Not Just Bikes and Strong Towns discuss transit in North America.

Includes comparisons to Europe (of course). The video is an hour long but has several topics of interest to transit fans.

This is an open thread.

171 Replies to “Transit in North America”

  1. I read an article this week on the worst-case budget scenario for Bay Area-transit, which looks pretty bleak: BART would cut two lines and, go to hourly service, and drop weekend service entirely, while MUNI and AC Transit would have 10-20% service cuts. The cuts are just hypothetical, and obviously depends on both ridership and also government revenues, but it made me wonder: does anyone know what the long-term budget state of our local agencies are? I would assume that their COVID relief money is going to be running out in the next year or so, and as much as I wish ridership were back, obviously it is not quite yet.

    1. The Bay Area seriously needs an overhaul to operations and management of transit in the region. It’s a hodgepodge of various transit agencies that all have different fare rules and prices, when it should be simplified to one consistent set of fares and agency consolidation. No region that size needs 10+ agencies to serve the region when it really needs one or less than 5.

      1. Technically, the Bay Area has five metro areas according to the Census Bureau, and the CMSA has four more (nine total). I still have issues with San Francisco and Oakland MSA defined at one separated by the wide bay, while San Jose MSA is separated by a tiny creek between Palo Alto and Menlo Park and between Fremont and Milpitas. I’m not sure which ones should be consolidated.

        As far as the City of San Francisco goes, there are eight public transit operators in the city with three of those only going to the Salesforce Transit Center (Muni, BART, CalTrain, AC Transit, SamTrans, Westcat, Golden Gate Transit and SF Bay Ferry). Then there Amtrak connecting buses, some private ferries and employer-based private buses.

        Of course, in the city Seattle we appear to have seven public operators (Metro, ST, Community Transit, WS Ferry, City streetcars, monorail and Kitsap Transit ferries) as well as Amtrak if I’m counting correctly.

        It’s not to say that consolidation isn’t sometimes appropriate. It’s only to point out that we have a very similar situation (as do most major large US metro areas) and that integration is key.

        Also, California has state funds that subsidize transit that require the MPO to audit and distribute dedicated transit funds. Then there are the countywide sales tax funds distributed by outside boards. That’s an element of legislated oversight and integration that we don’t have here. If our MPO had that kind of power, our transit would be much better integrated.

      2. The big difference between the Bay Area and Seattle is that, unlike Seattle, the Bay Area doesn’t have free transfers between agencies. So, if you’re taking any moderately complex trip (say, SF Muni to BART to AC Transit in Oakland), you end up paying multiple different fares. I don’t really care about the exact fare rules, but when a trip costs $11 each way I’m going to drive instead.

      3. erinc, that’s a really good point, and not just limited to the Bay Area. When we’ve been in LA, it’s been incredibly confusing keeping track of which agencies honor which other agency’s passes or transfers as well. It makes me very thankful to have ORCA – for all the imperfections on the technical side, the actual transit side is more seamless than I’ve seen anywhere else.

    2. I’d heard MUNI and Vancouver BC suspended 80% of their bus service during the pandemic, while we didn’t, so there’s something wrong in their funding model or their governments’ priorities.

      If BART goes down to hourly, that sounds like it would get overcrowded in San Francisco daytime, and people would have to take slower buses just to get anything. If BART drops weekend service, is AC Transit ready to step in with transbay buses? I can’t imagine it would be acceptable to have no transit between San Francisco and the East Bay.

      Buried in the article it says the Central Subway opened Saturday.

      1. The Bay Bridge toll includes $1 dedicated to transit operations as well as other things (Regional Measure 2). As long as drivers use the Bay Bridge heavily, there is a way to subsidize transit service.

      2. Muni was the only transit operator (in the world, as far as I’m aware) to shut down their subway entirely during the pandemic, and it didn’t reopen for over a year. It’s definitely an issue with government priorities.

    3. There’s also the SFO airport, which I believe, has BART as the only public transportation option serving it. You can’t even reach the CalTrain without first taking BART one stop. So, if BART shuts down on weekends, that leaves taxi, Uber and drive/park as the only options to reach the airport terminal. For a major big-city airport like SFO, this should be completely unacceptable. Even Houston manages to serve its airport with a half-hourly bus route, which runs 7 days/week.

      1. SamTrans has several routes that go into SFO, and still others that just go near the Rental Car Center where someone can ride the free SFO peoplemover.

      2. Ok, so not that bad. Still, the SamTrans routes probably don’t go to San Francisco, so you’d end up with a forced transfer between two slow, infrequent bus routes, and probably sia fair bit of outnof direction travel. Which is still terrible for an airport the size of SFO.

        The equivalent here might be if there was no Link and you had to transfer between the A line and 124 to go downtown on a Saturday afternoon. And, both the A line and 124 are probably more frequent and direct than the SamTrans buses, so maybe a more accurate parallel would be having no 124 either and having to ride the 156 to southcenter to catch the 150 *and* having the 150 run every 30-60 minutes and do a slow milk run through the Rainier valley on the way to downtown.

        Yes, you could say that transit technically exists. But nobody would ride it except the truly desperate. For everyone else, it’s effective an extra $100 or more tacked onto every flight to pay for private ground transportation or airport parking.

      3. SamTrans Route 292 runs every 30 minutes most of the day and at 15 minutes during peak hours, and goes into San Francisco as well as goes to Millbrae station. SamTrans Route 397 has hourly service overnight when BART doesn’t run.

    4. This is in the context of an article with European transit networks that never go down to hourly except for a few smallest towns like Index or Winthrop.

    1. Taking LINK into downtown Tacoma would mean giving up on extending LINK to the Tacoma Mall. There might be too much inertia to allow for such a change to happen.

      But for downtown Tacoma it would absolutely be better for LINK to actually go there, and I would love to see it.

      Of course, putting a station on the fringe of downtown fits in nicely with Sound Transit’s frequent practice of putting stations at almost good locations, but not quite.

      1. I don’t think it would mean giving up the TMLE, rather you’d plan for both in tandem with a Junction box to help serve both lines.

      1. Wiki, and other sources like news stories, calls he T Line light rail. I’m not being argumentative. If it’s light rail, I’ll call it light rail. If it’s a streetcar, I’ll call it a streetcar. Wiki calls both of Seattle’s streetcars, streetcars, not light rail. So, why would Wiki, and news stories, refer to Tacoma’s streetcar as light rail, and not a streetcar?

      2. Sound Transit calls it light rail to make it sound like a high-quality line. The same thing would be called a streetcar if built by Seattle Streetcar. Paul Allen called it a streetcar to imitate Portland’s streetcars. And both Portland and Seattle call them streetcars to denote they’re a different level of service than Link or MAX. Link and MAX are mostly exclusive-lane or grade-separated, with larger trains for higher capacity, like you need to transport everybody from Gresham or Beaverton to Portland, or from the U-District or Rainier Beach to downtown quickly. The streetcars are designed to meander a short distance so they don’t need to be fast, and they’re smaller because they’re in secondary corridors (Link and MAX are in the primary corridors). Sound Transit has also adopted this definition: light rail is mostly exclusive-lane and higher-capacity; streetcars are typically in mixed traffic and lower-capacity. It initially called Tacoma Link light rail, but now it’s stepping back from that and calling it the T Line, which doesn’t specify a mode.

        But this distinction is not universal or worldwide. Both Link and MAX and and the T-Line and the Seattle streetcars are variations of the same technology, which in different places is called light rail or streetcar or tram. When STBers call the T Line a streetcar, it’s partly to state what it really is in Seattle/Portland’s definition, and partly to deride it as less effective than light rail. European cities don’t have these two levels: they just don’t build Seattle-style streetcars at all because they’re practically useless. If you’re going to build rail, give it an exclusive lane so it can go faster, make it larger so it can carry more people, and don’t put stops every two blocks because that makes it too slow. If you’re not going to do all that, just put a bus route in. Even their bus routes don’t stop every two blocks: they’re more like RapidRide. If they have old streetcar lines from a century ago that were like Seattle’s streetcars, they’ve probably been modernized between 1970 and now, with better right of way and a downtown tunnel.

    2. By the time the train gets there, the mall is going to be a distribution center.

      The plans they laid out in 2016 to make the mall more pedestrian and bike friendly, and increase density and residential development have made less than no progress.

      The mall has lost 2 out of 3 anchors and closes at 8pm. As far as I can see, there is exactly one dense, multi-family building at the mall. Downtown, on the other hand, is sprouting cranes and apartments all over the hill.

      The mall is a dead-end, in a vast sea of cars that won’t change until the city steps in and makes the area ped friendly. Which means slowing down and limiting traffic. Which means they won’t be doing it this century.

      1. If downtown Tacoma is flourishing as much as you claim, why is T Link’s daily ridership only 1200

        Because it is a poorly designed streetcar line. I’m actually surprised it has 1,200 riders. If anything, that is a sign of the overall strength of downtown Tacoma.

      2. The Tacoma Mall hasn’t lost anchors recently, it’s still got Nordstrom, Penneys, Macy’s, and Dicks. The mall has only lost three anchors in its entire history with Sears, Mervyns, and Forever 21 (though they came back and moved elsewhere in the mall). Sears and Mervyns closed either from liquidation of company in Mervyns case as they filed for Chapter 7, or in the case of Sears was a culmination of both consolidation of stores within the company’s portfolio and the mall wanting to add a movie theater on the land Sears sat on. Then COVID hit and killed the movie theater project.

        The Tacoma Mall is honestly one of the better malls in the region for the South end of the sound despite its issues. It’s not Lakewood, Federal Way or Auburn, which have been plagued with problems since the 90s and 00s in keeping relevant.

        It’s also unlikely to become a distribution center in my opinion, there has been money spent on courting new retailers onto mall property like Ulta, Nordstrom Rack, and Total Wine. So it’s not like it’s been a complete failure.

      3. Sam, on top of the points other people have made, big reasons we don’t (always) use T-Link when we go to Tacoma is (a) we took Sounder and have a medley of bus routes to choose from to get to downtown in addition to T-Link and (b) when we don’t take Sounder, we’re on a bus from Seattle that overlaps entirely with the T-Link route. When it goes further and more destinations open up, we almost certainly will take it more when we visit. Network design is important, and T-Link is not done yet.

      4. I would also say, in addition to the other comments, when having to go from Tacoma Dome to downtown Tacoma I’ve almost always found walking faster than waiting for the streetcar and then taking the streetcar.

        In all other cases I’ve already been on buses that went to the destination I needed from my origin point, with no need to transfer between anything at Tacoma Dome and anything in downtown Tacoma.

        Other that Amtrak, Greyhounnd, Flixbus, and Sounder there really isn’t anything much at Tacoma Dome to generate ridership.

      5. Agreed, Glenn.

        I find bike to be the best way to the TD Transit Center, Amtrak and Sounder.

        I could walk, but it is not a great walk. It’s a pretty big dead zone of struggling businesses and those who have gravitated there because they are barely keeping themselves alive in a pretty heartless world for those down on their luck.

      6. I do have some hope that the frequency and hours of the streetcar, when it opens, will provide an alternative for me, and those lucky enough to be close to the line. I don’t hold any allusions that it will be some game-changer for Tacoma more broadly, but it will be helpful for me, when I don’t want to worry about bringing my bike along or locking it up in an area where there is no safe bike storage. I’ve done it with old, cheap bikes, knowing there is a decent chance I won’t see them again. But between scooter share and link at full power, I’m hopeful I’ll have alternatives.

      7. “I could walk, but it is not a great walk. It’s a pretty big dead zone of struggling businesses and those who have gravitated there because they are barely keeping themselves alive”

        I take D Street north and then the trail along the waterfront, then one of the connections over to downtown. This drastically reduces the interference from auto traffic and makes it more pleasant than the auto dominated route.

    3. The author rightfully shows how Link should go further into Downtown Tacoma. That includes getting closer to UW Tacoma. The decision to stop at Tacoma Dome appears to be made by leaders that don’t understand transit rider needs but want to appear to be pro-transit.

      I’ve also been amazed that none of the Tacoma Dome station options don’t have a cross platform transfer to Tacoma Link. Why do we spend billions then make it hard to transfer for just several million more? The disconnect is particularly apparent if someone imagines having rolling luggage and using Tacoma Dome Station — even though SeaTac direct connectivity was the primary stated objective by local leaders.

      Nothing like making transit investment decisions without running it by actual daily transit users. Imagine if we left bicyclists out of driving bicycle plans or heavy park users out of park plans. The de facto message that ST repeatedly practices in all of their expansion plans is that riders are second class citizens compared to elected officials or nearby property owners. Because most pro-transit leaders in our region accept this basic omission, we keep getting less-than-strategic plans that still are prohibitively expensive.

      In my mind, no alternative in ST expansion should ever be developed or screened out without going through a rider experience committee first, and that committee should have only riders, drivers and maybe station staff that help people every day.

    4. Interesting that the Urbanist article is reprinted from the blog, Transit in North America. I guess this blog is not the only transit blog hurting for content, but then what is new when it comes to transit.

      The article has some nice maps and diagrams but this issue has been discussed to death. I don’t know all the reasons but Tacoma leaders have decided to go with Tacoma Dome as the hub, and then the mall, and have spent over a billion dollars on T Link. My guess is pressure from the rest of the county.

      What isn’t discussed in the article, naturally on The Urbanist, is where will the money come from for all these transit plans. The Pierce Co. subarea won’t have the money, and doesn’t have the money to extend to the mall. I don’t even know if the subarea will have the money to reach the Dome, and am pretty certain farebox recovery won’t cover operational costs. Pierce Co. is POOR.

      Pierce Co. and Tacoma never supported the costs of light rail, or the myth that a very sloooooow light rail line from Seattle through nothingness to Tacoma (which is close to nothingness) would create some kind of regional synergy with workers and travelers and tourists and “urbanists” taking light rail through the RV, airport, Angle Lake, Kent, Federal Way, Tacoma Dome, to get to “downtown” Tacoma. That is the flaw in the entire plan.

      It’s too bad East Link did not open well ahead of Lynnwood and Federal Way Link, let alone Tacoma Link, because if East Link doesn’t have the ridership to come close to the cost then these other lines don’t either. Tacoma and Everett and Federal Way and Lynnwood are not remotely Bellevue, and Bellevue was not keen on light rail to begin with, not unlike the leaders in Tacoma. Too bad there isn’t a T Link from East Main (or really S. Bellevue because of the huge park and ride) to Bellevue Way between Main and NE 8th.

      Yes, transit should probably access downtown Tacoma without a transfer, but that can be said about much of Link that requires transit to transit transfers. Tacoma and Pierce Co. supported better buses, not a fixed light rail route in a huge county with even less density than most of King Co. (or just about anywhere).

      Start with the available money for the county (Pierce Transit), and the subarea reports for Pierce Co. subarea tax revenue, and then design a transit system for the county and Tacoma.

      1. Interesting that the Urbanist article is reprinted from the blog, Transit in North America. I guess this blog is not the only transit blog hurting for content, but then what is new when it comes to transit.

