130th station is being delayed substantially (for some bullshit reason). That is a pretty easy project, and yet they are going to really late. My guess it will eventually be completed.

        Likewise, my money is on the I-90 project eventually being completed the way the engineers designed it. To be fair, I won’t give you quite the same odds. But still, I would definitely take an even-money bet that by the end of the decade trains are running over the lake at 55 MPH.

        Sound Transit has many problems, but these delays are being caused by poor over-site when it comes to construction, not poor engineering. There is often poor planning (bad choice of stations, poor station placement, etc.) but not bad engineering.

      5. Daniel, one of the main the main reasons for adopting Light Rail is to replace buses and thereby ease labor costs. Since it normally has at least some level of separation from traffic, it is also more reliable.

        It’s not some nefarious plot to subject the poor, bereft Eastside transit user to “the transfer penalty!”

      6. “Daniel, one of the main the main reasons for adopting Light Rail is to replace buses and thereby ease labor costs. Since it normally has at least some level of separation from traffic, it is also more reliable.

        “It’s not some nefarious plot to subject the poor, bereft Eastside transit user to “the transfer penalty!””

        Tom, I think I understand the purpose of light rail, although I am not sure about the cost savings from truncation. I thought we would have seen a more flush Metro budget after Central Link. The $5.5 billion price tag for East Link to Redmond has to be considered too, and my favorite metric dollar per rider mile.

        I don’t think I said East Link is a nefarious plot, although I think many of the assumptions used to sell it in 2008 were pretty much dishonest. What I said is I am worried that four car trains travelling across I-90 will cause micro-fracturing in the concrete, especially the pontoons. I am pretty sure ST shares that concern. At least I hope so.

        First we were told post-tensioning of the concrete would solve the problem, but then apparently the rails had to be raised off the surface to reduce vibrations to the concrete, and now the plinths need to be redesigned or re-installed. So basically post tensioning did not work.

        The risk of micro fracturing and bridge destabilization is not in question. The question is whether post tensioning the concrete and raising the rails off the surface and the plinths will eliminate that risk.

        I have no way of knowing but certainly hope so, but more than anything want to avoid structural damage to the outer roadways if post tensioning and the plinths do not work in the center roadway, and in my experience dealing with ST I don’t think it is a very honest agency, so would like a third party monitoring the outer roadways during testing and when East Link opens.

        It is one thing to have escalators not work or ceiling tiles fail after a few years, or a train derail and folks die, but another to damage the key west/east bridge. Ross raises Bertha, but at the same time I would hate to have I-90 shut down for four years while they fix the engineering and design problems like with Bertha.

        I just think that when fixed–route light rail moves into suburban or semi-rural areas it begins to lose both its effectiveness, and its cost effectiveness. As Martin notes WSBLE at a cost close to $20 billion based on the preferred design will move 400 car drivers onto light rail. I doubt East Link will even do that, although it is 1/4 the cost.

        A big reason for that is first/last mile access, and as you note the dreaded transfer. Throw in WFH, free parking and just the mind set on the eastside and East Link is not going to blow the eastside away, which is beneficial if it is going to be delayed until at least 2024. Imagine if SDOT just casually mentioned the W. Seattle Bridge opening would be delayed until 2024.

        I know the eastside pretty well. I just don’t see a big difference between the route East Link will take and the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line. East Link begins on the eastside on Mercer Island, travels to S. Bellevue which is quite suburban or even semi-rural, runs along 112th where maybe someday there may be development, and then to Overlake/Microsoft and Redmond.

        Drive that route some day. It isn’t urban and it isn’t dense, and basically it mimics some pretty good highways that have little congestion today.

        But really all I am asking is don’t compromise the outer roadways on the I-90 bridge and force closures, no matter how long. East Link is not worth that.

      7. “I thought we would have seen a more flush Metro budget after Central Link.”

        Link hasn’t replaced that many Metro routes. The airport extension replaced the 194. U-Link replaced the 71/72/73X. Northgate Link replaced the 41 and some peak expresses (74, 76, and a few north of 65th). Some of those expresses Metro altered to go to SLU or First Hill instead of downtown. Link didn’t replace local service on MLK, Eastlake, Roosevelt, Beacon Hill, or East Marginal Way because that was still needed, and that’s where most of the service hours are. If Link had more stops it could replace local bus routes, but it doesn’t. And the fewer stops give faster service between neighborhood centers, which has its advantages.

        But the main reason bus service wasn’t expanded further is it was offset by the covid recession, the reduction in Seattle’s TBD, the lack of bus-base space for more buses, extra service in West Seattle to mitigate the bridge closure, and now the driver shortage.

        On the Eastside, Link replaces primarily Sound Transit routes (545, 550, 554 truncation), and that money is going to Link operations. Metro has only a few peak-hour routes like the 218, and those don’t add up to many hours because they’re only a few runs. Link can’t replace the B, 226, or 271.

        The area that will get the biggest Link benefit is Snohomish County, because hundreds of express buses will be truncated for most of their length, and travel time will be comparable. In comparison, the 218 is truncated only halfway, so only half the hours are recouped. And South King and Pierce suffer from Link’s longer travel time, so it will be harder to truncate the routes, and more of a tradeoff if it fully happens.

        “I just don’t see a big difference between the route East Link will take and the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line.”

        You can’t be serious. East Link will serve the activity centers in the Spring District, Overlake Village, Overlake Tech Center, and downtown Redmond. That’s tens of thousands of workers, TOD residents, and shoppers.

        ” East Link begins on the eastside on Mercer Island, travels to S. Bellevue which is quite suburban or even semi-rural, runs along 112th where maybe someday there may be development,”

        I see that as just the middle and end of the bridge. It has to cross I-90 to connect Seattle and Bellevue. Dowtown Bellevue or a secondary village doesn’t start right at the shoreline but a few miles inland. You can’t put a village at the I-90 entrance, Mercer Slough is a protected wetland, the no-man’s land between the P&R and where 112th starts is less than a mile, there’s no stop between there and East Main and because Link is limited-stop. The P&R is splendidly away from downtown Bellevue’s pedestrians. All this area is similar to if Link were on 520; it would have to go through Medina and the Points to get to either downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, or Redmond. It’s just a corollary of crossing the bridge.

        East Main itself will have multistory TOD on three of the four corners, so that’s probably more people than downtown Mercer Island.

        Issaquah Link in contrast has only one significant ridership corridor, Bellevue to Bellevue College. Because college students use transit more than others, and come from everywhere. And secondarily Bellevue to Issaquah, although I have my doubts that will be significant. The area between Bellevue College and Issaquah is empty, I don’t know of any growth plans, and it doesn’t have the excuse of being a body of water or the approach to it.

      8. Let’s also calm down. Regardless of what ridership turns out to be, a damaged bridge is not in ST’s interest. If the outer bridge is damaged, so is the inner one, and if trains can’t run on the inner one, passengers are out of luck. Whether EastLink’s annual ridership is 2 or 2 million, Sound Transit still has every reason to not want the trains to damage the bridge.

        Let’s see what the engineering firms say. I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work.

      9. Daniel, you won’t get an claim from me that just replacing buses would make East Link in particular a good investment. There aren’t enough buses to be replaced for the savings to come anywhere near balancing the huge capital cost. It’s typical to transition when headways reach two to three minutes. I-90 was never at that level of buses, even when they were in the tunnel.

        I was simply clarifying the reasons cities choose to adopt light rail.

        However, it seems that Bellevue and Redmond are on board with making all the stops urban nodes that will generate and attract rides without connecting buses, at least at their end of the journey. If the cities use it to shape a more clustered land use, it will be worth it.

      10. Downtown Bellevue is not semi-rural.
        Sadly, Bridle Trails isn’t semi-rural anymore either. Kids no longer have the opportunity to join Pony Club or 4-H. At least the largely empty McMansions don’t generate a lot of car traffic and there is still a high rate of trail use. You can take a nice hike in the Park but sadly transit connections are poor. Best choice is Metro 225 or 245. FYI, there are regular native plant and mycology walks lead by State and UW scientists if you’re interested.

      11. by the end of the decade trains are running over the lake at 55 MPH.

        Yeah, a decade late and a billion dollars short. If East Link is a great route start shadowing it with ST bus service now! 132rd P&R is coming along great and the “station” is already complete. Ditto for all the other East Link stops. There’s obvious road parallels that mimic the route. What is ST afraid of; nobody wants it???

      12. || If East Link is a great route start shadowing it with ST
        || bus service now!

        Isn’t that basically what the 550 bus is, minus the Bellevue to Redmond part?

      13. I went to Bridle Trails in 2020. I took the 255 to 60th and walked across the 405 pedestrian bridge to 116th. I’d seen the bridge from the freeway since junior high but it was my first time on it. I think there were huge mansions on either side but I don’t quite remember. Then I went south on 116th toward the Bridle Trails entrance I’d seen. I found out 116th isn’t safe to walk on: the shoulder is narrow, there’s a ditch next to it, so you’re praying you don’t get hit by a car. The entrance was a way’s down, and I think I turned around and found another entrance on 60th. I got in the park and the trail was muddy because it had recently rained, so I walked a little way’s and then decided to come back when it’s drier.

        The website says there’s an ecological tour Saturday morning. I would go on it but I have other responsibilities then.

      14. East Link cannot be replicated as bus route. One of the best things about East Link is that it has an alignment that cannot be served by a single bus route because it occasionally deviates from the street grid. Modes are not interchangeable.

      15. Rail is a values decision. The political process exists to collectively make values decisions. Capital/operations cost vis-a-vis buses is just one factor. The end goal isn’t to spend the least on transportation, it’s to have the most effective transportation system because it facilitates the rest of society’s activities.

        A line like East Link is the most effective way to connect the large and growing activity centers in Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond. So that people can travel between them and generate synergy, without requiring the negative externalities and inequalities of cars.

        Buses alone can only do so much. A single bus route can’t do everything Link does because it’s limited by streets, stoplights, congestion, and indirect exits/entrances. Multiple bus routes like we have now leave some trip patterns out. There’s no all-day express route between Bellevue and Redmond, for instance. And if there were, it wouldn’t stop in the Spring District or Overlake Village because that would slow it down too much.

        That’s why cities around the world have based their transit system around a few rail lines connecting the highest-volume corridors. Connections within Seattle and a line to Redmond is just what they would do. The Eastside is at or beyond the size/economic level they would do that. The Lynnwood line, while southwest Snohomish County has less economic activity, nevertheless consolidates transit into an efficient trunk in an area with few north-south highways. At worst, it allows a quarter million nearby Snohomans to commute to King County jobs. At best, it’s part of reciprocal growth in Snohomish County that will increase two-way interaction. (I.e., Snohomish is becoming more like the Eastside the way the Eastside earlier became more like Seattle.) The Link extensions beyond Lynnwood, KDM, and the Issaquah line are more questionable and have more tradeoffs, but the area within the Lynnwood-Redmond-KDM triangle is a good place to have a rail “T”.

        And we are investing in BRT corridors too: Lynnwood-Bellevue and Bellevue-Burien are getting Stride for the same reason for the same reason the Eastside is getting East Link. Because people travel from Lynnwood to Bellevue/Redmond too, and we hope that in the future Eastsiders will also have reasons to travel to Lynnwood. (I.e., Snohomish will be economically successful.) But the activity centers along Stride aren’t as big as the East Link corridor — Totem Lake, Bothell, and Renton aren’t as big draws as Bellevue and Redmond — so there’s less ridership potential. 405 is already there and it’s easy to put a bus on it. There are no areas like Capitol Hill or Rainier Valley that it would be a shame to miss. (Sorry, downtown Kirkland.) And people are more predisposed to drive the further you get from downtown Bellevue and the East Link corridor. So 405 is a good place for BRT. And, decades in the future, we can reevaluate whether it’s ready for rail yet. Having BRT makes it more likely it will be ready, because it will encourage people to live and travel in that corridor as opposed to elsewhere. Not diehard drivers, but people willing to take transit if it’s reasonably good. As a fair number of Eastsiders are, like their counterparts in other countries (outer Vancouver, Toronto, Duesseldorf, etc). It’s latent demand waiting for service. Sometimes the people themselves don’t realize they’ll take it until it exists.

        Rail also uses less energy than buses. It has greater capacity if it’s ever needed. (E.g., when a spike of people go to the World Cup or the Women’s March.) It runs when highways are closed due to collisions or maintenance or hindered by snow. It connects what would be several bus routes into a single line, so you can get from anywhere to anywhere along it. And our agencies are more willing to give it more all-day frequency than they are to buses. Link runs every 10 minutes until 10pm, and 15 minutes until 12-1pm. No ST Express, RapidRide, or Swift route does this. Stride isn’t expected to either. Doubling bus frequency requires twice as many drivers, which costs major money, and there’s a shortage of willing candidates.

      16. “There are no areas like Capitol Hill or Rainier Valley that it would be a shame to miss. (Sorry, downtown Kirkland.)”

        Sorry for the ambiguous wording. I meant that downtown Kirkland shouldn’t be missed, not that it’s unimportant.

