Page Two articles are from our reader community.

Dear Julie,

I wish you good fortune in reenergizing Sound Transit as you take on the CEO position. Much of the Puget Sound’s regional mobility depends on ST’s success!

When voters approved Sound Transit’s ST3 plan in 2016, they expected ST to make good use of billions of their tax dollars, and deliver sustainable and equitable transit mobility across the region over the next few decades. Much of the ST3 plan was not fully developed, so voters had to trust Sound Transit to flesh out the details. During the pandemic, we learned that transit dependent populations have the greatest needs for reliable transit, smaller numbers of workers will be returning to downtown offices, and the original plans did not consider equity.  As the designs for new lines have become more detailed, cost estimates have ballooned, schedules have been delayed, and serious new challenges identified.  They include how to: 

  • make sure construction doesn’t destroy the communities Sound Transit wants to serve?
  • build another major tunnel through downtown Seattle, when three tunnels already exist?
  • make it convenient for riders to reach and transfer from other rail and bus lines?
  • cross major water ways while meeting the needs of the Port, the Coast Guard, the tribe and environmental laws?
  • serve dense neighborhoods, such as those around historic Ballard and West Seattle Junction?
  • prepare for branches at key points in the network to allow for future growth?
  • avoid generating three million tons of carbon (the equivalent of 7.5 billion gas-vehicle miles) for WSBLE at a time the region has committed to reduce carbon emissions to counter climate change?

The ST3 measure gave the Sound Transit Board broad mandate to adjust the original plan when financial, feasibility and construction challenges arise.  Will you and the Board adjust the plan and develop new options to meet those challenges and increase transit ridership?

Thus far, Sound Transit has primarily focused on constructing the Tacoma-Everett-Redmond spine. As ST matures, though, priorities may need to change. Now that ridership is increasing, operational excellence and serving riders is increasingly important to be able to continue ridership growth.

If driver recruitment becomes challenging, should ST invest in automated trains and cable transit? Sound Transit’s mode selection process had been focused on the Tacoma-Everett spine. A desirable regional transit mode won’t always meet the needs of shorter urban connections like West Seattle or Ballard, where it becomes challenging to find space for large light rail stations and guideways. The ensuing cost overruns and subpar alignments are unnecessary when other modes provide far smaller footprint, better turn radii and allow for steeper gradients. Could exploring other modes also help reduce the construction related carbon emissions, minimize impact to local businesses, and loss of existing housing?

The UW Station to Capitol Hill segment is currently the busiest in ST’s light rail network, not the downtown segment. The Rainier Valley segment is almost at capacity as it runs at grade and must share intersections with road traffic. So why is a second downtown tunnel (DSTT2) a priority? Many European cities with a single downtown tunnel have upgraded their signaling to accommodate higher train frequency. Could Sound Transit do the same and use the savings to connect Ballard sooner, and allow the C.I.D. residents and businesses to recover from streetcar construction and the pandemic?

Presently, ST plans to spend $3 – $4 billion dollars to serve affluent parts of West Seattle. Could ST instead build a Duwamish bypass to increase spine capacity and grow ridership towards Seatac/Kent/Tacoma? Then ST could use urban gondola lines and buses to serve both the affluent parts of West Seattle, and the more diverse neighborhoods further South.

Many people have contributed ideas and critiques to the Seattle Transit Blog for addressing the above questions. It may be useful to review them for background knowledge on challenges ST faces going forward. 

Martin Pagel

Seattle resident, STB reader, and transit advocate

37 Replies to “Open Letter to Julie Timm, new Sound Transit CEO”

  1. Good letter, but I think it should be directed to the Board. Timm does not have the authority for these kinds of changes, and is brand new.

    The letter appears to focus on WSBLE without explicitly stating so. I would imagine Timm’s response would direct you to the DEIS process.

    My advice to the Board, without having to make major changes to WSBLE or other ST 3 projects a this time, is to postpone WSBLE and the DEIS until Lynnwood, Federal Way, and East Link open, and maybe 130th and Graham St. stations. Too early and traumatic to begin exploring new modes for ST 3 (and if a neutral third party did look at different modes buses would be the clear winner, especially if funding is an issue).

