Snow started to fall this morning in central Seattle. The National Weather Service expects snow and rain/snow and snow through Thursday, although with little ground accumulation. Enter your zip code for a neighborhood-specific forecast, and scroll down to “Additional Forecasts” and click “Forecast Discussion” for a detailed analysis.

Metro’s Snow Guide dashboard has a map of which subareas are on snow routes or the Emergency Snow Network. The page has a map of ESN routes, and links to the route-specific Service Advisories page and to subscribe to Alerts.

A KUOW report says Seattle has readied its snow plows and has a new map of plowed streets. All the bus streets appear to be on it. This year the city will also start clearing pedestrian access to bus stops. It says Link and Sounder will continue to operate normally during snow.

If you get stuck inside, here are some transit videos to watch:

This is an open thread

(The next open thread will be whenever this one approaches 150 comments)

136 Replies to “Open Thread: Snow Time”

  1. Don’t worry, be happy. Just take Link on days like today.

    Rail performs much better than rubber tire on ice on days like this.

    1. But I might have to walk! Through the Outside! You know it’s cold and wet in the Outside, right??

      The day I can ride steel rails from Ballard to Downtown and beyond will be a great day indeed. At least Metro knows to carry chains.

    2. I still find Link scarier to ride than buses as the “new normal” shows no signs of riders figuring out that not wearing a mask is how they get and spread COVID.

      Having most ST employees milling about on the train without masks does not help,

      For those who think they can just get a back-end treatment, I advise they read up on BQ.1.1.

      If ST cares about the safety of its employees, it should require its employees to wear a mask while on the train (except when alone in the operator’s compartment).

      Besides, N95 masks make great face-warmers in cold weather.

    3. Rail performs much better than rubber tire on ice on days like this.

      I think there are a number of reasons for that. Rail tends to follow gentle slopes, unlike some bus routes, which are very steep (e. g. upper Queen Anne). Link in particular is underground much of the way (no snow in the tunnel). It is also a major priority to keep it clear. It is common for some of the buses on the major corridors (e. g. Aurora) to be fine, but struggle on the less traveled streets. It does appear that the monorail as well as the streetcars are operating fine, but as of this writing, everything is normal for Metro buses. I didn’t check it earlier, so maybe it was messy for a while.

      The big problem is that rail only covers a tiny portion of the city. It will likely be this way forever. Yes, you can walk to rail, but often the walk is very long (miles) and/or, very unpleasant. If there are no buses, many would just walk to their destination. It is very important that we keep at least the major bus routes running, no matter how much snow we have.

      1. @Ross,

        The better performance of rail in snow is not a function of the superior routing, it is the result of pure physics.

        For steel wheel on rail systems the contact area between the wheel and the rail is only about the size of a dime, and the resultant pressures are immense. Ice simply does not exist at these pressures (review your high school phase diagram for water), and liquid water gets expelled just like on a rainy day. The result is that the system behaves much like it would on any other rainy Seattle day – essentially no effect.

        This is obviously not the case with rubber tired transit, which has all sorts of trouble with even a bit of snow, and that is also due to physics. The contact pressures just aren’t as high, and the ice persists under the tires, resulting in a complete loss of traction.

        And, yes, you can remedy the rubber-tired problem in part with plowing, chains, and snow routes, but that injects a lot of chaos and uncertainty into operations. And, if you are like my wife, you can’t read a map to save your life, and therefore you can’t find the snow route anyhow. Much simpler with rail, and more reliable.

        But is rail immune to snow events? No, not completely. Sometimes switches can get fouled, and certain rare types of icing events can cause trouble with the OCS. But these are known issues that have known solutions, and they aren’t very frequent even compared to a typical snow event. For the most part the system operates trouble free.

        And, yes, rail could use more coverage. And ST is working on that! So is SDOT (supposedly). But that is a political problem, not a technical one.

        But, given the better performance of Link during snow events, it might benefit the ridership base if Metro adjusted their snow routes to feed more riders to Link during snow events. Even if such a system added a transfer, it would still just better serve the riders.

      2. “, it might benefit the ridership base if Metro adjusted their snow routes to feed more riders to Link during snow events. Even if such a system added a transfer, it would still just better serve the riders.”

        Not necessarily. Many riders don’t know about snow routes or which bus is on which. It can be especially confusing when a bus is on snow routes because of snow somewhere else, even if the are around your stop doesn’t have any snow.

        You minimize the confusion by having snow routes stick to the same route as regular routes as much as possible – and only deviate from the regular route when you absolutely have to to avoid the bus getting stuck.

        If a route that normally goes downtown goes only to Northgate during snow route, you will have people waiting at the wrong stop, wondering why their bus isn’t showing up.

      3. In general, the agencies’ alert systems and up-to-the-hour webpages ought to do the heavy lifting of redirecting passengers for emergency stop closures. It should go more smoothly than the unexpected stoppages of the 1 Line, given that the agencies aren’t scrambling to identify the problem (large accumulations of snow).

        For tactical all-day redirects of peak express routes, passengers will mostly be boarding at their usual stops, and learn about the re-route as they arrive at different stops than usual, even if they miss all the visual and audio cues.

        In the case of the CT 400’s, there are multiple operational problems with redirecting the 400s in the middle of the day. If it starts at the beginning of the service day and all operators are well-informed, it should actually go rather smoothly. Avoid the temptation to only run 800s, as that will leave some riders waiting at their stop for their usual bus number.

        Of course, lots of express routes just get cancelled altogether on snow days. In the case of First Hill and South Lake Union express routes, there is a case to be made for continuing to run the local tails to Northgate Station.

  2. Snow accumulations were fairly decent up here in south Snohomish County last night and there have been some widespread power outages as well. We received 6-8″ in the area of Edmonds where we live. We also lost power for a while.

    Community Transit has a weather-related advisory on its site :

    “Wednesday, Nov. 30 10 a.m.
    Due to current road conditions, we are not operating 60-foot articulated buses at this time. That means some trips have been canceled. See below for a list of canceled trips during this weather event.

    “Community Transit service will continue to operate on Snow Routes for:

    “All local routes (100s & 200s)
    Routes 412, 424 and 435
    All 800-series routes
    Swift Blue and Green line buses are running every 20-30 minutes

    “Sound Transit routes are on regular service.

    “Please refer to the list of Preplanned Trip Cancellations below.”

      1. It appears so, according to Pantograph. My memory from a previous snow event was CT or ST saying they perform surprisingly well in bad road conditions.

      2. Also, it looks like Metro is doing something similar, at least for hilly routes. Eyeballing my upcoming commute on the 44, it appears they are running only 40′ trolleys. Last night, it seemed there was a flurry of cancellations, presumably while they got the 60′ trolleys out of service before they potentially got stuck.

  3. Here’s a thought for snow routes: Have ST Express 510 and all Community Transit 400-series buses use Northgate Station as their southern terminus. (And hand out masks freely to the riders forced to transfer.)

    Regardless of how well the buses handle freeway driving conditions, there is no path to drive out of an overnight traffic jam on the busiest section of I-5.

    1. Brent, truncating Route 510 at Northgate station and providing more two-way Route 512 service would be good without snow. Route 510 includes many empty deadhead minutes. Similarly, it is past time for Route 545 to be absorbed into Route 542; this need not await East Link; the UW Link station opened in March 2016.

  4. Congress throwing workers under the, um…, train.

    I thought we wanted to slow the economy to kill inflation? Maybe a little less coal delivered to little Jimmy’s stocking would be a good thing.

    Appeasing monopolists is never a good thing, regardless of season.

    1. Granted it’s an open thread, but is this appropriate on a transit-related blog? Paging RossB, MikeOrr, etc.

      1. A strike would likely effect both Amtrak and Sounder, which means a strike (or a strike being averted) is related. However, I would agree that the details of the agreement (who got screwed, how this effects the economy, etc.) is not.

      2. Well, it’s maybe slightly tangential, but I feel like railroads are the biggest hinderance to good inter-city rail in the Puget Sound.

        I would rather see railroads get either nationalized or busted, which would allow for more reasonable coordination with transit and freight. Currently transit inappropriately gets the crumbs, much the the massive detriment to the regions health, budgets and climate goals.

        If we (our government) nationalized, or at least used that threat to grant concessions, it would potentially save us billions and vastly improve our transit in the region.

        I guess I thought it was obvious how it was related to transit, but I am happy to connect the dots.

      3. Also, I would hope this blog doesn’t turn into simply sim-transit. Imagining intricate details of routing that we would apply if we were little gods. Politics and advocacy play a far more important role in how our transit future evolves, and that should be a legitimate, and perhaps dominant theme on this blog.

      4. IMHO, finessing the advocacy strategy for nationalizing cargo railroads is not under the purview of this blog. I will defer to Ross and Mike (and others), though.

        I agree with the spirit of the comment, though – it is useful for transit advocates to find better ways to do outreach to various communities, understand their needs, engage them in productive discussions even when their opinions do not align well, etc. So, IMHO again, you are absolutely correct that this blog is a good space for practicing those inclusive strategies in a relatively pain-free way. I appreciate your enthusiasm for this sort of thing and hope you will continue to advocate for it as a topic.

      5. We can tread lightly on politics, but it’s not just a matter of supporting the workers. A railroad strike could lead to a return of 2020-like supply shortages and a surge in inflation. That would make it harder to get back to full transit service among other things. The inflation is mostly caused by sudden losses of supply, and a rail stoppage would block both essential and non-essential goods, which would send inflation higher, not lower.

      6. The main thing is to keep snow-related, other transit, and more peripheral issues in separate threads (top-level comments), so that people can find important snow information easily.

      7. I don’t really read the Stranger. It’s very Seattle-centric.

        So is this blog. It is Seattle-centric and transit-centric.

      8. That’s fair, Anon, Mike and Ross. I was continuing a thought from previous open thread, and I shouldn’t assume people had read that and should have probably set up my comments in a more obvious, transit-focused (and perhaps less partisan) way.

      9. Ross – I guess I should have said Seattle-exclusive. The Stranger almost never writes about Tacoma. Your about section specifically says Puget Sound region, and I appreciate that you have broadened your focus to include far north of 145th and far south of Boeing Field.

      10. I should add that The Stranger has a very robust comment section. Basically anything goes (within reason — they seem to weed out spam). You don’t have to subscribe — just go to the link I mentioned. It is a great place to make the same sort of argument you made here, as well as the one that Mike made. Although I agree with some of what you write, as well as what Mike wrote, I don’t think is the best place to discuss those issues, simply because it will likely devolve further into issues that have nothing to do with transit. You will also find that people have already addressed the issue to a greater degree than they have here, although no one has made the exact same argument you’ve made.

        In contrast, if you want to make the case that we should nationalize the railroads because it will improve transit, be my guest. That is certainly transit related.

      11. Ross – I guess I should have said Seattle-exclusive. The Stranger almost never writes about Tacoma.

        Good point. They rarely go outside of Seattle, and even then, often concentrate on a few neighborhoods. Although like the Seattle times, they do cover Tacoma when it something of particular interest (i. e. police misconduct).

        They also look at national issues in their news roundup, even if they don’t report on them. That is where you often have the most robust discussion on issues like this. This is a national issue. You can make your argument on a national blog, but there is no harm in discussing it on something like The Stranger. There is very little that is Seattle-centric in the comment section with that roundup. The Tacoma News Tribune is an excellent newspaper (in my opinion) but I have no idea about its comment section.

      12. Not to beleaguer the point, but if you are really trying to build a movement to nationalize the railroads, I think you will have plenty of people who agree with you at The Stranger.

      13. My understanding is that a strike would have shut down the tracks, thus preventing Sounder and Amtrak from operating. If true, that justifies the strike’s discussion on a transit forum. Of course, American passenger rail should have its own rail networks, but that’s another topic.

      14. You may have misunderstood my point, Micheal. There is no question that a possible railroad strike is relevant to transit. It is the focus on other issues (like inflation, labor relations in general and the details of what is a relatively complex situation) that are not. The problem is that if we go down that road (of discussing those non-transit things) the conversation quickly gets ugly. It has happened many times here. That is why people want to keep it on transit issues. As I wrote clearly, if you want to make the case for nationalizing the railroads as a way to improve transit, then by all means, make that case. There is certainly a strong case to be made (

      15. STB did not shy away from reporting on the cement strike, and its impact on Link expansion.

        STB has also reported on Amtrak many times, even if the vast majority of the posts are about local transit.

        What has generally been frowned upon are (1) requests on the blog to moderate or censor, and (2) meta discussions about the blog’s operations, especially moderation disputes.

      16. “Not to beleaguer the point, but if you are really trying to build a movement to nationalize the railroads, I think you will have plenty of people who agree with you at The Stranger.”

        That is not what I’m trying to do. My main interest is to get diverse viewpoints. I try to avoid sites where I am going to be preaching to the choir. I haven’t been thinking about freight, its near monopoly status and how that is detrimental to good transit for very long, and want to understand what I don’t know. This blog has been good for that in the past.

  5. Can someone explain this to me:

    From Metro’s service alert page:
    Route 372 is expected to operate on its regular route.
    Route ST 522 does not operate onto UW Bothell Campus due to snow conditions.

    From ST’s service alert page:
    Missed stops:
    Old Bothell Way & 98h Ave NE
    Main St & 103rd Ave NE
    Beardslee Blvd & Sunrise Dr

    Use stops:
    NE Bothell Way & 80th Ave NE
    Woodinville Dr & Kaysner Way
    UW Bothell & Cascadia College

    So does route 522 serve UW Bothell during the snow or not? And why would the 372 and 522 have different snow routes in Bothell?

