Sound Transit:

However, on both the east and west sides of the bridge, the contractor’s work to fix problems with cast-in-place concrete plinths supporting the tracks has led to the identification of further challenges. These include issues with mortar pads, rebar placements and track fasteners, which the contractor has agreed to fix by re-casting the plinths to ensure the long-term reliability and safety of the extension. Details of the East Link issues can be found in the below-linked memo.

Continuing work is required to identify new project opening timelines for the four projects, which must include time for activation work once construction is complete. While the East Link extension was planned to open in mid-2023, construction challenges are currently projected to delay the completion by at least a year. An upcoming programmatic review will assess rail activation sequencing and time requirements to support the identification of new opening timeframes.

This confirms what we heard back in May, but without any new update on the actual opening schedule. You can see some images of the cracking in the agency’s presentation to the board. Landslide issues have cropped up in Federal Way as well. The Times has more.

115 Replies to “More Link delays”

  1. I do really love Bruce Harrell swooping in to express his disappointment, furrowed brow and all, as though Bruce Harrell cares even slightly about transit projects. The man is like a living, breathing representation of the Seattle Times opinion section.

    1. Not nearly enough thinly veiled racism or overt genocidal tendencies towards the homeless to compare him to the Seattle Times comments.

    2. Harrell was easily elected Mayor… the election wasn’t close in any way. I think it’s safe to say he represents more than just the Times opinion page.

  2. When you have a concrete worker strike you can’t snap your fingers and replace the lost work immediately.

    And it’s better that they caught the issues with the plinths now.

    The delay is disappointing, but ST is doing fine. These are things out of their control.

    1. I agree with JAS that some of the delays are out of ST’s control and some are within ST’s control. At the same time, these are delays on top of delays on top of delays.

      The good news is these extensions are not existential. Unlike when a bridge fails and closes there are very good alternatives with buses, especially with reduced congestion. These extensions are not — and never were — critical to our transit network.

      I am concerned however about the escalating issues with the I-90 bridge. I have been involved in this issue for years,— before new hinge joints and post tensioning — and for the first time am really beginning to think there is a reasonable chance trains will not be able to run across the bridge span, certainly not four car trains every 8 minutes, although I doubt that capacity and frequency will be needed post pandemic.

      The reality is the ordinary eastsider won’t even notice the new delays. Whether that is good or bad I don’t know, but I think there is a creeping acceptance on the Eastside East Link May never open, at least not as planned, and life will go on fine. It just doesn’t matter in their lives.

      1. Daniel, I think you underestimate the desire of eastsiders to not have to park in Seattle. Off-peak Northgate demand is quite high and while East Link will probably never be jam packed during rush hour like what was initially envisioned, the park and rides will be well used all day and all evening. Trains are way more popular than busses for that type of use case.

        Also, speaking from the Seattle perspective, there is desire from us to take the train to visit the east side. Many people live in Seattle because we don’t like the driving forward culture of the eastside. I hate driving to Bellevue and parking in Kemper Freeman’s maze of parking garages, but I love visiting that mall. I also envision putting my bike on the train and taking advantage of the great bike trails on the east side (such as riding from Redmond to Woodinville).

      2. Jay
        I definitely know people who’d like to visit Bellevue Square for Snowflake Lane or other events throughout the year but don’t want to deal with the hot mess that is parking there. I’d honestly like to see that part of Bellevue Way in front of the Bellevue Collection just become a pedestrian plaza in my opinion though there’d definitely be other parts of Bellevue that’d benefit from pedestrian car free plazas or zones. With electric bollards allotted for truck deliveries and emergency vehicles

      3. Joe, today eastsiders have several one seat buses to Seattle that actually access Eastside park and rides. They just are not being used. I am not sure whether adding a transfer from an Eastside park and ride onto a bus to go to an East Link station to get to the same Seattle stops will be considered an improvement, especially with so little cross lake traffic congestion today.

        I can’t opine on the level of excitement in Seattle for East Link. I was only stating eastsiders are nonchalant about East Link. They have little reservation about parking in Freeman’s maze of free and obvious parking lots, which is why there is such retail density there. It is definitely a car forward region and I doubt that will ever change. There is always shopping in downtown Seattle if the Eastside car culture is something you dislike. (U Village is also car oriented, but The Ave not so much).

        I think it is probably a good thing eastsiders are so disinterested about East Link because otherwise the endless delays — and no way is this the last announcement about delays — would create a lot of anger. Instead there is no anger or even disappointment.

        Now if anything were to happen to the bridge that would get the attention of eastsiders. We don’t want to be West Seattle and suddenly see the bridge close because those responsible were not doing their job. If East Link never opened but the bridge is fine life will be fine on the Eastside. The cross lake buses when combined are actually better than East Link although pretty empty today.

      4. “Today eastsiders have several one seat buses to Seattle that actually access Eastside park and rides. . They just are not being used. ”
        Citation needed
        “They have little reservation about parking in Freeman’s maze of free and obvious parking lots,”
        Because there’s not much choice, when you encourage car dependency you get cat dependent infrastructure. It’s as simple as that.

        “Now if anything were to happen to the bridge that would get the attention of eastsiders. ”
        The bridge itself is probably fine and the light rail system they’ve built for the floating bridge segment was engineered and tested by UW researchers and engineers who took 4 to 5 years of testing the thing before it was ever built on I-90. Along with doing adjustments to make sure it works and was laid correctly.

        “The cross lake buses when combined are actually better than East Link although pretty empty today.”
        Citation needed

      5. The commuting crowd is fine using buses, but replacing a bus with a train will generate more off-peak ridership, even if there is no time saved.

        Your generalizations about eastsiders are also referring to a specific type of eastsider. The retail employees who work at Bellevue Square are of course far more likely to be dependent on transit access.

        If the I-90 bridge sunk into Lake Washington you would survive, same as we did in West Seattle. There’s a second bridge and you would have to go around the long way, same as we do right now. Most of the trips in/out of West Seattle simply disappeared as people adjusted their commute and driving patterns and the trips will return next month when the bridge reopens.

      6. I’d say the Eastsiders aren’t a monolith in terms of view on public transit. Like I know plenty of Eastsiders, both who grew up there or moved there as transplants who like riding the bus as a transit option and are happy to see light rail come to the Eastside. Along with all the cities on the Eastside do have at least one or multiple bus routes that are pretty popular, from the low 100s routes in Renton all the way up to Bothell with the 372 or the 250 that connects Totem Lake to Redmond.

      7. Thank you. The generalizations that every single Eastsider wants this or that is rediculous. Different people want different things. And over time, people move, so the same person might be an Eastsider one day, but not another day. When I became an Eastsider a few years ago, the move did not magically make me anti-transit. It was just a pragmatic decision that I wanted to live closer to work.

      8. Asdf2, you have a habit of creating strawmen. I never said every eastsider hated transit. I said the vast majority prefer a car, just like in Seattle. As Martin’s research has shown, even ST estimates a total of 400 car drivers will switch to WSBLE. For $20 billion.

        What I really said is eastsiders are very nonchalant about East Link, and the endless delays in its opening.

        Some of that is WFH, some a big move away from going to Seattle, some the rise of Bellevue, some wanting to work closer to home, and some the fact eastsiders, when they do pay attention, don’t see any change in their lives from East Link, and often see worse transit options and more transfers than buses today.

        There just is very marginal improvement to transit on the Eastside from East Link, although so many transit advocates think mode is the be all and end all of transit, which is how we got in this mess.

        Once you eliminate grade separation from traffic congestion and capacity (although East Link will be limited to 8 minute frequencies peak hours) the cost, fixed route, and need for first/last mile access including transfers make light rail a worse and usually slower option, with lower frequencies than multiple buses, especially when the transfers are factored in. That is why ST inflated ridership estimates so much.

        Some claim non peak ridership will increase with East Link. I don’t think so. Ridership will be no different than the buses today East Link will replace (especially with a one seat 554 to Bellevue Way).

        Maybe if East Link would actually improve transit for the few eastsiders who ride transit there would be more frustration at the delays, but it doesn’t. In most cases post pandemic it makes transit worse. Hence the 554 and 630.

        That is why eastsiders are so ambivalent about East Link opening. It won’t improve lives on the Eastside or even transit, although I recognize to say that is blasphemous on STB.

      9. Of course, off peak ridership will increase. Some of it will from better service frequency than the buses it replaces. Some of it will come from the one seat ride to capitol hill, which the 550 never offered.

        But, I think the big sleeper of East Link is not Bellevue->downtown Seattle, but Redmond->Bellevue. The travel advantage of Link over RapidRide B is huge – even without traffic – in addition to better frequency. And more and more housing is coming online not just in downtown Redmond, but also along the stations between Redmond and Bellevue, which will further help drive ridership.

        To you, the idea of taking the train to Bellevue Square instead of driving and parking seems silly, but it really isn’t. Anyone who has driven to Bellevue Square on a Saturday afternoon can attest that traffic in downtown Bellevue is a slog, especially as you approach the parking garage, not to mention the wasted time winding up and down the aisles to actually find a space. And, on top of that, the ramp from 520 west to 405 south can itself be backed up at any time of day. Sure, from the station to the mall is a few blocks, but at least it’s mostly a pedestrian walkway, rather than constantly breathing exhaust fumes. And, the fact that so many tech workers have free transit passes also helps.

        Of course, not everyone will take the train, but some will. Surpassing the B line’s ridership for trips all the way from Redmond to Bellevue (~5 people per hour, as most B-line riders use intermediate stops) is a very low bar to meet, and I think Link will far exceed that, even if usage among people who live in single family neighborhoods who would have to drive just to get to the Link station is minimal.

