The Seattle Times rightly asks why Seattle has been so eager to get a station at 130th but so reluctant to add zoning capacity

Vancouver’s 16km SkyLink extension to Surrey to open in 2028, cost $4B

Related: Translink’s ridership is at a remarkable 72% of pre-Covid levels

SDOT rolls out a safety campaign to try and slow down drivers. 🤔

Seattle City Council selects a preferred alignment for WSBLE, punts on many of the thorniest questions

CityLab looks at Luxembourg’s free transit program. The pandemic makes it hard to say for sure, but it doesn’t seem to have done much to get people out of their cars.

Yes, this is an open thread.

389 Replies to “News Roundup: flocking safety”

  1. Got to ride the Skytrain Canada Line last Saturday on a weekend stay, round trip from downtown Vancouver to the Richmond night market. We had to stand most of the ride both ways, but not super crowded, pleasant ride. There were also lots of people waiting for buses especially in the downtown area. Definitely felt good to see ridership at that level.

    1. Nice to hear. The last time I was in Vancouver was before the Canada line opened so I’ve never seen it. I flew from Vancouver to Germany, and took the Swift-like bus from the airport that was running during Skytrain construction. It was limited-stop and frequent like Swift, but not on a freeway or with long nonstop segments like ST Express.

      1. I forgot to mention that there were also a few buses with the `Bus full` sign and jam-packed with passengers, both Friday and Saturday.

        I used to not pay attention to Skytrain when visiting Vancouver. But the Link construction near my place in Shoreline naturally makes me compare and hope for the best results. I didn’t get to try the nice bike lanes over there, but that’s next on my list.

    2. What proportion of passengers were wearing masks? I understand they are optional there, too.

    3. I received an email earlier this week from one of my family members who works in critical care at Harborview. She indicated that two of her coworkers had contracted Covid outside of work, most likely at outdoor group events according to their own assessments. At the time of the email, she said they currently had 48 Covid patients. She also passed along this staff communication which I’ve linked to below. I’ll just highlight the included bullet points:

      •The highly transmissible BA.5 variant is now the dominant strain nationally and gaining locally. Reinfections are becoming more common, even among the vaccinated.
      •If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, but an at-home antigen test shows you are negative, you should get a PCR test to confirm.
      •We strongly encourage you to continue masking indoors and in crowded outdoor environments where social distancing is not possible.
      •Data and cases now indicate local transmission of monkeypox.

      1. My wife and I still wear masks in crowded settings, indoor or outdoors. We also try to keep our distance to others when walking outside, especially when not wearing masks.

        I’d be curious what the ages are of the Covid patients at Harborview. I assume they’d be mostly older than 70, but I would appreciate getting corrected. I’ve had family/relatives, living in other states, catch Covid one after another in the same household, starting in spring this year. Most are younger, but two are over 70 (2x boostered), and still only suffered mild symptoms. Some would not have known they caught it because of lack of symptoms, except they had to test because of being exposed.

        These anecdata makes us less anxious/vigilant compared to 2020-2021 and earlier this year. I don’t mean to minimize the risks, I do work for a hospital that treats immunocompromised children, and I follow all the required vaccination, masking, and distancing requirements. Still, even my employer has eased many restrictions, so I feel like we are not taking unnecessary risks when going out in mostly unmasked crowds, including transit.

  2. Frequency and coverage are more important than free fares. I was in Luxembourg for a day, taking the train from Germany. I didn’t see the local transit because I just walked around the capital. I’d guess Luxembourg has typical European transit, at least 15 minutes throughout the city and 15-30 minutes to the rest of the tiny country. So the people who would take transit probably already are, and the fare is such a tiny fraction of their income that free fares isn’t an incentive.

    Still, there’s hope. Germany is a manufacturer of high-end cars and many people have them (including Mercedes taxis), but it also has a lot of transit and people use it. Luxembourg’s problem of people overflowing the parking lots at lake beaches sounds easier to solve than our Trailhead Direct. In other words, some people would still cling to their cars, but it would take less incentive to get them to take transit than it does here. Frequency and speed are still the main factors. Have lakefront shuttles from several cities if necessary.

    1. And here I thought the Durkan administration was incompetent at improving traffic safety.

  3. The Times article is hardly a ringing endorsement of the station at 130th. Another station in search of ridership through zoning when TOD is losing favor with WFH. Balducci’s ringing endorsement of the “useless” station, as one local politician called it, is the soaring costs for the station will only worsen in the future.

    1. 130th is not a useless station. According to the article, they found a lady who lives in Issaquah, and on days she has a hair salon appointment, she will drive to South Bellevue Station, then take Link the 130th station, then walk the last half mile to the salon which is in the Pinehurst neighborhood of North Seattle.

      1. Your snark never disappoints us, Sam. Lol.

        I had read the article when it came out and I thought to myself, now that is one loyal customer.

      2. I know many “ladies” from Issaquah. I have a hard time believing one of them would drive to the park and ride station at S. Bellevue (in late 2024) to take Link to 130th for a hair appointment.

        First I am surprised anyone in Issaquah knows about East Link, let alone a station at 130th that was just recently added.

        Second how many women from Issaquah really drive to Pinehurst for a hair appointment.

        And how many who would drive to Pinehust (plus the 1/2 mile walk) decide to drive to a park and ride instead (although I do think Issaquah workers taking East Link to downtown Seattle to work will do this instead of taking a feeder bus, but that will be a non-discretionary transit trip). They would simply drive to the salon.

        So I will take this single anecdotal rider with a grain of salt.

        I do agree with Tisgwm that my support for a station at 130th was before the new price tag, the fact WSBLE is unaffordable, and 130th could serve as an intercept for buses from the north that TT questions. Now the station looks highly questionable because walk up ridership will be tiny.

      3. I “question” it because there is no room for it, especially not your version with “a giant park-n-ride”. Folks on the blog want 130th because it’s the best connection to Link for the Bitter Lake and Lake City urban villages. We hoped that ST might do the “right thing” and put the station straddling 130th as transit systems do worldwide.

        Alas, ST is “special” and cares for its riders’ cardio-vascular health enough to force them to cross a busy street and walk a block to make the transfer. There’s nothing like making a sixty year old freeway overpass into an untouchable National Landmark!

      4. Let me clarify why there’s no room for your bus-intercept but there is room for buses to and from Lake City and Bitter Lake.

        The difference is that the local Metro buses would just pass by on 130th, whereas as an intercept for buses to and from the north, buses would have to leave the freeway and turn around. There’s no room for that sort of station between the freeway and Fifth Northeast. As designed it’s squeezed into a narrow strip of land with just a skinny drop off loop too small for buses. A bigger one would not fit, especially with capacity for buses to lie for schedule.

        Yes, an elevated reversal facility could be built above the freeway, but if you are going to spend that kind of money, put it at Northgate/North Seattle College where there is some “place” that attracts trips, not a mile short of it. One thirtieth would be a version of Angle Lake as a bus intercept.

        These sorts of rider-savvy design elements don’t occur to commuters.

      5. I think that ‘touching the overpass’ has to do with “Now it’s Your$, so pay up!”. ST doesn’t want to responsible for SDOT/WSDOT infrastructure.

      6. Ms. Rivas need not drive to the South Bellevue P&R; post pandemic, we can expect the garage to fill up in the early morning and not be available for midday trips. However, she might find a space in the Eastgate or two Issaquah garages or use bus transit to reach Link. In the conceptual network, routes 215 and 269 would connect with Link at Mercer Island; Route 554 would connect with Link at South Bellevue; she may be with walking distance of one of the routes. Metro could provide short wait service between the NE 130th Street station and 15th Avenue NE. Frequent-to-frequent transfers provide liberty and mobility. Some hair customers travel to their favorite artists. My current cutter is named Liberty.

      7. Let me clarify why there’s no room for your bus-intercept but there is room for buses to and from Lake City and Bitter Lake.

        The difference is that the local Metro buses would just pass by on 130th, whereas as an intercept for buses to and from the north, buses would have to leave the freeway and turn around.

        Why on earth would buses come from the north and serve it? That makes no sense. To begin with, there is no freeway ramp to the north. So that means that bus would leave at 145th, skip over the station at 145th, and go to 130th instead. From there the bus would have to travel on one of the local streets. The fastest connection is 5th Avenue. The problem is, 5th Avenue will eventually become one-way, north of the station (if not at 130th). Right now, of course, the street is closed. So that means a bus would have to do this: Again, why? That makes no sense. Might as well go to 145th — it is a lot closer.

        As it is, I don’t expect buses to do that either. The only freeway-to-Link connection will be at Lynnwood. Buses from the north end will end there (or get back on the freeway and go to downtown). That’s it. No other station will serve as a freeway intercept (even though so many are close to the freeway).

      8. Eddie, the pandemic is over. Unemployment is at historic lows. Workers just don’t want to commute if they don’t have to. Commuting to work on public transit is one of Dante’s circles of hell.

        But, I can see the S. Bellevue Park and Ride fuller when East Link opens (whenever that is) because anyone east of Eastgate who needs to commute to work in downtown Seattle will drive directly to a park and ride that serves East Link rather than take a feeder bus. Except they are not doing it today on the 550.

        Unless of course workers demand a direct employer shuttle or Issaquah demands a 630 type bus which is exactly what Issaquah will do, and Metro and ST do what Issaquah wants, when Issaquah figures out what it wants.

        What I do know is the little old lady in the article about 130th is made up. My wife is younger and very astute — and my daughter when home does insist her hair is cut at a salon in downtown Seattle (not Pinehurst) —-and my wife would look at you like you were an alien if you mentioned East Link, 130th, Pinehurst, S. Bellevue Park and Ride, although she likes Issaquah.

      9. “a lady who lives in Issaquah, and on days she has a hair salon appointment, she will drive to South Bellevue Station, then take Link the 130th station”

        That’s just one example of a common phenomenon. A customer thinks a certain yoga teacher, store, or restaurant is the highest quality and will travel a long distance to it, leapfrogging over similar businesses, or sometimes there’s no other business. I’ve gone to a certain trainer, or I find one produce stand has the best service and quality, or the chef is a friend of mine, or my doctor switched to another clinic and I want to continue seeing them. Or maybe there’s only one Afghan or Turkish restaurant, or one Coptic Orthodox Church, or the only local outlet of a certain chain is in Southcenter. That’s part of what contributes to all-day ridership in all directions.

      10. I take Link and the 44 from Seatac to Wallingford to get my hair done. So long trips for the right haircut is far from uncommon. I am still against the Ballard-UW alignment to boot, even though it would make my personal trips ever so slightly faster.

      11. “I know many “ladies” from Issaquah. I have a hard time believing one of them would drive to the park and ride station at S. Bellevue (in late 2024) to take Link to 130th for a hair appointment. First I am surprised anyone in Issaquah knows about East Link, let alone a station at 130th that was just recently added.”

        You don’t know many people in Issaquah then. You’re constantly projecting a narrow stereotype onto a city of tens of thousands of individual people, who all think different things, do different things, and go to different destinations. Many Issaquahites have probably heard of Issaquah Link, so they’ve probably heard of East Link too. Link was on their ballot three times.

        My roommate lives in Seattle and went to Shoreline College and Bellevue College because he says they have the best programs. Did you know people in Seattle go to Bellevue College? I didn’t think anybody in Renton went to Bellevue College, but enough of them do that they persuaded Metro to split the 240 to get a branch to it.

      12. Ross, Daniel wrote that had he designed North Link he would have truncated it at 130th or 147th and made a bus intercept. I replied with what I think is a genuine space limitation at 130th, especially since he proposed “a huge Park-n-Ride” at whichever was the end. You could build an elevated reversal over the freeway, but if you’re going to spend that kind of money, just do it at Northgate where a lot of people are headed anyway, not 130th or 147th.

        Daniel was not proposing to run buses alongside Link and nor was I. He seemed agnostic about 130th or 147th overall. I expect he was assuming that a north side to the diamond would be built if 130th were the end station.

      13. I’ve had to learn to do DIY haircuts that don’t look awful.

        Now I’m ready to put my competence with scissors up against Sam’s.

      14. The nice thing about shaving your head is it’s easy. Just even all around. What is a hair dryer or shampoo or a comb? The only tricky part is when I try to do a high and tight I don’t know how to do a gradual transition.

      15. “the pandemic is over.”

        It will be over when case numbers and severity get down to flu-like levels. We’re still a long way from that.

        And there’s a lot we don’t know about long covid, which is having long and widely-varying effects on people even when their initial case isn’t severe. Flu has no equivalent. I suspect we’ll find it’s a more significant long-term medical problem and productivity loss than people are assuming now. In my lifetime the symptoms and consequences of multiple sclerosis, carpal-tunnel syndrome, sleep loss, and chronic fatigue weren’t well known and were underestimated, then later we realized their true extent and severity. Long covid is still in that early stage.

    2. While I have been, and still am, a proponent for the 130th “infill” station, since it should work well as a bus-intercept if done correctly, what concerns me most is the baselined price-tag on this project. When this happened a few weeks ago at the agency’s board meeting it truly astounded me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the quarter of a billion dollars price tag.

      1. I don’t get it either. That is the real story, buried with an article that completely ignores why they are building the station (hint — look at a map). I have no idea why the station is so expensive, given what it is. Unlike a lot of stations, it doesn’t appear to be massively overbuilt. There is no mezzanine level, just stairs, escalators and a couple elevators to the platform. I would probably get rid of a couple of the escalators. No one will use the north end of the station, since the whole thing sits north of 130th. But even with those cost saving measures, it will still be much more expensive than originally planned, and I have no idea why.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a case of pushing other cost overruns onto this project. This sort of thing happens all of the time. You need to add bike lanes, but before doing that, you need to some utility work. The utility work is considered part of the same project, and just like that you have a very expensive set of bike lanes. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is the same thing.

      2. Tlsgwm and RossB: yes. There could be frequent service between Lake City and Bitter Lake via the NE 130th Street station; additional routes might terminate next to the station if layover were provided at the empty P&R on 5th Avenue NE at NE 133rd Street.
        Once ST chose the I-5 alignment, this station made sense; it took awhile for ST to be talked into it. With an I-5 alignment, a better set of stations would have been NE 185th Street, NE 155th Street, and NE 130th Street. The weak station is at NE 145th Street, as it is next to a full interchange with heavy traffic congestion.
        A better combination would have been Link on or next to SR-99 all the way to Lynnwood. ST only studied SR-99 with a deviation to Mountlake Terrace. A SR-99 alignment would have served much better land use. Fast bus service have been provided on I-5 between Lynnwood and Northgate via Mountlake Terrace and maybe NE 185th Street. The bus service might have been implemented quickly. But such musings are irrelevant now; we almost have Lynnwood Link and should work to optimize it.

    3. The times articles mentions in passing h the need for better access for Lake City, then does nothing to explore that need.

      Because exploring the need for the station isn’t the purpose of the article.

      1. Yes, absolutely right, Glenn. This was a very disappointing article, that ignored the basic reasoning behind building the station. It is very simple: You create a better transit network.

        With or without new development in the area, you won’t have that many walk-up riders. Of course you could say that about most of the stations north of Northgate. But in this case, it is especially true. But you will have huge numbers of bus-to-train riders. Way more than the other stations. So much so, that I expect this station to perform better than every station north of Northgate, with the possible exception of Lynnwood (simply because it will serve as a major bus-to-train station as well).

        But unlike Lynnwood, this station has proximity going for it. Take a bus to Lynnwood Station, get on the train and it will take you a while to get to your destination. Oh, I’m sure there will be a few people who will get off the train earlier, but the vast majority will go to at least Northgate. It will take 13 minutes to do that, and 18 before you get to the U-District. From 130th, you can get to both UW stations in less than ten minutes. You can get all the way to the far end of downtown (CID) in less than twenty. Proximity matters.

        Density also matters, and the connecting buses have far more density. Maybe not next to the station, but not too far away. No one knows what the future bus service will look like, but it is almost certain it will include a bus connection from Lake City to Bitter Lake. My guess is, they will modify the 75 like so: There are a lot of people along that corridor. With an excellent anchor (Shoreline College) it has density, proximity and a diversity of uses. Then there is linearity. While the route will turn, it is still a straight shot from much of the area to the station, in great contrast to the only option available right now for Bitter Lake, which is this: This is a huge time savings. Then there is the fact that the bus that does that only runs every half hour. The 75 runs every 15 minutes, and it is possible it will run more often in the future, given that it will be one of the better performing buses in the system. That is because it not connects to Link, but to other buses (like the E) and makes direct connections much faster. From Bitter Lake to Lake City will take about fifteen minutes. Right now it takes 49 minutes without traffic, not counting the initial wait, which at noon is 12 minutes (

        So, just to review here, we have density, linearity, proximity and diversity. Basically just about all the factors that lead to good ridership:

    4. As a golfer and defender of urban courses it took me a bit to accept it but I’m now in favor of redeveloping Jackson Park.

      Jefferson Park has the history (the Olmsted brothers and Fred Couples), West Seattle is a classic course with amazing views, and Interbay is unusable for anything else, but Jackson Park is unremarkable, and the Shriners course a couple exits up is much nicer.

      With light rail stations on both corners, it’s a big waste to keep a mediocre course in operation.

      1. Great to see someone change their opinion, somewhat rare these days. I hope more people come around to seeing the value of prioritizing housing and walkable TOD, instead of reflexive nimbyism or in this case protecting a golf course that could benefit many more people being near Link stations and BRT.

      2. Not only that but Jackson Park actually has 27 holes! It is possible to keep some golf there and still offer a 9 or 18 hole course — yet still redevelop parts for land uses better suited to a nearby rail station. It just takes willpower and a good golf course designer to reorient the course.

      3. I think Seattle’s municipal courses are some of the busiest in the country. If Jackson is partially or fully eliminated it will overwhelm Jefferson and West Seattle.

        The last 20 years have witnessed the most transformational athlete of all time (including Jackie Robinson because of TV and golf is a worldwide sport): Tiger Woods.

        Woods’ First Tee program has tried to introduce poor kids of color to golf. Wealthy white country clubs including in this region participate. Now Seattle’s black mayor is going to eliminate the public courses the kids of color need to play on because we are spending $142 billion on a transit system to areas people don’t live or want to ride transit?

        Somehow I don’t see Seattle’s Black mayor making that political error for a white north Seattle neighborhood. Harrell has made it pretty clear transit — and transportation — are a very low priority for him. My guess is Harrell will push back on any upzone of Seattle’s residential neighborhoods because those are his voters, the last process was very contentious, and it made little difference if any in the affordability of housing. In fact the evidence is new zoning replaced older more affordable housing with new less affordable housing, because that is what upzoning always does.

        The article in The NY Times today has it correct: there isn’t a land shortage but a housing shortage, at a time the pandemic and demographics have increased people looking for housing (and insisting on living alone), which comes down to builders unwilling or unable to build more, when 90% is SFH because the builder doesn’t have to tie up capital for years in multi-family housing to realize a profit.

        It is like blaming a shortage of gas on a shortage of oil when refinery capacity is limited and no company is willing to spend billions building a new refinery in this political environment.

        Let’s face it: the new cost estimation of the 130th station makes it a terrible investment, especially if TT is correct and it is a poor location for a bus intercept. Post pandemic I really can’t think of much benefit of any new light rail. Ridership just doesn’t support the obscene amounts the region is spending.

      4. Look at that quadrant of the city:

        There is essentially no parks at all, except for one giant one with barbed wire that you have to pay to access. And also have hundreds of dollars of equipment use.

        It also happens to be home to the largest density of poor immigrant families with kids in the city. And they don’t have access to pretty much any park.

        If you were a poor immigrant kid, would you want to pay to hit a ball with a stick for a few hours of incredibly boring grass-lands?

        Or would you like a community center with a pool, playground, a place to gather with your friends to play soccer or football?

        I would wager that 90% of users of the golf course are rich white dudes, not the next Tiger Woods. And the kids are left on the outside looking in.

        Of course they recently rebuilt the clubhouse, and those greens-fees are decent change for a city government. So screw the kids. Let ’em do crimes for fun.

      5. Come on Cam, do you really think rich white dudes are playing Jackson. Do you think I play Jackson, although I did as a poor student.

        The question wasn’t whether to turn the course into a park; it was whether to turn public green space into housing for rich white people (brand new unsubsidized housing).

        Golf is a lovely game. That is why rich white folks spend a fortune to join clubs and play golf. It is why poor kids of color should have that opportunity. . Jackson has programs for poor kids to borrow equipment and free green fees and instruction.

        I think there is less than zero chance Harrell would touch this hot political potato for essentially a white exurban neighborhood getting a zillion dollar station that anyone could predict that — north of Northgate — will be a dud. But don’t use the “kids” to try and salvage this turd.

        If I could offer any advice it would be STOP SPENDING BILLIONS TO BUILD LIGHT RAIL TO WHERE PEOPLE AIN’t. It drives me nuts when some support a station that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars (other people’s money) where few live or ride transit on the basis we will just build a new city there. Build light rail where the people already are.

      6. I actually knew quite a few rich white dudes who played Jackson.

        I mean, rich is a relative term. Not Mercer Island rich. But rich enough to gamble a hundred dollars a hole.

        The notable absence of the racial breakdown of users is a tell.

        It also looks like use and greens fees have been plummeting lately, even after spending 10 mil on a new clubhouse.

        Maybe golf ain’t such a great game after all.

      7. SLU should have been a public park, not an office park, and Jackson Park golf course should become a public park, not an apartment complex. And, to those that say it can be both, housing and open space, imagine how crappy Central Park would be if most of it was housing, and only some of it was open space. Generations before us left us Green Lake Park, Discovery Park, Magnuson Park, etc., and what are we leaving generations after us? The parklet in front of Bulldog News on the Ave?

      8. I would keep the driving range, as it busies than the golf course, and actually makes money for the city. The rest I would turn into parkland. I would reforest a lot of the fields (to make the pro-tree lobby happy). I would add playgrounds, and a ball field or two. I would open it up from every side, so that people could walk through it, instead of having to walk around.

        It is tempting to add some housing, but there is a law against it. They could always change the law, but even if they added a bunch of housing, this would be a drop in the bucket compared to the vast majority of land that could be developed, but is preserved as single family housing. To improve the housing situation, we need widespread zoning changes, not to continue to tinker around the edges, adding apartments only on busy streets or close to the freeway (as this would be).

      9. I have long advocated for turning the golf courses into large tree public parks and tearing down the country clubs, turning them into 0-30% AMI housing with no floor level retail. The best of both worlds. We get more green spaces and more of the housing type we need the most/worst.

      10. Floor level retail takes up space better used by floor level residential. It is a blight that has no place crowding out units in our current housing shortage. Residences are more important than the cheap, kitschy chain stores that most often fill floor level retail.

      11. But floor level retail means we can have walkable, mixed use places, which means fewer cars, which means more places for people instead of parking spaces.

      12. Floor level retail does not lead to walkable cities at all. Coffee shops, fast food pizza joints, and other stores commonly found in such locations do not provide a service or amenity. Grocery stores tend to be too large for the small units floor level retail prefers to lease out, and bodega style mini marts are overpriced, providing substandard quality food rather than any public benefit.

        Mixed use neighborhoods make walkable cities. Mixed use buildings, not so much. Floor level retail is not a solution for anything.

      13. I’ve been over in Europe and small format grocery stores exist and commonplace as part of a neighborhood, so saying that ground floor retail doesn’t make for walkable neighborhood doesn’t make sense. In Florence, we had a Carrefour Express (Small Format Grocery) and Conad City stores both within short walking distance of where I studied and where I lived and they didn’t take up that much space other than the one large(ish) city center Conad near my apartment. When I was in Brussels, I went to a small format Delhaize near my hotel. And there are small format Aldi’s, Lidl’s, and Rewe when I was visiting Germany. All of which are about the size of a large resturant or coffee shop space. My only complaint would be wheelchair accessibility at some grocery stores, but that was more of an issue in Italy because everything is old and funky in terms of how things are. Ground Floor Retail is always needed because it makes the area less car dependent and frees up space in the car park for other retail to be put in the building. My only complaint of ground floor retail space in new rental buildings is that it seems to be too expensive or would be better split into smaller stores but that’s just my opnion.

      14. Grocery stores can function in mixed use buildings just fine, including full sized grocery stores. The Fremont PCC is a good example of this. The Kirkland QFC is also part of a mixed use development. As is the new Kirkland PCC. It’s just a question of how the building is built.

      15. When you say “exits”, you mean stations. I hiked right by Lake Ballenger and that ginormous golf course last month, before catching ST Express 512 at the freeway station. It is a really beautiful hike.

        I’m afraid, though, that the “Displacement” guy will become vegan and defend all the ants who will be displaced from the redeveloped Jackson Park course.

        Affordable housing will end up getting built there for the same reason it got built other places along NE 145th: It only has half the votershed of other parks farther from the city limits.

      16. A Joy has finally lost it. Even ground-floor retail is bad? One thing it does is allow residents of that building to just walk downstairs and get something. As to the nature of the businesses, that varies by location and chance..

        There are thing we can do to encourage more widely-useful businesses. Return to narrow deep storefronts instead of shallow wide ones. Narrow storefronts allow more businesses per block, and probably a wider variety. National chains like wide storefronts for high visibility, especially wide corner spaces with visibility on two sides. But what’s good for corporate visibility is bad for pedestrian’s variety choices within a walk circle, Narrow storefronts have the side benefit of discouraging national chains, so that smaller local businesses have a chance. Let the chains go to shopping malls and big-box hellholes like downtown Renton. Some building owners are encouraging local and varied businesses in at least half their spaces. Downtown Redmond has an impressive amount of local businesses and one-store businesses, in spite of having sprawl hell just a few blocks away. (Looking at you, Bear Creek Safeway in the east and those two-story office parks in the west.)

        My friend in Vancouver owned a small video store on the ground floor of a condo building. He lived a few blocks away in another building. He took care to choose interesting titles, not just the blockbuster top 100. As a result he got a loyal following of neighborhood residents and people outside the neighborhood. One customer who lived in the building became his employee, so she was able to walk downstairs for her shifts.

        I grew up in an all-residential area, where the nearest supermarket or other business was over a mile away. There was one 7-11 a half-mile away, but it was up a hill so it seemed farther. I wish we’d had ground-floor retail mixed in with the housing.

      17. One small retail space is the size of one apartment. A large retail space is the size of two or three apartments. So you’re only displacing 3-6 people, but the business benefits many more people, including people in that building and neighborhood. And if there were no businesses near them, that would be a different negative impact on them. We need more housing of course, but we also need a proportional number of neighborhood businesses too.

      18. Even when you examine the exceptions that prove the rule, residences trump private enterprise in my book. Always have, always will. Doubly so in this current housing emergency, and triply so in the case of 0-30% AMI housing.

        This is not a new view or opinion I am suddenly espousing. I have been critical of floor level retail on this blog for years now.

      19. In a commercial or mixed use zone street retail does not displace housing because you can allow additional stories.

        Generally street level housing is the least desirable due to noise and safety. The old saying is retail decreases in value as it goes up while housing increases. For zones like MI’s commercial zone this allows the city to bargain for affordable housing set asides (80%) and street retail because developers want the additional stories in trade because that is where the penthouses go.

        0 to 30% AMI housing is such a complex situation it really is supportive housing. It is very difficult to site it in a mixed use zone or combine it with 50% to 100% AMI housing. Unless it is 100% publicly subsidized and then the land in a vibrant mixed use district is too expensive.

        The point of different zones is different desires that often don’t mix well. I don’t like retail in a SFH zone because that is not the goal, and the lack of density will never support retail density. The old “corner grocery” is an anachronism today.

        But in other zones designed for walkability and transit you definitely want not just street retail but retail density. That is why I am a proponent of condensing that retail zoning, something suburbia has not done well because it is a collection of small cities with little coordination.

        As someone who lives in a SFH zone I want to be able to go to retail dense zones, whether a mall like U Village or some other area. As an area increases in population it makes sense to concentrate housing in those area (UGA’s) because it is much, much easier to create or zone housing density than vibrant retail density. After all, what is the point of walkability if you are walking around a Soviet era housing block that is a retail desert. I am driving in that case.

        What I do disagree with some on this blog is 1. increasing population through zoning alone will create retail density; and 2. simply upzoning regulatory limits or a zone’s use will create that lovely mix of multi-family housing, walkability, and vibrant retail density which is very, very hard to zone and create which is why you see such disparity within the same UGA zone (let alone create with light rail along a freeway; if people don’t want to live and shop there now a train won’t change that and Bellevue got that right).

        I think some don’t see it but their upzoning ideas will create what A Joy desires: population density (at least units if not people) surrounded by a retail desert. An imbecile could zone that, but few want to live there.

      20. I do *not* desire a retail desert. Please refrain from putting words in my mouth. I desire dedicated retail buildings on the same block/megablock as dedicated residential and commercial buildings.

        0-30% AMI housing is a complicated subject, but I wish to remind you of the context. We were talking about turning golf courses into public parks, and I was recommending tearing down the country clubs to build 0-30% AMI housing. The act being discussed is already transformative for a neighborhood. The housing would predate the creation of the rest of the mixed use neighborhood.

        Most people I know consider first floor living to be preferable, and quieter than most floors of a multistory housing complex. There are fewer people sharing a wall, floor, or ceiling with you, after all.

        And I disagree with your views on retail density. Too much retail in an area becomes a net detriment, as the available customer base is relatively finite and business start scavenging customers from other businesses. Mixed use communities ideally have the basic amenities they need, with a handful of optional/boutique businesses. That latter category would then compete with similar businesses throughout the region on a quality of service basis.

        We can agree and disagree on subjects, but please do not deign to dictate my position to others. You do not know me that well.

      21. Discussing retail is like discussing housing. There are so many types that you can’t lump one general comment that applies in every situation. Thus generic debates are flimsy from the outset.

        For starters, space in a building designated for retail is usually blank. It can be turned into a pharmacy, bodega, vintage clothing, a copy and ship store, art gallery, bicycle repair shop, yoga studio, campaign office or tattoo shop. It can easily be turned into a church, self storage or an insurance or investment or real estate office. With the right investment, it can do food service and be a bar or fast food restaurant or the most elegant steakhouse in Seattle.

        This uncertainty is what makes some people fear retail in residential areas. They assume that the space will be the most noxious use possible.

        The debate should not be about preventing retail. The debate should instead be what design requirements should accompany different types of retail building uses.

        The total retail exclusion is pretty much a corollary of car culture. It’s a very small window of time in urban history. It’s not a natural .human condition.

        A final note is that it’s better for the planet to not make everyone drive for any reason. Even worse, to encourage delivery services probably is just as harmful.

      22. No offense A Joy. I did not know you were specifically talking about developing golf courses.

        When it comes to “country clubs” the members own the land so would have to vote to sell although that does not guarantee the council will approve a zoning use change. Since most of these country clubs are conditional uses in SFH zones any development would be a SFH only subdivision. Never going to happen. The pandemic has made memberships and membership admission fees soar. These folks don’t need affordable housing.

        Tisgwm complains that the tax assessed value should match the potential use in the zone (SFH subdivision instead of golf course) but then property taxes would eliminate every non-profit in the zone from the Boys and Girls Club to JCC.

        I also don’t see Jackson being developed. Any proponents would be portrayed as white north Seattle progressive transit racists. I think Harrell will skip that unforced error, certainly to manufacture the ridership at 130th that of course right now does not exist despite the obscene price for the station. IMO spending the money for ST light rail north of Northgate is hubris.

        . What you are really talking about is a massive master plan for public property if Jackson were developed. Unfortunately 0% — 30% AMI housing and vibrant retail s density are oxymorons. Max out the UGA’s first. That is what they are designed for.

        Some on this blog and I am guessing at ST hope for a future much different than today. Fantastical population growth estimates, fantastical ridership estimates, people abandoning cars for transit when today there is little traffic congestion, rushing back to spend hours on packed transit to commute to a dangerous city, waiving a wand and changing the use zoning but not regulatory zoning for SFH zones that have awful transit service but will create affordable housing, and so on.

        Creating U Village and making it profitable is about the hardest thing to do. The housing that follows are just sucker fish. If U Village fails their housing declines 30% in value overnight.

        But you micro zoning where one lot is housing and one retail is not possible, especially if the area is already zoned for housing. Generally retail is disfavored but developers if housing is allowed, and housing is disfavored if commercial is allowed. A city can’t use zone parcel by parcel b

        Start thinking about how to create vibrant retail density in a new world of WFH. That is what Harrell is doing. The housing will follow. It won’t be 0% to 70% AMI housing, but that is a different problem with a different solution although I am not really sure what it is but agree with ARCH it begins with cheap land.

      23. Al, what makes you think retail wants to open in a SFH zone? Lots are small, parking limited, hours of operation limited, and basically you have single purpose shoppers which means they will use Amazon.

        There is a reason retail pays a fortune for space in U Village. I mean, the prime retail space once occupied by Place Two on the Ave has been vacant for over 10 years. Zoning for retail is meaningless. All you do is disperse what is critical: retail density. The key is vibrant retail density. Zoning is the least important.

      24. “Al, what makes you think retail wants to open in a SFH zone?”

        The issue is not whether retail in an SFH zone is profitable for a particular business, it’s whether the city should be in the business of banning it.

        In general, people should have the right to do what they want with their land, unless doing comes at a significant cost to others. We can debate all we want whether converting a house into a store is profitable, but whether it is or it isn’t, it’s not doing other residents of the area any harm, so it should be allowed. The job of the city is not to be a business nanny, protecting business owners from their own mistakes, and not allowing them to open any business that the city believes might lose money. If an individual wants to take risks with their own money on their own land, that’s their business, not the city’s.

        Of course, if the business owner is borrowing money, whoever is lending it *does* have the job of being that business nanny, and saying “no” if they believe the business model to be too risky. That’s simply the bank doing due diligence with its money, and that’s normal and fair.

        It’s the same thing with parking. If a business owner believes they cannot succeed without parking, I have no issue with them building it. If a lender believes a business cannot succeed without parking, I have no issue with them requiring it as a condition of the loan. But, a city believes a business cannot succeed without parking, and the business fails as a result of not having enough of it, that’s the business owners’ problem, not the city’s problem, as the city has no money in the project. So, there’s no need for the city to mandate it. Even in the case where the city requires 50 spaces and the business owner independently agrees 50 spaces to be necessary, and would build the 50 spaces anyway, with or without the city’s requirement, there is still no need for the city’s requirement – sure, it’s the same amount of asphalt regardless, but the city is simply adding extra red tape for businesses in the permitting project and gaining taxpayers nothing in return. Again, no need for the mandate.

        Nor does any of this have anything to do with transit. Take all the transit away, everything I said still applies. How to run a business should be a decision between the business owner and their investors/lenders, and unless a decision causes severe impacts on others (e.g. excessive noise or pollution), the city should stay out of it.

        Going back to the original question about whether converting a house into a business is profitable if the city allows it, the answer is that it depends on what type of business you’re talking about. There is also significant cost savings if you already own the land, and are able to structure the business so that you can live in the upstairs while you run the store out of the downstairs. Whether it is worth giving up the exposure of an arterial street to avoid paying rent is something that just depends. I would imagine sometimes, it pencils out, sometimes it doesn’t. But, that decision should be made by the business owner, their investors, and their lenders, not city bureaucrats.

      25. “Even when you examine the exceptions that prove the rule, residences trump private enterprise in my book.”
        While a good idea in theory it starts to crack when you look places that have done this in focusing entirely on providing residences in comparison to mixed density. Like the implementation of social housing around the world during the 60s and 70s come to mind, not only in the US but also Bijlmermeer in Amsterdam or the Miljonprogrammet (Million Programme) in Sweden for example. On paper, these were smart ways in dealing with a multitude of people needing housing all at the same time. like dealing with the urbanization of the country and a rising need for low income or affordable housing The issue in these buildings starts to arise when you look at the fact that while they built lots of housing in these complexes they then forgot to put basic amenities at the ground level to cater to the residents in said buildings. No spaces allocated for supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies, barbers, clothing stores, fitness centers, etc in said buildings or not as many as they needed or centralized them somewhere else nearby which just makes it a denser suburb just without SFHs. This in my opinion as to why said structures haven’t aged as well in comparison to newer built developments or even older developments either built around the same or before that focused on more of mixed density in the urban planning of cities and towns. You need ground floor retail in an urban area or village for a place to be a livable and comfortable for people to live in otherwise you just end up with a lot of housing but no one feels happy to live there in the long term.