        Enough with the arrogance and condescension. You whine when people have the audacity to point out negative patterns within your comments (like transit irrelevance or trolling). But then someone — who has written for this blog before — writes a very good article about transit in Tacoma and you belittle it. You claim that there is “very little interest in transit among the general public”. Fine. But people on this blog are interested. We would rather not argue about whether you think Amsterdam is too cold for you, or whether you think Seattle is now too dangerous, or what Amazon is up to with its HQ2 plans. There are plenty of much better places to discuss that, and much more informed opinions than the ones you find here.

        This is a transit blog. We don’t want to argue about those other issues. We want to argue about transit. We want to put our heads together, and try and figure how to make the best transit system possible. If you don’t have anything relevant to add to the transit discussion, just stay out of it. Don’t belittle the efforts of others.

      2. “This is a transit blog. We don’t want to argue about those other issues. We want to argue about transit. We want to put our heads together, and try and figure how to make the best transit system possible. If you don’t have anything relevant to add to the transit discussion, just stay out of it. Don’t belittle the efforts of others.”

        And how is that going Ross? You sound like Seattle Subway. If you don’t understand the factors — mainly funding which is tax revenue in a subarea equity system, and how and where that revenue is generated — you won’t/can’t change anything from your bedroom in Pinehurst.

        Tacoma is not going to change its plans for Tacoma Link, or tear up the T Line after spending $1 billion building it, no matter how many times you bang your head against the wall. It isn’t even clear the subarea has the funding to get to Tacoma Dome.

        No one has been the subject of more complaints about bullying and trolling on this blog than you. Because of you I don’t get to read perspectives from interesting people like A Joy, who sees things differently than I do which I actually appreciate, and unlike you I don’t feel threatened. How many have posted — once — they no longer post on this blog because of you? You are the troll.

        Yes I tend to question some of these plans, like Seattle Subway, or WSBLE, or Issaquah to S. Kirkland, from a cost/benefit analysis and available tax revenue, especially when I read them over and over and over until suddenly folks like you understand interlining, but I don’t attack others like you do when your expertise is very, very tiny outside the mechanics of transit like coverage or frequency, when those depend on so many other bigger issues you really don’t understand, and don’t understand are really political with no right answer.

        I have said this before: discuss the issue, not the person. I learned this in debate class in high school. Don’t feel threatened by a post that challenges your ideology. That is the sign of a rigid mind. When you lash out you destroy your own credibility. Simply explain why you think your position is correct, understanding this is not mathematics and decisions are discretionary and don’t have proofs, and usually have many different reasons, usually number one money.

        If you think Tacoma and Pierce Co. should dig up the T Line and run Link to downtown Tacoma then state that, where the money will come from, and that you understand the reasons for the current configuration, because there are always reasons. If you don’t understand the reasons for the current and proposed line, or think the people who influenced that line are just “stupid”, then you are naive and wasting our time. Stop coming up with “solutions” that don’t have the funding. That is tiresome to me, and it takes you longer than most on this blog to finally realize that, like with WSBLE and DSTT2.

      3. “Enough with the arrogance and condescension. You whine when people have the audacity to point out negative patterns within your comments (like transit irrelevance or trolling)”

        Back with the personal attacks I see. Typical ad hominem. Attack the argument, not one’s character please.

      4. Daniel, they don’t have to “tear up the T-Line” to bring Link trains downtown. The tracks are four-feet-eight-and-a-half-inch gauge and as I understand it, they were built sturdy enough to support Link trains.

        Now, yes, the stations would have to be significantly rebuilt and lengthened, and the lanes in which the streetcar runs would have to be dedicated to Link. It can’t stop fast enough to operated in mixed traffic. The signals would have to be re-timed to favor the train.

        But that’s not “tear up T-Link”.

      5. Mao, you’re not going to win friends and influence people this blog by attacking Ross when he snips at Daniel. He mostly just writes long technical papers, so if he gets a little torqued at Daniel’s condescension, let it be.

      6. “It isn’t even clear the subarea has the funding to get to Tacoma Dome.”

        You’re the only one who’s saying that. ST’s schedule is still 2032, two years late. Maybe it will be a few years longer than that, but you’re just pulling speculations out of the air.

      7. T-Link budget was 250M, not a billion.

        Yes, the article did talk about budget. They recommended skipping the mall and using that money to build BRT.

        “Tacoma and Everett and Federal Way and Lynnwood are not remotely Bellevue, and Bellevue was not keen on light rail to begin with, not unlike the leaders in Tacoma.”

        Tacoma is just as dense, and substantially larger than Bellevue, in both area and population.

      8. Mao? Cute. And personal attacks, snippy or not, are against the TOS. If the people with moderation access to this blog can’t be expected to follow the TOS, it has much bigger problems than a small downturn in staff and the news cycle.

      9. “Tacoma is just as dense, and substantially larger than Bellevue, in both area and population.”

        It doesn’t have the job base or wealth of Bellevue. It was trying to attract that with Link and other things, so it wouldn’t be left behind in the next prosperity wave and become a slum. But its ideas were backwards. It should have brought Link downtown if it’s going to have Link at all. Not to a P&R a mile away whose main benefit is for exurban commuters to park at. It should have gone for a lower-level, wider network, with BRT from Federal Way to downtown Tacoma, and more Stream lines across Tacoma and the Pierce subarea.

        Pierce is screwed because its leaders have no vision of transit that Pierce residents can use to live and work and shop within the county. The only bright spot is Stream 1. In order to use Link at Tacoma Dome, people will have to get to Tacoma Dome. What Pierce needs most is a bus network like King County’s.

      10. Tacoma is strongly supportive of transit, but you are right. They have never have had good transit, so few people, including leaders, even know what it looks like.

        I’m not sure how to solve it. Maybe a city-focused system, and leave the broader county to ST commuter buses. Don’t allow clueless politicians to make these decisions. These decisions should be made by pros.

        As far as the Bellevue comparisons, you need to fund (though not decide or manage) at a high-level. Otherwise, just like schools, those with the greatest need get the crumbs, and the low-need, undeserving and ungrateful get the over-built gold-plated tunnels under their windswept malls.

        I agree with Daniel. The east side doesn’t want, need or deserve good transit. Tacoma clearly needs it, the votes say it wants it. Give it to us.

      11. You wrote:

        I have said this before: discuss the issue, not the person.

        Then why did you insult Troy Serad, The Urbanist and this blog with that introductory paragraph?

      12. “You wrote: I have said this before: discuss the issue, not the person. Then why did you insult Troy Serad, The Urbanist and this blog with that introductory paragraph?”

        Now the expletives. How many times have we seen this play from Ross, the master of the ad hominem insult?

        If you feel Link should run to downtown Tacoma, and either replace or supplement Line T, then state that, what it might cost, and where the subarea would get the money for that. Because that is the original issue. Troy and The Urbanist can defend themselves.

        It would probably help to consider why Tacoma and Pierce Co. went with the current and proposed configurations in the first place because those are the vested interests a new route and configuration will have to overcome. Some folks think these routes just happen by accident or stupidity because they don’t understand the vested interests behind those routes.

        Using the F word really doesn’t work on me since my son was older than around 13. I litigate against some of the smartest minds in Seattle (smarter than I am, and a lawyer earns a lot more money when the lawyer with the money opposing him is smarter than he/she is) and none of us use the F word, because it is such a weak word when there are so many better words to make your argument, if you have one thought out, and it makes you look juvenile, and it is disrespectful.

        Pretend you are making an argument to a judge, one who is probably smarter than you are but who wants to hear what you have to say, and you desperately want him or her to rule in your favor. Lawyers often use the acronym “IRAC” from law school: issue, rule, analysis, conclusion. This may help you organize your argument and posts.

      13. Subarea equity is a contradiction in terms.

        Step 1, abolish it.

        Step 2, provide transit to the people who need it and want it.

        The poeple who need it are usually poor poeple who are bankrupting themselves trying to keep a car on the road so they can get to work. To pay for car repairs.

      14. “Enough with the arrogance and condescension. You whine when people have the audacity to point out negative patterns within your comments (like transit irrelevance or trolling)”

        Back with the personal attacks I see. Typical ad hominem. Attack the argument, not one’s character please.

        First of all, I was referring to the introductory paragraph, which contained nothing but a condescending attack on Troy Serad, The Urbanist, this blog, and transit issues in general.

        Look, there is no way I can address an arrogant, offensive comment like this without addressing the person who wrote it. It is simply impossible. The fundamental objection to that introductory paragraph is that it is an insult. I can’t address the transit argument there, because there isn’t one. There is simply an insult, and yes, I addressed the person making the insult, as this is not the first time he has made insulting comments like this.

      15. RossB, I did not insult Troy or the article in any paragraph. I actually agree with the concept of making Link go to downtown Tacoma. I am not sure it should have two stations (and the number of slides used detracts from his point by bogging things down), but he makes a compelling point.

        I am not DT any more than I am Mao.

      16. Twelve paragraphs in, and Daniel has still not addressed my objection to his introductory paragraph. One more time, this time with nice, sweet wording that won’t damage his delicate sensibilities.

        Your statement was mean-spirited and nasty. It was an insult to those who bother to take the time and effort to craft solid arguments about transit issues many of us on this blog care about. It was completely uncalled for. As someone who has written on this blog, I find it especially offensive. Many of us are not great writers. We don’t come from a writing background. Writing something as well structured and well written as what Troy wrote would take me a very long time. To belittle his efforts in such a manner is repulsive.

        This has nothing to do with the merits of Troy’s argument, because Daniel did not address the merits of his argument in that paragraph. He simply insulted the author (as well as the publisher, this blog and transit writing in general (in an off-hand manner)).

      17. RossB, I did not insult Troy or the article in any paragraph.

        I never said you did. Daniel did. That was entirely what my comment was about. Daniel insulted Troy in his introductory paragraph. (He also insulted The Urbanist, this blog, and transit writing in general.) I’m sorry if you felt any of my comments were about you.

      18. “Look, there is no way I can address an arrogant, offensive comment like this without addressing the person who wrote it.”

        Address the person, sure. Fine. But don’t attack them. I address DT all the time. But I focus on his view or opinion, not him as a person. Say his words or comments are ridiculous, absurd, or problematic. But calling him as an individual condescending, arrogant, or audacious crosses the line.

        Again, address the person in attacking their argument. Don’t just attack the person. And the profanity really is beneath all of us.

      19. “I have said this before: discuss the issue, not the person.

        Then why did you insult Troy Serad, The Urbanist and this blog with that introductory paragraph?”

        RossB I wrote that first sentence, you wrote the second. This is you accusing me of insulting Troy, The Urbanist, and this blog. Which I did not do here, although as an aside I will happily insult The Urbanist.

      20. @ A Joy — Fair enough. But I called his comment “condescending” because it was. That was my objection! That is what made it an insult. He didn’t start by saying that Troy Serad has it wrong, or that Troy hasn’t considered some fact that he is about to raise, or otherwise address the basic argument that Mr. Serad made. He started with an insult. A condescending insult.

        Look, I’m not a writer. I know people who write for a living, and they would have no trouble using a word like condescension easily. For me, I’m proud of the fact that I could remember it (and not confuse it with condensation — something that we have a lot of today). But just because I remembered it — and remembered to look it up to make sure I was using it right — does not mean I use it lightly. Very few comments on this blog are condescending. But that was clearly one.

        I did remove the swear word. I’m used to The Stranger, where very good, professional writers use profanity all the time.

      21. RossB I wrote that first sentence, you wrote the second. …

        Ooof. You are absolutely right. Sorry about that. I was basically responding to Daniel at the same time I responded to you. I must have copied and pasted and screwed that up. Again, I’m sorry. I should be more careful with my wording to avoid confusion.

      22. “Subarea equity is a contradiction in terms.

        “Step 1, abolish it.

        “Step 2, provide transit to the people who need it and want it.”

        The subarea that has most consistently threatened to withdraw from ST if subarea equity were abolished is Pierce Co. For good reason. Pierce has paid ST taxes for a very long time and so far has no Link. The second is Snohomish, for the same reasons.

        IIRC from the 2021 subarea report the Pierce Co. subarea has around $1.2 billion banked right now in ST tax revenue and loans to other subareas (including East King Co.), although I don’t know how far that will go, along with future ST tax revenue which is not great in Pierce Co.

        But you make a good point: subarea equity does benefit wealthier subareas when that same wealth makes some of those subareas less reliant on transit. Although East King. Co. looks like it will owe around $600 million to the other subareas when Redmond Link is completed, East King Co. brings in around $600 million/year in ST tax revenue, which will accumulate rapidly through 2046 without a lot of good places to spend it. The citizens are opposed to trading density for Link.

        The issue for N. King Co. was the subareas were drawn when N. King had all the money, so if Link was going to reach Everett and Pierce Co. — and Seattle is a very long and skinny city, and Pierce and SnoCo are poor and are still relatively poor — then N. King Co. was going to have to pay to run light rail to those borders when it really doesn’t benefit Seattle. So although N. King Co. does not show a lot of loans owed to other subareas it has spent all its ST tax revenue running link to the county borders, rather than say WSBLE or First Hill.

        For N. King Co. Link really should have truncated at Northgate or maybe 130th, and the airport or maybe Angle Lake, with feeder buses to the stations and more subways under Seattle, because most riders are going to Seattle, not from Seattle. But that didn’t happen.

        I agree Link should run to downtown Tacoma and probably make a few stops underground along the way, but don’t know how much that would cost, and the reasons Pierce and its subarea chose T Line and running Link to the Dome, and if money allows to the mall.

        At the same time I thought it was foolish ST did not agree to run East Link under Bellevue Way (or at least 102nd or 104th) but at least I understand the reasons it doesn’t, although I think that is a huge flaw in East Link. More often than not a community does not consider transit or Link a primary benefit, especially if wealthy, which is why north Seattle neighborhoods love tunnels, and probably so would downtown Tacoma.

      23. The single biggest need for transit in Tacoma right now is not rail or even faster buses. It’s simply money to run the Pierce Transit routes that already exist more often, and for more hours each day. Whether you’re on a bus or a streetcar, in your own lane or mixed traffic matters very little compared to having to wait an hour for your bus, or having no bus at all on many routes after 7 PM.

        Whether intentional or not, Pierce County transit is getting their priorities completely backwards. The Pierce money allocated for Link to Tacoma could do so much simply by increasing bus frequency.

        A lot of the problem is political. There’s a lot of voters out there who have cars and don’t care at all how terrible the bus is, but are still willing to pay for a shiny train they might ride once a year. The Pierce Transit politicians are simply responding to these voters, to the detriment of their riders.

      24. Um, Daniel, I don’t think ST actually had the option “to run Link under Bellevue Way”. Kemper put a stop to that by targeted “investments” in the Bellevue City Council during the first two decades of the New Millennium.

        Remember the “Vision Line”? That was vintage Kemper — put Link right next to the freeway so the proles have to walk! — but his fingerprints were wiped clean of the murder weapon.

        You’ve said your wife likes to shop at Bellevue Square. Does she know about the history of the Freeman family and the forced sales of land by internees during World War II? Maybe she would adopt a “different view” of where to shop if you were to enlighten her about what happened.