      10. I agree with asdf2, off-peak Link won’t be that big of an improvement over the 550 between Seattle and Bellevue, if the benchmark is the 550 before any East Link disruptions and with minimal Bellevue congestion. But even on a typical weekday, the Link will be much more reliable than the 550, which should unlock much more spontaneous trips, such as a quick trip from one city to the other for a meal or meeting. When I worked in Bellevue, the 550 was great if I needed to go in to Seattle, but wasn’t good enough if I wanted to spend my lunch break in the ID and get back to work in time for a 1pm meeting.

        And I also agree that between Bellevue and Redmond there should be robust ridership for trips that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, given all the new development.

      11. I drive from the Eastside to Seattle five days/week during peak times. The congestion across the bridge is pretty mild. The buses don’t even use the HOV lanes because it is too much hassle to cross three lanes and then back to exit onto Mercer Island.

        No doubt removing the 550 from the transit tunnel caused ridership to plunge in 2019 for both safety and convenience reasons. Same with changing the route of the 554. But it was the pandemic that really caused traffic from the Eastside to Seattle to plunge and that isn’t coming back during the peak commute.

        Non-peak intra Eastside trips are almost all done by car because the Eastside is spread out, free parking, large box stores, retail spread out over several cities, little congestion, and the need to carry things. This was true before the pandemic. While expensive parking in Seattle forced work commuters to take transit during peak commutes when it comes to non-peak times eastsiders simply choose to not go to downtown Seattle which is reflected in Seattle’s dying retail.

        The factors driving Eastside transit ridership won’t change much after East Link, although it will be at least three years until we know which only reinforces current travel patterns. Peak commuters are not going to Seattle because they dislike the routes of the 554 or 550 today. They simply are not going due to WFH or working on the Eastside.

        After East Link opens non-peak trips will still be by car because the reasons will stay the same. Someone from Redmond might take East Link to downtown Bellevue during peak hours depending on parking and first/last mile access but will drive during non-peak times because there is little congestion, free parking, they need to go to several big box stores or parts of the city — or several cities —, and carry stuff. Eastsiders generally don’t take non-peak trips to one specific location for something like tea. They have tea in their SFH.

        East Link will be a better experience for those who can walk to a station or have a park and ride nearby that serves East Link and whose destination is along East Link but a worse trip for those who now have a transfer. East Link will be better through Seattle because it will access the tunnel like the 550 did but that won’t return the Eastside rider who isn’t driving or taking transit to Seattle anymore for other reasons, and let’s face it downtown Seattle is the one place with the density for light rail. I don’t see many eastsiders taking East Link to Capitol Hill. Different worlds.

        Ridership on East Link will be the same as buses today. Just like WSBLE is expected to move 400 car drivers to Link, East Link will likely move fewer due to the demographic and geography of East King Co.

        East Link is going to open. The price for light rail wasn’t obscene if the bridge works. Some trips for eastsiders will be better and some worse, but the trend is away from transit anyway with WFH and less commuting to areas with expensive parking, or heavy congestion. For the subset of transit advocates who think Link or transit changes society or life I think they will be disappointed with East Link. Eastsiders (most) will just be disinterested. There will no difference in their lives between East Link and the 550 because they ride neither. Link just does not move folks from cars to transit as claimed. For those from the Issaquah area who now have a transfer they will just drive to the S. Bellevue or MI park and ride unless they demand a one seat bus or their employer allows them to WFH, on the Eastside, or more and more common today subsidized parking in Seattle because new office rents are much lower than in Bellevue so it is cheaper to subsidize parking and going to a partial WFH schedule.

        People choose the mode that works best for them if congestion or artificially high parking costs don’t force those decisions. Today most eastsiders don’t have artificial factors forcing their decision on mode, except maybe the riders on the 630. You just can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, at least not for long. The market corrects. Make parking too scarce or expensive in Seattle and you get Uber.

      12. I think the big sleeper of East Link is not Bellevue->downtown Seattle, but Redmond->Bellevue

        Agreed. So much so that I wouldn’t call it the sleeper, I would call it the crux. As with all rail projects, it is worth considering what a bus substitute would look like. Imagine if we sank a similar amount of money into bus infrastructure and service. It gets a little hard to calculate, because trains replace multiple buses, saving labor. But Link construction costs are huge — so much so that it is easy to imagine putting lots of money into bus service, and not reaching a break even point for 100 years (or ever, really, when you consider the interest). So, for the sake of argument, just assume a decent level of service — significantly above what we have now — focused on the main stops that Link will serve. I would start by creating a downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle all-day express that uses the freeway, instead of Bellevue Way. South Bellevue would have a handful of peak express buses, as well as local service. The same sort of thing would happen to the east as well. With that in mind, we can make some conclusions.

        Some people would be better off, some worse. Link will give you one-seat rides from downtown Bellevue to Capitol Hill, but buses could give you a one-seat ride from Issaquah/Eastgate to downtown Seattle. Lots of places are similar — downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle for example.

        It is only when you move east that you see the full benefit of East Link. Several of these stations are hard to access via main roads, which means stringing them together would be difficult. Clearly the train line adds a lot of benefit. We’re left to ponder whether the overall cost of the project would match that of a major bus investment not for this particular set of stations, but for the East Side region in general. That becomes very difficult.

        But it becomes easier once we see how many people ride those combinations. If we get very little ridership within this section, I think East Link can be proclaimed a dud. We probably would have been better off just adding bus service (assuming the current driver shortage is just temporary). If, on the other hand, lots of riders take trips between these various destinations (as well as longer trips, like Spring District to downtown Seattle) then this project is a winner, even though it took longer than it should have. Whether making a similar investment in East Side bus service would have been even better will always be difficult to determine.

      13. As with any new line, there are a number of benefits that need to be flagged.

        1. East Link trains will continue as Line 2 to Northgate and end in Lynnwood in 2025. Its opening substantially increases the number and frequency of trains between Lynnwood and Downtown Seattle. That’s a train every 5 minutes from early morning to 10 pm. That will be perceived as “no waiting” train service in that riders won’t bother to even look at a schedule between Lynnwood and Downtown Seattle.

        2. The longer line provides frequent, direct connectivity between Northgate, UW and Capitol Hill to most of the Eastside employment areas. Even though 520 services appear shorter on a map, once a rider is on the train they will prefer to stay on.

        3. East Link will eliminate transfers at BTC. With a through line running from MI to Overlake and the Spring District, a rider will no longer need to transfer at BTC for many trips — and can transfer at a closer station. There is lots of mention of losing I-90 express service all the way to Downtown Seattle, but many other new connections will be available.

        4. The large garages at South Bellevue and Marymoor Village (the recently designated name) will be popular for Eastsiders that prefer to drive to a station. This is powerful for making all sorts of trips — staying on the Eastside or going to events or jobs or other things in Seattle. The garages will be popular for residents of Newcastle, Sammamish and the parts of other cities that have limited connecting bus frequency. Until they fill, they will attract riders that park elsewhere to catch a bus today.

        5. The mess at SeaTac does not get discussed much here, but looping through is is a major daily nightmare, particularly in the evenings as planes arrive and people go to pick up flyers. With a single transfer, a flyer can ride Link on Line 1 and transfer just once to Line 2 to have their ride pick them up at any of 11 Eastside stations.

        6. Judkins Park will be much easier to use than the former median bus stop. Not only will the 23rd Ave entrance be like adding a new station to the neighborhood, but the Rainier Ave access will be easier and service will be much more frequent. It will be faster to stay on Route 7 up to Judkins Park rather than get off at Mt Baker if a rider is headed in either direction — to board a less crowded train. There is a reason that developers have multiple projects underway near this station.

      14. @Al S
        “5. The mess at SeaTac does not get discussed much here, but looping through is is a major daily nightmare…..”

        Good point. With that said, I can’t help mentioning how poor the Link station placement at SeaTac is as well. I was just reminded of this twice in the last couple of weeks. First off, an older sibling visiting me from Florida who took the train into town, and had come in at an A gate I believe, remarked about how long of a walk it is to get over to the Link station. Secondly, as I am writing this I am currently in NY visiting family and on the way out my spouse and I took Link from Beacon Hill to the airport. Our flight was out of one of the D gates but we were ultimately directed by TSA to checkpoint 2 and had to backtrack to the other end where we had started. Including the walking to the terminal from the Link Station, I believe we spent more time walking than it took to get through security and my spouse remarked about how we had just gotten our “10,000 steps in” and how the train connection is almost as bad as the setup at Heathrow.

      15. It will be faster to stay on Route 7 up to Judkins Park rather than get off at Mt Baker if a rider is headed in either direction — to board a less crowded train.

        I’m not sure I follow you. If you are on the 7 headed to Rainier Beach, Judkins Park station is meaningless. If you are headed to SeaTac it is meaningless. If you are headed downtown, you will probably just stay on the bus. Thus the folks who transfer from the 7 to Link at Judkins Park will be people headed to the East Side.

        There is a reason that developers have multiple projects underway near this station.

        Sorry, no. The reason the area around the station is getting developed is because the city allows it. You can see lots and lots of new big apartments between the station and downtown. These are not places influenced by the station. This is just part of overall Seattle growth, focused on a handful of areas, like the growth in Greenwood, Fremont, the Central Area (and other places that won’t be getting Link stations any time soon, if ever).

        For example, look at 23rd. There is a lot of development there. But the biggest apartments are those on Jackson, and farther north. Even much of the new development is close to Rainier. Riders might want to catch Link, but it is also quite possible they simply take a much shorter walk to Rainier Avenue, and catch the 7, especially if it is just as frequent as the train (which seems likely). There will be people who ride from Judkins Park to downtown (there were before). But the vast majority will be going the other way.