      17. East Link cannot be replicated as bus route.
        Sure it can. Where it’s off grid it’s parallel to Bell-Red, 112th & Bellevue Way but you don’t have to follow the tracks just link the stations. From RTC take the RR-B route to Overlake. Then 20th St to 130th Ave & cut over to Bell-Red to get the P&R. Bel-Red & 120th is close enough for now to the Spring District but when it starts to get populated enough loop up 120th to Spring Blvd. South on 116th to Hospital Station then cross on 8th St to BTC. From there the tracks follow 112th Ave to Old Main and Bellevue Way to S. Bellevue. I-90 to Mercer Island then Rainier to Judkins Park. Then Jackson to the ID. Of course it wouldn’t be as fast and it would make sense to add some intermediate stops. This is significantly different than the 550 which only picks up three of the East Link Stations and two of those are nothing but P&R lots (Gee, wonder why ridership fell off a cliff).

      18. @ Mike, Rail vs Bus shouldn’t be a values decision; it’s a technical decision. Choosing rail over bus as a statement of ‘values’ creates dumb infrastructure, like mixed traffic streetcars or excessively grade-separated light rail.

        The values decision is “we should serve this corridor with high quality transit” or “we should connect these two major destinations with high capacity transit.” Whether a corridor or a trip-pair is best served by a particular mode is (mostly) a purely technical decision.

        @Bernie – that would an operational disaster, for the same reasons that East Link would be an operational failure if it ran in mixed traffic from South Bellevue station to Wilburton Station. It only makes sense to run a vehicle from downtown Seattle through Bellevue’s CBD to Overlake if that vehicle has significant grade separation. In the meantime, Seattle-Bellevue and Bellevue-Overlake are appropriately separate routes with a transfer in Bellevue.

      19. Daniel: that article specifically states they are using standard expansion joints on each end of the floating section. As such, there will be no hammering impact of trains going over a gap in the track, as there is with road traffic. It’s a continuous running surface. This impact loading was what you commented about.

        The roadbed supports are a different matter.

      20. “Rail vs Bus shouldn’t be a values decision; it’s a technical decision.”

        It’s still fundamentally a values issue. It’s values that determine what the criteria are and whether one concept meets them. There are also multiple factors and tradeoffs.Somebody has to make those tradeoff decisions, and that’s a values judgment.

        “Choosing rail over bus as a statement of ‘values’ creates dumb infrastructure, like mixed traffic streetcars or excessively grade-separated light rail.”

        I didn’t mean all dumbheaded rail; I meant sensible rail like most countries have. At minimum, exclusive-lane surface rail like Link on MLK, likely with tunnels downtown and in congested neighborhoods, or grade-separated metro. Effective rail, that’s at least as useful as BRT or better. Otherwise there’s no point and you haven’t solved anything. The Vancouver Skytrain, Chicago el, and Duesseldorf U-Bahn and S-Bahn are effective. MUNI Metro not so much because it crawls when it gets to surface streets and sometimes has a 20-minute gap between trains. (The F line is better though, but that’s because it’s exclusive lane.) Tacoma Link is a bad idea: it’s fine in the exclusive-lane section, but Commerce Street and the extensions are in mixed traffic, which defeats much of the potential effectiveness.

      21. Glenn, I think we are talking about two different things. You are talking about rail expansion joints. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ace/2020/8855140/#calculation-theory-and-model I am talking about the “joint” where a train drops from a fixed bridge deck onto a floating bridge span. The “drop” is very small, and so is the rise at the other end, but the train very heavy at 50 mph every 8 minutes. This “joint” has up and down, sideways, and yaw movement, so the “drop” can place pressure several different ways, every 8 minutes.

        As far as I understand it, the hinge is designed to prevent the train from damaging the concrete at this juncture, and vibrating outwards into the rebar. The concerns leading to post tensioning and lifting the rails off the surface of the bridge onto plinths is the weight and speed of a four car train running across the bridge span every 8 minutes at 50 mph that would create a frequency or vibration that runs through the rebar and can microfracture the concrete, including the pontoons which are concrete.

        This is why despite the low cost concrete cargo ships never took off. Just the action of the waves on the bow vibrate through the rebar fracturing the concrete.

        ST claims both concerns have been fixed, one with a new joint hinge and laying additional cable to lessen sway and yaw, and the other by post tensioning the concrete along the entire center roadway and raising the rails off the bridge deck onto some kind of plinth to either reduce or eliminate the vibrations from reaching the rebar. I have no way of knowing if this is true, and hope other agencies have studies this.

        I disagree with some that any damage to the center roadway will lead to equal damage to the outer roadways. Not if caught in time. If any concrete damage to the center roadway is caught early the center roadway can be closed before that damage migrates to the outer roadways (I hope, unless the damage reaches the pontoons). There is plenty of capacity for buses in the outer roadways in the HOV lanes, and with today’s ridership ST could take several years if it wanted sorting out what to do in the center roadway (or wait until a new bridge) while life goes on in the outer roadways, like life goes on today without East Link.

        What cannot be allowed to happen is East Link compromises the outer roadways or closes them. I hope the odds of that are low and that ST’s fixes to these problems work, but the risk is huge to the entire region when having buses travel across the outer roadways as opposed to East Link in the center roadway would have a very small effect on the Eastside or transit on the eastside in general.

        Obviously, some on this blog trust ST more than I do to be honest about whether the billions it spent worked to eliminate the risk to the bridge, and to tell us in time if the billions did not work. I can tell you the reports about the causes of the derailing of the train sent shock waves through those of us who have followed the bridge issues, and after than I lost all trust in ST.

      22. An area as populous as Seattle and the Eastside needs at least one rail line. An all-bus network just isn’t as effective. That doesn’t necessarily mean it needs all the lines that Sound Transit and Seattle Subway dream up. The first thing is to get a core trunk like downtown-UDistrict-Northgate where buses really weren’t adequate and couldn’t be without building more roads. Then you extend it sensibly to Redmond and southeast Seattle. You consider whether the northwestern and northeastern quarters need lines (i.e., Ballard and West Seattle). You consider the tradeoffs between slower surface rail and faster grade-separated rail. Link gets from Capitol Hill to Roosevelt in 9 minutes. No bus could do that on the current streets. That opens up a vast opportunity for trips that otherwise wouldn’t be feasible on transit, including transferring at Roosevelt to an ongoing bus. Link+bus to Lake City or Greenwood is vastly superior to only bus, especially if you’re not starting from downtown so you can’t take an express bus or RapidRide.

      23. When ST 2 passed on the eastside in 2008 it made sense. For the Eastside. The benefit ran to the eastside from having direct rail from “downtown” Bellevue to downtown Seattle, and to the UW. That is why the eastside subarea paid for 100% of East Link including across the bridge span (which has gotten quite expensive).

        The design should have been a tunnel under Bellevue Way or maybe 102nd, but Microsoft insisted it run to its campus, which is a major employer, but there is a not a lot between downtown Bellevue and Microsoft, certainly in 2008. But it was surface and mostly in public rights of way and the subarea had to spend on that money somewhere. Throw is some huge park and rides along the line and voila.

        But no one really figured out who would ride East Link. The ridership estimates were just phony. How many Bellevue workers during the middle of the day need to take a train to downtown Seattle? Or vice versa? Microsoft anticipated its Seattle workers would like East Link, and commuters to downtown Seattle to the extent there was park and ride space. East Link in many ways was designed to replace the 550, but there are few riders on the 550 these days.

        A lot has changed since 2008. Bellevue now wants to capture that eastside worker rather than have him/her commute to downtown Seattle, so East Link was shunted to 112th. The pandemic and WFH. Changing workforce at Microsoft. Perceptions of lack of safety in downtown Seattle among eastsiders.

        So who is going to use East Link today, or in 2024?

        Eastsiders won’t during non-peak trips on the eastside. Parking is free and they will drive. Transit advocates would love to disadvantage driving somehow on the eastside but the citizens would never allow that.

        Few eastsiders will use East Link to commute to downtown Seattle because of WFH or switching to eastside offices or direct buses like the 630 or the hassle of a transfer or employer shuttles or subsidized parking.

        What eastsiders will take East Link to the office on the eastside? Coming from the Issaquah region they will take the one seat 554. Maybe some Mercer Islanders but not many will take East Link, mostly to Microsoft, but a lot of those workers are now WFH. Any Islander going west will want a one seat direct trip like the 630. No transfers downtown.

        I can’t see many eastsiders taking East Link to Seattle for pleasure. Maybe the CID, and the CID is hoping for that clientele, but a lot of those restaurants now have places on the eastside.

        At best any benefit is for Seattle workers commuting to the eastside, except the eastside is a lot better place to live than in 2004/8 for those workers, Microsoft has a different workforce, and East Link runs along 112th.

        Are Seattleites on Capitol Hill or South Seattle really going to take East Link to the eastside for a night out on the town in The Spring District, Wilburton, Overlake or Redmond? I don’t even go there for a night out on the town and I live on the eastside. How many Seattleites do that today on buses?

        Running light rail in a region like East King Co. except for downtown Bellevue never really made sense, ST has never understood first/last mile access, except the money had to be spent, which is the flaw for most of the spine. And it doesn’t run to downtown Bellevue.

        Life changes. Pandemics, working from home, changes in downtown Seattle, aging demographics, kids, lack of traffic congestion, Bellevue deciding to compete against Seattle, these are what change lives. Transit will never change lives but serves those lives, and hopefully when it comes to something as fixed and expensive as light rail the planners guess right. I don’t think they could have guessed right on East Link in 2008 because it did not make economic sense, and even less today when the PSRC and ST and others invented these fantastic population gains, eastsiders flocking to TOD (and taking transit), and transit ridership.

        This is what happens when urban planners plan for the suburbs and substitute arrogance for understanding. My point to urban planners is if you can’t afford to live there maybe they understand something you don’t.

        The good news is life goes on. WFH is a fantastic invention, the pandemic is fading, and life is getting back to normal although inflation and a probable recession are unfortunate but hopefully “transitory”.

      24. Dan, you deposit observation after observation about the glorious suburbanity of the Eastside and the supposed death of urbanism, and yet make no realistic suggestions about what should be done differently today – except to cancel most, if not all, of ST3, or to make Seattle only pay for its WSBLE and otherwise cancel all non-bus projects. I can see the yard sign on your Mercer Island dock now: “Build the wall train, and make Mexico Seattle pay for it”!

        You admit that East Link made sense in 2008. When, exactly, did it stop making sense, such that (as you’ve implied) East Link is no longer needed? March, 2020?

        Here’s the February 2020 Progress Report: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/agency-progress-report-february-2020.pdf

        In the last month of the Before Times, ST had spent almost $2.4B of the then-allocated $3.1B for the project, and was more than halfway through the heavy civil construction of the project. You imply it should not be completed. Even if there had been prescient analysis of the implementation of WFH in March 2020, East Link would still have been very much worth completing for the $700M left to spend.

        You’ve argued against the route of East Link, and been rebuked. You’ve argued against the mode, and been rebuked. Now you’re an armchair civil engineer questioning the fundamental construction assumptions of the project itself, as you grasp for straws to support your argument that Buses, the Cheapest Form of Transit, are the Only Worthwhile Form of Transit.

        Grow up.

      25. Nathan, what kind of immature comment is “grow up” to someone who questions the wisdom of ST 3, or the efficacy of East Link?

        I do think much of ST 3 is a poor use of transit dollars. I think the high cost of light rail is better spent in urban areas that have intrinsic ridership, not lines to Federal Way, Tacoma, Everett or Redmond. That is just my opinion. I think the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line is not good use of transit dollars. So do many others on this blog. Instead you build urban subways and then run buses, or build park and rides, along the terminals of the subways that take you into the urban core. You don’t run light rail to frickin Everett.

        The reality is I doubt N. King Co. has the funding for WSBLE, and at least from what I read on this blog transit advocates are not happy with the preferred design. Should they “grow up”. I think that is the project you should focus on.

        You may implicitly trust ST, and maybe that is in your character, but I tend to take anything ST says with a grain of salt after the last 7 years or so. Just reading Tisgwm’s posts on changing cost estimates and funding should lead you to do the same. Or the eastside transit restructure that repudiated ST’s ridership estimates. You probably believe the realignment that extends project completion dates along with taxes in a high inflationary market creates net funding for ST. I know you are looking to buy a house. Do you think waiting a few years at the same salary will make a house more affordable to buy? No, it won’t.

        I am not a civil or bridge engineer and have acknowledged that. At the same time I don’t think a train should derail and kill and maim many people on its inaugural run. The risks to the I-90 bridge are well known, and ST has pursued remedies for each. All I ask is a third party review the testing and operations to make sure any damage does not metastasize to the outer roadways. Why do you find that so threatening? Do you even use I-90?

        Obviously East Link will be completed. But it would be foolish IMO to assume the bridge concerns are over. That will take very careful and very honest monitoring. How would Seattle ever end up paying for East Link by the way? How many times have I noted the huge subsidies from the eastside subarea to N. King Co. in both ST 2 and 3.

