Sound Transit is getting more serious about an East Link starter line until the defective plinths delaying the lake crossing can be replaced. We earlier covered Claudia Balducci’s original proposal and Sherwin Lee’s plea for good transfers. The delay of the lake crossing has cascading impacts on the Lynnwood extension, which will finish construction first but won’t have access to the Eastside train base (OMF East). Meanwhile, the Federal Way extension needs more time to design a “long-span bridge structure”. The System Expansion Committee proposed a new opening schedule:
- Spring 2024: East Link Starter Line (Line 2: South Bellevue to Redmond Technology).
- Fall/Winter 2024: Lynnwood (Line 1: Lynnwood to Angle Lake).
- Spring 2025: East Link (Line 2: Lynnwood to Redmond Downtown).
- TBD: Federal Way (Line 1: Lynnwood to Federal Way).
The ST board will meet in January to consider whether to pursue the starter line. If it doesn’t, Lynnwood would open a quarter earlier (Summer/Fall 2024) and East Link would open as above (Spring 2025).
The starter line’s frequency would be 10 minutes peak, midday, and weekends; and 15 minutes late evening/early morning.
ST Express routes would remain unchanged. The 550 would overlap the starter line between South Bellevue and Bellevue Downtown. The 542 and 545 would meet the line at one station, Redmond Technology. The 554 would continue going from Issaquah to Seattle with no direct access to the line.
A trip from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue would be the same as now: peak-only 556, slow 271, or 554+550 transfer at Mercer Island. Train enthusiasts could do a three-seat 554+550+Link trip transferring at Mercer Island and South Bellevue, or drive from Issaquah to the South Bellevue P&R and take the train from there.
ST’s presentation in the first link says opening Lynnwood before OMF East runs the risk of overcrowding on the 1 Line, and finding overnight storage for 16 trains along the Line 1 track. East Link trains are also arriving more slowly than expected. The testing window for new track, when trains will run without passengers before the opening, is four months.
On-topic comments for this article are the proposed Link changes, and riding transit in the 2023-2029 timeframe. Other restructures will be happening around the same time: the East Link bus restructure (now in 2025), Stride 1 (Burien-Bellevue), Stride 2 (Lynnwood-Bellevue), Stride 3 (Shoreline-Bothell), RapidRide G (Madison), H (Delridge), I (Renton-Kent-Auburn), J (Eastlake), T Line (Tacoma Link MLK extension).
340 Replies to “ST2 Link Progress”
I’m failing to understand why opening an eastlink starter line requires delaying opening of Lynnwood Link. Construction-wise, the two should be unrelated.
Are budgets that tight that the cost of operating an eastlink starter line diverts meaningful short term resources from the construction of Lynnwood Link?
Or, maybe the board simply created this tradeoff artificially to generate a clearer case for rejecting the eastlink starter line.
The presentation indicated that the constraint is ST staff internal capacity. It’s likely the staff bandwidth in team that is executing the handoff from construction to operations, rather than the construction team itself. See slide 5 in the first link.
“Safely and reliably activating high-quality projects requires:
o Four months of pre-revenue service after construction is completed.
o Two months of activation close-out after a project opens before beginning pre-revenue service on the next project.
= A minimum six-month window between project openings”
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 if only to not overwhelm staff with turning on a line that is larger than some cities’ entire rail networks.
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. Trend lines suggest 2024 ridership should be above pre-COVID ridership, so overcrowding is a real risk.
Any early openings might be moot if they don’t have enough vehicles and/or drivers.
According to the slide, pre revenue service starts four months before opening. That would seem to indicate that vehicles could start coming from the East OMF four months early. There would also be storage on pre revenue tracks available.
There usually is a 4 to 6 month period where the system is functional but not yet certified for revenue service.
During this period an early opening Lynnwood Link could theoretically access the OMF-E facility for storage without violating FTA guidelines and regulations. This would totally avoid the OMF storage space issue for Lynnwood Link going first.
And, if that is not fully possible, just repairing the IDS to JPS stretch of East Link first would allow those tracks to be used for storage. At least temporarily
Using one of the tracks between the Line 2 junction and Judkins Park is a good idea. It can only be one track because a shuttle car will have to run down the unoccupied track to pick up or deliver the operator to the train leaving or entering service.
I doubt that the trackway between JPS and the junction is long enough to store sixteen trains. That’s sixty-four cars or a bit more than a mile’s worth. And ST would worry about vandalism and “tagging”. Rightly.
But it could store most of them.
Per the ST presentation, it is 16 “vehicles”, not 16 four car trains of vehicles. Meaning storage has to be found for just 16 total LRV’s.
Shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem.
Oh, OK. Yes, sixteen vehicles is just a bit more than a quarter mile. They would definitely fit. It would reduce the vandalism vulnerability a lot, too. Most of that quarter mile would be on structure.
Thanks for the correction.
In the past ST always used a 9 month testing period for East Link schedules. However when East Link got delayed a second time and ST was hoping for a 2022 opening ST stated the testing period could maybe be reduced to 6 months if all went well. I think testing across the bridges will make a shortened testing period tricky. It will likely take some time to evaluate the effect of the train vibration and weight on the concrete.
Tom, my comment about East Link ridership was on the interim line. Like Lazarus I think it will be low, the extra cost is not worth it based on transit ridership today, and I would not prioritize opening an interim line on the Eastside over opening Lynnwood. If others disagree I can live with that, and the subarea has the money to bail Balducci out.
As for ridership in 2025 or 2030 who knows. Microsoft may continue private shuttles from Seattle, and Microsoft may go more and more work from home.
I am not sure if cross lake ridership west to east will decline to levels below today. It is the east to west ridership that will continue to decline.
It isn’t the end of the world, but East Link won’t be transformative on the Eastside or have much of an impact. The route, demographic, type of worker, first/last mile access, and post pandemic traffic congestion and mostly free parking will be headwinds for ridership. Bus service cross lake is pretty good today and mostly one seat, although ridership is pretty low. The park and rides are still empty except on game day.
I suppose if you live in an apartment near the Capitol Hill station and have to commute to the Microsoft campus every day and don’t mind a slow trip and Microsoft doesn’t run a free private shuttle from the same area because enough workers live by East Link — when all of it opens — could be a good way to commute although that worker will make enough to have options. Once north of Capitol Hill using 520 makes more sense, either on a bus or in a car. That basically leaves Judkins Park as the main source of west to east ridership and I don’t see that.
Some folks don’t quite understand the reason direct bus service is not great between Redmond and downtown Bellevue despite a straight shot on 520 is because the ridership isn’t there. ST and Metro run fairly frequent bus routes on the Eastside (eg 554 and 550) that have little ridership, but Redmond to downtown Bellevue doesn’t even have that or bus service would be better. ST and Metro know quite well ridership patterns on the huge Eastside.
Sure, ST can use the OMF-E once they think they can reliably access it, but for the purpose of Lynnwood Link regular operations they cannot plan on OMF-E access. What matters is at the time of revenue service, they need to find overnight parking (and overnight & weekly maintenance regimens) for 16 cars. Whether those cars can move to the OMF-E for overnight storage in 2 months or 6 months is mostly irrelevant.
Even if trains can run across the lake, ST may not want them using the OMF-E is the OMF itself is still running through testing up until the starter line opening.
Opening the starter line IS a problem per overwhelming the staff. That is a reason NOT to do a starter line.
Currently the plan is to have 4 extensions open in succession, each separated by approx 6 months due to FTA guidelines.
Adding a East Link starter line would effectively make that 5 openings, and delay the last opening by about 6 months. In addition to increasing test and demonstration costs by at least 25%.
It’s just not worth it. Open the lines in order of completion, even if that means some fancy footwork per Lynnwood Link going first.
And , if you ST gets lucky, open East Link and Redmond Link together as a unit (they are contiguous). That might actually save money!
I agree. This just doesn’t seem worth it, given this new information. It looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul. I get why people want to open the line early, but it won’t even serve all of the East Side stations. No Mercer Island, and no downtown Redmond. No restructure either. I see very few people using this, compared to Lynnwood Link. I’m not saying Lynnwood Link will have a huge number of riders, but when it gets there, Community Transit, Metro and ST buses will have significant restructures (presumably for the better). That is a lot more people than will ride an East Side starter line.
So, where is this FTA guideline that says that once a light rail station opens, the same agency is not allowed to open another light rail station within this purview for 6 months? This sounds completely artificial and bureaucratic. Open stations X and Y at the same time, the FTA is fine with it because it’s one opening. Open stations X and Y a month part, the FTA throws a fit because it’s two distinct “openings” within a 6-month period, violating regulation #12345.
Yes, I realize this is the federal government we’re dealing with, so dumb rules like this would not completely surprise me. But, if this is a rule, it’s still dumb one, and one that should have been fixed decades ago.
I’ve said this before on past posts, but it really does feel like the FTA micromanages too much. I’d much rather see an FTA that just provides grant money to run buses and takes a back seat.
There is no FTA 6 month rule between openings, but practically it is 6 months. Or maybe at least 4 months. And the “rule” doesn’t apply to new stations, it refers to new lines (which usually include new stations).
The 6 month period really contains two phases: first a validation/activation phase of about 2 months, followed by a second simulated service (demonstration) phase of about 4 months. The two phases are mainly consecutive and yield 6 months.
The purpose of the activation phase is to validate to the regulators that the hardware, as built, meets design regulations and has proper and safe function. This usually takes 2 months.
The purpose of the demonstration phase (simulated service) is to show that the system can actually operate as designed without undue service interruptions, stalled trains , etc.
If you wish, think of the two phases as 1) hardware validation, and 2) operational demonstration. Make it through #1&2 and only then can you carry passengers
So why does ST make it sound like a firm “rule”? Because it is an incredibly labor intensive task to make it through both phases. Practically speaking, ST can’t just spool up the required staff to do two openings at once, and then just lay them off afterwards. That is really not an option.
That said, ST is being a bit conservative by saying 6 months. It is probably more like 4.
Why? Because the type of work in the validation phase is significantly different than the type of work in the demonstration phase. It would be possible to move validation type employees over to work on a second line opening while the demonstration employees work on simulated service for the first line opening. After the first line opens you can move the demonstration employees over to the second line.
But the important thing to remember is that this is not a bus. With a bus all the work has already been done by the time the bus arrives at the transit agency. With Link ST needs to design the bus, build the bus, validate that it is built correctly, and then demonstrate that it can operate safely. Only then it can it carry passengers.
So, ya, a lot of work. Approx 6 months of it.
I think the best argument for a stub East Link is that the stations and tracks can be “tested” with revenue service and daily riders for more time than just a few months. That would allow for ST to do things that may require closing the line on and off as inevitable operational problems materialize without a widespread inconvenience to tens of thousands of riders. I think of it as enabling more testing before prime time.
Sure as a stand alone line, it seems very unproductive. However, East Link is a huge systems expansion step. I actually am concerned that if the whole line opens at once, some little problem that could have been adjusted if caught earlier on the interim segment would delay the full line opening even more or force it to shut back down just a few weeks after opening.
Because the 2 line will require that the train lines split south of the ID, there is a whole other operational step that will be required upon the full line opening. If only four stations open with a full 2 Line operation (Judkins Park, Mercer Island, Marymoor and Downtown Redmond), ST can focus on the new rail operation and feel pretty good that fewer “surprises” would happen if the first eight stations were opened early.
I’m sure that there are related issues about liability when control moves from the contractor to ST, as well as maintenance and security issues. Nothing is as inviting to taggers as a new concrete wall sitting idle surrounded by a temporary, porous fence with little monitoring happening.
A final note is that an early opening would not have to commit to a full 20 hour a day high frequency service. It would not have to even commit to a seven-day-a-week service. That could greatly reduce the labor cost involved. For example, the SF Central Subway is now open as a stub line only on weekends with a full opening set for January.
I think the best argument for a stub East Link is that the stations and tracks can be “tested” with revenue service and daily riders for more time than just a few months.
Yeah, I suppose. But I don’t see anything special about East Link. We can think of the project in two ways. First, there is the physical operation of the trains on the track. This will be thoroughly tested. There is a big gap between “completion” and actual operation. Literally months of nothing but trains going and forth with no customers. That seems more than enough time to work out whatever wrinkles are within this.
Then there is the customer experience. In that regard, this seems rather routine. It is an extension, of which we’ve had several.
It is a big extension, but it is nothing like the initial line. It too was a very long line, with lots of stations. It also had a really big gap between stations, where the train moves at high speed with big curves. But it also had something this won’t: a train running through a deep tunnel in a very busy downtown, with buses. People had to get used to the rules (tap on, tap off) and how they differ for buses. That seems like a much bigger issue, and yet they didn’t open it in stages. The plan was to actually go much farther (both directions) and open it at once. I just don’t see East Link as being that much different than any other extension or initial line.
Again, if there was no delay to other systems and it was cheap to open in stages, then yes, definitely. But this just doesn’t seem worth it.
I reread Balducci’s pro-starter line piece, and some of the benefits from an Eastside-only line are questionable. The housing portion of OMF East TOD project, which I believe is mentioned in her argument, I don’t believe will be completed before 2025. She also said, “In addition, the growth that light rail is intended to serve hasn’t slowed down and won’t anytime soon.” Really? Growth hasn’t and won’t slow? Amazon (which she mentions), is pausing parts or all of: Tower 1 and 2 at Bellevue 600. The 555 tower. The Artiste. And towers 2 and 3 at West Main. I don’t believe any of those paused projects will be occupied before the full Line 2 opens 2025, so would not benefit from a starter line. One project may be partially occupied before then, but not sure.
I encourage people to reread Balducci’s proposal with a more critical eye, and see if some of her overly-rosy list of benefits of a starter line don’t fall apart.
T HF se one thing that bothers me about the schedule slide is why a project segment planned to be operational in 9 months as recent a six months ago is suddenly pushed back to 17 months. Didn’t ST already start testing trains on this segment? Didn’t ST declare the East ONF finished and start accepting vehicles.
Given the six month wait rule, why not start the East Link stub around this time next year and letting the six month wait clock start a few months earlier?
Don’t get me wrong. I see it as relatively useless. However, if balduvvi wants the political gold star, just open it on Saturdays or just run it M-F 6 am to 8 pm?
I don’t think the big bang opening saves money. Most costs scale with per station, per switch, per mile of track, not with per line. The primary cost associated with per-opening are fixed salary costs for ST staff, as its the same team that rolls from one opening to the next, switching to a new cost center each opening.
Ross – what is ‘special’ about East Link is OMF-E. I think staff is most keen on getting OMF-E tested & into service prior to a Big Band opening, with the S Bellevue to Overlake operations secondary. While senior staff will move back & forth, the core team at OMF-E will be an entirely new team (perhaps seeded with some transfers from OMF-C) that needs to develop new operating patterns, habits, etc.
I will speculate that OMF-S will go into service prior to TDLE revenue service for the same reasons. But while OMF-S can go in service even if SFW station isn’t in service (in just needs the FW-OMF rail in service), there’s nothing ‘real’ for OMF-E to do until it is supporting an in-service line.