        She can read about it here:

      25. The Vision Line was Kevin Wallace, not Kemper Freeman. Kemper was busy trying to eliminate Link, not move it from 110th to 116th. It was enough for him that it was away from Bellevue Way. Wallace may have had some sincere belief that he was saving Surrey Downs and City Hall from Link’s impacts, but he also owned property along 116th that would become more valuable with a Link station, because it would be future development rather than getting in the way of drivers going to Bellevue Square.

      26. Asdf2, I agree with your comments about spending so much money to run light rail in such a large, rural, undense and poor county like Pierce, no matter where it terminates. But I don’t think you can blame car drivers for the decisions, even though they are paying for a large part of ST.

        The decision makers were government agencies and planners, many of them from schools teaching new urbanism in which everyone lives in TOD and rides transit, even Pierce Co. because very few of these planners live in rural Pierce Co. A lot began at the legislature with pressure by labor and construction interests who saw billions for jobs and profit. Then you have property owners and business interests in places like The Spring District or Tacoma Mall or Overlake, or those like Bellevue who didn’t want light rail in its urban core if not underground, or the fact Dow lives in West Seattle, and of course everyone wants their stations and lines underground. Then cities like Shoreline and Lynnwood who saw light rail as a way to gentrify and revitalize their cities through TOD.

        The Commerce Dept. prepared what I think are inflated future population estimates, and the PSRC and GMPC decided the way to accommodate this population growth (and solve global warming) was to densify and TOD, except in 2022 the GMPC housing growth allocations require very few if any cities to modify their zoning because most already focus most new growth in commercial and multi-family zones, and recent population counts show Seattle and King Co. actually losing residents.

        Microsoft then demanded East Link access its campus (before it went to dedicated shuttles and built a 3 million sf garage), which meant Redmond needed a station, and then Issaquah which is 20 miles east through very little because if a city did not have rail it was not an important city, like Renton, even if no one planned to ride it. Tacoma certainly did not want to be the Renton in Pierce Co. Next the Master Builders Assoc. which claims that by upzoning expensive and relatively remote residential SFH zones with no transit they will build market rate housing that is “affordable”, or saw lots of development in upzoned areas like The Spring Dist. that finally would be developed.

        Then ST 2 needed money to finish, which meant ST 3, which was rushed and became a bazar sale to sell it in which ST offered every critical region like Issaquah and Sammamish (even those folks don’t ride transit) whatever they wanted to sell ST 3 even though they knew it was not affordable, with fuzzy designs that now stakeholders think mean the moon (underground).

        And of course ST and the Board. ST prepared levies to pass, with underestimated project cost estimates and overestimated ridership, and forgot to note the distances involved and the speeds of light rail, and just how undense the three county ST taxing district is, and just how disparate the income among the districts is. (So they drew district lines that required N. King Co. to pay for most of the spine, which depleted the funds for N. King Co. where light rail and subways can actually make sense. The irony is WSBLE is infinitely more sensible than Link to Everett or Tacoma, although none makes economic sense (unless the subarea has the money, and N. King would have had the money for WSBLE).

        All of these groups saw a future vision of a huge three county rural area suddenly transformed into an urban hip hub where no one has kids connected by fast rail, while others just saw money. If any group voted overwhelmingly for this vision and the levies it was urban progressives, who at least voted for genuine if naive reasons, which is why they opted for a funding scheme that has cars paying for it, and not homeowners until ST 3.

        If there was one tragic flaw IMO it was transit agency hubris. The belief that transit can change the way people want to live, or work, or where, or how. The pandemic was the sword that exposed the hubris, at least financially. I also think a structural flaw was segregating Metro/PT/CT and ST, because ST treated them like second class agencies and never understood light rail lives and dies on first/last mile access because its course is fixed. The eastside transit restructure taught me Metro is the adult in the room.

        The early routes made sense and worked out except for no First Hill: UW to Capitol Hill to Downtown to Sodo, and then Northgate because that is where the density and riders already were, and grade separated light rail (pre-pandemic) was faster. The line to RV and the airport really was political. After that feeder buses.

        Now we have reached the suburban parts of ST 2, and ST 3, and they don’t make transit or economic sense. The pandemic has calcified how and where folks want to live and work, and if possible they don’t include public transit although ST and the legislature and MBA are intent are making them live in TOD. Each half mile that Link goes outside the original core the more it looks crazy, even in a subarea with the money like East King Co. For subareas like SnoCo and Pierce it makes absolutely no sense.

        So, in summary I agree the mode and routes were mode and routes that outside the urban core (Seattle) never made sense, they were manipulated for money and self-interest, and they make even less sense after the pandemic. But that is not the fault of car drivers. After all, what do car drivers care about any transit’s route and mode, including light rail. IIRC it was car drivers who tried to reinstate the $30 tab fee knowing it would likely kill ST 3, which maybe was not a bad idea for a reset, especially if that funding could go to buses instead of light rail.

      27. Mike, sure Kevin was the would-be assassin, but where do you think his support came from? He’s not really all that rich.

      28. Daniel, it just isn’t that expensive to build from 130th (your suggestion for an intercept) or even from Northgate to 205th. And everybody thought going to the airport was a good idea. A not insignificant ridership agrees. So you overstate the burden of The Spine on North King.

        Any urban subway would have have gone from King Street to Northgate via the U-District. It’s only the segment from IDS to BAR through the Rainier Valley that is somewhat unnecessary except in a “regional” system.

        Seattle to Bellevue — including “East Bellevue” also makes long-term sense. Seattle will recover from the street people and both CBD’s will prosper more by being linked by high capacity transit.

        The rest of your critique is accurate. Building a regional Metro system using low-floor “Light Rail Vehicles” powered by catenary is spendthrift and stupid, especially in as auto-centric a metropolis as Puget Sound.

      29. Making a charitable assumption that elected officials are competent and well-meaning, I think it comes down to this. Outside of an urban core, a transit system that maximizes total ridership (e.g. boardings per dollar spent) typically achieves that from a relatively small portion of the population riding the system over and over again, as they rely on it for everyday trips within a relatively small area the system serves and serves well.

        This is all well and good, but a public agency must ultimately answer to politicians and ballot measures who answer not to ridership, but voters, and every voter gets exactly one vote whether they ride or not. To maximize yes votes, you need to design the system not to maximize total riders, but unique riders. If unique riders is the goal, a person who rides every day and a person who rides just once a year to go to the airport all count the same. This is very different from maximizing boardings, and you get a different network as a result.

        If the goal is to maximize unique riders, a train to the airport makes lots of sense, as lots of people go there once a year, and long term parking is expensive enough to make the train worth considering, even if it means Ubering to Tacoma Dome to pick it up. If the goal is to maximize total riders, Link from Tacoma to SeaTac is a waste of money, money that would yield far more bang for the buck by just running Pierce Transit bus routes more often.

        So, maybe the problem isn’t so much incompetence, but that the electoral system demands a goal that is vastly different from boardings per dollar spent that we typically use to measure productivity, and the ST board is simply working towards that goal.

      30. Daniel, I have long written my thoughts down in a blog to help me process things, which you very kindly linked above—Transportation Matters.

        Sometimes I submit the pieces to other websites with a much broader reach if I feel they have a high value. Ongoing transportation planning issues in Tacoma is definitely an article that I wanted to distribute to a broader audience. It was my goal to create a piece that, as much as possible, broke down the many distinct elements that are influencing transit planning Tacoma. There was a lot to cover, but the many slides help break down why one decision led to another, and the consequences of it. Tacomans need to better understand this. It is my impression that, as a consequence of us being deprived of transit investment for so long, we applaud virtually all transit proposals, even if the product is not useful or even bad.

        As I wrote on Reddit, one thing clearly needs to be set straight, as apparently my slides don’t emphasize it enough:

        I am not married to this idea of Link to downtown. Even my last “Possible Future” slides don’t require it, but state that it is merely preferred. I am not married to Link to Tacoma whatsoever. After Federal Way, I think we are on track to spend billions of dollars for virtually zero impact on travel modal share in the corridor, which today only gets modest bus ridership across multiple lines (as in, express buses can be made to effectively serve the transit travel demand here). Sound Transit’s own data supports this.

        What I do object to is spending billions of dollars on a rail extension to “Tacoma”, then creating a mini climate catastrophe to build it, only to end the line at a park-and-ride that is 1.5 miles away from the principal core destination it was always supposed to serve. Worse, all of our BRT lines are now being redirected to intercept this rail line, forcing transfers or extended bus trips onto all local riders who wish only to travel into the center of their own city or beyond. This is not only the gentrification of local transportation, but it is the upending of the entire structure of our existing system.

        I ultimately don’t care about Link to Tacoma or Link to Commerce St. I do care about the impact the project is having on the local transportation system and area planning processes. If you’re going to send a subway line to Tacoma, it should go to the city center, as all subways do the world over. If you’re not going to send it to the city center, it should at least interconnect with the primary transit line of said city—which Link also fails to do by going to TDS. Well, in that case, you should then redirect the primary transit line to TDS so that the station is brought into the network, and then have the transit line act as the circulator between Link and the rest of the city. We almost had this, but then Pierce Transit cut the primary line into two—not at TDS, which would make the most sense, but at Commerce St. This not only divides the primary transit line in a way that needlessly forces transfers across downtown for all riders of its busiest portion, but it also has a huge impact on the transit system’s functionality. Why Pierce Transit elected to terminate the Route 1 at Commerce Street and not TDS, especially as the streetcar will be run down 19th Street and not 6th Avenue, I have no idea. Why the City of Tacoma allowed for this to happen confounds me, too.

        So here we are, in need of a reflection on the choices that brought us here, especially as we have over a decade before rails start hosting passenger operations. That means addressing the source of these problems: Link’s failure to interconnect with the Tacoma transportation system outright, which is today effectively resolved only with a Link terminus in the Commerce Street area. That is what I argue. It has the added benefit of picking up regional service to UWT/Union Station and central Tacoma, a morally just and environmentally responsible accomplishment. Tacoma has already bulldozed the neighborhood in the likely right-of-way for “urban renewal”, so we just need to prepare for rail line construction.

        So, just to reiterate, I am not proposing massive new rail investments into downtown. BUT, if we are going to extend Link, as is currently “programmed” to occur by the ST long-range plan, presumably through an ST4 package, absolutely do build the CTLE instead.

        I even made a pretty poster to publicize it.

      31. Troy, I did enjoy your article and thought it was one of the best I have seen on the issue. I don’t know why Ross thought it was insulting to you (and much better than what I usually see on The Urbanist, which is why I was curious about where your article originated).

        I think most on this blog agree with your suggestions. Many on this blog have been making those same suggestions for a long time. My real point is I doubt the people who made the original decisions will change their mind at this point.

        I don’t live in Tacoma but intuitively agree that if the subarea is going to spend the money to run light rail to Tacoma then run it to downtown Tacoma, although as I have posted I don’t think the ridership from Federal Way supports the cost (and apprently neither do you), and agree with asdf2 spending that money on buses in a county as undense as Pierce Co. makes more sense. But Tacoma has always had a bit of an inferiority complex so I think getting light rail was important to Tacoma, just like it was to Issaquah which has no inferiority complex. Animal spirits impact transit too.

        I also highly doubt a ST 4 is likely so this is it, and reading the tea leaves in the 2021 ST subarea report raises question for me whether the subarea has the money — based on actual costs and not ST’s project cost estimates that are usually around 30% to 50% low, or 100% low for DSTT2 — that getting light rail to Tacoma Dome is doable. So debating whether to extend the line to the mall or downtown is likely moot because I think it will stop at Tacoma Dome either way.

        My suspicion is the line to Tacoma Dome is to centralize transit and not have to spend a fortune on a new park and ride. But then Bellevue did not want a surface light rail line in its city core, and Seattle (north of CID) is demanding all of WSBLE be underground. My suspicion is the extension to the mall, if the money is ever there, has a lot to do with benefitting the property owners. One thing I have always agreed with Ross on is you build light rail to where the people and riders are NOW (work and living), and that is downtown Tacoma, not the mall in several decades. Pierce Co. has enough difficulty creating the jobs and density for one major center (Tacoma) let alone a satellite (the mall). Some think folks like TOD, except it really should be DOT because transit follows development and where people want to live, for many varied reasons.

        When you write: “Why Pierce Transit elected to terminate the Route 1 at Commerce Street and not TDS, especially as the streetcar will be run down 19th Street and not 6th Avenue, I have no idea. Why the City of Tacoma allowed for this to happen confounds me, too” I usually look for the money when decisions that don’t make sense to me are made.

        Since Line T is built, and expanded, I think that is the future, and Tacoma Dome will be the “hub”. I can’t imagine the line is ever extended to Tacoma Mall (considering Pierce Co. is one of the biggest no votes on ST levies, along with S. King Co.).

        I plan to visit your blog more although it looks to be focused on Tacoma. Thanks for the article, although the better the article the more frustrating it is that changes are very unlikely.

      32. I agree with you completely, ST4 is not likely to happen, and, if it does, it likely won’t result in a Link extension beyond Tacoma Dome. However, stranger things have happened, and WSBLE is way underfunded for its current dubious scope. So, who knows….

        I believe that my strong recent advocacy for CTLE is causing confusion about my dedication to it, as though CTLE was my principal or sole concern. I get this.

        But my advocacy is not for CTLE specifically, it is to get the TDLE engineers to include the Puyallup Avenue alternative alignment known as TD1 into the DEIS review, which needs to happen literally right now. Otherwise, CTLE dies with the current rail plans.

        Not only is Puyallup Avenue TD1 the only pathway for an extension into central Tacoma (due to more favorable highway structure placement, grade, buildings, etc), but Sound Transit itself identified it as being the best line to Tacoma Dome for all of the reasons we value: better integration with buses, fewer major civil works, presumed lower cost, etc.

        Why would a superior alignment like Puyallup Avenue be discarded from even a DEIS review? Well, just as the avenue allows for a downtown extension, the inverse is that it does not allow for a Link extension up the gulch to the Tacoma Mall, which is a mandate of the long-range plan.

        Getting this changed needs to happen now, which means people need to understand what is at stake, or how the system could be improved here. I am trying to accomplish that through pieces like CTLE or alternative Link alignments, which aims to inform the public of the alternatives that Sound Transit never put forth for review.

        I know it is pushing a boulder up the hill.

      33. I can’t believe I have to say this Matt, but the ToS is about all of us, not just me. In fact, most of my open complaints about ToS violations are about violations against DT or Sam, not myself. I usually just ask for moderation directly from STB staff when it comes to me. The only reason ToS violations against me have even really become ‘public’ is due to many of them being from RossB, and the fact that he now has moderation privileges. I see this as a clear issue and conflict of interest, but since that ship has clearly sailed I am back to protecting others over myself.

    5. I agree. Tacoma is not a suburb. Excellent article. The slides alone are worth reading, especially the ones describing the problem. The main takeaway is that Tacoma is going down a very bad path. It is quite likely they they will spend a huge amount of money on a system that benefits very few, while actually being worse for the majority of people taking transit in Tacoma, if not Pierce County.