    1. On top of that, the ST snow route page says … “ST Express buses are operating on snow reroutes until further notice due to inclement weather.” But then right below that it lists the routes individually and many of those routes say that they are “Currently operating on regular route.” Huh??

      1. One of the things I really appreciate about PDXBus (our equivalent to OneBusAway) is that it’s pretty easy to get a map of where your bus is and how long it’s been since the GPS system had contact with it. That way, during this type of thing, you have a decent idea of what the buses are actually doing.

        I know you can get to it on OneBusAway, but it doesn’t indicate if the bus location shown is a guess or actual real time, and how long it’s been since the GPS saw the bus. If it can’t find the bus, PDXBus changes the color of the indicator.

        The new TriMet web site, which shows a map of every single bus location in real time, might also be useful for determining what’s going on, but I find it’s just too many buses to weed out my silly little route.

      2. At least the Android onebusaway app does distinguish between guess and real time. In the map view, any buses that is colored red, green, or blue is real time (red=early, blue=late, green=on time, +/- 1 minute). A bus that is colored grey is a guess, based only on schedule data.

        If you click on a bus, it will tell you how long since the last update and exactly how many seconds late or early it is.

        Also, I have occasionally, I have run into bugs where guesses show up green instead of grey, but when that happens, the bus is “0 seconds late” when you click on it. Since it is extremely unlikely that any real bus will ever be exactly on time down to the second, when OneBusAway claims that’s what’s happening, you are probably just seeing the bug, and should interpret that figure as a guess.

        Finally, in the past, OneBusAway has issues where the location of a bus would show up on the map as the last bus stop the bus passed, not where it actually is. This doesn’t matter much for local routes, but it does a great deal for express routes. For example, a westbound 554 would appear to be sitting at Issaquah Transit Center when it’s actually almost at Eastgate Freeway station. Over time, this issue seems to have been happening less and less often, and today, I consider it, by and large, fixed.

      3. The iPhone version of OneBusAway doesn’t seem to show the time since last located. Unless there is a refresh button somewhere? The bus I just checked is showing green, but hasn’t moved in 5 minutes. If I select the bus it gives me the vehicle ID. At the bottom of the screen it seems to indicate the number of minutes late or something like that in blue text, but there is something else in black text written over the top so all I can see is the “min late” part.

        If I tap one of the stops ahead of the bus, it shows a time of 8:58, but it’s now 9:12. I assume that means the bus was supposed to be at the stop at 8:58?

        The black text that is on top of the blue text 9:06 (I think – I can’t read it very well since it’s on top of the blue text). Is that the time the bus was last located?

        I’m glad OneBusAway has these features, but it would be nice if they were easier to find and use.

  6. The North beacon hill bike lane page has been updated after the couple month delay it seems they are doing yet another survey. Mainly deciding between a two-way bike lane or one-way on both sides. The parking is actually the same for most segments alternatives besides on the last southernmost block on college st.

    Beyond that there are some slight choices for an floating bus stop versus shared raise bus/bike stop.

    1. So, why does SDOT want to place eight-to-eighty bike facilities on the same arterial as Route 36 10-minute headway? Will it make transit flow slower? Will it increase capital cost? How about shifting the all-ages bike facility to 17th and 16th avenues South?

  7. Love hearing the buzz of tire chains on a Metro bus when there isn’t any snow on the road. There is zero snow on the roads this morning in the city. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

    Does Metro chip in any funds to fix pot holes that are caused by running chains on bare road surfaces?

    1. Do you expect Metro drivers to install chains on the street when snow reaches each route? Metro has to guess in the morning before buses leave the base. The timing and depth of snow in each neighborhood is notoriously unpredictable because of the interaction of western, northern, and eastern winds. The public expects reliable bus service, and buses not stuck for hours because they didn’t put chains on in the morning, or buses stuck blocking traffic. A few days of chains on dry roads is a side effect of living in a snowy climate. Bus chains are taken on and off day by day. Car snow tires remain on for several months, even in years when there ends up being no snow.

    2. @Matt,

      I assume that last part is a rhetorical question. And I assume you know he answer.

      But in Metro’s defense, it doesn’t take very much ice/snow to disable a Metro bus. And there are still some icy patches out there. Combine a little ice with Metro’s penchant for running hill-and-dale routes and you are pretty much guaranteed to need chains.

      Rubber tire on concrete just doesn’t work very well in icy conditions on hills. Try rail instead.

    3. I would ask this another way: Does Metro chip in to de-ice or plow the streets that frequent buses or RapidRide uses? It would seem to me to be cost effective to do this — as just losing one or two buses because of icy streets would make this strategy pay for itself.

    4. Both streets and buses are a public service, and the money they spend comes from the same place; i.e, you. The issue is what services should the government provide, not robbing Peter to pay Paul. I’m sure the county council is not telling Metro, “Don’t install chains until you see the whites of their eyes” or “Cut bus runs to pay SDOT for pothole repair.” They’re saying, “Get those chains on so we don’t have a disaster like we’ve had in past years when it started snowing unexpectedly during the PM commute.” We lost two mayors because Seattle cheaped out on snowplows.

      If I had my way we’d have kept the streetcars and modernized them, and built Forward Thrust. Then there wouldn’t be as many buses causing potholes.

  8. I’m curious how well the new Madison RapidRide G vehicles will climb First Hill generally, and in snowy conditions in specific. Does Metro or SDOT have a vehicle to test it yet?

      1. There’s even examples in the current RapidRide network for snow routes that cut out large portions of the route: see the B’s detour that misses all of the route north of Redmond TC, Crossroads, and its entire segment on 8th to Bellevue TC; and the C’s detour that only runs from downtown to Avalon Way, replacing all of West Seattle’s segment with a snow shuttle that must be nowhere near as frequent as the C itself. I’m sure it’s frustrating for people along the route when it snows, but I don’t know that snow is frequent enough here to make it worthwhile to entirely base routing and vehicle decisions around it.

    1. It will be like much of the city. We are a city of hills (although many were removed). The G is really no different than similar buses (like the 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 13, etc.).

      They put chains on initially and reroute some buses. For example, here is the route for the 12 (probably the closest thing to the RapidRide G): Notice that it shows a snow route which avoids the steepest part of the hill. It is remarkably similar to the streetcar route (the streetcar, of course, did not follow Yesler, because it was too steep).

      For the 13 (which normally goes right up Queen Anne Avenue) it takes an even more circuitous route ( This may be what Lazarus means by a “hill-and-dale route”. Instead of going straight up the main corridor, it goes around, to avoid the steep sections. Often this is the best thing for drivers to do. People in Seattle who know how to drive in the snow also know how to avoid hills (often times they will park their car at the top of the hill).

      If things get really bad, then they move to an Emergency Snow Network: At that point, the G (like the existing 12) would probably be cancelled. So much of the system requires knowing the current state of the system. It seems like most of the complaints are based on information flow, as opposed to decisions that were made.

      I have no idea about the streetcar, and whether it gets cancelled during really bad snow weather. Ironically, the Toronto Streetcars (by far the most useful streetcar system in North America) have a lot of trouble when it snows. They share the same roads as the cars, and when the don’t plow things well, people park in the way of the streetcars. Buses actually do better in that regard (they just go around the parked car, or other obstacle). Obviously a lot depends on the driver (take a corner too fast and you end up in the ditch). But I would imagine in a city like Toronto they train their drivers on driving when it snows. In Seattle it is a much lower priority.

      1. “The G is really no different than similar buses (like the 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 13, etc.).”

        Nope this is not an accurate statement. I think Ross forgot that Metro was unable to get a trolleybus that had doors on both sides. The route is planned to have a 60-foot articulated hybrid bus fleet instead. Because some stops are left handed stops in the median, only special buses with left handed doors can serve those stops. The only buses that do that are the 60-foot ones being acquired for the project.

        So it’s no trolley buses like the the 1. 2, 3 et al. It’s also no 40 foot hybrid buses either.

        Added fun: lots of room to stand on a bus on a 15+% grade.

      2. I think Ross forgot that Metro was unable to get a trolleybus that had doors on both sides. The route is planned to have a 60-foot articulated hybrid bus fleet instead.

        I didn’t forget. If anything, it helps Metro in these situations. The trolleys don’t do well in the snow. Metro will often substitute a hybrid instead. They pretty much have to when they run a snow route. The particular bus they will use for the RapidRide G (according to Wikipedia) is the New Flyer Xcelsior XDE60, a bus that is used by Metro now. The only significant difference will be the doors on both sides.

        Because some stops are left handed stops in the median, only special buses with left handed doors can serve those stops.

        Right, but it is quite possible that those buses can follow a snow route just fine. Articulated buses don’t perform as well in the snow, but that doesn’t mean they are inoperable. But even if Metro feels like it is a bad idea to run any articulated bus, then they will just run a 40 footer, and stop by the curb. Again, this is no different than any snow route. Sometimes a bus will run on the same corridor, but the bus stops themselves will change, because the stop is on a slope (or there is an obstacle, like a stuck car blocking the stop). It is unfortunate, but riders have to be aware of the situation, and look for the bus. Compared to the rest of a snow route, that is a very minor change. You might be completely oblivious to the fact that the bus is running on a snow route and choose to stand at the bus stop in the middle of the street. But chances are, you will still notice the bus a few feet away. Other riders will likely alert you as well. In contrast, if you are on the hill and unaware of the snow route, you are out of luck. Hopefully someone will tell you, but this being Seattle, you never know.

      3. Al S may have misstated the issue. SDOT and Metro chose the G Line fleet together. The vendor sold ETB to both SF Muni and Metro at the same time. The artic ETB had power to only one axle, not two. So, the artic ETB are not used on the steepest hills of either SF Muni or Metro. The G Line could have had standard ETB that could climb Madison Street. SDOT insisted on artics for branding, capacity, and to carry bikes inside the coaches. See:

      4. Thanks for the article, Eddie W. I don’t think I misstated anything. I’m simply pointing out that these new buses have issues that make riding them a huge problem.

        It’s not going to easy for a bicyclist to control their bicycle while sitting on a 15%+ grade. It’s not going to be easy to stand in a bus moving at a 15%+ grade. These situations are even more dangerous if the road is even slightly slick as the bus will occasional slip, especially when traveling downhill. That’s assuming that they can get the torque to climb the hill at a reasonable speed, or go downhill on an icy street.

        Just because Muni purchased them doesn’t mean that everything is ok. Many of the major SF bus routes — Geary, Mission, Van Ness, etc — don’t operate on steep slopes like RapidRide G has.

        I could see Ross’ point that using a 40 foot hybrid is viable in snow — but only if median stops are not used. Of course, if a bus stops in the traffic lane, all traffic will stop. That may not be pretty if there is a lots of sliding and wheel spinning on Madison St. I suspect that the route will have to do what lots of other snow routes do, which is to take a long jog south to Jackson to go between Broadway and Downtown and skip the important First Hill stops.

      5. It’s not going to be easy to stand in a bus moving at a 15%+ grade.

        And yet thousands of people do it every day. I really don’t get why you think this is the only hill in Seattle, or that we haven’t had buses (or trains) going up the hill for decades. Ever heard of the counterbalance? Not the technology — the street. Now folks know it as Queen Anne Avenue. It is very steep. Buses go up it. Buses go up First Hill as well. Again, these are our single digit buses (meaning our first buses). They go right up these very steep hills. Life in the big city, as they say.

        And yes, all of these buses have trouble in snow. Again, that has been the case for decades. Trolleys and articulated buses are especially problematic, which explains why they swap them out with 40 foot diesel buses now. But again, this is nothing new. The only thing new about the G is that it will be very frequent, and avoid most of the traffic troubles that hamper most of the buses every day. Not every snow day, but every day.

        Which brings me to your concerns about the bus stops during the rare snow days. Yes, the bus — a regular 40 footer, on a snow route — could be stopped behind a disabled car. Join the club! This happens all the time. But it is less likely to happen on the snow route, simply because the snow route was specifically chosen for its relatively shallow grade. From a snow perspective, there is really nothing special about the G. It will be a lot like similar buses (e. g. the 3/4) in that it will go on a special route, with different bus stops, and different vehicles.

      6. Ross it’s not just the grade. These buses will have large areas where the only thing to hold onto are straps hanging from bars. The buses will have large areas with no poles so people can enter and leave the bus on either side, along with areas so bicyclists can bring their bicycle on board.

        We don’t have any buses like this in our system now. Our buses today have boarding on one side only so that there is something to grab ant waist level close by, and bicycles are stored on racks on the front of the bus.

        I’ve stood on a bus on Madison. I needed to hold on with both hands to keep from losing my balance.

  9. On the advisories page there are quite a few metro routes simply showing ” temporarily suspended” a la esn…

    1. I eyeballed that list and it looked like it was mostly (maybe entirely) peak routes that have local equivalents, so nowhere near as limited as the ESN. Presumably Metro is scrambling to get 40′ buses onto routes that require them, and also probably have some operators that can’t make it in due to impassable roads or are watching kids with schools closed.

      1. Good point about the driver shortage. It is easy to forget that even if the facilities are all read to go, you need drivers to operate the buses. Given that we already have a driver shortage, this compounds the problem.

    1. Not Just Bikes makes great videos which are hard to honestly refute. They tend to be euro-centric when it comes to implementation of objectively good public policy, but the presentation of Urban3’s publicly available case studies are damning for folks who think that the economic engines of cities are anywhere other than their densest cores.