(extending my response to Ross).
Let’s stay near the end of testing ST identifies an issue with the Bellevue tunnel that requires rework; I’d argue that it would still be worthwhile to run a Bellevue TC to Overlake start line simply to get the OMF-E in service and get those 5 stations into service, even though this 5 station starter line is presumably less useful to riders than the proposed 7 station starter line.
Is there any way to include the short stretch of track from ID to Judkins in the Lynnwood opening? That would take care of the frequency issue.
@Glenn in that other town,
The bulk of the plinth problem is between IDS and JPS, meaning it is still a bit unclear when that stretch of track will become available for revenue service. It could be the last to come online..
That said though, once East Link enters the 4 month demonstration phase, and assuming Lynnwood Link is already in operation, it *should* be possible to carry revenue passengers on East Link vehicles between IDS and Lynnwood – solving the capacity/crowding problem on that stretch of track.
There might be some service reliability issues doing that, since East Link would still be in testing and might not always be in operation, but it is an option.
It’s notable that the full opening of 2 Line goes all the way to Downtown Redmond because of the delay.
The S. Bellevue station is a collector station. Even with the 554 not serving the interim line the reality is most people from the Issaquah area will just drive to S. Bellevue if they want to ride East Link, even when the full line is open. But if East Link only goes east from S. Bellevue and most folks from Issaquah/Snoqualmie/Sammamish would drive to S. Bellevue where will they take East Link to? How many today drive to S. Bellevue to catch a bus to Seattle or Bellevue? Very few. I just don’t see the ridership on an interim line that only goes east from S. Bellevue and doesn’t reach downtown Redmond.
I think this interim line is more about politics than transit, unless the issues with the bridge are going to restrict train speeds or number of train cars across the bridge permanently.
The starter line is not really about people who live in Issaquah. It’s about people who live along the line traveling to Microsoft or downtown Bellevue.
If push comes to shove, I don’t think this is enough value to justify delaying Lynnwood Link by several months. But, I’m still not convinced this staff time constraint is really insurmountable, and that it’s not something they can work out internally I’d they have the will to do it.
Theoretically you get a few people parking at South Bellevue if they are headed to downtown Bellevue (or one of the other stations). They won’t be coming from the east, but from the south and surrounding neighborhoods. I wouldn’t expect big numbers, but some. Likewise, if you are headed to Overlake from Factoria, you might catch the 241 and transfer there (instead of downtown Bellevue).
Still, not a lot of riders. My guess is ST wants to go that far simply because it is the easiest way to turn around.
I am no transit expert but I would prioritize opening Lynnwood Link before a truncated East Link. I really think the latter is a political sop to Balducci, maybe the dumbest Eastside politician in my lifetime.
I understand the Eastside subarea has more money than it knows what to with, but there are better uses than a truncated East Link with express buses covering the same routes when the buses are empty and no connection to the entire point of East Link: rail to downtown Seattle.
Lynnwood to me seems more important as to whether Link can succeed in the suburbs. I think East Link — at least on the east side — is pretty doomed post pandemic, but maybe Lynnwood might have some success. Federal way has some very serious soil issues.
Lynwood’s issue is first/last mile access in a huge county and workforce that can’t take transit, whereas East Link on the Eastside’s issue is a demographic that is transit phobic, and no longer needs to commute to areas with artificially high parking costs.
IMO Lynnwood Link is THE bellwether whether Link makes any sense in these suburban/exurban areas. East Link serves an area that is financially and post pandemic adverse to transit so skip it and certainly don’t prioritize it. It will never succeed there even though — and maybe because of — the subarea can afford it. Don’t build transit for wealthy folks.
Federal Way and Lynnwood Link have a small chance of success (dollar per rider mile) whereas East Link has none, whether truncated or not.
My guess is Federal Way is delayed way more than ST is admitting, and the bridge issues on I-90 are likely to reduce capacity more than admitted (although that gets Lazarus’s pantries in a wad when he goes apoplectic over a steering issue affecting two buses) so Lynnwood is about the last hope Link makes any sense in the poorest subarea that has no hope of extending Link north because it is too damn poor to even run feeder buses.
Daniel, it seems that no matter how many times Ross and other folks remind you that 550 ridership is bi-directional, you continue to assume that Seattleites won’t ride Link to Bellevue and Microsoft.
I think a good psychologist might call that “consensus bias”. If fact, there are lots of people who aren’t like you, and many such folks live in Seattle and now work in Bellevue.
If East Link runs every ten minutes as predicted, roughly 2400 seats will cross the lake in each direction each hour. It is not difficult at all to project that 1200 of those seats will be filled each daylight hour by 2030, since East Link will serve more than just Downtown Bellevue.
There is a big difference between the complete East Link and a stub line. East Link will provide for many trips, but I expect most of the ridership to be over the lake. I do expect significant ridership within the East Side, but the stub proposal would be a subset of that, as it would not connect to Mercer Island or downtown Redmond. A stub improves the overall network, but not in a dramatic way. In contrast, a full East Link restructure will result in better frequency for a significant portion of the East Side. It may not be at the level we want, but it will still be an improvement. The stub doesn’t offer that.
There are a lot of arguments for East Link which simply don’t apply for the stub.
The same (or worse, really) would be the case for other disconnected stubs. Imagine Link from Lynnwood to 185th. That really gives you nothing. In comparison, this stub does add significant value, just not enough to justify running early (especially since if it means Lynnwood Link would be delayed).
DT says: |
really think the latter is a political sop to Balducci, maybe the dumbest Eastside politician in my lifetime|.
She seems pretty sharp. How about Jim Horn R, 41st District for that award?
Balducci was elected to the Bellevue City Council in 2004, eventually becoming mayor. Didn’t the comment section used to say the Bellevue politicians were puppets of Kemper Freeman?
Right now there is absolutely no fast frequent transit between Bellevue and Redmond. Most of the time, your best choice is taking the B line which takes an hour to go five miles. As someone who lives in Redmond, this starter line would be a game changer for me.
The East Link starter line would end at Redmond Tech Center (Overlake). It would not include the line to downtown Redmond. It would not connect Bellevue to Redmond.
So if that is what you want, then you are screwed.
Even so, being able to transfer at Microsoft from the 545 at any time of day is a huge improvement over what exists today.
There are a fair number of apartments near Microsoft, for example, along 148th, in/near Overlake Village, plus more apartments near other stations in the Spring District. Plus the residential population in downtown Bellevue, itself.
I don’t think ridership on the “starter line” would be huge, but I think it would certainly carry more people per hour than most bus routes in the Bellevue/Redmond area, perhaps with total ridership on par with the B-line, which is not nothing.
The starter line could also be operated with one-car trains, which capacity-wise, would be plenty.
being able to transfer at Microsoft from the 545 at any time of day is a huge improvement over what exists today.
It takes the B a little over 20 minutes to get from there to downtown Bellevue. The train will take 10. So yeah, that is big. It looks like it will be a bit more frequent as well. But we are still talking about at transfer. I just don’t think it adds up to a lot of riders. It will definitely add up to some. It is exactly this type of combination that will make East Link reasonably successful. A few hundred here, a few hundred there, and we are talking about thousands within the East Side alone. Add that to the thousands crossing the lake, and we have a decent extension.
But I don’t think that a stub would get more riders than the B (which itself is not a top ten bus). The B carried around 6,200 people before the pandemic. For all of its faults, it has lots of stops. This stub won’t. The stub could replace some of the trips on the B, but not all of them. I don’t see how it exceeds that. Ridership does go up with speed (and frequency) but I just don’t see enough stops on Link to get those kind of numbers. At best, I think we are looking at around 5,000 and that assumes that ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels. Even that seems like a big stretch, since this doesn’t go to downtown Redmond.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we have anything that is comparable. Downtown Bellevue is a major draw, but it isn’t like downtown Seattle. The stops outside of downtown Bellevue are a mixed bag — hard to compare them to stops in Seattle or the suburbs. I think it is easiest to just look at the bus numbers, which aren’t great. Along with the B, you have the 566 and 567. About 150 riders use the Overlake TC stop. Obviously that number would increase as frequency increases, but not ten fold. Thousands of people *do* head to downtown Bellevue, it is just that they are heading there from all over. This would only provide an improvement on a small number of those trips.
If we got around five thousand, I think most people would consider the stub a success. I’m still not sure it is worth delaying Lynnwood Link for that. If Lynnwood Link gets 5,000 or even 10,000 it would be considered a major failure. It is highly likely it gets more. Even if it doesn’t, the changes to the bus network will be huge, and impact thousands more.
This is why I’ve changed my mind on this. I initially supported the stub. But to me this just isn’t worth it.
Perhaps the agencies should consider bus changes to complement the interim line; perhaps the ELC network is suboptimal. Riders will use the interim line if it helps then go where they want to go; they will not take it much as an amusement ride. It may have little relevance for Issaquah riders. Perhaps ST should have two Route 554: Route 554I between Issaquah TC and South Bellevue via the Eastgate freeway stop; and, Route 554H between the Highlands and MI via the Eastgate freeway station. The ELC Route 269 makes sense now.
Eddie, the 554 does not truncate on MI. It continues to Seattle. The Eastside subarea spent over $64 million on Eastside express buses last year, that more and more serve westside residents going east.
Ridership on an interim East Link will be very small, especially from the greater Issaquah region, and the vast majority — whether on in interim line truncating at S. Bellevue or a complete East Link running across the bridge — will drive to the S. Bellevue Park and Ride. Even when the 554 accesses the S. Bellevue station most riders will stay on the 554 to Bellevue Way, which is why the 554 won’t truncate at S. Bellevue. No point to running two 554’s. Today one 554 is overkill
Doubling the 554 to two routes would require a large number of service hours. That’s what ST doesn’t have, or doesn’t want to spend until East Link opens. And there’s the driver shortage too.
Highlands and MI via the Eastgate freeway station is route 219. That route was crush loaded peak direction pre-COVID, so I’d imagine KCM will add it back once it is able to provide more peak expresses. I don’t see this route changing in response to a the Link starter line.
TC to South Bellevue is the 556. Here I could see an improvement in span-of-service in response to the starter line opening, especially a truncated to only SB to Issaquah, but only if service hours were available. This is the kind of change ST could make in the first regular service change after opening without needing a full on service restructure.
Still drives me nuts Metro refuses to change the I line to another letter…
Yep. The K line (for Kent) seems much better.
K has been allocated to Kirkland for the Totem Lake – Kirkland – Bellevue – 112th – Eastgate line.
Rainier has R though.
Stride 1 and RapidRide I will both stop at the South Renton bus plaza. Let the confusion begin! “That’s a 1 — not and I.”
How long has ST known about this six month gap thing? Up until now, their scheduling had put Federal away, Downtown Redmond and Lynnwood to finish all about the same time.
Even now, ST refuses to admit recent incompetence. Add this one to the list of schedule deception in the ST4 ballot materials.
This is an outrage, and I can’t believe how passive everyone is about this complete disaster of an agency. They didn’t know the condition of the ground they were going to build the Federal Way line on until they started building on it? What kind of engineering practice is that? Sound Transit’s a mess and if something isn’t changed soon, there’s very little likelihood that delays and cost overruns will allow for completion of the W Seattle and Ballard lines. It didn’t have to be this way. Except for figuring out how to build tracks on a floating bridge, there were no construction challenges here that hadn’t been tackled in systems all over the world, including Vancouver and Portland.
To find out what’s in the ground, you have to study the ground. You don’t do that at the initial concept stage, you do it in successive more in-depth phases. And some things are elusive so you don’t know until you see them. Some of the soils in Seattle are elusive light that. And they haven’t started construction yet; this is extending the design phase before construction.
Mike, to be brutally honest, “they” [e.g. “ST”] have “started construction” on every other half mile of the Federal Way Link Extension. I drove I-5 both directions at Thanksgiving time, and there is an almost unbroken stretch of construction activities between the soon-to-be SR509 interchange and the Federal Way TC. That one not so tiny break is in the valley that crosses the freeway just north of 272nd, the exact place we’re discussing.
So, while your observations about the increasing detail of the plans at every step of a large transportation construction project are absolutely true, the fact that nobody apparently took any borings … IN a watercourse crossing … is not a good look for the agency.
It’s funny how easy it is to be an armchair specialist for other professions, but when other folks start being an armchair specialist in your profession (in my case, geology), the problems with it become obvious.
For the non-geologists out there: you can’t bore every single inch of the alignment. This year, I did a waste characterization study for a mass excavation planned in downtown Seattle. There had been about a dozen borings on the site before we got there, and we aimed to duplicate a couple, and fill in some gaps on the rest. This wasn’t a big site. All we found was relatively clean dirt, and our client was happily surprised.
A few months later, we get a call that the excavation had found some smelly dirt. We get out there, and sure enough, between two of our borings, was a patch of dirt contaminated with diesel. Fortunately, the excavator contractor was good at their job and was able to handle it without much delay. Over the course of the next month, three more patches of contaminated soil were discovered on the site, all between our boring locations. Some of the contamination was suspect (i.e., a worker likely spilled something and didn’t tell anyone), but most of it seemed “legitimate” – we just got unlucky and missed it all.
That’s all to say, it’s likely that they just got unlucky and missed this section. We’re “blessed” with some very chaotic soils in our region. Or, the geotechnical consultant was simply incompetent and we’re only finding out 15 years later. It’s fortunate that the excavation contractor is competent today and noticed the unstable slope while they were digging.
Unlike the contractors who apparently can’t pour a plinth right.
Science is easy, construction is hard.
Get it wrong with science and you can always blame it on the sample size.
Get it wrong with construction and you have to rip it out. And people will talk about it for decades.
Yes, Lazarus, which is why I have much more sympathy for delays from unexpected environmental conditions than I do for delays from the revision of cut corners like poor concrete quality or misaligned track.
Engineers can control what they put on the ground. As much as they want to, they can’t control what was put in the ground before they got there, and nor can we always see it before it gets dug up.
“Science is easy, construction is hard.”
That is a good line Lazarus. I plan on “borrowing” it.
Quite frankly, after the years of remediation Mercer Island went through with the Dept. of Ecology over a polluted site that the city ended up buying that was once a gas station, as well as the former gas station’s insurer, I was surprised by Nathan’s experience that the discovery of contaminants onsite was so easily resolved.
Out of law school I worked for Seattle’s largest law firm at the time, and did some environmental work since they represented a very large chemical company. When doing onsite visits of potential superfund sites, the two rules were: 1. Deny everything; and 2. Make sure your protective suit did not have a leak. The issue really wasn’t whether the site was polluted, but who was going to pay to clean it up.
The issue another lawyer and I had was MI was going to buy the parcel before the due diligence. The lot cost $2 million (a very good deal, depending), and the due diligence cost $1 million in the end, for a prime parcel adjacent to the 80th St. station entrance with ST paying up to $4.5 million as a match for commuter parking onsite (which runs around $85,000/stall today for a private developer, $115,000 for ST).