      16. The mess at SeaTac does not get discussed much here

        Which mess are you talking about? The train seems to operate just fine; does that mean there is a problem with the buses?

        If so, then I could see that explaining the very poor performance of the SeaTac bus stop on the 560. A simpler explanation is that there aren’t that many people willing to take transit to the airport. It is too bad — it seems like the obvious choice for many people — but the numbers have never been that good. I doubt that any increase in ridership to the SeaTac station caused by East Link will be noticeable. Yes, it is more frequent, but it will take longer for many riders, and more importantly, is just very time consuming.

        In contrast, the Federal Way Link extension should cause a significant bump in ridership to SeaTac. A lot of the people who work in the airport live a few miles to the south. My guess is, the vast majority of those who take transit to the airport work there. The second biggest group is business travelers. While downtown Bellevue represents a significant business area, it is puny compared to downtown Seattle. All other business areas are puny compared to downtown Bellevue.

      17. The “SeaTac mess” I’m mentioning is the traffic mess. Link bypasses this huge mess that occurs every day. Yes the walk to Link is excessive — and SeaTac has said on record that they plan to add a moving sidewalk to help.

        The Route 7 connection I’m mentioning is heading north. Waiting to catch Link at Judkins Park rather than Mt Baker will likely get you Downtown faster. The bus is very slow north of Judkins Park (through ID) so riders will gladly transfer. Heading north, riders must cross Rainier at Mt Baker but not at Judkins Park. The transfer will also get you quickly to Capitol Hill and UW.

      18. The issue with Link to the airport is the station is so far from the terminals and you usually have luggage. Plus it is slow.

        The issues with the park and rides are cost, you need to take a shuttle, and the shuttle drops you off across the street, so you have to take an elevator or shuttle up to the sky bridge and walk across the terminal. Unless you valet you have to find a spot and wait for the shuttle outside in the lot which many women don’t feel is safe.

        The issues with parking right at the airport are cost, finding a spot, and hauling your luggage to the terminal across the sky bridge when your parking spot you finally found is often far from your terminal.

        The issues with getting dropped off are getting a ride and traffic congestion, but a good trick is to use either the departure or arrival levels depending on which is busier.

        The issue with Uber is cost because it drops you off right at the terminal.

        Worst of all is any kind of shared shuttle that makes more than one stop. Or flying out of Paine unless you have a ride.

        For me which mode depends on who is paying (work or pleasure flying), how much luggage, the traffic congestion either way if you want someone to drop you, and time of trip.

        I prefer to be dropped off, then Uber (especially if for a long trip so parking costs exceed Uber both directions), then valet parking, parking at the airport, and sometimes Link if it is a short business trip, I am traveling alone, and I leave from my office in The Smith Tower where I can leave my car in a secured garage when gone which will end next month when our office moves to the Eastside.

        I have never used the bus to the airport so don’t know about that. Generally I prefer to avoid the hassles of flying which is easier with Zoom unless the destination is fantastic like Hawaii and the trip at least a week. Flying today unless you do it frequently and so have MVP status and upgrades and access to boardrooms, which I do not, is just a very unpleasant experience so the destination really has to be worth it for me.

      19. Your solution to the Link Sea-Tac station problem is simple:

        Fly Alaska Airlines.

        For those complaining about the station placement, you either weren’t around at the first glimmers of planning (pre-‘Sound Transit’), or are willfully ignoring the history.

        I was at a meeting where the Port of Seattle basically admitted that the parking garage was their Cash Cow.

        They had no inclination making it any easier to access the airport facilities for train riders. That, and the fact the arrival/departure space was constrained anyway.
        There was a plan to create a new passenger terminal/ground transportation facility at the current place the freight operations are, with a people mover connection tied into the existing system.

        Everything was thrown up in the air after 9/11, as far as airport planning was concerned.

        At least now, there is a wind break installed. Those North Winds can be quite chilly.

      20. I do mostly fly Alaska Jim. But it is still a long walk from the Link station to the terminal with luggage so Link just isn’t as good of mode as other ways to get to the airport unless cost is your sole factor, which means you are traveling alone without much luggage, time of trip is not a factor (if two are in a car including the Uber driver you can use the HOV lanes), and have first/last mile access to a Link station which in many ways is the biggest deficit for Link, no matter where you are going, but certainly with luggage, or God forbid kids and a wife.

        Just like any trip people choose the mode that works best for them. Link to the airport begins with so many deficits placing the station so far from the terminals when planners knew people would be hauling luggage was just one more deficit. So few passengers take Link to the airport.

        Sometimes I think it is helpful for some on this blog to simply look at the numbers for different modes, and then ask why. Why is passenger ridership on Link to the airport so low when it is the least expensive usually, rather than hoping something will change in the future?

        I think the answer is pretty obvious, and doubt it will change in the future.

      21. For the SeaTac issue, it might possibly get addressed long term with an airport people mover connecting the airport, the link station, and car rental facility with possible second terminal as well. We can also blame the hotel Port of Seattle wanted to build on property for it’s overly optimistic view for something that never came to be and is just now a big empty parking lot.

    2. Some of the delays can be attributed to the concrete strike, but some others are due to serious contractor errors. We will all have to pay for these mistakes with time and tax money. The fact these mistakes were overlooked for so long is Sound Transit’s own fault. A lot of blame to go around.

      1. I agree completely. There is a mix, and it is easy to just blame things on the strike. But when you dig into it, contractors made plenty of mistakes, and ST is responsible for not overseeing them well.

      2. These are not the first set of errors. I do not know whether ST suffers more or less than other agencies or contractees. If more, better oversight may be called for. Past examples: the Mercer Island garage, the Auburn transit center concrete, the NE 128th Street cantilevered stations. I have been more concerned about poor strategic choices by the Board and senior management about freeway alignments, south-first Link, streetcar mode choices, East corridor mode choice, long headways and waits, ST3 projects, ST3 scale, and ST3 tax revenues.

      3. I have been more concerned about poor strategic choices by the Board and senior management

        Agreed. Unfortunately, these sorts of construction mistakes are common and people tend to focus on them. But they are soon forgotten if the routes and stations are really well designed (from a cost/benefit standpoint). Rarely does a well designed project slip from being a good idea to a bad one during the construction phase. But if the system is poorly designed, it doesn’t matter how smoothly the construction goes.

      4. I am not an expert in this, but I’ve been comparing our degraded ability to build just about anything in the US to an earlier time when we had a much larger (%-wise) government workforce and a greater degree of accompanying institutional knowledge.

        Looking at the move from government building things to contractors being hired for many more projects in and around the 80s, it correlates well with our decline in competency.

        There are other factors, like NIMBYs misusing litigation and environmental review to slow and increase costs of projects they don’t like, but I think our reliance on contractors has been an extremely damaging shift.

  3. I like the decision by Timm to dump all of the bad news. No reason to gaslight us into thinking that any of these projects are on schedule.

    Say what you want about Bruce Harrell, but all of the transit advocacy groups have been demanding more accountability from Sound Transit and Harrell is the one who is mostly likely to throw a stink about the known problems with the agency. I look forward to his staged photo op in front of working escalators at Westlake Station.

  4. Any politician — especially mayor of Seattle— would be insane to hitch their political wagon to the shit show that is ST.

    I agree transit is not a priority for Harrell, but his voters didn’t vote for him for transit. He has major issues on his plate that dwarf transit,, especially post pandemic.

    As I posted before, Harrell knows WSBLE is not remotely affordable (with or without DSTT2 — just compare N. King Co.’s annual ST tax revenue in the 2021 subarea report with the likely $20 billion price tag when including the standard 30% cost contingency and the fact ST stil estimates the cost for DSTT2 at $2.2 billion plus stations at 130th and Graham St.) and so he will side with every Seattle community’s complaint about WSBLE.

    He certainly isn’t going to place a $10 billion SB5528 levy on a ballot (including DSTT2) — or support it — to bail out ST’s dishonest cost estimates that would decimate levy capacity for all issues in Seattle. And I don’t think his idea of a photo op is ST actually got the escalators to work, for now.

    1. Harrell was elected, first and foremost, to get homeless camps off the streets. And while that issue is not transit per s
      ay, focusing on crime and homelessness does not make one anti-transit. Seattle prop 1 last year passed with over 80% of the vote. Simple math indicates that lots and lots of people that voted for Harrell want transit. Heck, even one of STB’s own editors said in a podcast that he voted for Harrell.

      I would also argue that his signature campaign promise – getting crime and homelessness off the street is important for a functioning transit system since, as you’ve said yourself numerous times, people will not ride the bus if they have to wait for the bus surrounded by crazies and drug addicts.

      Sure, people who are anti transit voted for Harrell also, but they did so because they took want homeless people off the streets, not because Harrell is out to abolish transit.

      1. While I don’t live in Seattle, I followed the debates and based on the other side’s presentation, I probably would have voted for Harrell myself. Honestly both candidates seemed a bit “meh” when it came to housing and transit, Harrell was stronger on public safety, and also seemed to embrace at least some of “re-imagine the police” without using the “defund” rhetoric. Should point out that the conservative pundits aren’t exactly fawning over Harrell, either.

      2. It was an unusual mayoral election, in that both candidates were well qualified, and well liked. We haven’t had anything like that in decades. In my opinion, Harrell just ran a much better campaign. It didn’t help that The Stranger made terrible endorsements, lowering itself to the level of the Seattle Times editorial board (not an easy feat).

        Homelessness became the major issue, and Harrell magically absolved all responsibility for the problem, while placing it all on the current city council (not even the mayor). Gonzalez then focused on the role that Harrell’s previous decisions played on the increase in homelessness and …. just kidding. She did none of that. She basically let him win on the issue, and then went after him for his response to the allegations against Murray. It was a stupid tactic that backfired, and sealed the win for Harrell. It was one of the worst campaigns I’ve seen anyone run around here.