    2. In one of the videos, the Not Just Bikes guy starts off by saying, “Now, I’ve flown a lot, and that’s a massive understatement.” And here’s the reason why the guy who lives in Europe and is a big rail fan often prefers to fly. While a number of train trips within the EU are quick because of HSR, most are not. For example, it takes 45 hours to get from Lisbon to Rome by train. That’s the distance from Seattle to L.A. 45 hours. Too often, when rail in the EU is talked about, the impression is given that their entire rail system is amazing and fast, and that simply isn’t true.

      1. I wonder if he has flown that much in Europe though. He grew up and spent much of his adulthood in Canada, but decided to move to Amsterdam. I would imagine he still has friends and family in Ontario (he has made recent videos from Ontario). If he ever went from his hometown (London, Ontario) to visit New York City, it is likely he flew. Then there are trips to the West Coast (of Canada or the U. S.). Given that he has decided to live permanently outside his home country, I would guess he has traveled much of the world, which means crossing oceans, which almost always means flying. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he routinely takes flights within Europe. Quite the contrary.

      2. My larger point was much of EU inter-country train travel is slow, and it’s usually preferably to fly. When discussing EU HSR, I think sometimes people forget that.

      3. Pretty much Sam, there’s a select few decent transborder corridors around Europe. But it’s still very disjointed affair, you can end up having to take multiple trains to cross a border. Or said train is still slow, like the slower intercity train between Amsterdam and Brussels.

        The best I’d say is Eurostar and Thalys connecting a lot of the major cities in NW Europe and the Copenhagen-Southern Sweden line with Øresundståg and SJ, and Switzerland with it’s surrounding neighbors.

        The other one being OBB (Austrian Rail Operator) who provides night trains under their nightjet service that is a big positive as night trains were considered dead or less important in the 00s and revived in part from how much people want long distance rail options that saves time and money for people. Also fatigue from the LCCs in Europe and wanting an option that’s a step up from Flixbus. I used nightjet once to go from Florence to Munich and was an overall comfortable experience while saving time for me and arriving mid morning in Central Munich instead of out in the middle of the countryside with the Munich airport and then having to take the S Bahn to Central Munich.

        Adam Something did a good video on the issues of European Rail

      4. The point is that many fast corridors exist. The average speed of all trains is higher than in the US, plus more frequency and coverage. That makes traveling by train more competitive with other modes on average.

        Rome-Lisbon seems to be a worst-case scenario. I tried four sites and couldn’t even get an all-train itinerary at all: they all had a bus segment or plane segment. Maybe the high-speed networks aren’t well connected east-west across the northern Mediterranean. The primary city pairs are north-south. I wouldn’t have even thought of traveling from Rome to Lisbon; I’d more likely stop in Spain along the way or go north. Or if I were going from Rome all the way to Lisbon or the UK or Scandinavia, I might fly.

        Rome to Barcelona (800 miles) is 14 hours, (transferring in Milan and Marseille). Rome to Düsseldorf (900 miles) is 12 hour, with two transfers. Seattle to San Francisco is also 800 miles, and is 14 hours by car at best, 18-24 hours by Greyhound, and 24 hours by Amtrak.

      5. This thread reminded me of the first leg of Phineas Fogg’s first leg of his trip around the world in 80 days. In the book, he left on Wednesday, October 2, 1872 at 20:45. According to his itinerary, he arrived in Paris on October 3, 7:20, then left Paris on the same morning at 8:40; then arriving in Turin on October 4 at 6:35, he left at 7:20; arriving in Brindisi on Saturday, October 5 at 16:00 to catch a steamship to Suez. Jules Verne more than likely referenced an Official Guide of the Railways for the itinerary in his book. Total travel time was 43 hours, 15 minutes. Note that in the book, there was no balloon ride on this leg of his journey.

        Now compare that to a rail/bus journey that departs on the first Wednesday of the month close to 20:45 (in this case, next Wednesday). It is a combination of buses and trains leaving Charing Cross (the same departure point in the book) at 21:01 boarding a train for Dover at 21:37 after taking a local bus from Charing Cross to St Pancras. From Dover, Flixbus will take you to Paris arriving at 6:10. Already we have saved nearly 90 minutes.

        Next the TGV departs Paris at 6:47 and with a transfer in Challes, arrival in Milano is at 13:50. At this point, the trip is over 16 hours faster than in 1872. Departing Milano at 14:05, this train arrives in Brindisi at 22:32 the same day. From Brindisi, good luck in finding a steamship to Suez from there these days.

        Overall, there was a 41:44 travel time savings between public transport in 1872 (assuming Jules Verne’s research was accurate) and public transport in 2022. Our total travel time making the trip today is 25:31 compared to 22:57 drive time of 1,426 miles. So the question we have to ask ourselves: Has there been anyplace in the US or Canada where a 60% travel time improvement in public transport been made in such a distance?

      6. Rome-Lisbon is probably not the best option for an example like this, as Lisbon is in such a far corner of Europe that anywhere that isn’t on the Iberian peninsula is going to be long and hard. You’re better off just flying there from any other part of Europe.
        Berlin to Rome, Oslo/Stockholm to Berlin, Warsaw to Paris/Amsterdam, Copenhagen to Munich are probably some good current long distance examples that exist where you can make a case for needed improvement in the medium term.

        There has been talk of a tunnel between Germany and Denmark in the Femer Bælt to finally make train connections between Scandinavia and mainland Europe faster and more convenient.

        There’s the Brenner Base Tunnel in Austria that’s been 20 years in the making that’ll make some German-Italian routes more of a reality than what currently exists.

        Most of the major improvements to train service in Europe needed is in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, where it’s much sparse than its Western Cpunterpart. RailBaltica is intended to fix that with a network of lines that connect all the major cities in the region (Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius) with a few second tier cities as well and long term connecting Warsaw and Helsinki together to the rest of the line.
        Other parts of Eastern Europe have seen improvements and build out of HSR. But it’s been slower in some regards.

        The EU has its problems with rail, but they are slowly improving it. And people would say that this is a major improvement over a generation ago where flying was expensive and rail was slow in many parts of the continent.

      7. There is a core area of Europe where many intercity trips are in the 200 to 400 mile sweet spot for high speed rail. London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne and the Ruhr Valley fall into this area. It appears to have about a third of the European population and it spans big parts of six countries.

        Spain is rather far, as is southern Italy. Even Northrrn Italy is separated by a decent distance from other areas.

        It’s easy to forget that Istanbul lies partially in Europe and its metro is similar to London and Paris. It pretty far from other major European cities.

      8. Zach, you must have crossed the Brenner Pass in the new shortcut tunnels. I got to ride through the Italian side once and it was amazing. We entered the tunnel at normal speed after stopping at the top of the pass and I noticed “42000” painted on the side of the tunnel. A few moments later I saw “41000” and then a little quicker “40000”. They were meters to the end of the tunnel, and by the time we got to 30000 they were a blur! We SHOT out of the tunnel portal at what had to be more than 100 mph (160 klicks) and proceeded to go yet faster in the free air.

        What a ride, curving down through the Tyrolean Alps!

      9. There is a core area of Europe where many intercity trips are in the 200 to 400 mile sweet spot for high speed rail.

        Yes, exactly. Of course there are longer trips that would never work well for high speed rail, but there are a ton of trips for which rail works really, really well.

        The U. S. isn’t quite as fortunate, but is in a similar situation. There are plenty of trips that make sense for rail, and plenty that do not. There are differences, in that much of Europe has good local clusters that connect to other good local clusters. This provides enough of a network that folks assume it covers the entire continent, or at least much of it. It doesn’t, but it kinda looks like it does, when you see maps like this: It is easy to imagine that with a bit more investment, it will cover much of the continent.

        But the gaps in the U. S. will always be bigger. Some of our clusters are bound to be a very long distance from other clusters. Then there is the misunderstanding that because Europe has overlapping clusters, they work for long-distance trips. They can, but most people don’t want to spend 10 hours on a train if they can take a 3 hour flight.

        The biggest difference is that Europe has improved the areas that have potential, while the U. S. has not. This gets back to the video. It is quite possible that the author takes train trips for 90% of the travel to other cities in Europe. If he is going for a trip to a distant city in Europe, then he flies. But city travel is often geared towards shorter distances. Not to the same degree as transit trips, but it is the same basic idea. For example, here is a proposed map for high speed rail in the United States: If you are going from Saint Louis to New York City, this changes nothing. But if you are going from Saint Louis to Chicago, this changes everything. It is quite possible that more people make the latter trip, even though New York is much bigger than Chicago. Chicago is a regional center, and influences the cities around it in ways that New York doesn’t.

        This misunderstanding leads to bad politics. People in various areas want high speed rail, even though it really isn’t worth the money. They imagine a coast-to-coast high speed network, which is simply unrealistic. This ends up crippling most efforts. Like a lot of issues, the country likes waving the flag, but is not at all patriotic. Try arguing in say, South Carolina, that your proposal will greatly improve things in Boston, Philadelphia and New York City. You might as well propose a new city hall for Toronto.

        Historically, a lot of issues like this were solved by horse trading. Projects in one part of the country were built in exchange for different projects somewhere else. The Northeast gets their high speed rail, South Carolina gets new airports. That sort of thing has fallen out of favor, and we have trouble building things in this country as a result. This leaves states to fend for themselves. This might work out well for Texas and California, but makes no sense in the Northeast and Midwest — areas that have the greatest potential when it comes to building a high speed network.

      10. Noted that the PNW is a “Maybe”.

        Most of the Midwest cluster can use existing but surplus rights of way. That’s not true elsewhere.


        This is a helpful and fun site when considering both light rail and rail in general, certainly when compared to urban areas in some parts of Europe. Each of WA’s counties is ranked in terms of rural area, urban area, total land and population density.

        Kitsap Co. has the highest overall population density, just before King Co., because of its smallish land size (395 square miles). But when you get to Snohomish, King and Pierce counties the land area becomes very large (2087 square miles, 2116, and 1670 miles respectively). WA overall has some of the largest counties in the country.

        This results in very low county population density. King Co. is 75.1% rural and 24.9% urban. Pierce is 79.2% rural and 20.8% urban. Snohomish Co. is 88.4% rural to 11.6% urban (#33 on the list). This lack of density has much less to do with zoning as it does to simply a lack of population compared to land size.

        When it comes to light rail the area ST hopes to serve is geographically very large and sparsely populated, which highlights the difficulty of first/last mile access in counties that are fairly poor except perhaps for King, and many of the stops along the route have little population density. Does it make sense to spend over $100 billion on light rail in a three-county area with rural ratios between 75.1% and 88.4%? I would suggest not. Even if the major cities at the end of the routes (Snohomish and Pierce) had decent population density the places in between do not, and the distances are very large.

        At the same time does it make sense to spend billions on passenger rail that duplicates highways and flying when the distances are large so the travel times are long compared to alternatives and the population density along the routes so low? Passenger rail made sense along some of these parts of America — especially the west — when it competed against horses, wagons, and walking. The distances involved and lack of population density today and the faster and more convenient alternatives make rail noncompetitive for passenger rail, and not worth the cost. Rail is competitive when it comes to freight though because although slow it can carry an extraordinary amount of weight at relatively low cost, and the so the cost of the tracks (maintenance and upgrades) pencils out even without any federal subsidies. However if one needs a package or papers delivered tomorrow they don’t use rail. Taking a train in the U.S. west reminds a rider of the lack of population density in this very large part of the country, in many places zero population density.

        Passenger rail travel in the U.S. even in the NE corridor requires very large subsidies per rider when deferred capital maintenance is included. In the west where significant capital upgrades would be required (and challenging topography) passenger rail makes very little economic sense, either state to state or city to city, just like horses and wagons are no longer an effective means of transportation. I am a little surprised that sophisticated transit posters on this blog think any kind of passenger rail (light or heavy rail) makes economic sense in the U.S. west, even in areas like CA where with only about a quarter of the $80.3 billion in funding needed to complete the project identified, chances are high that the CA high-speed rail project train will only run in California’s Central Valley, from Merced in the north, 171 miles to Bakersfield in the south—with plain old bus service completing the connection to San Francisco and Los Angeles, making the 800 mile trip slower than flying or even driving down the I-5.

        In Europe the issues with rail are the very low cost of flights with discount carriers, cars, and the fact some countries are separated from the rest of Europe by water (not unlike Kitsap Co.). Rail in Europe is heavily subsidized. There are some European high-speed rail lines between downtown urban centers that are quite convenient if the distance is usually intra-country, compared to the time involved in getting to and from an airport. But those are rare, and of course the poorer the country the poorer the rail, and even in areas like France one is amazed at how little population density there is outside the urban centers.

        The California high-speed rail project suggests to me that passenger rail in the west will mostly be along freight lines, and so slow, bumpy and subject to freight priorities. This of course makes passenger rail even less competitive with driving and flying, but it is the lack of population density and very large distances involved that is the reason passenger rail is a poor economic investment in the western U.S., and non-competitive with alternatives, and we see that in Link to the California high-speed line.

      12. Europe also has areas where it struggles.

        Eg, the French network was built around serving France originally, and Germany designed its systems around Germany. Neither Germany nor France has trains compatible with the high speed lines in Spain, which are broad gauge (Talgos from Spain can change gauge at the border though). Portugal’s network is aimed at Portugal, with no desire until this year for high speed investment. Despite the huge investment in the railroad bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden, if you want to do it by train from Berlin the ticketing system wants to put you on a train-ferry-train connection rather than a through train.