Once DOE signed off on the delineation and remediation, and the insurer agreed to pay to remediate the soil, it was a very good deal, but the number one rule with polluted sites is never let your name (especially a solvent government entity) get put on title until you have the DOE sign off and know the costs because the way the laws work is the government looks for one solvent entity on title and leaves it up to them to bring the other parties in.
The litigation in large pollution cases, and experts, is very expensive, except compared to the actual cleanup which can take decades. That is why so many smaller lots in cities like MI that were once dry cleaners or gas stations remain with older one-story buildings because once you dig you own, as they say with a polluted site. MI has several town center lots that could be mixed-use housing, but no developer will touch the lot. To be honest, the DOE is not very helpful when trying to find a solution.
The Federal Way Link issue is liquefaction, and I am really not knowledgeable about that. It sounds like it will require a delay and engineering solution, but there is a solution, if nothing else a bridge. That to me is a much more common problem with common solutions, compared say to running four car trains at 50 mph over a floating bridge for the first time when the concrete used to build the bridge did not originally have the density for light rail.
The first issue was the extent of pollution onsite, and the cost of remediation. Removing the polluted soil was not that expensive, and like in Nathan’s example part of digging the foundation and underground parking. But remediating the polluted soil will cost $29 million the insurer will pick up once the site is developed.
The second issue was “delineation”, or whether the pollution had leached to adjacent parcels (some private and some WSDOT), and whether it had reached the ground water, which is not good. Fortunately, the pollution had not reached the ground water, and adjacent properties could be remediated with extra ventilation in their underground garages.
Nathan, OF COURSE you “can’t bore every single inch”, or even every twenty yards. But testing the ability of a filled embankment crossing a watercourse (https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-122.2941976,3a,60y,249.23h,72.52t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sM5ptXixZ2TcSRqTcCn5nJg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192) to withstand being excavated sounds like a good idea to me. Even though I’m just an illiterate, unwashed non-geologist.
if you’re unwashed, you must already used to playing in the dirt – just gotta work on that literacy and you’ll be licensed in no time.
I’m not saying they couldn’t have known, but that slope stability is complicated and they found out in August that this slope in particular was going to be more complicated than expected – now we know that they’re going to have to redo the design of this segment to make sure this section doesn’t fall down when the Big One hits (unlike I-5, which is totally screwed). Unexpected discoveries are made during excavation all the time. I don’t know what the shoring permit looked like for this section, but it’s WSDOT’s embankment, so maybe WSDOT should have been able to tell Kiewit and HNTB what it’s made of.
Anyone who thinks that “science is easy” relative to construction really must have not been paying attention to the difficulties of the scientific process and its impact on public policy which became very prominent around March of 2020. In my experience, having actually been on actual construction sites, it seems that contractors consider construction so easy that they routinely get away with cutting corners on the designs they’re paid to fully construct – and they only face consequences when they cut a little too much. Scientists don’t get very far if their results suck – but you pull the pins on your crane all at the same time instead of sequentially and it kills four people? That’s just another day on site, baby.
I know we’re only relying on ST’s publications to determine progress on their projects, so we’re not going to see much introspection from them regarding failures from within. However, based on my experience with the same companies, all their finger-pointing at contractors is 100% believable.
When it comes to the soil liquefaction issue for Federal Way Link I think it is important to remember ST really had no other options for the route in this area.
The route was chosen for cost and political reasons along I-5. Even if ST’s contractors had discovered the soil issue years ago there wasn’t an option of moving the line to avoid the soil issue, and the engineering remedy would have been the same because the route would have been the same.
Not unlike running Link across I-90. It is either across I-90 (no matter what the speed or number of train cars) or no east/west crossing, so it is special deck/span joints, post tensioning, raised plinths, whatever it takes to run a light rail train across a floating bridge whose concrete never had the density for the weight and vibration of a four-car light rail train running at 50 mph.
Wait until you hear about the Bertha tunnel delays…
ST did not explain the train lengths; why would the starter line have such long headway; why not one car trains on five-minute headway? Line1 should have short headway as well, even if train lengths need to be shorter. It is long past time to delete Route 545 into Route 542 with very short headway.
I agree that Line 1 (or at least the central Seattle portion of it) should have headways of 5 minutes or less for most of the day. but from the linked presentation, it sounds like the number of operators are a potential constraint on service over the next few years and running more trains would require more operators.
When the possibility of an East Link starter line, I thought it was worth exploring, but after this presentation, I would lean towards opening Lynnwood Link first, and opening the entire East Link later.
I think that the East Link starter line does have the benefit of breaking the East Link rollout into two smaller parts while building experience operating much of East Link and its OMF, but I’m concerned that ridership could be low until East Link connects to Seattle, and making the opening of Lynnwood Link contingent on first opening the East Link starter Line could further delay the opening of Lynnwood Link if ST runs into any issues opening the starter line.
The one factor that would weigh in the opposite direction for me would be if having a single “Big Bang” opening of East Link from Judkins Park to Downtown Redmond was likely to delay opening the line 2 further- as someone who lives, works, shops, and socializes in Seattle, I am really looking forward to the new trains bringing Link headways in central Seattle down to 7.5 minutes or less all week (and 5 minutes or less for most of the week!)
5 minutes or less 6am-10pm weekdays, and 8am-10pm weekends. That’s close enough to full time. We’ll finally have a big-city subway network where you never have to wait more than five minutes. That’s major; it means transit isn’t just useful, it’s highly useful and convenient. That will attract people who weren’t attracted before, and they’ll start to realize the potential of high-quality transit. That’s what most of the US hasn’t experienced, and we in Pugetopolis have only experienced a bit.
By “what we have experienced” I mean a minimum Link frequency of 10 minutes; stations in village centers in Capitol Hill, the U-District, and Roosevelt; much faster travel times compared to previous buses in the downtown-Roosevelt corridor; seeing busy platforms and 10-20 people getting on/off midday every ten minutes; etc. This is the kind of thing that maximizes people’s use and satisfaction with transit, and is the norm in other countries.
Yep. It is almost like we are becoming a real city finally. Link has really changed things, and the opening of East Link and the interlining through the urban core will be monumental. 5 minute headways will be a fantastic improvement.
That said, I can see the day when the urban core will start to experience crowding again, even with 4 car trains. Operating partially full, 4-car trains at the periphery of the system, while the urban core sees those same 4-car trains become overloaded, just won’t be very efficient.
The solution is a third line, a turn-back line, interlined with the other two lines. Say from NGS to JPS or maybe MIS. Such a line would allow LRV resources to be more efficiently dispersed, and really wouldn’t take that much new investment in infrastructure since most of the hardware would be pre-existing.
That would improve things even more, in addition to improving the economics of a Link.
That’s a very good idea, but as it’s laid out, Northgate isn’t a good turning point. It will require double-seating to reverse the train in that center tail track. What might make more sense is to have the Line 1 trains turn back at Northgate, because they’ll need to change drivers after each northbound run, whereas the driver of an overlay train between Northgate and Judkins Park (or more likely, SoDo/Forrest Street) can probably make two round trips before a break is needed.
Clarification: the overlay trains would continue to Lynnwood with the Line 2’s. In fact, the overlay trains could go to West Seattle if and when it’s built.
Link should never go beyond Alderwood Mall, though a one station extension to it should be added.
Even 15-minute all-day ST Express is a level of service you don’t often see in the US outside the largest cities, and it has been running for over twenty years. The shared multi-agency pass was another early innovation.
I seem to remember some transit analyst saying this. We have especially good regional bus service. Makes sense, given the goals and financing of ST.
Overall I think we’ve had several innovations. The bus tunnel might not be unique, but it was definitely unusual, and extremely successful. We have a lot of electric trolleybuses. I think in general we were doing OK until Forward Thrust lost, followed by a huge increase in low density suburbia. This put great pressure on the system, and made it more difficult to transition to rail (or even expand the bus tunnel). We missed the boat in terms of automated rail, ignoring what our neighbors to the north were doing. Instead we got fixated on low floor “light rail”. It is not that it is a terrible choice — just less than ideal (with higher floors the trains would carry more people). The biggest problem, of course, is that we looked at BART as a model to be copied, when it is clearly a failure. The formula for success is not particularly complicated: Lots of rail (with lots of stops) in the urban core, better buses in the suburbs. Yet somehow we ignored all that, and now we are getting the “spine”, or BART del Norte, as some have put it. Our biggest innovation will likely be that we spend more than any other region on transit, while not having an especially good system (unlike the folks in Vancouver).
“The bus tunnel might not be unique, but it was definitely unusual”
I forgot about that. Germany started building downtown tunnels for existing trams in the 1970s. That was the beginning of their widespread streetcar modernization/light rail expansion/S-Bahn expansion. The intention was heavy metro rail for large cities like Munich, and surface light rail with downtown tunnels in smaller cities. In some cases the light metro was grad- separated so it could later be upgraded to full metro, but they found it had enough capacity it didn’t need to be upgraded. Seattle borrowed the concept of a downtown tunnel but used it for the existing bus network, intending to upgrade it to rail later. That can be seen as parallel to the German situation since our existing network was all buses rather than streetcars. San Francisco did something similar with the MUNI metro tunnel and upgrading MUNI from streetcars to light rail, although that started with saving the Twin Peaks tunnel and its streetcar lines in the early 20th century. In contrast, Portland has MAX with surface downtown, so downtown is slower than the outer parts, the opposite of DSTT or Germany.
Link isn’t even BART, it’s slower than BART. The three counties wanted a spine, and ST tried to do it with a MAX-like system. It liked light rail because it’s street-compatible, and it intended a lot more surface to keep capital costs low like MAX. It didn’t notice that 30-mile long lines need higher speed than that. BART runs at 85 mph, and other Link-like networks run at 65 or 70. But ST wrote Link’s specs to only require vehicles and track angles capable of 55 mph. So we’ve got a hybrid system like BART instead of a two-level system. and it’s with infrastructure designed for the inner city network. But at least it has more tunnels and elevated and fewer stations than other light rails, so that compensates somewhat for it. Except in the southern half, where the distances are too long for a 55 mph line with 35 mph surface segments to be as fast as express buses, both downtown-Rainier Beach, downtown-SeaTac, downtown-Federal Way, and downtown-Tacoma. The north end is in much better shape, where Link will be in the midrage of ST Express (faster than peak hours, slower than Sunday morning).
Ya, the benefits of a short East Link starter line are questionable at best. And the risks to schedule and costs are high. Remember, the East Link system was not designed to open in segments. There would be systems impacts to doing such a thing. And anytime you modify systems on short notice you have high risk.
And we haven’t even mentioned the social justice howling yet, and there would be a lot.
Do you really think ST would agree to delay the opening of Lynnwood Link just so they can spend more money to open a portion of East Link early? Such a move would be perceived as spending money frivolously for the benefit of a small number of rich techies, while delaying service for a larger number of hardworking, poorer, more manual labor oriented transit riders of Shoreline, Lake City, and Lynnwood.
It just won’t happen. Any early open option for East Link that delays the opening of Lynnwood Link is DOA for political reasons.
“Do you really think ST would agree to delay the opening of Lynnwood Link just so they can spend more money to open a portion of East Link early? Such a move would be perceived as spending money frivolously for the benefit of a small number of rich techies, while delaying service for a larger number of hardworking, poorer, more manual labor oriented transit riders of Shoreline, Lake City, and Lynnwood.”
Some people would see it that way, but that’s just some people. A small fraction of the population. Most people have no idea what kind of transit is in the Eastside or Lynnwood because they don’t go there. So they wouldn’t care whether a stub line opens or not, or have an opinion on whether it’s good or bad, and the money is just an abstraction. The media could stir people up by emphasizing the rich Eastside/poor Snohomish angle, but that may or may not influence people. All the transit agencies and cities have gotten on an equity kick since 2020, but that’s more about low fares/free fares/light enforcement/more frequency than about the Eastside getting more than Snohomish. The fact that ST is not thinking that way is proven by the fact that ST is considering a stub at all, and that it has gotten this far. One quarter’s delay is only three months.
Opening of Lynnwood Link is not contingent on first opening the East Link starter Line. Instead, the constraint is ST staff can only open 1 line at a time.
There are two independent decisions to be made.
1. Can we open Lynnwood Link before OMF-E is in service? It appears the answer is yes, with the operating constraints detailed in the presentation (need to find overnight storage for 16 vehicles outside of OMF-C).
2. Can we open East Link starter line without connection to the rest of the system. It apears the answer is yes.
And then a 3rd dependent decision – which lines to open in which order, where the constraint is one opening every 6 months.
Staff is suggesting than the East Link start line should greatly reduce the risk vs. a Big Bang opening, as the OMF-E, Bellevue tunnel, and 7 stations will have been de-risked before any Line 2 train runs in-service through Seattle. Also both timeline have Line 2 trains in Seattle spring of 2025, so there is no proposed delay for Seattle to receive the doubling of headways.
The ridership on the East Link Start line might be low, because unlike other Link openings it will have minimal bus ridership to cannibalize, but I don’t think that matters. Early opening helps de-risk the operations of the full line and will help to establish new travel patterns that were never well served by bus.
Opening of Lynnwood Link is not contingent on first opening the East Link starter Line. Instead, the constraint is ST staff can only open 1 line at a time.
The latter fact means that opening Lynnwood link is contingent on first opening the East Link Starter Line. If ST will only open new projects if six months have passed from the previous project opening, then any unexpected delay in opening the Starter Line would ripple out and push back the opening of Lynnwood Link.
ST is too conservative about providing good frequency on both Link and bus. It has three huge streams of tax revenue from 1996, 2008, and 2016. It is too conservative about bus network restructures. Instead, its mottos ought to be feed Link; and, short waits. Route 545 should be consolidated into a more frequent Route 542 between Bear Creek and the U District; riders oriented to/from downtown Seattle can use UW Link (six minutes travel time to/from Westlake). This consolidation could have been done any time since March 2016; in this piece Route 545 is continued longer. Why is Route 545 different than Route 522? The latter was truncated at Roosevelt in fall 2021; Route 522 had the reversible lanes in the peak direction; Route 545 is stuck on the general purpose lanes in both directions. Route 566 is not mentioned in the piece; it will duplicate Link between BTC and RTS; a project objective is to minimize the duplication of Link.
If Lynnwood Link is delayed a bit by the interim East Line, would that have the side benefit of moving the NE 130th Street opening closer to the rest of the line; is it due in 2025?
The interim line would improve intra Eastside service: frequency, speed, and reliability. It could use one-car trains on a short headway.
The B Line provides modest speed, but much better than routes 230 and 253 that preceded it. Route 232 provides a peak overlay. Riders can transfer between freeway buses at NE 40th Street: routes 542-545 and Route 566-67.
The Link one-line is the key; before Covid it has six-minute headway. Why not do that now, if not five-minute headway? If there is a shortage of LRV, use shorter trains.
“Why is Route 545 different than Route 522?”
Higher ridership, large employer.
“Route 566 is not mentioned in the piece; it will duplicate Link between BTC and RTS; a project objective is to minimize the duplication of Link.”