      Troy’s extension of light rail into downtown Tacoma is ideal, but may take a very long time, if it ever happens. If the main Link line does go all the way to the Tacoma Dome, it should go to downtown Tacoma. No question. But in the mean time, the buses should go downtown. That is his proposal as well (in the “Possible Future with BRT slide”). This makes way more sense than having the bus detour to serve the Tacoma Dome. The vast majority of folks on the 1 are not headed to Seattle, and those that are can simply transfer to the bus on Pacific. Way more people take the bus to Seattle from Tacoma than ride Sounder. When Link finally gets to the Tacoma Dome it would be a bit awkward, but at worst you could modify the route then (and even then, I doubt it will make sense to do so).

    6. Mike wrote:

      [Tacoma] doesn’t have the job base or wealth of Bellevue. It was trying to attract that with Link and other things, so it wouldn’t be left behind in the next prosperity wave and become a slum. But its ideas were backwards. It should have brought Link downtown if it’s going to have Link at all. Not to a P&R a mile away whose main benefit is for exurban commuters to park at. It should have gone for a lower-level, wider network, with BRT from Federal Way to downtown Tacoma, and more Stream lines across Tacoma and the Pierce subarea.

      Pierce is screwed because its leaders have no vision of transit that Pierce residents can use to live and work and shop within the county. The only bright spot is Stream 1. In order to use Link at Tacoma Dome, people will have to get to Tacoma Dome. What Pierce needs most is a bus network like King County’s.

      I agree. I really think that folks are burying the lede here, by focusing on only one part of Troy Serad’s solution (extending Link to downtown Tacoma). By all means, if you are going to bother to run Link all the way to the Tacoma Dome, it should go to downtown Tacoma. To do otherwise would be like running Link from SeaTac to SoDo. Yeah, you save some money, but holy cow you lose ridership. You force Metro into either ignoring the light rail system, or bending it to serve a minor destination. Either way you end up with a very awkward system.

      But the main takeaway from that excellent article is that the current plans are terrible. For most riders, transit will get worse after spending huge amounts of money. That is clearly a problem. Never mind the solution — let’s focus a bit on the fact that this is a very big problem for Tacoma.

      Tacoma needs a new vision, and downtown Tacoma should be the center of it. Run BRT (or just better bus service) to downtown. Trips out of town — which will always make up a tiny portion of ridership — can be done via the bus, or commuter rail (Sounder). This is a very reasonable solution for Tacoma — one that would reap benefits long before Link gets to the Tacoma Dome: This actually saves the various agencies money, as you don’t have awkward detours.

      The plan doesn’t even include the bus service that could (and probably would) run between downtown and the Tacoma Dome. Building a “spine” from the north part of downtown Tacoma to the Tacoma Dome has a lot of merit. A similar spine has played a very important part in Seattle’s success as a transit city, long before Link did. It means that if I get off of an Amtrak or Sounder train, I can take the bus to the other side of downtown Seattle quite easily. Doing the same in Tacoma could easily be accomplished by overlapping the routes downtown.

      This means, for example, that the 1 would be split. Maybe both lines are BRT, maybe just the southern portion. But if there is any part that goes to the Tacoma Dome, it is the northern part (the part that goes on Sixth). Basically you send all the buses that go from the north through downtown and on to the Tacoma Dome. Likewise, any bus that serves the Tacoma Dome keeps going to serve downtown. Consolidate the buses so that they run on the same street, and you have your spine. This means that folks going out of town may have a three-seat ride, but at least that middle seat is frequent. It means that their trip to downtown Tacoma (from Seattle) is faster than ever. You’ve focused most of your efforts on most of your riders (those headed to downtown Tacoma, or along other corridors within the city).

    7. So many have questioned the TDLE including me. However, i see the problem as Link light rail technology and the full double track. It is the slower and more expensive choice for the segment.

      For the same amount of funds, I believe that a better and faster choice was available but no one wanted to study it. That would have been for a self-propelled 80 mph train running on mostly single track with bypasses — and a cross platform transfer somewhere in Federal Way.

      Tacoma Dome to South Federal way is listed by ST as a 20 minute trip.

      Federal Way TC appears to be about 23 or 24 minutes from Tacoma a Dome on Link. ST Express 586 lists this trip as 20 minutes today.

      The 2040 forecasted ridership listed on STB in 2040 was 26k on a weekday. That’s not enough to run frequent service and I think it’s going to require 5 or 6 extra train sets. I fully expect ST to give up on 6 minutes peak and 10 minutes daily just because there won’t be that many riders on the train. (Note that the same problem exists north of Mariner at 16k as well as Eastgate at 12K and north of Redmond Tech at 8K.). I see the ST service plan to short turn trains anyway unless the system gets fully automated.

      Also, unlike the other corridors, I don’t see the TDLE stations becoming big TODs. The tribal ownership of the East Tacoma and Fife stations will discourage that and the station areas don’t appear desirable.

      ST3 was never designed to be productive. The projects are political and not strategic. The efforts to date are about designing new tracks and stations — and no matter how much lip service gives to transit integration, TOD and walk access it appears to me to be token. Heck, ST can’t even propose station designs to provide things like redundant escalators and elevators or cross platform transfers between the Link lines in those stations.

      1. “The 2040 forecasted ridership listed on STB in 2040 was 26k on a weekday” [Federal Way TC to Tacoma Dome].

        Ridership on ST Express 586 today is 5000/weekday. In 2019 daily ridership was 8000 to 10,000/weekday.

        Is the estimated 26,000 riders/day in 2040 on Link due to population growth or folks switching from cars to light rail despite first/last mile access issues? If ridership on the 586 in 2022 is half of what it was in 2019 is it logical to re-estimate ridership on Link from FW TC to Tacoma Dome at half of 26,000, or 13,000/day, even accepting ST’s estimates based on its future population growth or drivers switching from cars to Link estimates?

        If there has been one issue that has always bothered me about ST it is the subjective future ridership estimates that usually dwarf existing ridership on express or regular buses. There just does not seem to be any objective formula for ST’s future ridership estimates, and they are never re-estimated due to the pandemic, WFH, or lower bus ridership today, especially on ST express buses.

      2. I’m sure that some increase is due to population growth. Still more comes from some drivers not liking slower traffic and choosing transit instead. Then there are more parking spaces available at stations. And there’s anticipated rises in parking costs in Downtowns.

        However, in the case of TDLE it’s not much about making trips on transit faster. I’ll also note that ST doesn’t seem to make adjustments on transit travel time when transfers take extra minutes — especially when vertical devices are broken.

        So I can’t speculate what effects each of these factors have.

        In the case of TDLE, the big unknown are casino trips. They are busy all day and all night, and alcohol flows freely. I don’t think ST has fully projected how many of the TDLE riders are gamblers. Still, two of the four stations are basically casino stops.

      3. The 586 is a peak express to u district.

        The 574 is the usual bus to Federal Way and then Seatac.

        I’m about to hop on it. 18 minutes. 6 of those are winding around to the onramp, competing with semis from the port. Should have a dedicated transit onramp.

      4. ” I don’t think ST has fully projected how many of the TDLE riders are gamblers. Still, two of the four stations are basically casino stops.”

        As a degenerate gambler, I would wager very few trips will be to or from the casino. EQC isn’t really that close to TD station, and it’s a super-unpleasant walk under the highway and through what are currently encampments.

        I tried to ride my bike there, and they simply wouldn’t let me. They told me to leave and come back in a car. It was “highway or the highway”. They cater exclusively to cars, with massive garages, and have no interest in any other mode.

        Interestingly, most casinos are the same. I was at one in Albuquerque that threatened to grind my lock and throw my bike over the wall.

        Bizarre but true.

      5. Al, the proper word is “sidings”, not “bypasses”. A bypass is a shortcut or some other means by which to shorten travel times on a trunk route by skipping one or some intermediate trackage.

      6. Cam, remember who really owns casinos. I don’t mean the tribes…… It’s the locan N-Drangheta.

      7. Can, the planned East Tacoma Station site (Portland Ave and E 27th St) is pretty close to EQC Tacoma. It appears to be only two blocks away.

        I’m a degenerate slot player sometimes too ;).

      8. “The 586 is a peak express to u district.

        “The 574 is the usual bus to Federal Way and then Seatac.

        “I’m about to hop on it. 18 minutes. 6 of those are winding around to the onramp, competing with semis from the port. Should have a dedicated transit onramp.”

        Ok, here are the numbers for the 574:

        45,000 monthly boardings in Sept. 2022 (35,000 weekday, 4000 Saturday, 6000 Sunday), down from 63,000/month in Sept. 2019.

        I now need to correct my earlier post. The 586 averages 5000 weekday boardings PER MONTH, not per weekday. I assume ST is estimating 26,000 boardings per day on Link. Combined the 574 and 586 today average around 3000/weekday.

      9. “Can, the planned East Tacoma Station site (Portland Ave and E 27th St) is pretty close to EQC Tacoma. It appears to be only two blocks away.”

        I’m sorry, but that’s insane. That means there will be 2 stations, both in the middle of nowhere, 2 (long) blocks apart.

        Thanks for pointing that out.

        Who was making these decisions? Nevermind, I looked up who. They are no longer in Pierce County or Tacoma government, and ST clearly shouldn’t have been listening to them in the first place.

      10. Refusing to serve a customer because they arrive on a bike sounds to me like refusing to serve a customer because they are black, gay, or disabled. It should flat out not be allowed. If they don’t want people chaining their bikes to railings, they should put in a bike rack.

        The only business that has any business in requiring a customer to have a car is auto repair.

      11. Bike riders are not a protected class so a business owner can discriminate based on bike riding. I don’t know why they would. I can understand not wanting a bike chained to a private fence, especially near the entrance, but there should be plenty of places to put your bike on the public steet or sidewalk. I wouldn’t want a car or motorcycle chained to a fence next to my entrance either. Some businesses might have onsite parking where they could put a bike rack, but others in urban areas rely on public streets for parking so they can’t just place a bike rack on a sidewalk without city permission.

      12. They have a couple 1000 car garages and also a couple giant windswept plazas. It aint space that is the issue…

      13. It’s not crazy that people would want a non-driving transportation option when going somewhere that involves alcohol. There is a reason why Snoqualmie Casino goes so far as to run their own buses to Seattle to facilitate this.

        Now, obviously biking while drunk is not a smart thing to do (although much less dangerous to others than driving drunk). But, nevertheless, for such a huge parking facility to have not one bike rack is mind blowing. And, yes, I think cities should step in, as mandatory bike parking for large businesses is far, far cheaper to comply with than mandatory car parking, and in a car oriented area, you don’t even need a lot of it. You just need to have something.

      14. The closest thing to the Tacoma Dome extension is the 500. It connects the Tacoma Dome with Fife and Federal Way. It had about 1,000 riders a day, prior to the pandemic. To be fair, the stop on Portland Avenue also has the 400 and 41. These buses have a combined ridership of around 1,500. Still, given that all of these buses go right to downtown Tacoma and have many bus stops, it is a safe assumption that none of the proposed stations between Tacoma and the main Federal Way station have very many existing riders. My guess is, the vast majority of riders are spread out, with the biggest concentration within downtown. This would make it like far more popular routes (like the 1) where there are plenty of people going along the main highway, and lots of people going downtown, but no particularly popular stops other than those downtown.

        It also is quite possible that many riders close to those stops will simply ignore Link. If you are trying to get from Fife to downtown Tacoma (which, presumably makes up the bulk of Fife ridership) you might not bother with the train, but take one of the buses instead. Same with the casino, especially if it is easier to walk to the bus stop.

        In terms of value added, there isn’t much. It will be a bit easier to get from the airport or Seattle from these stops. But Seattle will be a long ways, and not that many people go to the airport. Fife, Portland Avenue or South Federal Way to SeaTac? We are probably looking at a few hundred, and in some cases a few dozen. Same with the trips to Seattle. There just isn’t much of a network effect in that sort of environment.

        You are almost entirely dependent on Tacoma riders — yet this won’t do a good job serving the city. From the Tacoma Dome, trips to Seattle will be faster on the bus most of the time, and faster via Sounder every time it runs. Thus you are basically talking about people who miss their Sounder connection (and don’t want to wait for the next big train) or people who travel in the middle of the day, and don’t mind a trip that takes longer than it does now. Assuming they cancel the express buses, I would expect an increase in Sounder ridership, while riders call for more runs of the commuter train.

        It is worth noting that midday ridership on the relatively fast bus is not huge. About 1,000 people a day ride the bus, and ridership is spread out. About 350 people board at the Tacoma Dome, another 350 in other Tacoma stops, and another 200 or so in the two Lakewood stops. Thus the majority of riders on the existing 594 will have to transfer. Even if they time that transfer perfectly it will take longer than the old bus. A transfer and a slower ride to your ultimate destination, with no major stops in between. It wouldn’t surprise me if ridership for folks heading north actually goes down.

        Add it all up, and I just don’t see where the riders will come from. They aren’t there now, and unlike a lot of Link projects, this isn’t a huge improvement. Some people get a better ride — some worse. Overall, it isn’t clear that it is an improvement at all.

        This would be bad enough if it wasn’t for the fact that the agencies are doubling down on this failed approach. The Tacoma Dome is not the center of Tacoma. Downtown Tacoma is. Sending the 1 — which has more riders than all of the buses going from Tacoma to Seattle combined — to the Tacoma Dome is going to make things worse for many riders. That is what is striking about the plans for Tacoma. It will be worse for many people who travel between Tacoma and Seattle, and will be worse for many people who simply travel within Tacoma. It is a failed vision of what the city needs. We need to stop pretending that Tacoma is a suburb of Seattle, or that the Tacoma Dome is part of downtown Tacoma.

        By all means, we should make it easy to get between Seattle and downtown Tacoma, while making it easy to get to places along the way. But the best way to do that is end Link in Federal Way, increase bus service between downtown Tacoma to Seattle (with a stop at Federal Way) and spend more money improving transit within Tacoma (where most of the ridership will always be).

      15. Completely agree, Ross.

        Now we need to figure out whether it is possible to shift some of the thinking and the dollars to intra-Pierce routes, where it is needed. I have no good idea of what the political process would be to change course. Where are the pressure points? Who are the real decision makers, with the power to revisit and revise prior poor decisions?

        I wasn’t here then, but it appears to me that many of the politicians who were on the ST board back when these decisions were made are no longer in local politics. The mayor is now a legislator mostly in Thurston. I couple others look to be mostly out of politics. Do we really have to live with their ill-conceived advocacy?

        That’s what I’d like to see us talk about next week with a Pierce-focused thread. If I’m going to be good advocate, who do I need to lean on. I am starting to develop some network of local advocacy groups, but I have no idea if it would be a waste of time, or if throwing some of my very limited time and energy into this would get traction and change outcomes. If so, is there a model for success?

        Ranting on blogs is fun, but my time is too valuable. I’d rather find a non-zero path and a plan to effect change and outcomes or simply resign myself to crap transit, and invest in a nice car and bike.

      16. Well, maybe I don’t completely agree. The route 500 is hourly frequency and takes over half an hour as a local slowboat along Pac Hwy. Even though I do travel that route, I would never choose if over the 574, which is both much faster and much more frequent.