        As it is, Harrell probably would have won anyway. He has always been a very popular guy. He is an effective leader, who knows what he is doing (unlike a lot of the mayors we’ve elected recently). Not my first choice, but we have done a lot worse.

        Of course he is upset with Sound Transit — who wouldn’t be. As for ST3, he is trying to have it both ways. He is not trying to kill it, but he is ignoring the tough decisions for now. The mayor only has so much influence anyway. Using it to try and kill the entire thing would be difficult and premature at this point. My guess is eventually we will build what was in ST3. It will be much more expensive and worse than originally proposed (and it was a very bad value to begin with). But it will be tough to pin it on one person — except maybe Dow Constantine — and he will be long retired by the time people realize how bad it really is.

      3. “people will not ride the bus if they have to wait for the bus surrounded by crazies and drug addicts.”

        Ah yes. The old, tired, and disproven anti-homeless rhetoric. Not from the person I expected, though.

    2. The fate of transit is intertwined with the issues of homelessness, drug use, and crime. Successful urban areas have good transit; good transit has a civilized setting; both need the Jane Jacob eyes on the street.

      1. The fate of transit is intertwined with the issues of homelessness, drug use, and crime.

        Yes. Restrictive zoning leads to stratification, which leads to crime. It also leads to higher housing costs, which is the primary reason for homelessness. Transit becomes less cost effective as well. Change the zoning to allow for increased density and you reduce several problems at once.

      2. “The fate of transit is intertwined with the issues of homelessness, drug use, and crime.”

        You missed the point. The crisis of homelessness has nothing to with drug use or mental health issues. And bus stops are not crime magnets either. These are general issues, impacting transit yes, but indirectly. They, like transit, are problems for the city. And intertwined at that level, but still independent.

      3. “The fate of transit is intertwined with the issues of homelessness, drug use, and crime.”

        You missed the point. The crisis of homelessness has nothing to with drug use or mental health issues.

        That is a bizarre way to interpret that sentence. The meaning is threefold: Transit is intertwined with homelessness. Transit is intertwined with drug use. Transit is intertwined with crime. If eddie meant that drug use, mental illness and homelessness were all intertwined, he would have written it that way (e. g. “transit, homelessness, drug use and mental health issues are all intertwined”). He didn’t, which means no one is making the argument you refuted.

        As for the main argument, it stands. Homelessness effects transit. Of course it does. Drivers have to deal with more homeless people on the bus than they used to. Homelessness in the greater Seattle area saw a gigantic increase in the last few years (owing, of course, to the increase in housing prices). They are also dealing with more hard core drug use. Opiod users take up space on the bus and go nowhere. Meth heads can be violent. These sorts of things can make life worse for riders and drivers. Many drivers are feeling the fatigue — the job is just a lot tougher than it used to be. As for crime, of course this will effect a driver’s job and people’s attitude towards transit. It doesn’t matter if transit is a magnet for any of these — no one is arguing that — what they are arguing is that transit becomes less attractive to riders and bus drivers if they have to deal with more of these problems.

        Of course a lot of these problems are indirect. That doesn’t make them any more real. For example, imagine a woman who is gainfully employed, but having trouble making ends meet. They raise the rent, and now she is living in her car. She looks to the city and county for help, but there is a big wait list. The agencies are overwhelmed.

        Now consider someone in a similar situation, but an addict. She loses her place to live, and is out on the street. She doesn’t get help, and next thing you know, she is riding the bus around all day — it is one of the few places she feels safe. The agencies would like to help her, but they are overwhelmed dealing with people that are easier to help (like that first woman). The vast majority of homeless are not addicts, nor do they have mental problems. But those that do have problems take more effort to help. They are more likely to spend a longer time without shelter of any kind.

        That is the city we live in now. Income stratification has lead to housing stratification. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main reason is zoning. Zoning has also lead to a less effective transit system. It is all intertwined. That is the very nature of a city.

      4. @RossB:

        “The meaning is threefold: Transit is intertwined with homelessness. Transit is intertwined with drug use. Transit is intertwined with crime.”

        Yet none of these three meanings are true. Transit is not a crime magnet. It is not a homeless magnet. It is not a drug magnet. Their intersection is incidental, and only because crime, homelessness, and drug use are in the community.

        “Homelessness effects transit. Of course it does. Drivers have to deal with more homeless people on the bus than they used to.”

        I highly doubt it. Homeless people on local transit have been villainized since before the DSTT, and many clamored for the elimination of the RFA because of that perception. I’d be willing to bet the numbers have been pretty stable, COVID notwithstanding.

        “They are also dealing with more hard core drug use. Opiod users take up space on the bus and go nowhere. Meth heads can be violent.”

        This is statistically unproven, and discriminatory against the homeless. The vast majority of drug use among the homeless and on mass transit is cannabis. And the crack about violent “meth heads”? You’re better than that.

        “Of course a lot of these problems are indirect. That doesn’t make them any more real.”

        You’re right. It makes them less real. It makes them spectres of perception rather than objective reality. And the way you change spectres of perception is by pointing out they are incorrect. Physical changes will do nothing to correct misplaced feelings.

        “Now consider someone in a similar situation, but an addict. She loses her place to live, and is out on the street. She doesn’t get help, and next thing you know, she is riding the bus around all day — it is one of the few places she feels safe.”

        Wait, what? This is ludicrous. Riding around with people directly and aggressively hostile to her is where she feels safe? How? Where she feels most safe is in an encampment with people she knows. But the city won’t let her be there.

        I am quite surprised by your screed here. You have always seemed more grounded and compassionate on these issues, so much so this post seems odd and out of character for you.

    3. his voters didn’t vote for him for transit

      Very true; they voted for him to beat homeless people with billy clubs and mace them.

      1. Good point Matt. Gonzales didn’t get trounced just because she ran a poor campaign. She pandered to the far left of her base and doubled down on the the same policies that are killing Seattle. Her time on the council was pure irresponsibility, from crime to homelessness to bridges to fiscal irresponsibility to pure foolishness to zoning.

        Ross is correct Harrell was on the council at the same time. But if Harrell could portray Gonzales as an out of touch progressive in Seattle then that tells you all you need to know about Gonzales.

        All it tells you about Harrell is maybe he now understands how badly he fucked up on the council. Gonzales was never going to get that. And she wasn’t even the worst on the Seattle City Council. The council basically just handed Bellevue the golden egg, and the pandemic and WFH mean Harrell somehow has to revitalize downtown Seattle without the Eastside commuter, and I don’t think he can do it. Seattle needs that cash because this council thinks money grows on trees.

        He has done a pretty good job so far removing the tents, but crime is out of control. But the vacant storefronts won’t fill up to revitalize the streets and get eyes on the street until the shopper and diners return, and they have all dispersed to the neighborhoods or places like U Village. Not exactly the definition of urbanism: a hollow downtown care where all Link is designed to run through, in unsecured underground stations.

      2. Gonzales, a far leftist? LOL. She was center left at best. The BLM/Antifa crowd had no love for her after her milquetoast handling of police violence, unwillingness to step in and prevent Durkan from tearing down the CHOP, and voting to defang the defund movement. I bet she’d score less left than Bernie Sanders on the Political Compass Test. We’re talking like a 1.5 on a 1-10 leftist scale where Bernie is a 2.1 or so. She’d need to be at least a 3.3 to even be a leftist at that rate. the Overton Window in this country is quite frankly awful.

      3. Daniel clearly doesn’t understand Seattle politics. He missed the points I made. Gonzales is not far to the left, nor does she deserve any more blame for homelessness than Harrell. If anything, it is Harrell that deserves more of the blame. Gonzales voted to increase the spending to deal with homelessness — Harrell opposed it. If I was the campaign chief for Gonzales I would have hit him with that constantly. Instead she ran an ad campaign about an issue no one cared about — one that backfired miserably.

        Homelessness increased in the Seattle area because we had a huge increase in employment (lead by Amazon) and overly restrictive zoning. If not for the former, it is quite likely that our zoning would have been adequate (which is why Portland, for example, hasn’t had the problems we’ve had). If not for the latter, we would have built enough places for people to live.

        But right wing organizations blamed the city council. Oddly enough, they didn’t blame the mayor. My guess is it was easier to blame a council with more people of color (Gonzalez, Juarez, Morales …) and a bona fide socialist then a white mayor that was a former prosecutor. As far as the council’s specific actions, Gonzalez has been more progressive on zoning and low income housing, and yet Harrell was able to spin the problem as if it was all her fault. His was a campaign that fed off ignorance, and Gonzalez did a very poor job of dealing with it.

        But again, Harrell is a fundamentally strong candidate. He is well liked and respected, like Gonzalez. Both racked up huge wins in the all-city seats they held for years. Both are very well qualified for mayor. Harrell had the overwhelming support of the Asian community, which likely made a big difference (there are a lot more Asian Americans than Latinos in Seattle). It is quite possible Harrell would have won, even if Gonzalez ran a better campaign. But she didn’t. She ran a terrible campaign. Harrell was able to give the impression that he could somehow lesson the homelessness/housing problem without dealing with the basic cause (too much land zoned for single family). This is like a candidate who promises tax cuts but more spending and lower deficits — you just can’t do it. But as H. L. Menchken is credited in saying, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

      4. Ross, you think the solution to every single problem is upzoning, specifically the SFH zones. Crime, drug addiction, homelessness even when the homeless have zero residual wage earning capacity, will all magically disappear if SFH USE zoning is eliminated.

        The voters are not stupid. They just think your solution is not the solution to the problems they wants olives, and I agree with them.