        I don’t know why you have such hostility toward buses. How many times has Ross pointed out buses will carry many more riders than Link, even when completed. We just don’t have a very dense three county area, and that area is huge. I think the 554 as a one seat ride to Bellevue Way from Issaquah will have a bigger impact than East Link. So will the 630 on Mercer Island. East Link will be built; I just don’t think it will carry many riders, and I believe the dollar per rider mile is the best metric to determine the wisdom of light rail or any transit project.

        East Link’s route from downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle made sense in 2004 and 2008. Now with East Link running along 112th and all the other changes I noted East Link isn’t that important to the eastside.

        So what? Why do you care. You don’t even live on the eastside. We have lived without East Link for around 80 years, and there were few tears when ST announced East Link would be delayed until probably July 2024. I didn’t see that kind of sanguinity when the West Seattle Bridge was closed, and I doubt eastsiders and shippers would be cavalier if I-90 had to be closed.

        Let’s hope East Link has no deleterious effects to I-90. But that doesn’t mean ridership will be strong. East King Co. — IMO — is not a good place for the cost of light rail, and there are better options, and so I think ridership will be pretty low on the eastside. Life changes.

        But you don’t need to worry about that. You don’t live on the eastside and probably rarely visit, and if you do you drive. From what I can see East Link on the eastside will be big yawn, both the delays and the opening and even costs, as long as it does not compromise the bridge. East Link certainly won’t create some kind of urbanist utopia in East King Co., or switch anyone from their car to light rail, or cause a light to go off for suburbanites that their way of life is wrong, so if that is your hope I am afraid that is not going to happen.

        Sometimes you build a train and people ride it, sometimes they don’t. The good news is transit and light rail are such insignificant factors in life that if East Link is delayed until 2034 no one on the eastside will notice.

      26. Daniel:
        The very article you point to says they are using expansion joints at each end of the bridge. This should allow them to operate the trains on a continuous running surface that is even better than any road surface with no drop onto the floating portion. You wind up with some extra rail running parallel, so that they can expand and contract as needed.

        In the case of the floating bridge, if there is twisting or yaw, one expansion joint allows of one side to contract, while the other expands.

        They have to build in some vertical flex before those joints on the floating bridge, but I can’t see where any sort of drop from one running rail to the other would ever happen. That’s what the expansion joints are for: to make one long continuous running surface.

        If you were going to design it with a break in the running surface, they could have just used the sort of joint they use on drawbridges and put up with the resulting speed limits that way.

        The concrete bits they talk about in the article is troubling because rail expansion joints of any type need solid support to stay in alignment, and this doesn’t sound like it’s getting that.

        Next time you happen to be near a railroad, take a look at how much vertical motion the track has as a freight train passes over. It’s not that unusual to see the track dip under load about an inch or more. As best as I can tell, they’re trying to take that flexing motion and minimize the amount done by the rail and have it instead absorber by the roadbed.

      27. “When ST 2 passed on the eastside in 2008 it made sense. For the Eastside. The benefit ran to the eastside from having direct rail from “downtown” Bellevue to downtown Seattle, and to the UW. That is why the eastside subarea paid for 100% of East Link”

        Forward Thrust in the 1960s had almost the same route as East Link. Bellevue intended to grow into a major city, and King County intended to channel growth to the Eastside. In 2022 that has largely happened, and the Eastside will continue to grow. That means it needs more transit, not less. Does nobody travel between San Francisco and Oakland? Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, Minneapolis and St Paul, Boston and Brookline? When a city of 750,000 is near a city cluster of 300,000 and both are economic centers, a lot of people travel for thousands of reasons, not just to commute to the central downtown.

        I go to the Bellevue jazz festival, Bellevue Square, the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. My roommate went to Bellevue College. Others work in hospitals in Bellevue or Seattle, or are patients or visitors there. Others to go parks or trails, unique businesses, etc. Blue-collar workers go to industrial or retail or logistics jobs. Having a rail trunk is the best way to facilitate the largest cross-section of these.

        “The design should have been a tunnel under Bellevue Way or maybe 102nd, but Microsoft insisted it run to its campus”

        It was Kemper Freeman who objected to it going near Bellevue Square, because he thinks like you. A Bellevue Way routing would not preclude it going to Microsoft too. The only difference is the downtown Bellevue station would have been near the mall. Forward Thrust would have gone to the Spring District and Redmond whether Microsoft existed or not. Other companies would have come.

        “But it was surface and mostly in public rights of way and the subarea had to spend on that money somewhere.”

        The Eastside could have said in 1996 it didn’t want Link, and that would have thrown off the whole inter-subarea balance and forced a different kind of regional transit paradigm, but it didn’t. It said it wanted Link in 1996, 2008, and 2016.

        “But no one really figured out who would ride East Link.”

        You’re the one who hasn’t figured out who would ride East Link.

        “East Link was shunted to 112th.”

        East Main Station is 1/10 of East Link between South Bellevue and Redmond Downtown. It’s not the one thing that will make or break it. In between stations it doesn’t matter which street it goes on because you can’t get on/off there. Maybe East Main will be the least-used station. There has to be one somewhere.

        “And it doesn’t run to downtown Bellevue.”

        The center of Bellevue’s emerging density is right where the transit center is. Bellevue Way has important cultural/shopping draws but it’s not the only thing anymore.

        “the CID is hoping for that clientele, but a lot of those restaurants now have places on the eastside.”

        The Eastside is not Chinatown. Maybe people are going for both the restaurant and the neighborhood. Maybe they’re going to two different places in the CID. Maybe they’re taking a visitor who wants to see the history, not just one suburban restaurant. A small excellent-hole-in-the-wall has only one location. Maybe they’re also going to a downtown symphony or ballgame. Or maybe they’re visiting relatives or friends in Seattle.

        “Are Seattleites on Capitol Hill or South Seattle really going to take East Link to the eastside for a night out on the town in The Spring District, Wilburton, Overlake or Redmond?”

        Some people do. It’s not just “a night on the town” but also unique shops, events, social clubs, and visiting people they know. If transit is better, people will use transit more and go there more. Much has been written about how much more accessible Capitol Hill, Roosevelt, and Rainier Valley are from other parts of the city with Link, making it much easler to stop there for lunch or a spontaneous trip than it was before Link. Soon the Spring District and downtown Redmond will have that too. I mentioned a few days ago how Roosevelt to Capitol Hill used to take 45 minutes on buses but now it takes 9 minutes on Link. Try to get to downtown Redmond from Bellevue, or to the Spring District from anywhere. Link will make it twice as easy, or even more than twice really. Even if you’re coming from Renton and transferring in Bellevue to the Spring District or Redmond.

        “. I think the 554 as a one seat ride to Bellevue Way from Issaquah will have a bigger impact than East Link. So will the 630 on Mercer Island”

        Dream on. Link almost always gets at least one or two people at every stop, even at Angle Lake and SODO. It often gets four or five or ten people at most stops, all day and evening. Subways everywhere are like that. The same thing will happen on the Eastside, even if it’s at a smaller scale than Seattle. They’re already riding the 550 Sunday afternoon, or the 545 Saturday from Yarrow Point to Redmond (really!), or the 226 on Saturday from downtown Bellevue toward Overlake. They’ll do more of it when they have a 10-minute train, grade-separated, stopping directly in more neighborhoods, and able to go to several parts of Seattle on the same line.

        “the eastside transit restructure that repudiated ST’s ridership estimates.”

        Repeating a falsehood doesn’t make it true. Metro’s proposed Eastside restructure is close to what Metro intended to do all along. It was in Metro Connects in 2016. It’s what the Eastside city councils had been clamoring for for years. More frequent buses between Eastside cities, and connecting neighborhoods to surrounding cities. That’s good from an urbanist perspective too, for the Eastside to be more self-contained and to have everything and to have transit to everything. The goal is to have most people able to live and work and recreate in their own city or subarea, and to have good transit to those activities even if they’re in a suburb. But even if you try to get most Eastsiders to stay on the Eastside, and most Seattlites to stay in Seattle, when you have a city of 750,000 ten miles from a city-cluster of 300,000, inevitably there’s going to be a significant amount of cross-lake travel. We want to get more of that onto transit, and that requires having higher-quality transit. San Franciscans find a lot of reasons to go to Oakland and Berkeley, especially in the last twenty years as Oakland has grown and has more cultural/economic activities (like Bellevue). Oaklanders find a lot of reasons to go to San Francisco, even if they don’t work on Market Street.

        “Ross pointed out buses will carry many more riders than Link,”

        That’s across the entire network. It doesn’t help somebody going from Bellevue to Redmond that there’s a bus between Kirkland and Bothell. The entire network functions better if there’s a rail trunk as the workhorse, rather than trying to shoehorn it together with the 550, 545, 41, 71/72/73X — and those leave a lot of people and neighborhoods out that Link serves, and Link is more frequent off-peak, and a one-seat ride between all its stations. The rail trunk can serve the highest-volume corridors and neighborhoods, and buses can fill in around it. There’s a lot more total buses and riders because rail serves only 10% of the area, but it serves the highest-volume corridors, it can handle capacity spikes better, and it runs even when one car crashes into another and blocks the highway.

      28. Daniel, WHAT is your obsession about Bellevue Way versus 112th all about? There are no stations between Main and South Bellevue so what (except any elapsed time difference between the stations, and there won’t be any) does it matter which street “gets” the right of way?

        Seriously, do you really think that the City would have allowed the large cluster of Very Tall Buildings planned for Main Street Station to nstead have been built along Bellevue Way at Main? Not on your life! It would have obstructed the view of too many people living between Bellevue Way and 112th. The folks living there aren’t riders anyway.

        This is by far the weakest of your criticisms of East Link, and you trot it out with mind-numbing regularity.

      29. Tom, maybe I wasn’t clear. I feel like East Link should have accessed Bellevue Way between Main and 8th or 10th, probably under 102nd, even 104th since the streets are so wide. Probably with three stops: Main, 4th and 8th.

        The subarea had the money for the tunnel. I doubt Bellevue business interests would have allowed East Link in this part of the city unless it was underground, just like downtown Business interests would not allow WSBLE above ground through the downtown core. Really in 2008 the assumption was you would take East Link from a very vibrant Bellevue Mall area to Westlake Mall. That dream is long gone.

        Putting East Link along 112th along 405 10-12 blocks uphill from Bellevue Way defeats much of the purpose in my mind. I would not have advised putting either DSTT 1 or 2 under Western, at that is a much shorter and less steep walk than 112th or 110th to Bellevue Way. I could see taking East Link to downtown Bellevue Way (Old Main St.) if I was going to drink but not to 112th. I will take Uber instead.

        Look, I am not going to pull my hair out over East Link, its route, its cost, or anything to do with East Link, as long as the integrity of the bridge is not compromised. East Link — literally — means nothing to me, whether one person rides it or 1 million. If it never opened I doubt more than 5% of eastsiders would notice.

        I just don’t think many eastsiders will ride it, especially intra-eastside. Mike thinks hordes of Seattleites will take East Link to the eastside, but they are not doing that today on the buses. I agree Link is great to get to Capitol Hill and my son takes it sometimes from the UW if he is alone and meeting friends for a drink (if there is more than one they Uber) but I don’t know how many eastsiders are going to Capitol Hill. Why?

        I really don’t understand why so many on this blog get so worked up about East Link when they don’t live on the eastside, and we have lived without East Link so far without the world ending. It is what it is, as long as it does not impact the bridge.

      30. “But no one really figured out who would ride East Link. The ridership estimates were just phony.”

        I know that j can’t convince Daniel but I do want to note some things about ridership.

        1. FTA scrutinizes forecasts very closely. They have to rank and qualify projects for Federal funds from all over the US. Had ST forecasts been “phony”, there would be no New Starts Federal money. None. ST can’t get Federal money with phony forecasts. It must obey rules set in the Federal Register.

        2. In its heyday a few years ago (2017) before tunnel eviction Routes 545, 550 and 554 were carrying 25k riders combined. The forecast was for 43-52k and that included 6-7k for Judkins Park as well as attracting Eastside-only riders. That’s a believable forecast.

        I tend to agree that some engineering and costs coming out of ST are highly suspect, especially with ST3 and its technical mistakes. I view this as a serious accountability problem. However, the ridership forecasts are not as prone to these major inaccuracies.


      31. Dan, if you truly didn’t care about East Link, you wouldn’t write thousand-word screeds about it.

      32. FTA scrutinizes forecasts very closely. They have to rank and qualify projects for Federal funds from all over the US.
        And that’s the exact reason we have bogus ridership projections. The FTA one size fits all aren’t accurate for Seattle and we have to play by the rules to get “free” money. Nobody producing the ridership reports cares if they’re accurate and probably know they’re bogus but their end product is an FTA number rather than something voters should believe. ST OTOH just wants to pass ballot measures so inflated ridership helps that cause.
        Root problem, the way the ST board is established; it’s a pork smorgasbord.