    ST badly needs a “win” and right now 2025 looks like the earliest a win is possible, although the balances in the 2021 subarea report for some subareas would have me worried if I were Timm. The eastside subarea has the money for its projects even with cost overruns but the problem there is the bridge can’t open until 2025 when otherwise East Link would have been a “win” in 2023.

    I think the money is there in S. King Co. and SnoCo for Lynnwood and Federal Way Link depending on the cost overruns, but after that things look tight based on current ST tax revenue in each subarea.

    I think the hardest thing for Timm (when I don’t think the Board was very honest with her when she was hired, certainly the delays for East Link to 2025), is she can only wait until probably 2025 for the three extensions that look like they will work and be affordable (Federal Way, Lynnwood and East Link) while the project that is unaffordable and politically a nightmare — WSBLE — is front and center in the DEIS.

    The reality is post pandemic the delays in opening Federal Way, Lynnwood and East Link are not very emotional for voters and citizens, like say closure of the West Seattle Bridge was, or just the fiasco across I-90 two weekends ago. If it takes until 2025 to complete these extensions, and buses run in the meantime, I think most folks will forget about the original opening dates and current delays. But WSBLE is a political hot potato no matter what, even if N. King Co. had the money for the project, and four other subareas didn’t have to pay 1/2 of DSTT2.

    ST could go very quiet over the next three years until the other lines open without too much attention or grief, except for the DEIS for WSBLE when the stakeholders are large and vocal, and often have conflicting visions when WSBLE was never carefully designed in ST 3.

    “Much of the ST3 plan was not fully developed, so voters had to trust Sound Transit to flesh out the details”. That is the problem with WSBLE. For the stakeholders it can be whatever they want, but everyone wants something different.

    1. “If it takes until 2025 to complete these extensions, and buses run in the meantime, I think most folks will forget about the original opening dates and current delays.”

      You can’t forget about it when the current buses run every 15-30 minutes and get caught in traffic bottlenecks. If you’re on the bus you think about the 10-minute Link frequency, immunity from traffic, and new areas like east of downtown Bellevue.

      “or just the fiasco across I-90 two weekends ago”

      Like this delay for instance. Or other delays when I-90 had lane reductions, or I-5 had reductions in SODO. Every week there’s at least one collision somewhere that stops traffic. There’s also bottlenecks whenever there’s an event at Husky Stadium or the SODO stadiums, which also happens almost every week in summer.

      I’m going several times a month to what would be Spring District station, and soon I’m likely to go further to Overlake Village station. It makes a big difference whether East Link is running or not, as in adding 15-30 minutes each way if it isn’t.

  2. ” … make sure construction doesn’t destroy the communities Sound Transit wants to serve …”

    Surrey Downs used to have multi-family housing. It ran along the eastern edge of the neighborhood, next to 112th Ave. Sound Transit destroyed all it, at which point urbanists criticized Surrey Downs for not having multifamily housing.

    1. Misleading. You have to displace some buildings to build Link. ST2 Link is necessary for good circulation around the metro area; the same reason other cities have subway/S-Bahn systems. I would have preferred it on Bellevue Way where the existing density is, but the EIS process settled on 112th. That necessarily means some displacement on 112th.

      [Edited to stay on topic]

      1. We can discuss it elsewhere; the topic is what we’d tell Julie Timm. She can’t control city zoning, especially on past station decisions. Ross, feel free to delete my comments about Surrey Downs. [Done, as well as other comments about zoning related issues. Sam mentioned the construction of some housing during East Link, and that is relevant.]

    2. I’m not sure what your point is Sam. The focus of these comments should be about the proposed letter. What you agree with, what you don’t — how you would change it. What Martin is alluding to with that statement is that the I. D. would be destroyed with the construction of a new station. That might be hyperbolic, but I think it is reasonable to assume that there would be a fair amount of suffering to a neighborhood that got hit hard with the pandemic (and rising housing costs). A fair number of people could lose their jobs, for example. Are you suggesting that Surrey Downs got hit just as hard with the construction of South Bellevue Station? If so, what is your point?

      Likewise, maybe Martin is talking about some of the West Seattle projects, which would take out a lot of homes. This would be more analogous. I still don’t get your point, though. We’ve done it before, so we should do it again?