        Granted, this nationalism has gotten Europe much farther than the USA when it comes to high speed rail, but imagine the mess on the Northeast Corridor if every state we’re making it’s own disjointed routing decisions to maximize benefit only to those within their own state, with no vision of intercity travel over state borders.

        Of course, people trying to promote transit in the Puget Sound region already have considerable experience with Balkanization at the county transit level.

      13. Much of what Beth says is true, though it reads like a press release from The Discovery Institute. But she’s too late by a decade on Link. The Lynnwood to Federal Way main stem is almost complete, so Link is going to be running through some fairly low density suburbs soon enough, regardless of any lack of passenger demand.

        ST3 IS likely to be canceled, though.

      14. I would definitely disagree with many of the statements Beth makes. Eg, “Rail in Europe is heavily subsidized” is only true in some places. Deutsch Bahn usually operates at a slight net profit, as an example.

      15. TT, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say ST3 is “likely” to be cancelled. In terms of ST3’s larger projects, we have TDLE, ELE, and WSLE/BLE actively moving through the planning pipeline, and there’s no real (or, at least, publicly-visible) indication that ST is seriously considering cancelling any of them. They’re not saying “we need to seriously reduce costs or we can’t afford this” but maybe they’re waiting until the FEIS for each of the projects before making those proclamations.

        Should several parts of ST3 be cancelled? Probably – or at least significantly revised.

        But will any parts of ST3 be cancelled? The Board is unlikely to face any real political pressures to cancel “unaffordable” projects and even if the project costs continue to explode, they’ll simply keep delaying them. It would take a Tim Eyman-esque proposition hitting the ballots to force the ST to actually cancel anything other than park-n-rides.

        I don’t think it’s helpful to just assume that ST3 will be cancelled outright, since that takes energy away from pushing ST to make worthwhile revisions to the major projects.

      16. “Kitsap Co. has the highest overall population density, just before King Co., because of its smallish land size (395 square miles).”

        Average density is useless and misleading. Some also say Redmond is the densest city in King County, and Los Angeles is denser than New York City. But people can’t live in averages, they can only live in specific neighborhoods with differing densities. Population-weighted density is a better measure of how many neighbors each person has, and it says what people intuitively feel: that no neighborhood in LA is as dense as much of Manhattan, that central Seattle is the densest area between Vancouver BC and San Francisco, and that those acres of country houses in Kitsap County really are low density. The unpopulated parts of King County shouldn’t be counted either.

        “ST hopes to serve is geographically very large and sparsely populated”

        ST’s service area is less than the three counties. It ends at Everett, Bothell, Woodinville, Issaquah, Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Orting, and Du Pont. There’s no rural area within that. (Arguably Snohomish is too small and should have included Marysville, and Pierce is too large and shouldn’t have included Spanaway or Orting.) Link serves only part of the ST district, connecting the largest cities. I’ve written profusely how Link isn’t necessary beyond Lynnwood/164th and Federal Way or in Issaquah, but the decision was driven by those cities/counties wanting the jobs and tax base that would supposedly come with Link extensions, and those cities are in fixed locations.

        “Taking a train in the U.S. west reminds a rider of the lack of population density in this very large part of the country, in many places zero population density.”

        Not all the west is the same. South King County is different from North Dakota. Seattle to Spokane is 230 miles; Eugene to Sacramento is 475 miles; Spokane to Minneapolis is 1380 miles. All of these are different densities, and different kinds of rail are proposed.

        Vancouver-Eugene has enough population density to support medium-speed (110 mph) rail based on peer regions in many other countries. Seattle-Spokane have enough density for at least low-speed rail (79 mph); it would connect all the largest remaining cities that aren’t on Cascades.

        Los Angeles-San Francisco high-speed rail is a sensible idea that wouldn’t be controversial in other countries. Its unfortunate funding model, large detour, and initial segment only in the Central Valley are all because of bad US politics. The alternative is not nothing, but widening the freeways or more airports, and those aren’t low-cost either.

        Vancouver-Portland HSR is more controversial; I’d go with WSDOT’s 110-mph incremental improvements in its long-range plan instead. The long-range plan it never gets around to finishing, in spite of drafting it thirty years ago. I would also have the state buy the Seattle-Tacoma BNSF track for Cascades/Sounder priority and shift some freight to the UP track.

        Nobody has proposed HSR or MSR in the Eugene-Sacramento or Spokane-Minneapolis gaps.

        We should keep freight rail service robust. That shows the potential and efficiency of rail. But we can’t have no good passenger rail because all of it is devoted to freight.

        “Rail in Europe is heavily subsidized.”

        All transportation modes are subsidized. Rail is more efficient per dollar in moving more people and with less environmental impacts. Low rail ridership in the US has as much to do with the lack of service as with land use or non-interest among passengers. Ridership around the world and in the US goes up and down as the transit network expands or contracts. People aren’t going to take the atrocious level of transit some American cities and regions have; that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take transit if it were better. That doesn’t mean you have to have 220 mph trains between Seattle and Portland or Seattle and Los Angeles; it just means you need sensible transit so that people can get around without a car to both cities, suburbs, and villages. That’s what the US is largely missing.

      17. ST3 is widely-different things. The three Stride lines and the short extensions to downtown Redmond and Federal Way will certainly be completed within a few years, and they are the most critical parts of ST3. Tacoma Dome is cruising along because Pierce has been saving up for it since the 1990s, and its elevated alignment in public ROW is relatively low-cost. Snohomish stretched itself for the Paine Field detour and is now reevaluating it. Even if it doesn’t go all the way to Everett it can productively be truncated at Mariner. WSBLE suffers several cost overruns, poor design decisions, and procrastination in design, so we’ll see what happens with that. Issaquah-South Kirkland was always unnecessary.

        But it’s not like the money will run out as some suggest. ST can extend the taxes indefinitely until all of it is built, even if it takes ten or twenty years longer. Whether it chooses to is another question. There’s no indication ST is considering truncating or canceling any project; that’s all theoretical speculation. ST is more likely to split them into phases. The realignment schedule contemplates a northern phase to Mariner and a WSBLE phase to Smith Cove, with Everett and Ballard in a later phase.

        Canceling projects has three political headwinds. One, it’s not what the subarea counties or cities want. Two, it’s throwing away hard-won voter authorization. ST added them to ST3 so it wouldn’t have to go through another campaign and uncertainty to get them into ST4. Cities also wanted certainty whether light rail would be coming (or BRT for cities like Bothell) so they could plan around a high-capacity transit trunk or make do without it. Three, ST doesn’t want to put subareas/cities/boardmembers against each other by saying “You’ll get what you want but you won’t.” That’s a hard vote for boardmembers to take. So I doubt ST will truncate or delete anything. A future board might think differently, but we thought maybe the board would think differently by 2022 but it still hasn’t.

      18. What is interesting from the link is half of Washington’s counties are less than 1% urban, and just the sheer size of our counties. It is why these areas are called the flyover areas basically between the east and west coasts. The irony is there are many areas west of Washington State that have even lower urban density than Washington Counties east of the Cascades, which according to the link is zero.

        To Mike’s point, I think what Beth was getting at is any rail line — like Link — is a fixed route, and running to or through a county — especially if mostly rural — presupposes the folks in the county can get to it and use it to create the ridership to validate the cost, especially when there is such little population density along the line between “urban” centers. Hence feeder buses and park and rides. At least IMO ST’s ridership estimates assume reaching these potential riders.

        It could be a certain very populated urban area or two alone can create ridership to validate the rail project (especially if the line is within that urban area) depending on how long the line is, despite low density along the line in between, but Pierce and Snohomish and a big part of King Co. are not that. For example, you don’t decide whether to spend billions to build an airport based on the folks who live within walking distance of the airport; you assume it will serve the region. Beth’s point just goes to show that Link’s fixed route and the difficulty and expense of getting to and from Link limits its use in the rural areas of these mostly rural counties. I understand ST hopes TOD will remedy that but I have my doubts because much of Link runs along freeways which are not attractive places to live, and many of these folks moved to these areas for either a rural or SFH zone.

        When Nathan writes: “But will any parts of ST3 be cancelled? The Board is unlikely to face any real political pressures to cancel “unaffordable” projects and even if the project costs continue to explode, they’ll simply keep delaying them”, I agree with him, but delaying a project and affording a project are two different things, and to be fair to Nathan he did recommend “pushing ST to make worthwhile revisions to the major projects”, although I think this Board would like a successor Board to make those revisions, and the distinction between revision and cancelling depends on ST tax revenue (so in some ways TT may be correct).

        The rub is extending ST taxes only works if the project commencement and completion are not extended concurrently (and a realistic cost contingency is used). Otherwise increased ROW and construction costs, which are the problems to that require extending taxes to begin with along with ST’s faulty project cost estimates, and higher interest rates, exceed the tax extended revenue. The Board would need to extend the taxes, borrow against those extended taxes (bonding) and begin the projects asap, except I don’t think ST’s bonding/debt limits would allow that.

        Nathan is correct Lynnwood and Federal Way will be completed. The key at that point will be ridership from Federal Way and Lynnwood, which will supposedly serve Snohomish and Pierce Co. by park and rides and feeder buses. How far to go past those projects will turn on subarea tax revenue (especially Snohomish Co. which looks to me like Lynnwood will be it despite the fact N. King Co. paid to run so much of Link north to the county line) and ridership, and that is where I think the Board will have to make some tough decisions because like Beth noted that is when we will see how well Link can serve very rural areas.

        It may be the actual ridership, especially post pandemic, more than project cost deficits, are what doom TDLE and Everett Link extension, because if Federal Way and Lynnwood have low ridership so will Tacoma and Everett at which point someone has to say this is crazy based on dollar per rider mile based on actual, not estimated, ridership, which so far has been around a 30% differential just on the Northgate to SeaTac segment.

      19. Noted that the PNW is a “Maybe” [for high speed rail]

        Yes. Note that this is for Japanese style high-speed rail, not incremental improvements that would get us to East-Coast type speed and reliability like that outlined in the plan I referenced earlier. The assessment is only based on the opinion of the author. Alon Levy just looks at population and distance (along with projected growth, density, etc.). Basically we aren’t big enough, although we aren’t too far off. Levy does not look at the physical particulars, which would likely make a Northwest line a lot more expensive per mile to build than say, rail in Texas. It is quite likely that once you did that assessment, the PNW goes from “maybe”, to “no”.

      20. Daniel: if you look at the population map of France or Japan, you get similar results as King County. There are many areas of mountains where nobody lives.

        You have to look at where people actually live, not the vast square miles where most people don’t live.

      21. I think this is a great assessment of ST3, Mike: ST3 is many different things. Some are a very good value, a lot isn’t. It is likely all of it will be built, eventually.

        On a related note, it is interesting to think of Mariner as a long-term terminus. One of the big selling points of Lynnwood TC is the fact that you can reach it from the north via the HOV lanes. This makes it different than Ash Way, where the HOV lanes only face south.

        But it would be relatively easy to add HOV lanes to and from the north serving Ash Way. There is basically a stub for it, visible from the air: My guess is it would be very cheap to add the ramps. With Mariner, it doesn’t look so easy. You would have to add a full set of ramps to 128th — it just looks like a much bigger job.

        This creates future issues for buses coming from the north. They have a few choices:

        1) Serve the Mariner Station, however awkwardly. This would mean exiting the general purpose lanes and then working the way over to the station (I don’t know if they have finalized on a station location yet).

        2) Skip Mariner and serve Ash Way. This assumes that they built the ramps.

        3) Skip both of those, and just serve Lynnwood.

        The last two options means that folks headed to Mariner would have to backtrack (on Link) if they are coming from Everett. This isn’t a big deal, except that it effects the bus network. It means that riders on the 128th corridor have to transfer twice to get to Everett (including going the wrong way). I think it would make the most sense to have a combination of buses. One would get off the freeway at South Everett Freeway Station (SEFS), go across 112th and then south on 4th to at least 128th. This would have to work its way to the Mariner Station, but just as importantly, serve buses going across on 128th. We might as well consider this the 201/202. Along with this bus, we would have an express, from Everett to Lynnwood, that would stop only at SEFS along the way (call this the 510).

        What is interesting about that idea is that it pretty much exactly what William suggested after Lynnwood Link. I very much agree with that idea. But it is disappointing if you are basically running the same buses, even as we spend a fortune extending the line north of Lynnwood. You could get some savings by ending the 201/202 at Ash Way. You could get even more savings if you built the ramps to Ash Way, and ended the 510 there.

        Thus you do save some service by extending to Ash Way, but not to Mariner. Unless we spend a fortune on ramps connecting I-5 with Mariner Station, it doesn’t get us much. This is just another example of how things reverse quite quickly with Link as we expand to the north. Up until now, we were seeing the network effect. Each investment dramatically improved the speed and frequency of a lot of very common trips. In contrast, after Lynnwood Link, we get diminishing returns. Each extension adds value, but less and less as we get further north. But again, that probably won’t stop them from building it, eventually.

      22. Again you’re conflating rural, suburban, and exurban. Rural is where people can actually farm or raise chickens and goats or it’s mostly empty woods, like Snoqualmie Valley, Vashon Island, or east of North Bend.

        “running to or through a county — especially if mostly rural — presupposes the folks in the county can get to it and use it”

        We aren’t building Link in or for rural areas or imagining that they would add significantly to ridership numbers.

        “there is such little population density along the line between “urban” centers.”

        You have to connect the centers. Large centers generate travel between them. Sometimes that means going a few miles in an industrial area, over water, or through a low-density area.