      26. Wow asdf2, you sound like my Eastside developer libertarian friends (who especially hate those affordable housing set asides). Restrictions on land use and development is the devil’s work. Except when it comes to their neighborhoods: Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, Clyde Hill, Medina, Beaux Arts ….

      27. We were of two minds about buying into an historically designated sf neighborhood and home.

        But all the legacy stuff that is absurdly zoned outvin newer hoods, including a nice apartment mix and especially retail, including corner stores and neighborhood pubs and restaurants were so much of an amenity, it sold us.

        A corner store you can walk to is almost like having a second larder. I have no idea why anyone would ever be against it.

      28. “I think Seattle’s municipal courses are some of the busiest in the country. If Jackson is partially or fully eliminated it will overwhelm Jefferson and West Seattle.”

        Usage of Seattle’s public golf courses has been declining for years. Even the city has started thinking about whether it needs all of them I think.

      29. Zach B, I do allocate space for the amenities you are mentioning. Just in their own dedicated buildings immediately next to the residences. If nothing else, businesses have different utilities needs than residences do, and centralizing them would make it easier to provide those adequate utilities to a single source.


        Anyone proposing to rezone Jackson will be portrayed as a white north Seattle racist in the pocket of developers. Look at how the city blinked with the CID. To claim that developing Jackson is necessary to create the ridership for 130th when South Seattle neighborhoods (legitimately) see Link as racist is not a great political agenda for a Black mayor who has some frickin existential issues on his plate.

      31. The problem with forcing commercial into separate buildings is that I think you’d wind up with less housing in the end, because a bunch of the commercial stuff wants to be at street level. You’d wind up with a bunch of single level commercial when you could have several floors above them.

        There’s also a lot of street noise, and in busy neighborhoods you’ve got pedestrian traffic outside your windows.

        This is not to say residential only buildings should be prohibited but I think they work out best on quieter streets rather than busy streets that would atttact sidewalk traffic.

        As far as the golf course goes, it seems to me that if there must be a new park and ride lot, put that under the golf course. Grass and scrub brush don’t have deep roots, so it wouldn’t matter if a parking garage was under it.

        Then make the spot formerly dedicated to the park and ride lot housing and whatever else might be desired.

      32. Daniel, I TOLD you what sort of bus shouldn’t be intercepted at 130th: buses full of clueless suburbanites who want to go to UW, downtown Seattle, Bellevue or the airport. An intercept for them should in a place that is its own destination, because some others of those riders will want to go to the destination.

        There will never be a destination at 130th. It’s too constricted.

        Such riders should be intercepted either at Northgate or Lynnwood. End of track with an urban rail line should always be a natural termination point. Oner thirtieth is not that, nor is 147th.

        They ARE good as lateral bus intercepts for routes which cross them at close to a right angle. That gives people living somewhat away from the trunk line the quickest access to the trunk. That you proposed Angle Lake as an intercept shows that you don’t understand the difference between a “natural” terminal and a point in the middle of a route. It’s too far from I-5.

        I will admit that if the buses had their own ramps a bit west of the SR99 interchange with the extended 509 and came up 28th South, it would work well.

        You did not include that very important element.

      33. Living above shops is so common in urban societies it can probably be regarded as a defining characteristic


        This makes sense when you think about it. In ancient villages, markets were in open areas or covered markets. They were often sporadic (e. g. every week) to make it worth the while. People selling goods from the countryside either came a long ways, or didn’t have that many customers.

        The rise of cities came about as we built closer together. Cobblers, masons, barbers and bakers inhabited the first floor, and lived up above. This was the case with various cultures throughout the world. It came to define the city. If you were a kid who lived in a house with a field and some chickens, you were “in the country”. If you lived on the second floor of a house and your mom or dad dealt with the public every day, you were “in the city”.

        Even before trains and automobiles, suburban neighborhoods would be a little different. You would often see houses relatively close to each other, with retail limited to the corner store. But it would still be common to live above the shop, simply because it was cheaper.

        As cities got taller, cities changed, and much of that went away in the urban core. With a 20 story skyscraper — let along a 70 story one — you don’t worry about the ground floor. Or you try to make it a monument to the larger building. This has lead to wind-swept plazas, a key element in the least popular architectural form (modernism). It is not only ugly, it is dysfunctional. The lobby of a big building may have a few people standing around, but it isn’t the actual destination. In contrast, a busy restaurant attracts people from above and in every direction. Many came from other neighborhoods or the surrounding countryside, but most were local city dwellers. Again, this is what defined them.

        The rise of the automobile changed everything (of course). But it changed some areas more than others. It altered North America a lot more than Europe. It was land use focused on the automobile, not the automobile itself that was the problem. Builders created large-scale housing developments with no retail at all. This would have been inconceivable a few generations earlier (like building an apartment with no access to water). How were people supposed to get food, clothing, medical care or other basic necessities — let alone luxuries — if there are no shops within walking distance? The simple answer is, they were expected to drive. This was a radical departure for human civilization, and one embraced more in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I won’t dwell on this — Charles Marohn Jr. (Strong Towns) does an excellent job writing and discussing this phenomenon.

        I will say, though, that concentrated housing without retail is fundamentally neo-suburban. It is not urban, and would be considered unusual throughout the world. Even in most of the worlds suburb’s it would be considered strange. It has no place in a redeveloped area within Seattle. We endure neighborhoods like that simply because it is hard to fix the problems created back in the day (just as ending the racist and antisemitic codes didn’t lead to instant integration). But whenever we have a chance, we should avoid this awful experiment, and build with proper urban form in the city. That means housing up above, retail on the ground floor.

      34. Tom, I never suggested I was an expert on station location in North Seattle. If Northgate is a “destination” and can handle the buses from the north, east and west great. If not then someplace farther north, although the cost to run rail to Lynnwood for a northern intercept seems high.

        Other posts have led me to question 130th. Despite the extravagant new cost estimations I don’t see much walk shed. The course won’t be developed. I-5 won’t get a lid. I am not a fan of spending this kind of money for a station at 130th with the idea we can urbanize it and people will want to live in TOD next to a freeway. Without the intercept 130th makes little sense even at the original cost estimate.

        I also don’t get your fascination with urban/suburban. Do you consider 130th urban or any area north of there? About 90% of the spine is suburban. One of the great follies of the spine is that we will urbanize 90 miles of light rail that runs along freeways and doesn’t even access most of the suburban centers along the way.

        My only point was it seems economically unwise to spend the money to run light rail to Everett along I-5 as though this route has or ever will have some kind of urban density. So find an intercept bus station somewhere south of Lynnwood as close to Northgate as possible. You choose the location, but please no more assumptions that upzoning and TOD will create the ridership and walk shed that does not already exist.

        Stop building light rail where YOU would like people to live and start building it where they do live. Other than some on this blog the rest of us don’t decide where to live based on transit, and real estate values prove that. It is fools gold for transit planners to think they know more than the citizens, which is exactly what the PSRC’s 2050 goal of TOD hopes to do. Except a pandemic came along, and regional population growth looks like it will be flat.

      35. I agree with you on this point, Daniel. Serve the areas that are already fairly dense. I have been against the spine for many years, for exactly this reason. I advocated for a fork – a line up Lake City Way to serve the already reasonable dense and growing area there, and also one up Aurora.

        I’m also coming around to being against the TDLE. Tacoma is a city. It is rapidly getting much more dense, with much of the recent development downtown. It should be connected to Seattle by fast, frequent heavy inter-city rail, not a meandering, slow light-rail. City-center to city-center, and then allow local service to do it’s job (or not, in the case of Tacoma) once you get there.

      36. As a golfer (I usually play South Sound courses), the times I have played there are a fairly sizable number of Asian-Americans who play there. (Whether they live in Seattle or just north of the city, I can’t tell you). Jackson had a reputation as the best draining of the Seattle munis (so it will make some money in the wintertime) while West Seattle had (I have heard it has changed for the better) being the worst.

        IIRC, you can’t just take park land and make it housing (this was when people wanted to take West Seattle land for the light rail), it has to remain park land.

        I wasn’t living here when it was decided, but why ST decided to put a station near a golf course in a residential area seems like another reason why Seattle is the NY Jets of transit.

      37. Ross raises a very good point.

        When cities began to go up, and could go up, planners suddenly could leverage that height for what many codes call “substantial public amenities”.

        Affordable housing setasides are one amenity although additional tax relief like the MFTE is a rip off.

        But only recently have cities and planners understood a critical amenity: retail. Before then trees and plazas and setbacks were favored because planners thought density alone would create retail density. Otherwise you have a retail desert that goes dark and empty at night and becomes dangerous so residents don’t want to walk the neighborhood, the exact opposite of the goal of zoning for density.

        The problem is in this area housing is more valuable and easier to flip than retail, and commercial is more profitable than both. So codes better mandate REAL retail for additional height, including dedicated retail parking that becomes free walk off parking if there is no retail, HVAC systems installed during development, drive up curb parking for pickups real facade retail density, and so on.

        We are only just learning that retail is the critical public amenity when zoning for density and height. Some however still make the mistake of thinking density or zoning alone will create vibrant retail density. They don’t, and a big complaint from developers is requiring failing retail on the ground floor.

        A new paradigm is charging developers a fee to create a common retail only zone with parking to create the retail density, like U Village, rather than hoping someone creates U Village when housing or commercial are more profitable.

        Rather than worrying about golf courses being sold and developed worry about retail only locations. Some like to think that retail vibrancy can be recreated with 20 stories of housing/office space on top but The Spring Dist. will prove that is unfortunately not true.

        All the retail vibrant areas link runs through were vibrant before Link and would be vibrant if Link went away. Same with the non-vibrant retail areas Link runs through. No amount of housing TOD (especially “affordable housing”) will make them vibrant retail centers. The irony is those TOD residents will have to Link to a vibrant retail area that was vibrant before Link because Link only gets folks from A to B with less congestion. It doesn’t create retail vibrancy. Just look at Westlake and 3rd Ave.

      38. “To claim that developing Jackson is necessary to create the ridership for 130th”

        You’re the only one saying Link needs to “justify” itself with 130th’s ridership. Link’s justification is that Seattle is a city of 740 thousand going on 1 million (per the growth target in the comprehensive plan it’s considering), and has significant neighborhoods with pre-WWII density or urban villages. The purpose of the station is to make transit more usable for the people along 130th-125th, not to bump up Link’s numbers for some mathematical requirement. People can’t ride mathematics.

        And ST doesn’t believe 130th will increase total ridership, so it’s not building it for that reason. I think ST is wrong here, because people may become more transit-oriented and more transit-oriented people may move to 130th than the assumptions predict. Link gives the POSSIBILITY of riding it. That itself is a benefit even if you don’t ride it today, because it will be there when you need it.

        “Daniel, I TOLD you what sort of bus shouldn’t be intercepted at 130th: buses full of clueless suburbanites … An intercept for them should in a place that is its own destination”

        Link already has a station for them, 147th.

        “Despite the extravagant new cost estimations I don’t see much walk shed.”

        Do you see Lake City and Bitter Lake? This is where we can build our needed housing, and current prices are below the city’s average. The city has promised to upzone the station area. Maybe not much, but later we can advocate to increase it, and to upzone the entire 130th-125th street between Aurora Ave and LCW. (By that I mean upzoning the single-family houses, not so much the golf course.) That doesn’t guarantee it will happen, but it gives it the opportunity. And if the Link station is already there, it will be easier to do. Again, this is not about justifying Link, but about meeting people’s transit needs.

        “why ST decided to put a station near a golf course”

        It didn’t; the golf course was a side effect. It decided to put 147th Station next to an existing P&R, freeway entrance, and state highway (145th). That was the conventional wisdom in the 1990s when the Spine was outlined. They were also thinking about 522 Stride, and an express bus intercept. The golf course was a negative they couldn’t do anything about.

        130th was an extra station in the Aurora alternative. When I-5 was chosen instead, activists realized that if Aurora could have 130th, I-5 could too, and that would address the problem of Lake City which was left out of Link. So activists and a city councilmember begged ST to add 130th. It wouldn’t in ST2, but it finally relented in ST3. Again, it wasn’t about the golf course. There are more factors in siting a Link station than just whether there’s a golf course. It’s not about ridership numbers or justifying Link, it’s about improving transit opportunities in Seattle between 100th and 145th. It’s a political decision that this is an important value. That’s what governments exist for: to make decisions like this and follow through on them.

      39. I know he’ll disagree, but Mike’s arguments for the 130th station is knocking down arguments against a station at 14th in Ballard.

      40. Mike to Daniel: “ You’re the only one saying Link needs to “justify” itself with 130th’s ridership.”

        I have also long advocated that ST should not pay to build any Link station (prep work excepted for future proofing) unless a minimum weekday forecasting threshold can be met.

        Instead, ST’s chosen station locations are based on elected officials spending subarea bank accounts and property-owning stakeholders who never look at projected boardings. We let everyone think where stations and lines should go, but never look at the return on investment.

        It’s why 9 of the ST3 stations now are projected to have less than 2,000 boardings a day. It’s why Bellevue will have more stations per capita than denser Seattle does. It’s why ST builds parking garages of specific sizes without studying if they are too large or too small. It’s why ST assumes Link technology in every single light rail study, even though it’s less efficient than other technologies because it moves slower and requires such long platforms than another rail technology would.

        I’m frankly dreading the completion of DSTT2. The rail-rail transfers are terrible and time consuming. The vertical devices performance issues remain terrible with no hope for device redundancy or better performance. I’m dreading the Line 1 overcrowding in the Rainier Valley while West Seattle gets both trains with plenty of empty seats and continued access to the DSTT without having to make at least two new vertical level changes that Rainier Valley residents will be forced to do.

        It’s unpopular to say, but Link is drifting to becoming the Edsel of American light rail by the parade of recent decisions stemming from ST3.

      41. “I know he’ll disagree, but Mike’s arguments for the 130th station is knocking down arguments against a station at 14th in Ballard.”

        That’s one of the most thoughtful things you’ve said, but I still disagree as you predicted. The factors for 130th are different from those against 14th. And Overlake Village (which is superficially similar) is different too.

        As I said, each area needs Link in proportion to its size, density, and pedestrians. So downtown/SLU is first, U-District second, Northgate third, Ballard/Fremont fourth, Lake City fifth. Rainier Valley and West Seattle are somewhere below those. (I’m ignoring the suburbs because their lesser walkability is another factor.)

        Ideally we should have built the lines in this order, so Ballard before Lake City, and both before West Seattle. Rainier Valley was on the way to SeaTac, so it’s not like it got a standalone line ahead of the others.

        But serving Ballard means actually serving Ballard. The pedestrian concentration in Ballard is between 17th and 24th, not 15th or 14th. The further you put it away from 20th, the less effective it can be, the less ridership it will get, and the less transit-oriented Seattle will become. And the distance between 14th and 15th is three blocks, not one.

        With Lake City, we’re under the constraint that ST won’t acknowledge Lake City as must-serve, because it’s not a King County “urban growth center”. It doesn’t have enough zoned job capacity for that, even though it has a better balance between jobs and housing than some UGCs. Lynnwood Link did include a Lake City Way alternative, but ST rejected it early. Activists assumed Link would miss Lake City and there was nothing they could do about it. Then they realized they could move the extra 130th station from the Aurora alternative to I-5, and give Lake City at least better access to Link even if not direct access. Indirect access is better than none. But it doesn’t pretend to “serve” Lake City the way 14th pretends to serve Ballard. It’s just a stopgap to avoid a worse situation. If we pretend we’re serving Ballard directly while really just giving it a stopgap, that’s wrong. That’s not what we’re doing in Lake City. We’re building an obvious stopgap because we can’t serve it directly.

        Overlake Village is more like 14th than 130th because the walk is similar. 14th is a longish walk from Ballard, while 130th is over a mile from Lake City Way so you can’t walk it unless your name is asdf2. So distance-wise, 14th is comparable to Overlake Village. But Overlake Village itself has a lesser pedestrian concentration than Ballard, so the station is less important and thus the distance is less important. But Overlake is the “village” for eastern Bellevue, much as it exists. It does have some shopping, it’s a convenient place to transfer, and it has the potential for a pedestrian concentration if the city and developers do it right (ha ha). So in the context of the Eastside it’s a worthwhile station, even if it has less potential than Ballard. And because the village is only mediocre, the distance to the station is less critical.

        An analogy to Lake City might be Stride 2. It runs on 405 bypassing downtown Kirkland. Therefore, Kirkland needs an 85th Station so it can get to it.

      42. “The pedestrian concentration in Ballard is between 17th and 24th, not 15th or 14th. ” Today. The pedestrian concentration is between 17th and 24th today. You’re basing where the station should go based on a snapshot in time, and I think that’s a mistake. Link is all about the future, so I’m looking at the future. And, in my opinion, 14th/15th with Link has much more potential than 20th with Link. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think an Old Ballard station would be a blunder. I just think it lacks vision.

      43. “A corner store you can walk to is almost like having a second larder. I have no idea why anyone would ever be against it.”

        Nearby businesses who fear a new corner store would compete with them would be against it. Every business dislikes competition, and anything that makes it more difficult or expensive for a competitor to open shop is generally good for an existing business owner.

        The problem is, while protecting existing businesses from competition is good for existing businesses, it’s bad for people that want to open up new businesses, and also bad for consumers. But, it’s the existing businesses that have the money for the lobbyists, so it’s their wishes that win out.

        Parking requirements is a very good example of such a rule. If you run a coffee shop and don’t want anyone else to open up another coffee shop near you, you want the parking requirements for new coffee shops in your neighborhood to be prohibitively high, while you remain grandfathered in, unaffected by the new rule. You could care less about parking (your customers have plenty of it as it is), but if you can prevent someone else from competing with you, that means more profits for you.

      44. Daniel, we basically agree. I was trying to teach you to think about the overall transit operations regime rather than thinking only about commuters. I realize that’s all you knew about in regards to transit when you came, and you are widening your horizons. But you seem too quickly to forget that there are a LOT of people who ride it for other reasons, as people on the blog have tried to teach you over and over.

        If ST weren’t already well started on Lynnwood Link, I would agree that Northgate is the best north end bus intercept, though the freeway would have to be lidded to make it work. The station is too far south of Northgate Way and the interchange there far too crowded to get buses to and from the platforms promptly. CT was right to truncate only the 800 routes.

        The next reasonable spot to the north is downtown Lynnwood. Shoreline is focused on Aurora and so the stations will never be “places” that attract riders for any reason other than to transfer. Mountlake Terrace, though right next to the freeway, is too small to be enough of an anchor. Lynnwood should have three or four stations when all is said and done. Two-twentieth is in “Lynnwood”.

        One serious problem about Northgate is its connections to east-west routes. Buses from the west have to use the 117th overpass, Northgate Way or 92nd to get across the freeway and thus are inevitably faced with adverse turns to get to the station. Its access from the east is particularly poor, because Northgate Way goes only as far as Lake City Way, and it enters it in a “Y” shape. NOT a good ride shed.

        One Thirtieth takes the responsibility for snagging passengers from the strip of the city from Northgate Way up almost to 145th away from the Lakeshore to the Sound from Northgate.

        All this will become moot, though, when Link opens to Lynnwood. All of the bus interception for trips originating in Snohomish County, with the exception of the Edmonds triangle, will be made at Lynnwood then.

        So far as your chastisement of me farther down the comments section for assuming that TOD will fill up the trains at 130th I DON’T make that assumption. I assume, like everyone else on the blog who actually has studied urban transit systems that the trains will fill up with folks from Lake City and Bitter Lake (write large all the way up Greenwood to Shorleline College) because by doing so they will save a LOT of time over riding their north-south buses unless they’re going to Greenwood (Bitter Lake) or Roosevelt (Lake City). Right now the 522 is quicker than taking a bus west to 130th Street and changing to Link if one were making the Roosevelt trip.

        But when 522 BRT is opened to and from 147th, that direct service will go away. Nobody knows if Metro will reconstitute the old 72 to fill the gap, but if not, taking the bus between the two points would require taking the 65 to NE 65th and changing to the 62. Both are frequent buses, but MOST people would take the bus to the train.

      45. “Shoreline is focused on Aurora and so the stations will never be “places” that attract riders for any reason other than to transfer.”

        Shoreline is planning to expand the school-turned-community center at Shoreline North station, although it’s across the freeway from it. I attended a Lynnwood Link open house where Shoreline emphasized it.

      46. @Mike: Shoreline may have emphasized that in 2015 and shortly after. However, when I joined an online meeting with the outgoing school district superintendent around 2020 or so, she said that land property is a very valuable asset for the school district, which owns Shoreline Center. It was disappointing but understandable to hear that. I was hoping that property would have been sold to the highest bidder with a great vision for a walkable, non-car centric neighborhood, which would also help lessen the bond obligations (and property tax collections) for recent school building constructions. I’m hoping that the new superintendent and district board will be more open to the idea, not sure how they are leaning.

      47. They didn’t say it would be privatized; they said it would be expanded from its current size.

    5. Having lived on 127th in Lake City, and knowing the density of the housing in the area, I am pretty confident that 130th will be well-used. It would be better used if they turned the golf course into dense housing and a pedestrian-oriented village. But even if they don’t (which they won’t, because everyone loves golf, right? Right???!), it should have very good ridership.

      That price tag is absolutely crazy though. Another symptom of America losing its ability to build. The list of those to blame is long, but I’d start with lawyers and NIMBYs.

    6. “… TOD is losing favor with WFH…”

      If a TOD is mixed use, then working is but a share of the total transit trips being made there. It’s single purpose stations with only office jobs nearby that are going to be most impacted by WFH. After all it literally means WORK from home. People still make more trips every day that aren’t work trips than are.

      An example: A medical center. Patients not only use transit (and many making medical visits are told not to drive), but the staff generally have to be onsite. For every worker making a single daily round trip, there are several patients making a round trip each day.

      Of course, ST prefers to site new Link stations near golf courses rather than medical centers — and ST increasingly ignores projected boardings or trip end densities in general as a criteria for a station. It’s the failure of ST to set some minimum performance criteria for adding a station and deferring to what focused stakeholders want that’s the core logic problem. It’s why ST has 7 of 19 new ST3 Central Link stations generating less than 2,000 daily boardings as listed here (and #8 is Avalon, which is less than 2,000 boardings in the WSBLE).

      I’ve long believed that ST should be telling cities that they don’t get any station without at least 2,000 boardings a day (or maybe a metric based on the station’s cost per boarding) rather than put a dot on a map, commit to it to in the details of a referendum and then be expected to make it generate riders even though it’s only the adjacent city that can change the surrounding allowable land uses.

      1. 2,000 boardings a day seems like a good minimum. There should be no more freeway stations. All stations should be located at least 2 blocks. from the freeway (freeways could be used for right of way, but the stations should not be on the freeway).

        In a world where many people work from home, transit should be also about allowing car free trips to places people want to go, such as to stores, amenities, other neighborhoods to see friends and family.

      2. 2,000 sounds like an arbitrary number. Neighborhoods’ need of walkable transit is in proportion to the neighborhood’s size. I’m hesitant to declare a certain threshold in case it’s too high. Our whole transportation system is based on too little transit and letting people and neighborhoods fall through the cracks that shouldn’t. If we err a bit in the other direction, that’s a good thing, and maybe ridership will step up more than we expect.

    7. If anything, I would expect WFH to promote more density. I’d love to be able to walk to a grocery store, go walk to some take-home food from a restaurant I know to be hygienic, or just do the stuff people tend to find in a dense neighborhood. I want to walk and not have to get on a bus or train with a bunch of people who think, like Daniel, that the pandemic is over, when it clearly is not.

      That said, it appears large swaths of the population have switched to curbside pick-up at grocery stores or delivery. Grocery stores have become a no-go zone, if one wants to not get BA.5.

      The smart restaurants that care about their employees have switched to closing their dining rooms in favor of take-out and delivery only. But even then, it is hard to trust the restaurant to self-report the hygiene conditions of their kitchens. A lot of false information remains on the internet about this or that restaurant requiring masks, when they stopped doing so over three months ago, and they readily lie to internet folks just trying to update their reviews on the web. I’ve also been to restaurants that I’ve asked about the masking conditions in their kitchen, and I can walk back to see that I just got lied to. But most will tell me honestly that they leave masking up to individual employees, knowing full well that I won’t be buying food from them once they tell me that. I do appreciate them for at least being honest, if not concerned for the safety of their employees or customers.


      But back to 130th … That station won’t be open until after all the next round of stations are open. It can be delayed indefinitely, and the ST Board can simply choose to delay its opening until the City agrees to rezoning the walkshed to be TOD.

      1. “It can be delayed indefinitely, and the ST Board can simply choose to delay its opening until the City agrees to rezoning the walkshed to be TOD.”

        Why? Because it would be inaesthetic to have less than five people boarding at every run? Delaying it just means more years of transit barriers for North Seattle residents.

      2. Come on, Brent… I was at QFC in Northgate today and it was definitely not a “no-go zone.” You’re projecting.

    8. “TOD is losing favor with WFH.”

      It’s not either-or. First, you’re assuming WFH will become a lot more common than it is, when it has already had a major increase and is probably at its maximum for now. Second, there are other reasons for living in TOD besides having a good work commute. Namely, the ability to do all your non-work trips car-lite. You know, like The Netherlands. I lived in the UW dorms and found almost everything I needed in the U-District; I only had to leave the neighborhood once a month. Even if you subtract commuting to work and visiting relatives, that’s still a pretty powerful advantage of urban villages and TOD.. And all the buildings on the Ave are TOD, even if they weren’t called that when they were built. Because they’re a short walk from frequent transit, and their front doors are optimized for the shortest walk to the sidewalk. That’s what makes TOD TOD.

      1. Consider this: some WFHers previously only had a car because transit was not available/practical to their workplace. Then, since they needed a car and that car is a very expensive “sunk cost,” they had to live in a cheaper place that requires a car to go most places. Now, without needing the car for the commute, the TOD becomes a much more attractive and doable option, even if is is somewhat more expensive to live there. This in turn means less competition and lower costs for the service industry worker who cannot WFH and may have to live in the cheaper, car dependent neighborhood anyway. “Trickle down,” in a sense.

      2. A golf course is a park. Parks can not be redeveloped without massive changes to environmental laws on the state and national level. Developing the golf courses is an urbanist fantasy. I love the idea but I laugh every time I see it proposed as a realistic strategy for increasing density. It’s a waste of time. A realistic and legal proposal would be to convert the golf courses to regular parks and build high density developments AROUND them. I’ve never seen this proposed for Seattle’s golf courses.

        Transit gets built along the path of least impacts. “Impacts” are determined almost entirely by environmental laws and the EIS. Impacts = displacements for the most part. So it’s impossible to put light rail where people are unless you build tunnels. Outside of the downtown core, Seattle has plenty of parking lots and underutilized commercial lots that are ideal for underground light rail stations. Again, until there is a massive change in national environmental laws (which isn’t happening any time soon), above-ground light rail will always be built along established ROWs like highways highways. Other ideas like cut-and-cover over existing roads are nonstarters. It’s never going to be lowest impact until the EIS rules are changed.

        As for WFH, it’s surely reducing traffic volumes, right Daniel? 405 is smooth sailing now to get around on the East Side. Oh, it isn’t? Maybe the “peak commute hour” traffic jams are a little less, but the all day congestion is still just as bad as ever. So transit design becomes more about shifting priorities (fast, frequent all-day service) instead of serving commuters. Because the road capacity on the east side can’t even handle a typical 1:00 PM on a weekday.

      3. “A golf course is a park. Parks can not be redeveloped without massive changes to environmental laws on the state and national level.”

        The city zoned the park, so the city can unzone it. Are you saying the city has to ask the state’s and federal government’s permission to rezone a city park?

        A few of the more promising scenerios merely shrink the park or convert it to a more intensive or natural use, so there would still be a park. We could keep half the golf course. We could take the first row facing the street for housing and leave the rest. We could leave a building-sized gap at the corner to preserve a view to the park, like the northeast entrance to Bellevue Downtown Park. We could plant more environmentally-friendly and less water-intensive vegetation and restore a habitat for birds and critters. We could have trails through it.

      4. City councils can rezone and develop public parks depending on the language in the comprehensive plan and development code. I took this issue to the GMHB and lost although the SEPA permits had not been negotiated. “Park related” development like parking lots and tennis courts and paved mixed use trails are allowed as park related development.

        The rezones I appealed occurred on MI. Although we lost the citizens were so angry they replaced their council. Now we have some town center “parkland” that is actually “zoned” five story commercial but will never be developed.

        MI’s park levy expires in 2023. The council has voted to place renewal on this November’s ballot, increase it 60%, for a 16 year term.

        I have told the council I don’t think the new levy will pass unless the ballot language includes language permanently protecting park zoning (use and boundary) something some of us have pursued for a long time and is actually in our comp. Plan but the GMHB said is non-binding.

        If the levy is not renewed and the old levy expires the city will lose $1 million/year. Nothing like that abyss to focus the council’s attention on what the citizens want. Islanders love their parks (although couldn’t care less about transit).

      5. This is interesting. We have been told repeatedly in West Seattle that using even a quarter acre of the West Seattle golf course for ST3 is a significant legal burden that is best to be avoided. We were told by the city of Seattle that any removal of park space must be compensated for by a new park of the same size somewhere else in the city. I’m not sure of the details of that law, but my understanding was that changing the zoning of the West Seattle golf course would require creating another park the size of the West Seattle golf course somewhere else in the city, which is obviously impossible. Even the shadows of the elevated guideway on the golf course was considered to be a problem.

        Maybe it’s easier if the project doesn’t involve an EIS, but I came away with the impression that literally any other expansion of housing density would be an easier political ask than trying to build housing on a golf course. And light rail was a complete non-starter, it wasn’t going to happen. They would rather demolish existing homes and businesses than go anywhere near a park or golf course.

  4. I can’t believe I’m about the play the race card, but … if the guy who was nearly beaten to death at the Bellevue TC around five days ago weren’t black and homeless, it would be a much bigger story with local media. I think it’s time that whoever owns the BTC start providing more security. Doesn’t Federal Way TC have round the clock police and private security? “Sam, you have criticized the homeless on buses before! How dare you now pretend to be concerned for them!” That’s actually a good point, straw man. Warning. Very graphic photos.

    1. The safety issue also ties in to “Why the *&!$ is that station being built on the periphery of downtown in front of the freeway ramps?” Much less safety concern if the station were to instead be located where the pedestrian crowds are. Specifically, I’m thinking of retail and service workers doing the closing shifts and people wanting to hang out in the Bellevue Square area later in the evening/night. I suspect many will be hesitant to take the train there and walk, even if they were willing to do the walk distance-wise. It seems a bit desolate at night unless something is going on at the theater there.

  5. The state of urban rail expansion in other areas in the US is still dire. Not only is expansion outside of our region and Los Angeles County very modest after 2025, but projects like Crenshaw in LA, Central Subway in SF and Dulles Metro in Northern VA are all years late and way over budget. The full Crenshaw line opening is now something like 2025 since major design changes were funded well into construction.

    I’m really afraid that the FTA New Starts program will get severely reduced in upcoming years, in favor of either BRT or high speed rail. Because ST3 is heavily dependent on assumed FTA grants, this should be alarming to those looking at ST3 planning.

    With that note, here are recent news links about these three delayed major projects:

    1. Reducing transit grant programs has been a risk every year, and always will be as long as it’s an annual thing.

      If lack of grants forces ST to downgrade the Everett and Tacoma extensions to Stride, and maybe something similar for Ballard and West Seattle, it’s not the end of the world. The core Lynnwood-Redmond-FW Link network will still be there, and Stride 1/2/3. Those will be a marked improvement in regional transit in transit mobility compared to what it was like in 2007. Metros with at least somewhat-effective transit cores are better off than those that don’t.

      1. Exactly. Alea jacta est! I wouldn’t have gone past Midway, but that’s only six miles and three extra stations, and who knows? Federal Way may someday become what it thinks it is.

        EV’s are not going to be the panacea that everyone expects. China has the Lithium and Cobalt markets pretty much sewn up, and they’re going to sail over to Taiwan any day now. They already have de facto control of Africa. Is anyone going to build EV’s with lead-acid batteries? I thought not.

        If people think consumer goods are rare and expensive now…..Whee–ew have they got a surprise coming.

      2. There are some new kinds of car batteries under development. It was in the news a few days ago. I’m wondering what they’re made of, and which countries have those materials.

  6. I think the SkyTrain article is about extending the train to Langley, not Surrey. It already currently goes to Surrey (although not very far).

    1. I wanted to confirm that this extension is from Surrey to Langley. There are already four stations in Surrey.

      1. Surrey is an entire county-like district that extends south to the border crossings. Skytrain even with the extension covers only the northern half. When I first went to Surrey in the 90s, Skytrain went only to Scott Road, akin to UW Station in north Seattle. Whalley (the Surrey Central area) was like Kent East Hill or Mountlake Terrace. There were plans to build a new multistory downtown and extend Skytrain to King George, which was later fulfilled. Cloverdale (south of 184th Station) was rural. Langley was a far-out outpost, like Issaquah in the 80s. The area has since been filled in, but very recently, like 164th (Mill Creek and Martha Lake), So Skytrain preceded the growth in central Surrey but followed it in Langley, but without such a long lag as Bellevue/Redmond. And Skytrain covered only a small part of Surrey until this extension, and will still cover only half of it. So that may be where the confusion lies. It’s not as bad as leaving the rest of Surrey out, because there’s also a BRT line going south from King George, and from the picture I saw it has exclusive center lanes. And there has long been better bus feeders to White Rock on the border than Pugetopolis suburbs have.

  7. Somehow, putting up billboards to slow down drivers seems pretty ineffective. As it requires drivers to take their eyes off the road to read and comprehend the billboard, it may even be counter productive to safety.

    I really wonder if SDOT staff have terrible priorities. Fixing pothole laden streets (a hazard to bicyclists and pedestrians as well as cars) and signals that aren’t working properly (and adding delay to Link and buses stuck at long signals where there are no cars or pedestrians because the detectors are broken) should be attended to first.

    The signal at MLK and Dawson has been malfunctioning for the last several weeks. It’s forcing many Link trains to stop for no reason.

    1. Yeah, education is by far the least effective of the 4 Es, when it comes to transportation safety.

      But its cheap and easy. And sometimes splashy, such as this.
      Miss dongho.

    2. ST re-timed the trains to slow down along the whole length of MLK (a good thing based on the data, but not a guarantee that parallel traffic will slow down). SDoT hasn’t changed the light timing accordingly, apparently.

      One thing SDoT knows how to do is murals. They don’t have to be artsy, like in South Park, but also include large signs in the lane that use the same symbols as the overhead signs, pointing the way to freeway entrances.

      SDoT also knows how to narrow streets, which slows down traffic naturally, and thereby reduces the wear and tear that leads to potholes.

      Potholes don’t tend to be a thing in dedicated bike lanes, or on sidewalks. So, yeah, I don’t buy the pothole solidarity virtue signaling. Diverting money to pothole patrol detracts from spending it on sidewalk or bike lane production.

      1. “ SDoT hasn’t changed the light timing accordingly, apparently.”

        That’s not the problem. The traffic signal thinks that there are pedestrians and cars waiting to cross MLK at Dawson when there are none. It’s a detector malfunction. It stays green only a few seconds on MLK then turns red again for a very long cycle — especially in the evenings when there is a short minimum green light time set for MLK. Both Link trains and Route 106 buses get slowed because of this all day and especially in the evenings.

        As far as potholes go, most bicyclists are not in a bicycle lane for an entire trip. Most local streets including collectors do not have them. Pedestrians also cross streets; I as a pedestrian was injured by tripping on uneven pavement in an unpainted intersection crosswalk two months ago. As I’ve said before, walking and bicycle safety is more sensitive to bad pavement than cars are.

      2. “As far as potholes go, most bicyclists are not in a bicycle lane for an entire trip.”

        … and that’s what needs to change.