      33. “Rail vs Bus shouldn’t be a values decision; it’s a technical decision.”

        It’s still fundamentally a values issue.


        But there is one very big technical advantage to rail over buses: capacity. More importantly: capacity per driver. For example, you could, theoretically, run buses in the subway lines in New York City, but it would take hundreds of extra drivers, and even then, it would probably be really crowded. You might eliminate some transfers, but only if you added new entrances (and it isn’t clear where those would go). It just doesn’t make sense.

        The opposite end of the spectrum is West Seattle Link. Instead of spending billions to build a rail line, the money could easily pay for fifty years of excellent bus service, along with just enough infrastructure to get riders to and through downtown very quickly. The vast majority of riders would avoid a transfer, and spend less time waiting. Theoretically rail will eventually pay for itself (because of lower operational costs) but in this case, I don’t think it ever will. West Seattle riders are being ripped off — they are being sold a bill of goods.

        East Link is somewhere in between. There are a bunch of stops with East Link, and fairly good back and forth demand, especially for a suburban area (in contrast, West Seattle doesn’t have that — relatively few people commute to West Seattle in the morning, or visit any time of day). Even so, it is quite possible that buses could provide a superior service for the East Side if they were given East Link money. It is worth noting that when the dust settles, and East Link is finally done, much of the East Side will have really poor bus service. The trips that East Link will provide will be good, but just sinking money into better overall bus service might be better. For example, there could be 15 minute all-day service to the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, instead of buses running every half hour. Just throwing a bunch of money into bus service might improve things more than East Link (at least in the short run).

        There are a number of options, and I don’t think the current network is great. I would throw out the idea that bus service should look like the future rail line. This means some combinations would be worse, others better. I could see lots of things, if we wanted to focus on much of what East Link will offer, like:

        1) Use 405 and I-90 (not Bellevue Way) to get between downtown Bellevue and downtown Seattle. Extend the Bellevue section west, so that it covers more of downtown (e. g. https://goo.gl/maps/PVtNbVep665Ay4SG7). Downtown Bellevue is a bit challenging to cover with one route, because it is so square, but even that sloppy extension offers more downtown Bellevue coverage than the current plan.

        2) Keep the Issaquah peak express. Midday, they would be truncated at Mercer Island (since the 550 isn’t full).

        3) Run peak service from Bellevue Way to downtown Seattle. Outside of peak is where it gets tricky. It could be truncated at Mercer Island, but I think it would make more sense to go the other direction, and connect up to Factoria and maybe Eastgate.

        4) Increase the number of express buses from Seattle to Microsoft and downtown Redmond, since those stations are fairly close to the freeway anyway.

        5) Run the 226 more often. This doesn’t really match the service of East Link, but the combination of more frequent service on Bel-Red Road and 8th (the B Line) could come close.

        There are plenty of options for infrastructure improvements on the East Side. These could include:

        1) Lots of BAT lanes and “queue jumps”. I have no idea what areas of the East Side need them, but I assume there is plenty of congestion over there.

        2) Connect the HOV lanes for I-90 to 405 to allow for fast travel between Issaquah/Eastgate and downtown Bellevue.

        3) Busway through the Spring District, and over 405 at 6th. A lot of this is on the surface while the elevated sections are not very long, which means it wouldn’t be super expensive.

        4) Freeway ramps from the HOV lanes of 520 to Microsoft and downtown Redmond.

        Again, it is really hard to say whether some combination of bus oriented projects is better than East Link, and if so, which ones. You would have to study all of these options, and make certain assumptions about growth to get an idea as to whether East Link was the most cost effective project. But at the end of the day, even if you did studies, you would have to make a value judgement. In other words, to figure out what is the most cost effective project, you first have to ask: for whom?

        By the way, this essay does an excellent job of addressing that very question: https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/22/which-riders-matter/.

      34. The reason West Seattle Link is not very worthwhile is there are no large centers like downtown Bellevue, the Spring District, downtown Redmond, or even Ballard to go to. It’s not a cachement for a whole county beyond like Lynnwood or Federal Way. It’s just a small retail/condo district on Link, three smaller retail districts nowhere near Link and in different directions, residential arterials with Link stations only at the far north end of the street, single-family houses one block from even the densest arterials, and an adament refusal to upzone beyond the two villages it couldn’t avoid.

        Rail works best when there are large centers thousands of people go to, it’s a cachement for an large area beyond the line, and all these stations are in a straight line. When a station is at an employment/activity center, it gets both residents coming from the neighborhood and others going to the neighborhood: two-way ridership. When it’s in a residential area or bedroom community like West Seattle, it gets only residents coming from the neighborhood, so half the ridership. The West Seattle Junction and Alki do attract people from outside the district, but not that many compared to Ballard, the U-District, Bellevue, or Redmond.

        Rainier Valley/Beacon Hill’s centers are in a straightish line, so Link can serve all of them one by one. In West Seattle, the Junction is in one direction, Westwood Village is in another, the Admiral District and Alki are in another, the ferry terminal is in another, and the residential arterials (16th, Delridge, 35th, California) are parallel to each other. All of these fan out from the bridge, but Link can’t zigzag to all of them, it can only serve one of them. The best one to serve is the largest and most central one, the Junction. But that doesn’t do squat for 90% of West Seattle residents, who don’t live near Link’s east-west alignment. And the distance to downtown is so short that you’d take a feeder bus 5-10 minutes, Link 5-10 minutes, and half your trip would be waiting, and you’d feel like you’d just got on the bus/train and it’s time to get off again. People like short one-seat rides or long segments where they can settle down for a while, not this on-again, off-again every couple minutes, or spending half your time waiting and transfering.

        So because of West Seattle’s lack of large centers and its multi-veined geography, it would be better to have multi-line BRT that fans out from the bridge to all the arterials and centers. That would serve most West Seattle residents and get them to the rest of the region. It wouldn’t help going from one part of West Seattle to another, but that’s a job for crosstown buses.

      35. “Mike thinks hordes of Seattleites will take East Link to the eastside, but they are not doing that today on the buses.”

        Not “hordes”. I don’t see full trains all day. Even peak hours the trains might not be packed, because Link has a lot more capacity than the 545 or 550, and downtown Seattle and UW have more people going to them and through them from all over than Bellevue and Redmond do. But still, even 75% seated peak hours and 50% off-peak would be respectable. That adds up to tens of thousands of people a day.

        “I really don’t understand why so many on this blog get so worked up about East Link when they don’t live on the eastside”

        It’s about making the entire county and region better. If large subareas are hard to get to and travel within without driving, it affects you even if you don’t live there. It’s a drag on the economy when people can’t get to any job or activity easily without starting up a $20,000 SOV and clogging five-lane arterials and parking lots. It affects your coworkers and contacts, and that affects you.

        One of the main problems with the US is it threw away its rail infrastructure and ubiquidous transit that was once the most extensive in the world, and it replaced it with these Futrama highways and five-lane arterials and huge parking lots and car-dependent neighborhoods and strip malls and huge windshield-readable signs. We need to make it better-functioning, and I want it especially in my city and metro area. And I grew up in the Eastside and still have relatives there, and I go there for other reasons, and someday I might work there or live there again.

        Other STBers you’ve been talking with about East Link live in the Eastside: I can think of three off the top of my head.

        “and we have lived without East Link so far without the world ending.”

        But it hasn’t been great either. It’s like living in Santa Clara or San Jose. Futurama hell.

      36. I’m probably one of the few people who’s ambivalent to WS Link as I do see the benefit of it with the system. The issue is that it doesn’t go far enough to justify its existence. Had the line proposed gone farther to Fauntleroy, Westwood Village, White Center, Burien, Tukwila, and Renton with it ending either in the Highlands or Renton Landing, we’d probably see a lot less gripping about its purpose and existence as a proposed rail line in the complete rail system than where it currently stands.

      37. The Link 2 Line will replace not just the highest ridership ST Express route (pre-pandemic) but also the second-highest ridership route, 550 and 545.

        Mark my word: It is just a matter of time until the portion of ST Express 566 from downtown Bellevue to Redmond Tech Center also goes away. Route 567 is unlikely to return, though a lot of hours will need to emerge for the Stride 2 Line.

        Route 556 is also going away, and 541 and 555 are not coming back.

        Additionally, routes 111, 114, 212, 214, 216, 217, and 218 will no longer go west of Mercer Island Station, in some cases because they will be replaced (eliminated). Route 167 is also proposed to go away, 268 will go away, and 257 and 311 will be combined into a 256 South Lake Union experiment, along with the restoration of the ST Express 544 South Lake Union experiment that went away at first cutting during the pandemic.

        I have seen no movement emerge to “Save bus 545/550”. No banners. No op-eds, no calls for a 4th, 5th, or 6th round of “community engagement”, nothing. Just a continued effort to get ST to build a Mercer-Islanders-only parking garage at MI Station, which ain’t happening.

        Route 630 will be short-lived, as passengers sit in traffic, and watch the trains go by. There is a reason this route got mothballed early in the pandemic: ridership. This, despite it serving hospitals primarily, that did not convert to work-from-home. Roll those hours into more frequency on Vashon during peak. (I’m not convinced Metro would do that, but I bet they might agree to it during the route restructure process.)

        I bet even Mercer Island throws a big party on Link 2 Line opening day, along with Seattle at Jimi Hendrix Park Station, and maybe some of the joint-line stations that will be welcoming double the frequency, Bellevue at multiple stations, and Redmond at Tech Center. The one or two remaining elected officials (at least within the ST District) skeptical of the Link 2 Line will probably opine about how much money will be spent on the parties “nobody wanted”. But they will be big parties.

      38. Daniel: Apart from Bellevue Square itself, is there really that much free parking in downtown Bellevue? Bellevue Square has posted large all caps “ALL WALKOFFS WILL BE IMPOUNDED” signs at all entrances, which seems to suggest free parking is actually not so plentiful around there. I suspect that mall will eventually have to switch to a “paid with 2 hrs free” model. Even the other mall (The Bravern) is expensive paid parking, and there is a surface lot beside it which posts a $16 evening rate, higher than I paid in Belltown last time, and it’s presumably higher throughout the day. Parking will only be in more demand as several large condo complexes are in progress in the area. Of course, free parking in Seattle is very limited.

      39. Brandon, Lincoln Square North and South each have six floors of underground parking, although there may be times the parking needs to be validated by a purchase. The bank north of NE 8th use to have evening parking for $2 (which my wife refused to pay out of principle).

        As much as free parking needs to be what Brooks calls “obvious”. I don’t mind paying a reasonable fee to park but hate driving around looking for a spot.

        If you want customers to come by car they need to park someplace. Large retailers like Costco, U Village, QFC or the mall can afford parking lots, but smaller and more eclectic retailers rely on street parking or a communal garage (like in Old Bellevue).

        If a retail core like downtown Seattle does not want shoppers arriving by car that is their choice. Close off street parking, or make parking too expensive. Then retailers can rely solely on those who walk, bike or ride to the retail area.

        Other Eastside areas like Issaquah just can’t get away with charging for parking. Free parking seems to be a constitutional right for Eastside women.

        I know many eastsiders who won’t even try to go downtown to eat or shop because they don’t think there will be obvious parking that is reasonably priced even though there are restaurants they would like to go to (and Capitol Hill is worse) and most of us are willing to pay more for parking in Seattle than on the Eastside.

        Does that mean those eastsiders hop on transit to go downtown? No, it means they stay on the Eastside which is fine by Kemper.

        Living on the north end of MI we have the option of taking Uber to Seattle for a reasonable price (same as parking round trip or a bit more) and pre-pandemic would do that.

        I know Harrell is working hard to revitalize downtown Seattle. But without the work commuter I am not sure he can ignore Eastside money and have retail/restaurant vibrancy.

        I guess we can try to convince those eastsiders to take transit to Seattle, but that is going to be a tough sell. So downtown needs some obvious and reasonably priced parking IMO if it wants to attract a very large customer base.

      40. Mike, there’s actually an entrance to Bridle Trails on 60th just east of 116th that gets you onto the Raven Trail. It’s hard to spot sometimes if the vegetation is high, but you can see it on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/UBY5DK3ZGQUGCp2d8

        That’s one of our preferred entrances to the park to avoid walking too far without sidewalks. The other option is to try to come in from 148th on the Bridle Crest Trail, though that requires timing the 221/225/245.

      41. You’re paying for that “free” parking in the price of retail goods and services. People who come via transit or foot also pay this hidden fee. Parking validation is free for customers who park, but customers who don’t park don’t get a discount.

        A surface parking lot is as large or larger than the building it serves. So the company has to have two lots for a one-lot business. The cost isn’t trivial, and the company isn’t just swallowing it. It passes the cost onto customers in its prices. Because most parking spaces in the metro area are free, it just becomes part of the minimum retail price, even for locations that don’t have parking spaces or have paid spaces. Society is structured so that everyone except the current driver pays the cost of car infrastructure, and the costs are hidden so that most drivers don’t realize this, because if the cost were visible they’d object to paying it or might, horrors, switch to non-car modes, which would prove the lie of the car-oriented utiopia.