        “much of Link runs along freeways which are not attractive places to live”

        Did you just say freeways aren’t attractive places to live near? Then maybe we shouldn’t build as many freeways and stroads. I’d also add big-box stores and large surface parking lots. People don’t go there because they love the atmosphere; they go there because nothing better is available.

        “Nathan is correct Lynnwood and Federal Way will be completed. The key at that point will be ridership from Federal Way and Lynnwood,”

        The key is being able to get around without a car. Having Link to Federal way and Lynnwood and Redmond makes that easier than not having it. That’s why so many other metro areas build a rail trunk. Whether people actually use it depends on their arbitrary decisions, what kinds of destinations exist around the stations, etc. On average, more people will use transit if it’s more convenient than if it’s less convenient, so we can assume Link to increase ridership, but that’s a side effect rather than the main effect. The main effect is to give people better transportation choices, so that the transportation is available if or when they want it. And it makes the area more resilient because we’re not just depending on high-energy, high-cost, high-accident cars.

        “if Federal Way and Lynnwood have low ridership so will Tacoma and Everett at which point someone has to say this is crazy based on dollar per rider mile”

        High and low are relative. You seem to be saying if it’s not four hundred people every ten minutes it’s not worthwhile. But it’s worth it to the two hundred people or one hundred people. It’s worth it in terms of giving a better alternative to driving. It’s worth it to the cities and counties that pushed for it. Lynnwood and Federal Way are good investments. Everett and Tacoma aren’t necessary, but if there’s the political will and it gets done, why not? The real craziness is not building robust transt to these areas fifty years ago when they grew, and now saying they don’t need it. When the lack of it hinders people from getting around and makes people feel like they need cars and don’t have any alternative.

      23. “Again you’re conflating rural, suburban, and exurban. Rural is where people can actually farm or raise chickens and goats or it’s mostly empty woods, like Snoqualmie Valley, Vashon Island, or east of North Bend.”

        Mike, I am going off the link in Beth’s post. The issue isn’t whether an area is “rural” (and try driving the Maple Valley Highway or Issaquah to Hobart Road sometime). The issue is whether someone can walk to Link. If they can’t then they need someplace to park if they drive there, or a bus that is frequent enough to make up for the transfer.

        “We aren’t building Link in or for rural areas or imagining that they would add significantly to ridership numbers.”

        Of course we are. What do you think Snohomish and Pierce Counties are? It is why we have subarea equity, and why these folks have been paying ST taxes. Everett, Lynnwood, Federal Way and Tacoma don’t have the populations to support the cost of Link, and like most cities their populations swell with work commuters who then leave at the end of the day to SFH or rural areas. It would be like saying we don’t build airports for people who live in more rural areas. Of course we do, which means we have to provide first/last mile access, and a service that they want to use because it is better, like a plane.

        “You have to connect the centers. Large centers generate travel between them. Sometimes that means going a few miles in an industrial area, over water, or through a low-density area.”

        Are you sure? That is an argument I suppose for heavy passenger rail between cities, not 90 miles of light rail. Are very many riders really going to take Link from Tacoma to Seattle to Everett? I don’t think so. Except for Seattle, which has lost 60% of its work commuters, these are not “large” centers.

        “The key is being able to get around without a car.”

        That is a key for you because you begin without a car. For the 95% of the rest of the regional population — certainly outside downtown Seattle — who own cars the real question is whether Link can compete with cars, or even buses, if you hope they take Link. A lot of folks have a hard time fathoming that many folks’ trips will get worse, or at least slower, with Link, because of the transfer and fixed route.

        “if Federal Way and Lynnwood have low ridership so will Tacoma and Everett at which point someone has to say this is crazy based on dollar per rider mile”

        “High and low are relative.”

        No, they are not. It is why ST estimates ridership, as required by federal law, and why future O&M costs are predicated on those estimates. The correct metric is dollar per rider mile, because the transit pie is fixed, and some would say declining, and as some on this blog have noted imagine the bus transit that could have been provided to (rural) Pierce Co. with the money being spent on Link in Pierce Co. That is what is “relative”: the better transit for the same money spent on Link.

        The actual, not estimated, Link ridership from Federal Way and Lynnwood will prove me — and Beth — right or wrong. Relative in that concept will be the differential between ST’s ridership estimates and actual ridership. When I look at Pierce and Snohomish Co. I see the same things post pandemic that I saw pre-pandemic: very sparsely populated counties that will have a very hard time with first/last mile access to a fixed route light rail line going to places they probably are not going to.

      24. “much of Link runs along freeways which are not attractive places to live”

        That is not the only problem. To quote this study:

        Light rail lines along freeways are undesirable for several reasons. First, the freeway takes up much of the land accessible from rail stations on foot. Second, because freeways are convenient to access by automobile but unpleasant to live near, they tend to be surrounded by lower-value land uses. Third, trips on a light rail line that runs alongside a freeway are competing directly with the region’s fastest car trips.

        It is common for planners to say “Wait — we will be different. We will build little urban villages next to the stations. This will make all the difference in the world.”

        Sorry, no. To quote that same study again:

        New, isolated developments are rarely large enough to be self-contained or offer the amenities of true city centers. Residents who want to travel to specialty stores or jobs not readily accessible by the existing transit network—and in typical low-density U.S.
        cities, this is almost all of them—will need to own cars. Once they own cars, there’s no reason not to use them for all trips, especially if zoning policies guarantee copious parking.

        Ash Way will not be Capitol Hill. Fife won’t either.

        That doesn’t mean there isn’t some value in having stations by the freewawy. But it largely comes from connecting to more distant buses. The buses cover a very wide area, and funnel those riders into the freeway station. There aren’t a lot of riders at each bus stop, or even each bus route, but together, these freeway buses add enough ridership to justify making a good connection from the train to the freeway. But you only need one station for that. Once you have Lynnwood Link — which is an excellent station from that perspective — you don’t need anything to the north. Everything north of that is diminishing returns. This is a fundamental planning error that should never happen. You really have to screw things up to make a major investment and see ridership per mile go down. Yet that is what ST3 is all about.

        “if Federal Way and Lynnwood have low ridership so will Tacoma and Everett at which point someone has to say this is crazy based on dollar per rider mile”

        Yes, but as Mike put it, low and high ridership is relative. Part of the problem is that we aren’t building this incrementally. Even when we do, leaders ignore obvious takeaways. For example, at one point Link ended at SeaTac. Then we extended the line to Angle Lake. Ridership went down at SeaTac. This was a big surprise. It meant that even though SeaTac is a significant destination and even though some riders were taking the train from Angle Lake to SeaTac, way more riders shifted to using Angle Lake. Much of SeaTac ridership was generated because it was the easiest station to access from the south. A lot of riders were either parking, being dropped off, or taking buses to Angle Lake instead of SeaTac. More importantly, that should lead to ask questions — what happens when Link goes further south? Will that repeat? Are we adding substantial ridership, or just shifting those riders around. Are we even saving those riders a lot of time?

        But we didn’t ask those questions then, and we aren’t asking them now. When Link gets to Lynnwood and Federal Way, don’t expect a big report saying where they came from. Likewise, don’t expect Link to extend to say, Ash Way, to see if that leads to a significant increase in ridership, or even ridership time saved before going farther. None of that is going to happen.

      25. @Beth
        “This is a helpful and fun site when considering both light rail and rail in general, certainly when compared to urban areas in some parts of Europe. Each of WA’s counties is ranked in terms of rural area, urban area, total land and population density.”

        It’s actually a useless site for drawing any conclusions about population density, since it lacks any meaningful level of granularity.
        Everyone understands that Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties extend all the way to the the middle of the Cascade range, right? Most of that being the Cascade foothills, where no one lives.

      26. W”e aren’t building Link in or for rural areas or imagining that they would add significantly to ridership numbers.”

        Of course we are. What do you think Snohomish and Pierce Counties are?”
        – Daniel

        There are about 7 definitions of what is defined as rural, and I’ve looked at most of the with regard to Pierce County. Exactly none of the definitions have rural areas served by Link.

        I’ve read enough to know that Beth’s link will spike my blood pressure, so I’m not going to do it, but if it is suggesting the any fathomable route for Link is going to place a station in rural Pierce County, it’s worse than useless.

        About a quarter of Pierce County is Rainier National Park. Suggesting we are building a light rail to serve bears and elk is just moronic. That density metric is a useful measure of where to place transit.

      27. Going back to the discussion about intercity rail and rural areas, every intercity rail line has to pass through rural areas to get from one city to the other. But, it’s the urban areas that drive the ridership. Most intercity lines don’t even have stations in the rural areas they pass through, as there would not be enough ridership to justify the cost of building the station. But, as long as the train has enough people riding from city to city, the train is still productive, and the lack of rural ridership, irrelevant.

      28. asdf2, I think that’s true to a certain extent, though our country’s over-representation of non-urban voters distorts that a bit. A big reason Amtrak runs long-haul routes is to satisfy the rural states in the middle of the routes. For instance, WA doesn’t get a huge amount of value from Empire Builder (though certainly gets some), while ID, MT, and ND get huge value from it, especially because many of the intermediate stops aren’t anywhere close to a major airport. I remember 5-10 years ago, back when the shale oil boom was in full swing, when huge numbers of people got on in eastern MT and ND to go to/from Minneapolis for the holidays, because their only other option was to drive for hours in less-than-ideal weather.

      29. “There are about 7 definitions of what is defined as rural, and I’ve looked at most of the with regard to Pierce County. Exactly none of the definitions have rural areas served by Link.”

        Cam, I was referencing the rural/urban split in Beth’s link, which I am guessing is overall population based on land size. I am not sure there is really any true “urban” areas in Pierce or Snohomish Co. either. So basically we are talking about shades of rural and at best semi-urban.

        As I stated earlier, it isn’t the definition, it is whether someone can walk to Link or not, and to some degree just how many potential riders exist in a county based on the overall population. If they cannot walk to Link then they need a place to park or a feeder bus if they are to be “served” by Link. You start getting into much of Pierce, Snohomish and SE King Co. and I would call that pretty rural. It certainly isn’t urban, and as someone who lives in suburbia it isn’t suburbia either. It is too undense to be suburbia. It is where more lots have vegetation on them then development, and there is no development over one story.

        I guess I don’t know what you mean by “served” by Link”. I would think that if you live in a subarea and pay taxes and fees for Link then you should be able to be served by Link if you can get to it, and you should be able to get to it. Obviously it is not coming to your doorstep. If your point is those who cannot walk to Link should not benefit from or be served by Link, well then that isn’t too good for downtown Tacoma is it, or about 99.9% of Pierce, Snohomish or King Counties.

        If a region spends over $100 billion on a shared regional facility like light rail based on some very optimistic ridership estimates in some pretty undense areas, and all the citizens within a subarea are paying for Link, just like a regional airport, they should be “served” by it. That means first/last mile access, even if to Tacoma Dome, and even if they live in a rural or semi-rural area, considering just about every link user in Pierce Co. will have to drive to a station or take a bus there. My guess is the reason Link is going to Tacoma Dome is because the planners understood HUGE park and rides would be necessary for Pierce Co. if the taxpayers were going to be served by Link, and get to it.

        IMO Pierce and Snohomish Counties simply do not have the total population — anywhere — to support the high cost of light rail, and actual ridership at Federal Way and Lynnwood will prove that. The distances in these counties for most from Link are too great. Even without Beth’s post I have been saying for a long time very few would look at Pierce Co. and Snohomish Co. and say we should spend billions to run fixed route light rail there.

        I am sure no matter how anemic the ridership at the Lynnwood and Federal Way stations some will demand Link continue onto Tacoma Dome and Mariner, and even Tacoma Mall and Everett, claiming those extensions will create the magical ridership Lynnwood and Federal Way do not, and if the subarea has the money what the hell. Not my subarea. But it isn’t very hard for me to understand why Pierce, Snohomish and SE King Co. vote such a hard no on ST levies, because they know they really won’t be served by light rail. The one thing you can say for Tacoma Dome though is it has the parking for someone wanting to use Link, but then the question for these Pierce Co. riders is to where, and why not just drive.

        The reality is building Link to Pierce Co. makes as much sense as building it for bears and elk.

      30. “We aren’t building Link in or for rural areas or imagining that they would add significantly to ridership numbers.”

        “Of course we are. What do you think Snohomish and Pierce Counties are?”

        Snohomish County has 830,000 people. Pierce County has 926,000. Most of them are concentrated in a quarter of the county.

      31. Nathan, OK, then, since I “shouldn’t” say “ST3 will be canceled” [emphasis added], I’ll say “ST3 should be canceled.” Is that more politically correct?

        This is not to say that Ballard should not get some form of rail service which passes through some portion of SLU/LQA/Belltown — probably the southwestern third in order to control costs. It is to say that the current proposal should be flushed down the throne and the thing re-imagined as a high-capacity tramway running on the ground and taking traffic lanes whereever possible. The project should include rebuilding the Ballard Bridge and, perhaps, adding a parallel opening bridge at 14th for northbound traffic.

        The extension to Redmond Downtown should also be completed, but since it’s already under construction a bit, that’s easy to foresee.

        No other part of ST3 should survive.

        Whether this Ballard thingy is built using “Sound Transit” tax authority or Seattle gets a very deserved “subsidy” from the State is for politicians and voters to quarrel about.

        And, Glenn, all sorts of “whattabouts” can be flung about describing the way that freight and passenger service cross-subsidize one another at DB. And as they once did in the US.