  8. Fun question: If we have to downgrade Ballard Link to BRT due to lack of money, which alignment(s) would be most effective? The most difficult part seems to be serving both Seattle Center and Interbay, because the only street between them is narrow two-lane West Mercer Place. And SLU to Seattle Center may still be congested too. We could split it into multiple routes, one like the 40, one like the 15X, and one like the 13 terminating at Mercer. Is that the best we could do?

    1. To me, the big cost savings would be eliminating most or all of the underground segments, and especially underground stations. If these were aerial or at the surface, the local contributions should already be enough to pay for rail at least from Smith Cove to Westlake.

      Of course that would upset lots of people! I’m not suggesting it as preferred, but as a last resort.

      Several options come to mind in addition to the alternatives that have been discussed regarding not building DSTT2 south of Westlake.

      1. Reuse the monorail corridor. The monorail is 60 years old and will be 75+ years old when the SLU segment is supposed to open. At some point, the support piers are going to have to be replaced (as well as the vehicles). We should already be planning putting the monorail into more of an excursion mode and treating it like a museum piece. I’d put new monorail track somewhere else and rebuild the current aerial segment for light rail. I would add a station south of Denny as part of that. The remaining section could then easily be designed to run to Ballard at a much lower cost. The most difficult challenge is what to do at Westlake for transferring.

      2. New tram lines. The distances between SLU and Link are not far. A tram system covering all areas between LQA and Downtown could work pretty well. The current SLU tram is limited by train length and frequency, but it could be upgraded and reconfigured.

      3. Cancel intermediate stations. Midtown could get cancelled. One of the two SLU stations could get cancelled. This could then open up potential for doing things like moving where new platforms go for IDC and Westlake.

      I’m personally hoping that major cost reductions are still possible by cancelling the DSTT2 segment or automating the lines with frequent shorter trains stopping at shorter stations.

      At 13k boardings, we should probably not stop short of Ballard to save money.eliminating the ST3 station shown to have the highest ridership (excepting the Westlake and IDC transfer stations) would be quantitatively silly — and that station alone has more boardings than all of the West Seattle segment with high frequency rail mainly serving riders already on a bus.

      1. At this point, we’d be better going back to the drawing board and looking at implementing a SkyTrain like system for the Ballard-West Seattle Line and even I’d say the Kirkland-Issaquah Line would probably be a better option for this as well due to the low ridership, while I’m not a fan of delaying things at this conjecture it’s clear that the current
        projects doesn’t work in its current form. While some transit workers might not be all too happy about this change if we were to go that route, I’d say that jobs would likely shift elsewhere as part of the Operations team and likely wouldn’t lose that many jobs in the grander scheme of things. It’d make for operations to run more efficiently and increase ridership in the longer term.
        One other thing I’d say is that ST badly needs standardization of station design so that we stop building overly bespoke stations (within reason as unique situations can arise) and simplify & tighten the newer stations to what is really needed and what isn’t. It’s gotten better from the initial phase to now, but still has a long way to go. Which even Skytrain does well at even as they have been modernizing their older stations and the new build stations.

      2. SkyTrain like systems are really only great for high ridership. Pre-pandemic, on Sundays SkyTrain didn’t start until 7 am as there wasn’t enough ridership prior to that time. Keeping the automated system going safely requires a lot of monitoring. Once all that is in place, though, then it doesn’t cost much to operate as many trains as you want.

        SkyTrain uses two technologies. The earliest lines use linear induction motors. With no need for good wheel adhesion, they should be able to climb hills much better than Link. Really steep hills in the tunnels might make the Ballard and LQA line tunnels cheaper and might be worth a look.

      3. I didn’t ask about West Seattle because the solution seems clearer: beef up the C, or multi-line BRT fanning out from the bridge. Ballard seems like more of a linear corridor. Aurora has the E. Fremont has ultra-frequent buses and is ten minutes from downtown. So at first glance the solution is a bus route that mimics Link. Except a bus route can’t get between SLU and Interbay quickly and there’s no room to add lanes. So it needs an alternate solution, like one route serving the SLU stations and another route serving the Interbay stations.

      4. I like the idea of reusing the monorail route and doing Ballard as an elevated line. One of the big advantages of the monorail was the fact that the guideway easier to build, is not nearly as massive as Link guideways, and can be prefabricated allowing for faster, cheaper, and less disruptive installations. Modern maglev systems like combine the SkyTrain advantages with some of the monorail cost advantages, though it’s a dualrail system. Even stations are standardized and prefabricated. It can handle 10% incline meaning it could go up Denny in the future. It also means if you want to go into a tunnel, it can drop much more rapidly than rail.
        I agree that we can eliminate DSTT2 and stop at Westlake. If we don’t want to spend the money for a tunnel serving Ballard downtown, then we can stop on Dravus and connect from it to Ballard downtown via a gondola line.
        West Seattle could be handled with buses or a gondola line.

      5. @Mike Orr
        By the logic of Aurora having the E, Interbay already has the D.

        If you BRT to Fremont and then to Ballard it might also improve a huge number of local buses too. A BRT conversion of the 8 and extending it to Ballard could work, but I’m not sure Interbay really justifies that bus bus service. Westlake or Aurora might get better ridership.

      6. “SkyTrain like systems are really only great for high ridership. Pre-pandemic, on Sundays SkyTrain didn’t start until 7 am as there wasn’t enough ridership prior to that time.”
        I’d counterpoint that the Copenhagen Metro has a 24 hour system and makes it work running an automated train system that works for a city of it’s size. Simular sized to Vancouver and is able run trains (albeit reduced down to 15-20 minutes) during night owl hours. It’s honestly a case of what the system prioritizes for its needs and wants.

        As for the BRT suggestion, a lot of Downtown Seattle to West Seattle buses were pretty overcrowded almost crush load at times during rush hour in the past from what friends who rode those routes on a daily basis and likely will again once more people return to the office so I’d say we’d probably benefit from shifting to a light metro system than trying to do BRT. But that is just my view on it.

      7. The first time I went to Vancouver in the early 90s, I went with a friend in a car to a church in Cloverdale (Surrey), which was then rural. One evening we drove to downtown Vancouver to look around. I saw the sign “Granville” and wondered what it was. He said, “It looks like a subway station.” I was fascinated so we went in. I picked up the information phone to ask how frequently the train runs, because I was afraid of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere for a long time. I was floored when the operator said every five minutes until midnight. Wow!

        We took the only line east until we saw something big. I asked what it was and somebody said “Metrotown”. I asked, “What’s Metrotown?” They said, “It’s a mall.” So we got out to get a souvenir for my friend’s sister. I saw the large TOD cluster around the mall, in a suburban area. Wow again. We went to Eaton’s but didn’t find anything special, and then we went back.

      8. “I’d counterpoint that the Copenhagen Metro has a 24 hour system and makes it work running an automated train system that works for a city of it’s size”

        Copenhagen also has only one line that serves some of the densest parts of the city. To get there with West Seattle link, you’d have to turn West Seattle into Belltown.

        “a lot of Downtown Seattle to West Seattle buses were pretty overcrowded almost crush load at times during rush hour in the past”

        This is true, but West Seattle includes a hell of a lot of area Link won’t cover, and none of it is a major transit hub like central Ballard. Most of those people on those West Seattle buses have ridden through the area that will be served by Link. With bus improvements you could have one seat rides to dozens of places other than downtown Seattle.

      9. I wanted to comment on the assertion that Skytrain-like systems are only good for high ridership. What really distinguishes Skytrain-like systems is that they are automatic and thus fully grade separated. This was new when Skytrain was opened in Vancouver in 1984, but it isn’t new anymore. It’s more the norm for urban rail outside the US. It is useful because it allows for more frequent service, thus shorter trains, thus cheaper stations. Skytrain is cheaper than Link.

        It’s clear from the initial Ballard study that elevated guideways were thought to be a lot cheaper than tunnels, but the cost projections now show that is not the case. The cost of property acquisitions is a big part of this, but it might be that bridges are a part of this too.

        There is some talk about the different technologies used on Skytrain, the linear induction motors with no moving parts, and conventional electric motors powering the wheels. Back in the day, linear induction motors had an advantage because they didn’t power the wheels and weren’t dependent on wheel to track adhesion. But today, with traction control, conventional powered wheels do quite well. Both are capable of 5% grades. But 10% grades are still a push. First that feels very steep for the rider, and second, the train needs to be able to emergency brake if the power were to be cut at an inopportune time.

      10. Automated systems require a certain number of passengers to be cost effective because they have a lot of behind the scenes work. As an example, you could automate the monorail, but it would likely cost more due to having to add automation monitors but the current system only needs a couple of drivers and a ticket taker or two.

        Once you get past a certain traffic density, automated operation makes a lot more sense.

        London’s post office railway was automated in 1904. The technology has been there for many years. It’s just a matter of it being worthwhile or not.

      11. @yvrlutyens, claims they can do 10% incline using maglev guideway. Riders in buses seem to be fine with such angle, I don’t think riders on an automated train would mind.
        Metro continues to face challenges to attract drivers, automation will get more attractive as a consequence.
        The way Sound Transit currently builds the guideway is more like a highway bridge, quite involved, and requires the acquisition of a 60′ corridor. A prefabricated guideway (such as TSB above employs) should be easier/faster to construct and require less property acquisitions making it cheaper than tunneling. As the stations are both smaller and modular/prefab, too, both design and construction is much cheaper.

      12. I see that that company claims that they can do 10%, but it does not look like they have ever done 10%. Actually doing it is where things get complicated. However, the maglev might offer a wee advantage in providing more surfaces to brake against in case of power failure. The proposed guideway wouldn’t fly in the US either. There needs to be continuous place for people to leave the train in an emergency. This came up during the monorail debate where two large concrete rails without a continuous walkway between them was not acceptable.

        I took by passenger hesitancy from road tunnels in Norway where 5% is preferred for psychological comfort. Apparently 10% has been done in tunnels but it feels like going into the bowels of the earth. Above ground I don’t see that as a problem.

        This company also wants to make the rails as large precast sections that are hoisted into place. That is how the original Skytrain line was built and it makes sense to me. But viaduct builders in Vancouver and Seattle have moved to the segment system where a large gantry hoists and holds the segments together until post tensioning cables are tensioned. It seems slower to me, but everyone does it that way now.

        Not that I am against maglev for urban transit. Actually I think the most useful application of maglevs is to cut down on noise. On high speed rail, it does not seem to offer much more that steel wheels on steel rails. They are no smoother and still noisy. But for slow urban trains, the wind noise is much less and track noise dominates. It is something that I keep in the back of my mind when urging that transit be kept grade separated so that eventually it can be converted to maglev.

      13. When I asked TSB about emergency exits, they say that each car is equipped with an exit on front and back and they recommend grating between both tracks to allow egress through those doors and walking in the middle between the two tracks. That seems like a reasonable solution.

    2. West Seattle could be done better with buses anyway. If West Seattle could get a dedicated transit bridge designed for eventual addition of light rail it would go a long ways.

      Ballard still has the problem of no cheap access to actual Ballard, even with a transit only bridge.

      There’s some fairly empty land towards the west end by the locks. Put the transit bridge in that are, then make UW-Ballard-Interbay-LQA all one line? With this, I think the D stays on the Ballard Bridge, and compliments this service. I’m not sure how you get from the industrial area west of Fisherman’s to 15th. You’d wind up with a new bridge probably, running diagonally above the railroad yard.

      What about a Ballard – Fremont branch to the E?

      Extend the South Lake Union Streetcar along Westlake in the old Interurban right of way (it’s all parking spots now) to the Fremont bridge, convert the Ballard Terminal Railroad into a mixed light rail / freight operation (see New Jersey RIVERLine). The bridge in the Fremont area could be much shorter in length than the one in Ballard.

      I’m trying to think of a way of doing an 8 BRT conversion that would hit the Judkins Park station, First Hill, Capitol Hill, Westlake, Seattle Center and then Ballard, but can’t hit the desired places with one line. It really needs one more Link station to the north to work.

      1. If West Seattle could get a dedicated transit bridge designed for eventual addition of light rail it would go a long ways.

        West Seattle doesn’t need a dedicated bridge. It simply needs some changes to allow the buses to go much faster. As it is, prior to the West Seattle Bridge shutdown, the congestion was limited to peak hours heading downtown. This traffic was caused by backups on I-5 and SR 99 (which is why there wasn’t that much traffic going to West Seattle in the evening). Thus the vast majority of trips to and from West Seattle encountered minimum congestion, and had extremely fast average speeds that are the envy of just about every neighborhood in the city (especially densely populated neighborhoods like the Central Area and Queen Anne).

        But West Seattle can have even better all-day travel times if we invest in a handful of projects, listed in this blog post: Skip down to “Making it work” for my ideas. This ranges from the simple (metered on-ramps and some paint) to the more expensive (an addition to the Spokane Street viaduct and new on and off ramps). But none of these would come close to the cost of a new bridge. Yet this would take a bus from a street in West Seattle (Avalon or Delridge) to downtown without the bus encountering any congestion.

        Again, compared to most neighborhoods, the *existing* transit is much faster from West Seattle. Averaging 20 or 30 mph on the freeway seems dreadfully slow, but it is much faster than most buses, and as fast as Link for most of its route. That is what West Seattle buses did before the bridge needed fixing. With these additions, it would be even faster.

        It is worth noting that West Seattle transit will have limited appeal for the same reason that transit will have limited appeal in many of the suburbs. It isn’t urban enough for large swaths of the population to feel like they can live without a car. It is urban in pockets (Alki, High Point, the junction(s)) but most of the population lives in land that has a very suburban feel. Making matters worse, it is disconnected to the rest of the city. Parts of Ballard (e. g. Sunset Hill) feel suburban, but long before you get close to downtown you pass through urban areas. If you head east, you go by urban area after urban area until you arrive at the UW, the second biggest urban center in the state. West Seattle doesn’t have that. Between it and downtown you have an industrial land so barren of destinations that it only warrants one stop (SoDo) which happens to have the lowest ridership of any of Link’s stations.

        Perhaps the biggest problem, by far, is simply the ease of driving. Not now, of course, but when the bridge gets fixed. Drive from Ballard to the UW any time of day and it will take you a while. In contrast, outside of morning rush hour, driving from West Seattle to damn near everywhere is easy. Just get on the freeway and go. I’ve probably driven to West Seattle hundreds if not thousands of times. I take transit to lots of places, but I’ve never taken it to West Seattle — it is just so easy to drive.

        Things could change of course, but part of the problem is proximity. West Seattle isn’t that close to anything else, and we can see that with the stations that are added. Three stations, all in West Seattle, and not a single station outside it. None of the station combinations will garner decent ridership, unlike other additions. Northgate Link also added three stations (Northgate, Roosevelt and UW) and just the travel between Northgate and the UW will dwarf all the travel within West Seattle on Link.

        For example, my brother lives in West Seattle. A few weeks ago I suggested we get together and go for a walk. I suggested the Roosevelt Station, figuring this would be easy for him to get to. After all, the buses are pretty fast, and it is one transfer. He drove. He laughed and said that he was just used to driving. He lives close to High Point, the most densely populated census tract in the peninsula, with pretty good service to downtown, but he is just used to driving. Will West Seattle Link change that? Of course not. The trip won’t be any faster (he would transfer at a different spot). He will still drive because he is used to driving, and when they fix the bridge, driving from West Seattle is pretty damn easy. That is true for the vast majority of people in West Seattle.

        Investing huge sums of money for West Seattle transit isn’t worth it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t improve things (we should definitely run the buses more often, just like everywhere in the county). But it means that infrastructure investments should be much smaller. I would start with the type of work that is being done for the 40 (a bus that gets more riders than any bus in West Seattle, despite encountering much worse congestion). I would definitely support more expensive infrastructure investments (like new ramps and new freeway lanes) as there are a significant number of peak commuters who would benefit. But building a new bridge is really a waste, as you just aren’t going to get that many all-day riders, which means you aren’t going to get that many riders. Making it rail is even worse, as you will likely lose ridership (as people dislike the bus truncation) or the rail is ignored (while their old bus continues on its fast path to downtown).

      2. Reviewing Thursday’s Systems Expansion meeting material on, Sound Transit certainly feels an urge to cast aside the City’s concerns and separate the WS portion from the WSB project so that they can start building the SODO to Junction portion asap even though they know they will need to continue running buses downtown as this portion will not attract many riders. They are willing to spend $3+ billion on this and they know (see DEIS) that it may generate 614,000 tons of carbon to build it. It will only serve 3 stations along Alaska Junction, but not serve any of the other high density areas (High Point, Alki, Admiral Junction, Morgan Junction). (Going underground will also make any extension to the more diverse/transit-dependent communities further South: White Center, Greenbridge, Westwood). The C line has been at capacity before the pandemic, together with bus improvements, a branched gondola could provide additional capacity to the high density areas at far lower cost than rail while buses could serve the more suburban areas of WS .

      3. “Sound Transit certainly feels an urge to cast aside the City’s concerns and separate the WS portion from the WSB project so that they can start building the SODO to Junction portion asap even though they know they will need to continue running buses downtown as this portion will not attract many riders.”

        That’s ridiculous. I’ll have to watch the meeting. ST always did want to build the SODO-WSJ segment first, to show an early deliverable. But that’s backwards, because the greatest transit need and ridership is downtown, SLU, and Ballard, so that’s what it should accelerate first. West Seattle is a short enough distance that a 20-minute bus ride is good enough to not want to transfer at SODO.

        I don’t understand why ST is still so keen on finishing the WSJ-SODO stub early. It can’t be West Seattle activists, because even they can see the undesirability of transferring at SODO, can’t they? Which of them wants to do it?

        “even though they know they will need to continue running buses downtown”

        ST doesn’t have any buses there. It’s all Metro buses, which is somebody else’s budget and taxes.

      4. I don’t see any SODO enthusiasm other than from ST and politicians who are looking for some ribbon cutting event.
        Metro ultimately plans to drop people off at the new Link stations and redirect H line to Admiral for example (instead of downtown), but Sound Transit said they won’t recommend Metro doing this until the WS trains run all the way downtown.

      5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I predict that in a few years, ST will put the West Seattle trains into the DSTT and kick the Rainier Valley trains out before DSTT2 opens. There will be a stub — but for those from SE Seattle and South King. And of course the lack of cross platform transfers at SODO in favor of two vertical changes between the two lines will become a new major hassle for SeaTac air travelers starting in 2032.

        Why don’t more people see this coming?

      6. I read the WSB article and slide deck Martin linked. I’m not as bothered now about splitting West Seattle into its own EIS. Splitting out simpler and more straightforward segments makes sense. I don’t think West Seattle’s construction should be scheduled first, but it’s fine if its paperwork is done first.

        Please, what will be the pedestrian experience with the preferred West Seattle stations? How far would I have to walk to a transfer or a typical destination? It’s hard for me to picture them when I can’t see it and I don’t have an intimate knowledge of West Seattle.

        And in SLU? It looks like ST is rejecting an SLU Westlake location. So how bad would the preferred stations be from a walkability standpoint?

      7. West Seattle should have always been a separate DEIS in my opinion. The opening date is much earlier and there was always an interim operating scenario.

        The strategy I think ST is now playing is to separate out West Seattle costs first (like no Chinatown-ID construction or DSTT2). That makes the extension as a lower cost. That translates to better grant competitiveness as well as getting FTA funds in line with a grant agreement before 2025 and a possible transit-hostile Congress and President.

        It also makes the project qualify with just ST3 local share. That way, 5528 can be rolled out at a later date for DSTT2.

        The opportunity lost is that it fully locks West Seattle into the Link version of light rail rather than automated trains.

        I do wish more thought would go into the SODO layout to prioritize same direction cross platform transfers. Please! Please! Will more interested parties take this up? The stub is going to create just about as many transfer riders as the three West Seattle stations combined (and more if ST stubs the RV/SeaTac line instead of West Seattle)! It’s 2-3 times more important than an individual West Seattle station access — and all of these transfers will by definition be surges.

      8. “That translates to better grant competitiveness as well as getting FTA funds in line with a grant agreement before 2025 and a possible transit-hostile Congress and President.”

        So we’re going to get a WSJ-SODO stub without DSTT2 and Ballard if the next administration eliminates transit grants? What’s the benefit in that?

      9. “ So we’re going to get a WSJ-SODO stub without DSTT2 and Ballard if the next administration eliminates transit grants? What’s the benefit in that?”

        As is often discussed, the stub creates mostly double transfers and extra travel time. That’s not a benefit to riders, which is I think your point, Mike.

        However I think that it’s ST only sees “benefit” in building what they promised in ST3. It doesn’t matter what hassle and extra time they create for transferring riders.

        Thus, the benefit is financial — getting more money out of FTA by getting it lined up in 2024. If they wait, they may get less after 2024..

      10. WSJ-SODO stub creates resiliency, as it would remain open if the high bridge was closed again. WS Link in general makes sense mostly in the context of the freeway bridge going away at some point in the future, eliminating the primary ROW for bus routes.

        “Metro ultimately plans to drop people off at the new Link stations and redirect H line to Admiral for example (instead of downtown), but Sound Transit said they won’t recommend Metro doing this until the WS trains run all the way downtown.” I think Martin meant the C (in the last LRP, the C went to Admiral but the H continue to serve SoDo and then downtown) That’s pretty damming. I thought ST staff would at least try to recommend for everyone to transfer and let Metro make the final decision.

      11. Yes, Martin. That would work great in terms of saving steps! I also like how the southbound Rainier Valjey trains would be on the westmost track to make their ascent in your diagram. I am concerned that the crossover would need to happen a little south of the current junction (and I’ll note that the DEIS drawings show a new track connecting the West Seattle branch to the OMF between Lander and Spokane Streets so ST is expecting to take buildings between the busway and the OMF anyway.

        I might suggesting making the platform doubly long for those rare instances when there will need to be two trains going in the same direction to sit simultaneously at the station.

        Another enhancement would be to have the middle third track south of Stadium Station to extend longer to give extra room if trains have to be held and maybe reversed.

        Of course, there are multiple other ways to get same direction cross platforms in place. They maybe could have this at a Stadium Station configuration with the platforms moved southward. They could have two center platforms for just same direction cross platform transfers if they wanted trains to meet. They could leave the Lander crossing but use those tracks for northbound trains and then they could add the southbound trains as elevated track.

        The absolutely crazy thing about the current ST schemes are that they propose not just two but three sets of elevators and escalators at the station. Except for those going from West Seattle to Rainier Valley, everyone would have to make two level changes (on top of a level change to get into the neighborhood). This is begging for problems. It’s also going to be a struggle to put in elevators, escalators and stairs on that current Line 1 northbound platform. As mentioned with ST generally, the current preferred alternative is total station overbuilding that isn’t needed and makes the highest volume transfers harder with two level changes and having to walk to the end of the train or to stairs to get on or off the train at SODO. The savings from going from 3 platforms with vertical movement to either 2 or 1 is huge and ST can credit back those savings to track improvements.

      12. Yes, the DEIS envisions that the WS line would have additional OMF access lines. With a single line as outlined this may not be necessary.
        I would hope the Southbound flyover could start to rise earlier than the current one and clear the WS bound line to meet the existing line at higher elevation. Unfortunately, this track reconfiguration work would have to disrupt operation at some point.
        I could envision a similar flyover further South when the WS line turns West to allow/prepare for a South bound Duwamish line at ground level in the future.

      13. Martin: “ Unfortunately, this track reconfiguration work would have to disrupt operation at some point.”

        The current official SODO alternatives also must disrupt operation at some point. As now planned, both lines must “swap” tracks north of SODO and building that will be a huge service disruption (noting that DSTT2 begins at about Holgate as planned). It’s one of the reasons I actually think ST will surprise everyone and announce that the RV line will be stubbed at SODO instead of the WS line — and riders will just have to deal with it.

        I’m not a construction phasing expert, but I think it’s possible to minimize the impact to operations by using the existing OMF track junctions and being creative about how new track could be added to allow for a through-routed train as part of the WS-OMF new track connections, or a temporary stop inside the OMF with a shuttle bus up and down the SODO busway, or run a bus shuttle between Stadium and Beacon Hill using the Holgate overpass over I-5, or another option. Of course, this IS ST we are talking about — an agency that can’t figure out how to replace tiles at a station platform without disrupting service for an entire month!

        I don’t think any of those buildings near the curve are a big problem to take compared to taking hundreds of residences in Georgetown if it comes to that.

      14. Guys, you do not need a new station at Lander. There is enough room to build the northbound track from West Seattle on the bike way and have the merging turnout right where Lander is today. Grant, you have to overpass the tracks and busway for Lander (and Holgate), but the existing tracks can be used exactly as they are with NO construction except cutting the frogs and bending the running rails at the two turnouts. That would take a couple of days.

        The southbound West Seattle track would simply be connected with a turnout at the beginning of the curve into Forest Street.

        I would not propose taking the bikeway except that it ends at Forest Street! What could happen is that it continues under the overpass and then turns into a PBL on the south side of Lander, turn south on Sixth South to Forest, and resume the current route.

        Lower Royal Brrougham Way would have to be closed at the crossing because it cannot be overpasses.

        There is absolutely no need for parallel rails down the busway, regardless what may happen in regard to a second tunnel. The RV line is limited to six-minute headways, and West Seattle will fill a train every twenty minutes, at the peak. If it’s built, think of it as a very expensive turnback loop.

      15. Tom, it’s true that no new platform is actually needed. Still, adding a center platform enables transfers across the platform in both directions. I’m also not sure what Lander pedestrians would do if a train crosses Lander every 90 seconds so it seems some sort of pedestrian grade change will be needed. That means elevators and stairs and probably escalators. However, it seems only mildly disruptive to turn the station into a center platform station — by closing the platforms for a few months, replacing them with tracks, installing new switches one direction at a time, and putting a pedestrian platform where the tracks are today. I’m not sure if the side platforms are wide enough to add stairs and an elevator to a Lander overpass anyway.

        The track merging part of this seems to be a bigger challenge without major reconstruction. Because the incline starts north of where the curve starts (incline about 200 feet south of Lander and the curve about 400 feet south of Lander), I think rail engineers will likely have real problems with adding branches to create the wye to West Seattle on that sloping curve. The sharp curve has a slight super elevation and the incline affects how switches could be added. One track may be slightly higher than the other on the curve. It seems like a derailment risk.

        Then there is a challenge about how to get trains from West Seattle to cross the inclining curving tracks that trains headed to SeaTac are using. I guess the trains from West Seattle could be put in a trench under the curving bridge, but there doesn’t seem to be enough distance to the current SODO platform to add a switch and make the two tracks on the same elevation. That’s why the current schemes have West Seattle tracks either entirely to the west or entirely above the SeaTac tracks at SODO..

        ST could also bring the West Seattle tracks just about 1000 feet further west onto the OMF property rather than use the busway corridor and use the OMF switches for West Seattle operations by reconfiguring the OMF tracks.

        It sure would have been nice had ST not designed and built the incline and curve the way it did. But they did.

        Of course, ST won’t admit that anything but their expensive vision is viable. The Council seems ready to endorse the flawed SODO layout a fait accomplis — complete with three sets of stairs and elevators and making any pedestrian have to climb a new overpass to get into the SODO station and making any transferring rider change levels twice as well as walk several hundred feet as opposed to 20 feet across a platform..

      16. WSJ-SODO stub creates resiliency, as it would remain open if the high bridge was closed again.

        So basically what we have right now. The current system is extremely resilient — the buses cross the low bridge and save riders a huge amount of time. As I write this, taking a bus from the Junction to downtown saves about 15 minutes over driving. This savings occurs all day long, as Google lists the travel time by car as “typically 24-55 minutes” ( In contrast, bus travel time is listed as a consistent 25 minutes. The savings are even bigger for Delridge. It takes about 15 minutes to get from Delridge to downtown using the bus: It takes 48 minutes to drive. This is a dramatic times savings, and one that the new train will never have. That is because by the time the train is built, the high bridge will be fixed and drivers will be able to compete well with the train, especially if they don’t start next to a station.

        In fact, if they run both the buses and the train, the bus will beat the train for most riders as well. Sure, the train will be a bit faster from point to point, but the buses will serve a lot more points. The part of the trip where the bus is slow isn’t even served by the train, and the part where the bus is fast (the freeway) will only be a tiny bit faster. Since most riders will be forced to transfer, the time savings disappear, and the bus would save more riders more time.

        WS Link in general makes sense mostly in the context of the freeway bridge going away at some point in the future, eliminating the primary ROW for bus routes.

        Ha, that’s funny. The freeway bridge won’t go away, well, ever. And if it does, they would simply do what they are doing now, and run the buses on the low bridge. They would then redo the streets on Spokane Street (in West Seattle) so that the C can run as fast as the 120. That way a trip from The Junction to the middle of downtown would take about 20 minutes, not 25 (using the lower bridge). (The speed of these buses is quite impressive given the temporary nature of the situation. It was permanent, they could be made even faster.)

      17. So long term, you would just take down the high bridge bridge at end of life and replace it with nothing?

      18. Al, OK, I wouldn’t oppose swapping the northbound track and the northbound platform. But you don’t need to worry about the “Lander pedestrians”. They would go over the tracks as they do the BNSF tracks.

    3. Nope. The Ballard Alliance (some of whose members brought you the Burke Gilman Missing Link litigation monstrosity) have gotten involved in light rail and working/trying to influence ST, and will probably sue . ( Plus, Seattle Subway might write an angry column or something on STB.)

      You may be able to get them accept a Ballard to UW alignment.

    4. To really mimic a rail line, there has to be a short tunnel section between the bluff above Elliott about Republican and Third Avenue just south of Denny Way. It would have a couple of smallish side-platform stations and could be cut-and-covered most of the way. The western station would be under Republican between Queen Anne and First North and the “Seattle Center” station under 2nd North by the Theater. A “flying junction” would connect the southbounds from the right lane of Elliott to the tunnel portal using the land of the PepBoys Tire Shop. There’s a pretty high hill at Republican.

      This would of course not “get” SLU so your idea of upping the 40 to RapidRide or even “real” BRT makes sense. I don’t know where you get the lanes though.

      1. The 40 will be dramatically faster when they add the improvements they are currently planning. It is one of those quiet projects that are huge, and largely ignored (perhaps because it isn’t RapidRide or rail). Of course there should be off-board payment (we should have off-board payment for all city buses, if not all of Metro). But these improvements should reduce congestion-related delays on the 40 dramatically, in ways equal to, or better than every RapidRide (or Swift) related improvement. The 40 already carries more riders than four of the RapidRide routes. With these improvements, it wouldn’t surprise me if it gets the most riders per mile of our buses, and is second only to the E in overall ridership.

        Another option for “BRT” is to go through Belltown. Years ago, Bruce Nourish suggested a much cheaper — but very effective — route for Ballard Link: His idea would be to have a “cut-and-cover tunnel along Western, Denny and 2nd Ave”. A smaller version, similar to what you are suggesting seems plausible. You build a cut-and-cover tunnel from Western to Denny to 3rd, and surface somewhere south of Broad (with buses in the middle of the street). That part of Third should be an extension of the transit mall anyway. The only tough part is the work itself. But my understanding is that cut-and-cover work can be very disruptive and quick, or minimally disruptive and very slow. We would choose the latter. It could take years and years to build that tunnel, and we would still be built long before Ballard Link is supposed to get here.

        Riders would have to backtrack to get to Uptown, but that is a small price to pay for the tremendous amount of savings. You also get stops in the Belltown/Denny Regrade area, which is every bit as worthy as South Lake Union or Uptown.

        This basically avoids the congestion on Denny and Western. The much cheaper alternative is to add bus or BAT lanes as I suggested in my other comment. This would mean center-running for Elliot, and then a smooth transition to BAT lanes on Mercer. I would start with this (along with a new bus stop under the Dravus overpass) as it would be a huge improvement for very little money. Then I would look into making travel over the Ballard Bridge better (which would be a lot more expensive, although still much cheaper than Ballard Link).

      2. Ross, the tunnel you describe is interesting, but I believe poorly serves Lower Queen Anne.

        I have decided that cutting and covering through Seattle Center is unlikely to fly, so I’d amend my proposal to bore east of the Republican Street station to the Third and Cedar portal.

        The great thing about Republican is that its western end is an empty stub about forty feet above Elliott, perfect for a tunnel portal at “the second floor” level of buildings along Elliott. Since the street is a dead-end at the bluff, it doesn’t have much traffic to disrupt.

        The same is true of Third at Cedar. The only real traffic is the buses, since they are the only vehicles allowed to turn left onto Denny. So a TBM vault could be dug in the block just south of Denny and a cut and cover ramp to street level dug in the block just to the south to surface the buses.

        The station on Republican could be the removal point or the machines could just continue to the bluff face and bore onto a platform for removal. Making it for buses could allow a couple of feet less diameter.

      3. Ross, the tunnel you describe is interesting, but I believe poorly serves Lower Queen Anne.

        Definitely. It is a trade-off. You get better service to Belltown, but lose Uptown. At worst though, riders backtrack to get up there ( I think it is worse, but another option.

        I think the tunnel you suggest would work well. The cost would probably not be the tunnel itself, but the stations along the way. At a minimum, you’ve got a station at around Republican and Queen Anne Avenue. That creates a couple of gaps. The westernmost stop on Mercer is at 3rd Avenue West ( There are a lot of apartments around there. The next stop for the D is quite a ways to the west, but riders can walk down the hill, to catch the 24/33 on Elliot. By running the bus all the way to Republican, you cover those riders, even though you lose the stop on 3rd W and Mercer.

        Assuming the stop on Uptown is your only underground stop, your next stop is 3rd and Cedar. That creates another, more significant gap, but at least there is good surface transit. There are plenty of existing buses connecting to the nearest stops (or just headed to the main destination — downtown). If you are at First and Denny, you take the 1, 2 or 13 downtown. If you are headed towards Ballard or Magnolia, you take one of those same buses up the hill, where you then transfer inside the tunnel.

        Ideally you have one more station, at around Denny and Queen Anne Avenue (there is a Shell Station there which is essentially just empty land now). That might be hard to pull off, and might not be worth it. Either way, I think it would be a worthy project. A short tunnel with a single underground station would add a lot of value, and solve that particular problem quite well.

        I still wonder if it is better to just stay on the surface. The RapidRide G does, and the time savings will be dramatic. It isn’t a cheap project, but is nowhere near as expensive as tunneling and building stations. It isn’t as fast as a tunnel, but riders save time by staying on the surface. That sort of thing won’t work everywhere, but it could work in a lot of places. I would rather focus on projects like that — all over Seattle — than mega-projects serving a corridor. Mainly it is because Seattle just isn’t that big.

        We only have one major corridor in the entire state where a subway clearly is justified: UW to downtown Seattle. Once it is built, it makes sense to extend it (on both ends). But neither West Seattle or Ballard Link is an extension. Hell, they don’t even leverage the existing downtown tunnel (building a second one instead) nor does it make up for the big omission on the first tunnel (First Hill). Even if they shared the tunnel, we are going to spend huge amounts of money on corridors that are marginal for rail (Ballard/Interbay/Uptown/SLU/downtown*) as well as ones that are clearly inappropriate (West Seattle to downtown). If you are Seattle Subway, you think it is OK, because eventually the whole town will have rail. This is nonsense. Realistically, most of the city will make do with bus service. If the trains complement the buses, then these sorts of mega-rail projects can be worth it. But since these don’t, it makes more sense to just build the best surface bus system we can, and work with the existing rail infrastructure.

        A short tunnel would be great, but you are still only serving those buses. As I mentioned, there will still be lots of people taking the surface buses, especially if they are farther away from those stops. It would likely be an improvement over the rail plans for many riders, and a much better value, but I think it is quite possible that simply running on the surface — which allows all the buses to serve that corridor — would actually be a better value.

        * Theoretically you could make a very good rail system including Ballard, Uptown, South Lake Union and downtown. But as we’ve seen, it is really hard to pull off. The Uptown Station is fine. But the South Lake Union Stations fail miserably. They are so deep and so awkwardly placed that they aren’t worth dealing with. If you are in the middle of what most would call South Lake Union, you will likely ignore both stops, and just catch the bus if you are headed to some other part of downtown. The train might save you a little time over the bus to Uptown, but if they run a bus across Harrison (which they should eventually do) the savings with a train will be minimal. That leaves Ballard, a neighborhood they aren’t planning on serving especially well, making a faster, more frequent 40 a better option for lots of riders. Replacing a much-improved surface bus corridor with rail service and getting a lot of riders will be very difficult in the future even though we are planning on spending a lot or money trying. We are probably better off just focusing on getting a much-improved surface bus corridor.