      17. My point is that existing ridership is tiny in the stops between (but not including) the Tacoma Dome and Federal Way. This is in contrast to various other extensions. For example, the extension to Northgate served the U-District and Roosevelt — places with lots of riders from other buses. Some of those buses *were* very slow, and very indirect (like the 67 between Northgate and Roosevelt). But they got lots of riders anyway. It is no surprise that there is good Link ridership in those places. Many riders just switched from the bus.

        In contrast, most of the Tacoma Dome Link extension is trying to build ridership where little exists now. Portland Avenue to Fife? Tacoma Dome to South Federal Way? We are talking very low ridership. The increase in Link ridership for the extension will be minimal, and will mostly be Tacoma riders forced from buses like the 574 to Link. Again, it wouldn’t surprise me if overall ridership goes down.

      18. “The closest thing to the Tacoma Dome extension is the 500”
        I’d say the 574 is a better comparison. As the 500/501 don’t really work as exact 1 to 1 comparison to link extension, and is also likely the 574 line is the one that it’s really meant to replace. The 500/501 are also both hourly, which makes it difficult to extrapolate any meaningful data from ridership. Because at that point you’re talking about the people who only ride because they have to not because they want to

        I still say the extension has it’s merits as it would connect Tacoma to Federal Way, Highline College, and SeaTac. Faster or more frequent connections to SeaTac and Highline College would be an immediate benefit to riders in Tacoma with the benefits to Federal Way coming in the more medium term. I still think there should be an extension to Downtown Tacoma as it would be a massive improvement to connectivity to the rest of the PT system.

      19. “The closest thing to the Tacoma Dome extension is the 500”

        I’d say the 574 is a better comparison.

        Sigh. One more time. I’ll try to be as clear as possible. The Tacoma Dome Extension has three stations between the main Federal way station and the Tacoma Dome (not including those stations):

        1) South Federal Way
        2) Fife
        3) Portland Avenue

        Now focus only on those stations for now. Ignore Federal Way. Ignore the Tacoma Dome. Just those three stations. What buses serve those stations? The 500 does. The 574 does not. That is the basis for that section of the comment (three paragraphs to be exact).

        Later I discuss travel between Tacoma and places north, starting with “You are almost entirely dependent on Tacoma riders — yet this won’t do a good job serving the city. “. Here is where the 574 comes in. I go into great detail on the 574 (“About 350 people board at the Tacoma Dome, another 350 in other Tacoma stops, and another 200 or so in the two Lakewood stops. Thus the majority of riders on the existing 594 will have to transfer.”)

        I look at all the buses: ST, Pierce Transit and even Metro. I look at all possible combinations. That is why it is such a long comment. There is simply no existing case for this expansion. Of course you will get riders — but not enough to justify a massive investment in a rail line. Take the three examples you mentioned:

        I still say the extension has it’s merits as it would connect Tacoma to Federal Way, Highline College, and SeaTac.

        Yeah, OK, except that the connection between Tacoma and Federal Way will be worse. Someone in downtown Tacoma will miss the express bus. They will be forced to transfer at the Tacoma Dome. The trip to SeaTac will be about the same as it will be once Link gets to Federal Way. Taking the bus and transferring at the Tacoma Dome isn’t much better than transferring in Federal Way. Same with Highline Community College.

        But here is the big issue: All of these are minor destinations. Very few people from Tacoma go to any of them. The big destination in Tacoma is not Fife, not Federal Way, not SeaTac or even Seattle. It is downtown Tacoma. It isn’t even close. Seattle is a very distant second, and Link will be slower than the existing alternatives. SeaTac is a distant third (if that — for all I know more people take the bus to Tacoma Community College).

        The extension is being built without any data justifying it. This makes it dramatically different than the lines that have been so successful (like Northgate Link). Not only was their lots of existing transit use between Northgate and downtown, but there were lots of transit trips with every combination added. It is these combinations (e. g. Northgate to the UW) where the great value was added, and where much of the ridership has come from. That simply doesn’t exist with the Tacoma Dome extension.

      20. I understand that the Pierce Subarea has accumulated something between a billion and two of loans to North and East King for ST 1 and 2 construction. The rest of the revenues have gone to Sounder and STEX operations. Tacoma of course still wants Link, though they’ve made a hash of the plans for it.

        Most of the money required to extend Link to Federal Way has obviously been spent, with the important exception of the valley crossing north of 272nd, so the clear opportunity for a terminus at Highline College won’t happen.

        But it seems that Ross’s arguments are sound. Pierce County isn’t going to turn Fife or Milton into dense housing; it makes too much tax revenue from the POT and the space around Milton is too small to make a difference. So the TDLE will never be a good line without extending it a couple of stations into downtown, and even that won’t be great.

        Tacoma has its heart set on the extension, but can the rest of the ST district there be appeased by more and better bus service? “All-daySounder” will never be a thing, because BNSF doesn’t want the headaches and UP probably would refuse the funding for the necessary double-tracking of their line. UP is very anti-passenger and generally anti-government.

        North and East King can surely come up with the loan proceeds to “buy out” Pierce, and simply by adding a better and more frequent STEX network, future Pierce tax revenues can be used.

        So when will you start advocating for a renegotiation that cancels TDLE, Ross? You can’t dance around it much longer.

      21. So when will you start advocating for a renegotiation that cancels TDLE, Ross?

        I didn’t realize I had to make it official. Yeah, definitely cancel TDLE. Same with Everett Link, Issaquah Link and West Seattle Link. All of those plans are a very bad value, although TDLE is unusually bad. In most cases, the lines will largely be ignored. At worse they run infrequently, or not at all (following years of poor ridership). But with TDLE, the system will be *worse* for many riders.

        Oh, I would probably cancel Ballard Link as well, as the project is just too much of a mess, despite it having way more potential than every other major ST3 project. Sometimes it is best to start over. It is quite possible that if we did with the line to the UW, we would have had a First Hill station.

      22. I have no idea if Tacoma has its heart set on much. Transit has been so bad for so long, few that i talk to are even aware of or care about the plans, and the politicians who advocated for it last decade are no longer in office.

        If Tacoma were offered fast, frequent sounder service as a replacement, i think we could get people on board. The railroads are such bad stewards, the arguement for nationalization is getting hard to ignore.

      23. Cam, NO! The railroads are much too important to the economy to let them be run by the government. Government is absolutely necessary, but it is a poor manager of important economic services. There are too many “stakeholders” arguing about goals and “necessities”. Politics has royally effed Link. The rails carry too much important stuff to mess them up too.

        Oversee them? Regulate them? Of course. But in every country in which they’re owned by the state, they suffer grievous under-investment and debilitating featherbedding.

        “All-day Sounder” is a nice pipe-dream, but it’s not going to happen.

      24. In Germany, where the federal government owns all major railway lines and single operator operation is allowed, a commuter authority can sometimes put a train on a route with cheaper operating costs than a bus. The stations and right of way are paid for, and if the railway equipment is already there it’s just a matter of hiring a single operator. Frequently the train is faster than the bus, resulting in fewer hours spent paying the operator or more trips made, resulting in lower costs.

        In the UK, where most operations have been privatized, many services have been cut back over the years and replaced with buses. Operations that I have observed are ponderously inefficient.

        A German transit activist once told be that in Germany, if Sounder existed, they’d throw someone in prison for wasting taxpayer money for not operating all day.

      25. What are essentially monopolies need more than regulation. Fine. Break them into 10 companies, including a public transportation arm with veto power over use, length and scheduling. Whatever needs to be done to get real access to what should be a public asset.

      26. The U.S. is on the brink of a major rail strike, right as the Christmas shopping season is beginning. If there is a strike we will quickly learn why freight has priority over passenger rail in the huge U.S.

        There isn’t a better mode for moving freight in the U.S. than rail even though it is slow while most would argue passenger rail is the worst mode after flying and cars (especially passenger rail over freight lines).

        The alternative to more regulation is to charge the same for passenger rail as for freight, or more, if you want to incentivize more passenger frequency over freight lines. It would require fixed long term contracts no matter how many passengers there are to match freight contracts and provide carriers certainty, and have passengers pay the full fare without subsidies. Then a passenger could choose whether it made sense to fly, drive, or take a train rather than favoring or subsidizing one mode over another simply based on mode.

        When it comes to Sounder what I hear is despite the region spending $142 billion on Link and express buses a freight line is still faster and more convenient. That tells me there is something wrong with Link or buses, not that our freight rail priorities are wrong.

      27. The reason there is going to be strike is they are treating their employees like crap.

        They are also being poor stewards of rail. Choosing profit over efficiency.

        Two reasons why we should take their toy away, and use it properly.

      28. Ross nailed it; there’s no better mode for freight than steel wheel on steel rail — well, except for barge when there’s a convenient navigable waterway and you don’t mind waiting. It takes less than 1/5 the fossil fuel to carry a ton of freight in a container on a train than it does putting the container on a truck. Including the 53 footers; the rails can handle them now, too.

        Sure, trucks are way better for “express” and package delivery; they’re quicker and the stuff is “cube” not tonnage. But if the lading is dense and heavy or the trip is an unbroken 1000 miles or more, ship it by rail unless it demands air carriage.

        Your idea of “breaking them up into ten competitors” ignores that there are only five trans-Rocky Mountain mains remaining. It might have been good for the four pre-final western lines (BN, UP, Santa Fe and SP) to have merged across the Mississippi barrier, but the Conrail consolidation in the Northeast back in the 1970’s made that impossible. There weren’t enough eastern “partners” remaining.

        So we have two in the east, two in the west and two in Canada, each of which reaches down to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi Valley. BNSF has a line that gets all the way to Birmingham and Mobile, and NS juts out to Kansas City and Shreveport with a haulage to D-FW. Otherwise, there are two eastern lines east of Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans and two western ones on the other side. The Candians do mix up the game in the Mid-West.

        More might be conceivably done to force neutral access to shippers and receivers, especially when a city is served by both carriers of its region. But “independent carriers” are a non-starter. The government might “make” the rails host trains belonging to logistics providers, like what happens in Europe, but the DS’s would just keep them in the hole for switch runs. UP doesn’t do that to BNSF (and vice-versa) because they both have important rights on each others trackage that would be severely impacted by “tit-for-tat” warfare. The third parties wouldn’t have that club with which to beat a foot-dragging host railroad.

      29. You are making my point for me. Rails are a monopoly.

        Monopolies are only good for the owner of the monopoly and share holders. It’s bad for the nation, it’s bad for the consumer, it’s bad for the actual sector, because it gets fat, lazy and abusive, and stops even trying to improve. Because why should it.

        We need to treat rails like a national resource, because it can be (though RRs are currently undermining this) the most efficient way to run freight.

      30. “

        “When companies implemented P.S.R., they also adopted new technology that allowed for locomotive engines to be placed along the length of a train. Now, instead of engines pulling the train from the front, additional engines in the middle and the back help move even more train cars. Average train length grew around 25 percent from 2008 to 2017, and companies now regularly run trains that are three miles long.

        Our infrastructure isn’t built for these monster trains, which are now so long that many no longer fit the tracks designed to allow trains to pass one another. These trains are almost always overseen by a crew of just two people, who must walk for miles if a problem is found, in all kinds of weather. The trains are difficult to control, and if weight is unevenly distributed along them, they may break apart or even derail.

        Precision schedules imply that trains run on some semblance of a schedule. But monster trains and longer distances often lead to a series of small delays that can easily cascade into much longer ones. This means that when a rail crew’s shift ends, its replacement is often called at odd hours to their station, usually with less than two hours’ notice.”

      31. “Nearly two decades ago, companies used to spend around 80 percent of their revenues on running trains and covering operating expenses like payroll, fuel and maintenance. The remaining 20 percent could then be used for stock dividends and buybacks for shareholders. Today that operating ratio is much closer to 60 percent. Since 2010, rail companies have spent $196 billion in stock dividends and buybacks for shareholders. Pursuing these financial goals has actively surrendered railroads’ market share to trucks, delayed trains and angered both unions and customers. It’s not sustainable.”

        Burn ’em down.

      32. I agree that the rail lines should be required to have enough employees that the hours of service law never causes a train to “die on the law”. All of them should be paid a solid base salary and then paid by the shift for actual service.

        But the existence of multi-section trains in Two Main Track territory is not an operating impediment. Long ago some less solvent railroads would run trains longer than would fit in the available sidings. As long as they do it only in one direction, trains can operate, but when there are two opposing trains which both too long for a siding at which they must meet, they have to “saw by” where the trains are broken into pieces and the pieces are moved back and forth by the opposing engines.

        NO EXISTING RAILROAD will do that except possibly on a backwoods branch in coal country. There are few of those still operating.

        The super trains run in Two Main Track territory and shorter , faster trains dance around them on the double-crossovers common in such territory.

        If the rails want to run very long commodity unit trains, you should applaud them. A longer train can balance in hilly country, with parts on upgrade and others on downgrade.

      33. According to the news today the RR companies have offered a 24% pay increase over 5 years that the unions find acceptable. Four unions have reached agreement. The sticking point with the other unions is the demand for 15 paid “stress” days/year.

        Both sides have asked federal officials to not intervene as they believe a deadline will help close the deal. The last strike was in 1992 and the government forced workers back to work and the parties reached an agreement two days into the strike.

        Apparently if the unions were truly serious about a strike they would have struck before most of the Christmas stuff had been delivered.

    8. Suppose instead of Link to Tacoma Mall, the same amount of money were invested in the Tacoma Dome to DuPont line to get it up to reasonably fast and frequent speeds, and the procurement of light weight cars to provide such service on it?

      It seems like this would wind up being vastly better than Link to the Tacoma Mall.

      1. The Bypass doesn’t serve the Tacoma Mall very well. Maybe a two-station gondola would work, but it’s more than a half mile with a significant hill at the Mall end. Few people would walk it.

        There’s not much of a “downtown” in Lakewood, and what’s there isn’t by the tracks. So, again, the line only skirts an activity center.

        The center shoulder HOV system that WSDOT is just finishing up is useless for buses serving JBLM and not great for Dupont either, though the Intercity Transit expresses will certainly benefit handily. So maybe this could shuttle some folks through the no-parallel-roads Hell of JBLM staus.

        But will there ever be a real shuttle system from a station at the Main Gate to make transit to and from the base practical? It seems unlikely.

        So inexpensive though it would be — the only cost would be the rolling stock and operators — who would benefit from this line? It’s dangerously similar to WES.

  2. The top 10 cities in A ranking of transit networks around the world (Bloomberg) are: Hong Kong, Zurich, Stockholm, Singapore, Helsinki, Oslo, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, and London. Three are in Asia, three in the Nordic countries, and four in other parts of Europe. American cities were in the middle. The bottom cities were in Saudi Arabia and Africa: Johannesburg, Riyadh, Nairobi, and Jeddah.

    1. Interesting that Seoul didn’t make the top ten. It is third in transit modal share, while the metro system is fifth in overall ridership.

      1. The only possible reason why Seoul would be graded lower than Oslo/Helsinki is an utter lack of express service on Seoul’s system. Seoul is in the process of rectifying this, and really should’ve bumped one of the Nordic cities off. Milan should be here instead of Berlin, as Berlin has made next to no improvements in the last 20 years.

        Looking at the list more closely, the rankings are only partially based on the ridership totals. They have Amsterdam at 11th, Seoul at 12th, New York 13th, Sydney 14th, Moscow 15th, San Francisco 16th, Munich 17th, Milan 18th, Warsaw 19th, Chicago 20th.