The 566 wasn’t in the East Link restructure scope either. It’s a South King route, and may be waiting for the Stride 1 restructure. Or it could be the travel time between Kent and Redmond; it’s already long, maybe the longest that can be tolerated. The 510 is still running downtown because truncating it would lead to a trip longer than an hour. The 566 has so few runs and span that it doesn’t matter as much whether it’s truncated or not; it wouldn’t recover that many hours.
Route 545 riders would benefit from being absorbed into a Route 542 extended to Bear Creek: intra Eastside riders would have shorter waits; translake riders would have faster trips in both directions in both peak periods.
That Route 566 was not included in the ELC project is an agency mistake; that ST wants to wait to make a big splash with Stride1 is a mistake; it hurts riders today. I expect routes 560 and 566 are shared by the east and south ST subareas.
Route 510 is also questionable; it is a one-way route; the riders may be better off with Link at Northgate.
“That Route 566 was not included in the ELC project is an agency mistake; that ST wants to wait to make a big splash with Stride1 is a mistake”
Coordinating it with Stride 1 is just my speculation. It’s what happened with U-Link, where several northeast Seattle routes were left as-is until Northgate Link. And the 49 restructure is apparently waiting for RapidRide G (Madison). So I assume that might happen with the 566 and Stride 1. But I don’t know. It’s a South King subarea issue, and I don’t know how ST and the community feel about it. But I could see a route from Auburn to Renton Station, transferring to Stride 1 to Bellevue. That would be a 3-seat ride to Microsoft though. I don’t know how important ST sees the Kent-Microsoft corridor now, whether it still sees it as worthwhile as when it started the route. One Kent resident did comment about how she drives to Redmond because the travel time of getting to Kent Station and taking the 566 is just too long, so making it a 2- or 3-seat ride would make it even less feasible. I don’t know what’s reasonable there since I don’t live in Kent.
Another factor to consider with the 566 – travel times from Microsoft to downtown Bellevue during afternoon rush hour are unpredictable, so the mere fact that the 566 serves Microsoft makes service unreliable for everyone getting on the bus in Bellevue.
So, a truncation of the 566 would not be only about saving money, it would also be about boosting reliability for the majority of the riders.
Microsoft also runs its own commuter bus from Kent, I believe, so those making that commute don’t actually need need Sound Transit for a one seat bus ride.
This is similar than the West Seattle – SODO stub; no bus changes until the full line opens. In this case it’s only one year later, so the East Link restructure will be finalized right after the starter line opens. I agree the 545 should probably be consolidated into the 542. But Metro had a bad experience with the 255: covid hit right after it was truncated and both Link and the 255 went down to unusable transfer frequencies. There’s also grumbling about the 512 truncation, that it adds ten minutes to the trip, and the bus leaves just before you get to the bus stop. And the 522 truncation has been plagued with less-than-intended frequency due to the recession and driver shortage. ST may be hesitant to truncate the higher-profile Microsoft route until East Link can fully replace it.
The Route 522 truncation had poor execution. ST attempted to time buses and Link. Instead, both should just have been run more frequently; Route 522 could have had a 10-minute headway during all time periods; Link could have a six-minute headway as it did before Covid; shorter trains would be okay. ST was relying on Metro Route 322 to supplement Route 522; it comes from First Hill and has reliability issues.
“ST attempted to time buses and Link. Instead, both should just have been run more frequently”
ST intended 15-minute frequency. The truncation was to be accompanied with doubling frequency. But the covid recession swallowed the hours to do it with, and the driver shortage makes it impossible to add runs even when the agencies can afford it. You can’t add additional runs when some runs are being canceed due to lack of drivers.
This threatens to be a bigger issue. The East Link and Lynnwood Link restructures may truncate routes without the promised additional frequency. So instead of a half-hourly 554 to Seattle becoming a 15-minute 554 to Bellevue, it may become a half-hourly 554.
Those who keep on mentioning 5 minute frequencies on the Central LINK line (I hate calling it the 1 Line), 6 minutes frequencies is pretty much the max along the Rainier Valley due to signal priority down there. What you probably see, with a combined East (2) and Central (1) line frequencies north of IDS is every 4 minutes during peak and every 5 minutes off peak (and late night about 7.5 minutes). Probably during East LINK testing, you probably see trains operate the entire 2 Line, but only carry passengers between IDS and Northgate/Lynnwood and run empty from IDS to Redmond Technology Center. The same was done when the UWS extension was open in early 2016, Angle Lake Extension in September 2016 and Northgate last year.
Exactly. This is why I usually refer to it simply as “5 minute frequencies in the urban core”. Because the urban core will be interlined, so two lines operating at 10 minute frequencies will provide 5 minute frequencies in the urban core.
And this whole 1-Line, 2-Line, S-Line, T-Line stuff is a total Dr Seuss abomination. It was so nice ride in Portland awhile back where they use colors for their LR lines. And the colors actually correspond to the colors they use on their maps!!!! Oh! The logic!
In Seattle the 1-Line refers to green on the map. Not a problem now with just one line, but with two lines the user will first have to figure out which line refers to which color before even being able to use the darn map! Just call it the Green Line and use the letter “G” in the symbology.
Or better yet, use Gold/“G” for Central Link and Purple/“P” for East Link. You can refer to the line by the color or the letter. It doesn’t matter! It’s all consistent! And no issues with being colorblind or unable to read English.
And, while we are at it, 8 minute frequencies on any given line are also an abomination. It should be 7.5 minutes so the arrival times don’t “walk” at any given station. If, at a given station the first train of the hour arrives at 4:06 (for example), then it will also arrive at 5:06, 6:06, 7:06, etc. One more simplification that makes using the system easier.
I would consider Rainier Valley part of the urban core. I might even include parts of the East Side – hard to say. That being said, I don’t have a phrase for where the frequency will double other than “north of downtown”. It isn’t clear to me if frequency will double all the way to Lynnwood. My understanding is that it will, which will mean that the “urban core” phrase becomes out of date before it can actually be applied. It is one thing to call downtown to the UW, or even downtown to Northgate “the urban core”. But including Lynnwood but not Rainier Valley in that term doesn’t seem right.
Anyway, I’m with you on the numbers. They seem silly. I think people will largely ignore them. Folks will look at where the train is headed, just as they do now.
I don’t think clock face frequencies are important for sub-10-minute frequencies, particularly during peak operations.
One of the primary reasons line 2 will run ‘beyond the urban core’ is that stations like 145th & Lynnwood are primarily bus transfer nodes, so clock face operations aren’t particularly useful if you are transferring from a bus route that could easily have ~5 minute arrival variance; instead, a rider simply wants to know the next train is arriving in <5 minutes. In a rail-rail transfer environment high frequency clock face precision might be helpful, but a rail to suburban bus transfer cannot operate with that kind of precision due to the suburban bus operating in mixed traffic.
As frequencies decrease (say, 30 minute bus headways in the evening), clock face becomes much more useful.
Using cyclic-scheduling is not about improving the bus transfer experience at primarily bus intercept stations. No amount of tinkering with Link schedules or operations is ever going to make up for the inherent variability in bus arrival and departure times, nor eliminate bus bunching.
Rather, clock face scheduling is about attention to detail and providing a quality experience for all LR users. Being able to know and rely on Link arrival and departure times without undue reliance on paper/online schedules is a major usability advantage. It increases ease of use of the overall system. And ease of use leads to higher use.
Additionally, 7.5 min headways vs 8 min headways is a slight increase in frequency and a slight increase in capacity (~6.7% better). So your poor, unfortunate bus rider who arrives late at the Link station on a bunched bus is going to have a slightly shorter wait for his train and is going to find more seats to compete for with his other bunched bus transfer passengers.
Additionally, while Lynnwood Link is going to have several bus intercept type stations, the majority of Link stations will still see a high degree of non-bus transfer type passenger arrivals. And for these passengers cyclic scheduling makes a lot of sense.
And even when someone has a bus intercept on one end of their journey, the other end often does not involve a bus intercept. For example, my wife starts her commute with a bus transfer to Link, but when she commutes home the Link station is in the basement of her building. No bus-to-Link transfer required to return home.
So, ya, clock face scheduling is better. Even for bus transfers, even at short headways.
Yeah, I’m with Lazarus on this one. I get your point AJ. Buses vary quite a bit, as does the time it takes to get from the bus to the train. Thus it becomes difficult to time these things, which means that you lose one advantage of clock-facing schedules.
But there are other advantages, and Lazarus has a great example of one. It applies to much, if not most of the system. Lots of people will take buses, but lots will walk to the station on a regular basis. Regular riders will get to know when the train arrives, and can then do the math in their head. For example, it might be a case where you can leave your office or apartment at 5 minutes after the hour. This works out to 20, 35 and 50. It also works out to be half way in between all of those. It isn’t as easy every 10 minutes, but it is still pretty easy. It gets easier the more you rely on it. The main thing is, it is the same every hour.
Even bus riders can get to know their schedule, in a similar way. You notice that if you leave the bus at 5 minutes after, you get to the train right before it gets there. Once you get in the habit of it, you know what to do if the bus is early or late. The same thing applies if you take the bus later.
When a train becomes really frequent, it doesn’t matter as much. Hard to say what that number is (3 minutes seems about right). But definitely not 8. Waiting around for a train for 7 minutes is quite tedious.
Yes, higher frequency is better. – more capacity, shorter waits. That is unrelated to clock face scheduling.
Yes, a good user experience means a rider does not need to reference a timetable. For >10 minute frequency, that means clock face scheduling, but for <10 minutes, I don't see much value in clock face. At 8 minute frequency, the typical rider will wait less than 4 minutes (or exactly 4 if they are incapable of jogging when they see a train approaching). If I get off a bus, I'm not looking for a clock to try to catch a specific train, I'm looking for a display board to know when the next train is arriving.
Cyclically repeating schedules are always an advantage, regardless of how long or short the headways.
But let me ask it another way: What is the advantage of 8 min headways over 7.5 min headways? Other than it is easier to say, which no rider really cares about when they are actually, you know, “riding”.
8 minutes is cheaper.
Really, that’s it. Is 7.5 minutes better than 8? Sure! And then 6 minutes would be even better. But unless there is crowding, I don’t really see much value in the incremental frequency because I don’t think Link it going to run on a clock face anyways because both lines have at-grade crossings.
When 1. Link is automated and 2. never needs to yield to perpendicular traffic in the RV, then yes absolutely run it clock face.
“What is the advantage of 8 min headways over 7.5 min headways?”
That’s not the point. 7.5 vs 8 minutes is imperceptible. 6 vs 8 minutes means you rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes, and people are used to thinking of 5 minutes as insignificant or inevitable for both transit, meetings, and other rendez-vous. But when it starts approaching 10 minutes, people start to feel that they’re just standing there waiting. There’s a palpable difference between the St Petersburg metro, which runs every 2-3 minutes until 8:30pm, then every 5 minutes; the Vancouver Skytrain, which runs every 5 minutes; Link, which runs every 6-10 minutes; and MAX and BART, which run every 15 minutes on each branch. Long waits are people’s biggest dissatisfactton with transit: people would rather travel 5 more minutes than wait 5 more minutes, because at least they’re getting somewhere.
” 7.5 vs 8 minutes is imperceptible” is my original point. Gaining ‘clock face’ won’t be perceptible in practice, as trains will run +/- a few minutes.
Yes, clockface is less important the shorter the headways. In Moscow all transit runs at least 5 minutes, regardless of route or mode. So I just add up the travel times of each segment, add 5 minutes for each transfer, and leave early enough to get to my destination on time, without caring about a schedule. That’s the ideal transit experience. Clockface scheduling becomes important after 10 minutes, where if you just miss the bus/train you’ll be waiting a significant amount of time, so you’d better check the schedule carefully and time your arrival. But that strategy fails with transfers, where you have no control over when the first bus/train will arrive and when the second one will leave.
“8 minutes is cheaper.”
Really? That is the only advantage of 8 mins over 7.5 mins?
Because if the key metric for transit is “cheaper”, then there wouldn’t be any transit. Because the cheapest transit is “no” transit.
This is particularly true for rural bus transit where the subsidies are very high compared to for LR.
I’ve never ridden Russian transit, but I’m not sure it is a good model for Seattle to aspire too. The economics are just too different, both for the transit system and the economy as a whole.
Regarding frequency, 6 mins in the RV was just a temporary thing as you state. We will never see that again on Link. Operating at the limit of what the street grid supports just introduces too much unreliability into the system. Probably the best we can achieve in the reasonably near future is 7.5 mins on each line.
But 7.5 mins per line represents 3:45 in the interlined section. And 3:45 is pretty darn good.
“Operating at the limit of what the street grid supports just introduces too much unreliability into the system.”
Did ST or SDOT say that or are you just guessing? I’ve never heard either of them cite that as a reason for not having 6-minute all-day service. ST’s attitude seems to be that trains have to reach a certain fullness before it increases frequency.
For a variety of reasons I stand by my above statement.
But, if you really believe that ST only increases frequency in response to overcrowding, then that is another reason why we probably won’t see 6 min frequency in the RV anytime soon. Because the capacity crunch has always been expected to be somewhere in the NGS to CHS section, and you can’t just through frequency at a segment in that stretch without wasting LRV and operator hours at the termini. And once the system becomes a two line system, it becomes integrated, and the waste goes up.
If at some point UWS to CHS (for example) gets overloaded at 7.5 min frequencies and 4-car trains, then I think ST is going to be forced to look at smarter solutions than just turning up the overall line frequency of the entire system. Because that becomes wasteful.
But hey, that would be a good problem to have. It would imply that Link has been extremely successful. I just don’t expect to see such a problem materialize anytime soon.
6 mins in the RV was just a temporary thing
Yes, a very nice temporary thing. This gets back to Mike’s point. ST has been focused on capacity, not improving rider experience or increasing ridership. The second they didn’t have to run trains every six minutes, they stopped. Things got worse for riders as a result.
Mike is also right that 5 minute headways is much better than 7.5. The more frequent the better. That doesn’t mean agencies always run at maximum headway. You get diminishing returns. While it is nice to be more frequent, 6 minutes seems to be the standard. We see this with SkyTrain. The train runs every 6 minutes most of the day. All the lines do that. They could probably run more often, but it just isn’t worth it.
Thus most agencies around the world would simply spend the money to run the trains every 6 minutes from Rainier Valley or Bellevue. Even if they could run them more often, they would just stick with 6 minutes. This really has nothing to do with the limits caused by running on the surface, and everything to do with ST being cheap. Just like how they run every 8 minutes. Yeah, it wouldn’t cost much to run every 7.5, but they don’t think it is worth the extra money.
Oh, and there really is no harm in running up to the street limit. The street limit is an arbitrary number set by the city. They could change it tomorrow if they wanted to, and the trains could run every five minutes. The number was set based on traffic. The city was afraid that if the trains were running often, cross traffic would get snarled. Of course traffic is a bigger concern during peak, which means the city wouldn’t mind at all if the trains ran every six minutes off peak.