      4. Actually, I mentioned having a stop under Second North about or Thomas, for “Seattle Center” proper. Since that would at least sort of provide a decent transfer to northbound trolleys on First North, maybe the Republican station could be between Queen Anne and First West, putting it within a reasonable walk of Third West and Mercer.

        But you’re right. It does leave a blob west of Second West along West Mercer and West Roy.

    5. Fun question: If we have to downgrade Ballard Link to BRT due to lack of money, which alignment(s) would be most effective? The most difficult part seems to be serving both Seattle Center and Interbay, because the only street between them is narrow two-lane West Mercer Place. And SLU to Seattle Center may still be congested too. We could split it into multiple routes, one like the 40, one like the 15X, and one like the 13 terminating at Mercer. Is that the best we could do?

      I think it depends on how much you can spend on infrastructure. For BRT to Ballard, these three projects often come up:

      1) A skip-ahead lane for the Ballard Bridge. This would allow buses to go right to the front of the line when the bridge is up. This exists for the Montlake Bridge, and they are planning the same thing for the Fremont Bridge.

      2) Underpass bus stops for Dravus. This would allow the bus to stay on 15th West, instead of exiting and reentering into traffic.

      3) New bus tunnel. Presumably, a new bus tunnel would similar to the one sketched out here: I think it makes sense to cover First Hill instead of 5th and Madison, but either way, you get into the same issues as with a new rail tunnel. Transfers have to be very good, otherwise a lot of potential is lost. Station placement is important (from a 3-dimensional standpoint) for riders, while any disruption is important for the neighborhoods involved.

      In terms of costs, the new bus tunnel is roughly as expensive as a new rail tunnel. In contrast, a stop for Dravus would be really cheap. New ramps for the Ballard bridge would cost more than a Dravus stop, but still be nowhere near the cost of tunneling, or building a new bridge for the train (not to mention the cost of the station itself). Speaking of which, the bridge is getting old. If a new bridge has to be built, it could accommodate a transit lane (and a good bike lane). This is expensive, but probably a lot cheaper than running rail from the downtown tunnel out to Ballard. The tracks are likely to be elevated which adds up (especially when you include the stations).

      With West Seattle you can get big improvements for very little money. My estimate for a series of improvements was around $250 million ( This would enable buses to travel in their own lane from West Seattle to Ballard, while saving quite a bit of money.

      But it does require a new downtown tunnel. If we get that tunnel, than the bus network follows. Just about every bus from the Ballard/Magnolia corridor goes through Uptown. Maybe the 24/33 stay on Elliot/Western, or maybe they just join the other buses (since the Queen Anne buses cover that area reasonably well).

      At that point, you could easily add an all-day 18. Run it opposite the 40 and D. I think twelve minute frequency on all those buses is realistic, which means that if you are headed to Market from the north part of 24th, you would see a bus every six minutes. Likewise, every six minutes a bus could get you from Ballard to downtown (either the 40 or 18). Going the other way, buses would head towards Ballard every six minutes. If you are headed somewhere in between the two buses (e. g. Swedish Ballard) you have very good frequency (better than the current Link, and likely better the future Ballard Link).

      Without a new tunnel, things get trickier. I’ll make that a different comment (this one is already very long).

    6. Without a new bus tunnel, BRT (or “BRT-light”) becomes a lot cheaper. You still save a lot of time with the new Dravus bus stop and approach ramps to the bridge. But getting to downtown is still slow. Making West Mercer Place wider could be expensive and impractical. I think your best bet is to have a skip-ahead lane on each end. Eastbound is fairly cheap, if not ideal. There are two lanes that head from Elliot up towards Mercer ( The outside lane should be for buses only. This still means the bus has to leave the bus lanes on the outside of Elliot to the turn lane, but it would be an improvement. Westbound isn’t too difficult either. Mercer Place is narrow, but Mercer Street isn’t. At a minimum I would add a westbound bus lane from Queen Anne Avenue to 5th Avenue West (when the street narrows).

      I would also extend the bus lanes on Western, to speed up the 15, 17, 18, 24 and 33. I would still run an all-day 18, but this time following the same route as it does during rush-hour. This makes it simpler, and allows riders from Ballard the opportunity to get downtown very quickly (by avoiding Uptown). While this approach would involve some significant infrastructure improvements, the focus would be on improving service.

      Then there is the possibility of running buses in the middle of Elliot. Elliot is seven lanes wide, which means that you can add a couple center lanes along with the center bus stop. For trucks and cars, left-turns become an issue. In some cases intersections would add a left turn lane where there is no bus stop. In other places you rely on cars turning around (using the surface left-turn intersections or overpasses). At worst you expand the street, but only at a few intersections (similar to what they are doing for RapidRide G on Madison). With center running buses on Elliot, the transition to Mercer becomes a lot easier. Eastbound, the bus could easily turn onto Mercer Place, and merge with cars coming from the right. Once past the narrow section, the bus would run in BAT lanes (curbside).

      This doesn’t mean the bus would be running in its own lane the whole way, but it would mean it would be dramatically faster. You would have to study the various infrastructure projects to see which ones are worth it. There is nothing wrong with an incremental approach. Even center-running buses doesn’t necessarily require new buses with dual sided doors. You can split the platforms ( That alignment was rejected for Madison, but would likely make more sense for Elliot, given the variety of buses that serve it, and the big blocks.

      I think it is easy to take an “all or nothing” approach. Go big or go home. It is easy to think of a spectrum with perfect on one end, and useless on the other. Clearly rail would be closer to the “perfect” end of the spectrum, and so we move that direction. So too would running grade separated. The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores cost/benefit, and the importance of other factors. From these two aspects, rail from downtown to Lynnwood is going to be perfect. It will be completely grade-separated rail. But from a practical standpoint, it has big flaws, the biggest of which is the lack of a First Hill station.

      This is why I reject this approach. For West Seattle, for example, it would be far more cost effective to simply spend the money improving the connection from downtown to West Seattle. This could be as simple as more paint, or as complicated as additional lanes and ramps on the Alaska Way viaduct. Either way it wouldn’t be expensive as rail. Yet it could easily surpass the benefits of West Seattle Link because West Seattle Link will cover only a tiny portion of West Seattle. It wouldn’t be perfect, but than neither will West Seattle Link. But it would save a lot more people a lot more time for a lot less money.

      As for Ballard, even if we commit to new rail there, it will be decades before it gets here. Investing in some infrastructure (as well as better service) until then would make sense, even if it becomes outdated when Link gets there.

      1. At a minimum I would add a westbound bus lane from Queen Anne Avenue to 5th Avenue West (when the street narrows).

        I would also extend the bus lanes on Western, to speed up the 15, 17, 18, 24 and 33.

        In all these cases, these would be BAT lanes (not bus-only lanes). Sorry for any confusion.

      2. That’s how I interpreted what you wrote up above, i.e., BAT lanes. But thanks for clarifying.

      3. I often write “bus lanes” when I mean “BAT lanes”. Usually it is obvious what I mean. But in this case, I’m also proposing honest-to-goodness bus lanes as well (with center running buses, and bus stops in the middle of the street). Thus my comment could be more confusing than usual.

  9. Thanks for clarifying that this is indeed an open thread. :)

    With that out of the way, I’ll proceed with my comment which falls broadly into the category of land use and our region’s growing housing affordability problem. As many of you know, real property valuation change notices are sent out in June. I received mine from Snohomish County a few weeks ago and had to quickly sit down upon reviewing it. This annual change is the biggest increase on the land value portion that I have ever received in the almost twenty years of owning this property at nearly +35%. Holy cow. I can’t wait to see what the resulting levy rate will be for next year.

    This eventually led my spouse and I to look at the property tax liabilities for a few of the King County apartment buildings in my spouse’s company’s portfolio (they are a residential developer). For example, one of the parcels has a property tax bill of just under $800,000 which means that they need to collect ~$400 per month from each rental unit just to cover this expense.

    And since there’s been a lot of discussion about municipal golf courses here, I decided to take a look at a few private golf courses in King County and the sweetheart deals they get when it comes to their property tax liabilities. Just for comparison sake.

    One example I looked at was Sahalee Golf and Country Club. Their parcel is listed as 129 acres and their tax bill for 2022 is all of $104,000. Taking the land value portion divided by the size of the parcel results in a valuation of ~$28,400 per acre.

    By comparison, the apartment building I referenced above sits on a parcel just over half an acre. Again, taking the land value portion divided by the size of the parcel results in a valuation well in excess of $19 million per acre.

    Sorry private golf club fans/members, but I just find this ridiculous.

    1. Sahalee is one of my favorite courses in the world. If the property were zoned 7500 sf SFH it would have a higher assessed value. That is the point I have been trying to make. Upzone property and the assessed value increases. I thought you were happy your property has been upzoned over the years.

      Many areas like CO are cutting property tax rates due to increasing valuations and increasing sales tax. Not WA or King Co. Each will spend every tax dollar although many elderly can no longer afford to live in their home.

      Oh, the 2017 tax cuts had a few progressive provisions: one was limiting SALT tax deduction to $10,000/year.

      1. “Each will spend every tax dollar although many elderly can no longer afford to live in their home.”

        They have houses that they can sell and are appreciating in value. I wish you’d care as much about renters and homeless people as you do about people with houses. It’s like your sympathy is for the better-off people rather than the worse-off people, and the lesser problem rather than the bigger problem.

      2. “I thought you were happy your property has been upzoned over the years.”

        Yeah, I’m completely fine with that. What I take issue with is the cherry-picking of the areas to be upzoned in this unincorporated section of the SW UGA that the county controls.

    2. It seems to me the thing to do would be to limit property tax valuation increases to something like 3% per year or some such, and reset the property value for the sales price each time the property sells. This prevents significant impacts on long time residents.

      1. Prop 13 does this (2%) in California. I suggest reading about the indirect impacts it’s had on the state.

      2. The version they conned the voters into passing in Oregon doesn’t reset at property sale, which has made us a tax haven for those wishing to park money somewhere. It’s one reason we’ve become a money laundering paradise while starving public services of money.

    3. In WA, outside of voter approved levies, property can only increase 1% each year. So if your property goes up in value 35%, your levy rate goes down 34%.*

      This part of property taxes is widely misunderstood by the public and is exploited by anti-tax campaigners.

      *technically the 1% applies across the jurisdiction, so if some properties increase more or less than others, levy rate changes will be a bit bumpier.

      1. @Larry, @Tom T
        “In WA, outside of voter approved levies, property can only increase 1% each year. So if your property goes up in value 35%, your levy rate goes down 34%.*

        “This part of property taxes is widely misunderstood by the public and is exploited by anti-tax campaigners.

        “*technically the 1% applies across the jurisdiction, so if some properties increase more or less than others, levy rate changes will be a bit bumpier.”

        No, not exactly at all. This isn’t how it works at all. First off, the math doesn’t work out that way. Secondly, there are a lot of other factors at play that need to be considered, such as taxing districts not subject to the 101% levy limit, excess levies, banked capacity, lid lifts, and statutory limits on regular levies (solely and collectively).

        Washington has one of the most complicated property tax systems in the country. It is a budget based system where the taxing district’s levy or budget is the starting point and everything else flows from there. The 101% limitation you’ve referenced applies to the levy amount itself, i.e., the amount the taxing district can collect in total across all parcels within said district.

        Perhaps I can illustrate how the system works with a simplified hypothetical taxing district.

        Scenario #1, 4 properties all valued equally:

        Prop A $500k
        Prop B $500k
        Prop C $500k
        Prop D $500k

        District assessed value (tax base) $2,000k
        District levy (budget) $10k
        Thus the levy rate is .005
        Each property will be taxed $500k X .005 = $2,500
        4 X $2,500 = $10k tax collected

        Scenario #2, same 4 properties receive their new assessments:

        Prop A $600k (+20%)
        Prop B $600k (+20%)
        Prop C $600k (+20%)
        Prop D $600k (+20%)

        District assessed value (tax base) now $2,400k
        District levy (budget) with 101% limit
        $10k increased to $10,100
        New levy rate is thus .0042083333
        Each property will be taxed $600k X .0042083333 = $2,525
        4 X $2,525 = $10,100 tax collected

        Levy rate change: (.005 – .0042083333)/.005 =
        15.83% reduction

        Scenario #3, same 4 properties receive their new assessments:

        Prop A $550k (+10%)
        Prop B $550k (+10%)
        Prop C $600k (+20%)
        Prop D $600k (+20%)

        District assessed value (tax base) now $2,300k
        District levy (budget) with 101% limit
        $10k increased to $10,100
        New levy rate is thus .0043913043
        Each property will be taxed as follows:
        Prop A $550k X .0043913043 = $2,415.22
        Prop B $550k X .0043913043 = $2,415.22
        Prop C $600k X .0043913043 = $2,634.78
        Prop D $600k X .0043913043 = $2,634.78
        Summing, $10,100 tax collected

        Levy rate change: (.005 – .0043913043)/.005 =
        12.18% reduction

      2. Additionally, you might want to take a minute to check out page 31 on the Snohomish County Assessor’s Annual Report which shows “Percent Increase in Levy Per District for the 2022 Tax Year”. The county’s regular levy increased by 2.5% (banked capacity) and the Port of Edmonds maintenance levy increased by 51.7% (not subject to 101% limitation).

      3. New construction is exempt from the cap. From around 2010 to 2020 cities (at least smaller cities) used new construction and development and historically low interest rates to average around 3% increases in the cap per year which roughly equaled COLA. Another factor that affects property taxes and rates within the jurisdiction is the amount of exempt properties like churches and non-profits that pay nothing.

        During the pandemic inflation stayed low until late 2021 but construction revenue dropped. But cities like Mercer Island saw a big increase in sales tax revenue (as did the state and County) because sales tax is allocated to the place of purchase and people were working from home or just stuck there. IMO I also think the increase in sales tax revenue from online sales highlights how much sales tax is not collected in face to face transactions.

        With federal stimulus money — both to citizens and cities — running out and real inflation (based on the 1980 formula which allows a comparison of then and now despite political changes to the formula) running around 14.2% according to Larry Summers cities are in a real financial bind, especially with CBA’s that have automatic COLA increases based on CPI (unless you believe in defunding the police). In fact recruiting new police officers today is so difficult Inslee just announced a state program to form three academies to train police recruits. Harrell’s big problem today is Seattle simply can’t attract enough police officers to replace those who left.

        The levy system is designed to protect a city’s budget and core spending during downturns in housing values because the cities’s funding obligations stay the same. Too often we forget periods like 2009 to 2014 during which assessed values plummeted and remember when property values increase (and the Seattle Times today has an article noting the cooling property market, especially luxury condos in Seattle).

        But what the levy system is not good at is dealing with inflation. Increasing the levy rate at the ballot is very difficult, and even Medina barely passed its Prop. 1 to raise the rate for police and fire. The state’s tax revenues have exploded, and there was no chance this legislature would have returned some of that revenue to citizens, but the legislature should return some to cities, and should reevaluate our tax allocation in which the counties and state suck out all the tax capacity including McCleary.

        I think WFH and inflation will hurt bigger cities like Seattle who will see less development and sales tax revenue due to WFH but will continue to bear the brunt of regional social costs. King Co. seems sensitive to this, especially homeless, but East King Co. has legitimate objections to how their money is spent, where, how efficiently, and to what extent bad policy is a cause of the costs and programs. I think Harrell is doing a good job on the homeless issue despite a lack of police, but Eastside cities think Harrell’s success is due to abandoning very bad policies by the Seattle Council, not more money.

      4. @Daniel T
        I appreciate your reply. Just a few follow-up thoughts….

        “New construction is exempt from the cap.”

        That’s correct. I didn’t want to further complicate the explanation I was offering by bringing up any of the levy “add-ons”, such as new construction, that are excluded from the limitation:

        [“Taxes on new construction, changes in value of state-assessed utility property, and newly annexed property (hereafter referred to as “add-ons”) are exempt from the limit factor for taxing districts of any size and may be added to the tax levy that is requested under the limit factor. See RCW 84.55.010 and WAC 458-19-035.”]

        “The levy system is designed to protect a city’s budget and core spending during downturns in housing values because the cities’s funding obligations stay the same.”

        Also correct. As I explained in my previous comment, the whole process begins with the levy, the amount of funding to be raised across the taxing jurisdiction, which comes from that authority’s budget. The only thing I would modify in your comment is that this principle extends to other types of taxing districts as well and isn’t just limited to municipalities.

        “But what the levy system is not good at is dealing with inflation. Increasing the levy rate at the ballot is very difficult, and even Medina barely passed its Prop. 1 to raise the rate for police and fire.”

        Regarding inflation, that’s long been the criticism of the 101% levy limitation. Obviously some taxing district types are more impacted by inflation and the limitation than others since property tax collections make up a larger chunk or even the entirety of their funding scheme. It would be interesting to see how often ballot measures involving lid lifts or new property taxes have failed in, say, the last thirty years across all types of tax districts in the four-county PSRC area. Anecdotally, my own fire district has periodically asked for lid lifts from district voters for both its expense regular levy and its EMS regular levy and I can’t recall any of them being rejected. Also, I can’t recall a single time that an Edmonds School District local levy authorization or reathorization has been rejected in the entire time I’ve been a taxpayer in the district. The special elections being held in Feb and the resulting low turnout definitely come into play though.

        Speaking of my local school district, we presently have three components to the property taxes we pay for the local levy funding:

        SCH015EDM – BONDS Excess Levy Rate 0.40035566940
        Excess Levy Rate 1.35454410473
        SCH015EDM – ENRICHMENT Excess Levy Rate 1.43704679877

        These voter-approved excess levies fund these programs:

        Bonds, Capital Improv & School Construction, $275,000,000
        21 years (2015-2035), passed 2/11/2014

        Bonds, New High & Rebuild & Modernize, $140,000,000
        20 years (2007-2026), passed 2/7/2006

        Capital Projects, Improve School Facilities,
        6 years (2022-2027), passed 4/27/2021

        Capital Projects, Capital Improvements & Technology, $96,000,000
        4 years (2021-2024), passed 2/11/2020

        The levies taken together add up to a levy rate of roughly $3.19 per thousand of AV. By comparison, after implementation of McCleary we ended up with the following state mandated levies for 2022:

        STATE SCHOOL 1
        Regular Levy Rate 1.73231843188
        STATE SCHOOL 2
        Regular Levy Rate 0.93349853493

        Collectively that’s roughly a levy rate of $2.665 per thousand of AV.

        And yet, the Edmonds SD doesn’t do that great on the state’s own report card when compared to other districts within the region*.

        Edmonds SD (about 20,500 students enrolled):
        $15,257 per pupil expenditure (2019-20)
        Graduated in 4 years, 83% (2020-21)
        Met ELA standard, 49.8%
        Met math standard, 32.4%
        Met science standard, 43.7%

        Lake Washington SD (about 31,000 students enrolled):
        $13,533 per pupil expenditure (2019-20)
        Graduated in 4 years, 93% (2020-21)
        Met ELA standard, 76.8%
        Met math standard, 65.1%
        Met science standard, 67.7%

        *(As a result, I intend to start paying more attention to what’s going on in the district and attending meetings when I can. The district needs to do much better than they have been recently.)

    4. Malcolm Gladwell has a take on private golf courses and the tax benefits they get. See his revisionist history podcast season 2 episode 1.

      It really is extraordinary how these golf courses are treated.

    5. Sorry private golf club fans/members, but I just find this ridiculous.

      Agreed. There really are two issues. One is zoning, as property is valued for its potential use. The problem is easily solved by changing the zoning on a broad basis. As Daniel points out, this would increase the value of the land there. But it would also lower the value of land that is already zoned the same way (as it wouldn’t be special).

      Another issue is that we also tax any improvements to the land. I guess a golf course isn’t considered much an of an improvement. I can understand why. While a fancy golf course — or even a cheap one — typically involves lots of workers, water, pesticides and equipment for maintenance, it really isn’t that expensive *per acre*. It is also a very specialized improvement, making it more difficult to value. I assume that most golf courses are operated by their owner, and don’t change hands very often. This makes it dramatically different than rental property, where you can look at what rents are for tenants (whether it is a place to live or a business).

      It is quite reasonable to tax based on the value of the improvements. Otherwise, someone in a rundown house is taxed the same as someone in a fancy house (assuming the lots are the same). But this leads to perverse outcomes, as there is less incentive to develop the property. This in turn hurts the city, since it means less wealth per acre. Since a lot of public services are based on the amount of land that the city maintains, this is not good for the long term future of the city.

      But that is the nature of a lot of taxes. If you earn more money, than a higher percentage goes to the government. That doesn’t stop you from earning more money (since you keep most of the increase).

      I would say the first problem is the bigger one. Taxing a golf course at a lower rate because it can’t ever provide better a better use is nuts. The land should be taxed as if it can be converted to low rise apartments, even if it never is. The structures are a different matter. At worst you treat it as an empty lot, although I would assume there is some value in the golf course itself.

      1. Some golf courses — especially in AZ — have been converted to housing. Of course that housing is SFH because that is the surrounding zone, because although the “use” zoning for a non-conforming use is golf course the regulatory limits and zoning are the same as the residential zone the course sits in.

        Mostly it is the cost to maintain the course that leads to development, and many of these courses are poor and part of a HOA, and the HOA needs the money for its other amenities because residents are cheap and retirement HOA’s deteriorate rapidly in value, although often residents who purchased based on the fact there was a golf course sue.

        So taking Sahalee, which like most private courses is owned by its members — many of whom are wealthy and powerful, men and women — will the local council rezone the property SFH residential (which it already is) and change the use zoning and tell the members and neighbors (who feel they live next to a park) get ready for a massive SFH subdivision because in Tisgwm’s example a developer with a $100 million + multi-family development gas to pay $800,000 in property taxes the tenants actually pay? Unlikely. These people know how to sue. Plus they would have to vote to sell and develop, and most are not hurting for money.

        Otherwise councils would have started with Broadmoor and Overlake, although both would be political suicide.

        One of the ironies is 90% of these surrounding residents own their own home and really don’t want more housing, God forbid rental multi-family. That is what downtown Bellevue is for. Or Seattle.

      2. Yeah, it would be tough to change things from a political standpoint. It is a classic case of an oppressive majority. The haves aren’t interested in helping the have-nots. Those that have houses aren’t interested in making it easier for others to have housing if it means changing the nature of the neighborhood.

      3. Yeah, there was a course in Albuquerque that just became too costly to maintain. It went through bankruptcy, and before the legal details could be ironed out, it was consumed by the desert.

        Most people mourned. I cheered.

      4. Some golf courses — especially in AZ — have been converted to housing.

        You don’t even need to look that far. The Olympic Manor subdivision in Seattle used to be a golf course, but it was sold off for development in the 1950s as the city grew northward and land values increased.

        I don’t mind if a bunch of wealthy people want to keep a few courses around in private hands, as long as they pay their fair share of property taxes. I do mind that the county assessor values the land under these courses at a frankly incredible rate.

        Take the Sand Point course, for example. It occupies 88 acres of NR2 (formerly known as SF7200) land in Seattle. The county assessed the value of the land at $3.95 million, less than $45,000 per acre.

        Meanwhile let’s take a look at an arbitrary house next to the golf course. That house sits on a 8610 square foot (0.2 acre) lot, has the same NR2 zoning as the golf course, and yet the land under it is assessed at $962,000 (more than $4.8 million per acre). That’s more than a 100x discrepancy between the assessed value of the golf course land and the house land. This makes no sense.

        I could understand the house land being worth a bit more than the golf course land because the house is already served by streets and sewers and electricity and all the other stuff you’d need to install on the golf course before building housing there, but a 100x difference is not reasonable. Property is supposed to be assessed at the true market value, and this golf course assessment is anything but. Property developers would be falling all over themselves to buy 88 acres of empty, mostly buildable land in that location for just $4 million.

        If the county assessed the golf course land at even half the value of the nearby residences, the golf course would be paying a couple million dollars per year in additional property taxes, taxes the rest of us would no longer need to pay. Instead the artificially low assessment acts as a direct subsidy to these country clubs. How does this serve the public interest?

      5. There are many conditional uses in zones that are non-profits that are assessed based on their use. A good example are the Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA. If they were assessed based on the highest use in the zone they could not exist except in remote areas. I think on this blog the anti-golf course is part of the endemic class warfare.

        Plus virtually all of these courses are in SFH zones so all rezoning will create is very expensive SFH

      6. If you think taxing the rich is controversial, you are clearly part of the problem.

        Income and wealth inequality is the defining issue of our times. It’s the underlying cause of the majority of our societal problems.

      7. I couldn’t agree with you more, Eric. The property tax break given to private golf courses here is crazy.

        When I made my earlier comment about Sahalee I only included the largest of their five tax parcels. The other four parcels work out this way for 2022:

        36 acres, land valuation of $1,017,300 ($28,258/acre)
        Tax owed, $17,032
        11 acres, land valuation of $313,100 ($28,463/acre)
        Tax owed, $5,404
        13 acres, land valuation of $369,400 ($28,415/acre)
        Tax owed, $5,288
        20 acres, land valuation of $561,400 ($28,070/acre)
        Tax owed, $9,792

        So collectively, the five Sahalee parcels sit on ~209 acres of land assessed at $5,925,000, or roughly $28,350/acre. Their total property tax liability for 2022 is $161,566 with a good chunk of that being their surface water assessment fee. What a steal!

        @Daniel T
        I’m sorry but that’s just a red herring type of argument.

        And there are plenty of folks who feel that the asssessment process that leads to this huge tax giveaway needs to be rectified:

      8. Since Tisgwm wrote that my argument why changing the use zoning and assessed value of private golf courses was a “red herring” without explanation let me try and explain why such a use change won’t achieve the goals some on this blog hope for: lower propert taxes for other residents; or more affordable housing.

        Any code generally zones for three things: 1. minimum lot size; 2. use; and 3. regulatory limits that basically restrict gross floor area to lot area ratio (GFAR).

        Within a zone cities often offer a conditional use. These conditional uses are in a SFH zone because those are the most restrictive when it comes to use and the least expensive per sf. The goal is to allow conditional uses that benefit the community and usually are non profit.

        Some examples on MI are the huge parcel (including the waterfront) occupied by the Jewish Community Center, French-American School and Hertzl Tamid, and the Beach Club. None pay property taxes but are popular uses in the SFH zone (although the MI council recently passed legislation prohibiting these conditional uses from purchasing adjacent resideial lots and incorporating them into the CUP).

        The basic rule is that although a conditional use is allowed in the (SFH) zone the regulatory limits are the same as the surrounding zone. One exception is impervious surface limits for surface parking that are offset by much lower GFAR on the conditional use property.

        So taking Sahalee, which was built long ago when the area was remote and basically rural so the land was cheap, it is a conditional use in a SFH only zone with a tiny GFAR.

        So what are the options:

        1. Since the property is privately owned either the members would have to vote to sell or the city use condemnation. The only basis for condemnation would probably be a public park with permanent deed restriction. But then the city would have to purchase the property and pay for its upkeep which would raise everyone’s property taxes. The city has neither the money nor the desire to do that, and of course neither does a private party.

        2. Or as some like Tisgwm recommend the city (without an application from the property owner) could change the use zoning for the property from golf course to the only other allowed use: SFH subdivision.

        Although this would likely make a golf course prohibitively expensive due to the property taxes it would also make the current owners fabulously wealthy. It would also jeopardize any other CUP, and likely fail an equal protection challenge. The property as a SFH zone would probably be worth more than $500 million.

        The neighbors would immediately sue under SEPA and the state subdivision statute that makes road access and capacity the first priority. Anyone familiar with Sahalee knows it has a single entrance off the main two lane road that runs along the top of the Plateau to get to I-90 in the west and 520 in the east.

        So the city or developer would need to spend tens of millions of dollars widening the road as transit service is terrible in order to add thousands of houses (the mistake King Co. made under Sims and why this area incorporated). and so is access to even a park and ride (pre-pandemic).

        The new houses would have the same minimum lot sizes and be brand new, and probably average 500% to 1000% AMI without an obligation for affordable housing set-asides because this is SFH development and the city can’t leverage additional height.

        As has been noted on this blog in the past we use a property levy system. Each city has a cap it can raise 1%/year. If one parcel in the city increases in value another must decrease equally.

        Except the cap does not apply to new construction, which unfortunately is how cities in the past balanced budgets which has come back to haunt them. So Tisgwm’s developer’s property tax would not go down if Sahalee were developed. Its tax would likely go up. The basic rule is as population and density increase so do tax rates within the city.

        The reality is despite the initial sugar high from construction sales taxes on new development (most of which goes to the state and county) increased density and development cost a city more than they generate. After the new road you would need new schools, infrastructure like water and sewer lines, police and fire, and social services to serve those thousands of new homes. Forever.

        So in the end no new public park space is created, in fact green space is replaced with pavement, I doubt the upzone would survive litigation under SEPA it the equal protection clause unless all CUP’s were rezoned to the highest use in the zone, the club members would make millions each from the change in use zoning when the property was sold, it would cost the city over $100 million dollars, the property taxes on the new construction would be exempt from the levy cap, and everyone else’s property taxes would go up over time, including the tenants in the development Tisgwm refers to who really pay the property taxes for that development.

      9. “increased density and development cost a city more than they generate.”

        [citation needed]

      10. “2. Or as some like Tisgwm recommend the city (without an application from the property owner) could change the use zoning for the property from golf course to the only other allowed use: SFH subdivision.”

        That’s not what I’m arguing at all. The issue is the way the allowed conditional use is assessed for property valuation purposes. Please do tell me why it is that private golf courses are treated this way. What’s the rationale for the enormous tax break?

      11. It is the same rationale why private beach clubs, private Jewish Clubs, private schools that charge $14,000/year and teach in French, churches, sports stadiums, etc. are exempt or have reduced property value assessments.

        Many of these golf clubs predate the city. They are grandfathered and were created in a time when the surrounding land was quite rural. I doubt few new courses will be built although Aldarra is fairly new.

        I understand some on this blog object to the sport of golf although it is quite popular worldwide and VERY popular among Asians on the Eastside, , and women.

        I have friends who think bike lanes are stupid and should be abolished to lower taxes. Some think transit is stupid. These are political not moral issues.

        If someone feels strongly enough move to Sammamish, establish residence, and run for council. But don’t be surprised if no one votes with you to rezone Sahalee, and the city attorney explains it would never survive a legal challenge, the city can’t afford it, the people who actually live there are opposed, it won’t create any affordable housing, and it won’t lower anyone’s property taxes, and the poster child for the proposal is a $100 million+ development that is aggrieved at its property tax bill the tenants pay.

        Remember, the people who live in Sammamish are not like the folks on this blog, it is their city, and they have all the money and power which is rationale enough.

      12. A review of an article written in 1994? That uses a mish-mash of county-level data for about half the country dating between 1978 and 1986?

        This kind of early empirical research into urban economics is reviewed and refuted in the article I cited.

        Can you dig up anything from the 21st century that supports your alternative facts?

      13. @Daniel You keep throwing around the idea of “rezoning” a golf course as something that would need to happen before redevelopment, simply because golf course is a non-conforming use that predates the current zoning regime. You then use this as an excuse to value the golf course lower than nearby residential land, as though the next owner couldn’t just go ahead and build housing on the course and would have to first beg the city for zoning permission.

        I don’t know how they do things in Sammamish, but as far as I’m aware in Seattle that would not be required. If you’ve got a property developed in a prior non-conforming way, you can redevelop it in a conforming way. No rezone required. The golf courses in Seattle I believe are all in Neighborhood Residential (formerly known as “single family”) zones. The city wouldn’t stand in the way of houses being built there if that’s what the land owner wanted to do. Why shouldn’t they be valued accordingly?

        The one thing I see potentially standing in the way of a true valuation isn’t zoning but private covenants: the golf course may have been developed in tandem with the surrounding neighborhood, with the stipulation that the course would not be developed further. If such a covenant exists then the land would obviously be worth much less than if you could put homes there. I don’t know whether the Seattle golf courses are subject to such restrictions, but if so it opens up a whole other can of worms with regard to tax valuation.

        On the one hand it’s not fair to pay full property tax on a piece of land that you don’t have full rights to, but on the other hand the development value of the land didn’t just disappear in a puff of smoke: it’s owned by the nearby HOA who could relinquish it at any time if they received a sufficiently lucrative offer. That’s a good deal for them: they own millions of dollars worth of development value that they hold in reserve and they aren’t required to pay property tax on it in the meantime. Seems like a loophole that needs to be closed. To the extent that private covenants or other contracts have the effect of decreasing land value, the entity entitled to enforce the contract should have to pay property tax on the decrease.

      14. Eric, Sahalee is a private course and Jackson a public course. So the issues are different.

        The question raised by another re: Sahalee is whether the council could — without an application from the property owners — change the use zoning of the property and therefore raise the assessed tax value, not whether it could be developed. I addressed that pretty exhaustively and won’t repeat that, except to say I doubt it would fly legally unless other non-conforming uses had their uses changed automatically to the highest use in the zone, I am not sure a massive development on the property would survive a SEPA appeal or the state subdivision statute, it would not lower other property owner’s property taxes because new construction is exempt from the cap, and it would likely be political suicide, the suicide part probably being the key.

        You do raise a good point however about covenants on the property with surrounding HOA’s but I don’t have any info on that.

        Re: Jackson, as I posted a council can rezone park property, including a golf course, subject to any contracts with the vendor. Although Jackson sits in a SFH zone my guess is if redeveloped it would be part of a massive master use plan, with SEPA controlling the debate.

        Again however it comes down to politics. Harrell’s voters are the same folks who live around the golf course. They elected him to get the homeless tents out of their parks and off their streets, to revitalize downtown retail, and to lower crime. They didn’t elect him to develop the golf course in their neighborhood.

        Harrell’s voters like most Seattleites perform around 90% of their trips in a car. Like Harrell they are at best agnostic about Link or transit, especially in these northern SFH zones. Plus race would definitely be an issue over rezoning because when isn’t race an issue in Seattle politics.

        So yes, if you had a mayor and council hellbent on developing Jackson golf course they could legally do it, if they were still in office. It is true many on this blog, and progressives in general, would like to see this to manufacture ridership for Link or create “affordable” housing (which would cost tens of millions because it would have to be publicly subsidized unless you are talking about a huge SFH subdivision as a gift to private developers), but those folks didn’t vote for Harrell, and he knows that.

        A saying I often use on Mercer Island is “land use IS politics”. In the appeal I lost before the GMHB, despite the fact MI’s comprehensive plan specifically prohibits developing parks, the GMHB made it pretty clear my remedy lay in elections, and that is what we did. (And of course now with an existential vote to renew the MI parks levy the ballot has a clause that … drum roll … directs the council, if the levy passes, to permanently protect the zoning of the parks). One of my sayings in the 2018 unsuccessful ballot for Prop. 1 — which got crushed over discontent re: residential development — is if the choice is the levy money or some issue to do with parks and residential development always, always, always take the money.

        Voters are very, very touchy about their neighborhoods and zoning, and folks who don’t live there because they can’t afford to but want to change their neighborhood. Generally, SFH neighborhoods are opposed to converting a park or golf course in their neighborhood (green space) into a massive homeless and affordable housing complex. Just saying.

      15. Eric, Sahalee is a private course and Jackson a public course. So the issues are different.

        Daniel, I have said nothing about Jackson Park golf course. I’m talking about the private golf courses within the Seattle city limits, which are valued by the county assessor at an unrealistically low amount.

        I am not sure a massive development on the property would survive a SEPA appeal or the state subdivision statute…

        There’s currently a subdivision going through the process on the 18-acre Talaris site near the UW campus. That place actually has some nature in it, so if our environmental laws mean anything they should make it harder to develop that site than a sterile, grassy golf course. And yet, I haven’t heard any talk of that project being illegal. Once they tick all the right boxes they should be eligible to build. Interestingly, the Talaris land is valued at nearly $1.5 million per acre, while the golf course a bit north of there has a land value of only $45,000 per acre. They both are zoned “neighborhood residential”, with a 7,200 square foot minimum lot size on the golf course and a 5,000 square foot minimum lot size in Talaris.