      1. My bad. I forgot I was in the Page 2 Julie Timm post. That’s why I was talking about something OT.

      2. Fair enough. We’ve had very few real posts, almost everything we’ve been discussing lately has been on open threads.

  3. Good letter. I agree with most of it.

    I disagree with the idea of a Duwamish bypass for the same reasons you laid out in the early part of this. If you build a Duwamish bypass, very few people will use it. The area lacks any of the aspects of the section that you noted has been so popular — the type of section that is popular throughout the world. To get really good ridership — the type that justifies very expensive rail — you need proximity and density with several stops.

    A Duwamish Bypass wouldn’t have that. There would be two new stations before Tukwila: Georgetown and South Park. That is a huge distance with only two new stations serving areas that are not particularly dense. There aren’t that many people that would use those stations, and you’ve only added a few combinations for a very long distance. This is the opposite of how you add ridership.

    Furthermore, some of those riders would simply be switching from the other train. If the train was especially crowded and frequent this would be a reasonable thing to do, but it isn’t, nor is it likely it will ever be. The train aren’t frequent. For most of the day, they run every ten minutes, and sometimes run with three-car trains. You’ve actually decreased the overall ridership per mile, which means your operation costs per rider have gotten worse (unless you run the trains less often). This means that riders from Rainier Valley could easily see the train come less often, creating a negative transit-ridership cycle. All so that relatively few people can get a faster ride to downtown. Spending billions to increase your operational costs is simply not a good idea.

    1. It is worth noting that there is very little existing ridership to justify the bypass. If you look at areas where Link has been successful, it is where there was good bus ridership in the past. For example, lots of people took the 67 from Northgate to the UW, or took the 49 from the UW to Capitol Hill. These buses performed well in terms of riders per hour of service, despite very low average speeds.

      In contrast, Georgetown and South Park have relatively weak ridership, and areas to the south are even worse. The buses from Kent perform poorly. Express service — providing much the same trip that the bypass would provide — does not do that well, despite very fast average speeds. It is nowhere near as successful as express buses that used to run in the city (41, 71, 72, 73, etc.). Those buses were extremely cost effective during rush hour, and performed quite well throughout the day. In contrast, express buses from the south end of King County perform so poorly that Metro only runs them during rush hour — they can’t justify the cost the rest of the day.

      Again, this is not an area where it makes sense to add transit. Adding a few (poorly performing) express buses to Kent to run throughout the day would be much cheaper. Trying to leapfrog based nothing more on the idea that it looks cool on a map is not good transit planning.

      1. In an earlier STP post the Duwamish bypass was positioned mostly as a way to allow for higher frequency/capacity on the Seatac/Tacoma line. Serving Georgetown/South Park is only a secondary benefit.
        Sound Transit keeps justifying the WSLE by saying that it will allow further extension to the South, like Westwood and Renton. A Duwamish bypass would make for a more direct route AND allow expansion of the 1 Line at a far lower cost.
        Ross, you only considered the bus lines serving the immediate area. With another gondola line from South Park to Greenbridge, White Center, Westwood and may be even the Fauntleroy ferry riders wouldn’t need to get on C or H line but instead ride a gondola to South Park to catch Link as envisioned on:
        “deleted bypass as unneeded” Tom, unfortunately it is far more interesting for politicians to build more stations so that they can cut another ribbon than increasing capacity.
        David, the Sound Transit CEO’s job is to prepare decisions for the Board. I have not seen the Board take many actions on their own.

      2. the Duwamish bypass was positioned mostly as a way to allow for higher frequency/capacity on the Seatac/Tacoma line

        The section between SeaTac and Tacoma will be one of the least crowded sections in the entire system. We will be lucky if trains don’t turn back there, and folks along that corridor get 10 minute headways (other cities with similar sections run their trains every 20 minutes).

        Ross, you only considered the bus lines serving the immediate area.

        No, I considered all the buses in the region. Look at the data if you want (see page 31 of this document). Notice that the buses that perform especially poorly are those clustered around that particular area.

        The simple fact is that there just aren’t that many people taking transit from the South Sound into Seattle. Those that do use transit are best served by Sounder and the express buses. It is easy to assume that if we build a fast train they will use it, but that has been disproven the world over. These areas are simply too low density and too far away from the high density destinations. Express bus service is enough of a subsidy — building the equivalent of express train service would be nuts. There is no way you could justify running the train frequently, let along building it.