        So companies are paying for twice as much land as they would in cities without universal parking. Land is becoming increasingly scarce as the population increases. The parking lot prevents another building or business from being there. Or apartments where people could walk to the store. And if the parking is underground, it’s still a significant percent of the building, and the deeper the foundation goes, the more expensive the building. Individual buildings can’t pass on the cost premium, but when most buildings have parking levels it can be included in the prevailing local price.

  5. Visible construction has begun on the route 44 and route 40 improvements on Market Street. The snarl at 45th and Aurora will be an interesting knot for a while as they rearrange the west side of the underpass and ramps to Aurora.

    I assume you mean this: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/transit-program/transit-plus-multimodal-corridor-program/route-44—transit-plus. As far as the area around Aurora is concerned, it should actually be better westbound (see this image). Approaching Green Lake Way (westbound) the bus already runs in its own lane. Southwest-bound traffic on Green Lake Way will converge to one lane, but buses don’t run there. Thus the congestion caused by merging into one lane will only effect cars, not buses. There will be fewer cars flowing to 46th, west of Green Lake Way, which means the buses should move faster. I think this actually makes sense in the long run. Green Lake Way goes from one lane to two at around 48th. I think they should just keep it one lane the whole way. 50th/Green Lake Way/Stone Way should also be a roundabout.

    Eastbound it is a different story. Traffic will converge into one lane, and there will be backups. So I expect the 44 to be about the same (if not faster) westbound, but significantly slower eastbound.

    In the long terms these changes seem like they will be better for people walking, and just better overall, but I don’t see a big improvement for the buses. Eastbound, you force drivers out of the right lane of 46th if they are headed to Green Lake Way. It isn’t clear to me whether that is better or worse. Westbound things are largely the same, except that you have a longer lane for cars going east and then heading south onto Aurora. That might make things flow better, but it doesn’t seem like it maximizes the existing bus-lane. I suppose I should trust the engineers, since they seem confident that this will help:

    After a more in-depth analysis of this concept it was determined that widening N 46th St just east of the Aurora overpass on N 46th St will not provide significant transit benefits. Similar benefits, at a lower cost, are possible with channelization and signalization changes.

    If they are wrong, I suppose they could always do that later.

  6. I noticed that Oran has updated his Seattle transit map (https://seattletransitmap.com/app/). This is great news. First, I was a bit concerned that something had happened to Oran. Second, because the map is wonderful. I was using the old map, even though I knew much of it was outdated. This is great to see, and I look forward to further updates.

  7. Looking at the map (referenced above) I am reminded of the 45. Coming from Green Lake, it used to turn on Roosevelt Way. Now it turns on 15th (although I swear it turned on Roosevelt the other day when I rode it). This has a few little advantages. First, you get some coverage on 15th (although I don’t know where — Google doesn’t show any bus stops). Second, it is a little closer for transfers to Link or northbound buses like the 67/73 (both of which I’ve transferred to).

    That’s about it though, and there are some significant disadvantages. First, I assume it is a bit slower for those headed to the UW. Second, and most importantly, you lose consolidation in the all-important section between 65th and the UW. For example, consider a trip from the Trading Musician (at Roosevelt and Ravenna Boulevard) to the UW. This can be a long walk (https://goo.gl/maps/KQx9VasodxgfjKtC6) and there are plenty of buses headed that way. Unfortunately, they are all running on different streets. You can catch the 67 on Roosevelt, catch the infrequent 73 on Ravenna or walk over to 15th and catch the 45. It doesn’t get much better even if I am further north. From just south of 65th, I have the same problem, although at least the 67 and 73 run on the same street. But since the 73 runs every half hour, it is rarely helpful.

    The problem is that there is no combination of buses that is actually frequent. The train is frequent, but often inconvenient, given the time it takes to get to the platform, and the poor stop spacing. I think it would make the most sense to have all the buses follow the Roosevelt/Ravenna/University Way route, like the old 45. That means the 45, 67 and 73 would be combined there. Just combining the 45 and 67 would mean 7.5 minute combined frequency. That is a lot better than now, where ten minute waits are common.

    1. At first I couldn’t remember a historic 45, then I realized you’re talking about the current route, which was split from the 48.

      The 48 went on Pacific Street, 15th Ave NE, and 65th. The 71/72/73 were on University Way. In U-Link the 45 was created, going from UW Station to University Way, Ravenna Blvd (westbound), 12th/Roosevelt, and 65th. In Northgate Link it was altered back partly to the old route, going on University Way, Ravenna Blvd (eastbound), 15th, and 65th. This was the alignment the 71/72/73 had taken to north Seattle, while the 48 had been fully on 15th. But construction delays of some sort prevented the 45 from implementing the 15th detour, so it’s still running on its U-Link routing. That’s confusing because they bus stops on 65th at Roosevelt Station have paper signs saying the 45 isn’t stopping there temporarily, but the next-arrival displays show the 45. Meanwhile you can look a half-block and see the 45 turning right from 65th to Roosevelt. It may be related to the 43rd wiring project, which has kept all the routes off 43rd. Although how construction on 43rd can affect 65th I don’t understand, so maybe it’s different construction.

      1. When I wrote about “the old 45”, I was merely talking about the section around 65th from a little while back. If you look at Oran’s map, you can see both, by selecting the radio button in the right corner. The “Current” map has the 45 turning on 15th, and then working its way back onto the Ave via Cowen Place. If you look at the “2020 September” map the bus turns on Roosevelt, and then works it way over to the Ave via Ravenna. It is a minor thing, except that it means that the two frequent buses that go from 65th to the UW are on different streets the entire time, while the 73 shares a tiny section with the 67, and a tiny section with the 45. This lack of consolidation means poor frequency. It is similar to a spine (https://humantransit.org/2018/09/dublin-what-is-a-spine.html) except without the main advantage (good frequency within the spine). It is a weakness within the network.

        Oran has also done a great job of showing a similar weakness west of Green Lake. Notice that the 20 and 45 run very close to each other there, but on entirely different streets. Both buses actually go to the UW. Thus someone in West Green Lake has a tough decision. They have to pick a bus, and stick with it. At times, they may even see the other bus — knowing full well it would get them to the exact same destination — but it is too late to chase it down. Even a reverse trip (for the UW to Green Lake) fails, as the 45 runs up the Ave, and the 20 runs on 15th (and then turns onto 43rd and 45th).

        In all these cases the buses should run on the same streets, so that riders can take advantage of better frequency. When I get off the Northgate train, there are actually four buses that will get me close to my house. The 75, 20, 347 and 348 will all work for me (although the 20 is a big walk). So I wait at the bus stop, glance at the reader board, and usually take the first one of those that shows up. Outside the Roosevelt Station, I do the same with buses heading north (towards Maple Leaf). Consolidation saves riders time. Unless we have achieved very good frequency along a corridor (which I would say is less than six minutes) or we are actually providing coverage (by running a significant distance from the other bus(es)) we should consolidate the routes. Thus the 45, 73 and 67 should follow the same path to the UW, while the 45 and 20 should follow the same path by Green Lake.

      2. Meanwhile you can look a half-block and see the 45 turning right from 65th to Roosevelt.

        Ha — Yes! I was pretty damn sure the bus currently turns on Roosevelt (having been on it) and yet every map shows the “current” route of the 45 turning on Roosevelt. This includes Metro’s map, Oran’s map, and Google’s map. I basically missed this: https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/data/service-advisories/pdf/21-045-00-rt45-ne65st-15avne-oct2-ufn.pdf.

        Sorry for the confusion. I guess my point is that the current route should actually be the permanent one.

      3. Oh yes, Cowen Place is the name of the diagonal street between The Ave and 15th, and Ravenna Blvd crosses it.

        The 20 is not trying to overlap with the 45; it’s a coverage route for Latona and the area northeast of Greenlake whatever it’s called. It’s replacing the former 26 and 16. So the question is, how much does that area need a coverage route? We lost that battle in 2021. It may also be waiting for Latona to be improved so the 62 can use it. Although I’m not sure if I’d like that, because Latona has jogs that slow down buses, and I do kind of think it’s important for the 62 to serve Greenlake rather than bypass it on 65th, especially with apartments there.

        I like having the 45 and 67 serve the southbound stop at 65th & Roosevelt; that’s a good overlap for getting to the northern and western U-District.

      4. A “spine” is a great name for the pattern mentioned earlier. I once asked Jarrett Walker if there was a name for a different pattern, where two buses have the same trip pair, but go on different paths to get there. One example is the 65 and 75. From 125th in Lake City, you can catch either bus to get to the UW. He didn’t know of a name for this pattern, so for sake of discussion, I’ll call it “counterpart”. For getting from Lake City to the UW, the 65 and 75 are counterparts. Our system has a lot of counterparts, for reasons I’ll explain in the next paragraph.

        The two biggest weaknesses with the Metro bus system is lack of frequency, and indirect connections. The solution to both is to build more of a grid, but there is only so much we can do. A lot of steep hills and major waterways prevent streets from going through. As a result, we inevitably end up with numerous spines and counterparts. While this is less than ideal, it can mitigate the problem we have with poor frequency. But only if we take full advantage of these potential spines and counterparts. That means running the buses on the same streets, and in some cases, timing them appropriately. Which brings me to the 20.

        The 20 is not trying to overlap with the 45; it’s a coverage route for Latona and the area northeast of Greenlake …

        Right, and it also provides for a connection from Green Lake to Northgate. My point is that two of its biggest destinations are east Green Lake and the UW. There are a lot of riders who could use either bus, but can’t, because they run on two different streets. It isn’t trying to overlap with the 45, but it should.

        Woodlawn and East Green Lake Drive are literally a block away. From a coverage standpoint, that is practically useless. It does provide a tiny amount of low-density coverage on 80th and 1st Avenue NE. That isn’t worth the traffic issues involved with running on 80th, let alone the loss of frequency. It isn’t a counterpart to the 45, but it should be.

        Of course none of this means that I think the 20 is a good route, even if it was improved. The section between Northgate and the UW should be replaced with a route that goes from Northgate to Greenwood via 85th. That would mean that the 45 and the 20 would form a spine along 85th. They would be counterparts for those trying to get to Link from 85th as well (a two-seat counterpart for trips to Capitol Hill, for example).

      5. [The 20 is] replacing the former 26 and 16. So the question is, how much does that area need a coverage route? We lost that battle in 2021. It may also be waiting for Latona to be improved so the 62 can use it. Although I’m not sure if I’d like that, because Latona has jogs that slow down buses, and I do kind of think it’s important for the 62 to serve Greenlake rather than bypass it on 65th, especially with apartments there.

        The route that they proposed for the 62 in the first Northgate restructure proposal is shown on this map. It would go like so: https://goo.gl/maps/oFuPoxBHvJMG6Men6. There are turns, but I think that would be substantially faster than the current routing.

        For coverage reasons, it had routes that complemented it: the peak 25, and the infrequent all-day 23. I believe there is a better alternative.

        As I wrote up above (or at least implied) I don’t think there needs to be two routes in Tangletown (the area between 65th and 45th and between I-5 and Aurora). Right now there is the 20 and 62, in the future I would have only the 62.

        I would avoid the “out and back” up to Woodlawn, and simplify the current routing: https://goo.gl/maps/F2NdZWKFWokD3BtX6. I believe the Latona route is a little faster, but 65th has better coverage. So much so that you don’t need an additional coverage route in the area. Tangeltown is fairly flat, relatively low density, and just about everyone would be within a five minute walk of a bus stop. Between 60th and 65th you would just walk north (https://goo.gl/maps/xZNpCxPEMTZ79sqS7). From south of 50th you would walk south (https://goo.gl/maps/kfAkXuc2NFnK6omQA). Thus it is only between 50th and 60th that some riders would have to walk more than five minutes, and even then, most would have a fairly short and pleasant walk, even if they are right in between (https://goo.gl/maps/WgW7BsjnLADoq1pMA). Worse case scenario, people in those houses just drive to a bus stop (or the big Green Lake Park and Ride lot).

        I don’t think a coverage route is justified for so few people. You couldn’t justify good frequency, and thus most would just ignore it (or ignore that section). It could only make sense if we needed to make a different connection than the 62, and we don’t (since other buses and Link make all the big connections).

    2. I think the 45 in the 1980s-2000s was the Queen Anne – UDistrict daytime route. The 30 or 31 served lower Queen Anne, and the 45 served upper Queen Anne.

      1. Yes, Route 45X was a one-way peak-only service between QA and the U District. It was deleted in fall 2012 (C and D lines). Routes 31 and 32 were evenly spaced on West Nickerson Street. The dream was to extend routes 3 and 4 to West Nickerson Street; that was implemented early in 2017. Route 32 provided a direct connection between the U District and Uptown; the connection had been provided by routes 74 and 30 before fall 2012. The SDOT Mercer project blocked that pathway. The current Route 32 pathway is slower and less direct than the former routes; Harrison Street looks promising as a pathway now. Route 31 was implemented in fall 1998; it replaced the former Route 30West.