        …it would not lower other property owner’s property taxes because new construction is exempt from the cap…

        I’m not talking about new construction. I’m talking about assigning a true and accurate valuation to land that already exists and is currently being assessed at an unrealistically low value. The RCW about tax assessments states that “All property must be valued at one hundred percent of its true and fair value in money and assessed on the same basis unless specifically provided otherwise by law.” The King County Assessor’s office clarifies this to mean that the assessment should reflect “full market value, which is defined as the amount a buyer, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay to a seller willing but not obligated to sell.” If the Sand Point Country Club voluntarily decided to sell off the back nine holes of their course to a housing developer, would they only be able to get $45,000 per acre for it? Of course not! Then why does the county assessor get to claim that’s all it’s worth?

        …and it would likely be political suicide, the suicide part probably being the key.

        Again, you seem to be under the impression that the city council would need to rezone a golf course in order for it to be redeveloped as housing, or for it to be valued as though it could be redeveloped that way. That seems dubious to me when we’re talking about the courses in Seattle. The private golf courses I’ve looked at in Seattle are all zoned for single-family homes (with optional ADUs). The zoning maps don’t show any distinction between the golf course and the houses across the street. Talaris isn’t seeking a rezone for their project. Why would a golf course be any different? The city council wouldn’t need to lift a finger to allow a private golf course to be redeveloped. Even if they did I don’t think your prediction of “political suicide” for allowing such a thing has any basis in reality. Maybe in Sammamish, not in Seattle.

      16. @Eric
        “I’m talking about assigning a true and accurate valuation to land that already exists and is currently being assessed at an unrealistically low value.”

        Exactly. That’s my original point as well. Hence, why I made the red herring assertion pertaining to Daniel T.’s earlier comments in reply. As you have stated in regard to the particular golf course you have mentioned in your comment above, likewise there is no zoning change needed for Sahalee as the parcels that make up the roughly 212 acres of the Sahalee golf course property are all zoned the same as the residential parcels that surround it. It’s the valuation process that the assessor utilizes to determine the land value for real property tax purposes that is the central issue. Because there are no golf course sales to use for comps, the assessor utilizes “other large lot” parcel sales from a very broad area and from various use categories as the basis for their assessment. This methodology is seriously flawed and yet the assessor keeps defending it in their annual report “Commercial Revalue for (Year) Assessment Roll, Specialty Area 34 Golf Courses*”. For a good laugh, just read the any of these reports for the last few years. The end result is an enormous tax break for private golf courses in King County. In essence, the properties that surround a private course like the one at Sahalee have what amounts to a private park that they get to look at but cannot actually utilize unless they become members of the club itself (or are a guest of an existing member). The surrounding properties have no ownership interest in the golf course property or business, but they do get to enjoy the view! As long as they pay their own property taxes which aren’t given such enormously favorable treatment when it comes to the land valuation.

        You bring up a fair point about any possible restrictive covenants attached to the properties surrounding such private courses. So I did some digging and did find that the properties surrounding the Sahalee course do indeed have a restriction attached to their deeds. I found the following explanation in an assessment case that Sahalee took to the WA State Supreme Court back in 1987, Sahalee Country Club, Inc. v. Board of Tax Appeals:

        “In this case, taxation of the course requires an understanding of the course’s relationship to its surroundings. The golf course is an integral part of a residential community consisting of approximately 500 single family homes and condominiums. The community almost completely surrounds the course. The lots were sold with the promise that the golf course would remain in perpetual existence. Other than that promise, however, the lot owners have no control over the management of the club’s property. Lot owners do not acquire any ownership of the course merely by owning a lot. Lot owners are treated no differently than the general public if they apply for membership in the club. There are no recorded restrictions on alienation of the club nor any restrictive covenants as to use of the course. Sale of the club would require no consent from surrounding lot owners. Lot owners cannot use the course for any purpose without joining the club.”

        The above referenced case was a doozy. Sahalee was actually seeking a land valuation of zero dollars for the entirety of the five parcels that the course and surrounding grounds are situated on. They lost the case and the court applied a valuation that was similar to what the Board of Tax Appeals had stipulated earlier (which was still ridiculously low). In their arguments presented to the court, Sahalee Golf Club stated that the property tax burden of the parcels they owned had been transferred to the surrounding properties. Yes, they actually made that argument. Lol.

        Anyway, thank you for engaging in this discussion. I didn’t realize I was going to open up such a can of worms by bringing this topic up in my original comment (which was more intending to highlight the impact of property taxes on rental units).

        *Formerly known as Specialty Area 343 in previous years

        You can find the latest such report here:

        Here’s the link for the aforementioned WA Supreme Court case:

    6. Before you take on the rich people who belong to Sahalee (played it once when they opened it up for one day to one of the WA public golf associations, we’ve never been invited back), why don’t you take on Dow Constantine and tell him West Seattle doesn’t need light rail. Once you defeat Dow, you would have the cred and confidence to take on Sahalee and its power broker members.

      (For the record, I liked the course, but it isn’t Pebble Bach or Winged Foot).

      1. Green fees at Pebble Beach are now around $600/round. I have never played Winged Foot, but use to take an annual trip to Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach has the best par 3, best par 4, and best par 5 in the world (at least courses I have played) so it is likely the best course in the world although several holes are mediocre. Spyglass is pretty fantastic too.

        Nick Price once remarked about Sahalee it is the most “vertical” course he had ever played (and this was after the remodel for the PGA championship that removed many tall trees). What I like about Sahalee is its “terroir”. It is the quintessential northwest course you rarely find outside the northwest.

        I mostly play Aldarra these days (if I play at all; kids and work pretty much stopped golf for 20 years). The founders probably made it too hard with too many forced carries hoping for a major tournament that was never coming to this part of the world. Many greens were so severe when it first open they had to be remodeled. Still a very pretty course with no houses on it. It was the old Boeing Farm.

        By the way the British Open (or just Open) was played last weekend at St. Andrews in Scotland. I have played that course and it was in such poor condition it was a joke. We had to tee off on artificial mats in the middle of summer and the greens were about one on the stimpmeter. Way better courses in Scotland, especially Muirfield if you can get on.

  10. I just listened to the Sound Transit/Everett leadership meeting (#4) and the Snohomish elected officials *really* do not like the I-5 and SR-99 alignments

    1. I’m not surprised.

      Elected officials want employment sites to be served on the Airport Road corridor. The logic disconnect is that they’re aren’t any stations between 99/Airport (optional) and Seaway TC or thereabouts. They see a line through SW Everett Industrial Center and think the area is served — rather than look only at where the station map dots are and realize those are the only places actually “getting light rail”.

      Of course, ST also hasn’t put a two line alternative solution on the table. That would be to send Line 2 towards Seaway and Line 3 directly to Everett. The Line 2 segment could then be run like a tram with more stops. The problem then comes back to forcing a rail-rail transfer in the opposite direction at Mariner or Ash — although it would be possible to even have direct service at peak hours by running a line from Seaway to Everett using a wye around Mariner Station. Until I see this two-line option studied, I expect problems for the 99 or I-5 alignment to get much support.

      It’s yet just one more chapter to elected officials (and frankly the larger non-rail riding public in Snohomish) being more enamored with line maps than with understanding how transit stations work in a daily reality. I expect the station layout, siting and accessibility issues to be more tangible to Snohomish County area elected officials and the public after Lynnwood Link opens, but that may be too late to reverse the Everett Link planning.

      1. Al, you could also do 1 Line to Everett via 99 or I-5 and do an APM or gondola to serve Boeing and the airport or even down to the ferry terminal. Yes, it would require a transfer, but because frequency is high, it might be better than waiting longer for a train on a split line.

      2. I think the basic problem is that Everett Link makes no sense. If you skip stations along the way, and hug the freeway, you definitely have no chance of a cost-effective system.

        If you cut over to SR-99, you could add a bunch of stations, and hope that it resembles light rail in other cities (like Portland). But then you come to grips with the fact that Everett is much smaller. Downtown Everett is not a big city center (it is tiny compared to downtown Portland) and these parts of Snohomish County are way too far from Seattle. Neither is anything in Everett that big. The stops along the main corridors are handled just fine by the buses (I’ve never heard that Swift or the 101 was crowded, and neither carries that many people or runs that often). For local trips, it is like building rail in Yakima — the city is just too tiny. They aren’t even planning on adding enough stops anyway. If they did, then travel between the biggest destination in Everett (downtown) and the nearest city that really can support rail (Seattle) just takes too long. So you compromise (in part to save money) and reduce the number of stops. It isn’t clear if you come out ahead. You make it faster to get from downtown Tacoma to Seattle, but kill off much of the ridership within Everett.

        So then you cut over to Boeing, since it really is a significant employment center. The problem is that Boeing employment is actually spread out. This means that no matter where you put the station(s), people will have to take a shuttle bus to get to work. This means a three-seat ride for almost everyone who starts to the north, and a long trip for those coming from the south (who grudgingly drive, since there is no reverse-commute to Everett, and driving saves so much time). Making matters worse, unlike a lot of major employment centers (e. g. a typical downtown) the area around it is neither particularly dense, nor attractive outside of work. You have the airport, I suppose, but that is still fairly small potatoes overall. The station makes sense if it was on the way, but it isn’t.

        Put it all together and there simply is no good way to build a train line. It is like building light rail in Vallejo, California. The city isn’t without its charms, but it is just too small to warrant light rail for its own use, and too far away from the big city. You are better off just improving the bus service. From downtown Everett, run express buses to Lynnwood. Maybe they continue to downtown, maybe they don’t. Meanwhile, for the rest of the county, you just improve what you have (or what you will build once Lynnwood Link gets here). You could spend half the money of Everett Link and come out with something much better.

        I do think the original plans were at least aspirational. If Everett got huge, Boeing employed more people and Paine Field really took off, I could see it working. But even then, you would want more stations. If nothing else, there should be half a dozen provisional stations (which is the point you raised). It is nuts that there is no stop between these two points:

      3. “ I think the basic problem is that Everett Link makes no sense.”

        Yep. I maybe would have said “little sense” but I agree with this sentiment.

        What’s so special about going all the way to Everett Station? The number of people transferring between North Sounder and Link would be tiny. It’s still several blocks from Downtown Everett. The more populous cities of Tacoma and Kent get no stops at their downtowns. About the only thing going for it is the nearby arena — and the billions in cost of building the extra three miles of light rail from SR 526 would more than pay for a new arena in the Everett Mall or industrial area.

      4. “What’s so special about going all the way to Everett Station?”

        Originally it was the same 1990s thinking that gave you Northgate Station and Shoreline South Station at existing P&Rs. And because Everett Station looks like a multimodal terminal. They couldn’t think far enough to have stations at the center the pedestrian concentrations like you see in London and Paris. And a vision that the Everett Station area may one day become a pedestrian concentration.

        Only twenty years later did they start thinking about the importance of stations in downtown Everett and Everett College, but they’re envisioning that as an extension from Everett Station.

        Part of the vision for Everett Station was that people from the north would park there and take Link to the Everett Industrial Center, to avoid adding congestion to the streets in the Casino Road area. Don’t laugh or ask how they’d get from the industrial center station to their jobsites. The vision is always correct.

      5. The original plans certainly are aspirational – Everett Link is to induce and sustain economic growth, not serve ridership that will exist (on buses) without Everett Link. Future growth to provide much of the forecasted ridership.

        I think Everett Station is much more analogous to Tacoma Dome station than Northgate or Shoreline. Both are within the pre-war urban core of their respective cities and are zoned accordingly, so even if there isn’t much ‘there’ there currently, the urban center of gravity should respond to the station. Both cities would probably like to have multiple Link stations within their urban core, but in ST3 are simply getting a station location easiest for the Link Spine to access, with travel onwards within the urban center to be served just fine by a bus trunk of overlapping routes converging on a Link oriented transit center. As Ross points out, both Tacoma and Everett aspire for their Link station areas to become not only denser and more active, but also much more pedestrian oriented.

        I think the proximity to a heavy rail station is more coincidence; if the Amtrack/Sounder station was at Everett & Grand (i.e. east of I5, north of US2), I think Link would still be somewhere west of I5 and nearish Pacific Ave. Regardless, Everett is a Cascades stop, right? That seems more relevant than the Sounder service; hopefully Cascades is much more frequent by the time Link reaches Everett.

      6. ” It’s still several blocks from Downtown Everett. The more populous cities of Tacoma and Kent get no stops at their downtowns. About the only thing going for it is the nearby arena ”

        I disagree with all of your points here
        1. Everett and Tacoma city leaders would both consider their Link station within their urban cores, the meaning of ‘downtown’ relevant to transit planning.
        2. Over the 3 ST plans, downtown Kent will have received more capital investment than downtown Everett, it simply shows up as 15 minute peak Sounder and all day ST Express, rather than all-day Link.
        3. The arena, that’s all you got? It’s the county seat and had over 11K jobs back in 2010. It is the largest piece of uninterrupted pre-war urban fabric north of Ballard in the Seattle Metro, with current zoning (>20 stories allowed in the core) that would cause a riot in Roosevelt or Columbia City.

      7. I actually think Link is fundamentally the wrong technology for serving Everett in this corridor. Instead, I would suggest looking at a tram like Tacoma’s T-Line. Let’s call it the E-Line for illustrative purposes.

        1. Link trains are designed for 55 mph max. That isn’t much better than a tram.

        2. A tram from Mariner to Paine Field to Everett Mall area to Amtrak then through Downtown Everett would give planners the flexibility to add more intermediate stops, deviate to places like the Paine Field terminal, lower station costs, reduce walk time to platforms with at grade stations, and extend further into Downtown.

        3. If there are enough funds remaining, then build an extension to meet up with this team somewhere near SR 526. That would make getting to Seattle about the same amount of time as the SW Industrial Area deviation now in the plans.

        Have you looked at how low the ridership is at the stations north of Mariner? Those four car Link trains will be comparatively empty north of Mariner — even in 2040. A tram would offer enough capacity.

      8. I don’t know what you mean by ‘Tram.’ T-Link is a ‘streetcar.’ A tram, as defined by Levy and Walker (link below) and used colloquially in Europe, is LRT when operating at-grade, so I don’t see what you mean by ‘wrong’ technology. Everett is indeed may be a great city a tram-train approach, in which case Link should transition to at-grade at or shortly after the ST3 Everett station. I need no value in introducing another mode and therefore a double forced transfer.

        If you point is ridership drops off north of Mariner, then that means Mariner is a good location for a branch, not a mode change. (Or, that means Mariner is a good location for a terminus, which is the “Mariner to Everett should be served by buses” line of argument).

      9. I agree with you that buses could do the job in Everett. I look forward to seeing what network gets proposed with a CT/ET merger.

        I use tram to imply shorter trains running more at grade. Everett stations do not need a giant grade separated platform 50 feet in the air that are well over 400 feet long. It’s way out of proportion to the demand and take blocks away within the city.

        Whether Tacoma Link’s vehicles are right I cannot say (and I like something like Alstom’s Citadis), but the overbuilt and Link stations are just too inflexible and too expensive to match well for what Everett wants out of the system. A side benefit of shorter trains is shorter platforms too, and the excessive length of current Link trains are prohibitive to operate in a street grid when at grade.

        Finally, I’ll note that ST could build a cross platform transfer wherever the systems meet. It doesn’t have to be a transfer ordeal.

      10. 1. Everett and Tacoma city leaders would both consider their Link station within their urban cores, the meaning of ‘downtown’ relevant to transit planning.

        Wait, what??? Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense. Let’s ignore the southern part of Link for a second. Assume that we only built the rail line from Northgate to downtown Seattle. This carries plenty of riders. Clearly it is a success. Now imagine that it doesn’t end downtown, but at Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill is a very popular station. Many would argue that Capitol Hill is also part of downtown Seattle. There are thousands of riders who travel there to places north and it is a significant destination. It is obviously part of the urban core, and I would argue that the entire line is within the urban core (with excellent destinations to boot). Is that a good line?

        No! Clearly it is would fail, since it doesn’t quite reach downtown. Again, this is for Capitol Hill, a spot that is clearly more urban than the Tacoma Dome will ever be. This is for an urban railway with urban stops, and yet if falls short (literally and figuratively).

        Tacoma is worse off. The other stops to the north of the dome are not urban. They are all suburban, and minor destinations. The Tacoma Dome is a minor destination for that matter. The only thing close to a significant destination in the area is what everyone would call downtown Tacoma, the area to the west. That doesn’t mean that a city that size should have rail, but it does mean that if you run rail, it sure as hell should include it.

      11. If you point is ridership drops off north of Mariner, then that means Mariner is a good location for a branch, not a mode change.

        Only if each branch is best suited for rail. In this case, it isn’t. Demand is very dispersed. Two lines would fail as much as one, because you leave out some of the potential demand. There is no combination of lines that make sense, because demand is too weak on each one to support rail.

        (Or, that means Mariner is a good location for a terminus, which is the “Mariner to Everett should be served by buses” line of argument).

        Ridership drops off after Lynnwood. Ash Way and Mariner (both of which can be very well served by express buses, since they are very close to the freeway) are not areas of high demand, sitting in a world of nothingness. There are merely one of the many moderately dense areas north of Lynnwood, where demand will funnel. That is the nature of Snohomish County. You can see that with aerial maps, or the census data. It is the nature of sprawl. It isn’t that the area is really low density (like farmland) or lacks any apartments (even Mill Creek has apartments). Often the single family housing is fairly close to each other. The problem is, it just isn’t consistently dense enough to justify a huge investment in transit. Even with TOD it won’t be dense enough, or close enough to the urban core to justify it.

        Ridership will actually drop off after the city line, but that is nearly here nor there. Lynnwood Link is going to be built — might as well go ahead and leverage it. Run as many express buses to it as possible, and hope for the best. Fortunately, Lynnwood will be somewhat of a destination in itself. Not as much as most of the Seattle stations, but much more so than Ash Way or Mariner. That means that express buses to it will perform two purposes — connecting to Link and connecting to the around around the Link Station. It won’t be like the buses that go to the UW, or even Northgate, but it should be pretty good.

      12. Ross, it will eventually be better than Northgate, though it will require another station at the north end of the downtown to achieve that.

      13. I think you make a fair point on comparing Capital Hill to Tacoma Dome … but I think King Street station is a more relevant example here: Sounder getting to King Street is good enough, even if Sounder to Westlake station would be better. I think the Cap Hill example is much more relevant when arguing that Link should extend onwards to Tacoma CBD rather than Tacoma Mall. As for Everett, I don’ think Cap Hill is relevant at all – urban Everett fits in a 20 minute walkshed, so as long as the station gets within the urban area by a few blocks, everything is within the 15 minute walkshed – getting the station further north is probably better but isn’t necessary.

        RE: Mariner, my understanding is ST is planning on running both lines to Mariner, i.e. ridership supports frequency, especially with the Swift Green connection meriting good frequency for a strong transfer environment. If one (or both) branches don’t merit rail (yet), then don’t build those branches (yet) … unless the branch is needed to get to an OMF.

  11. The Puget Sound Business Journal is reporting that Amazon is pausing construction on its 6 Bellevue towers to “redesign” them. This is truly the deurbanization of the region as we move to a WFH model that is changing our housing desires as noted in The NY Times article.

    1. I think the more obvious answer is that Amazon is struggling to find workers willing to subject themselves to working in the car-sewer/mall/parking lot hellscape that is downtown Bellevue.

      1. Cam, my guess is Amazon realizes it has too much office space post pandemic (and by post pandemic I mean people have fully returned to work although variants of Covid still are present) between its Seattle and Bellevue offices.

        From employees my understanding is Amazon now allows non senior staff (who drive and have reserved parking) to WFH. with one day per week in office lif their job allows WFH. Plus Amazon now allows employees to choose where they work in office. I think Bellevue has 10,000 employees so far scheduled for that site with 25,000 total estimated (in office pre-pandemic).

        So Amazon has way too much Class A office space it is paying for, and needs to redesign its office space for shared use in both Seattle and Bellevue. I think a lot of large employers will need to go through this redesign process, although landlords are not keen about remodeling once the lease is signed and space completed, so look for this process to happen over the next 5 to 10 years as leases expire. There will be a glut of office space, and new tenants will want a design that allows sharing work spaces.

        So IMO both downtown Bellevue and Seattle have too much office space. I would not want to be building a huge office tower in The Spring District. .

        Where employees decide to work will be up to them, with many factors at play: location, time of commute, mode of commute, where the office is located, and so on.

        Some employees will choose Seattle and some Bellevue. However in the past that choice really didn’t exist: the only option was downtown Seattle when many employees prefer to live on the Eastside. So we built Link that is grade separated and has the capacity for peak loads.

        What we are seeing post pandemic is a fracturing of our work density. Some is going to WFH, some to Bellevue, some to satellite cities.

        The good news is we should see fewer miles travelled. People will WFH or work closer to their home. They will shop and dine closer to their home, or online. Cities like Issaquah offer a complete ecosystem. Large peak travel by car or transit will decline so capacity will be much less of an issue.

        The Stanford Study estimated 20% to 40% WFH long term in the beginning of Covid on average. My guess is this region will see 60% or three days/week on average. It is true some can’t work from home but many of those work with tools and drive a truck to work. For service workers retail/restaurant jobs in urban cores will decline with the decline of the work commuter. Very few restaurants offer lunch service anymore and that will hurt their chances to survive (for example the Metropolitan Grill that no longer does lunch or happy hour in a dead part of the city at night).

        Seattle and downtown Seattle are likely overbuilt. Urban centers need to reimagine themselves. This will be harder for downtown Seattle because of the office density, and currently lack of retail density, and how segregated the two are downtown.

        For those who hate cars the good news is employees don’t want to drive to work, or a park and ride, any more than they want to take a bus i or feeder bus to work. The same downsizing urban work centers will have to go through transit will need to go through, and on the flip side of the coin the lower gas tax revenue will affect road maintenance.

      2. Urban centers need to reimagine themselves. This will be harder for downtown Seattle because of the office density, and currently lack of retail density, and how segregated the two are downtown.

        I don’t see that at all. Forty years ago, that would have been a problem. Back then, Seattle had no night life. The streets were barren after dark, as everyone went home. That isn’t the case anymore. The number of people who live downtown has increased dramatically. There are blocks that are still largely office buildings, but by and large they at least have ground floor retail. Adding that isn’t that hard, either. The big problem is that they are still suffering from the after-effects as well as current cases of Covid. The sudden economic downtown is hard to reverse.

        The problem is made worse because we still aren’t done with this terrible disease. We expected a sudden reversal, and Covid to become like measles. Sure, people get the disease, but very few. You might have an outbreak, but it is contained fairly quickly, and people get back to their lives. Other diseases (like the flu) are worse. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. Covid is still a major public health issue ( It is quite reasonable for someone to avoid working downtown for that very reason.

        Thus you have people who work from home because they prefer it, along with people who are afraid of catching the latest variant. With the current economic conditions (very low unemployment) employers have a lot more power, and one way they are using it is to work from home. Companies are trying to lure people to the office, which is part of what Amazon is doing.

        Meanwhile, the retail shops were hammered by Covid, and many closed. Those that survived are hoping for an increase in customers as the disease wanes. This has happened to a degree, but unfortunately, there wasn’t the big reversal that was hoped. With retail shops struggling (or still out of business) working downtown is less attractive. This causes a cycle that we thought we could bounce out of (with the stimulus money and the sudden end of the pandemic) but it just hasn’t happened. It may be years before we are done with the pandemic, and the economic impacts.

        But eventually, this too shall pass. People thought cities would die after the last pandemic, and yet the opposite happened. Seattle is much better suited than most cities because it does have a strong downtown. There is a huge residential boom going on. If there is a downturn in office development, it is nothing like what occurred with the great recession, and we recovered from that relatively quickly (to be fair, Seattle recovered almost immediately, while other cities struggled for years — but still, they recovered). Worth noting is that Amazon is still going to build those buildings (unlike the great recession, when companies canceled projects). It is just that they expect the offices to be different. They also want to attract workers to come to the office (instead of just assuming they will). They still expect the buildings to be used, just in a different way. At worse you will see fewer people per floor, but that is still a lot of people per square foot. It is as if each office building is 2/3 of its size. Either way, downtown Seattle would still dominate the region in terms of employment per acre.

        There are other reasons to be optimistic in the long term. Downtown Seattle remains a major tourist location, with a fairly diverse employment base (unlike the 70s, when we were highly dependent on Boeing). If office employment dips, Seattle could reinvent itself once again. “Pill Hill” could stretch down the hill, instead of the office buildings going up. It would be like the Pacific Tower ( which keeps going back and forth between offices and medical uses (or medical training).

        It would be unfortunate if downtown Bellevue collapses, because they overbuilt. Even if they never recovered, it would be a shame. But it wouldn’t be fatal to the city, or the region. In contrast if downtown Seattle collapses, we go the way of Detroit. I don’t see that happening.

        For that matter, I’m not concerned about downtown Bellevue either. I would be more concerned about satellite office space. These have always been discount operations, for companies that need the space, but can’t afford somewhere more desirable (like downtown). Since many of these companies are on a tight budget, and don’t do that much collaborative work, they will simply move towards a permanent work-from-home model, and that office space will be abandoned (although I suppose it could become a retail strip mall of sorts). Some office park neighborhoods could be hit hard. What if say, T-Mobile moved into a new office in downtown Bellevue (or Seattle) that was more attractive to workers. Factoria could collapse.

    2. If I understand the article correctly, Amazon is only truly pausing one tower, and will complete the exterior of all other buildings in the pipeline. It sounds like they are deciding what kind of format they want for their office-space, likely assessing whether completely open-plan offices are what their workers want or if cubicles/offices are preferred. They’re still envisioning a scale-back of WFH and are still planning on a huge footprint in downtown Bellevue. Even if workers aren’t in the office everyday, it still will require frequent transit in and around Bellevue, and will be a big boost to East Link.

      1. Amazon is somewhat unique because of its size,, wealth, ability of workers to WFH, high salaries. and dual locations in Seattle and Bellevue.

        Without a doubt Amazon will be a boon to this part of downtown Bellevue because before there were zero Amazon employees. But this area is already vibrant. Almost too vibrant.

        Amazon’s Bellevue towers have large parking capacity. With partial in office work and light traffic congestion many will drive.

        The 554 from Issaquah park and rides will be popular to Amazon. Sammamish, North Bend, Issaquah and Snoqualmie have close to 140,000 residents. Eastsiders like park and rides.

        I could see some driving to the 1500 stall park and ride at S. Bellevue and catching East Link to Main St. or beyond. That was popular pre-pandemic with the 550 although that park and ride was closer and some would walk, and was free. My guess is Issaquah and Bellevue will object to charging for this park and ride for various reasons (like they paid for it).

        As far as Amazon ridership on East Link my question is from where. The Main St. station is 10 uphill blocks to Amazon. If you can work in SLU and live in Seattle why commute to the Eastside office.

        From the east I don’t know. Will these workers live in Overlake. Unlikely. Maybe Redmond but that is a long way east and very suburban if you work in downtown Bellevue and can WFH.

        East Link doesn’t open for another two years. Ridership on the 550 is down significantly. Amazon hasn’t opened its Bellevue offices, or changed its WFH model, and future hiring by Amazon and Microsoft looks to be flat, and Microsoft is Amazon’s prime competition for employees because Microsoft is considered a better work environment.

        So I don’t see how ridership on East Link will be materially higher than on the 550 that accesses Bellevue Way today.

      2. “So I don’t see how ridership on East Link will be materially higher than on the 550 that accesses Bellevue Way today.”

        It takes Route 550 anywhere from 34-41 minutes to go between BTC and Westlake today according to the schedule. Link will be a reliable 23 minutes. East Link will also go directly to UW and Capitol Hill, as well as the Spring District, Overlake and central Redmond. It is planned to operate 10 minute service all day compared to Route 550 at 15 minutes or 30 minutes after 7:30 pm.

        These can all be game changers to attract more riders.

        The big Bellevue question is actually what will Amazon charge employees for daily parking. Parking costs in Bellevue will directly impact transit ridership.

      3. How much Amazon charges for parking will likely have to do with how many of the stalls are used each day and how badly Amazon wants employees to work in office. Amazon is not in the parking lot business. My guess is parking will be free but reserved. I wonder if Amazon will even allow paid parking for non-employees during non peak times.

        I don’t know about East Link being a “direct” shot to UW considering 520 which has no congestion, except maybe from MI on the Eastside. East Link will be faster than the 550 but there are several cross lake buses so frequency cross lake is better than 15 minutes. Frequency on the 550 would be higher if more were riding it.

        But you have to get to East Link. That is the rub. Peak commuters and Eastsiders hate transfers from transit to transit. Hence the 554 and 630 post pandemic. I do think the S. Bellevue Park and Ride will be popular for eastsiders going to downtown Seattle because at 1500 stalls riders know they will get a spot and eastsiders don’t see driving to a park and ride as a seat. I doubt Bellevue and Issaquah will allow ST to charge at the S. Bellevue Park and Ride. The 554 route post pandemic tells me this.

        As we have learned two years is an eternity, but I don’t see East Link having ridership more than 50% of ST’s estimates when East Link opens which is probably lower than the 550’s peak ridership in 2017 for that route.

      4. The 2 Line will also absorb most of the 545 ridership, which overtook 550’s in the last decade. And most of the 554 ridership, such as it is. Plus transfers from all the I-90 peak direction buses.

        It will also double frequency on the segment from International District to Northgate, or to look at it another way, take half the ridership on the busiest part of the 1 Line, not counting new induced ridership.

      5. As far as Amazon ridership on East Link my question is from where. The Main St. station is 10 uphill blocks to Amazon. If you can work in SLU and live in Seattle why commute to the Eastside office.

        It isn’t just commuting. It is office meetings. The whole reason that companies flocked to downtown is to be next to other companies. It would make sense that the folks in Amazon Bellevue want to meet with the folks in Amazon Seattle.

        I also wouldn’t rule out commuters across the lake from Seattle. Companies often have particular divisions in one area, especially since the buildings aren’t that far away from each other. Thus someone working in say, cloud computing, might take the job at Amazon even though it means commuting to Bellevue. If they get tired of the commute, they could transfer to another division, but they may happier where they are.

      6. ST also estimates that about 15% of East Link ridership will come from Judkins Park. The new 23rd Ave entrance is effectively a new station as the I-90 median stop was never accessible from 23rd Ave and Route 48. The Rainier access also was previously terrible. The area has something like 2,000 new apartments (recently open, under construction or planned) as well.

      7. “Amazon is not in the parking lot business. My guess is parking will be free but reserved.”

        I can’t speak for Amazon, but it appears that Seattle employees must pay for parking and that Amazon gives them a nice allowance ($160/month a few years ago) to compensate. They also apparently have given out free Orca passes.

        I expect Bellevue Amazon workers will have to pay something. The question is likely how much.

      8. Oh, and the Spring District stations have heretofore barely had transit service. Plus, Overlake P&R/Village was just a reverse-direction add-on to Redmond Tech Center.

        I predict the ridership on the 2 Line will actually be larger than the ridership on the 1 Line, from the day it opens at least until Federal Way Link opens, and probably much longer. Which is not to say that ridership on the system will double.

      9. Brent, if ridership is higher on Line 2 than on Line 1 on the day iLine 2 opens do you think that will be a good thing for ST? How much ridership do you expect from Federal Way Link?

      10. “Overlake P&R/Village was just a reverse-direction add-on to Redmond Tech Center.”

        I don’t know what that means. Overlake Village has no ST Express service to Seattle, whether going to Redmond Tech and then Seattle or otherwise. I always assumed it did because to me “Overlake” is the shopping center where Sears is. But when I finally took the 545 or tried to go to Overlake Village, I found out it didn’t; the first stop is at 40th north of the village. So the 545 missed the area that’s the focus of eastern Bellevue and where they’d expect to get an express bus. (Or I should say “we” because my family was one of them. Although that was before ST Express.)

        The Overlake Village Link station is just rectifying the mistake of leaving out Real Overlake. Or partially rectifying it, since the station is gratuitously far from the center of the destinations. Sam, do you want to compare the distance of Overlake Village Station to Sears compared to 14th to Real Ballard?

      11. I predict the ridership on the 2 Line will actually be larger than the ridership on the 1 Line, from the day it opens at least until Federal Way Link opens, and probably much longer.

        So basically you think that light rail east of downtown (including Judkins Park) will exceed that south of downtown (including Stadium). That is an interesting prediction. Prior to the pandemic, about 24,000 people a day boarded Link northbound, from Angle Lake to Stadium. About 15,000 boarded north of there. But that was before Northgate Link. My guess is both numbers went up (or would have gone up, if there was no pandemic) but the northern ones went up more (obviously).

        I think Northgate Link increases the ridership from the south end more than it does the East Side, but my guess is there isn’t that much difference. Likewise, I think the pandemic hits both the south and the north about the same.

        Thus the number to beat is 24,000 (adjusted for recent changes). In other words, if there was no pandemic, and no Northgate Link, can East Link stations get more riders than that (westbound)?

        That sounds plausible, but not a given. I think it will be really close. I think ST predicted 50,000 riders for East Link by 2030. That would mean 25,000 riders one way, just a bit over the south end Link ridership. So, yeah, it would be close. I would take that bet, but only if you give me decent odds.

        I also think the northern section is a much bigger chunk of the pie right now. If you think of the line geographically, there are three pieces that overlap downtown. You’ve got everything north of downtown (starting at Capitol Hill) plus the other two sections already mentioned. Even before Link gets to Lynnwood, the northern section has the most ridership, by a comfortable margin. At least it will once the dust settles and the lingering effects of the pandemic go away, and we adjust to a “new normal”. Of course by then Lynnwood Link may be built, further muddying the numbers.

      12. I think the ridership passing through Judkins is going to be much bigger than the ridership passing through SoDo!

        Judkins has major destinations in both directions (Line 1 may have higher 1-way peak ridership, but Line 2 will more than offset with ‘reverse commute’ riders coming from Seattle & Snohomish heading to East King), and East Link will have much more robust bus truncations than Line 1 will, particularly if PT & ST don’t 100% truncation I5 buses at FW.

        So I’d wager that while the trains might be more ‘crowded’ coming up through SoDo, Line 2 will end up with higher ridership numbers within a few years of opening (I’ll hedge that Line 1 will begin with higher ridership in the first year or so as it will take some time for Line 2 trips to migrate to Link)

      13. Here is the link in a prior STB post from I believe 202. Note that these numbers don’t match the WSBLE number but this is the most recent one that looks at whether Line 1 or 2 has more riders.

        The data forecasts say 70k daily riders for Line 2 where it crosses I-5. It also says 86k riders where Line 1 crosses I-5 at Beacon Hill. Because the difference is about 15 percent, the two lines are really close so Line 2 could overtake Line 1..

        Interestingly, is says just 32k riders are going to West Seattle. That’s about 40 percent of the other lines.

        Also, it does say that Line 2 will have more inbound riders in the afternoon peak but Line 1 will have more outbound in the afternoon peak.

      14. Thanks for reminding me of that PDF, Al. I’d imagine the East Link numbers will improve (all else equal) as the Amazon Bellevue prosperity bomb wouldn’t have been in the ST3 estimates, which should be enough to push it pass Line 1. If Bellevue CBD truly emerges as a rival of Seattle CBD, that should induce the midday spontaneous ridership that creates great ridership metrics (rather than just peak oriented commuters) as workers and residents shuttle back and forth for meetings, meals, etc.

      15. It is worth noting that a significant number of riders of line 2 will not cross the bridge, just as a significant number of line 1 never go past Stadium (roughly 5,500). Thus measuring line 1 versus line 2 is not just about how many pass a particular spot.

        Anyway, there are some similarities between the two sections (south and east). Both have ten stations (to Angle Lake or downtown Redmond). Both have big gaps. With East Link it is the lake, with the main line it is the huge gap between Rainier Beach and Angle Lake. Both have stations that mainly serve as bus feeders (Angle Lake and Mercer Island). Downtown Bellevue is a much bigger destination than SeaTac, giving that line the edge. On the other hand, most of the other line’s stations are close to downtown Seattle. To me that will determine who wins this little contest. Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill make up almost half the ridership south of downtown. If not for the pandemic, these numbers would have gone up as Link extended northward. In contrast, it is much further to those destinations from the East Side, and many will prefer taking the bus to get to the UW. But travel within the East Side could be big. If lots of people are making trips between downtown Bellevue and downtown Redmond, that could make up for the proximity advantage of the other line. In other words, Rainier Valley is closer to Seattle destinations, but these other stops (Spring District, downtown Redmond) are close to downtown Bellevue. Then it gets back to who has the bigger destinations, which gives East Link the edge.