      3. Yeah, one thing I sent to ST in the “realignment” comment period was to point out ST’s own ridership forecast puts ridership north of Lynnwood and south of Federal Way so low that they could save a lot of time and money by building those segments as single track with passing sidings. Just build them so they can be converted and make that the last project. An awful lot of fairly busy secondary lines in Europe and Japan have single track. It works so long as precise timing is possible, and spacing of the double track segments corresponds with the operated frequency.

      4. Ross, thanks for the ridership numbers. The 120, 124, 131, 132, 60 buses all have pretty high (>30) riders/platform hour. If gondola would serve Westwood, you could also channel some RR-C and 21 ridership towards a South Park station. Am I missing something?
        If we improve connections from Kent to KDM and Renton/South Center to TIBS (S1), I would hope ridership on the Seatac line would justify higher than 10min frequency.

    2. ST2’s long-range plan had a potential Duwamish bypass. The main beneficiaries of it, South King and Pierce, didn’t object at all when ST deleted it as unneeded in 2014.

  4. What would I want to tell Julie Timm?

    1. ST should give more weight to passengers’ needs. We need a passenger ombudsman for operations like Community Transit has, and each Link project needs a passengers’ advisory board. Passenger mobility is what we’re building Link for, and they’re the key to ridership. Too often passengers’ needs get lost among the other stakeholders’ requests, or operational concerns aren’t adequately addressed.

    2. Frequency is king. That’s what allows people to complete more errands and makes them the most satisfied with the transit system. Frequency helps make up for longer travel time or suboptimal waiting conditions. It’s especially important for 2+ seat rides. Link’s 10-minute baseline is impressive for North America, but ST Express is often significantly less. I know the driver shortage is preventing planned 15-minute Sunday frequency on the 550, 15-minute service on the 522, and Sunday service on the 535, etc. Please do what you can. And consider increasing Link back to 6-minute peaks like it had from approx. 2012 to 2016, or 6 minutes all day, at least until Line 2 opens.

    3. Escalators and elevator outages are inordinately high, not just in the 30-year-old downtown tunnel, but also in recent stations. The Roosevelt southern elevator has been closed for the past week (or at least twice), and the southern escalator was closed once in the past two weeks. This is common. Closed escalators/elevators force passengers to go out of their way and miss their transfer, and are barriers to the disabled. I’ve never seen another subway network with as many escalator/elevator outages as Link.

    4. ST2 Link (with short ST3 extensions) to Lynnwood, Redmond Downtown, and Federal Way are a critical part of our transportation network, along with the three Stride lines. Beyond that the Spine has diminishing returns. If money is a pressure in Snohomish or Pierce, don’t hesitate to revert to frequent express buses for FW-Tacoma Dome, Lynnwood-Everett, Mariner-Everett, or the Paine Field detour. This would also allow additional all-day feeders like Edmonds-Lynnwood, Edmonds-MT, or Mulikteo-Lynnwood.

    5. Accelerate 130th Station to open with Lynnwood Link.

    6. WSBLE was promising but is being maimed by design decisions. 200′ deep stations kill transfers. A Ballard 14th station is too far from Ballard’s center. West Seattle will not meet most West Seattlite’s needs, who would have to transfer from a bus for just three miles more. Retrofitting the existing downtown tunnel instead of building a second tunnel has not been given adequate consideration, especially after the ballooning costs of the second tunnel. The second tunnel is forcing tradeoffs in the International District. (I prefer 5th Avenue Shallow so passengers are closest to the center, but many in the neighborhood want to push it away to 4th.)

    7. An early West Seattle-SODO stub seems useless. ST should reschedule it to accelerate DSTT2 and Ballard.

    1. 1. ST has a Chief Passenger Experience and Innovation Officer, how would ombudsman be different?

      4. Rather than “revert to frequent express buses…”, I’d say “pivot to Stride HCT, especially along freeway corridors, in lieu of Link HCT on…” ST staff cannot, and should not, say ‘this corridor doesn’t merit HCT’ … that’s fundamentally a political decision that sits with the ST Board, or really with PSRC Board. But ST staff can provide technical recommendations on the mode best suited for particular corridors.

      1. Your criticism of Mike’s point 4 seems pedantic. What is Stride (in this context) if not a frequent express bus? Or to put it another way, what would “Stride HCT” add that goes beyond a frequent express bus? I don’t think anyone cares what you call it (a rose by any other name…).