  8. Daniel, you won’t get an claim from me that just replacing buses would make East Link in particular a good investment. There aren’t enough buses to be replaced for the savings to come anywhere near balancing the huge capital cost. It’s typical to transition when headways reach two to three minutes. I-90 was never at that level of buses, even when they were in the tunnel.

    I was simply clarifying the reasons cities choose to adopt light rail.

    However, it seems that Bellevue and Redmond are on board with making all the stops urban nodes that will generate and attract rides without connecting buses, at least at their end of the journey. If the cities use it to shape a more clustered land use, it will be worth it.

    1. ST Express 550 was running every 5 minutes in the tunnel during peak-of-peak at its height, before the various detours and moving it to the street whittled away at its speed. It was hella-packed.

      Add crushloaded routes 212, 216, and 218, and the eastside routes came pretty close to averaging a bus coming roughly every 3 minutes during peak-of-peak. That doesn’t include the upstairs routes 111, 114, 210, 214, 554, etc.

      The willingness of eastsiders to ride transit that mostly avoided traffic jams was real and substantial back in the day.

      1. Yeah, but that’s just peak. Outside of peak there were very few buses, and they weren’t full. You don’t create a brand new subway line for peak demand. Especially when the buses are fairly fast (and could be substantially faster) and there is fairly good bidirectional peak demand (which means less dead-heading).

        For example, during peak they used to run buses along SR 522 every couple minutes. They were often packed, and riders had to wait for the next bus, or catch one that went to First Hill. But outside of peak they ran the bus every half hour. No one is planning on running a train along that corridor (nor should they).

        You want a train along a corridor like UW to downtown, where you have big all-day demand, and a huge improvement in terms of speed for trips involving places along the way. In that case it is only Capitol Hill, but it should have included at least First Hill.

        Anyway, the point Tom is making is that *just* replacing buses isn’t enough to justify East Link. If the train only went to downtown Bellevue (and the stops along the way) it would not be enough. That is because there are no significant destinations between downtown Bellevue and downtown Seattle. East Main is weak, South Bellevue is nothing more than a parking lot, and Mercer Island is merely a bus connection. Only a handful of people will take advantage of the greatly improved combinations (e. g. Mercer Island to South Bellevue). If it is just a commuter pattern, then you are better off with just commuter buses (or commuter rail if it exists). This is a dramatic contrast with other lines (e. g. thousands of people go from Roosevelt to Capitol Hill, which is now much faster and more frequent).

        East Link starts making sense as it gets east of downtown Bellevue. As with all good metro lines, it is the combination of trips that is important. Ride any good subway line in the world and you notice this. Sure, it is most crowded during rush hour, when lots of people head to or from downtown. But outside of rush hour, you will notice plenty of people getting on and off the train at every stop. Enough that buses would have a tough time handling the load. East Link should provide that (we hope) because of the stations east of downtown Bellevue. Downtown Redmond to the Spring District. Downtown Bellevue to Microsoft. Spring District to downtown Seattle. Of course downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle will make up a huge portion of the trips, but it is the combination of trips that makes it worth building.

  9. When I read the article on free youth fares, I was not clear how many years the 31.7 million state grant would be given or guaranteed to King county youths. It would be nice to see new young riders get to learn and experiment with transit. It would also be harsh to give them one year for free and yank that program.

    1. Seattle’s Transit Benefit District has been giving free passes to school-age children since 2018. It started when Metro couldn’t deliver all the service hours funded because there wasn’t enough bus-base space to buy more buses. So Durkin redirected some of the money to youth passes. It may have started with public schools and expanded to private schools.

      Even before that, the school district had been shifting from school buses to special Metro routes and regular Metro routes. Those students got free or discounted passes, and could use them for non-school trips like regular unlimited pass. So that’s two precedents.

      I don’t know how common it is in the suburbs. In Bellevue in the 80s I chose to go to a non-neighborhood junior high and high school. There was no transit to the small junior high, and no transit for me to the high school. So my parents bought me a full-price Metro youth pass every month. Now Bernie tells me all the special-purpose schools have buses from everywhere. I don’t know if all school buses in Bellevue are School District 405 buses or if some of them are special or regular Metro routes.

      1. Mercer Island provides school buses through middle school. After that each HS student gets a Metro pass but the coverage is terrible so most HS students drive or get a ride to school. Parking passes at the school are quite coveted and usually reserved for seniors first, which was handy when my son was a senior and my daughter a sophomore so they could ride together. For that reason it is common for students to carpool to school. Some neighboring houses rent out parking spots, and there are extra by Northwood Elementary which isn’t too far away. When I was a student in the 1970’s there were buses for the HS and after hours buses for those playing sports but I think as wealth increased more kids drove. My first car at age 16 was a 1963 Rambler three-in-the-tree with no muffler, but you don’t see many of those in the school parking lots these days.

      2. For a while, I took the Metro bus to high school. I see plenty of high school students waiting for Metro buses, so I think it is common. Most Seattle schools have decent service. Given the attendance areas (https://www.seattleschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SPSD_B_AAHS_2021.pdf) it makes me wonder which schools do better than others. There are clearly a lot of two-seat rides, showing again the importance of good frequency and a straightforward grid (whenever possible). Then there is the faculty, who can come from anywhere. Likewise the all-city draw schools (Nova, Center School, etc.).

        Free bus passes are a good thing, but the network is important too. I’m sure a lot of the suburban areas have it much worse than Seattle.

    2. Actually, at first I got Metro tickets, which were a book of paper tickets you could buy for a discount, like ten for $2.50 when the single fare was 40 cents. I don’t remember why I didn’t have monthly passes at first: maybe they weren’t available for later.

      We also went to Vashon Island on weekends to fix up a house we had. The ferry had a similar ten-ride discount ticket book that we used.

    3. I live not foo far from Franklin HS in SE Seattle. Link is very popular for those students. For someone in high school, the mobility possible from transit is wonderful! It makes so many destinations possible for an adventurous student (which many are).

      I think Roosevelt is the only other public high school very close to a Link station. Are there others?

      1. Franklin High School is across the street from the Mount Baker Station.

        Rainier Beach High School is near the Rainier Beach Station.

        I personally observe many students using the RapidRide D line to get to and from Ballard High School. Kids are comfortable and safe on transit, especially when they can ride to school with their friends.

      2. Rainier Beach is a bit of a schlep, but I’m sure some kids do it (although I would guess more of them ride the 7, 106 and 107). So that’s it for high schools (Franklin, Roosevelt, and a long walk from Rainier Beach). However, there are plenty of high school students who now take classes at the community colleges. Seattle Central and North Seattle are well served by Link.

        Oh, and to get to the Center School you can stay on rail — Link plus the monorail.

      3. One thing most transit fans didn’t realize when Seattle Link was planned was how many high school students take college classes. Both North and Central Seattle College are on Link, Roosevelt High School is right in between, Franklin High School is on it too, and Ballard High School will be on Ballard Link. There may also be students and staff who travel between North and Central, or between them and UW.

        At the Northgate Link opening ceremony, the North Seattle College president spoke, and said the college was the one that spearheaded getting the pedestrian bridge built, and it was partly so that Roosevelt High School students could access the college easily.

        So the school administrators knew how many students would take Link between the high schools and colleges, but for transit fans it was an unexpected extra benefit of Link.

      4. Ballard High School will be on Ballard Link.

        Maybe someday, but not initially. It would be quite a walk (https://goo.gl/maps/8yRzuccQ42UfKo8v7). Since Ballard Link will serve most of the same stops as the D, the train isn’t much of an improvement. You either have to walk a long distance to the station or catch a bus and transfer. Thus you are likely to lose the time you save with the faster train. There may be better connections on the rest of the line though. For example, with the Dravus stop, I would expect all the Magnolia buses to go to the UW, which means easier travel between Ballard and Magnolia. That might be a 3-seat ride from Ballard High to Magnolia, but at least good one. Maybe.

        Speaking of better connections, when they eventually build the 130th station, Ingraham students will finally have a good connection to Link. Right now they can catch the infrequent the 345 and make a very round-about trip to Northgate. They walk about ten minutes and catch the 345/346, which doubles their frequency (to fifteen minutes) but it still follows a circuitous route to Northgate. In the future they will be able to catch a frequent bus that goes straight on 130th to the station, saving quite a bit of time.

        If they ever build the UW to Ballard subway it would likely connect to Lincoln. Lincoln was closed for years, then it was used as a temporary high school, when other schools were being rebuilt (e. g. Ballard). Now it is back to being a regular high school. Speaking of which, the Marshall building was an alternative high school for a while, then it was closed, and now houses a different alternative high (the Alternative Learning Academy). It isn’t too far of a walk from the Roosevelt Station.

      5. There may also be students and staff who travel between North and Central, or between them and UW.

        Oh, absolutely. It is very common to take classes at a combination of the public colleges. I did. I’ve got credits I earned from the UW, North Seattle, Seattle Central and South Seattle. They are all transferable.

        One of the reasons I mention Lake Washington Technical College is that it is a good barometer for overall transit on the East Side. The college is not that far from Totem Lake. It has over 6,000 students. Colleges are generally really good generators of transit riders. Being a state college, the students likely go to other colleges, like BCC. Yet they only have half hour service (on only one route) which shows that East Side transit is very poor overall. Unfortunately, East Link won’t change that (very much). The only thing that will is if people decide to spend more money on the buses.

    4. All the local bus agencies are likely to sign on, as they are getting a lot more in grants than they are losing in youth fares. Whether the grants cover the need for additional service is another matter.

      For Washington State Ferries and Sound Transit, the free youth fares is more of an underfunded mandate. WSF has to do it, because the Legislature said so. ST dare not refuse, given they are a creature of the state as well. I think they are just trying to make a case for how much more the state should be throwing their way to cover the lost fares. But I think they are actually low-balling the cost to the agency by focusing on the fare math. The net fare loss after the pitiful state grants for which ST is eligible may be only $3 million-ish per year, but I bet they end up having to spend more in additional service to provide the space for the induced extra ridership. (The same may prove true for the local bus agencies.)

      The monorail seems to not be eligible for enough grant money to cover lost fares. Given that they operate under the aegis of the Seattle Center, which skims some of its operating profit to pay for Seattle Center programming, it seems unlikely they will eliminate youth fares without the City covering the lost revenue. Indeed, their youth fare increase proposal stands out as a sore thumb while everyone else is moving forward with eliminating youth fares. Since the state does not fund them, they can thumb their nose at the governor and legislature. But when ridership plummets on the monorail after they can’t compete with Metro buses, I think they’ll come around on the free youth fares. In the meantime, it depends on the Mayor and City Council underwriting the fare revenue loss.

      As for the Seattle Streetcars, I’m not sure they have any appreciable fare revenue to lose. If they want more revenue, they could raise their regular fare to $2.75. They certainly have the space to carry a lot more riders. (Though, a bigger fleet and more/Link frequency would probably do a lot more to improve ridership.)

      1. It’s ironic that the state, which is loth to raise local transit agencies’ sales-tax ceiling or give them a more stable funding source, and approves small exceptions for individual projects one by one and rejects many of them, and doesn’t have more than skeletal intercounty connectors and rural routes that you’d think the state would be more concerned about, nevertheless adopted free youth fares.

        This shows it doesn’t understand transit: what makes it work and what makes it attractive. Transit works if it fulfills its fundamental purpose of transportation: sufficient frequency, serving obvious corridors, and not detouring too much. The first two are exactly what the state won’t allow localities to fully fund and what the state won’t help fund (beyond small token grants).

        Now the state steps in and supports free youth transit. That’s like supporting free transit for all, or a switch to electric buses and ferries. Those are good in themselves, but they don’t improve transportation: they don’t allow more people to go to more places with shorter waits, which make transits more competitive with driving, and is why other countries have such high ridership. Sure, it allows youth who can’t afford the fare to travel, but that’s a small subset of the population, and it ignores the millions of people who have no reasonable transit options to use.

      2. Free transit fares for kids are a good idea IMO. Most youth who are riding transit have to take transit, because they don’t have a car, there is no parking at their destination, they can’t afford paid parking, or it isn’t safe to park a car in the street where they live and their unit does not have adequate onsite parking. The reality is the wealthier kids are not riding transit.

        My son gets a free ORCA card as a student at UW. I imagine the UW hopes free transit cuts down on car traffic in that area.

        I do agree however that it is frustrating when the state and county issue these unfunded mandates. Probably housing density is the biggest source of unfunded mandates for infrastructure, schools, roads, police, fire, social services, park maintenance and so on.

        The state and county are the tax hogs at the front of the tax revenue stream while cities who are suppose to fund these unfunded mandates are limited to 1% increases in the property levy each year when real inflation (when measured with the 1980 formula) is running at 14%/year.

        This is the issue with red flag laws and background checks for gun purchases. States and cities are not entering the data because they claim they don’t have the funding for staff, so it is a federal unfunded mandate that doesn’t get done.

      3. “My son gets a free ORCA card as a student at UW. I imagine the UW hopes free transit cuts down on car traffic in that area.”