      16. Personally I wouldn’t count boardings on East Lake trains going north in Seattle as line 2 rides. Boardings for East Link should be counted as those who cross the bridge or board east of the bridge. . Otherwise ST could have simply bought more trains for the section of Line 1 East Link trains will run on.

        ST still has on its website its pre-pandemic estimates of 43,000 to 52,000 boardings per day despite Metro’s transit restructure. I think those estimates are high unless Eastside boardings make up for lost commuter boardings to Seattle, although ridership on the 550 is quite low when once it had the highest ridership among the ST’s express buses.

        I know Mercer Island is now expecting around 1/2 the boardings ST originally estimated in the optimal intercept service configuration.

        Still unknown is whether Eastside commuters or cities will demand or subsidize direct buses like the 630 or 554. My guess is if the trip requires in downtown Seattle (such as to First Hill or SLU) the answer is yes. Trips from the Issaquah region on the 554 from park and rides should be ok because it accesses Bellevue Way and S. Bellevue if going east of Main St although many may drive to the S. Bellevue park and ride if taking East Link east.

        The real question IMO is whether overall eastside ridership on transit increases with East Link or ST simply switched riders from buses to trains and added a transfer. That might be hard to measure because today transit ridership on the Eastside is down from pre-pandemic levels (and access by buses to DSTT1) so which pre-East Link transit ridership figures do you use? 2017, 2019, or 2023? Either way I don’t see 43,000 to 52,000 daily boardings.

      17. My own take is that Line 2 ridership will be significantly impacted by what workers pay to park in Downtown Bellevue. While both Lines 1 and 2 are affected by parking costs and challenges in Downtown Seattle as well as Capitol Hill and UW, Line 2 will be uniquely affected by the Downtown Bellevue parking situation.

        If Downtown Bellevue parking stays expensive or gets more expensive, Line 2 will be seen as a way to shuttle into Downtown from other Eastside locations . If employers subsidize parking to make its costs about the same or less than a transit round trip, a proportion of those riders will switch back to driving.

        I do feel that part of Line 2 riders across Lake Washington will come from North Seattle and Snohomish. Once on Link and especially if seated, few will get off at UW Station to then get up to the street and take a bus across the 520 bridge. Being comfortably seated (while safe and warm and dry) on a train is about the best rider experience that a transit rider can have.

      18. “I do feel that part of Line 2 riders across Lake Washington will come from North Seattle and Snohomish.”

        I personally know two (future) such SnoCo riders, one of my neighbors who currently takes STX and my spouse who currently drives down 405 every day. I’ll probably retire before Link gets up here so I guess I’ll be the drop-off and pick-up person at the Lynnwood station.

      19. Right, Amazon is unsure what office format it will need, so it’s leaving some floors unfinished. That’s not the same as selling your towers and vowing never to expand in Bellevue because everybody will work from home. Amazon is unsure like most office employers are unsure.

      20. “If Bellevue CBD truly emerges as a rival of Seattle CBD”

        Bellevue’s CBD will never be as large as Seattle’s. Seattle now has highrises for almost two miles from Mercer Street to Weller Street.

        As to whether it can be a rival even if it’s smaller, that’s a psychological question. It may already be, because it’s a prestigious place for a headquarters or a regional office. I don’t know how well it’s known nationwide, but it probably has a lot of name recognition.

      21. The best thing is, as Bellevue’s CBD has grown and become more prestigious and maybe rivals Seattle, it has grown more Seattle-like. In the 80s the highest-paying jobs were in isolated office parks like Northup Way and Eastgate, and I dreaded having to work at them, where there was little transit and nothing within walking distance. I tried hard to find jobs in Seattle instead, and succeeded. After 2003 it became easier because Seattle had a jobs boom. At the same time, more suburban employers gravitated to downtown Bellevue highrises, transit from everywhere to downtown Bellevue improved and became more frequent, and Bellevue went toward more pedestrian-friendly zoning downtown. So now that downtown Bellevue is more Seattle-like, it makes less of a difference whether your job is in Seattle or Bellevue. There’s still no neighborhood like Capitol Hill or Ballard or Wallingford or Greenwood or the U-District or Columbia City in the Eastside or anywhere in the suburbs, but at least you can work in an area that’s not in a car-oriented office-park hellhole with nothing around it.

      22. I do feel that part of Line 2 riders across Lake Washington will come from North Seattle and Snohomish.

        Yeah, of course, but there will be competition from the buses. The same thing is true for the main line, but that competition has been going on for years, and is baked into the numbers. Folks in Rainier Valley headed to the UW often take the 48 instead of Link.

        The same sort of thing happens with East Link. Downtown Bellevue to the UW will be faster by bus. Likewise, some of the Redmond riders will take a bus to the UW. From Lynnwood, people will likely take the new and improved express bus to Bellevue. This isn’t about an express jumping over the stations (like the 584). This is where the bus has a clear geographic advantage — like a ferry, it simply follows a shorter path.

        Personally I wouldn’t count boardings on East Lake trains going north in Seattle as line 2 rides.

        That is neither here nor there. If Line 2 carries more riders than Line 1, then obviously East Link carries more riders than the south end of the current line. That is because the section from downtown north should have identical numbers. He simply expressed his prediction by mentioning the line, but that is exactly the same as predicting each section.

      23. Judkins Park is an interesting station. It isn’t great. That was one of the big complaints (you add a station in Seattle, and put it next to the freeway — yuck).

        It will definitely get riders who transfer to get to the East Side. I don’t think it will get that many who transfer to get to Seattle Link locations. From the north, it will have very few transfer riders. If you are headed downtown, then you just take a direct bus downtown. If you are headed to the UW, you have the 48. Taking the 48 south and then taking Link north is possible, but at some point it isn’t worth it.

        From the south, there is a different dynamic. If you are on the 7 and headed downtown, you stay on the 7. Likewise the 106. For that matter, if you are on the 106, you can easily transfer at one of the other stations. Maybe you just miss the 7, take the 48 and transfer to Link to get downtown. For the same reason, if you miss the 48, you take the 7 and take Link through downtown. The 8 gives you a direct path to Capitol Hill, but maybe you transfer to Link instead. Of course there are other destinations, but the three biggest (downtown, Capitol Hill and UW) have other, more direct and relatively short options. This stands in great contrast with trips to the East Side. C. D. to East Side will go through Judkins Park.

        A lot depends on the frequency of the buses. For example, if you are on Yesler headed downtown, the 27 is your best bet. But only if it runs frequently. If not, then maybe taking the 48 and transferring to Link sounds good (especially if they run the 48 frequently).

        As for walk-up riders, there will be some, but the station is not that easy to get to. This is no fault of the planners. Unlike some other stations, I think they did as well as they could do, while also being relatively economical. It is just the area surrounding it is not great. There is a lot of freeway and parkland. There are developments, but they tend to be on Rainier Avenue, which has frequent bus service. For many, the closest stop will be a bus stop on Rainier Avenue, not the Link Station. Will someone walk right past the bus stop on Rainier Avenue (knowing that the 7 and 106 will take you downtown) to catch a train? Some will, but my guess is the overwhelming majority will be headed east.

        In 2016 and 2017, that was the case. Ridership peaked for the 550 around then, and the stop there had about 300 riders. About 85 were headed west, and the rest east. I expect that number to grow substantially, but I don’t expect it to be huge, even with the growth around there. My guess is you will get around 750 heading west, and around 2,000 heading east (give or take).

        Whether that tips the balance is the East versus South contest, I have no idea.

  12. Sound Transit is planning to spend more than $3b on 4.5mi West Seattle extension while Translink will build a 10mi SkyTrain line for about that much.
    Translink won’t have to deal with a major river crossing, but how much has this to do with smaller station size due to automated trains?!?

    1. It’s not just station size, but complexity too. Link stations seem to be overly complex for what they are. Most SkyTrain stations are fairly simple by comparison. Tukwila International Blvd station at the same train length built by SkyTrain would be half as high up in the air and probably contain a third of the materials. Even CTA L stations, which handle far more passengers than Link, have a smaller footprint than Link. The stations are more along the lines of what you see on the São Paulo metro, which have to handle in the tens of thousands of passengers per hour.

      All of this is outsourced, of course. Architectural firms design the stations and construction contractors build them. The two or so SoundTransit projects my employer has worked on, we’ve only been on the periphery but we never saw anyone from SoundTransit. It was always primes and subcontractors.

      My best guess is that ST lacks sufficient personnel to really closely examine what their design and build contractors are doing, I’m guessing ST has enough staff to write basic specifications and everyone else takes advantage of the short staffing. That is only speculation based on stuff like an architectural firm writing a specification for us to build something that would have been an extremely expensive customized product when we have standard designs of the same thing that they’ve been using fine for years.

      Anyway, someone needs to figure out what’s wrong there that so much seems to be overbuilt and thusly more expensive than expected. $250 million for a single station is terrible.

      TriMet’s entire Better Red Line project, which is building a new set of platforms at Gateway exclusively for Red Line trains, a new bridge over I-84, extending double tracking (including an expensive reconstruction at the airport because the single track is between the airport wall and the main Airport Way traffic lanes, so there’s no space for a second track without rebuilding part of the airport), about 1.5 miles of new elevated track, improving and expanding several stations, etc is costing $215 million.

      1. “Tukwila International Blvd station at the same train length built by SkyTrain would be half as high up in the air and probably contain a third of the materials.”

        The height of TIB is based on the height of the highway infrastructure it goes over and elevation differences between Rainier Beach, the ridge I-5 is on, and TIB.

      2. That’s another thing about the Better Red project: TriMet is having to figure out how to cram the light rail line around multiple different highway overpasses that all cross each other, while bringing the line back down to ground level for the station and junction with the existing line.

        There are dozens of SkyTrain stations with various obstacles around them. NONE were built that high. ALL currently operating elevated Link stations have been.

      3. I don’t get why The Better Red project exists. The airport trains are never full anywhere north of Gateway. If more trains are needed west of there, just run short-turn Blue Line trains. There are pockets at Gateway and Beaverton TC in which they could reverse, or the turns could go to Elmonica on the west end where there is also a pocket. That would give five minute headways in the main trunk.

    2. I suspect that this is a major cause of the price difference. WSBLE is 11.8 miles long or 18.9km. Using a budget of 12.5b, that is around 660m per km. The Skytrain extension to Langley is around 250m per km, in Canadian dollars, for a much better service and lower long term operating costs. The new Broadway extension is more like $400m per km, but that is for what will become the busiest section of the system, and it is being built in the most expensive way possible. So I suspect that station size has a lot to do with Sound Transit’s huge costs, as I outlined in my piece, but I wonder if it is the whole explanation. ST really seems to know how to rack up a budget.

      One difference between ST and Translink is that Translink doesn’t actually build its projects. Translink designs them, but once they are financed and finalized, the provincial ministry of transportation actually handles the construction management.

    3. Langley is to be on structure down the middle of a public roadway. At the stations the roadway may require widening, but overall, land acquisition will be much less. And, yes, the stations are smaller and use a single basic design.

  13. Since the topic of work-from-home comes up a lot in relation to the future of mass transit: I disagree with the presumed eventual prevalence of WFH. Many jobs cannot be done from home, and even introverts like me may like being forced to come onsite once in a while, plus there are many others who are naturally inclined towards more social work settings.

    I predict that the following preference order will become common:

    1. Walk or bike or convenient transit ride to an office in a walkable neighborhood
    2. WFH
    3. drive or inconvenient transit ride to office
    4. Onsite work in a bland business or industrial park, no matter the commute mode

    The above preference order is based on my experience of walking 15 minutes to work (2 years), working from home (8 years), work onsite (3 years business park, 12 years in urban downtown areas – the best years where the ones when I could regularly eat lunch at Pike Place).

    The novelty will eventually wear off for those new to WFH., especially as employers improve the office experience in order to lure back workers onsite, and biking/hybrid/WFH makes riding transit less crowded. It is really nice to have clear separation of work and personal/family life.

    1. Edgar, and don’t forget “and improve their monitoring capabilities” in one’s home.

    2. This is honestly my feelings about the “WFH has killed transit, office culture, and the commuter”. Like I understand the feeling by some of wanting office culture to die for various reasons, but I see it more of an evolution of the office and how things will function going forward. From my experience in speaking with my friends who work in offices, WFH is great as an option for part of the week so that they don’t so tired and can feel a bit more productive for their work and to get things they also want to get done outside of office hours (medical appointments, DIY, networking, doing hobbies, etc). I also think there will be folks who will long term come to loathe WFH for one reason or another and may slide into a more happy medium or middle ground approach to their work situation. Because WFH is great, but it can get lonely and hard to focus on work at times.

    3. I agree, Edgar, very well put. Overall I do think there will be a hit to offices, but that will be most felt in low-rent office spaces. People talk about the death of cities, but it seems more likely that we’ll see the death of office parks. These are rarely convenient, nor attractive enough to make up for their lack of convenience. Same with offices in strip malls — they will either be abandoned, or convert to retail or professional-to-consumer uses, where meeting in person is required, or expected (e. g. dentists, medical clinics, law offices).

      I also think there will be stratification with white collar work. Low wage work (e. g. tech support) will move towards the home. Collaborative work will happen in the office. People at the lower rungs may be careful what they wish for. It reminds of when I worked for Safeco. They had a very strict dress code. Men had to where suits, ties and a white shirt. I hated it. But it was my first professional job, and I was glad to have the opportunity, even if working as a tester didn’t pay that well. At some point, someone suggested that they change the dress code for testers — that they be allowed to wear what they want. Testers — especially those that had been there for years and had no plans to change jobs — objected, very loudly. They saw that as an insult to their professionalism. So even though it wasn’t something they liked, they didn’t want to be treated like second-class citizens. It didn’t happen (at least when I was there) but if it did, I’m sure there would have been plenty of testers who showed up in a suit, tie and white shirt (and the female equivalent) even though they didn’t have to. My guess is over time, the same sort of thing will happen when it comes to working from home. Many will embrace it (as a worthy trade-off) but many will insist on heading to the office, just as a long-term career move.

      1. Well said – WFH is for people who have already established a robust professional network, or who are not in need of one. That’s large chunk of the population, but in no one eliminates the need – at both a micro individual level and a macro organizational level – for regular in-person work.

      2. What they wish for may end with them as glorified Mechanical Turks, working for an offshore sweat-shop company. Yep, they’ll be at home, but it might not be as nice a home. Jes’ sayin’.

    4. I think most people would prefer #4 with a reasonable commute (any mode) over #3. I’ll put up with a long/unreliable trip occasionally to access a great neighborhood or special event, but for daily trips most people prioritize convenience. It’s the same reason most people will frequent their local grocery or coffee shop over a ‘better’ but less convenient option.

      1. @AJ: I see what you mean by most people may prefer #4 with a reasonable commute to a bland office park, over #3 with inconvenient commute to an interesting work location .

        I may have an unusual preference for #3 over #4: as a mild introvert that does not actively seek out social interactions, it helps to be forced to work in a lively location, because otherwise I will have even less (anonymous) social interactions since I won’t naturally put effort into that. Early in my career, I chose to transfer from newer facilities in Canyon Park (Bothell) where for 3 years I drove and experienced I-405 traffic in one direction, and moved to work in an older facility near Harbor Steps and Pike Place Market – it was definitely a good decision to leave behind a somewhat depressing daily work routine despite potentially better career options in the newer facility.

    5. Background online monitoring of remote workers is definitely a negative. And glad to see some consensus that WFH is a good balance to office work, where some may like it more than others, for personal or professional reasons. Regarding the “death of office parks”, I could see it happening for the out-of-the way parks with no amenities (emphasis on *bland*), while a giant company like Microsoft could afford to design a lively campus that is unlikely to suffer the same fate.

      I remember reading an article, early in the Covid pandemic, to not bet against cities, as they have survived severe challenges in the past, including other pandemics, and even bombings during wars. It was a good antidote to all the pessimism regarding urbanism two years ago, and good to remember when reading the self-assured pronouncements of a dying Seattle that are regularly sprinkled in these threads.

      I think mass transit, and ST Link in particular, will continue to prove worthwhile in the long run, and that WFH and some level of migration out of inner city into inner suburbs (with convenient transit) are actually *good news* for Link. WFH can act as a “relief valve” for over-crowded trains. For example, the Yamanote Line in Tokyo should be even better without the rush hour crush loads that was typical before the pandemic. I’m also starting to see the afternoon rush hour traffic come back on I-5, and I don’t think WFH can help with that as much since road capacity is much more constrained than Link train capacity, relative to users.

    6. I think a work commute to a “neighborhood” will be rare. Work commutes if any will be to urban centers because for the discretionary worker that is where advancement will take place.

      #2 is the origin of #3. Until the pandemic society and employers simply were not interested in the cost or effort to create a WFH platform. The commuter slave is dead, and those are the funding assumption for Link.

      The purpose of spending $142 billion on Link is capacity and grade separation due to traffic congestion. Biking is a tiny portion of work commuting. A “convenient” first/last mile access to convenient “transit” is an oxymoron: once there is a transfer it isn’t convenient. Transit for a work convenient by definition is not convenient. These folks don’t ride transit for “fun”. It is like a root canal.

      Work commuters take transit because they can’t afford to drive. Executives drive. They drive exclusively in their non-work trips. The demographic on this blog is not representative of the ordinary worker.

      Like the Stanford study I doubt most workers will want to abandon all society from work. The key will be access/commute to work, and the vibrancy of the location of the worksite. So an employer at best can hope for around two days/week, especially if the commute is by transit (even a one seat ride on the 554 from a park and ride in Issaquah).

      People on this blog have to realize that for 99% of workers spending two hours/day commuting to work on packed transit — even with a one seat ride — is pure hell. Even someplace like downtown Bellevue Way is someplace they can visit to shop at in a car without commuting to work.

      Seattle will have a VERY difficult job convincing Eastside workers to commute there ESPECIALLY if a transfer on transit is required. Hence the 630 and private employer shuttles. For employers like Amazon and Microsoft they will have to offer free parking if they want employees to return in office, just like they provide to executives.

      Many will opt for 100% WFH. Like now. Seattle City workers are threatening to quit if they have to return to in office work. I work in downtown Seattle and although Harrell is making process on the homeless and street scene it is DEAD. People are not going there even in their off hours.

      Others may return to in office work part time but not because they are coerced. Those days are over. The impact to transit is a huge founding issue. Transit was always just a way to get to A to B if you couldn’t afford to drive, and now around 50% of those riders who had a 100% fare paying percentage don’t need to go to B, and if they do they can drive.

      The reality is these folks never wanted to live in TOD or urbanism, which is why they didn’t, and never wanted to commute to work, let alone on public transit, let alone to downtown Seattle the last five years. Transit changes nothing. It simply serves, and now most don’t need it. It is still important for those who can’t drive, but it was a colloidal error to spend $142 billion on a spine from nowhere to nowhere with nowhere in between with no consideration of first/last mile access. Sheer idiocy even pre-pandemic. My guess is when East Link opens there will be zero riders north of Northgate or south of Sodo let alone a freeway station in Federal Way.

      1. “I think a work commute to a “neighborhood” will be rare.”

        Again you’re projecting from a narrow stereotype. I’ve worked in Ballard, Licton Springs (north of Seattle Central college), and northeast Seattle. All of them had workers coming from all over, including Federal Way and south Everett. There are a lot of small businesses not in downtown or large office parks. And somebody works in those Kent warehouses, including my roommate. I even had a relative who lived in Rainier Valley and worked on Mercer Island as a lawyer.

      2. @Daniel: “Transit was always just a way to get to A to B if you couldn’t afford to drive …”

        How about avoiding rush hour traffic – isn’t that a big or even bigger consideration? Imagine everyone driving because it’s the “ideal” as you claim – how long before the roads get clogged at all times, would sitting idly in traffic still be better over riding transit with a dedicated ROW? Or how about realizing that the cost of car ownership (maintenance, gas, insurance, parking) means you could afford less living space, as pointed out by another comment elsewhere in this long thread, and I know others who justify paying for more expensive apartments because they can more than offset that cost by not owning a car, and living close to amenities and transit.

        When I drive to visit Capitol Hill and get stuck in traffic on I-5, which happens on weekends too, I really wish the N 185th station is already open so that I can travel with less stress. I don’t think that is a minority opinion of those who comment in this blog, many more people who don’t comment here voted for transit expansion and progressive policies in the urban areas of Puget Sound. I have no doubt that Lynnwood Link will have many riders using it to go place for entertainment/non-work errands, in addition to those who use it to commute to work.

      3. “When I drive to visit Capitol Hill and get stuck in traffic on I-5, which happens on weekends too, I really wish the N 185th station is already open so that I can travel with less stress.”

        Park at Northgate P&R? Take Aurora, Meridian, 5th, or 15th to get there?

        I’m not discounting your wish for 185th to open. I wish Bellevue or Bel-Red would open for when I visit my relatives. And I couldn’t use Link for a lot of trips when I lived on Capitol Hill and Link terminated at Westlake or UW.

        And when I went to Vegetarians of Washington events at the Mt Baker Club, I met a couple from Auburn who had driven to the TIB P&R to get there because Angle Lake Station hadn’t opened yet. They would have driven to the southernmost station whatever it was, ideally Federal Way.

      4. @Mike: Sometimes I drop somethings off at Capitol Hill that would be inconvenient to carry by bus or train. Last month I drove to Northgate to take the train there, but couldn’t find a parking spot. It was good to see Link ridership as reflected by p&r demand, but bad for my scheduled appointment.

        I don’t have many reasons to travel south and so don’t get much practice planning transit rides.. Instead, I’ve used my ebike to replace almost all of my local errands and short trips, even as far as Green Lake and Gas Works, using mostly the Interurban trail.

  14. “The Seattle Times rightly asks why Seattle has been so eager to get a station at 130th but so reluctant to add zoning capacity”

    It’s Seattle’s typical procrastinating approach to zoning. All the cities should rezone 5-10 years before they get around to it. The city has already committed to some kind of upzone. That’s better than it did twenty years ago. If it gets it done in two years, that will be a record. It’s now gotten folded into the comprehensive plan update, which is going on now.

    In any case, 130th Station is worthwhile even without an upzone, because it gives Lake City and Bitter Lake reasonable access to Link. Given their size, they need more than meandering to Northgate, backtracking to Shoreline South, or the E to downtown.

    1. Exactly. That’s what 130th is for; if the adjacent neighborhood gets upzoned and re-developed that’s icing on the cake.

    2. 130th Station will happen. The question is when, not if.

      I’d like the question of “when” to be answered, after the walkshed gets upzoned to TOD.

      1. I’d like the answer to be “ss soon as the line opens.” The longer it’s not there, the longer Lake City will have less access to the rest of the city and region. That’s bad because Lake City is the fourth or fifth largest urban village in Seattle, an urban center in all but name, so it affects a lot of people. I spent my entire adult life without Link to the U-District and Northgate, and there was nothing good about that.

      2. I agree Mike. It isn’t just Lake City, either. If anything, the change is more dramatic for Bitter Lake. You have to allocate roughly an hour to get from Bitter Lake to the UW by transit, even if you leave when buses and trains are running frequently. This is what it is like if leave your apartment in Bitter Lake at 8:00 AM headed to the UW: It takes you over an hour by Link, and close to it using bus combinations. This is not an obscure trip. Bitter Lake has plenty of apartments, and is zoned for more. This is the second biggest destination in the state, and right by the station. Driving takes around 15 minutes, while taking transit takes close to an hour (or more) no matter the time of day. It is quite possible that the new station shaves a half hour off that trip.

        I know I’ve said it before, but it is all about the network. The buses and the trains have to work together in a city like Seattle. In really big cities with really big rail systems it doesn’t matter as much. In New York City there are lots of people who only take the train, or if they do take the bus, never make the transfer from bus to train. We can’t possibly build a system like that. Our train-only ridership will always be puny compared to our bus-only ridership, and just puny overall. There is way too much of the city that will never be close to a train station.

        What we can do is build a system like the one in Vancouver. Their rail system also covers a tiny portion of the population. But their buses work extremely well with their trains, forming a grid network that Jarrett Walker called “almost perfect” ( Given the overall level of success of SkyTrain, it is tempting to assume that each station is surrounded by huge numbers of riders — a mini-Manhattan surrounding each stop. That simply isn’t the case. Many of the stations have relatively few people around them. But as part of the network, they are essential. That is why SkyTrain carries roughly 500,000 riders, but the buses carry 750,000. That is outstanding *combined* ridership, which is the best we can hope for. It is essential that we take every opportunity to mimic the approach that has been so successful in Vancouver.

      3. Ross, what you say about Skytrain working with the buses is completely correct. However, I do think you undersell the effect that one by one the stations, at least along the Expo Line ARE turning into “mini-Manhattans”. That has always been the goal and why they bought the old rail line. Like Westside MAX the hinterland along it was a tabula rasa except for the occasional lumber yard or fuel depot. There weren’t exsting SFH neighborhoods like alongside the TC Highway freeway to object to making those mini-Manhattans.

      4. Of course, part of the reason why Bitter Lake to UW is so slow is because of the 345’s excruciating detours. A 345 that traveled like this ( would cut the time to the Link station nearly in half, while hitting essentially the same destinations along the way (albeit with slightly more walking required).

        Of course, a bus that went straight down 130th to a 130th St. Link station would be even faster, but it’s frustrating that even a simple change to a bus route, which is long overdue, wasn’t even considered during the Northgate restructure, purely for reasons of inertia. Does Haller Lake really need both the 345 and 346 on Densmore? It’s pure single-family homes, within a short walk of Aurora, and if they don’t want to walk, they would still have the 346. Does the bus really need to crawl through Northwest Hospital parking lot (and wait in line behind SOV drivers paying for parking) to avoid a walk which is 2 minutes, 0.1 miles, and flat according to Google ( If the hospital really wanted to, they could even shuttle people between the building and the bus stop in a golf cart.

        Seriously, the 345 route is a mess, but as long as people can get in their car to bypass it, there is no political will to ever fix it. It’s frustrating.

      5. I’m going to second RossB here, as I think he might be seconding me, in pointing out that bus rail integration is more important in Vancouver than TOD. There is some TOD, at Metrotown, New West, Edmonds and Joyce, but then there are some conspicuous absences too. Nothing at Nanaimo, Commercial, 29th Ave, 22nd Street, Scott Road, and not much at Royal Oak. And of those, only Edmonds was truly tabula rasa. It was a former site of some factories. New West was an old downtown, Metrodown was an existing suburban mall with apartment towers and walkups, and Joyce was a neighbourhood retail strip. Its just that the addition of the transit line spurred additional development and the respective cities let it happen. Actually some of the suburban TOD has been disappointingly slow even when it is allowed. Both Metrotown and Surrey Central wanted more office space to develop around their stations, but that was slow to be built and slow to fill. Really only retail and residential has been the sure ticket.

      6. @ yvrlutyens — Yes, exactly. I’ll also add that often the TOD is quite limited. Next to the station things are booming, but a couple blocks away things haven’t changed at all.

        For example, King Edwards Station. This is very much in the city. It is about 4 km to downtown, and almost straight across from UBC. Next to the station, it is booming: This clearly feels like a major urban station. And yet, within a two minute walk you have houses ( Two minutes! Those particular houses are actually packed together fairly well, but if you zoom out, you can find plenty that aren’t ( Again, that is less than a five minute walk (including crossing two streets) and it has houses on really big lots. These aren’t outliers. Within a five minute walk, it is mostly houses. Within a ten minute walk, it is overwhelmingly houses.

        This explains why the Canada Line was so underestimated. It is relatively easy to estimate walk-up ridership. It is tougher to determine how many will transfer. Yet obviously, lots of people are. That is how they get such eye popping numbers for what is a relatively small city. It is all about the network.

      7. Of course, part of the reason why Bitter Lake to UW is so slow is because of the 345’s excruciating detours. A 345 that traveled like this ( would cut the time to the Link station nearly in half, while hitting essentially the same destinations along the way (albeit with slightly more walking required).

        I disagree about hitting the same riders, or for that matter, the time savings. The detours add time, to be sure. A couple minutes (bus time) for Four Freedoms, and four minutes for the hospital. But that is still a relatively small part of the travel time. The big cost is to round the horn at 92nd.

        And going that way isn’t without costs. The Four Freedoms stop accounts for a substantial number of riders. Maybe these folks will walk, maybe not. If you use Aurora to cover more of the hospital, you skip Ingraham, and force a longer walk. The walk isn’t terrible, it is just that it separates it from the 346, which means Ingraham gets 15 minute frequency. I would skip the hospital loop, as it is fairly time consuming, and the hospital (surprisingly) doesn’t get that many riders. Likely because many just prefer the combined frequency of the 345/346, and use the stop on Meridian instead. In any events, that is really putting band-aids on a bigger problem. You can avoid those detours, but you probably lose riders, and the bus wouldn’t be much faster.

        In contrast, using 130th avoids that basic problem. The bus is not just a bit faster, it is much faster. According to Google, without traffic it takes 14 minutes to drive the way you suggested, and 5 minutes to drive to 130th ( versus Obviously it takes longer on a bus, but that simply increases the time difference. Meanwhile, 130th is remarkably free of traffic — my guess is it has fewer delays than 92nd.

        While running an east-west route and covering the hospital/Four Freedoms seems like overkill, you actually save some time by not having the 75 detour to Northgate. Meanwhile, you connect Bitter Lake with Lake City, forming one of the best east-west routes north of the ship canal. That might seem like a stretch, but consider the various corridors:

        Market/45th: Great route, even if it gets bogged down by traffic.
        85th/65th: Requires a transfer and is not straight across.
        Northgate Way: Also requires a transfer, and detours around to serve the Northgate Station.
        130th/125th: By far the fastest way to go east-west, while connecting to two urban villages.

        So basically it is the second bets east-west corridor north of the ship canal. This itself should garner plenty of riders. The fact that it gives those riders the fastest connection to Link will make it quite popular, when they finally get around to it.

  15. Regarding Link stations next to freeways: would freeway lids be worthwhile solutions to study, to help realize much more TOD potential?

    I’m thinking mostly in terms of Lynnwood Link stations (except the one in Lynnwood), where neighborhoods were clearly cut in in the middle to build the freeway, it seems natural to “patch the gap” and build housing/commercial where feasible. Some thoughts:

    1. WSDOT are not necessarily against freeway lids: they are currently building one in Montlake over SR 520, and another in north Capitol Hill along Roanoke.

    2. Real estate on the lid or flanking it will be valuable and can help pay for the cost: A Shoreline city planner likes to mention that corporate presence that is visible and readily accessible from the freeway is a big draw for attracting headquarter or commercial development. Even for residential, a $1 billion freeway lid divide by $200k lots means a minimum of 5000 lots can break even.

    3. There are good examples to follow, including for the downtown Seattle section of I-5.

    Anyway, just some thoughts as I’m well aware of the valid criticisms against transit stations that are directly next to freeways.

    1. Who would pay for the construction of the lids over I-5? Combined with cost of the lid in a fairly remote area like Lynnwood any housing on the lid would be much more expensive than surrounding housing. There is plenty of cheap land in and around Lynnwood.

      Mercer Island requested a lid over I-90 as part of mitigation for East Link. The fundamental problem is ST thinks that is a WSDOT issue and WSDOT thinks it is a ST issue.

      There are many problems with building a lid over a freeway. First is any compromise of the freeway, and second is maintenance.

      Then you have slowing of traffic that naturally occurs in any tunnel, and as the Convention Center proved the inability to widen the freeway if necessary. Folks thought the airspace for the convention center was “free”, but after the costs of construction and expansion, and the constant congestion on I-5 from the lane narrowing it is probably the most expensive construction per sf in Seattle. At the time the city could have bought all of Two Union Square for a pittance.

      So if you want TOD over I-5 the developer is going to have to pay for the airspace and construction, and oust a massive bond to indemnify WSDOT if construction compromises the freeway. When there is plenty of cheap land in Lynnwood already, and it is cheap for a reason.

      1. I did say “except the one in Lynnwood”, knowing that 1-5 is super wide by that station and that land is cheaper there. But for the other stations that are part of Lynnwood Link, the land cost may not be as cheap as in Lynnwood, but these are the types of financial considerations that can be studied.

        I haven’t thought about annual maintenance cost. For the I-5 lid feasibility memorandum [1], Table 5-12 estimates between $2.4 to $2.9 million based on WSDOT costs for Mt. Baker and Mercer Island tunnels/lids. This estimate does not make the idea economically infeasible, especially with new taxable parcels created as part of the lid.

        I don’t know how the freeway along Lynnwood Link, if lidded, can be compromised more than the other lids on I-5, I-90, and SR 520. If those existing lids could be built without negative impacts to the structural soundness of the freeway underneath, there is at least potential to build lids with similar designs assuming roughly similar circumstances. I’m curious, did the state have to issue bonds to specifically to cover construction + O/M costs, risks? Perhaps the risks can be small or contained enough to still make construction look feasible in a study.

        Freeway traffic slowing down is actually an advantage for me, as long as the slowdown is not drastic. Should help cut down on freeway noise and accident.


    2. Rather than study large full lids, I would suggest either pedestrian overpasses or only smaller lids for transit centers, drop offs zones or other station activity.

      Which leads me to observe that even though the new Northgate pedestrian bridge is pretty, it’s deafeningly loud to anyone using it. It’s failed in this aspect of user experience. Has anyone else actually used it and understands this problem? If you haven’t used it, please go try it before commenting about it.

      1. Yes, pedestrian bridges over I-5 are unhealthily loud. This is actually a big reason for my suggestion of lidding I-5 next to the Shoreline station areas, to cut down on noise and air pollution, in addition to helping gain more transit-oriented development.

        Pedestrian bridges would not cut down the noise and air-pollution in the station neighborhoods, and also not for pedestrians unless the bridge is enclosed.

      2. I would not expect lids anywhere else in the region until capital hill and pill hill are a connected slope to downtown, and I-5 and 520 are completely buried from u district to pioneer square.

      3. For very little more money, Northgate could have built a gondola connecting the College with the station not only for people who can walk/roll, but also for mobility challenged people and reducing the exposure to freeway fumes and noise. You could have also extended it to serve NWHospital. I feel rather than focusing on the buildout of more miles/stations, Sound Transit should really think about how to maximize the ridership by connecting adjacent neighborhoods with APM or gondola technology.

      4. The bridge over I-5 is noisy, but it is still quite popular. I’ve walked over it, and will again. It is worth noting that it is much better than any other alternative. Crossing at 92nd is really loud. Northgate way is loud, ugly and even a bit scary (as cars and trucks run by the tiny sidewalk). The 117th crossing is loud and narrow. Same with 130th, although it is at least short.

        Part of the problem is that the freeway is really wide by Northgate. At one point they wanted a wider bridge, which might have been a bit quieter, but that was a lot more expensive. A cap would cost a fortune. While plenty of people walk over it, I think it is especially popular with bikers. It is just much better than the alternatives — it is one of the best ways to cross the freeway.

        This would be a good place for a gondola. It would have been faster for pedestrians, but worse for those on a bike. It also requires operators, shuts down and night, and is more likely to break down than a bridge. Ideally you have both, but that is too much to spend. A connecting gondola to Northwest hospital has merit, as Northwest hospital is a rather “spiky” destination. It is a significant and growing destination, but it is surrounded by very low density uses. Haller Lake should probably have coverage level of service (e. g. every half hour) but not the level of the hospital (every 15 minutes). A gondola allows you to just serve it with one bus every half hour. That’s better for those headed to the hospital (but worse for those in the neighborhood), a good trade-off in my opinion.