        It’s great that the system “sometimes makes a small profit” and [presumably] the rest of the time takes only a small loss. Like the US, Germany is an industrial powerhouse so there’s oodles of the sort of freight that rails are good at: stuff that can’t be crushed, spindled or mutilated and weighs a lot.

      32. Daniel – I’m not saying whether we should or shouldn’t build Link to Tacoma. You can go back and look at my previous posts for my nuanced opinion on that.

        I’m saying Beth’s density metric and % rurality is not something any thinking person should put stock in, as far as what area should be served by transit. Either they are being intentional obtuse in order to score a useless point using an absurd metric, or they don’t understand enough about density and rurality to have a meaningful and interesting discussion.

      33. ” I am not sure there is really any true “urban” areas in Pierce or Snohomish Co. either.”
        Tacoma snd Everett areas would like a word

      34. I’d also add that an urban is defined as an area with 50,000 inhabitants if we go by the US Census definition. So the Tacoma and Everett metros, when looking at the data are urban.

      35. For whatever it’s worth, someone I used to work with years ago who lived near the U District and worked in Seattle considered Lynnwood the edge of nowhere, and Everett the back of the beyond, and this was someone who lived and breathed cities (both the super dense ones by US standards, having lived in NYC, and the less dense but still clearly urban, like LA where he was from).

        The point is, while I won’t argue with the definition, people who express a preference for “urban” living will likely not consider Everett the epitome of urbanism. Would they be happy living in Everett? Perhaps – if they lived North of 41st St. and South of the Snohomish river – pretty sure that no one living near, say, Silver Lake would consider the place anything but suburbia, though. Now, rural it is definitely not, either, of course. But if we go past Daniel’s hyperbole, I think that his point (as I understand it) is not entirely unreasonable. First/last mile transit will be a problem in accessing Link, downtown Everett is not dense enough to support a large ridership on its own, and the bus network is not well designed to facilitate such transfers, especially given that many in-county trips will require a three-seat ride if they include Link (downtown Everett isn’t a huge academic or employment or commercial center – the college is too far to walk, Everett Mall + surrounding areas are bypassed… and Boeing is really, really spread out so there better be some company shuttles from Link to the buildings). And then there’s the people from outside the ST district who are served by CT commuter service now (like Marysville, Stanwood, etc.) – it will be interesting to see how they find the new service, when it eventually opens.

      36. Ross, if by “east-coast speed and reliability” you mean the “NEC” I believe you are over-stating the WSDOT plan. Acelas are rated at 150 on about 12% of the Boston-Washington run. Nowhere will the WSDOT plan see trains above 125 without complete grade separation. Crossings with train speeds in the 110 to 125 range are allowed with buttressed four-quadrant gates.

        This is the reason that Wolverine Corridor trains are limited to 110 throughout the “higher-speed” segment between Porter, IN and Kalamazoo. Lincoln Service trains remain at 90 max. Everyone knows that drivers violate even the four-quadrant gates, so operators decline the step up to 125 without full separation. There are dozens of grade crossings that would have to be closed or overpassed to get to “east-coast speed and reliability”.

        That is very expensive. It’s not worth it for the paltry passenger loads that would result and would run into a buzz saw of reactionary county governments.

        FFS the State was too cheap to straighten the wiggle at Mounts Road, and still has no plans to do so. This means that trains on its fancy new “bypass” have to slow from their 90 mph rush past the Fort backups to 30 in order to tip-toe across the freeway. Great advertising WSDOT!!!

      37. Ross, if by “east-coast speed and reliability” you mean the “NEC” I believe you are over-stating the WSDOT plan.

        I think you are getting bogged down in the details too much. I’m looking at things generally, and the problem with “high speed rail” is that it can mean many things. But ultimately, riders don’t care about top speed. They care about travel time, frequency and reliability. They weigh that against the alternatives. On the East Coast, the train is just a bit faster than driving. In Japan, it is much faster than driving. In the Pacific Northwest, it is much slower than driving. We won’t be able to get what Japan has, but we should be able to get what the East Coast has.

        If you look at the report, it lists the travel times from Seattle to Portland and Seattle to Vancouver. It also lists “mid point” times (i. e. travel times if we have made roughly half the investments). For Portland, the travel time drops to 3 hours at the midpoint, and 2:30 minutes when complete. At three hours it can compete with driving. Lots of people (myself included) would prefer it, even though it might be faster to drive. It is just a lot less hassle and more enjoyable. At 2:30 minutes, driving is no longer competitive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who drive, but it takes longer to drive. If you compare this with a typical East Coast trip (e. g. New York to Boston) the situation is similar.

      38. The point is, while I won’t argue with the definition, people who express a preference for “urban” living will likely not consider Everett the epitome of urbanism. Would they be happy living in Everett? Perhaps – if they lived North of 41st St. and South of the Snohomish river – pretty sure that no one living near, say, Silver Lake would consider the place anything but suburbia, though.

        I agree.

        Now, rural it is definitely not, either, of course. But if we go past Daniel’s hyperbole, I think that his point (as I understand it) is not entirely unreasonable. First/last mile transit will be a problem in accessing Link, downtown Everett is not dense enough to support a large ridership on its own, and the bus network is not well designed to facilitate such transfers, especially given that many in-county trips will require a three-seat ride if they include Link (downtown Everett isn’t a huge academic or employment or commercial center – the college is too far to walk, Everett Mall + surrounding areas are bypassed… and Boeing is really, really spread out so there better be some company shuttles from Link to the buildings). And then there’s the people from outside the ST district who are served by CT commuter service now (like Marysville, Stanwood, etc.) – it will be interesting to see how they find the new service, when it eventually opens.

        I agree with most of your points here. I see a bigger problem though. When Link gets to Everett, it will act like all-day commuter rail. There will only be seven stations north of Lynnwood (a huge area). Worse yet, there will only be one station within the area that could conceivably be considered urban (based on your definition above). I’m not saying that area is big enough to justify rail, or ever will be. But in the unlikely event that it is, Link will provide nothing more than a long distance suburban connection to the middle of it. For someone who lives in that area, looking at their increasing urban city, what does Link offer? Not much, other than a long train ride to Seattle (which probably also involves a bus ride).

        But even if it was fast, and even if you can walk to the one and only Link station in urban Everett, there is no reason to assume that lots of people will. Seattle is a different city, quite a ways away. There just aren’t that many people who go back and forth between the two cities. Intercity bus service — or bus service that connects to Link in Lynnwood — can provide for those riders without ever being crowded. Quite the contrary. The 510 (which offered comparable if not better service than will be available for Link riders) rarely, if ever, required standing. Average peak capacity, on each and every bus was well below the point at which riders have to stand. Even the busiest bus, running at the peak of rush hour, had over 20 empty seats.

        That is the basic problem with Everett and Tacoma Dome Link. It tries to do too much, and thus fails at everything. It is not fast enough to operate as regional/commuter rail. It also fails to provide a metro system for the urban cities it supposedly serves (Everett and Tacoma). Yet it will cost a huge amount — money that would be better spend on bus service achieving both of those goals. It would be nuts to spend enormous sums on regional rail between the cities. Even the best systems (like the MARC Penn Line, serving cities that dwarf those of Link) carry less than 25,000 riders a day. It would also be nuts to spend money building a subway system for Tacoma or Everett. They simply aren’t big enough. They should have BRT (at best). Mostly they should just have decent bus service. Yet somehow we will break the bank trying but failing to provide that.

        It is really kind of nuts. Imagine we back up here, and assume there are two goals:

        1) Connect Tacoma and Everett to Seattle.
        2) Provide really good transit within Tacoma and Everett.

        The first thing you do is look at what existing rail we have, and then leverage it. In the case of Tacoma, it works OK; in the case of Everett, it is a bit too indirect to ever be great. After that, the obvious answer is to simply run buses:

        1) Run buses from various neighborhoods in Everett and Tacoma to Seattle. They could form a “spine” by combining frequency on certain corridors (e. g. Broadway, which feeds into the freeway in Everett). You can leverage Seattle’s subway system by terminating at the outskirts, saving service money, or go whole hog, and just go straight into the city. Buses from Everett would stop at Lynnwood, but then keep going, right into Seattle.

        2) Run a bunch of buses within Tacoma and Everett, providing a very good network.

        You could spend a bundle on all of that, and yet still end up spending less than Link. Yet it would provide much, much more.

      39. “But if we go past Daniel’s hyperbole, I think that his point (as I understand it) is not entirely unreasonable. First/last mile transit will be a problem in accessing Link, downtown Everett is not dense enough to support a large ridership on its own, and the bus network is not well designed to facilitate such transfers, especially given that many in-county trips will require a three-seat ride if they include Link (downtown Everett isn’t a huge academic or employment or commercial center – the college is too far to walk, Everett Mall + surrounding areas are bypassed… and Boeing is really, really spread out so there better be some company shuttles from Link to the buildings).”

        That was the point I made Anonymous, so I guess I don’t see the “hyperbole”. Unless you think Everett alone will have the ridership to support the cost of running Link to Everett.

        There are many different definitions of “urban” If you Google “urban” the definition is almost a tautology. “urban ; of, relating to, or designating a city or town: densely populated urban areas. ; living, located, or taking place in a city: urban rooftop gardening.”

        “The Bureau of the Census defines urban as comprising all territory, population, and housing units located in urbanized areas and in places of 2,500 or more inhabitants outside of UAs”.
        “Urbanized Areas (UAs)
        “A UA is a continuously built-up area with a population of 50,000 or more.
        It comprises one or more places—central place(s)—and the adjacent
        densely settled surrounding area—urban fringe—consisting of other
        places and nonplace territory.” Id. My guess is this is the definition Beth’s link was using when it found Snohomish Co. is 88.4% rural and 11.6% urban, and Pierce Co. is 79.2% rural and 20.8% urban, the key metric being the percentage that is “urban”, with rural probably being the default.

        My point was Everett and Tacoma as the north and south termini don’t have the “urban” population to create the ridership to support the cost of light rail when considering the distance to each, even if those riders want to go where Link will go (south for Everett and north for Tacoma). Light rail, almost by definition, is or should be truly urban oriented, like Link from Northgate to say Sodo. No one is proposing ST build subways and intra Everett/Tacoma light rail, because they are not “urban” enough. Each is a terminus, and each city at best will be served by one train station. So really Link in Everett and Tacoma is much closer to long distance heavy rail like Cascadia, rather than a connected subway transit system in a true urban area like Seattle (which as has been noted also has a lot of areas of mild density).

        Everett and Tacoma are no different than Bellevue and downtown Seattle in one way: their populations swell from work commuters, who then go home to less dense areas. Link won’t “serve” them unless they live along the line to the south and work in downtown Everett. Neither city has a large residential population near the future stations.

        Many areas along the spine are like that, including East King Co., which I have pointed out a zillion times. These stations like S. Bellevue are collector points that will collect riders from the surrounding neighborhoods who cannot walk to East Link, which is the vast majority of eastside residents, and riders in Pierce and Snohomish Co.’s, because in reality Link was designed as commuter rail. Otherwise it would have never run outside Seattle’s core, except maybe to downtown Bellevue. If Tacoma and Everett were truly urban areas they would have intra light rail like Seattle does within the city itself, not a single station to take riders to other cities, or even less populated areas until you reach Northgate for Everett and I guess CID for Tacoma.

        Other than walking, there are two main ways to get to a Link station: in your car to a park and ride, or on a feeder bus. So the relative density in the surrounding county/subarea paying the taxes for Link and its overall size are important to determine whether a collector station like Tacoma Dome or Everett will “collect” the necessary riders to make Link even marginally a good investment. ST and some urbanists want to increase density along these areas, but I just don’t see that happening outside Seattle.

        After just the mechanics to get to the collector station in these two cities, the question then becomes does Link go where they want to go. For Everett the only direction is south, and for Tacoma the only direction is north, AWAY from the city without a comparably dense city or area until Seattle. It would be like building Link with the idea residents will take it to leave Seattle.

        Finally, as Anonymous touches on, the ultimate question is whether Link is the most convenient and fastest mode for folks who can’t walk to Link. The biggest issue there as I have pointed out a zillion times is the potential rider is already in their car when going to a park and ride, so why get out of their car. Pre-pandemic this worked for eastside workers because of the relative density of the areas, large park and rides, frequent bus service to downtown Seattle, central destination downtown, few stops along the way, traffic congestion, and high costs of parking. None of those factors exist for Everett, Tacoma or the areas in between, and not even for the eastside worker anymore.

        So, to conclude, just like East Link I think ridership from Lynnwood and Federal Way will be way below ST’s estimates, and even below likely pre-pandemic levels, for folks who can only go either north from Federal Way or south from Lynnwood, and I think extending those lines to Tacoma Dome and to Everett won’t make any difference in the ridership despite spending billions that could have been spent on a comprehensive bus system over existing infrastructure. I could be wrong, which is why actual ridership at Federal Way and Lynnwood will be telling.

        The Issaquah/Sammamish/Snoqualmie/North Bend area has over 150,000 mostly white-collar workers. Does that mean I think the Issaquah to S. Kirkland Link line makes sense? No. The distance of the line is too great, the surrounding population too spread out, the line will serve too much nothingness in between which means a car will be a better mode, and the white-collar work commuter is now working from home. If the greater Issaquah region to downtown Bellevue does not make sense for Link I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest running Link from Tacoma Dome north or from Everett south — considering the surrounding county density and size — is probably not a good investment either, at least dollar per rider mile, and don’t quite see how that opinion is hyperbolic.