“The street limit is an arbitrary number”
Ha, got a chuckle out of that one. Changing it would involve changing the light timing for that entire length of the RV and all the cross streets that are synced to it. And maybe the speed limits too! That is not an easy task! And the shorter the light cycle the lower the throughput, and in a non-linear manner. The world just isn’t linear.
And auto traffic isn’t going down in the RV. It is going the other way. Making the problem worse.
6 min frequencies just aren’t going to happen, and certainly not for a sustained period.
The one exception might be if Lynnwood Link opens significantly before East Link.
If that happens Link might become capacity constrained north of the UW, and ST might be forced to trade increased capacity for reduced reliability and reduced user experience. But that would only be a temporary situation. ST would go back to 8 min frequencies after East Link opened.
I think you are conflating two different things. The signalling for the train is relatively complicated. But the goal is to always stop the cross traffic. It doesn’t matter when the train is expected to arrive. The train could be two minutes early or late (from either direction). It still stops the cross traffic. The signalling would not have to be adjusted if the train comes more often — and no one is actually proposing that the trains do. We are just suggesting that they come as often as they did recently, but all day long.
This has nothing to do with the limit set by SDOT. That limit (every six minutes) is based on what they feel is necessary for cross traffic. But it is quite possible to simply say tough luck, cross traffic. This happens all the time. Try to get across Aurora or Lake City Way. It takes a while. On Rainier, the fear is that it if takes too long, cars will back up, and you will have congestion that you didn’t have before. Thus the fear is entirely based on congestion, not the ability of the signalling system to handle more trains.
Oh, and it turns out that SDOT is comfortable (or at least was comfortable) with going to five minute frequency**. That explains why ST originally expected to run trains every five minutes from Northgate to “Henderson”*** (what is now “Rainier Beach”). SDOT doesn’t like it if the trains are closer than every four minutes, and the signalling will fail*. But that is simply because SDOT doesn’t want to impact cross traffic that much. (The trains aren’t supposed to be that close together, so I assume ST is happy with this). But again, no one is suggesting we run trains every four minutes, or every five. We are simply suggesting we run them every six (like we did until recently) but do so all day long. There is simply no reason why SDOT would object.
To restate what Mike said, the MLK cross traffic includes pedestrians. It’s not that they need to give crossing cars lots of green times. They have to allow for a long green light so pedestrians don’t get stranded in the middle of the street. That’s especially true where stations are — Alaska, Othello and Henderson.
I’m not expecting Seattle to adopt Russian-level transit before Los Angeles and Chicago do. First Metro should fill in the gaps in 15-minute service on all core routes including evenings. Then it should increase the biggest ones to 10 minutes, and gradually expand that to more and more routes. When that’s substantially completed, then it can upgrade to 5-minute service. Metro was already partway there in 2019, when the 44, 45, 48, 65, and 67 had 10-minute daytime; the 49 had 12-minute daytime; and the 11 had 15-minute daytime. When Metro puts something at 20 minutes, it means it would run it at 15 minutes if it could afford to, and when it puts something at 12 minutes, it means it wants to run it every 10 minutes but can’t yet.
Link is in a better position because it already has 10-minute daytime and evening and 8-minute peaks. Still, it would be nicer to run it every 6 minutes all day, like cities who are serious about being transit-oriented do.
I stand by my comments.
And I wouldn’t put any faith in comments made by an ST spokesman from 12 years ago. Particularly since those comments refer to “goals” and not demonstrated facts. After all, ST had barely made it to the airport back then, and certainly didn’t have any experience with running Link at 6 min headways.
And I’m sorry, but ST can’t just run trains through the RV at any interval they want, with signal priority in both directions, and with no consideration for things like pedestrian crossing times, and not have any effect on either the street grid or on Link reliability. The world just doesn’t work that way.
I get it, everyone likes increased frequency, because nobody likes to wait and everyone’s time is important. But that doesn’t always translate to rational policy, and sometimes all increased frequency does is drive system wide waste.
The challenges for Link going forward are not related to the lack of 6-min headways in the RV. They are related to efficient openings of Lynnwood Link and East Link (theoretically in that order, which is a big challenge), and to potential capacity constraints on the two line system between NGS and CHS.
If Link ever gets to the point where 4-car trains are capacity limited near UWS at 7.5 min frequencies, then ST will need to get smarter about solutions than just cranking up the system wide frequency and letting reliability fall. Because a system carrying that many passengers, on one trunk route, can’t afford to be unreliable. And that is one of the primary reasons not to pursue shorter headways.
I stand by my comments.
I realize that. We are just saying there is absolutely nothing to support your theory. In contrast, we have provided plenty of counter evidence, from both SDOT and Sound Transit, as well as very recent history (when the trains really did run every six minutes during peak). There is simply no practical reason why trains can’t run every 6 minutes all day long along Rainier Valley.
It would just cost more. This is why I keep emphasizing that it has nothing to do with running on the surface. Even if there was a tunnel, there is no reason to believe that ST would run the trains every 6 minutes (or more often) given that they won’t run them every 6 minutes now. They run them every 8 minutes, and that is only at peak. A good first step would be to run the trains every 8 minutes all day long. Most of the day, they run them every 10 minutes, and the only reason they do that is to save money.
Which is a reasonable thing for ST to do. Agencies do this all over the world. SkyTrain could run trains every 3 minutes all day long. They don’t, because even without drivers, it costs too much for what they get.
What we are saying is that 6 minute headways — which is what we had for a considerable amount of time without incident — is a very good middle ground. To a certain extent it is a worldwide standard. More frequent than that, and you don’t gain much. Less frequent than that, and you lose riders. (There is plenty of evidence to support this as well, and I can dig up the various studies if you want.) Paying extra to run the trains every 6 minutes all day would definitely increase ridership, and quite likely be worth the money. If nothing else, Sound Transit should study the idea. Instead of being fixated on making the system ridiculously large (with extensions well beyond most subway lines in the world) they should focus on making what they have better.
“sometimes all increased frequency does is drive system wide waste.”
Where? When? At what point does value become waste? A bus is cost-effective at normal subsidies if it gets ten riders per hour. Most runs are less than an hour, so that’s ten boardings during the entire run. I don’t know Link’s scale; shall we say forty per run? Or do you think Link requires four hundred per run to justify the run? There’s also value in having the run available even if you don’t personally use it that day. It means it will be available when you do need it. That doesn’t mean we have to run empty trains and buses every ten minutes on the off-chance somebody might use it someday, but they get more ridership than people often realize because the trips don’t overlap with when you see the vehicle.
And the mere fact of higher frequency will increase ridership because it makes the network more usable. Ideally it would double the ridership, but maybe it will only increase it 50%. That’s still worthwhile because it makes the network more usable to people, which is the point of transit in the first place. It may take five or ten years for the entire increase to occur, because it takes time for people one by one to find out about it, remember it exists, realize it would help their trip, or move to a stop or take a job there.
There may be cases where increasing frequency added zero riders, but if so, where? You can’t just say it’s widespread without examples; that’s like saying voter fraud is widespread when every study says it isn’t. I’d assume it’s most likely on the very lowest exurban coverage routes like the 224. But that doesn’t apply to Link, or to the core bus routes we’re talking about, or even the mainstream coverage routes. Canada has more frequency than we do in similar neighborhoods and has higher ridership. Agencies across the US find that ridership goes up and down as they increase or decrease frequency and coverage.
Some people don’t take transit because they never would even if it goes door-to-door. But many many others don’t take it because the network is so minimal or inconvenient or it would take an hour to get there. They may not think they would take it, but then the frequency or Link comes, and they eventually vote with their feet and ride it.
“At what point does value become waste? A bus is cost-effective at normal subsidies if it gets ten riders per hour.”
Mike, is this a formal policy? Where do you get 10 bus riders/hour as “value”. Even with an 80% subsidy.
“And the mere fact of higher frequency will increase ridership because it makes the network more usable. Ideally it would double the ridership, but maybe it will only increase it 50%.”
You just can’t make these kinds of blanket statements. These are the same kinds of ridership “estimates” ST has been trying to sell for years that are turning out to be knowingly false. There are many, many factors that determine transit ridership for any given area or route. IMO we spend too much on coverage to transit poor areas while that money could be better spent on areas with already existing transit ridership.
We need to stop chasing the phantom non-transit rider who doesn’t take transit for many different reasons and focus on those who do. Even in areas with good transit ridership 90% of folks choose another mode. We have to be honest that transit has some structural deficits when compared to other modes or 90% of trips would not be by a mode other than transit, and frequency is a small factor for those already not riding transit. You could have buses or Link access Mercer Island every 30 seconds and transit ridership would not increase.
“There may be cases where increasing frequency added zero riders, but if so, where?”
That is not the question. The revenue for transit — including farebox recovery — is mainly fixed, especially general fund subsidies. Transit agencies have to PRIORITIZE. If you increase costs for frequency on one run you need to cut frequency or coverage on another run. Metro calls this “equity”. Transit agencies just don’t have the money to experiment with frequency when their models tell them the return is not there.
“Some people don’t take transit because they never would even if it goes door-to-door. But many many others don’t take it because the network is so minimal or inconvenient or it would take an hour to get there.”
Again this is wishful thinking, and the pandemic proves it. Most don’t ride transit because other modes are superior in their judgment, or they no longer need to ride transit, and your own comment notes first/last mile access is a huge obstacle in such a huge and undense area. As Martin’s research has shown, a total of 600 car drivers in West Seattle are expected to switch from driving to WSBLE, at a cost of $20 billion. And that estimate by ST was based on data from before the pandemic.
The reality is the number of potential transit riders is pretty much fixed, and declining because of work from home and alternatives to downtown Seattle that incentivized transit because of the high costs of parking and traffic congestion. When given the chance, over 60% of downtown work commuters chose to abandon transit and downtown Seattle through WFH. Not because they hate transit or frequency is bad but because they don’t NEED transit, and very few except some on this blog ride transit for the fun of it.
If the riders are not there now, or if their demographic, geography or housing choices make it unlikely they will ride transit, then move on to those who will ride transit. You don’t have to be a transit genius to look at a regional map and know where transit might work and where it won’t. Be very, very careful about spending a lot of money for the hope of a few discretionary transit riders in an area that has little transit ridership today.
“At what point does value become waste? A bus is cost-effective at normal subsidies if it gets ten riders per hour.”
“Mike, is this a formal policy? Where do you get 10 bus riders/hour as “value”.”
It’s an estimate Jarrett Walker and some transit industry types use for a worthwhile route. Even if they would use a more complex formula for a specific network, it’s a good enough general threshold for our layman use. By my estimate, a diesel bus uses less fuel than 12 SUVs, so there’s an environmental threshold. 12 is close to 10.
“Even with an 80% subsidy.”
Subsidies are political issues, not directly related to costs. Most agencies subsidize transit 50-90%, so Metro is within the normal range.
Most fixed routes get at least 10 riders/hour, even coverage routes. When a new coverage route is launched, it may only get five at first, but it will hopefully build up to ten in a few years. In contrast, demand-response vehicles get two on average, and Rainier Valley’s Via was unusually productive at four.
“Ideally [doubling frequency] would double the ridership, but maybe it will only increase it 50%.”
“You just can’t make these kinds of blanket statements. These are the same kinds of ridership “estimates” ST has been trying to sell for years that are turning out to be knowingly false.”
And you’re only looking at East Link, Mercer Island, and Eastside drivers like yourself. There are already examples in Pugetopolis, and all over the world. RapidRide A increase frequency from 30 minutes to 15 vs the previous 174, and ridership increased. RapidRide C, D, and E have all had major increases in ridership, both over the previous routes, and in multiple waves over the 2010s. Bellevue/Redmond are very happy with the B’s performance, although I don’t know the increase. Link appears to be generating more riders in Capitol Hill, the U-District, and Roosevelt. Metro’s own annual reviews say several corridors are underserved, and have latent ridership that would emerge if frequencies were improved. And you can just look at cities that have 2-3 minute subways, or Chicago with 10 minute daytime/20 minute evening bus routes, and see how crowds get onto and off them every run.
“We need to stop chasing the phantom non-transit rider who doesn’t take transit for many different reasons and focus on those who do.”
Yes and no. I agree that Link and Metro should focus more on Seattle’s low-hanging fruit rather than the suburbs’ higher-hanging fruit. At the same time I’m not willing to leave 850,000 people in South King County without reasonably-usable transit. Or 200,000 people in the inner Eastside, or 130,000 people in Renton. We tried that in the 20th century and it leads to mobility gaps, people spending $8,000/year more on cars than they want to, environmental degradation, and inhuman landscapes.
“The revenue for transit — including farebox recovery — is mainly fixed, especially general fund subsidies. Transit agencies have to PRIORITIZE. If you increase costs for frequency on one run you need to cut frequency or coverage on another run.”
That’s a different issue. I’m talking about the optimal amount of transit: what would make the cities and economy and people’s health function at their potential. Cities should try to maximize this and find the sweet spot. It’s not that Americans can’t afford to have cities like this: poorer countries have it. It’s just that we don’t prioritize it enough. It’s a combination of local government priorities, citizens’ priorities, state and federal government priorities, and media propaganda that convinces people of things that are false. People underestimate how much a good transit network would benefit them and their city’s economy, and they way underestimate the total cost of cars and the 2.5 parking spaces for every car, and the health impacts of so many people living in car-dependent areas.
Still, if you have a fixed amount of transit revenue, you have to divide up the pie somehow. But first you should know your goal: the optimal level of transit. Then you should divide the pie to work toward it as best you can. Sometimes I talk about that, when there’s a specific decision to be made, like whether to build East Link, or whether to reroute the 554 from Issaquah-Seattle to Issaquah-Bellevue, and how important are the two-seat and three-seat ride tradeoffs it would create? But there’s no specific issue right now. And I think it’s vitally important to have the right goal, so we should talk about the ultimate goal and how to get there, even if we can’t get there now. Having the right goal helps inform any compromises or tradeoffs you make, to ensure you’re making the network the best it can be given the resources.
@Daniel. There is a world of difference between estimates of increased ridership caused by increased frequency, and initial estimates of Link ridership. Link ridership is an attempt to deal with dozens of different moving targets. They have to estimate future growth around the station, as well as things like employment growth around the other stations. They have to estimate the impact of feeder buses, which is huge. That right there makes it damn near impossible to estimate ridership. Imagine that Metro just ignores the 130th station. Also imagine that the city doesn’t upzone. You are talking ridership of a few dozen, if that. Imagine instead that Metro runs several very frequent buses along the 130th corridor. Not only from Lake City and Bitter Lake, but from north-south corridors like Greenwood Avenue, Aurora and Lake City/Bothell Way. That is a world of difference from a ridership standpoint, and ST has absolutely no control over it.
In contrast, increased frequency is rather consistent, since it is based on numerous studies, and existing ridership. If you increase frequency, you increase ridership. Ridership increases less as you get more and more frequent, simply because it doesn’t matter as much (e. g. going from 4 minutes to 2 minute frequency isn’t going to change the opinion of very many riders). But going from say, 20 minutes to 10 minutes will see a high increase in ridership. There are other factors — distance being one of them. Commuter rail is not influenced as much by increased frequency. But for most trips, ridership will go up substantially as you increase frequency. There will be a range, but if you plug in the well known (and fairly easy to gather) pieces, you are highly likely to get a good estimate.