      5. > For very little more money, Northgate could have built a gondola

        maybe comparable construction cost, but a lot more to staff both ends for 20h/day plus maintenance of the moving parts

      6. > it’s deafeningly loud to anyone using it

        this is a general problem with the I-5 alignment, even ignoring the (studded tire) roughness of its concrete

        routing from Northgate to NW hospital to the Aurora / WA-99 corridor would have been much more attractive for users & TOD

      7. @RossB: the Northgate Pedestrian bridge is indeed popular, and I like to ride my bike there despite the freeway noise. There is also a nice creek that was previously not visible from the parking lot.

        Unfortunately, as a bicyclist or pedestrian, the first thing I see after crossing the bridge towards the station are tons of car parking. I have to know that there are restaurants behind the movie theater, otherwise it’s not obvious what destinations there are other than the Kraken facilities, which to me is not a big draw (yet). I’ve read that new housing will soon be built on half of Metros surface parking lot to the east, so that should help.

      8. The pedestrian bridge would’ve benefited from an enclosed bridge design similar to the transit pedestrian bridges in Denver along I-225, I-25, and Denver-Boulder Turnpike for the RTD bus and rail system. While I’m still not a fan of them at least they’re designed with some level of noise mitigation and protection from the elements.

      9. I ride over I-5 on my way to work. There is a noticeable difference now that they have changed the merge and fixed the 20-year slowdown under where I ride. Bring back the congestion! ;)

        I wear wrap-around sun glasses even when it’s raining to keep the crap flying up from that pit of despair out of my eyes.

      10. I see you haven’t seen NE 8th Street over 405, or 118th Ave SE where the 1970s towers in the park are soul-crushing.

      11. I made the mistake of riding on 8th once. And only once. That is the land that forgot humans not enclosed in steel and glass exist. It is unfathomable that they are siting a rail station there. Even after living in Seattle for almost 30 years, I haven’t found any reason to add Bellevue to any part of my world. It is the worst place in the PNW, bar none. South Park. White Center. Lakewood. Paradises in comparison.

      12. @Cam — Oh now, Bellevue isn’t that bad. Downtown Bellevue is not without its charms. I worked there, and found the walk (to the park) was nice. I’ve also seen Craig Robinson at the comedy club in downtown Bellevue. That was definitely worth the trip (he is very funny, and a great musician).

      13. Hah! I guess I missed the charming bits. I’ve done the make your own pizza place and Din Ti Fung. And even some dim sum. Still no reason for a return visit.

        I love bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and normally would have ridden 520 a dozen times simply because it exists. But the other side of the Lake holds no allure.

        Kirkland is vaguely pleasant, in a 3rd-tier suburb with a walkable 3 blocks sort of way. I have paddled directly there to avoid the rest of the east side.

    3. A lid would definitely help, but there are many reasons why freeway stations do poorly:

      1) Much of the land within walking distance of the station is taken up by the freeway and is thus useless from a transit perspective.

      2) It is an unattractive place. This can hurt housing and office development, but it also means that people are less likely to visit restaurants and shops near the station.

      3) The automobile competes really well with transit.

      4) Suburban freeway stations are often isolated, even if there is good local development. To quote this report: Residents who want to travel to specialty stores or jobs not readily accessible by the existing transit network—and in typical low-density U.S. cities, this is almost all of them—will need to own cars. Once they own cars, there’s no reason not to use them for all trips, especially if zoning policies guarantee copious parking.

      5) A lot of freeways stops are a long ways from significant destinations. Cities can run along the freeway the whole way but it is common to have a hybrid, like ours. The problem is, those suburban stations are a long ways away from anything.

      Capping could help in some ways, but do nothing in others. It would certainly help with the first two items. It doesn’t do much for the third and fourth.

      To a certain extent, the fifth is the result of the other four. For a really big city, you could see development far away from the core. L. A. is a great example. It is so huge, a transit line can stretch 20 miles and still get decent ridership from various places along the way. But for Seattle, it would have to see these places along the way suddenly become attractive (the so-called “string of pearls” model). The problem is, no one has actually pulled that off. Running next to the freeway doesn’t help, but even if you run next to old railroad lines, it doesn’t seem to work (at least not in America). Maybe it is just too hard to build up things in that manner. It is one thing to visit a small town outside the big city. Maybe it has an old church, surrounded by a few shops with farmland outside it. It is another thing to visit a “Town Centre” or Town Square that looks like this:

      So yeah, capping around each station would help, but I don’t think it would fundamentally change things. I would rather cap the freeway downtown.

      1. @RossB: Thanks for the detailed reply. I agree with lids helping with #1 and #2.

        With #3 and #4: Neighborhoods in and around the lid may enforce limited car access, which may help promote taking transit to stations that has more consumer amenities. Or, instead of owning cars, people can be encouraged to own and use bikes to shop at grocery stores along Aurora. I realize the idea of neighborhoods with restricted car access is almost unheard of in the US, but may become popular for those living near stations. As it is, some Shoreline residents already complain of loud car races on I-5 and local streets in the middle of the night.

        Regarding #5: There are lots of amenities and some work campuses near Aurora/Hwy 99, a short bus or bike ride away from any of the Lynnwood Link stations. Maybe not walkable, but also not too far to be “bridged” by mixed use streets/arteries including on freeway lids.

        I do agree that capping I-5 in downtown Seattle should be prioritized over capping I-5 near any Lynnwood Link stations. And that the “string of pearls” model may not have any proven success stories when the rail stations are along the freeway. Still, it is such a natural TOD model to strive for, that it should be worthwhile to study how to plan and accomplish it over the long term (maybe 10-20 years), without repeating design mistakes or incorrect assumptions, and at the same overcome the Link freeway alignment that we are stuck with.

      2. There are a lot of issues with our stations north of the U-District. One is bus access. The original plan was to put the Roosevelt Station under the freeway. I’m glad they moved it, but either way, it works well for crossing buses (and is better now for north-south buses). In contrast, Northgate is not. Even if you cap the freeway, you can’t run a bus east-west. To the west, you have to go around on 92nd (or Northgate Way). To the east, Northgate Way is the only reasonable option. It is a very inconvenient station from a transit network standpoint. A stop on Northgate Way (say Roosevelt and Northgate Way) would have been much better. Of course that would have been farther away from the college.

        Meanwhile, bus access is the primary motivation for both 130th and 145th station. But 145th isn’t as good. There is plenty of traffic, and no plans to run any buses west of 145th. They put the station at 148th, so even if they did go that way, the bus would have to detour back and forth. Buses that do continue west will likely use 155th, which is ironic, because that is where they should have put the station. That allows you to bypass much of the traffic on 145th, where there are very few riders (in contrast to the dogleg using 15th and 155th).

        185th is much better, for this very reason. But it remains to be seen how good the bus service will be there. The main Swift line will terminate there, but I’m not sure if those other buses will be frequent. As a result, I’m not sure if there be enough people living close to the station to feel like they don’t need a car.

        This is what I was getting at in terms of proximity. As you move closer to the city, your most common trips on Link (downtown, UW, Capitol Hill, etc.) become shorter. Not only that, but your options for riding a bus are much better. People move to Lake City because they can’t afford to live in a nicer neighborhood and because they like the bus service. There is a feeling like they can get damn near anywhere (with the exception of due west — a big problem that a station at 130th would solve). It has a similar level of convenience as many more expensive neighborhoods (like Capitol Hill and Ballard). I doubt that Mountlake Terrace will feel that way. Link can only do so much, and I just don’t see people taking long train rides so that they can get to areas where the bus transfers are convenient.

        If people feel like they need a car, then lacking regulation, builders will add parking. Even with parking maximums, people find ways around it (they park on the street). Again, Mountlake Terrace is a good example. It is quite possible it will be one of the most attractive of the freeway stations, yet one of the least convenient. That seems odd, but consider the plans: While some of it will be by the freeway, there is plenty that is not. There are plenty of places where you could feel like you are in a nice little urban center. I assume that there will be plenty of shops and restaurants that will serve your basic needs. You can walk through the park to get to the train (the trees help with cut the freeway noise). But it isn’t like you can get “everywhere”. Many of the buses connecting you to other parts of town will run infrequently. Your only frequent connection to the SR 99 corridor involves taking the train north to Lynnwood, then cutting over. That is not that different than how things are right now (which is not very good). For example, here is a trip from the transit center to one of the bigger destinations in that part of the county, Swedish Edmonds: Leaving at 9:00 AM, it takes about 40 minutes at best. The fastest option involves the 119 and that bus only runs every hour. In contrast, driving takes 5-9 minutes (according to Google). This makes owning a car awfully tempting. Of course people who live there will take Link (maybe to work, or to events) but for so many other places, they drive. It seems like someone in Lake City (with no easy access to Link) is more likely to get around without a car.

        This gets into one of the fundamental problems with long distance extensions: It is hard to have a good transit network around each station. There just isn’t the density surrounding it to provide it. The station at 130th will have bus service in the 10 to 15 minute range all day long. That’s because it will connect to Lake City, Bitter Lake and other destinations. The same is true for 65th and 45th. But that isn’t the case with Mountlake Terrace — the area is just too low density. It isn’t L. A.

        This is a very long way of saying that while I would love to see the freeway capped, I don’t think it makes that much difference. It would also be expensive. It would be ironic, since the whole reason the train runs close to the freeway is to save money (and then we are spending all this extra money to cap the freeway — WTF). What would make more of a difference is just spending a lot of money on buses and bus infrastructure. Sure, they won’t be a good value, but the same can be said for much of Link. If we really want to build neighborhoods that are transit oriented, we have to do more than add a station there.

        Oh, and while capping is ideal, most bridges are fairly inexpensive and quite effective. Northgate is exceptional (in a bad way). The freeway is very wide there, which is why the bridge was expensive. As a result, they ended up making cheap compromises. In contrast, the bridge connecting to the station at 148th will not cost that much, and I expect it to be nicer. A pedestrian/bike bridge over 130th could be similarly inexpensive and nice. It would likely be next to the existing auto/pedestrian bridge, which means it will at least cap half the noise (sorta).

      3. Westside MAX is a fantastic success of exactly the revolution in land use that using an old rail line can produce. It isn’t guaranteed, for sure. In the older cities of the east, railroad rights of way are sprinkled with mini-Superfund sites around which no one wants to live. But if a relatively clean rail ROW parallels a freeway a short distabpnce away, building on the rail bed is usually better than following the freeway.

        You yourself have advocated for using the ERC as a busway.

      4. @RossB, yes, freeway ROW sucks, a pedestrian bridge can help, but usually density doesn’t happen next to the freeway but a bit away such as Lake City Way, Bitter Lake or Shoreline College. Singapore used APMs to connect a few of their rail stations to high density urban villages. We may be able to increase ridership with such automated transit solutions (APM or gondola) better than spending more money on lower capacity lines (Everett) and those may provide longer operating hours and higher frequency at lower cost than getting additional bus hours in particular when there is no good ROW close by or existing high frequency bus lines.

    4. As Al & others say, I would focus on pedestrian overpasses; what matters most is improving the walkshed to the station entrances. For example, at 130th I’d be much more interested in a bridge that directly connects NE 133th to the north entrance of the station (the south entrance will face 130th), greatly improving the walkshed north of the station & west of I5, than I would any freeway lid in the area.

      For your #2, I do think you make a good point about lids being paid for by LIDs (local improvement districts, like for the waterfront), but that’s really about improving quality of life and I don’t think does much for transit ridership, unless it’s at a location where there is a need for public funding support to sufficient TOD.

      1. I would build the pedestrian bridge next to the existing bridge (on the north side). That allows you to use the existing bridge pathway (essentially just making the pedestrian crossing wider). The station is going to be fairly close to 130th, and you really don’t gain much by going further north. You force a handful of people to go south and then a tiny bit north, but the alternative could be worse, as you needlessly send people to the north.

        This is especially true of people biking or walking, who use it as a safe crossing option. In that sense, it would be like the Northgate Station. There are plenty of people who use that crossing and don’t take Link. That is because there aren’t many crossings, and it is one of the nicest (it is especially nice to the west, as it feeds into a very pleasant set of streets in the Licton Springs neighborhood). Roosevelt can be used to connect into the station, but it runs at an angle. There are no straight east-west streets that go through between 130th and 145th. 137th comes closest, but by then you are still detouring quite a bit ( In contrast, 128th goes straight across, from the Interurban Trail to 130th: You would need to do some work, but if you did, this would be a major bike connection that is currently very difficult. Meanwhile, there are plans to turn the area under the train into bike lanes as well. There is a plateau to the south of the station, and a considerable hill to the north. The golf course and wetlands block east-west travel as well. In contrast, there are plans to turn 117th into a greenway, which means that you have bike paths like so: Notice this is “mostly flat”. Similar trips to other places are mostly flat as well.

        The plans for the area are really well thought out ( I know the area well, and have plenty of ideas, and found myself with nothing to add (others had the same ideas). It really is just a matter of money. Well, that, and making sure that the 130th corridor is kept fast for buses (corridor 3A makes way more sense for bikes).

    5. Ideally we would lid the entire freeway to reduce its impacts, at least where it’s below grade so it can be lidded. And that may be an argument against elevated freeways because they can’t be lidded.

  16. If you want to use West Mercer, better than center running is a flyover for the buses. There is an old industrial building to the west of Elliott with a logo on it Gregg Thompson Productions. take it and the almost empty lot next door for a belly out to the right for the buses to rise up, then go diagonally across Elliott. Widen the roadway a bit to allow the flyover ramp to become a second lane and merge with the traffic ascending the grade.

    I still think a short bus-tunnel that everything from Ballard to downtown uses makes more sense. You still have the connection to LQA and Queen Anne and Republican and no buses get caught up in the mess at Denny and Western.

    It wouldn’t be that expensive if it were cut and covered. Yes, an irritant to the neighborhood, but it’s only four blocks that are sensitive. Once Republican gets to Second West the abutting buildings are, except for one, offices and other businesses. Cut and cover should not be THAT big a problem for them. I grant that a trench would be made around two sides of the Arena, but it could be opened during the off season and would be decked over by the time the next major use of the facility would occur.

    Digging a trench under decking is not that hard! I can’t imagine that the utilities problems are very great through there.

    1. Center running would be fairly simple on Elliot and 15th Avenue West. For Mercer or even Western it would be a lot more difficult. Thus going from center running buses on Elliot to a short tunnel to Uptown seems quite plausible.

      That basically just leaves the Ballard Bridge and Ballard itself. Building a new six lane bridge would cost more money, but if they did it, having the buses run in the middle would cost the same. They need a new bridge anyway, so you might as well do this ahead of schedule, make it a tiny bit taller, and things are looking good.

      The challenge then becomes Ballard itself. There are a few issues, but this is what I would do. First, I would get rid of the overpass over Leary. That means the 40 is a little slower, but I can live with that. The six lane bridge would start right there. This means the 17 and 18 would have no trouble accessing that middle lane.

      For the D and 15, you want to continue with center running buses, along with center bus stops. At Leary there is plenty of room. The road narrows to the north of there, but there aren’t any bus stops until you get close to Market. It could get tricky there, but I think it can be worked out. One option would be to have a center bus stop at 53rd and 56th, which means the buses are running side by side (in the middle of the street) past Market. Eventually the buses do have to work their way curbside, but I think that can be done after Market.

      1. By “center running” do you mean contra-flow so that there can be just one platform per station, saving some room? And, more importantly, insulating the people at the stops from the fairly high-speed traffic right behind them?

        How would center platforms work at Dravus? Sure, there would be stairs or and possible and elevator up to the Dravus level, but how do you squeeze another lane into that narrow opening? Remember that the vertical conveyance has to “land” in the platform, increasing its required width.

        To get something of the same effect without center running, how about putting a busway where the LR trackway is supposed to go, alongside the tracks, behind things. Rebuild the Ballard Bridge to add a pair of lanes to the outside; that would require re-doing the Emerson interchange, but southbound the last few hundred feet of the southbound bus lane could be a BAT with the buses NOT making the corkscrew turn back to Emerson but instead descending the Thorndyke and the busway. Northbound would follow Thorndyke under 15th and the Emerson N/B on-ramp and then curve left and rise to the proper height for the opening span.

        Maybe you don’t even touch the existing bridge, but instead just add the new lanes adjacent and with wider bike-pedestrian ways. The CG can’t rationally object to widening the existing “navigation hazard” if the opening sections are placed properly; the ships passing through do not curve.

        At the south end of the busway the southbound buses would go under the Magnolia Bridge and turn into what is essentially a driveway adjacent to the bridge but which merges into the Magnolia Bridge on-ramp.

        Northbound the buses would follow the loop to Magnolia Bridge westbound and then, after having crossed 15th go down a new ramp to the busway. This gets the busway out of the “many right turns” section along 15th West south of Dravus and simply ratifies the use of the outer lanes along Elliott.

        I grant that this makes the walk longer to the stops for people east of 15th West (but closer to those in east Magnolia of course). So there should still be some sort of local service on 15th West, perhaps a reincarnation of the local 18, but something like that has to happen even with Link.

      2. By “center running” do you mean contra-flow so that there can be just one platform per station, saving some room? And, more importantly, insulating the people at the stops from the fairly high-speed traffic right behind them?

        Now, I mean a staggered station (, otherwise known as a split platform ( That means the platform area is longer, but that is no big deal. They avoided this on Madison because the street has awkward intersections and not a lot of room. That is the opposite for Elliot. It is a very long street, with minor crossing streets. There is plenty of room for staggered stations.

        It means taking three lanes. It is a seven lane road, so the impact on traffic would be minimal. Left turns would be via overpasses, or controlled intersections (with traffic lights and left turn arrows). Cars and trucks would routinely turn around, and then take a right to get to the businesses there.

        How would center platforms work at Dravus? Sure, there would be stairs or and possible and elevator up to the Dravus level, but how do you squeeze another lane into that narrow opening? Remember that the vertical conveyance has to “land” in the platform, increasing its required width.

        OK, I’ll admit, I hadn’t considered it. Still, looking at it again, it seems like it would be fairly easy ( It is three lanes each direction there. There is a gap in the middle, and some trees to the outside. Thus at worst you add a little bulge in the road there, which is actually a good thing, since unlike twenty years ago, the idea is to go (relatively) slow there. The bigger problem is that it actually two levels there ( That adds to the cost. Still, it wouldn’t be horrible, and makes the choice of staggered platforms the right one.

        The Emerson area might be more challenging, but that is largely part of the bridge area that needs to be redone. Even with the current bridge I could see it working, if we are willing to move the telephone poles (we might not even need to). It is worth noting that there is no planned Emerson light rail stop, despite the apartments in the area. I should also note I would run the 31/32 buses via Dravus.

        With the current bridge, the last center stop would be a bit south of the bridge. Then the bus merges into that middle (general purpose) lane, as there are two lanes each direction over the bridge. A new bridge would be three lanes wide (with a three lane approach on each side). The bus would run in those middle lanes. There would be no stop between Emerson and Leary.

      3. OK, I get the staggered platform wiggle. Like what they’re doing on Madison. So, yes, it might work fine, though it would probably be more expensive than just building a simple two-lane roadway alongside the railroad tracks. Whatever you do at Dravus (center platform) or staggered platforms, you’re going to have to rebuild the overpass. And you would really HAVE to include a station at Armory, and a northbound left turn would have to be worked into it.

        Remember that the City is very much like to unload the roadway at 15th West, either to the County or State. But ST is a large pocket to pick, so they’d be fine. If ST’s Board is wily, they’ll recognize that the City’s blandishments are going to be a long-term headache for themselves.

  17. I totally missed that ranked choice voting is going to be on the ballot this November, for those of us lucky enough to live in Seattle. We owe this to the tireless efforts of Logan Bowers and his Seattle Approves initiative campaign.

    The initiative got enough signatures, and was approved to be on the ballot. Ranked choice voting advocates I have never heard of before lobbied the City Council to add ranked choice voting to the ballot, and got what I think is the right approach.

    First, we get to cast an approval vote on whether we want to change the City’s election system, for which I will fill in the bubble for “Hell, Yeah!”

    Then, we get to approve or disapprove each system, ranked choice voting, and approval voting.

    Ironically, the approval voting advocates did not like this layout. After all, approval voting shouldn’t be as clear and simple as this layout. It is supposed to confuse the heck out of a typical voter on how they can cast an effective ballot. But hey, I’ll be happy if it passes. I’ll be overjoyed if ranked choice voting passes instead.

    Both systems will have a weird tweak from their pure implementation. In both, the top two candidates will advance to the general election, because of archaic state election law. I think that means the RCV count has to be run twice to determine the traditional winner, and then the traditional winner if the first winner were removed from the process. This is very far from ideal. RCV realists who have acknowledged the need for a general election with a workably small number of candidates have done a version where four candidates advance from a traditional primary to an RCV general election, e.g., how Alaska elections will now be run after their successful initiative.

    I expect some bizarre arguments back and forth between the two pro-reform camps (and the arguments I heard from RCV advocates this week take some serious unpacking). Hopefully, the two campaigns can work together enough to get a “Hell, Yeah!” vote on whether to reform city elections at all.

    There is a subtle urbanist angle to this. If the election system gets changed, it will be one more draw for people to move out of the suburbs and into the City.

    1. I like ranked choice voting. Even though it’s not perfect (no system is), it allows voters to express their preferences better than both approval voting and straight-up plurality voting. In theory, ranked choice voting would be a good idea everywhere, although the suburbs usually don’t have the kinds of high-profile multi-candidates, like Seattle does, where it would matter. (As long as the total number candidates is 1 or 2, ranked choice voting, approval voting, and plurality voting are all exactly the same).

      Of course, I also read The Urbanist’s take on it, and I find it amusing that even though they and I like the same system, I find their line of reasoning to be complete and utter B.S. The idea that one voting system is inherently better or worse for people of color when everyone gets the same ballot is ridiculous. Whether ranked choice produces a better or worse outcome for any given cause ultimately depends on the specific race and the specific candidates.

      1. I detected no hint of a “take” on or endorsement of RCV by The Urbanist in Natalie Bicknell Argerious’ non-op-ed story. I’m betting The Urbanist will endorse it, but that has not happened yet.

        I agree that the arguments used to move the council to action won’t fly with the electorate. If the two campaigns trash each others’ systems, the Change-the-system question will go down in flames.

      2. Having lived with RCV in San Francisco, I’d like one major factor: The absence of smear campaigns. I like it when candidates have to show their attributes as opposed to trashing their opponents ‘s attributes. Negative campaigning destroys confidence in our democratic system in the long run because it destroys hope for inspired leadership.

      3. The Urbanist likes RCV, although their reasons are rediculous, particularly their claims that approval voting is somehow racist, or that RCV is inherently good for progressives. If anything, I fear their attempt to promote RCV will actually turn people who disagree with their politics against it, which would be a real shame.

        In reality, RCV is simply about preventing an unpopular candidate from coasting to victory because their multiple opponents are splitting the vote.

      4. Yeah, that’s the one. I pretty treat everything out of the urbanist as in the “opinion” column, as even articles that are supposed to be just reporting the facts end up being littered with opinions. This one is no exception.

      5. The difference between an editorial and a commentary is whether it’s the owner’s opinion (editorial) or just the author’s (commentary). Newspapers like the Seattle Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal keep these distinct. Some years ago I urged STB to do the same, and now it signs editorials “by the STB Editorial Board”. The Urbanist may not make that distinction clear. I haven’t gotten around to reading The Urbanist except when somebody here links to an article there, so I don’t know its practices.

      6. Al, yes. That is a wonderful effect. You can’t trash your opponent, because you might need her or his supporters to rank you number two in order to win.

      7. The urbanist does similar. They pen under “Editorial Board” or recently “Elections Committee” for their endorsements.

      8. The editorial is nonsense. It ignores the fact that in our case, we would still have a general election where the top two candidates run against each other. The approval voting only applies in the primary and would rarely change the outcome. Their use of Sara Nelson as an example is ironic. Under RCV that race would have been exactly the same. With approval voting, it is quite possible that a woman of color (Brianna Thomas) would have faced off against another person of color (Nikkita Oliver). Or Brianna Thomas would have faced off against Nelson and beat her. With RCV, we would have ended up with exactly the same outcome. With approval voting, it is quite likely that Nelson would have lost.

        These folks are simply ignoring how our system works. We don’t have a party system. We have a top-two system, and RCV is not a great way to get the best candidates for that.

      9. Ah. Gotcha. That makes more sense.

        What I’m curious about, but not enough to look at the data and game it out (b/c i live in Tacoma), is how pederson and Nelson would have done under RCV.

    2. I prefer ranked-choice voting. Approval voting sounds like a distant second. I would rank Logan Bowers first, another centrist second, and Kshama Sawant last. Under approval voting, I’d have to choose the first two equally, with no way to say which is better. That sounds like a worse system. But better than the current one, where I have to choose one person, and can’t show that another two would be acceptable but one I definitely don’t want.

      Ranked-choice also has the advantage of being proven in other US jurisdictions and in other countries. Where else is approval voting? And what unique advantages would it have?

      A Times commentary thought having two alternatives would weaken both of them, because people would be afraid of voting Yes and getting the worse one, so they”d vote No. I’d probably vote Yes because either one would be better. Although I’m still afraid of approval voting: do we know what unexpected outcomes might occur?

      1. I would rank Logan Bowers first, another centrist second, and Kshama Sawant last.

        Right, but Bowers would have been knocked out in the first round. Who do you think would have made it into the general election to face Sawant? Murakami? That seems unlikely, given she ran to the far right. My guess is Orion was going to make it to the general, no matter what primary system you have. Then he would have lost to Sawant, in exactly the same manner.

    3. Unfortunately, it is another one of those issues where people really haven’t spent the time to examine each system. To be fair, it is complicated. There are Wikipedia entries for each, and it is easy to get confused. There is no “right system”, and the issues are debated in philosophy journals (which do you prefer, the Condorcet winner or the median voter?).

      One of the confusing issues is the terminology. Ranked Choice Voting comes in many forms (as Wikipedia notes). You get your ballot, rank each candidate and then a formula is used. The most common formula is instant-runoff. This is exactly what is proposed for Seattle. Instant-runoff is fairly simple. The last place candidate is eliminated, and all of their votes go to the next candidate (based on their next preference). That continues until you have a winner. This is a great way to settle races with a single winner, and more than two parties (e. g. Gore would have been president if either Florida or New Hampshire had this). It also makes sense within a party. New York picks their Republican and Democratic candidates for mayor this way. Most RCV systems use instant-runoff. For sake of discussion, I’ll just call it “RCV” (instead of the more precise RCV/Instant-Runoff).

      It has very little value in our primary system though. That is because the primary always comes down to the top two. Thus you have to have a situation where the third and fourth candidate (etc.) are somehow splitting the vote. I can’t think of any race in recent memory where that was likely, and most of the time it isn’t even theoretically possible, as the top two candidates get over 2/3 of the vote.

      Approval voting is different. In the primary, you simply mark all the candidates you approve of. This makes it especially appropriate for a primary system like ours. The goal is to advance a consensus candidate in the primary. (Often it is not about approving, but disapproving).

      In the last election, there were two candidates where approval voting could have made a difference. In contrast, I don’t believe there were any where instant-runoff (RCV) would have altered the race. Here are a couple examples:

      Seattle City Attorney.

      Here are the numbers:,_Washington_(August_3,_2021,_top-two_primary).

      The primary was a three person race. The fourth place candidate got less than 0.3 percent, so RCV would have been meaningless. In contrast, it is easy see how approval voting could have changed the outcome. Holmes was the centrist candidate, and he came in a close third. It is quite possible that a few thousand NTK voters would have approved of him. Likewise, a few thousand Davison voters probably approved of Holmes (but preferred Davison). Holmes would then go onto the general election and beat either candidate. That is really the whole point, that we elect consensus candidates.

      The same is true for city council position number 9 (,_Washington_(2021)). Again, the top three dominated the race. Even if every other candidate supported the third place finisher, she would not have advanced. Under RCV, the results would have been exactly the same. In contrast, as the centrist candidate, it is quite possible Thomas would have won. The primary was essentially 40, 40, 13. Oliver got the enthusiastic support of The Stranger. The Seattle Times endorsed Nelson. Both papers were OK with Thomas (in other words, they approved, but she wasn’t their first choice). It would have taken a lot more votes, but it is quite possible that Thomas could have advanced, especially if both papers approved of her.

      Both systems have their place. But with our primary system, Approval Voting makes a lot more sense.

      1. I was thinking RCV would ideally replace the primary system entirely. You just have one election in November and that’s it.

        But, yes, the value of RCV diminishes if a top-two primary is required by law.

      2. Right. If we didn’t have a primary system, then RCV/Instant run-off would help. If we had a party system, the same thing would be true. But since we have neither, it really doesn’t add much.

        In contrast, approval voting can change things dramatically (in the primary).

      3. “One of the confusing issues is the terminology. Ranked Choice Voting comes in many forms (as Wikipedia notes).”

        I don’t know the differences between them, and I don’t know what Concordat means. I was long hesitant to change the voting system because of unintended consequences and potential abuse by somebody who finds loopholes to get into power, but it now has been working in several US jurisdictions and longer overseas, and I haven’t heard of any cases of surprising contingencies or abuse.

        The current system has specific problems. When Nickels ran in his reelection primary, I followed The Stranger’s advice and voted for a promising new progressive, thinking Nickels would surely get the other slot and I could reconsider between them in the final. But a lot of people did the same, and Nickels came in third and was out.

        It ultimately came out well because we got McGinn and he was good, but I still think Nickels deserved another term. People who voted against him because of the snopocolypse were putting too much expectations on a mayor over things he couldn’t control, and focusing too much on one event.

        Since then there have been another time or two where I wanted to show support for two equal candidates or a strong second, but I couldn’t under the one-only system. With either ranked-choice or approval voting I could give the second candidate some support and hopefully get them over the top to the second slot in the final. And if I feel one candidate is best and another second-best, why shouldn’t I be able to rank them explicitly to make my intention clear, rather than approving both which makes them look equal?

      4. What’s wrong with having RCV or AV in the primary, and letting the secondmost have a second chance in the final? Sometimes the first and second are equally good or close. The only potential problem I see is the cost of the final election, and that alone isn’t a sufficient reason to eliminate it. Or at least, we should wait a while after we have RCV/AV before doing it.

      5. Alaska is having a “Top Four” non-partisan primary and the general will be RCV/Instant-Runoff. This seems custom-crafted for Lisa Murkowski who is the ultimate “Center-Right” candidate.

        It also seems like it fits our Washington goals of identifying centrists better than the “Top Two”. The Top Two sometimes means that two radicals — one left, one right, each supported by the 25% of fire-breathers in their respective parties — make it to the general, and the half of the electorate who spread their votes over two or three more traditional candidates per party is disgusted with the choice. Or, in very red or very blue places, you get two reds or two blues, and then many of the voters of the omitted party sit out the general, missing the opportunity to vote for the less radical of the two from the other party.

      6. I don’t know the differences between them, and I don’t know what Concordat means. My reference to Condorcet was to point out that it is complicated. My main point is this: Instant-runoff is merely one way to use ranked votes. There are dozens of different ways, and Instant-runoff isn’t necessarily the best. Ranked Choice Voting/Instant-Runoff (RCV/IR) is better than nothing, but as it turns out, really isn’t very good. As I explained, it only deals with one problem, that of “wasted votes”. Sometimes people vote for “outside” candidates. Nader clearly sits to the left of Gore. Votes for Nader were wasted. If those votes had gone to Gore, Gore would have been president. Instant-runoff would have solved that problem.

        However, we rarely have that problem. That is because we have a non-partisan blanket primary ( This serves as one level of run-off. Under our system, those votes for Nader would have meant nothing. In the general election, Nader wouldn’t have been on the ballot. It would be only Gore versus Bush, and those Nader voters would have chosen Gore. The same thing would have happened with approval voting. In the primary, voters on the left approve of only Gore, or Nader and Gore. Voters on the right approve of Bush. Bush and Gore advance.

        It doesn’t mean we never have the “wasted vote” problem in the primary, but it does mean it is a lot less common. As it turns out, approval voting almost always solves the same problem, as well as other problems, like this one: Under RCV/IR, “B” is eliminated. Nothing changes. With approval voting, it is quite likely “B” advances. That is the simplest example, but let me use the one you brought up:

        When Nickels ran in his reelection primary, I followed The Stranger’s advice and voted for a promising new progressive, thinking Nickels would surely get the other slot and I could reconsider between them in the final. But a lot of people did the same, and Nickels came in third and was out.

        That was one of those rare elections where the top three were very close. RCV/IR could have changed the election. But so too would approval voting. First, let’s look at the numbers: (scroll down until you see “primary results”). There were a lot of votes for candidate in fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. Many of these votes could have chosen Nickels as their second, third, (etc.) choice. It really only matters how they ranked the top three finishers. That is because James Donaldson (who ended up in fourth) can not catch the top two, even if everyone below him favored him as their second choice. So that leaves six possibilities:

        Nickels>McGinn>Mallahan: Nickels gets the vote.
        Nickels>Mallahan>McGinn: Nickels gets the vote.
        McGinn>Nickels>Mallahan: McGinn gets the vote.
        McGinn>Mallahan>Nickels: McGinn gets the vote.
        Mallahan>McGinn>Nickels: Mallahan gets the vote.
        Mallahan>Nickels>McGinn: Mallahan gets the vote.

        Notice that it doesn’t matter what their second to last choice was. That is because once it gets to someone who can win the primary (e. g. a top three contender) that’s that. Once all the votes have gone to three candidates, the race is over. If your preference was McGinn, Nickels, Mallahan (in that order) then with ranked choice voting, nothing changes. Nickels doesn’t get your vote. McGinn does, but he advanced anyway.

        Now look at approval voting. The first big change is that is that all preferences matter. If everyone approves of James Donaldson, he advances. This seems unlikely, but possible.

        Assume that not that many approved of those at the bottom, and look at the preferences again. If you approve of all three, then nothing changes. But chances are, voters do have a preference, and they simple leave out the third choice (amongst the big three). That leads to this:

        Nickels>McGinn>Mallahan: Nickels and McGinn get a vote.
        Nickels>Mallahan>McGinn: Nickels and Mallahan get a vote.
        McGinn>Nickels>Mallahan: McGinn and Nickels get a vote.
        McGinn>Mallahan>Nickels: McGinn and Mallahan get the vote.
        Mallahan>McGinn>Nickels: Mallahan and McGinn get the vote.
        Mallahan>Nickels>McGinn: Mallahan and Nickels get the vote.

        If you are in the “anyone but Mallahan” group, your vote helps both McGinn and Nickels, giving each a chance to advance. You were in that group, and so was I. Maybe we had another candidate, but that didn’t matter, unless that candidate managed to get to lots of votes (in which case, great). As it turns out, approval voting actually gives the voter *more* power. That is because with RCV/IR, once you have picked one of the top three, you are done (in our blanket primary system). In contrast, approval voting actually gives you a chance to note your preference within the top three (by not approving of one of them).

        As to which one is better, that is always debatable. There is no perfect voting system. But it is very misleading to suggest that RCV/IR gives voters more of a say. The problem isn’t Ranked Choice Voting itself, but Instant-Runoff.

        If you look at our current system (which includes a blanket-primary) and look at recent elections, I can point to very few elections that would likely have a different outcome under RCV/IR. Yeah, maybe that primary. But the same could be said for approval voting. In contrast, I can definitely think of elections where approval voting could have changed the outcome, and RCV/IR would not. Approval voting is designed to get us a consensus candidate. In a city like Seattle — where The Seattle Times is right wing and The Stranger is prone to supporting demagogues — this is a good thing. That’s because demagogues may advance to the general election, but in a head to head race, voters will choose the right wing candidate. It happened twice last election.

      7. RossB, thanks for the analysis. You’re the only one I trust who thinks approval voting is more accurate, so I’ll be looking for other opinions to confirm that before agreeing for certain. You also state that RCV would produce one winner, but in a top-two primary two would advance to the final. That seems equivalent to multi-member districts and would negate the concern over using it for a single winner. It seems that RCV would produce a more representative second than the current system, and I’m not sure about the arguments that AV would produce a better pair. If AV is better, why aren’t more people supporting it? It seems to have come out of nowhere; I’d never heard of it before this initiative, and it hasn’t been used much. That makes me wonder if it’s only the initiative activists that support it, whether they have a hidden agenda to abuse it, and whether it has unknown flaws since it hasn’t been used widely. And if we switch to approval voting now, it may be harder to switch again to RCV later.