        Yeah, it’s apparent that ridership is second fiddle to EV’s, rideshare, and airports.

  3. Can somebody with editor privileges please delete my comment that this replies to? I accidentally copied my reply to another thread as a top level comment. Thanks!

  4. Hey Zach –

    If you watch the titular video above, you would realize that even if the mall had 6 Nordys, the mall would still be a terrible place to invest a billion or 2 billion for light rail.

    The built environment and lack of walkable destinations just cripples the mall for transit. Downtown, on the other hand, was fortunate to be built mostly pre-war and, other than the destruction caused by urban renewal to attempt to compete with the mall, and in the process completely decimate parts of downtown as a misplaced sacrifice to the automobile, it is really a very walkable city. There are groceries, shops, bars, restaurants, banks, post offices, pharmacies, hospitals and a ton of housing – pretty much everything you need within 15 minutes walk of 10th and commerce.

    Yes, the mall has a Macy’s in it’s death-throws, a Cinnabon, 582 sneaker stores, and a noodle shop, but it’s a hellscape to walk and ride around. My young son was hassled to buy drugs simply walking across the parking lot. It is not far behind the supermall in its lifecycle, sadly.

    It is a really bad place to make a massive public investment in transit.

    1. I guess to me, I’ve seen what a dead mall looks like (Auburn SuperMall and Springfield Gateway) and Tacoma Mall isn’t it. Is it a great mall, no. But I wouldn’t consider it dead either. To me, a dead mall implies low occupancy rates or the leasing has gotten so cheap that they need random businesses like Churches, Charter School, or other oddball retail businesses to keep it afloat. Which was the SuperMall in it’s final years before the revamp to an outlet mall or the B&I for that matter on South Tacoma Way.

      As for why the plan to study an extension exists for Tacoma Mall, it exists from the city’s desire for long term redevelopment of the area, it’s just been slow going because of the redevelopment of Downtown Tacoma has been more of a bigger priority at the moment alongside COVID killing a lot of plans for redevelopment atm tho we’ll likely see a shift once we’re far enough away from the end of the pandemic.

    2. What’s at the Auburn Supermall now? The last few times I’ve been to it or ridden the 181 past it, it was random odball businesses looking for cheap rent, including a giant gym my friend went to for a while. Does it really have mainstream outlet stores like North Bend now?

      1. It’s the Outlet Collection nowadays, with basically the outlet versions of national brands like North Bend

    3. The comment section was angry East Link didn’t go to a mall. Now the comment section is angry Tacoma Link might go to a mall?

      1. Bellevue Square and surroundings are the core of the city and the Eastside, where the largest cross-section of people go, with the largest variety of destinations, and the most walkable part of the Eastside. So it’s where trunk transit lines should cross. For the same reason they should cross in downtown Seattle near Pike Place Market. Twenty years ago 104th-106th was the only area like that. Since then it has spread out to 104th-120th. But the most varied walkable destinations are still west of 108th.

        The highrise development around 110th is dense but it’s more single-use: only 9-5 workers go there, the restaurants close at 3pm, and there’s not much else. So it’s not as suitable as the center of the transit network. 120th has become a big-box ghetto, which is pedestrian and transit hostile and also single-use. So either the station and transit center should be further west, or the eastern half should have a wider variety of uses.

        In Tacoma the area with the largest variety of destinations and the most walkable is downtown. Tacoma has improved it with the UW campus, the museum. the supposed arts district, etc. There’s plenty of room for more on Pacific Ave. Tacoma Mall I know little about, but I gather it’s almost completely car-based and decaying. It’s hard to turn that around, and we can question whether the attempt would really succeed. Smaller cities have it worse because it’s harder to resist the car steamroller. Tacoma gutted its downtown before trying to restore it, and Tacoma Mall is a typical satellite car-oriented mall. See the difference? But Bellevue Square is at the walkable center of the city, while Tacoma Mall was trying to escape the city. It’s also a feeling and a judgment call, which is hard to explain.

        However, Tacoma has difficult geographical factors. Downtown Bellevue is in the middle of the Eastside. Downtown Tacoma is a cul-de-sac. For the majority of the population it would be backtracking to transfer there. Tacoma Dome and Tacoma Mall are “on the way” for more of the population. But it’s hard to see how it will really attract the kinds of destinations and walkability that downtown Tacoma already has and could enhance.

      2. Interesting point Sam.

        It’s also curious how the Everett early studies currently happening have four different alternatives to site a station near Alderwood Mall — and no one seems very interested in discussing those.

      3. Al S, there is a point in serving malls because a lot of people go there. Alderwood Mall isn’t replacing downtown Lynnwood; it’s in addition to it. If Link served downtown Tacoma and Tacoma Mall — and if they were in a straighter line — then it would be more acceptable. The problem is bypassing downtown Tacoma.

    4. I agree Cam, it is really silly to think that serving a mall instead of a downtown area (which also has a university campus) is a better value, especially when the downtown area is actually closer. Imagine if East Link bypassed downtown Bellevue, and went to Overlake mall instead. That is basically the plan.

      But I also think it is a pointless argument. In all likelihood, Link will either end at the Tacoma Dome, or not make it that far. It is unlikely it goes further, even though ending at the Tacoma Dome is a lot like if Link went from SoDo to SeaTac.

      We are missing the big issue, which is what Troy focused on. He lays it out quite well in the slides. So much so I hate to try and summarize it, because he covers every major point really well. Here is the dystopian future:

      Things clearly have gotten worse for the majority of riders, despite the huge investment. Now consider one option instead:

      This has Link going right to downtown, but that is not a necessity. If Link doesn’t make it downtown, the buses should. The buses should not go well out of their way to serve a relatively small portion of the population (headed to the Tacoma Dome). The streetcar (and buses coming from the north) can overlap to form a spine and help connect the Tacoma Dome to downtown (in much the way that the buses form a spine connecting King Street Station to the north end of downtown).

      The BRT plans are not that far away. The first line is supposed to start operations in 2027 — five years (at best) before Link gets to the Tacoma Dome. People are supposed to make a detour to serve an Amtrak/Sounder station, even though the vast majority aren’t interested. Many of those who are headed north just take the bus (and transfer at 24th and Pacific). If Link can’t make it to downtown Tacoma, so be it. The bus system in Tacoma should not be made worse because of that decision.

  5. Not Just Bikes just did a good video describing the value and importance of third places in urban and neighborhood design.
    I remember a couple good instances of this while traveling abroad, visited a local cafe in a Paris suburb with a friend and could feel the strong sense of conviviality at the restaurant. Including an older French couple asking me if I was enjoying the plat du jour of Duck à l’orange in French. Or the cafe at my school in Italy which had an outdoor garden that was a nice reprive from the bustle of the city. Where both students and locals would come for lunch, coffee, or aperitvo. We even had a little Christmas market where we had some local vendors selling their wares as well.

  6. People and businesses will continue to come to Puget Sound because it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. They will continue to set up in Seattle, Shoreline and Edmonds because they have the finest waterfront property.

    Lake Washington’s east shore is inferior to the west shore because Seattle’s hills occlude the Olympics, so Bellevue will always be the jealous younger sister to Seattle’s Doyenne. Kemper can pound sand about that.

    Seattle will figure out how to hurt the homeless in ways that don’t leave bruises, scars or burns, and Daniel’s Apocalypse will fade away into a wisp of vanity.

    1. Thank you for the insight. You are implying also, of course, that Rainier Valley is jealous of West Seattle, and that Yesler Terrace is jealous of downtown because of the wall of condos blocking the view. No doubt Interbay is jealous of Magnolia, also. All the less well-to-do in all those should pound sand, too, I assume? So that the wealthy along the Seattle coast can live happily knowing that more than just Kemper Freeman is jealous of their luck? But we should be happy knowing that we have a light rail line, I assume, while Magnolia does not, and West Seattle will have a useless one sometime in twenty years, give or take?

      Thank you for any advice you have to give. The rest of us would really love to know how to live our lives appropriately.

      I know you can do better, Tom. I have read lots of insightful comments from you before. Please do not demean yourself with such things.

      1. Anonymous, the folks who live in the valleys of Seattle are not the people for whom Daniel and people like him speak when they praise Bellevue and demean Seattle. I was using some hyperbole to stir the pot.

        For a long time I’ve thought that putting high rises on the crests of the north-south ridges that have an arterial — in a wide checkerboard pattern, to avoid creating a solid visual wall — would be a great way to create a large number of view properties. Phinney Ridge, Roosevelt, Beacon Hill and the hill South Seattle U sits would all be great opportunities. You’d need to add the arterial on the last one.

        When you’ve got it, flaunt it.

      2. Completely agree that building more view properties would be desirable. I would prefer to do it in high income neighborhoods in order to minimize the impact on lower income properties.

        If I may offer a suggestion, please do not be needlessly inflammatory. It is not conducive to good discourse. I find it more effective to pitch a big tent, and encourage even those we disagree with to join in. I have left this blog before because the inflammatory comments have grown too painful. I am trying to bring myself to comment more again, but doing so is difficult when I see the same patterns again and again, especially from those I respect and know can do better.

    2. Most Seattlites don’t have a mountain view at home, and many think they don’t need one. It’s enough that there’s a viewpoint within a mile. Shoreline and Edmonds aren’t the second- and third-largest cities in Pugetopolis. Lake Washington is easier to get to as a pedestrian and walk along, while much of Puget Sound is at the bottom of a cliff.

    3. Tom, in a northern climate like Seattle western exposure is more valuable (whereas in Phoenix it is northern exposure). Views do impact property values, but so do schools, public safety, location, parks, lot size, taxes, and so on. For example, I have a view eastward over the lake, which is not as valuable as western exposure, but our view includes downtown Bellevue which is beautiful at night reflecting in the dark lake. Still I preferred our old starter home’s western exposure. The light is yellow rather than blue.

      It isn’t hard to determine what folks want in housing because just look at prices. The most expensive per sf is the gold coast from Medina to Hunts Point, or what you call “Lake Washington’s east shore”, where Bill Gates and other billionaires live, especially waterfront because the waterfront is usable for swimming and boating. We have a house on Whidbey facing west on the beach with views of the Olympics (which is not that special, especially when the snow has melted) and although beautiful at 48 degrees year-round the water is not usable, except for fishing from the shore for Humpy every other year or launching a boat down the road.

      In Seattle the most expensive housing is also along Lake Washington, although it faces east, and most will want to send their kids to private schools. From Leschi to Laurelhurst to Windemere and farther north along the lake is where the most expensive housing is, although I think Lake Sammamish is more expensive per sf these days, and Sammamish has the highest AMI in the region.

      Edmonds, and certainly Shoreline, are not considered in that league, especially compared to the gold coast, and the housing prices show that. Shoreline has voluntarily accepted very high GMPC housing growth targets hoping the development will gentrify the city, not unlike Lynnwood. Edmonds is a nice city (for that area) but too remote.

      You don’t need to speculate or predict the housing market: housing prices do that for you. Just pull up Zillow.

      “Seattle will figure out how to hurt the homeless in ways that don’t leave bruises, scars or burns, and Daniel’s Apocalypse will fade away into a wisp of vanity.”

      I am not sure what you mean by this. I don’t live, work or vote in Seattle. Did you oppose the election of Harrell and Davison? Are you advocating for camping in parks and on streets? The “apocalypse” you suggest I predict is really financial, and has many causes that all come down to one factor: downtown Seattle generated 2/3’s of Seattle’s tax revenue, and from what I can tell Seattle is looking at an operating budget deficit of over $200 million next year, which I do think is apocalyptic, because housing and treating the homeless are not cheap. Some is perception of crime, some WFH, some business taxes, some the rise of the eastside as a business hub so eastsiders no longer have to commute to downtown Seattle. But they all result in a very dead downtown Seattle, and less tax revenue.

      “so Bellevue will always be the jealous younger sister to Seattle’s Doyenne”

      This I agree with, at least the part about jealously. Just look at the money and debate over Bellevue’s new performing arts center that must be better than whatever Seattle has. That is why I think it is foolish when some on this blog talk about shared regional goals or subarea sharing. Bellevue wants to beat Seattle. Always has. Cities naturally compete. Big chip on Bellevue’s shoulder.

      10 years ago I would have said it was impossible Bellevue would equal or surpass downtown Seattle for business revenue and business/retail vibrancy, until Seattle through unforced errors gave Bellevue a huge edge (which the pandemic accelerated). Of course ten years ago I would have told you it was crazy to think the eastside subarea would equal or exceed the N. King Co. subarea in ST tax revenue in 2023. I don’t think Kemper will pound sound about that. That was always his and Bellevue’s goal, although no one knows where to spend that ST tax revenue.

      Me? I just live in a little town between Seattle and Bellevue that wants to stay rural. But since I have lived on MI beginning in 1970 Mercer Island has totally shifted its allegiance to the eastside. It probably is a little hyperbole, but the disgust toward Seattle on eastside blogs like Nextdoor is universal, and that perception becomes reality when it means those folks won’t go into Seattle. I try to tell them Harrell is doing a pretty good job (based up until I left in Sept. 2022), but the reality is there is no retail density, so why go from the eastside which has amazing retail vibrancy from Issaquah to Bellevue to Kirkland to Redmond to go to Seattle (except maybe U Village which is popular on the eastside).

      Real estate prices and business tax revenue will tell you everything you need to know Tom. No need to speculate.

      1. By “don’t leave marks” I mean basically constant harassment; sound and lights should do the job. Busloads of repeat litterers dumped just across the Idaho line near Moscow should help, too. Maybe DeSanctimonious has a point……

        As I said, the west shore of Lake Washington — which yes, faces east toward the Cascades — is more desirable than the east shore because there aren’t big hills on the east shore, at least none north of Factoria. By that far south, there isn’t much low-level lakefront other than Seward Park. Folks on the west shore and hills above look at the Cascades. Ditto the folks on the lake front of Sammamish.

        So far as the rest of your reply, I can’t dispute it the current reality except to say that Seattle will do better than you think.

        There are already the same traffic jams around the Pike Place Market now that there were five years ago, so the primary “all-day attraction” is back. There are millions of square feet of new or almost new building space in downtown Seattle. Most of the buildings that house those millions of square feet have double floors for cabling and a couple of feet above the visible ceiling for air distribution and fire suppression piping. They can be turned into housing for some admittedly not trivial but still practical cost. Jeebus, look at Shanghai: 26 and a half million people live there, largely in buildings housing several thousand each. No, that certainly has not been the American dream, but there are still millions of people who visit Puget Sound yearly, most of whom fall in love with the place and would like to live here. Well, maybe not in August in September if things keep getting worse….

        If condos in downtown converted Seattle office towers are offered, a significant number will buy them if only for retirement living.

        Will the banks that loaned money to the speculators who built those buildings take a bath? Yep, but they are far from all in Seattle, and every one of them will be eager to help fund the conversions. I hope they include a couple of opening windows per unit. Personal preference.