Thanks Ross, my point was mostly transit agencies have to choose where to spend fixed revenue to increase frequency based on increased ridership. No doubt trial and error works best, and with buses if increased frequency does not increase ridership when considering the additional expense move onto another route. Sometimes I think Mike does not take total available revenue into account. I do know that in the eastside transit restructure Metro stated it would run peak buses to Mercer Island every `15 minutes even if half full or less because it feels 15-minute frequencies are the minimum for peak commuter routes. Is that the best use of limited Metro funds? Who knows. If I lived in the RV and my bus was packed I might think not.
When it comes to ST ridership estimates, the reality is they were virtually all very high compared to actual ridership. For example, on MI we spent many years worrying about capacity at our station since we are the last stop going west, and ST/Metro wanted to bus thousands to MI each day when the platform is quite narrow and 35′ below grade. Then years of litigation over the “optimal bus intercept configuration” that was abandoned in the eastside transit restructure. 43,000 to 52,000 daily riders on East Link was not reasonable, and caused a lot of harm, but it took us a lot of time and money to realize that, (and Metro too).
Yes, there are a lot of factors when determining future ridership on a proposed transit operation, but there are experts for that. That is what they do. The problem is ST wanted the estimates high to increase farebox revenue which then decreased the general tax increases for the levies, and I think those inflated ridership estimates are going to come home when it comes to M&O.
Even backing out lost ridership due to the pandemic ST had an obligation to be more accurate with ridership estimates.
During testing trains will not carry passengers, even when passing through in-service stations.
Do you have verification of that? Because I have yet to see it addressed anywhere.
But in reality, it is only during the 4 month demonstration phase that this would be a possibility. If it doesn’t happen, it is only a short annoyance. Main goal is to get the new line open as fast as possible. .
That’s how it worked with Northgate Link, where passengers had to disembark at UW Station northbound while the train headed to Northgate before turning around and picking up passengers again at UW Station southbound. The station security staff did a sweep of every train to make sure no one stayed on board.
Oh OK, I didn’t see that.
passengers had to disembark at UW Station northbound while the train headed to Northgate before turning around and picking up passengers again at UW Station southbound.
That is interesting, in that the train was actually “in service” for much of its trip. This is good news, as it means that downtown to the north-end will get double frequency a bit before East Link officially opens. I can imagine them just running the train with an “out of service” sign, and the doors closed. Nice to know they (probably) won’t do that.
The same thing happened with U-Link; passengers had to get off at Westlake.
Cool, good to know. Yes, hopefully then the doubling of frequency on Lynnwood to ID occurs earlier.
I think that South Seattle is getting screwed again here if their headways will be limited to 10 minutes for most of the day. My initial feeling is that it would be crazy to run twice as many trains to the northern suburbs compared to the southern half of the city.
My recollection from earlier planning documents is that ST has enough vehicles and Central OMF space to run 4 car trains at 6 minute headways on the 1 line from Angle Lake to Northgate, but I don’t recall if they still have the resources to do that solely out of the Central OMF once the line reaches Lynnwood if all 1 line train are continuing to the northern terminus of the line.
The proposed operating pattern include parking 16 cars on the main line overnight outside of the OMF-C, so presumably that’s the maximum number of vehicles they think they can support without a rail connection to OMF-E.
Downtown & Northern suburbs only get double frequency when East Link is interlined with the main system. Before then, south Seattle gets the same frequency as the rest of Seattle.
I think that South Seattle is getting screwed again here if their headways will be limited to 10 minutes for most of the day. My initial feeling is that it would be crazy to run twice as many trains to the northern suburbs compared to the southern half of the city.
Agreed. Theoretically, it would probably make the most sense to just run the train every six minutes to the south and east, but have a turnback at the U-District. If that doesn’t work, then turn back at Northgate.
But that would cost money. As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem is drivers. It is really a shame this system isn’t automated, eh.
The other problem is that the turnbacks aren’t in the right place. It isn’t just about ridership, but ridership per mile. Ridership is also less influenced by frequency the farther out you go. If we are pinching pennies, then turning back at Rainier Beach makes sense, simply because it costs a lot to go south of there. Likewise at the U-District, and again at 145th. But I don’t thing there are turnbacks at any of those places. The best I’ve come up with turnbacks at Northgate, Lynnwood and SeaTac:
Northgate to Downtown: 3 minutes
Downtown to Redmond: 6 minutes
Downtown to SeaTac: 6 minutes
SeaTac to places south: 12 minutes
Northgate to Lynnwood: 6 minutes
Lynnwood to places north: 12 minutes
This looks pretty good, but I’m pretty sure it is considerably more expensive than what is planned.
“I think that South Seattle is getting screwed again here if their headways will be limited to 10 minutes for most of the day. ”
South Seattle is also screwed by being forced to use DSTT2 exclusively. The current DSTT will be severed from the current segment through the Rainier Valley, and ST is only proposing building alternatives with transfers that are not across a platform (instead using several escalators, elevators or stairs). The additional transfer effort will cost another 5-10 minutes as well as heavy use of vertical machines for a trip being made on Link today.
I think SDOT is to blame partially for frequency limits in South Seattle. But also, if South King wants higher capacity, more frequent (grade separated?) transit then why don’t they voice that?
Snohomish county subareas have explicitly voted for the projects that, due to their small tax base constraints, will take them over a decade or two to get finished, but in the end they get the grade separated light rail service that they wanted. South king on the other hand was practically first in line for light rail service and first to make decisions on what that service would be and their decision was to have at grade light rail. There is only so much frequency and reliability that you can get out of light rail with grade crossings
It’s the same story with Tacoma, first in line to get anything before any other subareas, and they chose a streetcar that shares lanes with cars (yes I’m calling the T-line a “streetcar”)
There is only so much frequency and reliability that you can get out of light rail with grade crossings
Yeah, but we aren’t asking for more. No one is bemoaning the fact that neither the East Side nor Rainier Valley can have 5 minute headways. Folks are complaining about the fact that they won’t have 6. At least, not unless it is during peak, and even that is unlikely.
It really has little to do with the physical limits of the system, and more to do with how much they want to spend. The schedule I listed is quite possible, it would just cost more to operate. We wouldn’t need extra train cars, just extra drivers (we would run shorter train sets, but more often). The problem is that there is simply no interest.
Put it another way. Imagine that the tracks on Rainier Valley and Bellevue were above ground (or buried). They could run trains there as often as every 3 minutes. Would they? Of course not. They would just keep running them every 10.
I think South King has split the baby, with OK service to Seattle along the plateau using Link and OK service to Seattle in the valley using Sounder. I suppose if they focused all their resources on one corridor it would be better, but given the geography I think they’ve made the right decision to split investments between the corridors.
Imagine that the tracks on Rainier Valley and Bellevue were above ground (or buried) AND Link was automated. Then we’d get all day 5 minute frequency, just with shorter trains outside of peak.
Warren: could also use six and six combining for three in the DSTT.
3-5 minute all-day frequency is only between International District and Lynnwood where Central Link and East Link double up. Rainier Valley will be half that. MLK is limited to 6-minute frequency to avoid messing up the signals for cross traffic. That includes pedestrians crossing the street, like to get to Columbia City Station.
Link started with 8-minute peak frequency, then in the mid 2010s it went to 6-minute peaks for several years. That was a temporary expediency between ending the Ride Free Area and when U-Link was established, because it went back to 8 minutes sometime in the late 2010s. It could go up to 6 minutes again, and ST will have to if Link gets overcrowded. It’s standing room only peak hours, and in the north end in the midafternoon there are only a few seats open, so it would only take a few more people to make it crowded. That will probably happen within 5-10 years.
ST could even run Rainier Valley every 6 minutes all day, if not for crowding, then just to make it easier to get around and maximize ridership. People may not care about 2 minutes vs 5 minutes, or 5 minutes vs 6 minutes, but 6 minutes vs 10 minutes makes a bigger difference. 10 minutes is 1/6 of an hour, and 15 minutes is 1/4 of an hour. So not only can’t you fit as many activities into an hour, every additional minute feels like a tedious time waiting. But ST has not acknowledged the possibility of 6-minute all-day service, and it would cost labor, energy, and maintenance. It’s waiting for Line 2 to give more frequency, although that;’s just in the north end.
No. I expect peak period Link headway remained six minutes until Covid.
It was before covid. I commuted on it, and I remember being disappointed that average waits got longer. 6 minutes is at least close to the 5-minute service on Vancouver Skytrain or 2-3 minutes on a big-city metro. 8 minutes is almost 10 minutes. What I don’t remember is whether ST said 6-minute peaks would end when U-Link or Northgate Link started, or whether they actually ended when U-Link started or a year or two later. I was commuting at UW Station southbound PM, and I think I remember it first being 6-minute peaks, then 8 minute peaks. That was before covid, when I stopped commuting. If it did switch to 8 minutes between 2017 and 2019, I don’t remember what cause the change.
I think the opening order will be
Fedreral Way link
How many link trains have been delivered to the Eastside to wait 2 years ro not be used at the new base right away? My guess. None. The original plan was to deliver the newer ones to SODO and move the older ones to the East side for a modern retrofit. Now those LRT’s have to be transported by a tow truck to make it happen. Because the tracks are not there. One slow fuel guzzling tow per car if it ever does happen. And all driver, maintenance and mechanical staff have to move to the new base from SODO. But without replacenents to the SODO base. So Line 1 will suffer. Just my prediction.
The plan was always to tow trucks to OMF-E.
“And all driver, maintenance and mechanical staff have to move to the new base from SODO. But without replacements to the SODO base.” What?? why would OMF-C not have ‘replacements’? The overall staffing level is certainly rise to support two OMFs.
Briefly mentioned in the main presentation linked at the beginning of the article, more details on the FW Link delay:
“the Federal Way Link Extension faces localized unstable soil conditions encountered during construction just south of where S. 259th Pl. passes under Interstate 5 in Kent. This is an area where the alignment travels through a very narrow area between a wetland and southbound I-5.
We have made significant progress since August. The design-build contractor (Kiewit) stabilized the slope by installing a buttress of quarry spalls (large, angular rocks), and we continue to monitor the site to ensure there are no additional slope stability issues.
After evaluating several design solutions with the design builder, we are advancing a long-span bridge design solution that bridges over the unstable soil area. ”
This newly scoped long span bridge is the primary reason for the FW Link delay. Per The Urbanist, “Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus asked staff about the feasibility of opening a similar starter line to Kent in advance of the full Federal Way extension, but staff said they would need to return at a later meeting with more details on the idea’s feasibility.” As the line was previously on track for an end of 2024 opening, I’d speculate we’ll see south King politicians advocating for an earlier opening of the Highline station, even if it stretches the pre-OMF-E Link fleet even further.
I’m neither a civil engineer or a geologist, but I’m baffled that the project got to this point before this issue came up- I had the impression that soil samples were typically taken very early in the process of planning a rail alignment, and “an area where the alignment travels through a very narrow area between a wetland and southbound I-5” sounds like exactly the kind of a place you’d want to take a soil sample from. I’m also kinda surprised that being near I-5, the soil conditions weren’t already well understood.
Snooping around; from this memo (August 2022): https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/link-construction-issues-memo-20220818.pdf
The interesting part is that this segment was always planned to be aerial, so my guess is that when they cleared the working alignment so rigs could come in and drill the support piles, that removed some amount of material which then caused the slope down from I-5’s alignment on infill to fail. When you’re working next to a 60+ year-old filled slope, on top of a seismic hazard zone, that’s a spicy meatball.
Since they’re now going for a long-span solution, it seems that they have one or two support columns that they’re just going to skip in an attempt to try and span over the problematic area. I imagine trying to place an earthquake-proof long-span column in a liquefaction zone is enough of a pain in the ass without WSDOT breathing down your neck.
Good details, thanks Nathan.
Here is a reply post from Nextdoor comparing current and future bus ridership numbers on the eastside.
“It [ST’s original estimate for off Islanders accessing Mercer Island’s bus intercept under the optimal service configuration which equaled 20 articulated buses/peak hour on weekdays] went from an estimated 10,000 to 14,000 riders a day just to Mercer Island [total boardings] down to 91,000 for the whole month of October 2022 for the 550 bus daily ridership, 52,000 for the 554 bus daily ridership, so that is a total of 142,000 which is on average less than 4,800 daily trips a day, not the forecasted 10,000 to 14,000 daily ridership to Mercer Island’s bus intercept alone.
[Note the 554 will not access MI when East Link fully opens].
“As a comparison, in October 2019, there were 76,000 daily riders for the 554 and 156,000 daily rides for the 550 bus for a total of 232,000 daily riders, which equals a bit less than 7,500 total daily riders.
[Note both ridership on the 550 and 554 had declined quite a bit by 2019 when their routes were changed and the 550 was removed from the transit tunnel].
“And Metro’s 216 bus route averaged 247 daily ridership in October 2022 and 1001 in October 2019. It does not run on weekends.
A bit of irony in this ND post and the thread is many are realizing that off-peak bus frequency on MI going east will be 30 – 90 minutes. This is why I think that when East Link fully opens most riders from the greater Issaquah region will simply drive to a park and ride at S. Bellevue or MI to catch East Link to Seattle rather than risk a long wait for a bus on MI plus the bus to rail transfers in each direction, when the bus waiting area along N. Mercer Way is pretty bleak if your wait is 30 to 90 minutes.
The other realization this poster had (she works at Costco in Issaquah) is most of the buses running from MI to Issaquah don’t really access anything central as Issaquah’s TC is huge and spread out. Her bus trip to Issaquah was 15 minutes but the walk to Costco was 30 minutes. The bus routes as part of the bus intercept from MI once East Link fully opens are all geared toward park and rides, since the intercept was based on folks going FROM the greater Issaquah region to Seattle, and then back to a park and ride. I don’t know if any on this blog are familiar with intra-Issaquah/Sammamish/North Bend bus service, but it is not very good and even the town centers quite spread out. Intra bus service on MI is awful.
ST continues to estimate 43,000 to 52,000 riders/day on East Link by 2025, which it used to sell ST 2 in 2008, which ironically now is the opening date so not much build up time to reach those numbers. Even post pandemic most of us thought those estimates were highly inflated. Based on ridership on the 554, 550 and 216 today, which is probably ridership on East Link in 2025 if not high, I think 20,000 riders on East Link/weekdays will be lucky, and the intercept on MI closer to the original estimate of 3000 boardings/day. The real hub, if there is one, will be S. Bellevue.
What a waste of litigation over this issue based on inflated ridership estimates, compounded by a pandemic. One other fact the poster raised but not quoted above is ST built a station with two large entrances and roundabout including purchasing two residential lots along N. Mercer Way and restriping most of N. Mercer Way at great cost for an intercept that can handle 20 articulated buses/peak hour and up to 14,000 total daily boardings when those estimates are two to five times higher than actual folks who will board East Link on MI.