  18. There was a guest op-ed, which, like for STB, means nothing about the views of the Editorial Board. The arguments were politically polarizing, personal, and help explain why Councilmember Nelson voted No. But they may have been the right arguments for getting the rest of the council votes, much as I don’t particularly agree with the arguments. And hey, RCV proponents elsewhere have gotten race-baited, too, so, I’m afraid it comes with the territory. That the diaspora of RCV enthusiasts includes lots of people who don’t know each other is a good sign for its chances of passage at the ballot box.

    When I’ve talked to level-headed Approval Voting proponents, they’ve certainly made the argument that the purpose of elections is to elect the most moderate candidate, and then claim that is what AV does. When they make that argument in front of anti-establishment groups, surprise, it does not sell well.

    For me, it comes down to basic math. Under RCV, you get to rank all the candidates (or at least as many as the ballot is designed to allow for, and hopefully we’ll soon be able to flip the process and have RCV among a larger pool of primary survivors in the general election). Under approval voting, you are forced to choose a list of co-first-choices and a list of co-last-choices. Under the current Pleistocene system, you are forced to pick just one choice, and everyone else is wrongfully assumed to be your co-last choice.

    Approval voting is definitely better than what we have.

    Ranked Choice Voting is far better than approval voting. It allows you to indicate a lot more information about how you feel about the candidates than approval voting does.

    And yes, approval voting, like RCV, completely complies with the concept of one-person-one-vote. There may be civil rights lawsuits over the drawing of maps, but not for the system of approval voting itself. Both AV and RCV are stretching the boundaries of state law, but in a good way, that will hopefully finally force legislative action to lower the drawbridge.

    I got it wrong on the ballot format. The first question is whether to change the voting system. The second is whether it should be to RCV or AV. You already know how I’m voting on both questions.

    1. For me, it comes down to basic math. Under RCV, you get to rank all the candidates (or at least as many as the ballot is designed to allow for, and hopefully we’ll soon be able to flip the process and have RCV among a larger pool of primary survivors in the general election). Under approval voting, you are forced to choose a list of co-first-choices and a list of co-last-choices.

      You are ignoring how this particular RCV system works. It is instant-runoff. In most cases, the fact that you had a third, fourth, fiftieth choice is meaningless. If you happened to pick a popular first or second choice, your other choices don’t matter. That is the nature of instant-runoff. Thus it might feel like you have more power, but it rarely makes a difference. (It would be different with different systems, like Borda Count or Minimax). That is because this is only applies to the primary.

      In contrast, approval voting for primary races is designed to eliminate the fringe candidate, and it is easy to see how that happens frequently in a three person race. The outside candidates (far left, far right) crowd out the centrist candidate. For a city like Seattle, a far right candidate is a law and order Republican, while a far left candidate celebrated arson on a public forum. Both fringe candidates advanced, and Seattle elected its first Republican (a Trump Republican) in quite some time. RCV would not have changed that outcome. That isn’t speculation, that is just math. In contrast, approval voting quite likely would have.

    2. “You are ignoring how this particular RCV system works. It is instant-runoff. In most cases, the fact that you had a third, fourth, fiftieth choice is meaningless”

      And if we didn’t have a final afterward, your second, third fourth, and fifth choice would be meaningless?

      The value of the choices depends on how other people vote. Your second and other people’s firsts and seconds may be enough to get them to #1 or #2. And if your second-favorite wins, sometimes that’s good or at least OK. And better than the current system where you can only vote for one, and can’t indicate support for a second who may be other people’s first, enough to allow them to leapfrog over the otherwise-winner. The fact that this person has a lot of both first and second supporters shows they have widespread support, which is good. The current system artificially shows they have less support because they’re not everybody’s first.

    3. And you can’t express that a second person would be tolerable, while a third is dangerous and must not be elected. They both look equally bad. And that makes it harder to tell whether they lost because of one particular policy position (as their opponent will say) vs whether they also had a lot of other negative things. That in turn makes it hard to tell whether the public is really against their policy (as their opponent claims) or just against the person. This matters when middle issues come up like universal basic income or eliminating single-family zoning or policing: is the public really saying “That’s too socialist/capitalist to even consider” or “I don’t like the person/I have only moderate reservations about the policy”?

    4. Here’s a trivial example of where approval voting could stump a lot of voters:

      The following options are on an approval ballot:

      1) approval voting
      2) ranked choice voting with instant runoffs.
      3) status quo

      In my case, I would approve of option 2, leave the bubble blank to disapprove of option 3, and wish I could foresee the outcome before deciding whether to approve option 1. Maybe I’d flip a coin for option 1. I’m not sure what I would do with it, and I’ve studied voting systems a lot.

      One of the oddities of approval voting is that there may not be any option that gets approved by a majority of voters. All three options in this example could fall far short of majority. And then option 1 or 2 could win with less than 35% of the vote. For candidate elections, it could get far lower than that.

      In fairness, our Pleistocene one-choice election system has this problem even worse. Remember the vote on Highway 99 tunnel vs. elevated vs. remove-the-freeway?

      That same ballot with three choices is much easier to fill out with RCV. It doesn’t matter to me, as a voter, whether it is IRV, Condorcet, whatever. I know my order of preference and that is how I will fill out my ballot.

    5. I’m curious how the Alaska system will work. As I understand it, the top four vote getters in the primary get put on the ballot for RCV in the general election.

      I am not sure if you vote for one or four people in the primary. I’d suggest four, as that seems like approval voting — but I think it’s only one after reading a bit. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. You vote for one in the Alaska primary. It’s essentially like our “Top Two” primary, but “Top Four” are “nominated” instead.

        I think it’s a good combination for Alaska where news is infrequent outside Anchorage. It washes the nutters and vanity candidates away and would (probably) produce two Republicans [Tschibaka and Murkowski], a Democrat and a Native candidate.

  19. Why didn’t the activists just ask for ranked-choice voting in the first place? That would have avoided this “Yes, then A or B” dilemma. I just don’t see how anyone could think ranking 1 to 5 isn’t ideal: it’s what people really want to do. They have a favorite, they think some are unqualified or dangerous, and the other candidates arein between. So we need at least a three-way choice. So why not let people rank 1-5? The worst then is having to rank two you feel equally about. But that’s a far lesser problem than not being able to express your first, middle, and last choice when you feel strongly about them.

    1. It took a successful petition drive to have this debate, and apparently nobody was willing to fund it for RCV. But the libertarian-oriented think tank known as the “Center for Election Science” chipped in over $200K so far, and one other AV fan who does not live anywhere near Seattle chipped in over $100K. Petition drives are not cheap. Even the two local leaders running the AV campaign had to spill out at least 5 figures from their own pockets.

      They are true believers in AV. It certainly is not a grift. CES is not a fan of RCV. CES also likes the Condorcet system, that also involves ranking candidates, but never seems to want to push that more powerful reform, even when election equipment is not a hurdle. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      I think the best diversity argument that can be made is that RCV has a trivial variation in which multiple winners can be elected out of the same vote, by having a victory threshold lower than simple majority. For example, if the victory margin is 25% plus a fraction, the election yields three winners, and thusly, “proportional representation”. A petition for that sort of system, but electing 9 councilmembers out of the same vote, was attempted a couple decades ago. It was a volunteer effort with no outside funders, and the petition got the threshold math wrong, but it collected well over 10K signatures before running out of steam. I did not live here at the time, or I would probably have been involved in it.

      A petition for RCV statewide was attemped a couple decades ago. I was involved in that one. We had nowhere near the volunteer base or grassroots funding to get anywhere close, while the Grange ran the top-two-go-forward initiative petition, and won. This was after SCotUS threw out the blanket primary as a violation of freedom of association.

      Efforts at the county charter commission level have gotten RCV on the ballot in Clark County and San Juan County this November. They have charter commission elections, so people ran advocating RCV, and got elected to charter commissions expressly attempting to push such charter amendments. King County’s Charter Commission is appointed, and so, pretty much intractable to reform efforts, IMHO.

      The council majority that put RCV on the ballot in Seattle did not all say they like RCV. If they did like it, it would have already gotten on the ballot without waiting for the AV petition being certified. But we are here now, and get to vote on RCV. I’m delighted at the opportunity no matter how we got here. And grateful to Logan and Troy for causing this to happen. Progress sometimes works in strange ways.

      1. “This was after SCotUS threw out the blanket primary as a violation of freedom of association.”

        That was the California case. Washington’s case never got that far. After SoS Reed lost with the 3-justice panel of the 9th circuit (which reversed the lower court), his petition for review by the full court was not granted and SCotUS declined to hear the case.

    2. Why didn’t the activists just ask for ranked-choice voting in the first place?

      Partly because RCV has become synonymous with instant-runoff. Instant-runoff is merely a subset, but because the two are often associated, people think they are the same. Just about every comment on this blog uses them interchangeably. To be fair, the proposal for RCV is to use instant-runoff, so in this case, they are the same.

      The election nerds basically saw a problem with our primary system, and figured that approval voting is the easiest way to solve it. I agree. The problem they are trying to solve is basically this: B is the consensus candidate. They lose. They also lose with instant-runoff. Yet with approval voting, they advance to the general and win. This seems like a rare hypothetical, but this clearly happened with the city attorney race, and in my opinion, it happened with one of the city council races.

      The city council, not knowing enough to really dig into the issue, simply thought instant-runoff is a good idea. Other cities have it, we should have it. But none of those other cities have a top-two primary.

      There are very few races where instant-runoff is better than approval in picking the consensus candidate. There are plenty where it is the opposite. The voting nerds could have gone with a more complicated RCV system (like Minimax) but didn’t want to try anything that complicated.

      1. I just looked up minimax, and I love it. I want that system.
        I have always wanted a condorcet system but never seen a concrete implementation of one brought up before.

      2. If you want Condorcet or any other ranked choice system besides instant run-off voting, then vote for RVC/IRV, so that the City has to upgrade the equipment to handle ranked ballots.

        The approval voting campaign likes showing the 2017 mayoral ballot, with its 20+ candidates. I know how I would have gone about filling out that ballot using RCV: I would have ranked the candidates in order of my preference. Simple. If the ballot used approval voting, I would have been totally lost on how to cast an effective ballot. Yes, the directions are simple and the administration is straightforward, but figuring out how to cast a ballot effectively would take a PhD in Game Theory and/or clarevoyance.

  20. Why don’t we save the money and axe the primary elections altogether? If you have ranked choice voting it seems to me that a primary election really isn’t necessary.

    1. State law requires the holding of a primary election, at least when there are two or more candidates, and the advancement of exactly two candidates to the general election, in most cases.

      1. yes it does. All I’m saying is that if ranked choice voting is approved and accepted then the law should change.

      2. One thing at a time. Let’s see how RCV/AV works and then think about eliminating primaries. There’s an advantage in having people compete twice, against a different number of opponents, a few months after the first one, to prove that they’re really the best and that the second candidate doesn’t deserve a second look. I’m not sure how important this is, but I think we should at least think twice before eliminating primaries.

  21. 230 comments. The previous article had 214. The open thread before that had 349. In the mid 2000s, 200 comments would have been a record for the year.

    1. In the mid 2000’s STB was making a new post every weekday. Now it’s maybe a new post once a week.

      1. Also, there a LOT of new names who post regularly. A few years ago the commenting community, though composed in part of some different people, to be sure, was smaller than today’s

      2. I’ve done my part. I told Mike Orr to ride the bus on Mercer Island, then write a Page 2 or Guest Post about his experience. He didn’t do it. I also said a commenter should write a transit humor piece in the style of P. J. O’Rourke. No one did. I told Mark Dublin to ride InterCity Transit after they went fare-free, interview a driver and passengers, then write about it. He never did. I also once said someone should buy a drone, and video the entire length of East Link. No one did that, either.

      3. Yeah, there are very few posts anymore. Thus we keep commenting on the open thread. Making things weird, The Urbanist is cranking out articles, and has no comments. So people here comment on what they wrote.

  22. I saw a test train Saturday, northbound at Intl Dist, at 7:30pm if I remember the time. The destination display said “Test Train”. The doors opened at the station, but there was a kind of orange chain-link barrier at the doors to prevent people from entering. Would it be East Link testing?

    Two other things. Today I rode Link at rush hour, from Stadium to Capitol Hill at 5:30pm. At Stadium a few seats were available, but by University Street there were a lot of standees, and there still were at Capitol Hill. If ST had reduced the Stadium-Northgate part to 20 minutes like it first intended during tile repair, it would have been overcrowded peak hours.

    The third thing is, there’s a misleading announcement on the train today. It says the UW Station elevators are out of service, and anyone who needs them should get off at Capitol Hill or U-District and take a bus to UW Station. But there’s no longer a bus from Capitol Hill to UW, except the occasional 43 which runs a few times a day. So don’t get off at Capitol Hill. Get off at U-District and take any of the many University Way or 15th Ave NE buses south to the UW Station area.

  23. A poll. I’m curious which transit centers and Link stations have what level of security. Human security, not cameras. I use the Kirkland, Redmond, and Bellevue Transit Centers the most. I have never seen security at the KTC or the RTC. And, I rarely see security at the BTC. I haven’t seen any security at the BTC since covid. Before covid, once in a while I would see a private security employee briefly making an appearance, I think to lock up the public bathroom, which has since been torn down.

    1. I’ve seen standing security guards at each of the DSTT stations.

      Haven’t noticed security at my other regular stations (Northgate, SeaTac)

      1. Capitol Hill has a guard on the platform sometimes. I haven’t paid attention to how often, but sometimes I ask them a question. I may have seen them at Roosevelt.

    2. I’ve seen plenty of SPD outside Westlake Station.

      The police, transit security, and “Safety Officers”/fare ambassadors are mostly not wearing masks. Somehow, they are not making me feel safer.

  24. Starting a new comment thread for this one.

    “I don’t get why The Better Red project exists. The airport trains are never full anywhere north of Gateway.”

    There are a couple of different reasons:

    1. Some bus routes from east Vancouver and Clark County go to the Parkrose Transit Center. 15 minute frequency really doesn’t work well for those due to I-205 traffic resulting in unpredictable travel times.

    2. They could turn red line trains at Gateway, but certain trains already turn there. Eg, green line trains, and those moves may interfere with each other. There’s not too much space to add additional tracks due to the freeway and medical building, but there is space north of the existing station.

    3. The existing tight space over I-84 and the exit ramps currently requires slow running, They might be able to save 2 minutes per trip with the new elevated line, which adds up.

    4. Part of the project extends into Washington County, This may result in higher demand to the airport. There’s “demand” in the form of people complaining about frequency to the airport needing to be increased, but if that is actual demand in the form of people actually riding trains will have to wait and see.

    5. MAX trains can get delayed by bridge openings, etc. The extra platforms at Gateway should allow for better staging of system recovery when these and other delays happen.

    1. So they’re going to extend the Red Line west of BTC? I think that’s a very good idea. How far is the proposal? Elmonica? Orenco? Or all the way to Hillsboro?


      1. For now, they’ll go as far as the Hillsboro Fair Complex. East of there, blue line trains have become a bit crowded during afternoon peak, and there is apparently some demand for better airport frequency from the tech money in that part of Washington County.

        A fly through and better description:

        So yeah, for $215 million TriMet is putting in a new statuon at Gateway, a new half station (3rd track and added platform) at Hillsboro Fair Complex, ≈ 2 miles of new elevated double track north of Gateway that weaves around existing freeway infrastructure, double tracking of the single track line at the airport that they shoehorned between the entrance loop road and Concourse A (and whatever airport structure changes that will mean), and assorted other improvements.

      2. Ok, so it looks like they actually plan for the new line north of Gateway to be an additional single track line. So far, the portions of the bridge over I-84 they’ve built look like they are building double track, and at one time the proposal was to build a whole new double track line.

        It’d be nice if someday one of our transit agencies figured out a happy medium between SoundTransit’s expensive and overbuilt methods and TriMet’s cheap but less than ideal methods.

  25. Seattle City Council just approved a resolution that the Comprehensive Plan will need to address climate change goals. Just a few weeks ago they also endorsed the WSB extension calling for downtown, WS and Ballard tunnels. The DEIS (Appendix L4.6D) estimates that this will generate 3m tons of carbon while it admits that it will only provide for very limited reduction in vehicle miles. It seems nobody at the city level has connected the dots.
    If the city would be serious about climate change, they would not build DSTT2 and consider gondola lines for both the water crossings and keep as much of the rest of the line elevated (potentially replacing the Monorail) as possible which would limit the construction related carbon generation.

  26. Replying to Ross (896843) and vrlutyens( 896940):

    Alon Levy here is saying that for Suburban Metro (a good description of Link north of Northgate) ridership is more about TOD than bus connections, which I thought was interesting as it contrasts with Ross & vrlutyens position. The high frequency of Skytrain makes for a great transfer experience, but I think Alon’s point is that in the suburbs or small secondary/tertiary urban nodes, 10~15 minute midday frequency is usually all that is justified on S-Bahn branch and therefore the the bus network should strive for timed transfers … while for a metro line the capital cost is only justified if there is sufficient ridership to support <10 minute non-peak frequency, which generally only happens with large scale TOD, not feeder buses from lowrise neighborhoods, even if the bus network is A+.

    1. I read that piece and I don’t think he is saying that. He is just saying that the more expensive infrastructure needs more intensive use to make it worthwhile. In the examples he gives the cities have intensively developed around their suburban metro lines. But it is worth noting that by the standards of those cities, basically all of Vancouver and Seattle’s rapid transit network is suburban metro. They operate at way higher densities than the vast majority of our two cities. The standard of success is also different in those cities. They expect that their metro lines will be used much more intensively than in Seattle.

      But that does not mean that bus transfers are not important. There is certainly bus integration with some RER lines, to the point that there are mini bus loops at some outlying stations. I am not familiar with Stockholm, but a look at the map shows a combination of dense TOD around metro stations and metro stations in existing street grids with good bus integration.

      In any case, in North America, we need bus integration because we are not going to achieve Paris like densities any time soon. For Vancouver, it would mean putting the whole metro population in the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby. I suspect in Seattle it would mean condensing the metro population into an area between Seatac and Shoreline.

  27. This morning, I was at the Columbia City platforms. The tiles are fully replaced (on day 9) and appear to have been that way for at least a day. There were four workers wearing ST vests standing there and doing nothing.

    The trains are running every 20 minutes still.

    So why are we having to wait two full weeks? Was this some sort of outcome set because of an excessive amount of time allocated by the work managers?

    1. Could be union related rules that require driver’s work schedules to be set well in advance, so even if the construction work is done, they can’t get drivers to run the trains every 10 minutes without breaking the union contract.

      1. Thanks for the update, Tlsgwm! If they didn’t restore service it would have been shameful. I think it’s shameful it wasn’t restored today considering that they weren’t doing any work at 9 am as they likely finished at least yesterday if not earlier.

        I hope ST develops another way to replace tiles in general. The disruption this time was unnecessary for the allotted length of time.

  28. Micrsoft has announced it will not renew its lease of a 585,000 sf campus along the east part of I-90 which represents 11% of the sublease market in this corridor. [STB won’t let me link to the article]. Although some of this probably has to do with the fact Microsoft is building several new buildings on its Redmond campus, the article also states:

    “Microsoft’s office space in total around the Eastside is about 2.7 million square feet of space. The five properties’ leases are set to expire through 2025. The leases include Lincoln Square North, Bravern I and 11, City Center Plaza, 90 East/Sammamish Park buildings C & D, and Advanta, which has a lease coming up the soonest.

    “The company said that they plan to maintain a presence in the city of Bellevue, not just Redmond.

    “Microsoft’s Redmond campus is currently undergoing a renovation. The project includes 17 new buildings, which will total over 3 million square feet. It will be replacing 12 old buildings and will hold 8,000 additional employees.

    “COVID has changed their corporate stance on how often they have to be in the office. Employees have more flexibility to work from home. They have decided to expand its work-from-home policy and make it permanent for some workers. Microsoft will allow employees to work from home for less than 50% of their working week, and managers will be able to approve permanent remote work.”

    At the same time, Danny Westneat has an article in today’s Seattle Times on this issue, and the pause by Amazon on their Bellevue office construction. According to Westneat a recent survey showed 39% of all Washington workers were WFH, whereas the percentage is 68% in downtown Seattle.

    As Westneat wrote, “Why are we continuing with the same transit planning — such as for Sound Transit’s future light rail segments — without factoring in that a third or more of the workforce may not be commuting to a downtown core, or commuting at all”.

    Westneat quotes Stephanie Stern, a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law in a recent paper in the Stanford Law and Policy review. Stern has coined a new term, “Untransit”, which basically is the deurbanization of the workforce, and likely demise of TOD. As Stern stated, Zoom is the equivalent of the cable car when it comes to future land use. Westneat noted the irony in the push for DADU’s for housing is now being converted to work at home space, and so was ahead of its time, by accident.

    I have always thought it a mistake to spend the amount of money we are spending on light rail to suburban areas based on TOD. Buses have served these areas well for decades because the buses adapted to the land use decisions the residents have made, whereas TOD and fixed route rail require creating a housing/TOD mix these same residents have intentionally rejected. Otherwise they would be living in the urban core. It would be like me telling Cam to move to a suburban Bellevue SFH neighborhood, or decide to create one in an urban Seattle area.

    Stern and Westneat are both making the same point: it isn’t a choice between Link ridership from TOD or feeder buses in the “suburbs”, it is neither, and the fact is there is no TOD that exists today in many of this areas, and what crazy developer today would risk TOD along an interstate with 68% of former downtown Seattle workers working from home, and the two leaders, Microsoft and Amazon, going in a totally different direction.

    You can zone for TOD but someone has to build it, and NEED it, and that kind of development is the riskiest because it is rental which means the developer (REIT) must hold the property for decades to recover their investment.

    My suggestion: design a transit system that assumes no new TOD. That would look a lot like what Ross has argued for: buses where density and ridership are light because that is the housing choice residents have made, some kind of express buses and better frequency if that ridership is too much, then Rapid Ride style buses, then light rail is the need justifies the cost, which in this area is a very small area (and shrinking).

    Instead, ST and too many on this blog believe you build light rail first, from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond, and then manufacture the ridership to meet some kind of urbanistic ideology and force residents into it. That just won’t work post pandemic. Praying for workers to return to the office is the opposite of reality: more and more will work less and less in an office, because it is better for the employee and saves the employer money on office space.

    1. MAN you love to pummel that favorite strawman of yours, “Teh Dumb Lib Urbanist Who Posts on STB”. The STB commentariat is NOT Seattle Subway. We spend as much time knocking down their Pipe Dreams (yeah, that kind of “Pipe”) as we do regretting the Clueless Board.

      The one way we disagree with you is that we reject the assumption that “Money Makes Right”, which when all is said and done is the short version of most of your comments.

    2. “creating a housing/TOD mix these same residents have intentionally rejected. Otherwise they would be living in the urban core”

      Some people who live in suburbs would prefer to live in the urban core, but can’t afford it (at least, not without a drastic reduction in living space). That is not an intentional rejection of urban life, but simple economics.

      1. asdf2, the average median price for a house on the eastside is now almost $500,000 more than in Seattle. North Seattle is more expensive than the urban core. South King Co. and Pierce Co. are closing in on Seattle housing prices. People are not living in these neighborhoods because they could not afford Capitol Hill or Belltown. The main issue on the eastside today is a rejection of the urban life, zoning, density, and what they see as Seattle urban problems. They could sell their houses today and buy anywhere in Seattle.

        The point I think Professor Stern was trying to make is once the purpose or need of TOD is gone (which does not include manufacturing the ridership for Link in the suburbs) there is little to recommend TOD, especially along an interstate. TOD by definition is “urban light”, small rental units in a non-urban location for those without a car who are willing to live next to an interstate with crappy retail. These are not mini–Capitol Hills. No one not living in these TOD’s is going to travel there to eat, drink or shop, so the retail vibrancy will be very weak, and I am including The Spring Dist.

        If the Microsoft announcement means anything it is the declining need for office space will concentrate that office space in the Class A locations where workers will travel two or three days/week. With that level of traffic congestion the need for TOD (transit) begins to disappear. Hence Prof. Stern’s term “Untransit”. You don’t need TOD for that. When Ross suggested this I disagreed but now think he may be correct. And where is the Class A office space usually: in the true urban core where the most vibrant retail is. Amazon followed Bellevue Mall and Lincoln Square north and south, not the other way around. Bellevue Way office space will do well, but The Spring Dist. and Wilburton not so well.

        All I am saying is that although Link was designed pre-pandemic it probably is a good idea post pandemic to estimate ridership without TOD, certainly where it does not exist now, or developing golf courses or removing the West Seattle High Bridge. Any Link ridership will be by feeder bus in these suburban areas, and traditionally transfers from transit to transit are disfavored. Again, as Ross notes in many cases the local bus is a better choice, even in an urban area.

      2. I am curious as to whether this median house price comparison is distorted by unit size. Are eastside homes more per sf than Seattle homes? Certainly it is the opposite in Vancouver with the price per sf going up going west.

      3. Yes, Eastside home are generally cheaper $/sq foot than Seattle homes, especially when comparing favored neighborhoods (Seattle north of downtown vs. most of the Eastside)

      4. Thanks for the link Tisgwm. Although eastside prices per sf are listed I did not see the same for Seattle. The report states re: the eastside as a whole:

        “Average price per square foot saw its first quarterly drop since Q2 of 2019, down from $713 in Q1 to $685. The overall median price fell from a high of $1,625,000 in Q1 to $1,610,000 in Q2. Even more exciting for home buyers is that (when in competition) the list to sales price ratio is 109%— down from 119% in Q1.”

        Re: Seattle the report states:

        “Anecdotally, we believe that Seattle continues to gain ground because it remains affordable when compared to the cities and neighborhoods to the east. Eastside median prices rose so sharply over the last two years that it left Seattle “in the dust” as the market leader of the region. As we know, slow and steady wins the race, though there is no way to know yet if this particular race is a marathon or a sprint.”

        I was surprised that condo prices in North Seattle outperformed condo prices in the urban core, but not surprised that condo sales lagged SFH during the pandemic:

        “North Seattle (up 34%) and Capitol Hill (up 10%) are bright spots in the total number of condos sold year over year for Seattle. This makes perfect sense as both areas offer access to our growing light rail system and new retail opportunities that didn’t exist pre-pandemic. Seattle’s total sales year over year remained flat, literally zero, which means these two neighborhoods carried the entire city.

        “The same data point on the Eastside saw the entire area’s total number of sales fall 27% year over year. West Bellevue (down 51%) and Mercer Island (down 38%) topped the list. Meanwhile, prices on the Eastside are up an average of 20%.”

      5. The number for Seattle is $598 and the number for the eastside is $685. The problem is that both of these are gross numbers with no accounting for dwelling type, age, lot size etc. The condo numbers are at least somewhat on the same basis because there is usually no yard, and they are $661 in Seattle and $649 so basically the same.

      6. “The problem is that both of these are gross numbers with no accounting for dwelling type, age, lot size etc.”

        Yes, that’s true. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any report/source that compiles that granular level of housing market sales data for our region, at least from a non-MLS subscriber perspective. I believe my spouse’s company, a local residential developer, has their own detailed analysis but it’s proprietary in nature.

    3. Although Microsoft’s footprint in Vancouver is tiny compared to Seattle, I can report that it is continuing to expand. All downtown. Just another 63,000 leased this week bringing the total to around 325,000. They are taking up another 400,000 next year in a newly built building but some of the current offices might relocate because they are already spread over five buildings.

    4. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the death of commuting to work has been greatly exaggerated.

      We don’t know how much WFH will stick around once the pandemic is over. We do know that the pandemic is not over, not even close.

      The transit agencies seem not to have gotten the memo. They’re trying to restore ridership and ignoring the step of restoring confidence in the safety of riding. Elected officials, including pretty much all Democrats, who are hellbent on freedom over protecting public health, have reached a new level of lame.

      It isn’t asking that much to tell riders they really need to be wearing masks on transit, for their own protection and out of consideration for everyone around them. Transit (excluding airlines) is not where the anti-mask thugs engaged in their acts of violence. But far more people continue to die of COVID every day than die from random acts of stupid violence. I very tiny minority of said violence was acting out against mask requirements. A few unlucky grocery store workers were shot. A lot of flight attendants had to wrestle idiots off the plane, but I heard of no incidents resulting in death, thankfully. By far, the main injury from these incidents was probably infection.

      Public transit needs to remain accessible. Right now, it is not.

      The transit agencies, following the lead of lame politicians, have themselves reached a new level of lame. Most of the staff that is there to supposedly protect the public is, instead, endangering the public, by not masking up around riders, by making it look like it is okay to ride transit without wearing a mask around other riders, and all they seem to be talking about is how to increase fare revenue. If they want to increase fare revenue, they need to make transit accessible to more riders, and so they have to man up and bring back mask-wearing as part of the code of conduct on transit.

      If politicians think masks on transit should be a personal choice, I’d like to suggest that following the speed limit should be a personal choice, too. It’s my decision whether I drive under the speed limit and my life that I’m risking, so leave me alone to do my own risk assessment. The speeders have spoken! If you want people to obey the speed limit, convince us why, and don’t make it a law. Just issue public safety guidance. I swear, we’ll get wind of it on Tik Tok. So, stop trodding on our freedom!

  29. Hypothetical question: Should Sound Transit open the Bellevue section of East Link in the coming months (and the Mercer Island section when it is ready), rather than wait until 2024, when the connection to Seattle is ready? I realize there is zero chance ST would actually do this, but I wonder whether they would be wrong to wait. As the testing for East Link in Bellevue started 4 months ago, it must be functionally near operability. The ridership of the eastside-only section wouldn’t be great, but on the other hand it seems foolish to sit on a multi-billion dollar investment for over a year and a half (or more), if it is ready to go and serves some useful purpose. Maybe the operation cost wouldn’t justify it, but I don’t know. What do you think?

    1. You would still have to concurrently run buses across the bridge span which would increase costs, and come up with some kind of interim eastside transit restructure to serve East Link. In the past ST has claimed one part of East Link cannot be opened before all of it due to the electrical systems. I don’t know if that is true or not.

      I don’t think there is any great anticipation for the opening of East Link on the eastside, at least not now, so I doubt ST feels any urgency to open one part before another, as opposed for example to reopening the West Seattle Bridge that is greatly anticipated because there is no alternative. Buses right now serve the eastside fairly well, including across the bridge, although ridership is way down.

    2. The only times ST has opened a partial line (TIB, SeaTac, UW) is when it defined a phase in planning and built a tail track/crossover so trains could layover and turn around. There probably aren’t any of those in Bellevue. And where do you envision the terminus? Bellevue Downtown or Bel-Red?

      Buses are less of an issue. When Link reaches Bellevue Downtown, the 550 can go away, and all the feeders that go to Mercer Island or South Bellevue can be truncated. Even if ST eliminates only the 550, that leaves only the 554, and it’s not that expensive to have one not-very-frequent route continue between Mercer Island and downtown. All the other routes are Metro (111, 21x), so not ST’s concern or budget.

      ST’s plan is to open to Redmond Tech first, followed by Redmond Downtown a year or so later.

    3. I think it’s a political question.

      The South Bellevue garage opened early because Balducci pushed for it, IIRC.

      So if there is a compelling political reason to open a segment in 2023 and it’s technically feasible, I think ST will consider it.

      On the other hand, there are signal and information and safety systems as well as driver assignments that have to be in place if just a segment opens. Those systems all have to pass inspections too. Lots of recent delays in other systems have been because of systems problems rather than track and wires. Since it takes testing and scheduling to open, it’s not really worthwhile unless it would be a l-o-n-g delay to open fully.

      1. A garage is not on the track, so it doesn’t need all the stations ahead of it to be ready, or a crossover/tail track so trains can reverse and layover without blocking other trains. The South Bellevue P&R was already open and the 550 depends on it. That’s a different situation from a brand-new P&R with no existing bus routes. It was closed because track/station construction was blocking it, but that part of the construction is finished so it had to reopen.

  30. So about this debate about transit being commuter oriented. We have some interesting quantitative data from ST’s 2040 projections here:

    So take a look at the ratio of PM peak hours (I think it’s 3-6 pm) peak direction ridership volumes versus daily volumes in the peak direction. Places which have over 50% of daily riders can generally be thought of as heavily commuter oriented. Those under 40% can be considered as not expecting heavy commuter use.

    So where are those high commuter percentages?
    – North of U District to Everett
    – East of Redmond Tech

    The other lines — Ballard, West Seattle, Tacoma done, even Issaquah-Kirkland never reach past this 50 percent. Neither does Tacoma Link nor Stride. Sounder always has 90-100 percent by virtue of the almost entirely peak-only service.

    I didn’t pull out a calculator to see where the lowest percentages are — but lines inside Seattle south of UW show about 40 percent of peak direction daily use in peak hours. Interestingly, so do other services that ST offers.

    Of course, the raw volumes are really what’s revealing about the usefulness of Link. However, the ratio of peak to daily I think reveals insight on this discussion.



    Al, I gave your mode comment more thought, and now I think I agree with you.

    The issue with Everett Link starts wherever Line 2 is truncated, because north of that point, the Link ROW is overbuilt, unless Line 3 runs at-grade at some point and introduces a capacity limit similar to Line 1 in RV or Line 2 in Bel-Red. Whether the point of overbuilding is at Lynnwood or Mariner (where ST currently plans to turnback Line 2) or wherever, there is somewhere on Everett Link that, IMO, should be a branch, with Line 2 and 3 diverging and both lines leveraging the full capability of LRT with at-grade station & occasional grade crossing.

    However, this S-Bahn style branching is usually leveraged when the rail ROW mostly pre-exists & therefore capital investment is small, and the big investment is simply introducing all-day frequency service. For Snohomish county, the ROW needs to be created, so an alternative to a branch could be to introduce an eBART style mode transfer. Like eBART, there is cheap freeway ROW, with the rail providing a smooth fast ride with long stop spacing, and an opportunity to mirror frequency on a much smaller train. In theory, buses in 100% dedicated freeway ROW could provide the same quality of service, but in reality eBART is a compelling upgrade over express bus service.

    I had strongly preferred branches because I thought all three options (through Paine, along Evergreen Way, and along I5) had good opportunity to operate at-grade, but in reality ST is most likely to build ROW that is 99% grade separated and then never operate frequency to its full capacity. With an “eLink” solution, Link can provide excellent frequency all the way to Everett without running Line 2 & 3 that full distance, ensuring a strong bus-rail transfer experience at all eLink stations. With driverless cars, the O&M cost would be lower, and with smaller, shorter vehicles capital costs would also be lower (though no nearly the capital savings of underground stations, so this isn’t as compelling as running smaller, more frequent trains on WSBLE).

    Additionally, I realized that the eLink itself could have multiple lines, in effect recreating the same operating pattern as a branch. For example, built eLink from Mariner to Everett, and then later build another eLink station to Paine if so desired, with 3 platforms within the Mariner station envelope (1 Link and 2 eLink). I was worried an eLink solution would box Snohomish into a single line, but now realize they retain optionality if they want to invest further in rail in future generations, but also constructs a coherent system at the end of ST3.

    So now I believe ST should build Link as far north as needed to reach OMF-N (likely to Mariner, perhaps to the 99/Airport Road contingent station), and from there switch to another mode that provides the same reliability as Link but can provide better frequency than a single Link line and perhaps better top end speed (given the long stop spacing in a 2 stop I5 alignment).

    1. Al and AJ, it’s definitely a great idea. In fact Sound Transit could use a modern automated maglev system for both a Ballard extension and Snohomish extension. To make it more attractive to Everett, they could even extend it to Everett College or Mukilteo. A prefabricated system would be far easier and cheaper to erect (elevated or not) and due to automation cheaper to operate and more flexible with topography.

    2. Interesting. Just out of curiosity, did you happen to read the early scoping summary report for the Everett Link extension project that came out earlier this year? There was some heavy pushback from a few of the stakeholder agencies (Snohomish County, Community Transit, SnoCo PUD) regarding several of the possible sites for the OMF-N. Under the scenario you describe above, where do you envision the facility being sited?

  32. So I’m in Seattle for a wedding and took the bus to a Mariners game while I’m here and… when did Metro substantially redesign its timetables for the first time in decades?

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