      2. It’s a legal difference – the Feds, the PSRC, and ST’s own legal team don’t consider ST Express a High Capacity Transit mode.

        Lawyers aside, there is a big difference is operating standards because there are real policy implications of the legal distinction between Stride and STX.

        The primary difference is in the operating standards. Stride will be 10 minutes peak, 15 minutes off-peak / weekend, with a Span of service 19 hours weekdays / Saturdays and 17 hours Sundays / holidays. ST Express routes rarely meet these frequency or span of service.

        Stride is a different brand, which goes beyond just different paint jobs to cover differences in wayfinding, both locally and on regional maps. Stride *lines* will be presented to the public, and understood by the public, as different than STX *routes*. Connation here is intentional & useful

        Stride has different station standards. Stride has true off-board payment, real time arrival, and other station amenities. STX stops, particularly outside of transit centers, are often little more than some curb space.

        Stride will have a different fleet, which should contrast more over time as Stride likely to be electrified well before STX. Stride will use articulated buses, while I expect STX to transition primarily to double-decker. This fleet choice follows from the policy difference – ST Express will aim to have seats for nearly all riders, given the long travel time between destinations for more riders, while Stride will assume some riders will stand during peak times. This is simillar to how Link and Sounder have different performance standards for passenger load factors.

        Stride will have a different service model, as Stride will be competitively bid to a 3rd party operator, while STX is arranged with the county agencies through mutual agreements. While a good contract and a good bus service agreement should result in the same passenger experience, the internal operating implications are profound – differences in liability, accountability, etc.

      3. Mike used the term “frequent express bus”. The key word here is “express”. You then compare a typical “ST Express” bus to a future “Stride” bus. You imply that Stride will be frequent, but ST Express won’t. If that is the case, then Mike was clearly writing about Stride, even if he didn’t mention the actual brand.

        He didn’t mention off-board payment. So that was an omission, but one that makes little difference for routes like this. These are express buses (by definition). They make very few stops. Most of the trips involve a connection with Link, which means that even if the bus is full, there aren’t that many fares per bus. This makes it much different than say, the E, where there are lots of riders getting on and off at each stop. Thus off-board payment — as nice as it is — is not as helpful with an express bus.

        As for reader boards, if the buses are frequent, this becomes less necessary. I really like the reader boards at various bus stops, because it lets me know whether it is worth waiting for a (relatively infrequent) bus like the 73. If the 73 ran more often, they would be less valuable.

        Which leads me to another point. With reader boards and off-board payment, the best strategy may be to focus on the stops, not individual routes. The kiosks outside Link stations are especially useful, because there are so many buses (frequent and infrequent). Likewise, I find it very frustrating (and wasteful) to have to tap the ORCA card while boarding a bus at Northgate, knowing that just about everyone who does that got off the train. Making bus stops outside Link stations “off-board payment areas” would speed up boarding on all the buses.

        Imagine two scenarios. In one, ST has focuses solely on the “Stride” idea. Instead of running a train to the Tacoma Dome, they run buses. The buses have the same stops, starting with the Tacoma Dome and ending in Federal Way. Each stop has a nice kiosk, showing you when the next Stride bus will be (and nothing more). There are only a handful of stops, and each one has off-board payment.

        Now imagine that ST runs an express bus just as frequently. But instead of starting at the Tacoma Dome, it runs through downtown. The busiest stops are “stations”, and have off board payment and kiosks (showing when the various buses and trains will depart). Others are “stops”, where you pay at the front and don’t have a kiosk. (Many of the RapidRide buses operate with this mix.)

        Clearly the second option is better. Both buses are just as frequent. The speed difference is minimal. Riders from downtown Tacoma don’t have to transfer twice. ST spent less on the system, simply because they have fewer “stations”.

        I’m not saying that is the best approach, but assuming that Stride will always be better than ST express is presumptuous. Assuming that Mike meant a particular brand when he wrote about “frequent express buses” is also presumptuous, and misses the point. What matters is the quality of the service, not the brand. Mike was clearly pushing for high quality bus service, even if he didn’t specify the brand.

      4. Sure, running through downtown Tacoma would likely a better routing; what does that have to do with my point? Stride 522 never enters a freeway.

        I didn’t say Stride was better. I just said it was different, and in the specific case that Mike suggested (replacing approved Link corridors) I think Stride is clearly a better approach. Sure, there are other corridors where STX is a much better approach, for example some Sounder feeder routes.