      40. @RossB:

        regarding your ideas about how to make transit in Everett better: I mostly agree with your take, and it is worth noting that the ST Express buses essentially operated this way to an extent, at least in the earlier days (I know there have been some changes recently so some of this is likely inaccurate). 512 is the “all day spine” with express overlays from 510 and 513 that started from/took slightly different routes. Then 511 added more capacity on the “busier” section from Lynnwood onward. There is no reason that something akin to that model couldn’t be provided, as you noted at a fraction of the cost.

        @Daniel Thompson: just to clarify – the “hyperbole” bit was regarding considering Snohomish County as “rural” (certainly some of it is, but the ST district is not, IMHO – but I would consider most of it suburban, rather than urban). As I mentioned, I think that your overall point was not inaccurate, either.

      41. TT, one of the early lesson I learned in my technical consulting career was that apparent statements of fact (e.g. speculation that “ST3 will be cancelled”) should be clearly differentiated from opinions like “ST3 should be cancelled”.

        Whether the avoidance of unfounded and harmful speculation should be dismissed as “politically correct” or not is, apparently, a matter of opinion.

        I think a lot of folks have forgotten the motivation and metaphor of the “Rail Spine” being constructed along I-5. Link is not entirely meant to be a “commuter rail” (since we already have a commuter rail line connecting Everett to Seattle that currently takes the same amount of time [~60 mins] planned for ELE to get a couple hundred riders from Everett to Seattle).

        Very few folks will ride all the way from Everett to Tacoma, but that was never the point – the TDLE website doesn’t even list a travel time to downtown Seattle! Based on the current station alternatives for both, it seems that very few folks will be walking from their homes to any of the stations built for spine extensions in ST3, but that was also never the point. The point is to provide a way for the Puget Sound-serving transit agencies to say “hey, if you want to go north or south, we’ll get you to Link and then you figure it out – we’re going to reallocate our freeway hours to moving more people around in-county”.

        Whether or not that’s worth the precious subarea dollars or not, well, it seems like the electeds are really interested in it, and they’ve been promising it for decades, so it’s very likely to happen. The best we can do is try to nudge the transit advocacy conversation towards helping ST to consider better options for station locations and routing decisions.

      42. As far as numbers go, part of the problem is that we like things simple. When thinking of a city’s size, we like one number (e. g. 8 million people in the naked city). But immediately you run into problems with that. Are you talking the legal limits of the city, or the metropolitan area? The former varies by size to a huge degree, making comparisons almost meaningless. The latter can get bogged down with where you draw the line (Is Federal Way part of Seattle? Tacoma, Lakewood?).

        The same is true for density. We want one number, but one number simply won’t work. Not for a very large area. It is pretty easy to see how it would fail. Imagine two cities, identical physical size and population. One has a huge green belt, taking up 3/4 of the city. All of the development is concentrated in one quarter of the city. The other city just spreads out evenly, much like, say, Phoenix. Clearly the first city is more “dense” than the other. But representing that density with one number will likely fail. You have to look at the neighborhood level.

        Looking at census maps is a good way to do that. For example, you can zoom in on this map to see that Seattle definitely has more “high density” neighborhoods than the surrounding cities: But the map has a very clear weakness. It doesn’t go above 10,000 people per square mile, which really isn’t especially dense. Various neighborhoods in Seattle are at the same level as neighborhoods in Manhattan, simply because that is as high as the scale goes. This is weird, as previous iterations had 25,000 and 100,000. To get a good idea of what is going on actually requires selecting various census blocks to see the numbers. This is obviously tedious.

        But even if the map did a good job, it doesn’t provide a concise representation as to the general density of the city. It is better at showing where the density is. For a concise representation, the best thing I’ve found is this map: Like the other map, this one is interactive. To get the data* you have to have the “Interactive Stats” checkbox checked. Then you can zoom in on a country or city and hover over it to get a graph. If you zoom in on Seattle, you can see a few interesting things. First, they define the city very broadly, to include much of Puget Sound. Second, you can see how many people live within various density ranges. If you compare our numbers with Vancouver, it is striking. If you consider an “urban area” as over 4K, we have maybe 250,000, while Vancouver has well over a million. If you consider a “very urban” area to be over 6K, we have a handful of residents, while Vancouver has over 600,000 thousand people. There are just have a lot more people living in dense neighborhoods in Vancouver, even though they are a smaller city.

        If you go around the U. S., you can see a lot of cities that have less density than Seattle. The “mountain” cities of Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City are especially weak. Las Vegas is surprisingly strong though. Sacramento resembles cities like Phoenix, while the Bay Area and L. A. do better. It isn’t that the ratio is great, it is just that they are so huge that they have plenty of people in dense areas. L. A. has over 6 million people under the “urban” bar, but at least they have over 5 million who are “urban” (and well over a million over “very urban”). L. A. most definitely sprawls, with millions of people living in low density areas, but it also has millions living in high density areas as well.

        Of course this is all North America. If you go to Europe, it is even more striking. The city of Porto has about a million people — much smaller than Vancouver and the American cities I mentioned. Yet roughly half the city — about half a million people — live in “urban” areas and about a third of a million live in “very urban” areas. This is much better than Vancouver and Seattle, even in absolute number. Remember, only a handful of Seattle residents live in the “very urban” neighborhoods.

        Yet Porto is nothing like Madrid. The vast majority of Madrid residents live in areas I called “very urban”. Millions of people live in neighborhoods that are far more dense. We are finally covering the middle of the graph, making my “urban” and “very urban” terms seem silly. If 6K is “very urban”, what is 10K? where over two million Madrid residents live? Even Madrid doesn’t touch the numbers that a city like Paris does. The scale goes up, and we are on the far left.

        All of this matters when we talk about transit issues. Transit and density go together. You could make the case, for example, that rail transit really only makes sense in “urban” areas, of which we have very little. I think that is oversimplifying things, but I think it is much better to think of our city in that manner, than pretend we are the same as some city in Europe.

        Now, to be fair, the city is becoming more urban. Those numbers are a bit out of date. Much of the growth over the last decade has been in Seattle proper (as well as Bellevue). The somewhat dense areas have become more dense. But still, I’m sure if you updated the data, things wouldn’t look very different.

        * I’ve looked for just the graphs, but I’ve found it, which is frustrating. The map is great, as it shows the outline of what they consider to be the city (it also shows a rough view of where the density is). But it would be nice to just look at the different graphs.

      43. “Just a bit faster”??? Are you talking about Northeast Regional or Acela? I grant that Acela is a chunk of change, but it is a LOT faster than driving. “Acela Nonstop” (not literally true…) is 2 hours 35 minutes, “Acela Express” (e.g. “Acela”) is 2:55. Driving from Washington Union to NY Penn, right now (2:22 PM PDT Pearl Harbor Day 2022) is 4:16! That’s a little more than “a bit”.

        Now Northeast Regional takes 3:30 and costs considerably less. So with its service, the train is “just a bit faster”. But that’s not what most people think of when they think of “Northeast Corridor High Speed Rail”.

        If one uses “commuter” lines between DC and Baltimore (MARC Penn Line) and north of Philadelphia (SEPTA and NJDOT) the time goes up quite a bit, but the cost drops to almost nothing. It’s basically the Amtrak fare between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Given the tolls through Joisey and across the Hudson, its a huge bargain.

        So far as “the details”, the most we’re going to get is 110 in some places between Olympia and Kalama. Between Kalama and Woodland there isn’t enough room for a third track south, at least, not without rebuilding the two southbound freeway bridges, and that is by far the highest density section of the line. LOTS of BNSF commodity trains terminate in Kalama.

        Given the cost of civil works these days, the same arguments that Daniel makes about “delaying” Link applies to this project. While it’s true that the State’s revenues keep rising, the costs of construction are increasing faster. It’s probably $15 billion now to add that third track from Nisqually Junction to Vancouver Junction, and $10 billion for overpasses.

        It simply won’t happen. Believe it or not, I’m sad about that, but the truth is that we are going to become a poorer nation in the coming years. Fun things will be harder to afford, travel especially. We will have to shoulder an ever larger defense burden, and we won’t be able to borrow to do it. Taxes simply have to rise in order to maintain our freedom. “Nice to haves” like “Higher-Speed Intercity Rail” will go by the board.

      44. @Tom — When I wrote about “being a little bit faster” I was thinking Boston to New York. I almost wrote that, along with a list of travel times. Now I feel inclined to do so, only to support my statement. Fine. From what I can tell, the fastest train from New York to Boston takes 3 hours and 42 minutes. Driving takes somewhere between 3 hours and 30 minutes to almost 5 hours (according to Google). This is what I mean by “a bit faster”.

        But this misses the point. You seem obsessed with trying to find some mistake in what I wrote, instead of what I am actually focused on. Look, I don’t give a rats ass about the technology, and neither do the vast majority of people looking at this. They don’t care about top speed, either. What they do care about is the travel time, frequency and reliability of the service. That is all I’m focused on, and if my attempt at a decent analogy failed, I’m terribly sorry. Feel free to offer up a better one.

        Or you can just look at the numbers. Right now, between Seattle and Portland, the train is not particularly fast, frequent or reliable. It sucks. It sucks so bad that many people who would love to take the train just drive. Now compare that to what the study said could be achieved:

        Portland to Seattle: 3:00 (Midpoint). 2:30 (Complete)
        Vancouver to Seattle: 3:25 (Midpoint). 2:37 (Complete)

        To me, these are “East Coast” style times. Maybe not to you — fine. Whatever. Feel free to offer up a better term. Now compare these times to the more recent study:

        Seattle to Portland: 1:30
        Seattle to Vancouver: 1:45

        To a lot of people, this is what they think of when they think of “High Speed Rail”. I get why people get excited over this. The numbers are mind boggling. It seems silly to even consider any other mode. But if you look at the actual social and economic benefit, it isn’t that great. The first study looked mostly at what could be built (and where). The second study was much more high level, and looked at what would happen if they built it. This is actually very useful, in that it shows that not that many people would actually switch from driving. No matter how fast the train goes, many prefer driving.

        My point is very simple. Consider the following:

        1) Reliable service from Portland to Seattle in 3 hours, with service every hour.

        2) Reliable service from Portland to Seattle in 2 hours 30 minutes, with service every hour.

        3) Reliable service from Portland to Seattle in 90 minutes, with service every hour.

        The first and second have been studied in detail. According to the report, the first could have been completed by now, while the second could have been by next year. Obviously it will take longer. There have already been cost estimates, which obviously need to be updated. But those are realistic, in the same way that building massive freeways is realistic.

        An in depth study of the technical challenge of the third has *not* been done. It is quite possible it would cost over 100 billion dollars (who knows?). My point is that the first or second can be achieved, and is a realistic goal. The third is not.

      45. Ross, what about Granada? My partner’s brother recently returned there after spending a year in the US. (He’s American but lived in the UK and Spain most of his life.) While he was here we took 60 and 106 down through Little Saigon, Rainier Valley, and Renton looking for places he might want to stay. I told him only a third of Seattle was similarly walkable and the suburbs were only 10-20 percent. I asked him what percent of Granada was walkable and he said “All of it.”

      46. Granada looks nice. It doesn’t show up on the density maps though, as it is a bit too small. If you look at Google Maps, though, you can see that even small cities like Granada, or even smaller cities like Motril, are walkable and dense. Here is a view of Motril from the air: Note the dramatic separation between Brooklyn style density (compact, three story buildings) and farmland. Yeah, I would like to walk there.

      47. Wow, now I’m advocating for “true” HST between Seattle and Portland because I question the State’s commitment to “The Plan”? I must have slept through writing that. Can you remind me when it was?

        My point is that, with business travel pretty much dead, probably forever, WHO is going to use even “Higher Speed” intercity rail? Would I? Absolutely, if I went alone; I love traveling by train. Would you? I assume so from your statement.

        But would either our spouses? They’re probably less enthusiastic, and it costs twice as much for two people, whereas it costs a few cents more in fuel for the extra weight to ride together in a car.

        In a world where most travel is for non-business purposes and less than one day’s drive in length, people will want their cars at the other end. It’s not worth it, and the State will soon agree.

    3. I’d like to see more local videos included on a suggested viewing list. Two YouTube channels I recommend are bobco85 and PNW 4K. bobco85 is mostly local bike tours, and they are very well produced! And PNW 4K is a mix of local bike and walking tours.

    4. I think the Not Just Bikes videos are great. I’m generally not a fan of the medium for things of this nature. Half the time I would rather read a well written article (in something like The Atlantic) or just a blog. The latter won’t be edited as well, but there are a lot of videos that definitely need better editing. Mainly I would rather read what you have to say, rather than listen to you say it.

      But Not Just Bikes has great video, which shows exactly what he is talking about. This adds very much to presentation. If it was a traditional presentation, it would have to have numerous pictures, and even then might not quite capture it. The videos are often light, with cute jokes. These are better presented in video (or audio) form. While he is very passionate about his concerns, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Overall, I am rarely disappointed with his videos.

      With RM Transit, it is more of a mixed bag. I was very excited the first time I saw these videos. He goes into great detail on various systems. He is also very nuanced in his opinion, which is very refreshing. Too often you have people pushing for a “one size fits all” solution, which simply won’t work. I think he is very well informed on transit issues, and his understanding of transit systems (especially rail) around the world is quite impressive. I definitely like his videos, but the more I watch them, the more they all kinda seem the same. It is interesting, but unless there is something unusual about the area, or I plan on visiting there at some point, I would probably be OK with a summary. That gets back to the fundamental weakness of video. It isn’t easy to summarize. Google often has a transcript, but it usually isn’t easy to read. With RM Transit, for example, it is someone talking (as opposed to a well edited article). I don’t mean to be too critical. I definitely recommend RM Transit videos. I just think it is more of a “greatest hits” type thing, as opposed to Not Just Bikes, where I want to buy every album.