        Many people have said to you “don’t write Seattle off”, but you keep focusing on the painful adjustments made necessary by the Pandemic and resultant Work From Home. Those things are ripples in the stream of History. The great cities are great mostly because of their locations. Seattle has a world-class one with Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Olympics and Cascades; Bellevue has a pretty lake.

      2. P.S. I will stipulate that the Three Points are the creme de la creme of Northwest real estate. That’s because each has one street down the middle (three on Yarrow) and ginormous lots. There’s nothing like it in Seattle, even Laurelhurst, because Seattle was fully platted pre-World War II when The Help had to come by streetcar.

      3. “Seattle was fully platted pre-World War II when The Help had to come by streetcar.”

        Not just The Help. Only 10% of Seattleites had cars then. Even in the 1950s most families had only one car. Two cars became the norm in the 1960s. Three cars (one for each teenager) must have been in the 90s. When I attended Bellevue High School in the early 80s, an affluent school (the nickname was “hot tub high”), only a few peers had cars. We’d walk home from school or take Metro as a group, me to Bellevue Way or eastern Bellevue, some people walking to Medina. Yes, walking to Medina.

        How much do high schoolers have cars now? I can’t imagine there’s enough parking spaces for them at the school.

      4. The very highest price per square foot may be the mansions with water views, but that’s only a tiny fraction of the population. The general trend is that the price per square foot gets higher closer to downtowns or large villages. In other words, even if people say they want a detached house in a car-dependent cul-de-sac, they vote with their feet to live closer to walkable, more multifamily areas. Otherwise prices wouldn’t be higher there.

      5. Mercer Island is not rural. Rural areas are places like Carnation, Vashon Island, Whidbey Island, and the outskirts of Mount Vernon. Mercer Island is suburban. Or for new burbs really far out like Spanaway or Arlington or Snoqualmie Ridge or Black Diamond, exurban. I’m not sure about Wilkeson or Buckley, whether I’d call them rural or exurban. I guess it would depend on whether most residents commute long distances to Tacoma or central Pierce County jobs, which I don’t know.

      6. Mike, perhaps I should have said MI wants to be rural like. There isn’t farmland (although there is a community pea patch), but there is a large percentage of park acres, lots of mature trees, large lot minimums with low house area to lot area ratios that preserve a lot of space and vegetation, low person per acre ratios, and retail, commercial and multi-family housing are located and restricted in the town center. Many areas on Whidbey Island under lax county land use codes have more density and impervious surfaces with McMansions on lots. Look at Oak Harbor, the poster child for lack of zoning oversight. On the other some cities with strict local land use rules like Langley and Coupeville are well planned and attractive.

        Location does affect housing prices. But you are too restrictive in the radius you use re: being near an urban core (which pre-pandemic was necessary for work). Location is determined by car, not on foot. Non waterfront lots in Medina, Hunts Point, Mercer Island, Sammamish and Laurelhurst are very pricey because they allow commuting by car to the urban core for work but allow people to escape the urban core to live. Issaquah and Redmond have increased in price because now many work on the Eastside so they don’t have to commute to Seattle. This is what has spawned Snoqualmie and North Bend as residential communities. Those folks WFH or on the Eastside. Before they were too far from Seattle to commute.

        You like to live in an urban dense multi-family setting but housing prices suggest most others don’t. They like access to a vibrant commercial area like Bellevue or Issaquah or Kirkland but want to live in a SFH zone, which is why most Eastside cities are zoned by segregating uses.

        There are others who like condo living in a dense zone, especially if they don’t have kids (and of course not everyone can afford a SFH). Kirkland andcBellevue are popular on the Eastside for condos . MI does not allow retail, commercial or multi-family on the water. The issue with downtown Seattle right now is it is perceived by older citizens as dangerous so they feel trapped in a condo especially at night and the retail vibrancy — the whole point of an urban center — is poor, which is why so many multi-family units have been built near U Village although there is no light rail station nearby, but a nice bike trail.

        The point is there are options for many different housing styles in this area, and a search of Zillow shows the areas that have the most demand due to price. Some large condos with views are very expensive, depending on area. Factors like public safety, schools, park acres, lot size, rural feeling (because a suburb is just attempting to preserve a rural feel near an urban area), trees, and so on also affect prices because if you have kids (or just a dog) that often dictates your housing needs and desires.

    1. That sucks. Just to be clear, folks here consider it a worthy line because of what it adds, not because of the particular construction choices. It adds new additional capacity while also adding coverage. In contrast, the new Link tunnel downtown will add capacity (in theory, not practice) while not adding coverage.

      It is likely to eventually have similar eye-popping cost overruns, but that is a different issue.

      1. It doesn’t have to have overruns if the City will take a deep breath and allow Fifth or Sixth to be torn up for a block or two at two places (or each at one place). If the stations are within the boundaries of the street right-of-way, including sidewalks, no multi-hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate need be purchased.

        The old tunnel cost a bit more than $400 million for three major underground stations, one Moscow-grade beautiful, two quirky open-air holes-in-the-ground and a five block cut-and-cover section from Fourth to Ninth on Pine.

        The City survived; it can survive again, especially if “downtown Seattle is dead” to quote The Counselor. Who would be impacted? Capiche?

        P.S. The same goes for Westlake. Decking is cheap; put the SLU station in the middle of Westlake — or Terry if that serves the neighborhood better — and deck Denny to cross it during construction. BFD; it happens all over the world!

        Snowflake Seattle needs to toughen up.

  7. No second tunnel until st can run the one it already has effectively. Parts of the tunnel are about to be closed temporarily to install rails for the third time! remember how great the tunnel was going to be once the nuses were gone? Still shows 7 total escalators and elevators out of service at Westlake alone…st continues to do a heck of a job.

    1. Good gawd, you do realize that ST has only had ownership of the tunnel for about month now, right?

      I don’t think any rational person anywhere would expect any agency to be able to completely restore such a rundown facility in only a month. Even a simple bathroom remodel takes far longer than a month, and restoring the Metro bus tunnel to full functionality is much more complicated.

      Give ST time, they will get the job done. But it will certainly take longer than a month!

      The real question is, “Why did Metro let the tunnel get so rundown in the first place?”

      1. “Why did Metro let the tunnel get so rundown in the first place?”

        Basically it was a bad hand-off. Metro was broke, so it put off replacing the escalators that are way older than their scheduled lifetime. In short, the alternatives were worse. They also knew that ST was taking them over, and that ST had a lot more money. Both agencies ignored the problem. Making things worse, the pandemic delayed the hand-off.

        I believe that ST has been handling the escalators since Jan. 1, 2021. The escalators need to be replaced, and will be replaced (by ST) it just takes a while.

        Back to the original point, this is a silly argument, and reminds me of what happened in Vancouver. Of course ST can do a better job handling their escalators (and by “their escalators” I mean the ones outside the tunnel) but just about every agency has similar problems. Call for the firing of the head of operations or the CEO if you think this is a terrible problem. But it shouldn’t get in the way of an important expansion. Because of their anger over operations, Vancouver voters delayed the important Broadway subway for years. The U. S. isn’t the only place with stupid voters.

        In this particular case, though, the new tunnel doesn’t add anything. It isn’t an expansion. Glenn’s point is a very good one. This has nothing to do with how ST is handing operations. Every agency struggles in one way or another with operations. They would like to run the train more often, but it is expensive. They would like the bathrooms to be open and clean every second the system is operational but that is expensive. They would like the escalators and elevators to operate 100% of the time, but that is expensive.

        The more you can minimize costs, the better. In this case, sharing the tunnel would minimize costs while also improving the quality of service for riders.

      2. Lazarus, if you wish to praise ST’s maintenance record, then please explain the issues with leaks and escalators at Roosevelt as well as the multi-year long Sea-Tac elevator fiasco. Those can’t be blamed on Metro.

      3. @A Joy,

        At the time that Metro finally let ST start to perform escalator maintenance in the old bus tunnel the escalator availability at PSS was 20%. I think we can all agree that 20% availability is unacceptable.

        I’ve long thought that their should be an independent investigation into Metro maintenance practices in the old Metro bus tunnel. Either by the State AG or maybe by the Feds (FTA maybe). Hopefully Metro has saved all their internal communications on the matter, because those constitute public records and should be preserved.

        If such an independent investigation also included a review of ST’s maintenance practices, then I would also support that. Such a dual review would give a direct compare and contrast of both agency’s methods and results.

        Such a dual review would be very informative as guidance for future best practices. Hopefully it happens.

        And BTW, ST has already improved escalator availability in the DSLRT. There is still a long way to go, and right now they are sort of brute forcing it until they work through some supply chain issues related to hardware availability, but steady progress is being made.

        Things are improving!

      4. I don’t remember the bus tunnel leaking, as in dripping water from the ceiling. I have seen reports of this at the Roosevelt Station.

      5. @A Joy,

        You must have not been around when the old bus tunnel opened. They had a really large leakage problem at Westlake Station.

        Metro had to repair the station almost as soon as it opened.

      6. I’m not sure what an investigation would uncover that the Seattle Times didn’t. It is all pretty clear. Metro put off replacing the old escalators. They didn’t have the money. They could have cut bus service, but let’s face it, that would have been a very bad shifting of funds. Lack of escalators sucks. No bus service is worse.

        Sound Transit could have volunteered to take over operations sooner. They had the money, but didn’t want to. There was no incentive to.

        I really don’t blame either agency. This is the way most bureaucracies (public or private) operate. People aren’t interested in maintenance. You don’t cut ribbons when you avoid a problem. Quite the opposite. There is a fixation on growth of the current system, despite the fact that this will clearly make it harder to maintain in the long run. Is anyone talking about this? No, of course not. They want rail from Everett to the Tacoma Dome. Ridership per mile will actually go down! Folks are ignoring the fact that maintaining that much rail is going to be extremely expensive, especially as the system ages. As a wrote above, every agency struggles with maintenance. The best thing you can do is build a system that is more resilient. To do that you want a system that is more efficient. Having more riders per mile with simpler stations (where walking on stairs is encouraged) is a good way to do that.

        It is not just transit, either. Everyone talks a big game when it comes to “maintaining infrastructure”. But even in very liberal Washington State, first chance they get, they build a huge, multi-billion dollar freeway (the so called Puget Sound Gateway project). This is nuts. Not only are we not spending enough money repairing what we have, but we are dramatically increasing the maintenance burden. This will also add low density sprawl, a very cost ineffective form of development.

      7. A observation on Mike Orr’s comment: The term “path” rather than “route” seems like a much better choice for station exit wayfinding. The word “route” has too many alternate meanings.

    2. He does have a point though:
      A second tunnel means twice as much maintenance.

      Putting money into the existing tunnel to expand capacity isn’t just a construction savings, but also annual maintenance. Also, stuff like the security guards they have standing around would be doubled too.

      1. @Glenn,

        I don’t think you and Good Grief are saying he same thing.

        GGrief appears to be saying that, because the DSLRT is in an advanced state of disrepair, that somehow ST shouldn’t be allowed to build a second LR tunnel through downtown Seattle. That argument is somewhat nonsensical because the maintenance issues in the tunnel are the result of Metro mismanagement. ST only recently took ownership of the tunnel, and can’t be expected to instantly correct all the issues.

        Also, I’m not sure what GGrief means in regards to the rails. The first set of rails were installed by Metro before ST even existed, and they were totally unusable. ST then installed a functional set when they reconfigured the tunnel for rail, and that is the set that is in use today. And the current series of service interruptions are not related to the rails at all – they are related to upgrading the OCS system to allow maintenance windows without service interruptions.

        That said, your point of putting the new lines in the same tunnel as the current lines to save money is probably a bad idea. Simply stated, cheaper isn’t always better, and look no further than Portland to understand why.

        Running 4 LR lines across the Steel Bridge in a fully interlined manner is cheaper, but it certainly isn’t better. And the reliability issues that have resulted are a large reason why TriMet is debating a multi billion dollar replacement. That is not necessarily saving money.

        And, ya, the bridge is over a 100 years old, but the streetlevel crossings at the east end (and elsewhere in the system) are also problematic. Having one high frequency line crossing over another high frequency line will save money, but it will also reduce total frequency capability and introduce reliability issues. ST wouldn’t be able to do this and still attain required frequency and capacity, but avoiding such crossings underground would be extremely expensive.

        Additionally, the “one tunnel for all” option would be a major capacity constraint. Link is already operating at higher frequencies and higher ridership than Max, and for good reason. Stuffing more lines into the same tube would be short sighted, and would probably preclude adding a forth line or a turnback line in the future. Such lines are likely to become required.

        But hey, Portland still did a reasonably OK job with Max. ST has a much easier task ahead because they have a model to study, and to adapt to their specific needs.

        Stated simply: it is hard to be first, much easier to be second. By being second ST can avoid some of the issues that have become apparent with Max. One of those issues is excessive inter-lining. Hence the “one tunnel for all” option is unlikely to happen.

      2. I don’t think you and Good Grief are saying he same thing.

        So what? Do you want Glenn to start a new thread on a solid argument that is an obvious corollary to the one made by Good Grief? Why bother?

        Running 4 LR lines across the Steel Bridge in a fully interlined manner is cheaper, but it certainly isn’t better.

        Yes it is. The stations are better, and the transfers would be much better. No one will want to be in the new tunnel, especially if you want to transfer.

        Additionally, the “one tunnel for all” option would be a major capacity constraint.

        No, the capacity constraint is due to surface running in Bellevue and Rainier Valley, which limit capacity on those sections to every six minutes. Unless something is done there (which would cost a lot of money) the overall capacity through the station is limited. Those trains can only run every 6 minutes, or 10 times an hour. Interline with the West Seattle train and you are running 30 trains an hour, or every 2 minutes, well within the limit the operations chief at ST* says they can handle, after you invest in some infrastructure (specifically traction power substations).

        Might they occasionally bunch up? Sure. But there are worse things (like really bad transfers). As it is, we aren’t looking at capacity crunches for the foreseeable future. The transit world is less peak oriented. Link doesn’t even peak at 6 minutes, even thought most of it** has been completed. Often times they only run 3-car trains. It wouldn’t surprise me if the new normal is 8 minute peak, 10 minute all-day. Sharing the tunnel would actually be a lot better when the trains are running every ten minutes, which is how often they run most of the time now, and will likely be how often they run most of the time in the future. It will certainly be where most of the ridership comes from. Focusing on the rare occasions (which may never happen) when a train might be slightly delayed while asking the vast majority of riders to have a worse experience is not a good idea.


        ** By “most of it” I obviously don’t mean mileage. I mean most of the peak ridership. I expect a little bit of an increase in peak ridership from the various extensions, but most of the riders who take the train on the existing lines during peak are already on it. The north end of Link won’t see a huge jump in peak ridership once it gets to Lynnwood and besides, by then the trains will be running twice as often. If we only peak at 8 minutes now, what makes you think we need to run trains every 3 minutes when it gets to Lynnwood?

        The same is true of Federal Way and Tacoma Dome Link. It will be a minor increase, the same it was with Angle Lake. Ridership will mostly just shift south (with Angle Lake seeing a decrease in riders heading north). It is possible East Link will need to run trains every six minutes, but I really doubt it. One of the strengths of East Link is that it is not *just* about people going across the bridge. Furthermore, I expect ridership going both ways (unlike the south end, which peak service is more traditional). As you get further out, to Redmond, express bus service just makes more sense. East Link is not commuter rail.