DT: I would agree that 43K-52K seems high. However, I think they may be including Marymoor with its large garage of 1400 spaces (2 one-way trips on Link for each used space). Also, there will be trips between Judkins Park and Downtown Seattle that will likely also add several thousand riders each day. If I was a betting man, I would probably guess about 25K-30K at this point once the Downtown Redmond segment opens along with the segment across the lake.
I think the biggest factor will actually be daily parking costs in Downtown Bellevue. If it’s $15/day Link will fill up, and if it’s $5/day Link will be much less used. Keep in mind that the forecasts include parking costs as an input assumption and that can easily make the forecasts very volatile in reality — even more than the 25% variation in the ST forecast.
Al, the 554, 550, 218 and 216 have around 5000 daily boardings among them today, and my guess is that will be the ridership along this cross-lake east-west-east route when East Link opens. That means the rest of the ridership will come mostly from intra-eastside ridership east of S. Bellevue P&R when the 554 accesses Bellevue Way directly with one seat. I just don’t see 20,000–25,000 eastside boardings per day in addition to the 5000 across the lake on the four buses today. East Link ridership was supposed to be all about the ridership across I-90.
Marymoor does have a large park and ride, but why would an eastsider park there? Where are they going? Microsoft has lots of onsite parking, and free shuttles. Most eastside areas have free parking.
The rub with parking costs in downtown Bellevue is if too high employees will demand to WFH, or at least part time, which is likely anyway. Look at how the work commuter has abandoned downtown Seattle. Those from the greater Issaquah area will catch the 554 directly to Bellevue Way.
Those north of 520 going to UW or Seattle will want to use 520. Amazon is reconfiguring its office towers for this new work pattern. Plus although the 554 accesses the Class A office space along Bellevue Way where high parking costs would be most likely East Link does not.
Unlike Seattle, parking is free and obvious in Bellevue for shoppers and visitors, and at night, so why drive to a park and ride to catch a train to go to 110th?
Based on its route, the demographic, density, need for transfers, and new work patterns I don’t think East Link will have higher ridership than the eastside buses it hopes to replace. Eastsiders just don’t take transit for fun.
Over the years ST has claimed high regional population growth, higher work commuting, TOD, upzoning, and just the difference between a bus and train despite the transfer would manufacture additional riders over the buses that currently serve the routes. I don’t think so, certainly not from the eastside to Seattle because that traveler continues to decline as evidenced by the buses that serve this route, and bus service and frequency on that route is pretty good today, as good as East Link will be without the transfer.
If you had told me in 2008, or the EIS in 2011, or in 2018 ridership on East Link would be around 20,000 daily riders I would have thought that was pretty good and pretty likely, based on bus ridership at that time. Maybe even 25,000. Today post pandemic 20,000 may be optimistic, but 2025 is so far off who knows.
So whatever total bus ridership is today along the routes East Link will replace — less the ridership on the 554 because it is one seat and directly accesses Bellevue Way — will be the daily ridership on East Link. I just don’t think many drivers will switch to transit because it is a train on a fixed route, and Martin’s research for WSBLE showed only 600 drivers/day would switch to light rail. Probably same on the eastside.
Of course, if ridership in the future really did spike from the greater Issaquah area to downtown Seattle, I would imagine those riders would want at least one express bus like the 216 and 218 with very few stops and one seat, like they demanded the 554 continue past S. Bellevue to Bellevue Way, with maybe a stop at SLU.
It’s still much better than the boondoggles of Everett Link, Tacoma Done Link and the 4 Line from Issaquah to South Kirkland. Everett is so bad that it appears that ST has removed the forecasts from the summary materials.
[East Link] is still much better than the boondoggles of Everett Link, Tacoma Done Link and the 4 Line from Issaquah to South Kirkland.
Much, much better. I’ve been one to temper the enthusiasm for East Link (it isn’t that good). But it is still pretty darn good. It is much better than the projects you mentioned as well as West Seattle Link. The only major ST3 project that could be better than East Link is Ballard Link, but the more that project evolves, the more it looks like a very bad value. The Ballard stop is moving away from Ballard, a lot of the stations are ridiculously deep, and the transfers look terrible. All that, and it will likely cost a fortune. Thus East Link may very well turn out to be much better than Ballard Link as well, making it better than every major project in ST3.
DT mixed pre and post Covid ridership. The ST Route 554 in ELC changed. The East Link ridership modeling was based on a Route 554 oriented to Mercer Island. Several years later, ST decided to use a revised Route 554 to serve the arterial portion of Route 550; there is loss aversion.
In 2018-2019, the ridership on routes 550 and 554 declined for several reasons: ST took out the center roadway on the bridge for Link construction; ST took out the D-2 roadway for Link construction; ST took out the South Bellevue P&R for Link construction; the county sold CPS to the WSCC, ending bus operation in the DSTT prematurely. Route 550 was about 10 minutes slower; it was less attractive. 2019 was a bad year for downtown Seattle transit.
The ELC Route 554 may not be optimal; it is several functions: filling the Route 550 arterial hole; connecting Issaquah and Bellevue; and, connecting Issaquah with Link. It may be better to split those functions among different routes. But the process did not consider that. Post Link, with the ELC network, eastbound Eastgate and Issaquah Highlands riders will have to choose where to alight Link, at MI or SB; the optimal choice may depend on walking, waiting, and directness of travel. The bilateral agreement between MI and ST has led to longer walks for the MI transfer; the SB transfer has out-of-direction travel and friction with the I-405 interchange.
Eventually, the transit market will recover; the SB and MI garages will fill early in the a.m. peaks, and the Eastgate garage and its service will be relevant.
“Eventually, the transit market will recover; the SB and MI garages will fill early in the a.m. peaks, and the Eastgate garage and its service will be relevant.”
Eddie, I think the current transit market, at least on the eastside, is the future transit market. I think bus ridership today is East Link ridership in 2025. The key metric is ridership on the 554 and 550 today, because the S. Bellevue park and ride is open, and there is very little congestion over I-90 to Seattle so the tunnel is not the issue except for safety.
Unemployment is at historic lows (although tech companies are beginning layoffs). Unless there is a forced return to office movement, and parking is cost prohibitive on the eastside, I don’t see why transit ridership — whether all bus or a mix of bus and light rail — will increase from today. I don’t see any major zoning changes. Population declined slightly in 2021. At best I see more Seattle employment and businesses moving to Bellevue, which really won’t involve MI as a bus intercept.
Where I agree with you is any transit increase will be seen at the park and rides first. I drove past the S. Bellevue Park and Ride yesterday around noon and it was nearly empty. So is the park and ride on MI. (I don’t know about Eastgate or Issaquah). If there is an increase in transit ridership — and basically East Link simply mimics current bus routes except with a transfer in some cases — it will start at the park and rides because that is how eastsiders tend to get to transit. Eastsiders won’t give up their cars because East Link opens.
The route of the 554 in the eastside transit restructure took many of us on MI by pleasant surprise, but Bellevue and Issaquah almost always wait until the last second to make up their minds because they can, and commuting had changed. (The reality is Bellevue originally thought the MI intercept would serve riders from Renton and areas south of I-90).
Issaquah and Bellevue decided they wanted Issaquah workers (including Snoqualmie, North Bend, and Sammamish) to have a one seat bus ride to Bellevue Way where the class A office space and retail is. The 554 will still drop off riders from these huge park and rides at S. Bellevue to catch East Link to Seattle or maybe Microsoft, but most of those folks going to Seattle will drive to MI or S. Bellevue to access the park and ride (unless they fill early), although MI has terrible bus frequency back east in non-peak times, and not so great frequency during peak hours if you are going back to a specific park and ride. To say all buses leaving MI go to Issaquah misses how large Issaquah is, and once there someone still has to get home (in a car).
People — at least on the eastside — don’t decide to use transit because of mode. They use transit because they absolutely have to, which is mostly in downtown Seattle due to parking costs and traffic congestion pre-pandemic. If transit ridership is going to increase on the eastside downtown Seattle employment will have to improve, and eastside workers will need to be forced to commute to the office rather than WFH or find a job on the eastside when so many large employers now have offices on the eastside and can’t even get eastside workers to go to eastside offices.
East Link will get built and eventually open. It will mainly serve people who ride the bus today, albeit with a transfer in some cases, although more buses like the 554 may go to the ultimate destination to maintain a one seat ride. Very few eastsiders will voluntarily switch from cars to transit, so ridership on buses today is ridership on East Link in 2025, unless WFH gains so ridership declines, or somehow eastside workers are forced back to offices in Seattle and that isn’t going to happen because it is too late.
“Where I agree with you is any transit increase will be seen at the park and rides first.”
That doesn’t match my experience on the 255. Ridership recovery from pandemic lows began first in downtown Kirkland from people walking to the bus, then at South Kirkland park and ride, from people driving to it. Not the other hand at around.
“Where I agree with you is any transit increase will be seen at the park and rides first.”
“That doesn’t match my experience on the 255. Ridership recovery from pandemic lows began first in downtown Kirkland from people walking to the bus, then at South Kirkland park and ride, from people driving to it. Not the other hand at around.”
I was referring to routes along I-90 that don’t originate or really access any downtown cores and mostly rely on park and rides. I can’t really respond to your anecdotal observation.
Ridership on the 255 is still so low compared to 2019 — down around 300% — (although ticking up but very little since Nov. 2021) my guess is returning riders are not work commuters who would use the park and ride. https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/about/accountability-center/rider-dashboard.aspx My guess is the riders are either going to the UW or intra-eastside since the 255 terminates in the UW area. Where the lost 2/3’s of 255 riders went since 2019 I don’t know, and whether they will ever return.
At least pre-pandemic along the I-90 route the park and rides filled very early as there is very little alternative first/last mile access, and they are mostly empty today because the work commuter has not returned along this route, mostly to downtown Seattle. If in office work returned in Seattle I would expect to the see the park and rides fill first, since that is about the best and only first/last mile access to the buses going east/west across I-90, which is probably why the park and rides are so large.
I didn’t mean to imply that ridership has returned to 2019 levels – it hasn’t. But the charts show it has increased from 2020 to 2021 and again from 2021 to 2022, a fact that is consistent with my anecdotal observations. One thing that is annoying about this chart is that it only shows weekday boardings; I don’t see any way to view ridership trends on weekends.
My trips have been a mixture of weekday afternoon westbound, weekday evening eastbound, weekend morning westbound, and weekend afternoon eastbound. I do not normally experience the typical “peak” commute in the peak direction, so I can’t comment on that. But, I can say on the trips I have ridden on that back in 2020 and 2021, the bus would very often pass through South Kirkland park and ride with nobody getting on or off, and what few other passengers there were using other stops. Today, South Kirkland park and ride typically does get some use, but nowhere near 2019 levels. Maybe 3-5 people per trip.
“Highlands riders will have to choose where to alight Link, at MI or SB”
South Bellevue of course. The 554 will run every 15 minutes, and the 208’s successor every 30 minutes. You don’t want to get off at Mercer Island and find out no bus will come for 30 minutes.
“The key metric is ridership on the 554 and 550 today”
No, because the future 554 will be a route that has never existed before. I predict a 554 to Bellevue will be popular, because Eastsiders want to travel to other Eastside cities, and the governments want to encourage people to stay on their own side of the lake more.
Do you understand how bad transit from Issaquah to Bellevue is now? The 556 is peak only. The 271 takes 48 minutes. The 271 starts at the Issaquah transit center, which is on the western edge of Issaquah in the middle of nowhere. In the evenings it’s hourly, And there seems to be a discrepency in the online schedule vs the schedule at Bellevue Transit Center. The latter says the 271 is hourly on Sundays and has a 90-minute gap in the evening. I’ve been there and not seen a bus going to the U-District in the other half hour, so the schedule at the transit center seems to be accurate. If you’re coming from central Issaquah or the Highlands, there is no 271 so you have to take the 554. I’ve found it can be better to take the 554 to Mercer Island and the 550 back to Bellevue than to take the 271. So transit from Issaquah sucks, and adding normal service to Bellevue will be popular.
Mike raises a point I have raised: bus frequency from MI eastbound when East Link opens will be so poor S. Bellevue will be the real intercept hub. But rather than take the 554 from S. Bellevue folks from Issaquah will drive to the park and ride at S. Bellevue or MI and have no transfer wait and a straight shot home on I-90.
What I tried to say is TOTAL transit ridership on the Eastside when East Link opens (train + buses) will about the same as today (buses + buses). I don’t know what the split will be.
I agree the 554 will be more popular than East Link if someone from the greater Issaquah region is going to Bellevue Way because it is one seat and actually goes to Bellevue Way. But I doubt ridership will be strong on the 554 because bus ridership from that HUGE area covering North Bend, Snoqualmie, Sammamish and Issaquah is weak because the residents are transit averse because transit is hard to get to and rarely goes where someone needs to go (unless to downtown Seattle and they don’t need to go there anymore). Maybe transit doesn’t need to be door to door but it needs to go to at least one door, and that was downtown Seattle.
Eastsiders ride transit because they have to. Since they own cars it is either expensive parking or congestion that makes them take transit, and that was working in downtown Seattle which few do anymore.
I’ve done Issaquah to Bellevue by transit before. The 271 is so slow, even two-seat bus options, such as 554->240 or 554->550 beat it. Going all the way to the U-district, the 271 performs even worse, with the 554->Link two-seat riding beating it by a whopping 20-30 minutes.
Any time a one-seat ride loses on travel time to two-seat ride alternatives, that is usually a sign that the bus that does the one-seat ride is too slow, too loopy, and too long. Which is, no doubt, why the proposed East Link service restructure finally breaks this route up.
FWIW, I’d wager the Highlands would prefer a 1-seat ride to MI over SB, if it means the 219 comes back, or something comparable, as the 554 through the Issaquah valley is a long slog for Highland riders during rush hour. Will probably need to wait until the 554 demonstrates that it is crush loaded during peak, but the 219 was a great express route – truly crush loaded, pre-COVID I’ve been left on the curb at Eastgate FW station several times unable to board that bus, and post-East Link much cheaper to run.
” I’d wager the Highlands would prefer a 1-seat ride to MI over SB, if it means the 219 comes back, or something comparable, as the 554 through the Issaquah valley is a long slog for Highland riders during rush hour. Will probably need to wait until the 554 demonstrates that it is crush loaded during peak…”
The 208’s successor would do that in Metro’s last restructure proposal, at least with a 218 routing. (I’ve only ridden the 218, so I don’t know what the 219 did differently.) The 208’s successor is proposed to start at Mercer Island and run express to Eastgate P&R and Issaquah Highlands P&R every 30 minutes, then every third bus would continue to North Bend (90-minute frequency).
“The 208’s successor would do that in Metro’s last restructure proposal, at least with a 218 routing. (I’ve only ridden the 218, so I don’t know what the 219 did differently.) The 208’s successor is proposed to start at Mercer Island and run express to Eastgate P&R and Issaquah Highlands P&R every 30 minutes, then every third bus would continue to North Bend (90-minute frequency).”