        UW as a large institution is required to have a commute-reduction strategy. This is reinforced when it applies for expansion permits, which it has done several times since 1990. The U-Pass and carpool parking is part of the strategy. U-Pass revenue funds several bus routes to UW, which wouldn’t exist or would be less frequent without it. It led to the full-time 65, frequent daytime 75, the Fremont-UVillage corridor (32/32), and maybe was responsible for 15-minute daytime service on the 271. Some of these may be funded by Metro’s base now, but many of them started with the U-Pass supplement, which is like Seattle’s Transit Benefit District in funding extra bus runs.

      4. “Probably housing density is the biggest source of unfunded mandates for infrastructure, schools, roads, police, fire, social services, park maintenance and so on.”

        Ha! There’s not much state-required housing density, and some of the requirement would have been built anyway to accommodate the rising population. There’s no room left in King County for tens of thousands of more single-family houses, so some of it has to be denser.

        People living in multifamily buildings or even attached houses require less infrastructure length and use less energy per capita than spread-out housing. Even if the initial investment per capita is higher (which is debateable), long-term maintenance is often lower. As for schools and social services, these are for people; i.e., constituents and voters. The argument against this is that these people shouldn’t live here or shouldn’t have services. That’s undemocratic. Democratic governments exist to serve all the people, not just the top 10% who want to exclude everyone else.

        The top 10% have their exceptions like Medina and Broadview, which can be tolerated if they’re only a small fraction of the land, and if the majority policy on most of the land isn’t exclusionary.

      5. The net fare loss after the pitiful state grants for which ST is eligible may be only $3 million-ish per year, but I bet they end up having to spend more in additional service to provide the space for the induced extra ridership. (The same may prove true for the local bus agencies.)

        Given that ST has infrequent service, this would actually be a good thing (for riders). Alas, I doubt it will happen. First, Sound Transit has a lot of excess capacity. The trains have never been that crowded. Second, free fares don’t increase ridership that much, and aren’t likely to do so for a relatively small group of potential riders (those under 18). There should be an increase in ridership, but it will be hardly noticeable.

        The loss of revenue will be felt though.

      6. I don’t think the UW Orca is free. I believe it is paid for (at least in part) through student fees. Sort of like property taxes, you don’t know all of the things that the fee covers without reading the fine print.

      7. “Most Seattle campus students are automatically enrolled in the Universal U-PASS program.” (on the Husky Card)

      8. @Ross, I agree that free fares for the small demographic of 19 and younger woll not likely increase ridership numbers that much. I just hope it will increase the amount of young riders to try transit at a younger age. I know that your comment was not intended to say anything negative about free youth fares. It just seemed the best place to put the comment.

      9. A large chunk of young riders in Seattle and surrounding school districts are already covered by free passes through schools. This will relieve some financial burden for some local governments that have been underwriting those free passes. One of those entities is the City of Seattle, which could use a portion of the money to cover the free youth fares for the monorail, which in turn underwrites keeping the flow of money to the Seattle Center for non-profitable programming.

        Sure, most of the induced ridership will be in the ‘burbs, and thankfully, light rail is coming their way give them improved local connectivity, and two-seat rides to the Seattle Center, whether on Metro buses or the cool not-really-a-train that swoops above Belltown right past that thingamajig Paul Allen left us.

      10. The question of cost of induced ridership for Sound Transit is largely about the pandemic and need for social distancing. But let’s pretend the public health officials level with us and point out the impact of masking in stopping the spread, people follow their advice and wear masks pretty universally in public, a Marshall Plan for omicron vaccines is carried out, and in short order the virus is wiped out like so much smallpox. Let’s assume our government has the wisdom to make it so.

        Then, most of ST’s new demand will be on light rail. The ridership numbers make it plain that is what is likely to happen. The immediate question is train length. If 3- and 4-car trains have been ample for the 1 Line, expect ST to attempt falling back to 2-car trains with the opening of the 2 Line. Pandemic gone, that might be enough capacity, given the weak ridership on the unique portion of the 1 Line and the doubling of frequency on the joint line. Bellevue and Redmond family demographics will then be a prime determinant of how quickly ST will need to upsize to 3-car trains, but maybe that will just be a peak thing. Federal Way ridership may depend on what happens with ST Express 577/578 when the 1 Line opens to Federal Way. Most of the cost will be in maintenance staff and equipment, with the budget for operators pretty much set.

        Most of the other higher-ridership lines by that time will likely be set at headways pulsing with Link, either every 10 minutes or every 20 minutes, with the possible exception of the pre-pandemic popular 594. That’s where operator availability will come in, and standards for how crushloaded is too crushloaded for each route, which could then push headways down for multiple hours surrounding each daily crushload event.

      11. I agree that free fares for all kids is unlikely to make a big difference, but it also can’t hurt much, and I don’t think we should discount the benefits of getting kids in the transit mindset so they stay in the transit mindset as adults.

        There’s also routes that are getting a big boost from middle and high schoolers. The 44 has been SRO on occasion from them, and hopefully Metro takes notice and gets it back to 8-minute service when they have their staffing issues worked out.

  10. Ridership on East Link will be what it is. Apparently in 2024.

    Nathan is correct: I don’t look at East Link with any passion. If it is a better mode of transportation than its competitors — in a subarea that won’t allow politicians to disadvantage cars — people will take it. Or they won’t. I really don’t look at my car with much passion either.

    You want tragedy? 405 is closed this weekend and the Main Street bridge is being torn down.

    I can’t blame ST for a pandemic, or WFH, or a demise in working in downtown Seattle. Based on the PSRC population figures and bias toward TOD pre-pandemic spending billions on high value Eastside commuters on East Link made sense (except for the first/last mile issue ST has never understood in suburbia).

    But what kind of fool thought Federal Way was “urban”

    Turn downtown Seattle into Paris and East Link will be packed. Otherwise no one is riding East Link from Mercer Island to Redmond. After all, how often have the “urban foxes” on this blog been to Redmond lately?

    If you are going to design a light rail system in a wealthy subarea with excellent roads and highways the question is why? The answer is because there is some place those wealthy suburbanites need or want to go but can’t drive, for whatever the reason (mostly congestion or parking).

    The purpose of East Link is gone. Seattle is not Paris, although for a brief moment it was pretty exciting. There is virtually no purpose for anyone to go east on East Link from Mercer Island and none want to go west. WFH just made that easier.

    I drove home from Pioneer Square to Mercer Island tonight at 6pm. I-90 was empty. Transit simply cannot compete in suburbia if the main freeways are empty during rush hour.

    The assumptions change. Light rail is fixed.

    1. “I drove home from Pioneer Square to Mercer Island tonight at 6pm. I-90 was empty.”


      I-405 was packed. I have to see evidence to believe this particular claim.

      1. Brent, 405 is different from I-90 these days. 405 is simply oversubscribed with the growth south on 167 and 169, and many of those workers use tools and can’t take transit. I hope the Rapid Ride along 405 provides relief. I thought that was a good project because it leverages the money being spent to widen 405 although it will depend on park and ride capacity along the route and some kind of access to Bellevue Way.

        I think it is interesting WSDOT can close 405 through Bellevue for one weekend to remove the entire Main Street overpass but ST can’t do the same for its maintenance projects.

    2. “But what kind of fool thought Federal Way was “urban””

      Not”was”, but “will be”. That’s according to the Federal Way city council, which wants to turn downtown Federal Way into another prosperous Bellevue, like Lynnwood also does. Or even a smaller modest Spring District. We can call that “suburban density”, because it’s suburban-style with high parking minimums, less-than-ideal walkability, and a narrower range of businesses than in a truly self-contained neighborhood like the U-District or Capitol Hill. But it’s the suburban cities’ vision of their future. Their main motivation is the tax revenue. The counties are all on board. It’s the suburban cities and counties that convinced ST to go this direction, and why there’s a Spine goal to Everett and Tacoma. It’s your suburban cities that are pushing this: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, Federal Way, etc. Not Mercer Island, because Mercer Island sees itself as the largest Medina, not the smallest Kirkland. The tiny low-population cities want to remain single-family only, so they’re different from the larger cities like Kirkland and Bothell. But because they have low population, they have few votes and shouldn’t be the main concern of the counties and regions. They’re just exceptions.

      “how often have the “urban foxes” on this blog been to Redmond lately?”

      Most of the population is not urban foxes, and some go to Redmond sometimes. They would go more if there were better transit access to it, and it’s Mercer Island’s own responsibility to cultivate attractions that would draw people from the rest of the region. Bellevue has a regional mall, an arts fair, a jazz festival, a well-regarded central park, is working on its waterfront and a pedestrian promenade and bike trails, and has marketed itself as the premiere destination for affluent shopping and companies. Redmond has not yet positioned itself for very much. That doesn’t mean it can’t do so, or that it definitely won’t do so in the future. Already it has an impressive variety of local restaurants and local shops for its size, and an extensive trail network and Marymoor Park, it’s just that a lot of the architecture is still one-story and highway-oriented which detracts from it. But that will probably change, like how Redmond has already changed in the past thirty years.

      “If you are going to design a light rail system in a wealthy subarea with excellent roads and highways the question is why?”

      Not all residents are wealthy. Even wealthy residents need maids and retail workers and healthcare workers. Businesses’ customers are a wide variety of incomes, from the larger surrounding area. People under 16 can’t drive, nor can people too old to drive, or people with certain disabilities, or with temporary disabilities. Even if they can drive and have a car, they may not want to drive all the time. Or they have visitors staying with them who don’t have a car.

      There is virtually no purpose for anyone to go east on East Link from Mercer Island and none want to go west”

      Mercer Island is atypical because it’s a low-population island. There are a lot of cars on the bridge, so somebody is traveling.

      1. “There is virtually no purpose for anyone to go east on East Link from Mercer Island and none want to go west”

        Of course, there’s a purpose. There’s a lot of jobs further east along the line, and a lot of traffic on I-90, 405, and the ramps between them. There is plenty of reason for someone who lives near Mercer Island station and works in downtown Bellevue to ride the train.

      2. There is virtually no purpose for anyone to go east on East Link from Mercer Island and none want to go west

        So how many riders do you think the station will have? A few hundred? A couple dozen?

        I really doubt that. My guess is that Mercer Island will have a few thousand. It had around a thousand on the old 550, and another 400 on the 554. Both buses are slower, and neither goes to Redmond. There are also the 214, 216, 217 and 218. These will be (more or less) truncated at Mercer Island, but with better all-day service. That used to account for a couple thousand. Thus we are looking at somewhere in the 3,000 to 5,000 range once things get back to normal, which hopefully will occur before East Link is built.

      3. Mercer Island is only 20,000 people and half the density of Bellevue. So no there won’t be a lot of Islanders using East Link but it will be a very convenient transfer point. South Bell P&R is the real waste. It has no ridership other than that which comes from uber ex$pen$e structured parking and limited transfer potential. It made the route considerably more expensive and longer which means there will forever be an operational $$$ hit vs the B-7 alignment (which would also be half way to Issaquah).

      4. The population of Mercer Island is just shy of 26,000. According to the PSRC’s 2035 Vision Statement this is our maximum build out population we were not suppose to reach until post 2050.

      5. ST estimated 3000 Islanders would use East Link, but the lion’s share would go to Seattle, and those estimates were inflated. I don’t know what the bus figures were pre-pandemic. There was one estimate that 178 Islanders took buses east each day, or someone did from MI.

        I know a few folks who would drive to the old park and ride and hoof it to downtown Bellevue.

        I think ridership east during non-peak times will be weak. First/last mile access is poor, or was pre-pandemic with the park and ride, second parking is free, third East Link only covers a small area and not Bellevue Way between Main and NE 8th, and most prefer to drive.

        I don’t know why any Islander would take transit to The Spring Dist. or Overlake non peak.

        Maybe ridership on transit from MI will return for work, but it hasn’t so far and if you look at the social scene in MI we are post pandemic. The 630 tells me there will be hesitancy to take transit to downtown Seattle. I could see some ridership to Microsoft depending on traffic. Hope springs eternal I guess.

      6. You know Bernie, I don’t think there is a good “transfer point” on the Eastside, not from bus to train. I don’t think folks — at least work commuters — will do it. They will demand one seat buses or drive to a park and ride that serves East Link. Or just drive to their destination.

        I think Bellevue understood that when it insisted on a 1500 stall park and ride (pre pandemic). Back then it made sense.

      7. I don’t know what the bus figures were pre-pandemic

        I wrote that in the previous comment. Around 1,000 on the 550, and 400 on the 554. You can look at the numbers yourself if you want: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2020-service-implementation-plan.pdf. It was about 80% headed to Seattle.

        So right there is your base, of around 1,400. Just the switch to Link would improve those numbers. Link is faster and more reliable, especially to Bellevue.

        But again, Link now offers more, as you can access Microsoft, downtown Redmond, the UW and several other destinations that would have been a long two-seat ride before. Thus you would expect those numbers to go up as it becomes more useful.