        No doubt Gonzales handed Harrell the election on a platter with her pledge to abolish SFH zoning, but because the voters knew that would solve nothing. The idea private developers would rush to the SFH zones to build affordable multi-family housing on small lots with restrictive regulatory limits, and everyone would use transit that does not exist in these zones so eliminate parking minimums when every single street in Seattle is crammed with parked cars preventing bus and bike lanes, and voila homelessness, crime, drug addiction, would disappear just didn’t strike the voters as correct. It made Gonzales look dumb, catering to the far left of her party.

        They wanted the tents and homeless out of their residential parks. They wanted less crime, not a city attorney candidate who promised to not prosecute crime. If possible they wanted tents off downtown streets although they had stopped going there. They wanted less craziness from the council. They wanted bridges fixed before they closed. They didn’t want nuts taking over Capitol Hill and shouting one another.

        They didn’t care about transit. They wanted schools open but that isn’t Harrell’s issue so they simply pulled their kids out of the school dist. And they didn’t believe upzoning SFH would accomplish any of the things they wanted, and Gonzales claiming they would when Seattle is in an existential crisis made her look silly and just an extension of a terrible and ideological council.

        Bad campaigns usually begin with bad policies. I agree Gonzales came across as nice, and a career politician, which is why her huge defeat was about her platform.

      5. “Ross, you think the solution to every single problem is upzoning, specifically the SFH zones. Crime, drug addiction, homelessness even when the homeless have zero residual wage earning capacity, will all magically disappear if SFH USE zoning is eliminated.”
        He is correct in many ways, a lot of the problems we have in the US correlate back to how we address housing and poverty as a nation. We have spent decades kicking the can on the issue of fixing and modernizing ecluidian zoning laws only to have let them in the meantime entangle a nation like a kudzu plant that you can’t trim back and effectively deal with. It’s why walkable prewar neighborhoods are so expensive and if we do actually upzone an area of a city to increase density and housing it becomes like letting steam out of a tea kettle all at once and now just left with some very hot or boiling water. Where we build only the largest and most expensive projects, but leave a lot of small or medium sized upzoning opportunities out of reach to build as they’re not considered worth the investment compared to the bigger project like a large apartment complex or condo tower. This has also exacerbated the issue of gentrification in a way, instead of it being slow and gradual changes to a neighborhood that still retain elements of previous iterations to a neighborhood. It’s a very dramatic change that on some level kills the soul of a neighborhood as now you have a wide gulf between rich and poor living in the same area with all the poor priced out and forced to live elsewhere. Colorado is actually dealing with this problem right now in the Rockies part of Colorado in Aspen, Vail, Eagle, etc where the income disparity is large and no one can afford to live there who isn’t super wealthy. And the working class people who support the backbone of the tourism and local economy in the area are forced to live in their cars/rvs/tents to survive as they can’t afford a half million or multi million dollar house to live in despite the strong need for temporary workers during the snow seasons and long term blue collar workers to keep the economic tourism machine going.
        What you’re seeing right now with homeless, drug, and crime problems across the US is the decades long hidden poverty beneath the surface finally bubbling to the top and showing everyone the reality of what has happened. Everything relates back to the issue of housing one way or another.

      6. Meh, the last three mayors (not sure where you put McGinn) have all come from the business wing of the democratic party.

  5. While the delays are unfortunate, I’m concerned that the content of the update is so vague. The inability to even declare new opening date targets suggests to me that the opening days will be much further than they imply in the details.

    I’m also concerned about the silence related to systems testing. Systems problems have been the major cause of new urban rail project delays around the US in the past decade.

  6. This is possibly the worst news to hit ST since the original 1996 proposal hit reality and everything was shortened and delayed. Every bit of light rail under construction is delayed, by months and possibly more than a year. The critical component of East Link, rail on the floating bridge, may not work. Almost six thousand “plinths” are defective and must be replaced. Meanwhile transit has not nearly recovered from the pandemic’s maybe permanent changes to how people live and work.
    I think this deserves a more critical look from the Seattle Transit Blog. At the very least examine the claim that all these delays and rebuilds will not cost any more. Also worth a deep dive is whether any of ST3’s crazy expensive projects can even happen now.

    1. I think the floating bridge part will likely be fine, as that part was engineered to heck and back by engineers at UW to ensure it’s safe for the public to ride on. I do think the challenge will be when rough winds arise and crashing waves but that’ll likely be rare if uncommon issue for that section outside of a bad winter storm.

  7. With the delay to East Link I do wonder if they might just consolidate the opening of line all the way to Downtown Redmond. Tho I don’t know how far along that part of the project is with extension beyond Redmond Tech Center

    1. Well there is always the University Street Station renaming saga that still needs to be resolved. That’s not a big show though.

      1. At this point just rename it Seneca and call it a day. The Seattle Process was not needed for renaming that station.

  8. At this point just rename it Seneca and call it a day. The Seattle Process was not needed for renaming that station.

  9. What should we do going forward to lower our construction costs?

    I find the prospect of raising more revenue unlikely but there’s got to be some sort of cost saving available to us (that doesn’t involve cutting corners) that we can try. What is sound transit doing that other transit agencies aren’t that is leading to our cost overruns?

    Projects like West Seattle – Ballard should cost half as much per mile than what is projected at the very least, and even then it still wouldn’t be considered “cheap” by international standards. It wouldn’t be nearly a billion dollars per mile expensive though which is the problem we will be dealing with if we can’t control our costs. If we want transit to come sooner we need to fight our high costs

    1. I’m sure it’s a lot of things combined, but I would be willing to bet large that union labor rates are a big part of the cost. ST goes along with the unions to keep labor peace supposedly, and unions say the value ST gets is that the job is done right.

      1. hmm.. i had a comment that didn’t show up….

        my comment is: … and looks at the east link plinths done by union contractors

      2. Prevailing (union) rates are mandated by federal law when federal funding is involved. Virtually every major project from highways to Link is union because of federal prevailing wage laws. Plus the number of workers on these projects is so massive, and competition for these workers for private projects so intense, they could never be completed with non-union non-journeyman labor.

        My guess is the is issue with the plinths has to do with design and engineering rather than poor labor, otherwise every plinth would not need to be replaced. ST has been making up the engineering across I-90 from the beginning.

        The original engineering firm ST hired stated it could not be done (and had never been done). Let’s hope they were wrong, although I think East Link could work well — without additional transfers — if trains truncated at MI and if possible South Bellevue, although I am sure MI would object and the current intercept construction on MI is not designed for buses to and from Seattle, and the center roadway cannot handle buses unless the raised plinths are removed.

        When you look at the costs between say East Link all the way to Redmond, despite the additional costs for the bridge, and compare that with the costs for WSBLE you can see design and ROW, not labor, are the big cost drivers.

      3. Daniel, I agree that the Plinth problem must be either an engineering or a process mis-design. But, as I pointed out below, it has NOTHING to do with the cross-lake span. That has a problem, too, but it isn’t “the Plinths”.

        The real question is “Why wasn’t the pavement removed and the ties placed on ballast?” Standard concrete ties with fasteners could have been used. Such track structures are famously durable.

        I can’t imagine that the cost to rip up the pavement would have been very expensive. The current design can’t be driven on by rubber-tired vehicles, so why not go “standard rail” construction”?

        NOTE: this does not apply to the floating span or the East Channel Bridge, but those places do not have the Plinth issue.

      4. Tom, I am not an engineer so really only have a layman’s understanding of the bridge engineering issues. What is so frustrating about ST is they tell you they have everything under control and know what they are doing, and then suddenly announce a totally new deck hinge must be invented, or the bridge must be post tensioned, or the rails raised onto plinths, or the plinths have to be replaced. It breeds distrust.

        To be honest, the plunge in cross lake transit ridership from the pandemic, the slow realization ST’s ridership estimates for East Link were inflated, the Eastside transit restructure that reduced the intensity of the bus intercept on MI by half (only because Metro thinks 15 minute frequencies are minimums for peak buses even if half empty) have made me less interested in the travails of the bridge. Either it works or it doesn’t.

        Ironically there is a growing feeling on the Eastside that it wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world if trains could not cross the bridge and East Link is intra Eastside only. I don’t think ST can damage the outer car lanes and there is plenty of capacity in the HOV lanes for buses today.

        I guess the plinths/raised rails could be removed in the center lanes to allow buses. N. King Co. and East KC would have to split the cost of the buses across the bridge span. The roundabout on MI would have to be reconfigured, and MI would want some buses continuing past Mi to S. Bellevue or Issaquah to reduce the number of buses and transfers on MI, along with more Eastside truncations at S. Bellevue or direct buses to Judkins Park. This would also allow large park and rides like at Eastgate to be more useful, and allow some buses to have one seat rides to places like

        My guess is ST will open trains across the bridge no matter what but that structural issues will be a constant headache. Whether the number of closures for repairs or the costs get to get to be too much we will see. I am guessing there will be more problems announced over the next 3 years but I really don’t care anymore.

        Whether it works across the bridge (long term) or not is kind of six one way and half a dozen the other way for me.

      5. 52,000 riders per weekday 3 years after opening seems perfectly reasonable, considering there are two downtowns on the line.

      6. I’ll note that just west of Judkins Park Station the tracks are ballasted. That’s where the scissors cross-over for JP reversing during bridge closures is located.

        When the thing is on structure, sure, it makes sense to use anchors and pads (“plinths”), but between structures and stations, if there is ground close below the track elevation, the track structure should use ballast and concrete ties. There’s some cleaning that needs to be done every few years to keep the ballast permeable, but otherwise “passenger-only classic rail trackage” is extremely stable and cheap to maintain.