        Again, it wouldn’t surprise me if Link never runs trains every six minutes. Even if it does, the existing tunnel can handle it.

      3. @Ross,

        Obviously same plateform transfers are better, but did you realize that there isn’t a single shared station in the section where 4 Max lines are interlined? Zero, zilch, nada. Not a single one.

        Why? Part of it is geometric constraints, but part of it is just operations. It’s really hard to achieve reliable and efficient service at high frequency when you have that many interlined lines and shared stations. Particularly when there is a diamond at one end of the interlined stretch.

        Also, you don’t need to get to 6 min headways to have capacity issues. Max is only operating at 15 min headways, Link is operating at 10 minute frequency. Three lines at 10 minute frequencies would be more vehicles per hour than 4 Max lines at 15 minute frequencies. And Max is already having schedule reliablility issues.

        I think it is important to remember that Link is not a bus, or even BRT. Operations are fundamentally different. The premium put on schedule reliability is far greater, and things like “bus bunching” just plain don’t exist.

        And there is still the issue of cost. Attaching a new tunnel, to an old tunnel, and doing so without using diamonds would be very costly.

      4. Three of those MAX lines share all platforms from 82nd Ave to Rose Quarter.

        Yellow to everything else at the Rose Quarter is a bit of a pain due to the amount of time required to wait at all the traffic signals. A few pedestrian crossings separate from roads would really help, and really should have been part of the arena construction.

        For early morning first trip/last trip needs, there are several blue/yellow trains that stop at both stations. Imagine, say, a Bellevue train heading south to Federal Way and the south shop facility rather than into downtown.

        Downtown Portland, it’s a matter of crossing a single 3 lane street. 40 horizontal feet.

        If someone insists on same platforms, you can go orange-green-blue or a similar combination, but it won’t be fast.

        Anyway, MAX has lots of transfer opportunities outside downtown, which makes up for some of the lacking in common platforms downtown.

        What Link should not do is a repeat of Northgate, where getting from the 512 to Link is still a 5+ minute undertaking. Or, a ferry to Sounder at Mukilteo type thing, also requiring quite a tangle that could have been avoided with a pedestrian bridge.

      5. @Lazarus — I’m not sure why you are focused on Max. It is a very different system. If you want to talk about a very crowded light rail line, Boston’s Green Line is a much better example. There are four branches to the west, which converge into one. Each branch operates on 7 or 7.5-minute headways during weekday peak hour. That is basically as many trains through a central downtown area as we would have if we run the trains every 6 minutes. If our trains run as often as the ones in Boston (which is far more likely) then we will have fewer light rail trains going through downtown than Boston.

        Their system is very old. As a result, there is occasional train bunching. The trains carry lots of people — likely more than Link will ever carry. Yet despite all that, they aren’t building a new tunnel, or even making major investments to eliminate the occasional delay (by updating the signaling). It just isn’t that important. If they did build another tunnel, it would be to add coverage downtown, not to deal with capacity problems. Basically, Boston — a city with a transit system that will always be better than ours — has more important things to invest in when it comes to transit. For example, they are adding new branches to the light rail line.

        Capacity problems are almost always way down on the list of priorities for an agency. Capacity problems are basically a good problem to have. When agencies do have to deal with it, they usually make the system better, not worse. Sometimes they figure out a way to run the trains more often, but most of the time they just buy better trains. Other times they add express lines. In our case, since we don’t have a lot of rail infrastructure, but excellent roadways, we could run express buses (which would prove to be very popular). Often they build a parallel line with significantly different coverage (the type of line that they would build anyway) with the side effect being less crowding on the main line. This is the type of thing Frank mentioned, although it would obviously have a lot more stops (

        Sound Transit is really being unusual, in that they aren’t following standard practices. But this is nothing new for an agency that’s main reason for being is to build a mass transit line that is much longer than any line in New York City, Paris or London. So much of what is being planned is unusual, and likely to fail, as other unusual systems have.

      6. @Glenn,

        You are correct. There are many opportunities for Max same plateform transfer combinations. In some instanances they aren’t as convenient as some other transfers, but every user will eventually find a way to use the system in a manner that satisfies their own individual needs. It is one of the great things about having a larger system like Max – adaptability. Link will get there someday.

        But I don’t understand your comment about the 512 to Link transfer. The 512 stops at Bay 3 at NGS, and Bay 3 is right on the station pedestrian plaza. That transfer should be really simple and easy.

        Are you saying Bay 3 is too far from the escalators and elevators at NGS?

      7. “But I don’t understand your comment about the 512 to Link transfer. The 512 stops at Bay 3 at NGS, and Bay 3 is right on the station pedestrian plaza. That transfer should be really simple and easy.”

        My friend in north Lynnwood who rides it a few times a week says the bus bay is hard to find if you’re not familiar with the system, and the bus often leaves just before you get to the bus stop. She thinks there should be a timed bus connection, signs on the platform telling which way to go, and which elevator goes all the way down. If you know that elevator you can sometimes get to the bus stop before it leaves, but if you transfer escalators/elevators at the mezzanine you’re less likely.

      8. Dude, what is your problem with Metro? Did a bus run over your puppy when you were ten?

        So far as The Steel Bridge, yes, it was a bottleneck, but given the tragedy of Downtown Portland, it is no longer. The overlay peak hour trains are mostly a thing of the past, so there are at most forty trains per hour nowdays, and the schedule-keeping is good enough that there are often three or four minutes between train passage at the Rose Quarter end of the bridge. Almost all crossings are of two trains as scheduled, one in each direction with no pause at either end, making the real load twenty crossings, not forty.

      9. My friend in north Lynnwood who rides it a few times a week says the bus bay is hard to find if you’re not familiar with the system, and the bus often leaves just before you get to the bus stop. She thinks there should be a timed bus connection, signs on the platform telling which way to go, and which elevator goes all the way down. If you know that elevator you can sometimes get to the bus stop before it leaves, but if you transfer escalators/elevators at the mezzanine you’re less likely.

        It is a bit confusing, but I find the underground stations a lot more confusing. I’ve been in Westlake Station hundreds of times, and still get turned around. Maybe they could add some more signs at Northgate, but it is pretty clear as long as you don’t go north (and up on the other side of the street). Once you are on the surface, there are plenty of signs for the various buses. It can be a bit confusing for folks who take a bus that is going through (like the 20) but even then, it says it on the sign. There is an online map as well, that is very good. You can always ask people, and someone will tell you where to go. The kiosks are working well, which means that folks like me (that can take several buses) are able to make quick decisions. Overall, I think the confusion is just the result of the complexity of the station (just like Westlake). They could have made either station simpler, but lost some functionality in the process.

      10. Link’s wayfinding has been changing over the past several months. The exits now have letters, which are on the train direction signs. Wall signs tell which exits are for which tourist destinations and staples like the library, with a couple cute photos. Maps show the walkshed and bikeshed and transfer routes. University Street station now has an announcement, “Stay on the train for the University of Washington campus.”

        UW station has letters on the escalators, “Route A”, “Route B”, “Route C”, “Route D”, apparently showing the path to each exit. I’m not sure whether those are permanent or were for a special occasion, but they’ve been up the past few times I’ve transferred there there.

        What do you think of these changes? Do they make wayfinding better. I’m not totally convinced about the exit letters and “Route A”; is that RapidRide A? But at least ST is trying to improve it.

        My Lynnwood friend would probably like a platform sign, “Lynnwood -> Elevator X, turn right to bus bay Y” or such.

    1. I think there are a fair number here who care about Everett Transit, as well as just transit in Everett. I think the biggest issue most of us have is that there are two agencies (and three if you count ST) more or less covering the same area. Just analyzing it is tricky, since you need to consult three maps.

      The 2 is a goofy route — no question. It is the type of route that Jarrett Walker labels as poor performing ( At best the 2 has to be thought of as several small routes attached to each other. No one would ride it end to end and there are many more combinations that people will ignore (which is why it performs poorly). As separate segments, they aren’t bad — just a little bit short. For example, from Mariner the bus goes straight up 4th and takes a left on 100th, ending at Airport Road. This basically funnels people to more frequent transit, while filling in the gaps of CT/ST. The route crosses both the Swift Blue and Green Line, while connecting to relatively frequent buses like the 201/202. Other segments are similar.

      If anything, the 3 seems goofier. I’m not even sure where the bus is supposed to go. The tough part about routes like these are that they are so infrequent, the indirect nature of their routing is the least of their problems. Anyone so desperate as to take a bus running every hour is OK if the bus loops around — at least they caught it.

      In the long run, the agencies need to merge, and the area needs an overhaul. It is still likely that there will be routes like the 3 that go back and forth as a way to increase coverage. But I could see many of the major corridors having more straightforward and hopefully more frequent service. One of the big long term questions is what model they are going to embrace. It is unlikely they will have one hub, and I can think of at least three (Lynnwood TC, Everett and Seaway TC). Seaway is challenging. Unlike the other places, it really isn’t on the way. The 12 has to go back and forth to both serve Casino Road (where there is relatively high density) and the transit center. One option would be reduce the focus on the TC, and simply run a bus all the way across. There would still be buses serving the TC — especially as a means to layover — but you would build a network so that riders don’t have to transfer there.

      Another challenging question is how much they want to focus service to the mall. It made sense in another era — where much of the funding came from sales at the mall. Now, I doubt that it pays for itself. There should definitely be some service to the mall (and Everett Mall Way) but I don’t think you can justify the 7.

      Speaking of which, there is also a lot of redundancy in the system. The 7 is relatively frequent, and runs alongside other relatively frequent buses like Swift Blue and the 201/202. Maybe these are timed to create very good headways, but I doubt it. There are savings to be had, but it could mean making tough decisions (like adding bus stops to Swift routes).

      Either way though, agencies with low ridership and low funding often have to make tough decisions. The corridors that can afford it should have straight, frequent service, while the corridors that don’t may have to deal with what the 2 and 3 have. If there is money, it would be nice to have a bus go straight up 4th from Mariner at least until Casino Road. Likewise, it would be nice to cover 112th from Silver Lake to Airport Road. In both cases the buses would hopefully keep going the same general direction.

    2. Here’s the existing service. The change adds service west of 4th Avenue W to Airport Road on 112th and 110th, in a loop in the middle of the route.

      ET says: “The proposed expansion will allow customers to access more destinations along 112th Ave [including Walmart]. These changes establish a broader east to west connection line that will allow customers to access new businesses, more transfer points and more direct access to schools for students. New connections and transfer points: Routes 7, 8, 29. Expanded service hours every day. Mon-Fri 6am-8:55pm every 45-60 minutes. Sat-Sun 8:30am-6:55pm every 60 minutes.”

      Normally detours are bad, but it would take somebody familiar with the route’s context and travel patterns to say whether it’s justified in this case. The biggest takeaway I see is Everett Transit is still practically unusable with mostly hourly service, so it doesn’t make much difference whether this route loops or not: your waiting time may be as long as the loop. This in a city of 111,000 people, with a transit network like a city a tenth that size. This is where people priced out of Seattle and King County are supposed to live?

      What are the trip patterns in this corridor? Are a lot of people going between 4th Ave W to the Everett Mall area, who would face longer travel time by the loop? Do more want to go to west 112th, which the current routing doesn’t serve? Is this really two routes that are joined due to budget limitations? I could see two routes: an east-west route from Everett Mall to 112th and Paine Field, and an L-shaped route from Paine Field to 100th, 4th, and Mariner. What are people’s travel patterns? Two routes like this would separate 4th from Everett Mall, and in an area of 60-minute routes it might be a 60-minute transfer where they cross. Another alternative would be to simply keep the existing service, so west 112th and Paine Field and 100th and north 4th would have no transit. Is that acceptable? Somebody requested the service, so who were they, and how does it fit people’s travel patterns? Are there more people going to/from the new loop than going from 4th to the Everett Mall area? Or vice-versa?

      1. Everett Transit is still practically unusable with mostly hourly service.

        It really depends. There are hourly runs, but there is also the 7, which runs every 15 minutes most of the day. With this change, it will run every 15 minutes in the early morning too. The 29 is a half hour bus, the 6 runs every forty minutes and the 4 every forty-five minutes. The 12 is mostly every 45 minutes, while the 2 is very inconsistent. Keep in mind, this is all *now*, during at time when transit is getting hammered. It is possible that some of these buses ran more often in the past. It is also quite possible that the restructure is geared towards better frequency on some routes (and if nothing else, easier to understand frequency).

        As I wrote up above, partly this is due to the nature of Snohomish County. It sprawls. There are areas of decent density, and areas of very low density. There are areas that are easy to cover, and areas that aren’t. This is contrast to Seattle. While Seattle definitely has (relatively) low density areas, there are huge swaths of the city with more or less the same density. Many of the neighborhoods that are zoned single family have apartments squeezed in there, along with houses on small lots. An “everywhere to everywhere” approach (something Jarrett Walker has been focused on more recently) makes a lot more sense in Seattle than it does Snohomish County.

        Then there is the fact that Community Transit (and to a lesser extent Sound Transit) runs plenty of routes in Everett. The most popular route — Swift Blue — is anchored by downtown Everett. SeaWay Transit Center — a major transit center and the anchor for the Swift Green line — is in Everett. If Everett Transit ran all of the routes in Everett, they would be a lot different. Everett Transit does serve a few of the key corridors, but it also provides coverage for parts of Everett. Often this coverage connects to other, more frequent service provided by CT (or in some instances, ST). Everett Transit has to be seen in this context — as simply a part of the transit system in the area. An hourly bus seems terrible, but there are apartments on the East Side with no service at all.

    3. Everett Transit’s restructure would be a good topic for an article if somebody wants to write one. Or how effectively ET’s routes add to the multi-agency network. Are some trip patterns or neighborhood still missing? What’s going on with a potential ET-CT merger? What would an ideal network for Everett look like?

      Wikipedia has a history of Community Transit. It started in 1976. Everett opted out to avoid a higher sales tax and loss of local control over its Everett Transit routes. Community Transit therefore excludes Everett, with only a couple express stops like on the 201/202 for CT passengers’ transfers. Swift Blue is a joint endeavor, with Everett Transit paying Community Transit for the Everett portion. The City of Everett continued for decades to refuse calls to join Community Transit, saying its residents were too poor to pay higher sales tax or fares, and it would lose routes meeting Everett’s specific needs. But the pandemic recession has made Everett start to reconsider, and there have been noises coming out of Everett saying a merger might be possible in the next several years. Has there been anything more on this?

      1. Everett Transit’s restructure would be a good topic for an article if somebody wants to write one.

        I could also see including Community Transit restructure plans as well. I’m not sure if they will happen at the same time. One of the challenges (at least for me) when I try and analyze the network is that it is physically huge. I’m not that familiar with the area, but I could say the same thing about the East Side. I know certain places, but other places I’ve only been there once or twice, if at all. (In contrast, I know most of Seattle fairly well.) The difference is that the East Side (while big) is still not nearly as big as all of Snohomish County. Add in all three agencies, and it gets quite complicated. Focusing on just Everett Transit is a little simpler, just because there aren’t that many routes.

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