        I believe you’d prefer a constellation of feeder buses on a single Stride route, and Mike was nodding to the same with “Edmonds-Lynnwood, Edmonds-MT, or Mulikteo-Lynnwood,” and I think there is a fair debate to be had there, but my preference is for a single line rather than express overlay specifically because the intent is for the line to be more like the E, with ridership across the corridor and not just express towards the Link transfer. These lines, alongside the necessary TOD, are intended to grow intracounty ridership while continuing to serve the intercounty trips; in many cases the intercounty trips will be degraded slightly with ST3 project openings (Tacoma-Seattle, Everett-Seattle, Issaquah-Seattle), which is an intentional feature, not a bug. of ST3. You can disagree with that policy choice, but then you are advocating for a real difference in approach, not merely a different branded bus.

      5. ” constellation of feeder buses on a single Stride route,” meant ‘over,’ or ‘rather than,’ though of course a benefit for Stride is express routes from any provide could be overlayed.

      6. “Mike used the term “frequent express bus”. The key word here is “express”. You then compare a typical “ST Express” bus to a future “Stride” bus. You imply that Stride will be frequent, but ST Express won’t. If that is the case, then Mike was clearly writing about Stride, even if he didn’t mention the actual brand.”

        I was envisioning the post-ST2 planning scenarios, where ST Express would take over beyond Lynnwood and KDM and hopefully be twice as frequent as now. I hadn’t considered Stride, and there are larger issues with branding them as Stride which I’ll get into below.

        ST Express is frequent in some cases. The 511/512/513 is at least 10 minutes weekdays, 10 minutes Saturdays, 20 minutes Sundays. I interpret 20-minute Sundays as, “We want to run every 15 minutes but we don’t have the resources to yet.” The 550 is 15-minute weekdays and Saturdays. The 577/578 was 15 minutes to Federal way weekdays and Saturdays; I don’t quite understand what it’s doing now. (The online schedule says the 577 is 15 minutes southbound all day but northbound peak only, is it really?)

        Stride and ST Express stop spacing is similar. The 512, 522, 550, and 574 are limited-stop services like Stride and Swift and Link, stopping every mile or two. The 577, 578, and 594 are more traditional expresses with long nonstop segments.

        So ST Express is not just express or limited-stop, frequent or infrequent, it’s both, depending on the route. The frequent, limited-stop spans are the same as Stride.

        Stride 1/2/3 have been marketed as full-time frequent (down to 20 minutes evenings, which is stretching it), with right-of-way improvements, some inline stations, next-arrival displays, and off-board payment like RapidRide. So any new Stride line would have to have all those or it would dilute the brand. I can see ST promising it on the 512 and 574/594 (FW-Tacoma Dome), but asking ST to commit Stride there now seems a bit of a stretch, when it hasn’t considered it heretofore. I don’t see Stride on the secondary feeders (Mukilteo-Lynnwood, Edmonds-Lynnwood, Edmonds-MT, FW-Puyallup, Tacoma Dome-Lakewood), at least not right away.

        I can understand the argument that ST promised high-capacity transit on Lynnwood-Everett and FW-Tacoma Dome, so it must have a HCT-level brand there. But ST also promised Link in those corridors. So if it can get out of one, it can get out of the other. The main issue is how frequent the service is, not what it’s branded. ROW improvements are up in the air, since ST hasn’t studied ROW improvements in those corridors. There’s little it can do on freeways without WSDOT agreeing on the changes. ST can’t very well tell WSDOT, “We want these HOV lanes and these inline stations that weren’t contemplated in the ST3 vote.”

      7. I didn’t say Stride was better. I just said it was different, and in the specific case that Mike suggested (replacing approved Link corridors) I think Stride is clearly a better approach. Sure, there are other corridors where STX is a much better approach, for example some Sounder feeder routes.

        You are missing my point. All of these options follow under the general umbrella of “frequent express buses”. Stride is going to be a “frequent express bus”. The ST Express is a “frequent express bus”. Which is better? It depends. That is why I came up with an example.

        Sure, running through downtown Tacoma would likely a better routing; what does that have to do with my point?

        It is an example of a case where an ST Express bus is clearly better than a Stride alternative. That is my point. Just because a bus has a special moniker — or even has additional features — doesn’t mean that is better.