    2. John, I think there is the money in the subareas to finish Link to Lynnwood, Federal Way and Redmond, even if delayed. After that I have my doubts. Whether there will be the farebox recovery to operate those lines is another issue.

      East Link from Judkins Park to Redmond will cost $5.5 billion, even with at least an unanticipated $500 million more for the bridge span. That is not bad for light rail.

      The key to costs is to use public right of ways and avoid tunnels and underground stations. That is a lot harder in a denser area like Seattle with waterways to cross. But most cities and communities don’t want surface lines and stations through their cores or neighborhoods, so either you tunnel or Link gets shunted to 112th or along I-5 where it performs poorly because it is just duplicative of cars and buses, and few want to live in TOD along a freeway — or they would be living there now.

      WSBLE is not affordable with or without DSTT2 which is still estimated to cost $2.2 billion with the four other subareas paying $1.1 billion. What we are seeing now is Dow Constantine trying to salvage something for his run for Governor.

      Of course Issaquah to S. Kirkland — which will surely cost closer to $9 billion rather than $4.5 billion estimate in ST 3 — should also be unaffordable, but who expected the Eastside subarea ST tax revenue to exceed revenue in N. King Co. starting this year, in a subarea that just does not care about transit or light rail because they don’t fit the zoning — that eastsiders do love — or their lifestyles (women, kids in SUV’s).

      At some point someone will have to pull the plug on WSBLE. Hopefully at the same time the plug is pulled on Issaquah to the S. Kirkland line. I don’t really care where that revenue is reallocated because virtually every use — transit or not transit — is a better use of the funds.

      BTW don’t you just love how ST and the Board gave Timm the bad news after she accepted the job when they have known about these additional delays for some time. If they are this dishonest to applicants for CEO how honest do you think the Board is with us?

    3. Pedestrian Observations has a lot of articles about transit construction costs in various countries. Several factors drive up US costs.

      1. Agencies typically outsource design rather than doing it themselves. Then they outsource construction to a different company. So the design firm is responsible only for a set of specs in a vacuum, not the thing that’s being built. This shift to outsourcing originated in the Reagan era.

      2. The EIS process is lengthy and cumbersome. It presumes any change is a negative impact that must justify itself. It allows special-interest nimbys to effectively veto alternatives, or to extract concessions that drive up the costs.

      3. Transit is not adequately funded or prioritized. Grant categories are often arbitrary and inflexible. So one mode or alignment is chosen because it fits into the grant category du jour. Most grants are only for capital projects, not operations, so operational alternatives aren’t considered. (E.g., making buses more frequent instead of a capital project.)

      4. The antagonistic relationship between labor and management. Management tries to use non-union workers to lower costs. When union workers get the upper hand, they sometimes demand excesses, go on strike unnecessarily, or make the strike more disruptive than necessary. The concrete-worker strike is one example. It didn’t have to last for months, and they could have arranged it so that concrete for essential things like light rail tracks could still get through while they were negotiating. Some trucks did go through, so-called “ghost trucks” operated by outsource companies, but not enough to keep the extensions on schedule.

      5. Regulations in general.

      6. Add-on projects that have little or no transit benefit but allow cities to shift the cost onto the transit agency for something they were going to build anyway. This is a variation of the nimby concessions in #2.

      7. The cost of health insurance is included in labor instead of being a separate social program. The total cost of healthcare (both public and private) is twice as high as peer countries.

      1. Re #2, it’s not just the EIS, but also city permitting. If cities treated transit as a top city priority (#3), they would streamline the process. Instead it often gets dragged out, and cities extract concessions that aren’t always transit-related or should be borne by the transit agency. Cities talk about universal mobility, equity in mobility, reducing greenhouse gases, and reducing the impacts of cars, but then they don’t follow through to prioritize and fully fund transit alternatives like Paris does. Paris converts more GP lanes to transit lanes for BRT and bike lanes, and it intentionally removes a few parking spaces per year, all while having much better existing transit.

  10. As an Eastsider, I’m very frustrated by the delay. I’ve been a big fan of local rail/metro transit since visiting DC and Europe in my youth and college years, and when Link happened I was thrilled that Seattle was getting a train system. Since then I’ve been waiting for Link to reach the Eastside.

    As I live within walking distance of a proposed I-405 Stride station, I’m excited at the prospect of a simple Stride-Link transfer at the Bellevue Transit Center, so I can get to sporting events or shows in Seattle and not have to use the park-and-ride like I currently do. So this delay, though understandable for safety reasons, is just more than a little irksome from my (selfish) perspective.

  11. Every once in a while I see someone say something like “it will be so nice when East Link is open and I can go to Bellevue!” It’s funny, because people who actually live on the Eastside know we can already take the bus to Seattle. These buses are already reasonably efficient. But driving to Seattle is so easy that hardly anyone bothers.

    I’m going to have to agree with Daniel Thompson that it really isn’t a big deal for most people living on the Eastside. For the average person, who drives everywhere, it won’t matter at all. For the average person that takes the bus to Seattle but lives beyond walking distance to a Link station (which is most people taking the bus to Seattle), it’s not going to reduce travel time by much, but it will be a more comfortable ride.

    It’s nice for the relatively few people who will be living near a Link station. I’m not sure it’s a big deal even for them, because not too many people are taking the bus over here right now. All the apartments we’re building near the Link stations all come with a parking space, and we’ve done everything we could to make driving easy.

    1. the earlier asdf2 comment is sound. The East Link network and a better bus network will make many intra Eastside trips easier. Even with Covid traffic, there is significant traffic congestion on I-405, 148th Avenue NE and SE, and other arterials near interchanges. Some East Link stations are near interesting places that pedestrians will want to visit: downtown Redmond, Spring District, hospital district, downtown Bellevue. A smart bus network would add to the frequent routes 255, 271, 245, 250, and B Line. ST is proposing that routes 542 and 554 be frequent. If waits are short, transfers are not bad; they are used in all good transit networks. The ST and Metro question: when?

    2. I’m not sure when you drive into Seattle, but in my experience when most people travel into Seattle – for work or an appointment during rush hour, or on weekends/evenings for a major event – there is gridlocked traffic and parking is very expensive; I would never use the word ‘easy’ unless my trips consist entirely of Sunday brunches.

      The reasons transit isn’t competitive with driving have to do with reliability and travel time. Post-COVID there appears to be ample access to P&Rs on the eastside, but the bus is NOT efficient – with the 550 out of the downtown tunnel and other construction impacts, it’s often faster to instead take a SOV into the city.

    3. “I’m not sure it’s a big deal even for them, because not too many people are taking the bus over here right now.”

      When a trip is easier, you make it more often. The term is called “induced demand”, and it applies to transit as well as highways.

      Today, somebody who lives in downtown Redmond and doesn’t have a car is not going to slog it for 45 minutes to Bellevue (90 minutes round trip) unless the trip is something very important. It would be like a car owner in downtown Redmond driving to Kent or Marysville. When Link is built, and the travel time is cut in half, people will start making the trip for things they want to do, not just for things they absolutely have to do. Even if you have a car, the hassles of traffic and parking in downtown Bellevue can be a deterrent, even if the parking is free.

      It was the same thing for me (living near U-Village at the time) when Capitol Hill Station opened. Until then, I didn’t visit Capitol Hill very much because slogging it out on the bus took a long time. When U-link finally opened, I could ride a bike down the Burke-Gilman trail to UW Station in under 10 minutes, and be in walking down Broadway 20 minutes after leaving home – door to door – something that was never possible before. So, I started visiting Capitol Hill more often.

      Of course, there will many residents of downtown Redmond who will make every trip beyond immediate walking distance in a car, and live as if transit does not exist, regardless of what transit is built. But, “many” is not everybody, and if some of those who do ride transit start visiting Bellevue more often, that still adds up to a considerable amount of induced demand.

      As I said in my prior comment, the number of people willing to slog 90 minutes round trip on the B-line to visit downtown Bellevue is a very low bar to beat, and I think Link will easily be able to be that. And that’s not even getting into potential riders from Overlake Village or the Spring District. A drive from the Spring District to Bellevue Square is (by time) nearly entirely spent on traffic, stoplights, and driving through parking garages. It’s not fun. Of course, some will try walking to the train instead.

      1. “A drive from the Spring District to Bellevue Square is (by time) nearly entirely spent on traffic,”

        Not on 12th Street. It has become my preferred walking route, to get away from the congestion and and hills on 8th. Of course, in a car you’d have to get from 12th to Bellevue Square, and that’s where the traffic, stoplights, and garages come in.

      2. Yes – 12th St. is the relatively quick part of the drive (although, it does have some long stoplights). The bulk of the time gets spent covering the last quarter-mile or so, inching forward in line to get into the parking garage, then driving through the parking garage looking for an available parking space.

        If the train runs every 10 minutes, just the time driving up and down the levels of the parking garage can, alone, exceed the wait time for the train.

  12. East Link, from breaking ground in 2016 to completion in 2024, will take longer than the moonshot. From JFK’s we want to go to the moon speech in 1962, to the moon landing in 1969.

    1. The moonshot had pull-out-the-stops national funding to beat the Soviet Union. It was one capsule for one small crew, not dozens of trains that would run several times a day forever. It didn’t have to build intermediate stations in built-up areas. Environmental impacts of fossil-fuel use were little-known or ignored.

  13. So, “the Plinths” have NOTHING to do with “the Floating Bridge”, contra Heavy Construction Expert Daniel Thompson’s Chicken Little fluttering. They are just plain-old plain-old crappy, corner-cutting workmanship by the “private sector”.

    Yes, there does appear to be a design flaw in the vibration dampers on the floating bridge span. They must be fixed, because the service life of the westbound span depends on it.