        But much of the ridership will come from the truncation of buses from Issaquah, as well as much better, much more frequent all-day service. Even if all it does is keep the existing ridership (from Issaquah/Eastgate to Seattle) you have over 3,000 riders a day (total). Since a lot of trips (Seattle to BCC) will be much better (in the middle of the day) it is reasonable to assume that ridership will increase above that.

        There really is no reason to think otherwise. Of course there will be ups and downs with the economy, but Seattle isn’t dying, and will remain the commercial and employment center of the region. If it shrinks, then the entire region will shrink (like Detroit) and that just doesn’t seem likely. It will be more like San Fransisco, where downtown San Fransisco remains a huge draw (bigger than ever) while areas around San Fransisco (everything from downtown Oakland to Silicon Valley) have grown even faster.

      8. Link now offers more,
        You must be using the late 20th century Orwellian definition of now. I drive by S Bell P&R on my commute and keep looking to see when the pigs white wash the banner that says Link opening in 2023.

      9. Ok. 1400 bus riders from Mercer Island pre-pandemic with 80% going west (and my guess is 90% are peak commuters).

        So 20% of 1400 is 280 riders going east every 24 hours. Pre-pandemic.

        And now you are estimating 5000 daily riders when East Link opens despite the transfers.

        You are not the first to be fooled by ST’s ridership estimates. But I think it is unrealistic to think ridership will increase from pre-pandemic numbers. Mode as some kind of “induced demand” on the Eastside when parking is free, WFH, and lack of traffic congestion when that mode often includes a transfers is unlikely to be reflected in actual ridership numbers when East Link opens.

        Obviously East Link will open some day. But there is little to suggest ridership will increase over transit ridership figures today, let alone equal pre-pandemic ridership numbers.

        The irony is park and ride space will be plentiful, because the peak riders won’t be there. Why anyone on the Eastside who owns a car would take transit — east or west despite safety concerns — when parking is free, the cost of a car is a done deal, and there is no traffic congestion is questionable. Certainly on the Eastside.

      10. “there is little to suggest ridership will increase over transit ridership figures today”

        Even though it happened with all the other Link segments, and it’s the normal pattern on other metro systems in the world.

        “Why anyone on the Eastside who owns a car would take transit”

        It’s not even worth discussing this. They’re doing it now. Eastsiders are a lot more diverse than you think. The city councils know this; that’s why they want Link, Stride, and more Metro buses.

  11. Ballard has 28,000 residents and Mercer Island has 26,000 with a large multi-family zone. So I don’t know why you think MI is a bigger Medina. Plus MI allows an ADU/DADU on every residential lot.

    ST 2 passed in 2008 but I am not sure the Eastside cities are all that keen on (surface) light rail accessing their prime commercial areas (and neither are West Seattle and Ballard if Link is on the surface — who knows, maybe ST will determine tunnels are the same cost as surface lines for the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line).

    Other than Redmond, which Eastside city has allowed East Link to reach its prime downtown core? Kirkland didn’t.

    I understand Federal Way and Lynnwood want to be the next Bellevue, and when and if that happens light rail might make sense. But don’t be surprised if like Bellevue they want tunnels to reach their cores , except the lines will be along I-5. After all, if UW to Northgate got tunnels — and moronically downtown Bellevue did not — then every area deserves tunnels and underground stations.

    But I guess it is their subarea money so they can spend it how they wish. I do think ST misled them on project costs and future ridership though. East Link has virtually nothing to do with Bellevue’s growth, so Federal Way and Lynnwood should not expect Link to transform those areas.

    1. Other than Redmond, which Eastside city has allowed East Link to reach its prime downtown core? Kirkland didn’t.

      Uh, Bellevue.

      Anyway, you use of the word “allow” is bizarre. You make it sound like cities did *not* want Link to come to their downtown. How ridiculous. Kirkland would have loved to have light rail to downtown (there just wasn’t the money). They were willing to settle with BRT kinda close to downtown, and that is only because that is where the old railway was.

    2. Ballard has 28,000 residents and Mercer Island has 26,000 with a large multi-family zone

      Right, and they are roughly the same size. Oh wait, they aren’t.

      Look, the state of Kansas has close to 3 million people. Should it have a subway system? No. Population density (number of people per square mile) is just as, if not more important when discussing these things. Mercer Island has nowhere near the population density of Ballard. The highest density tract on Mercer Island has less than 10,000 people per square mile. It is actually the outlier, as there is another tract under 5,000 and every other tract is under 4,000.

      In contrast, the highest density tract in Ballard has 38,000 people per square mile. Most of the surrounding tracts are somewhere between 15 to 20,000. There are just a lot more people per square mile.

      I don’t know why you think MI is a bigger Medina

      There are a lot of similarities. Both are very expensive inner-suburbs consisting of largely isolated low-density residential housing. Mercer Island does have a few apartment buildings in what passes for a commercial core, while Medina happens to be adjacent to a much larger commercial core (that is part of Bellevue). Both have quick access to Seattle via a freeway (one of their big selling points).

      There are differences of course. Mercer Island has been around a lot longer, which means it does have a bit more character. Property on the island has been very valuable for a long time, while my guess is property values in Medina have seen a much bigger increase (over the last 50 years or so). Mercer Island is also an island (obviously) and is much bigger. It has lots of interesting parks, while Medina has … a golf course?

      But in terms of what a typical house on a typical lot in a typical neighborhood is like, they are fairly similar in substance if not style.

      1. Reading Ross write about the Eastside reminds me of Thelonious Monk’s comment that writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

      2. But why would a Mercer Islander have any more reason to write about the Eastside, if he thinks there is no reason people would want to go there?

      3. Brent, Daniel apparently spends most of his work day scrolling through whatever “Eastside” NextDoor posts he can see (which might include southern Bellevue and adjacent neighborhoods, but I don’t know much NextDoor lets you view these days) and Seattle Transit Blog, and reading whatever other center-right-biased news sites he typically references.

        Therefore, Daniel thinks he has is finger directly on the pulse of the entire Eastside – or at least, the Eastside that matters, and routinely seems to forget that several of the commenters here whom he disagrees with also live and work east of Lake Washington.

    1. Running an “English-to-English” webpage translation via Google Translate usually gets by paywalls, especially for smaller sites.

      The article was interesting. Small-town project funding is always kind of cute – like how they bought streetlights for their downtown via donations from citizens and business. It sounds like giving the their downtown outdoors back to people, and having a lot of outdoor winery tourism, helped keep the town afloat during a time when having too many people breathing the same indoor air was (and still kind of is) too dangerous.

      1. Few things are harder than running a small town, or have as big an impact on lives. People and the press — which of course are located mainly in big urban areas — obsess over federal policy when most of that policy will have little impact on daily lives.

        In WA the first reality is the state, then the county (including levies), then agencies like ST consume all the tax capacity before it reaches cities, which are limited to a 1% increase in the levy cap each year. For example, even Seattle is trying to figure out how to deal with a $178 million deficit which will likely grow in the future when our tax code is very property focused (and explains the desire of cities to “develop”). That is why even wealthy cities like MI fund things like Summer Celebration, Christmas Lights, and so on through donations.

        The next reality is the high cost of public employees, especially police and fire whose contracts are often determined at the state level but funded locally. Generally a public project will cost 50% to 100% more than a similar private project (including ST).

        Then you have governance. The council are just local citizens donating a ton of time without any specific expertise in government. Commissions like Planning and Parks Commissions are the same, and often have to deal with complex issues they don’t fully understand.

        Roads, infrastructure, water, sewer, garbage, social services, police and fire (EMT), parks, open spaces, lighting, sidewalks, bike paths, housing, all cost money and directly impact people’s lives, and too often state and county mandates do not come with the funding to pay for the mandate. It is a constant struggle to balance budgets, and beg for grants, with very little room to raise taxes. Plus many small towns have a high percentage of elderly citizens living on fixed incomes who are skeptical of tax increases, or simply cannot afford them and continue to live in their house.

        Some of us (especially when older) think living in a smaller town is much more enjoyable, especially if you want to raise kids. Less crime, noise, dirt, more green spaces, more space in general, a slower pace of life (and many of us have enjoyed living in a big city when young).

        The suburbs are unique because they are small towns and are heavily populated by folks who left the big city but either need ( or once needed) to work in the city, or even want to. So much of their policy is to prevent the things in the big city from coming to their city that they fled from.

        These folks tend to be socially liberal, fiscally more conservative, but adamant that their way of life not change. The suburbs are also interesting because that is where the great middle/independent voters live, and so they determine most elections because they will actually change their mind or parties. They got rid of Trump, and in 2022 will get rid of the progressives who went too far, and in 2024 probably go pretty far right with DeSantis (but never Trump because he is so crass).

        It may seem cute to some but remember they determine who is elected, so probably a good idea to understand how they think.

      2. ok.

        I guess having to around begging for donations for what most cities define as basic infrastructure is just Part Of The Charm.

        I started on a rant to address your rambling, but I’ll just say this:

        I don’t follow federal policy because I’m fortunate to have most of my federal representatives about as far left as can reasonably be expected to be these days, and I know that I don’t have a valuable-enough individual voice to otherwise guide my representative’s decisions. I think Pramila Jayapal does a good enough job being a loud voice left-of-center. I think you’ll find the audience on this blog is well more in tune with local politics than you care to give credit for.

        But if you don’t think Federal policy affects daily lives, you’ve clearly never talked to someone who enjoyed many of the benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act, and blatantly misunderstand the funding process of basic large-scale infrastructural investments. Washington State is ahead of Washington, D.C. on a few social policies (mainly transgender health coverage and legal protections for many civil rights) and some environmental policy, but if Federal policy begins to erode support for those things, then it will be difficult for the State to continue to maintain those rules.

        I think I know what you’re getting at, though, which is that in aggregate, small-town voters have just enough clout to counterbalance urban voters, and therefore can frustrate or affirm urban voter’s desires for public policy. I argue that the fact that our only centrist party (the DNC) routinely forgets to consider non-urban constituents when deciding policy is not a criticism of left-ish politics, but in fact a criticism of the DNC. Our far-right party (the RNC) only gets non-urban votes because while they promise to do nothing for those votes, they promise to also do nothing to those voters.

      3. “I think I know what you’re getting at, though, which is that in aggregate, small-town voters have just enough clout to counterbalance urban voters, and therefore can frustrate or affirm urban voter’s desires for public policy.”

        Not “small town voters” Nathan, as they tend to lean quite conservative, especially in rural areas. It is the “suburban” voter who determines elections and levies.

        One of the ironies of politics is everyone thinks they are in the “center”, although that is mostly confirmational bias, both the media we read and watch, friends, and the areas we choose to live in. We are “surprised” when the voters don’t elect the person we think represents our politics, because of course they like us must be the “moderate” independent” middle of the road reasonable candidate.

        For example, even in a very socially liberal area like East King Co. you (and Jayapal) would be considered far, far, far left progressives, especially fiscally. When compared to the rest of the country you would be around 99.99999% to the left of center. But you probably don’t see that.

        Suburban voters are going to vote R and conservative this fall, and so R’s will take back one or two houses, and probably the few states they don’t already control. Those on the left will say suburbanites were brilliant in 2020 when Biden was elected and D’s took both houses (mostly due to Trump in Georgia) but stupid in 2022, and probably 2024. R’s will say these same suburban voters were stupid in 2020 and got what they deserved, but welcome back, although these swing voters really don’t belong to any camp..

        And no doubt in 2026 R’s will have gone too far if they control all three branches of government so suburbanites will again vote D, except by that time R control of state legislatures and gerrymandering (with a Supreme Court that may restrict courts from reviewing claims of gerrymandering) may have so cemented control it will tough to dislodge R’s, definitely from control of the Senate due to the electoral representation.

        Parties lose control of branches of government because they deserved to lose control, whether we understand the reason why or not. That is why I am a big fan of devolving as much power to first the citizen, then their local council or district, then to large cities, counties and last of all the federal government. If Seattle wants to be Seattle then let Seattle be Seattle, although on its own dime. But progressives just can’t believe that, and so we will definitely see some harsh federal policy beginning in 2022, but really in 2024, from the R’s because beginning in 2022 the suburban voters will believe D’s and progressives deserve to lose control.

        If you want to know what that will look like read Sen. Rick Scott’s (R. FL) piece in today’s Wall St. Journal titled, “A Plan To Get Americans Back To Work”, which basically means no federal benefits for adults unless they work.

      4. Dan, do you think your observation of the reactionary nature of suburban politics is a novel one?

        And I would also like to congratulate you on the observation that my politics would be considered “far, far, left” of the “center” of American politics. I’m not a elementary school teacher so I don’t know how to properly simplify this idea to you, but here it goes: politics in the USA are globally known to be far-right of center. So right of center, in fact, that our “leftist” party is equivalent to the center-right parties in the more moderate states of Europe. Our center is firmly in the conservative right of the political spectrum.

        Being a “centrist” or a moderate is not a virtue. It just means you have no personal socio-economic ideals worth disagreeing with other people about.

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