        It reminds me of folks that insist that every inch of new rail be grade separated. Yeah, that’s ideal, but at what cost? What if it means that it doesn’t have as many stations, or that the stations are really poor? Those are trade-offs.

        The same with Stride versus ST Express. By keeping things vague (and asking for “express service”) you leave the trade-offs to a later date. Which is why the wording Mike used is ideal. It is all encompassing. It may, or may not involve off-board payment and kiosks. It doesn’t map out a particular approach (a mix of feeder buses or a central trunk). It is simply a commitment to shift money from an overly expensive, ineffective rail section to express bus routes connecting to post-ST2 Link.

      8. OK fair, Mike’s original suggestion of “frequent express bus” is broad enough to capture ST Express, Stride, or even something else. My original comment was to replace Mike’s suggestion with something more specific, namely a mode that qualifies as High Capacity Transit. I disagree with Mike that ” if it can get out of one, it can get out of the other. ” It’s one step to pivot from Link to Stride, and then another step further from Stride to something else that fits under “frequent express bus.” Politically, legally, and from an administrative (ST, PSRC, & FTA) policy standpoint, ‘pivoting to Stride’ is within the Overton Window, but ‘revert[ing] to frequent express bus” is not, IMO, because entire generations of political & policy work have chosen HCT for those corridors.

        However, I do think it could be within the Overton Window for Trimm to go to the Board and say, “hey, let’s pause [not revert, which sounds permanent] some of the ST3 Link expansions, serve those corridors well with frequent express bus service, and then a future Board in 2/4/8/10 years can revisit those (sub)projects.” I think this would be DOA for TDLE (the full project is fall enough along), but for Everett Link I think it’s plausible to get the full alignment through EIS and then only move a Phase 1 to design, and/or for T-Link Phase III and/or Kirkland/Issaquah staff could conclude through the EIS to recommend a no-build, which to me would be “frequent express bus” service.

        FWIW, I still don’t follow your Tacoma downtown comment. A Stride Line could serve downtown directly, just as Stride will directly serve the downtowns of Kenmore, Bothell, and Burien.

      9. My point is that a good Stride system might very well cost the same as a great ST Express system. The very things you like about Stride (off-board payment and kiosks) cost money. Thus it is quite possible that Stride to the Tacoma Dome costs exactly the same as ST Express to downtown Tacoma, but the latter is much better. That is the danger in focusing only a brand, even if that brand offers significant things that the other brand does not.

        By the way, Snohomish County appears to be heading that same direction, with their Swift system. It is quite possible they will implement Swift in various places, when what they really need is just more frequency across the board. Or maybe a better trunk and branch network. Just as it is too easy to focus on a particular mode, it is too easy to focus on a particular set of features (off-board payments, kiosks, branding, etc.). If the corridors and stops are exactly the same, then yes, it is great to have those things. But otherwise, it may not be the best use of the money.

        Back to the case at hand, I see very little difference between Stride and ST Express. It is ridiculous to say that Stride is HCT, but ST Express is not. They both have exactly the same capacity. You might be able to convince people that Stride is somehow better (especially since it isn’t even here yet) but that is just wording. Throw in a few superlatives with Mike’s letter (“extremely fast and frequent express bus service”) and you achieve the same thing.

    2. “ST has a Chief Passenger Experience and Innovation Officer”

      Was that added recently? I hadn’t heard about it.

      “Rather than “revert to frequent express buses…”, I’d say “pivot to Stride HCT, especially along freeway corridors, in lieu of Link HCT on…”

      Good point. I meant express feeders in general, not what brand they’d be under.

      1. He was there when I left ST 3 years ago.

        Express feeders are decidedly not HCT along those corridors. Pivoting to express feeders is a very different policy approach than deploying HCT. See my response to Ross,

  5. I read an article how some State of Oregon employees don’t even live in Oregon anymore. As an example, the article mentioned one very high up employee who now lives in Florida full-time, and another lives in Texas full-time. They are still employed by the State of Oregon.

    What I’d like some transparency on is how many Sound Transit employees no longer live in Washington State. If ST’s Vice President of Escalators lives in the Bahamas, that might explain a few things.

    1. ST’s policy is all employees must reside within the state of Washington, per some ST employees I had asked a few months ago.

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