      1. The cracks emanating from a hole which runs vertically through the pads. I don’t know what the hole is for, perhaps to align the item that sits on top of the pad. It has a nylon ferrule in it, and apparently the pads are too thin to support the weight of the unit on top of it, because they’re cracking radially from the holes.

        The presentation shows the problem on Page 10.

      2. The issues involved with the plinths as well as the pre-cast blocks and rail fastening system are laid out in detail in the executive memo put out by Kimberly Farley, ST Deputy CEO to Interim CEO, Brooke Belman.
        I would suggest reading the memo to get a better understanding of the “construction challenges”* that are involved with this segment of the East Link project.

        Direct link to said document:

        *One has to love how ST had latched on to this phrasing in its internal and external communications.

      3. Thanks, Tlsgwm. This is an excellent description of the two East Link problems. From the detail map, it’s pretty clear that ST has tried to use ballasts track where possible. At least half of the crossing of MI must use it, because it is blue, not red.

        They could not use ballast through the tunnel east of Judkins Park, on the East Channel Bridge, or on the elevated stretch west of 12th South down and down the old bus ramps to IDS. I don’t understand, though, why they chose “panel track” between the Judkins Park scissors and the elevated west of 12th. That is a significant stretch which appears to be on a boxed platform at the level of the eastbound traffic lanes. It does not appear to be structure, but rather a graded “step”. I guess it must be hollow, or ST made a mistake by not exposing the underlying fill and building ballasted track. It is the “gold standard” for reliability in rail track structure. That’s why it has persisted for two hundred years, even on modern HSR lines.

      4. Tom, for the ballasted track on Mercer Island east of the station, Sound Transit simply laid down some kind of rubber base in big sheets, then placed the ballast on top of that. They never demolished the former express lane roadway underneath. This would allow them to utilize the existing drainage system and minimizes demolition work.

        West of Judkins Park, aerial photos show they are using ballasted track from just west of the landing of the overpass over Rainier, down to where the track cross under the I-90 westbound lanes. Then there’s a short stretch of panel track, and then more ballasted track until it reaches the 12th Ave S bridge. IIRC from the driving the ramp in express lane days that was a somewhat sharp, narrow turn, so if I had to guess at the reason, it is because of limited clearances (both horizontal and vertical) where the alignment crosses under I-90, and the panel track allows for tighter control of track geometry, relative to ballasted track.

  14. Given the possible impact of continued delays as well as the political fallout if ST needs more time, is there any benefit to a partial Line 2 opening? That way, ST could get the two line system and stations in good working order before all the new East Link stations open. Line 2 will require changes to the system and not just run trains a little further as the prior extensions did. I see two options:

    1. A Judkins Park to Northgate or Lynnwood service could supplement service through Downtown and North Seattle. (It’s unfortunate that ST did not plan for a place for buses to turn around at Judkins Park.)

    2. A Mercer Island to Redmond service would deflect political uproar if the bridge segment work takes longer. It would also give ST a chance to fix service and station problems (like escalators) by having lower demand service for several months to test the system and stations.

    The testing phase is trickier for Line 2 opening than any of the other extensions at it requires core system changes rather than merely adding stations. To me, it’s compelling to get parts of East Link open even without the MI to Judkins Park segment just to break in the various stations and systems.

  15. Will RapidRide G (Madison BRT) open before East Link? I haven’t seen Metro discuss service restructuring for this project. If RR-G does start first, it would seem advisable for Metro to get to work developing the new service layout and getting feedback NOW.

    1. 2024 is the date in the project page (In the “Milestones & Schedules” and “Materials” sections. However, it may have slipped later in the past couple of months due to the concrete strike.

      We’re expecting a restructure but there’s been no proposal yet. It may come a year before opening. Concepts in Metro Connects (the long-range plan, which last published a route-level vision in 2020) include:
      * 2 moves to Pike/Pine-12th-Union, replacing the 11 and 49.
      * 8 rerouted to Uptown-Madison Park, replacing the 11..
      * The 8’s MLK segment may be a shuttle, part of another route, or abandoned. The “U” at Yesler-23rd-Madison might change into a half-U, going south on 23rd past Judkins Park station. The 4-block gap between 23rd and MLK is flat there; it’s only steep near Madison.
      * A north-south route on Broadway replaces the 49, most likely the 60 as UDistrict-Beacon Hill. It may run on 12th south of John, which won’t really serve Broadway. This is to give new service to 12th, and to avoid overlapping with the streetcar. I have reservations about not serving lower Broadway. The southern half of the 60 may be split to another route. (The 2020 map had a White Center-Othello route, but that doesn’t address 15th Ave S.)
      * The 47’s successor if any would run both ways on Bellevue Ave instead of northbound on Summit.

      The 2020 plan had some other concepts that now seem unlikely due to funding decrease and the persistent driver shortage.
      * A route from upper Queen Anne to Mercer-or-Harrison Street, the Denny Way viaduct, Bellevue Ave E, E Aloha Street, 23rd to Garfield HS. Replacing the 2 on Queen Anne.
      * A “43 on ADD” following the 43 to 19th, then north to Aloha and east to 23rd and the U-District. Replacing the 19th Ave E part of the 12, which the G won’t serve.
      * The 47/25 route doesn’t seem even worth mentioning at this point. It would extend the 47 north similar to the former 25 to the U-District. However, Metro stopped funding the 47, so it will only come back if Seattle’s transit benefit district funds it, and I doubt it would fund the extension when there are so many larger transit needs.

  16. Building rail lines requires a lot of custom engineering and construction, problems such as the ones Sound Transit just unearthed are inevitable. As Pedestrian Observations pointed out, in the U.S. cost/delays get exaggerated because transit agencies do not maintain their own expertise, design and construction is outsourced, mostly to contractors who know more about highway design than transit design, and oversight is limited.
    How can we fix these issues? What about if we could standardize and prefabricate more of our transit infrastructure?!?
    We tried with the monorail but went back to proprietary rail solutions… May be Sound Transit should use more modern prefabricated systems such as TSB maglev or even urban gondola systems which are deployed around the world using the same technical standards.

    1. Quit with the Gadgetbahn fantasies, Martin. Gondolas are great for climbing steep hillsides, carrying people point-to-point across a river, or tourist rides. But they’re way too slow to go distances like the West Seattle plateau near the Junction to SoDo station. Just because somebody doesn’t have to wait for the cab does not get them to the destination in a prompt manner. They’re often hot — or cold — they swing and sway in the wind, they’re a bitch to board and debark, and they give acrophobes the serious willies.

      Also, regardless what you think, Maglev is stupidly wasteful of energy for any vehicle running slower than 150 mph, and any practical urban subway will run all the time, every time, well under 150 mph. Supporting the train is not some wand-waving exercise.

      1. Tom, gondolas are used in cold (ski areas) and hot (Dubai) climates, some have heated seats, others have A/C. They have higher door-to-seat ratio than any other transit system, so what’s the basis for your opinions, Tom?
        Can you point me to any independent study on the wastefulness of maglev? The German government study came to a different conclusion. I see it as a great way to build fast, quiet transit infrastructure with a nimble prefabricated elevated guideway to maximize light underneath. Due to noise reduction requirements, light rail guideways will always be much larger making it more difficult to integrate into existing neighborhoods.

      2. The only place I’ve seen a gondola make sense in a transit context is the gondola being built between Vancouver’s Burnaby Mountain connecting Production Way-University SkyTrain stop to Simon Fraser University. Which is notoriously difficult to reach as a possible SkyTrain stop due to how deep it would be into the mountain. Alongside some gondolas in Switzerland and Austria, which are geographically notoriously difficult regions for connecting via trains or cars/buses in places.

      3. Zach, the U.S. has been slow adoption of gondola technology though Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Diego, WashDC are all looking at it. In North America Mexico City is the best example: after their initial success with a single line in 2016, they now have 3 lines going and a fourth in the works.
        Haifa, Istanbul, Ankara are other examples, France has been adopting it: Toulouse just opened a big line, Paris has started.
        Check out:

    2. I think a lot of the problem comes from the fact that transit lines has to be voter approved, while highway projects are funded directly by the legislature.

      In an ideal world, funding for any large construction project would be allocated in two phases. Phase 1 funds only the preconstruction work – study a bunch of alternatives, hold all the public meetings, finalize the design and station locations, complete environmental impact statements, etc. Then, phase 2, the larger of the two levies, funds actual construction.

      This is, in fact, how buildings are built in the private sector. When a real estate developer solicits investor money to build a high rise, they don’t do everything all at once, but do it two phases – the first phase funds the property purchase and detailed architectural work, while the second financing phase funds actual construction.

      I would expect that highway projects typically follow the two-phase funding approach also. The legislature allocates money for preconstruction work, then later, allocates money for actual construction. In some cases, if the estimates balloon to something ridiculous (e.g. the new I-5 Columbia River Crossing), the project gets put on hold for awhile (but for political reasons, almost always eventually gets built).

      Transit projects, on the other hand, largely seek to fund everything all at once, largely dictated by the fact that they have to be voter approved. You could theoretically hold two separate ballot measures, one to get everything shovel ready, another to actually fund construction. Such a two-phase approach would probably produce much more accurate cost estimates and potentially avoid boondoggles. However, it is also risky, since any time you place anything before voters, it’s a roll of the dice what the outcome will be, with the result having more to do with the relative enthusiasm of left-wing vs. right-wing voters at a particular moment, rather than the actual costs and benefits of the project. If the second vote fails, all or almost all of the money spent on the first levy becomes money flushed down the toilet.