      It is worth noting that Reece Martin (of RM Transit) is on Twitter. I like his tweets, because again, they are nuanced. He also has a Substack channel ( There is some great stuff there.

    5. I think that the concept of videos as educational tools is great. I do think however they become redundant after awhile.

      I prefer videos that talk about quantitative things. I like to watch Ray of CityNerd because he is often presenting findings after he applies criteria. Otherwise a video is just someone’s opinion — even if they are spot on.

      I would like to see similar videos made by others besides able-bodied white guys. That’s not a criticism of these YouTube posters but more of a frustration that the effort as well as the algorithms favor content from this demographic. I think some points would be more effective if they were made from something like an elderly woman of color, a young mother with a stroller or even a person confined to a wheelchair or walker.

    6. You could say the same for much of Seattle, and certainly Bellevue. Is Wallingford urban? North Capital Hill?

      Bellevue is substantially smaller and barely as dense as Tacoma.

      1. I am admittedly not very familiar with Tacoma so I will not express an opinion on that.

        Wallingford is an interesting case in that even urbanism advocates seem split on it, though as a (mostly) pedestrian urban dweller I would personally consider it eminently walkable, and it has the good transit connections to reach employment, educational, and commercial centers relatively easily (U Village being an exception, I suppose, due to the poor transit connections east of the Ave). So by that logic I would consider it “urban” in a way that I would not consider Silver Lake, even though the Silver Lake area in Everett has more buildings easily identified as multifamily. I don’t know the density numbers for either neighborhood, mind – I am speaking entirely as how it “feels” to walk through them (incidentally, if you live in the SE part of Silver Lake, getting to anything useful in Everett is a chore and a half). As for the other examples you gave – yeah, North Cap Hill and Montlake are definitely not great places to live if you want an “urban” experience either. Bellevue also has plenty of areas I would not consider “urban” (Somerset, looking at you, kid…) though I got unlazy enough to look up the density numbers and it’s about 1/3 more dense than Everett, overall. The main difference I would personally note between Bellevue and Everett is the relative size of the downtown cores – there’s a lot more housing in downtown Bellevue, a lot more employment, _and_ a lot more commerce, all within a very walkable area (education is a hole in that sense, I admit – the 270 is slow to get to BC). So as an urban dweller I would definitely prefer living along the upcoming Link corridor in Bellevue over the upcoming Link corridor in Everett – YMMV.

        To try to formalize my opinions, I would try to define an “urban” experience not just in terms of size or density, but also travel time or connectivity to a variety of destination types, and I would further look not just at one neighborhood but, considering the main neighborhoods as defined by the city or locals (*), I would build the graph of the neighborhood, and analyze their relative density distributions (in something like a pair of bar graphs), their transit availability, their average travel times to established employment, commercial, and educational centers, etc. These are the things that matter to _me_, and I am very explicitly speaking as a resident, here, not a researcher.

        (*) admittedly carries a fair bit of weight here – neighborhoods are a very poorly defined term, as a rule, so I am trying to use this definition to induce some consistency within the practical definition, even if it induces variance (as opposed to letting an outsider define neighborhoods in multiple cities based on a map alone, which would reduce variance but increase bias, in statistical terms).

        Hope this helps clarify my take, sorry for the long-winded reply :) I appreciate your thoughts.

      2. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Anon. That’s an interesting take on urban. Instead of density and population, you use walkability. So even a small village, like say Snohomish, could be considered urban. I see pros and cons, but it is food for thought.

        The interesting thing I noticed about the density maps RossB linked to, is that there is really only 4 tiny, dense census tracts in Bellevue, and than immediately adjacent to that core it rapidly becomes far, far less dense than the vast majority of Tacoma and Lakewood. Probably due to 10,000 square foot or larger single-family lots dominating. In contrast while it doesn’t have those 15,000 people living in quite as densely, the majority of Tacoma is 2 or 3 times as dense as anything Bellevue has outside that tiny urban core holding 10% of their population. That’s because, even in the wealthier areas of Tacoma, the lots are relatively small even for single family homes, there are apartments interspersed with them on almost every block, and there are commercial districts distributed in and around many of them, making Tacoma very walkable.

        Which is more “worthy” if being served by good transit? Certainly a link stop serving those 15 thousand densely-housed folks in Bellevue’s urban core is a legitimate. But I might argue that the half or more of walkable Tacoma might be better area to serve than any other stop on the east side of King, other than maybe Redmond.

      3. Regarding “which is more worthy” – at the (very high) risk of being overly pedantic, I will first state that I will reframe the question away from “worth” (which is a morality call and a sort of debate I am loath to entertain in a public forum) and towards “effectiveness”, which admittedly requires its own definition. So let me next state that I will consider effectiveness here roughly as “making the most of limited transit budget in an as unbiased way as possible”. The ‘unbiased’ bit bridges the gap, I think, towards your ‘worthy’ term, but it also will play little weight in my actual answer as I will not look at population statistics before answering. I am vaguely aware of Bellevue’s population being more ‘racially’ diverse than Seattle, but also being less diverse economically. Where Tacoma fits on either scale, I am unsure, though, and those are, of course, not the only two dimensions of ‘bias’ that matter, either.

        So, with all that out of the way… my answer will probably be ‘unsatisfying’ in the sense that I will not pick a winner :) but I will set up the framework I would use to pick the winner(s). The thing I would look at, to start, is the likely _current_ transit use with today’s population in each city, and weigh that against potential _future_ uses up to some point in time, with progressive discounting of the latter. This allows each city to pursue its larger goals of development while not relying fully on them.

        So, Bellevue wants to grow the Spring District and Overlake; Tacoma wants to grow XXXX district, so each of them will get say up to 50 points for where they are now, 20 points for where they want to be in 10 years, and 10 points each for 30, 50, and 100 years from now. The points can be allocated based on how many rides per dollar each gets, summed with how many distinct riders per dollar each gets, and with a ‘fudge’ factor to weigh the relative effect of each measure. Other measures can be added to further address societal goals (e.g. racial diversity in transit can get its own score), etc.

        Now… having said all that, of _course_ nothing nearly as technical as the process I described will happen, because the decision of where ST should fund its transit is political, not technocratic. So we, from the outside, will never see it, but perhaps the board will see something akin to this in internal discussions. People on this board who are more familiar with ST internals may perhaps choose to weigh in on the matter.

        As for what _I_ personally would do, if I were in charge of ST… That’s a topic for another comment, so I will stop here :)

      4. My approach would be a bit simpler:

        1. How much money does the subarea have?

        2. How much better — if at all — will Link serve the city vs. buses. The 554 comes to mind after East Link opens. Any city outside downtown Seattle has to consider park and rides.

        3. What are the GMPC housing allocations for the city. Bellevue actually accepted more housing than legally required.

        4. What do the citizens who live there want. For example, Bellevue like most Eastside cities is large geographically and so has chosen to segregate uses in its zoning to concentrate retail and to concentrate housing in its commercial/multi-family zones. Other cities like Lynnwood and Shoreline also accepted more housing targets than legally required, not out of altruism but because both hope to gentrify their downtowns through new development that is market rate.

        There is no better. Zoning has infinite variations as long as a city meets its housing targets (that are likely inflated) and ideally creates a vibrant retail and commercial core.

      5. Yeah, that’s actually fairly similar to the technocratic answer PSRC uses to perennially under-fund Pierce County to the benefit of King.

        It’s the “Nobody crosses that river, so why build a bridge?” justification.

        Tacoma hasn’t had usable transit since they tore out the street car tracks 80 years ago. As an example, I live and work on the 1 line, the workhorse route, and by far the most heavily used route in all of Pierce County. I love transit. But because the frequency is abysmal (every 30 minutes during rush hour, going to hourly at 6:30pm), I simply don’t use transit in Tacoma unless I’m truly desperate. Think flat tire, and all my friends and family are vacationing in Borneo desperate.

        So if a transit advocate with pretty much the ideal location of both house and work don’t use it, who is? It this situation you can not use current use to predict future use, because transit is not usable.

  10. Based on the dashboard, st is going the wrong direction in the tunnel. Westlake is up to 4 elevators and 4 escalators out of service…

  11. Do the newer excelsior 60 ft hybrid diesel buses handle better or worse in the snow than the original hybrids with Allison drive trains?

  12. Brett up above mentioned something about masks on transit, so I decided I would try to notice how many riders are wearing mask on a few of the route 250 trips I took last week. It’s easy since usually so few people are on the bus. Here’s what I found. The first number is mask-wearers. The second number is total number of people on the bus: 2 out of 9. 0 out of 3. 1 out of 6. 2 out of 9. 5 out of 14.

    One pattern I notice … the more riders on the bus, the greater the likelihood that riders will wear masks. This may have just been a coincidence. However, on the last trip, the little bit fuller bus did make me mask-up for the trip.

    1. The mask/person ratios you are citing are far higher than you see in indoor buildings these days, outside of transit. For instance, in a typical store with 14 people inside, virtually nobody would be wearing a mask. The other day, I had a flight and virtually nobody in the very crowded airplane or TSA line was wearing a mask.

      The preoccupation with masks on transit is simply perpetuating the false myth that indoor spaces are somehow riskier on transit vehicles vs. the same crowds in the same-sized space in non-transit settings.

      1. The preoccupation with masks on transit is simply perpetuating the false myth that indoor spaces are somehow riskier on transit vehicles vs. the same crowds in the same-sized space in non-transit settings.

        Another way to think of it: People are stupid when it comes to assessing risk. Peer pressure and cultural norms play a big part in their stupidity. In America we get fixated on certain types of deaths and injuries, while dismissing others (I assume it is the same in other countries, just with a different set of worries). We overestimate the safety of automobiles, while underestimating the safety of cities, or things like hiking. More than once I’ve had people worry about me hiking, while ignoring the greatest risk: getting there. I suppose I could wear a helmet while driving to emphasize the risks. Or I could completely dismiss the dangers of hiking by walking in flip-flops and carrying nothing but a lunch bag miles from from the trailhead* as a way to show that it really isn’t that risky. Or I could just not worry about the fact that lots of people are bad at assessing risk and will be, no matter what others around them do.

        *I’ve seen this. It is really striking how many people I’ve seen completely ignore the basics when it comes to hiking safety. They got out OK.

      1. That’s true, but 10% is a lot, and might also be a problem if the type of bus is concentrated at particular bases. Eyeballing the vehicles in service on Pantograph, it looks like all of the 2018 XDE60s have been pulled, which were used on the 40, D, and E, all of which have lots of canceled trips as well. If this goes on for more than a few days, I wonder if Metro would be able to put other vehicles into use, like recently-retired but still driveable buses, or even Sound Transit buses at least during off-peak times.

  13. Since I posted about this in a previous open thread, additional developments related to the new Ontario Line in Toronto. Whether this is NIMBYism or justified concern I leave up to the readers, but I find the progress and difficulties interesting, as they come in a jurisdiction which has both similarities and differences to both Seattle and Europe – so I find it an interesting data point.

    (note that the Toronto Star website has a limit of how many free monthly articles are available – I believe it’s 5 a month.)

    1. The “thou shall not build a subway under my public building” sure reads a lot like the Beverly Hills High School debacle for the purple line.


    TLDR: East Link delayed so much that Lynnwood may now open first, so staff is proposing the following
    1. Figure out how to open Lynnwood without OMF-E access (may just mean bad crowding on Lynnwood for a year)
    2. Open East Link + Redmond Link all at once
    3. Seriously consider the East Link starter line line

    ID to Redmond opening all a once would be a massive undertaking (esp given the operational line is Lynnwood to Redmond), so opening the starter line seems worthwhile is only to work through the issues of a few stations (and OMF-E) before opening the full line.

    Will be interesting if ST & CT are less aggressive about route truncation if Lynnwood Link opens with only 8 minute max headway, or if they restructure buses as planned and just tell riders crowding relief is on the way as soon as East Link can open. And early openings might be moot if they don’t have enough vehicles and/or drivers.

    1. Lynnwood won’t open at the earliest until 2024. That gives ST almost 24 months to replace the plinths between IDS and Judkins Park. Lazarus’ idea of parking the sixteen cars which won’t fit inside Forest Street is a good one, especially if ST uses the elevated portion of the new line west of the 12th Avenue South bridge and guards the access to prevent vandalism.

      Vehicles can “rotate” in and out of the stub so that they can receive their scheduled maintenance reliably, and the “first trains out” to the north can come from the stub to clear the line for turnback operation of a truncated and less frequent version of the 2 Line as far as JPS. Folks riding the 7 to and from the U District who would usually transfer to and from the 48 could stay on a couple of stops and use the truncated 2 Line.

      When test operations begin, the 2 Line trains would just continue on to Redmond empty east of Judkins Park.

      It’s also possible to run six minute trains through the Rainier Valley as far as Rainier Beach and use the tail track there for reversing. However, that would mean double-seating the reversal operation. At both JPS and Rainier Beach some sort of employee rest station would be required, not an easy thing at either location.

  15. Additional news from Toronto regarding (this time) a light rail project which is seriously over budget and past the deadline to open.

    One thing of note is that the arguments against construction a decade and a bit ago were quite similar to the CID arguments for minimizing disruption due to the 2nd downtown tunnel, so the current situation is an interesting datapoint related to that topic.

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