      In an ideal world, I think the two-phase approach would produce a better outcome, especially if phase 1 advances three or four different options, turning the phase 2 vote into a ranked-choice election (yes, ranked-choice can be used on ballot measures too, not just candidates), rather than simple up or down vote on one particular alternative. But, in the real world, I think the transit expansion simply wouldn’t pass, as voters would be unenthusiastic about voting for phase 1, knowing that it doesn’t actually fund any construction, and that most of the phase 1 money will be spent advancing alternatives that never get built. And, even if phase 1 does pass, you have to roll the dice about the left/right “mood” of the electorate again for phase 2, which adds additional risk.

      1. “ I think a lot of the problem comes from the fact that transit lines has to be voter approved, while highway projects are funded directly by the legislature.”

        This is unique to our region. In other states, other approval mechanisms get applied. In California, local sales taxes are often for projects of every mode (like Los Angeles County). Along with ST, they probably have the biggest number of rail transit expansion projects underway in the country.

        Sadly, urban rail transit expansion is dwindling quickly outside of these two metro areas. It’s why I’m seriously concerned that the FTA New Starts program won’t survive by the time WSBLE or Everett Link goes for funding, especially with the terrible ridership metrics that have been published by ST.

      2. Al, I bet if Sound Transit would focus on a Westlake to Ballard connection quickly, they could obtain funding. Neither the rest of WSBLE nor Everett may qualify but may be that would get the board members to rethink the approach.

      3. The biggest difference with levies is it is much easier to deceive ordinary voters, with virtually no ramifications for the dishonest agency.

        When it comes to private projects the investors are very sophisticated and hire their own experts to vet the proposal. They often need bank financing and always need insurance so there are many experts protecting the investment at every stage. Plus the developer has skin — $$$ — in the game.

        When it comes to the legislature there is a multi phase process. The legislature can only allocate funding for two years in the budget cycle so essentially every two years the project funding needs reapproval. WSDOT projects are allocated to a subgroup to prepare a proposal. Of course the subgroup wants the project to go forward because now they have millions or billions to spend, but there are layers of agency approval — whose superiors don’t want to be lied to — and then the legislative process with a lot of eyes studying the proposal. Every two years.

        Compare that to Move Seattle and ST 3. Both levy agencies flat out lied to the citizens but how were ordinary citizens suppose to know that? Meanwhile transit fans who might see the deceit are no help because they have drunk the cool-aid and think transit will change the world and make their apartment more affordable.

        The levy agency wanted the money as badly as the private developer or state agency, except there are no experts protecting the ordinary citizens in these levies who have to pay the bill.

        When the voters do find out they had been lied to the agency has bonded the future revenue, a new CEO is brought in, the old politicians are gone.

        At some point this dishonesty begins to creep into the voters. Who would rationally trust the claims in a ST 4 or another Move Seattle today, or a massive SB5528 levy just to complete the dishonest claims in ST 3 when of course completing ST 3 was based on ST 4, and now SB5528.

        I think some on this blog would believe no matter what the claims in a transit levy because they think it is other people’s money and tax revenue is infinite, but not the ordinary voter today who has learned the only way to protect themselves in these transit levies is to vote no.

        That is why ST 4 won’t pass, or a SB5428 levy, and why WSBLE will never be built because anyone today can see the subarea revenue in ST 3 could never pay for the true cost of WSBLE without a new source of funding.

        Whether Seattle voters approve another Move Seattle levy in 2024 simply to complete the promises in Move Seattle 1.0 will be interesting because usually Seattle voters will bite a bare hook, although Harrell’s huge election margin may mean a shift in the Overton scale.

        In the private world a developer who lied like ST did would never work again because no one would insure them. If an agency head lied to the legislature their career is over. For ST it was fire the CEO who wasn’t even involved in ST 3 and adopt a phony “realignment”, and push Seattle legislators to get SB5528.

        As long as it isn’t my subarea or city voting on these levies good luck.

      4. “The biggest difference with levies is it is much easier to deceive ordinary voters, with virtually no ramifications for the dishonest agency.”

        Daniel, I encourage you to look at the California referendum system for major transportation projects. In most cases, it goes to a countywide transportation agency rather than to the operators directly. That check means that it has to reviewed by other agencies (at both a technical and multi-jurisdictional Board level) rather than just by an operator’s staff and board. It’s not a fail safe solution but it does dampen the severity of cost deception.

  17. I just listened to a Colorado Public Radio series called “Ghost Train”, which talks about a 2004 vote in Denver to build a whole bunch of new rail service, and what happened to it 18 years later. I highly encourage everyone who has the time to listen, as it has very strong parallels to what’s going on here, particularly with ST3. Much of what they talk about, you could easy swap out “RTD” with “Sound Transit”, “Boulder” with “Everett”, etc.

    Here are the links (the four episodes are about 30 minutes each):
    Part 1:
    Part 2:
    Part 3:
    Part 4:

  18. Al, The port looked at a moving sidewalk, but determined that the parking garage does not provide high enough clearance to accommodate such. They started running a golf cart service however for people which have trouble with walking the distance.
    What baffles me is that the Port’s “Sustainable Airport Master Plan” calls for an elevated busway for hotel shuttles and an APM, but the APM would only connect the existing terminal with a new one and the rental car facility, not connecting with the Link station. That’s a lost opportunity and does not support their sustainability goals.

    1. Yeah, Martin, I wasn’t impressed with the Port’s “sustainable” master plan when it comes to using Link. I believe that they concluded elsewhere that moving sidewalks would have to be built next to the parking garage rather than inside it as part of anew building where the bus staging lot is today.

      Generally, I hate the overuse of the word “sustainable”, which is a vague term than means different things to different people. It’s turned into an “excuse” word, like the word “livable” or “progressive” — and agencies use it to whitewash many investments that actually promote more driving, like building a faster peoplemover to the rental cars.

      Of course, it all comes down to money.

      And I don’t see anything in this master plan to significantly address the hours of backups that are so bad that they can spill back to SR 518. Ever since people got smart phones with texting, they try to pick up flyers more often — and will idle outside of baggage claim until their beloved appears without feeling guilt that that they make things much worse for everyone. I recently have had a friend pick me up on the departures level to avoid the mess, and found that enough people have figured this trick out to the point where it backs up badly too.

      As Link stations open further from SeaTac and the congestion continues, I think more and more people will get rides from a nearby Link station rather than encourage loved ones to endure this daily traffic nightmare.

      1. I kind of like long walks at the airports. I get a little exercise, broken up in manageable chunks, on a day that is otherwise spent sitting around. No, it’s not the walk from Link to the terminal that determines whether I will take Link to the airport. It’s the total time involved. The train ride is an hour from my nearest station at Northgate. Getting to the station, waiting, and then walking to the terminal is another half hour. I will take Link if there is plenty of time before my flight, but for early flights I’m more likely to Uber it, which means door-to-terminal in easily half the time. Even with traffic. Coming home I make a similar calculation–if the plane gets in late, I’m quite likely to take a taxi rather than endure another 90 minutes of travel time.

        ST won’t be able to improve this situation. I do end up taking light rail about half the time, which is an improvement over just driving.

      2. ChrisBurke, the option I’m implying is to take Uber just to a Link station rather than all the way to the airport. The added travel time would not be as punitive if you just had fast connections to your home.

        You do raise an important issue though and that is the Link hours of operation. The first Link train from Northgate arrives at 6:36 am, which makes it unreasonably tight for any departure before 8:00 or 8:30 am. From Beacon Hill, the first train arrives at 5:41 am. Ideally, the first train should arrive at SeaTac Link before 5 am. I don’t how that could happen given the maintenance scheduling, but perhaps at least one or two trains could get to SeaTac using a modified operations plan before 6:36 am!

        Of course, for a change to happen, enough people have to care to push loudly for a change. Without pressure, I don’t think ST or the Port gives a damn.

      3. “…take Uber just to a Link station rather than all the way to the airport.”

        That is exactly what I do now, half the time, and it takes 90 minutes.

      4. I’ve taken Uber home from TIBS before, and it worked great. Besides getting out of the airport faster in many cases, you also save money; the fare is about $10 cheaper, simply by avoiding the airport pickup.

      5. Honestly, I think the only way to solve the airport drive congestion problem is to charge a toll for passenger pickup and dropoff. You can set the toll equal to 20 minutes of parking in the garage, so people who need to wait for their party will have no financial disincentive to just park.

        You can then use the toll revenue to work out a deal with Sound Transit to make Link rides between Angle Lake and TIBS fare free, and post signs suggesting that drivers use these two Link stations to avoid congestion and tolls with the main pickup area. Of course, drivers carrying passengers with huge volumes of luggage would just pay the toll, but, if done right, enough would switch to make a noticeable dent in the congestion.

        Late at night, when Link stops running, the regular pickup area can just be free, as there is not congestion that late at night, anyway.

      6. Does anyone remember Suburban Airporter from decades ago? It was a van service that would pick you up at your home, but, on its way to the airport, it would also pick up other people.

      7. Don’t people use the cell-phone waiting lot? I’ve used that before, and though it was tricky to find at first, it works. It’s far better than seeing all those people parked on the side of the exit from 405 to the connector road, especially at the curve.

        When I have to pick up family members at Sea-Tac, they text or call me when their plain touches down, and they’ll usually be at the arrivals curbside when I get there from the Eastside. If they have a lot of luggage, or if Grandma *has* to greet the grandkids as soon as they step out of the concourses, I’ll park in the fourth-floor express parking in the garage.

        I’m personally looking forward to using Link to get to the airport from the Eastside, that will save a lot of time avoiding the Renton S-curves.

      8. Honestly? I live in Sea-Tac, within a mile of the cell phone waiting lot. And I have never seen it have so much as a single spot open. TIBS is less crowded. I feel every illegally parked car on the expressway should be ticketed, but the alternative is to not be sitting around waiting prematurely.

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