Can you imagine standing on N. Mercer Way in the dark and cold for 30 minutes waiting for a bus back to Issaquah (90 minutes to N. Bend) when there is a park and ride across the street, and one stop down the road in basically the same direction there is a 1500 stall park and ride? ST is absolutely clueless about suburbia.
The 208’s successor ] [the 215] is proposed to start at Mercer Island and run express to Eastgate P&R and Issaquah Highlands P&R every 30 minutes, then every third bus would continue to North Bend (90-minute frequency).
There is also the 269, which runs express to to Eastgate P&R and Issaquah Highlands P&R and then heads north, to Redmond. Presumably it will run opposite the 215, which means that Issaquah Highlands will get 15 minute combined headways to Mercer Island. They will also have the 554 to South Bellevue (and downtown Bellevue) which will run every 10 to 15 minutes in the middle of the day. Thus the trip into Seattle will be quite frequent, with around 8 to 10 buses an hour. Coming back, riders have to choose one or the other, with 15 minute frequency. During peak buses will be even more frequent.
Daniel, um, er ah, nothing physical or eventful can be “down 300%”. It would disappear and be twice as non-existent as it formerly was existent.
I think you mean “down 75%” [if 1/4 of the ridership persisted] or “down 67%” if 1/3. Percentages of natural events don’t “go negative”.
Once you’re already in a car, there is really no reason not to just keep on driving, at least to south Bellevue station, other than the possibility of the parking lot being full and the cost of gas. A full parking lot, if an issue at all, would be confined to weekdays during the late morning or midday. The price of gas becomes a non issue once the cars get electrified. A drive today in an EV from Sammamish to South Bellevue, charging at home, costs about 80 cents, round trip. With frequent bus service, the time penalty of catching the bus further back may not be huge, but even just a few minutes is enough to make the decision when parking at the Link station is available and free.
Or course, you still have to run buses to Issaquah and Sammamish, regardless. Not everybody has a car, even though some people may think so, and of course, the south Bellevue parking garage does not good for people traveling in the reverse direction, such as someone commuting from Seattle to Bellevue College.
But, when all is said and done, I doubt the ridership will be there to justify 4-6 trips per hour between Link and Issaquah, all day long. Especially when bus driver pay inevitably skyrockets to counteract the bus driver shortage.
I agree asdf2. But I don’t really see the problem. The point is East Link, especially to downtown Seattle. Who cares if an eastsider drives to the huge park and rides to catch East Link. That is why they built them, so folks do ride East Link.
I don’t think the cost of the drive even in a gas-powered car has any relevance. Instead, the reasons folks will drive to S. Bellevue are: 1. to avoid the uncertainty of a transfer wait; 2. to avoid more public transit and or delay that still will take you to your car in a park and ride in Issaquah; and 3. many work commuters don’t go straight home. They pick up kids, groceries, dry cleaning, meet for a drink, pick up a spouse, and so on. You can do well in downtown Seattle without a car. Once you get to the eastside and S. Bellevue station you need a car to do anything because the area is just to undense and too big. Just compare the “density” at S. Bellevue with downtown Seattle.
The 554 will depend on the number of riders going to downtown Bellevue (Bellevue Way), not S. Bellevue. Anyone taking East Link to Seattle will drive to the park and ride either on MI or S. Bellevue. Ideally ST has a dashboard showing which park and ride has open stalls, IF the commuter to downtown Seattle returns. Today MI and S. Bellevue Park and rides are empty.
There’s never going to be an ST4 is there.
The current cost estimates that ST3 will be unable to afford building the later ST3 projects.
To me, the question becomes if ST will figure out ways to extend ST3, create an “ST4” to fund ST3 with supplemental funds like a Seattle-only method, or pray that Bezos or Gates leaves some of their estate to Sound Transit. The obvious choice to rethink the ST3 projects to save billions seems off the table unless a huge paradigm shift happens..
“As for scaling ST3 back, urbanists suggest truncating Link at Federal Way and Lynnwood-or-Ash-Way-or-Mariner, deleting the Issaquah line, and replacing those with BRT or frequent ST Express. Suburbanists reply, “Of course you think that. And it’s not your subarea.”
I consider myself an urbanist, and could not disagree more. I want more light rail focus outside of Seattle, and less of a focus inside it. Link has an opportunity to bring the benefits of urbanism to more people and areas with fewer stops, longer routes, and faster travel speed. It makes those who wring their hands about riders and dollars per mile furious, but in the end it is better for the region as a whole.
In the end ST and Link are a regional system, not a single city system. Its whole point is to grab high hanging suburban fruit and turn it into low hanging urbanist fruit. When you truncate and infill lines, you destroy ST/Link’s very purpose for existing.
“high hanging suburban fruit and turn it into low hanging urbanist fruit.” I like that! Good turn of phrase to capture the transformative vision of ST2 & 3. Seattle seeks to improve the quality of transit to existing urban neighborhood, but most of the rest of the region is trying to leverage ST to create and/or grow urban neighborhoods.
“As for scaling ST3 back, urbanists suggest truncating Link at Federal Way and Lynnwood-or-Ash-Way-or-Mariner, deleting the Issaquah line, and replacing those with BRT or frequent ST Express. Suburbanists reply, “Of course you think that. And it’s not your subarea.”
Throw in WSBLE and call me an urbanist, although IMO West Seattle and Ballard are suburbs.
Really, the urbanists on this blog mostly oppose WSBLE. It is just bad transit for the dollar, as are TDLE and Everett Link and Issaquah Link. It really doesn’t matter what subarea you are in, bad transit for the dollar is bad transit for the dollar. You need RIDERSHIP to validate the cost of light rail. Mode for mode’s sake is people spending other people’s money.
With due respect to A Joy, and I always appreciate her view, the very high cost of light rail that comes from a fixed total budget for transit makes Link usually a poor decision for “suburbia” (which is a generous term for much of the spine). I thought the same thing Ross did when AJ supported TDLE by referencing Fife, a city of 10,000+ that has grown by 1000 residents in the last 10 years and whose main business is freight forwarding and a casino. You don’t build light rail for Fife, and basically Fife is emblematic of what is between Tacoma and SeaTac (and Seattle). More than anything it is the “in between” that is so wasteful in the spine.
I like Mike’s distinction between equity and equality. Subarea equity might seem like a poor term, but it was the non-N. King Co. subareas that demanded it, none more so than Pierce Co. Cam makes a terrible mistake by thinking that without subarea equity all the revenue on the eastside would flow to Pierce or SnoCo. It would flow to DSTT2 and WSBLE and who knows what other massively expensive and gold-plated Link projects in N. King Co., while East Link is the paragon of fiscal responsibility: $5.5 billion from downtown Seattle to Bellevue to Microsoft to Redmond while doubling frequency from CID to Lynnwood. I have no doubt that the $600 million/year in ST tax revenue the eastside subarea will realize after Redmond Link is completed through 2044 will somehow find itself to other subareas, because it does today, mostly N. King. Balducci long ago stopped representing the eastside in her quest to succeed Dow.
My opposition to DSTT2 isn’t about suburban/urban, or the eastside subarea. I think DSTT2 is exactly why the four other subareas demanded subarea equity. Pierce, S. King. and SnoCo should not be paying 1/2 of a $4.2 billion tunnel they will get very little use out of. Calling it a “shared regional facility” is the sort of dishonesty subarea equity was supposed to prevent, or Dow tipping the scales for his home neighborhood. Yes, DSTT2 is terrible transit, but it should be N. King’s terrible waste, not the entire subarea’s.
The main problem with people spending other people’s money is they usually spend it unwisely. That is essentially the definition of a progressive.
Housing, transit, you name it. The hope was subarea equity would produce the best routes for the subarea and their income, except ST assumed communities valued Link over the character of their community, and some kind of fiscal responsibility, and lied to the subareas about future ST revenue and project costs.
I agree subareas like Tacoma and SnoCo should decide what route and mode they want with their ST revenue, considering they are paying for it. I think it is a crime ST sold these subareas on such dishonest project cost estimates that they now realize make the final runs of Link to SOMEWHERE (Tacoma and Everett) too expensive because they spent all their money building Link to the in between areas.
Actually S. King, SnoCo and Pierce (and East) Link are pretty fiscally responsible, with surface lines and above ground stations. It is just that Pierce, SnoCo and S. King Counties are poor, and way too rural to spend the kind of money they are on Link. ST sold these subareas on the dream that somehow Link would make them urban, hip, important, Bellevue, when they didn’t have the money for such foolish dreams and Bellevue decided Link was not important to its fututre, even though it could afford it.
“high hanging suburban fruit and turn it into low hanging urbanist fruit.”
“I like that! Good turn of phrase to capture the transformative vision of ST2 & 3. Seattle seeks to improve the quality of transit to existing urban neighborhood, but most of the rest of the region is trying to leverage ST to create and/or grow urban neighborhoods.”
That is a very interesting comment AJ. Seattle (N. King Co.) has always viewed Link as a way for work commuters to get to and from downtown Seattle which is why all Link runs through downtown Seattle including two tunnels, which pre-pandemic made sense. That is why N. King spent so much money running Link to SnoCo and S. King, which were too poor and undense to pay for it themselves (and probably still are to complete their portion of Link which naturally aggrieves them).
The other subareas including East King saw Link — at least at the time — as a way to become Seattle, or to just gentrify their urban cores, not unlike areas such as Lynnwood and Shoreline accepting higher than legally required GMPC housing growth targets. They didn’t want a hub and spoke Link serving the almighty downtown Seattle. Suddenly everyone thought they could become Bellevue, and Link would help do that.
Unfortunately, some funny things happened along the way.
First a pandemic made commuting to downtown Seattle no longer a priority. Oops. Plus Seattle’s City Council, according to Kemper Freeman, handed Bellevue the greatest Christmas gift ever, except downtown Bellevue snubbed Link.
Then the subareas like SnoCo and Pierce that had been waiting for decades for “transformative” Link discovered ST had sold them a false vision they could never afford. So now after decades Link will likely truncate at Lynnwood and Federal Way, which would be like truncating Central Link at Sodo from the south and Northgate from the north. We spent a fortune on the areas in between.
Then N. King realized ST had sold it a bill of goods, and basically its VERY expensive plans for intra-urban Link were basically over. In reality most of Seattle is not “urban”, and worse is accessed over water, and like Bellevue those neighborhoods don’t see Link as “transformative” so naturally want it buried. There is a subway from Northgate to Sodo which is good if VERY expensive, surface Link south of Sodo, and that is it for Seattle. RR I suppose from Madison Park. Not really transformative, say like a pandemic is.
Transit is never “transformative”. Basically it follows where and how people want to work and live. If enough people have decided to work or live in an area, and have to ride transit because of the density, then subways and light rail can make fiscal sense. But they always ride transit because they have to. If they suddenly don’t have to, like on the eastside, they don’t, and people change their minds quickly.
Usually very few areas are “urban” enough to have the ridership to validate the extreme costs of light rail, especially underground, and someone had to be on LSD to look at the size, demographic, and density of S. King, SnoCo and Pierce (and most of East King) counties and think yes, this is where the cost of light rail makes sense, or suddenly these folks will want to live in TOD along a freeway without a car or truck. At the same time someone had to be on LSD to think yes, let’s run Link over water to West Seattle and Ballard, and through a second tunnel that magically will cost 1/2 the viaduct tunnel, and the subareas that were too poor to run surface link to Seattle will pay 1/2.
ST was always an urban organization, and arrogant, which is why it f#$ked up so badly once it got to suburban areas, including suburban areas in N. King. Speck and his urban planners from new urbanist planning programs with their newly minted degrees thought they could change suburban and rural America without understanding it one tiny bit, and understood money even less.
“S. King, SnoCo and Pierce (and East) Link are pretty fiscally responsible, with surface lines and above ground stations”
Those are mostly elevated. The only surface segments I’m aware of are SODO, MLK, parts between Spring District and Redmond, somewhere in Shoreline, and somewhere around Kent.
There are two definitions of surface. Usually we mean “level crossings” because those slow down trains. But it can also be on the ground in freeway right of way and leverage existing underpasses/overpasses. SODO, MLK, and Bellevue/Redmond are subject to level crossings. Shoreline and Kent aren’t. As far as I know Snohomish and Pierce are all elevated. There may be parts of them on the ground.
And the reason Bellevue/Redmond has level crossings is the City of Bellevue wanted that downtown tunnel and asked ST to economize elsewhere for it.
“And the reason Bellevue/Redmond has level crossings is the City of “Bellevue wanted that downtown tunnel and asked ST to economize elsewhere for it.”
I never understood why ST needed to economize on East Link (maybe debt ceiling), and am not sure about Bellevue asking ST to economize in other areas of East Link due to its tunnel. Bellevue paid $150 million and the subarea (which is mostly Bellevue) paid $150 million, and ST opposed it. Pretty chump change in that subarea.
This is a subarea that in 2023 will have over $600 million/year in ST tax revenue, and around $600 million in total subarea debt when Redmond Link is done, if that. After one year the eastside subarea will be net even, with $600 million in revenue every year after that for 20 years. I don’t know who was at fault, but I will never understand why the subarea and ST did not fund a route and tunnel closer to Bellevue Way, say 102nd or even 104th. Let’s face it, after downtown Bellevue (Bellevue Way from Main to NE 8th) East Link is a whole lot of suburbia or car lots or big box stores, not something you take Link to.
If you understand anything about Bellevue you knew there was absolutely no way Bellevue would accept anything other than a full-length tunnel along/under Bellevue Way if that is what Seattle got, especially since ST was forcing Bellevue to pay for a chunk of DSTT2. I think ST thought Bellevue and the eastside are just suburbia, whereas Seattle is “urban”.
When I think Roosevelt of all neighborhoods got tunnels from UW to Northgate, not exactly the cream of the crop of Seattle neighborhoods at either end, and downtown Bellevue (at least Bellevue Way) did not — when the subareas now have the same subarea tax revenue and the eastside does not have to build WSBLE — it blows me away. And now Ballard and West Seattle are demanding tunnels, but not downtown Bellevue. Go figure. Will West Seattle and Ballard be ponying up $300 million each for their tunnels? Hell no.
I suppose a dedicated shuttle from the Main St. station straight up to Bellevue Way and then looping down to Main and back again might work, but I wouldn’t suggest such a concept say for downtown Seattle. My guess is with the situation in Seattle, and the lack of fare enforcement on Link, those like Freeman are glad East Link runs along 112th, but that is more of an indictment on ST rather than Bellevue.
Not having East Link access Bellevue Way basically guts East Link, unless you think The Spring Dist. will grow up in 25 years. But Link does access Roosevelt and Northgate, underground. No skimping there. And I am guessing Roosevelt and Northgate didn’t have to pay anything for their tunnels and underground stations.
Link has an opportunity to bring the benefits of urbanism to more people and areas with fewer stops, longer routes, and faster travel speed.
Except, of course, when it doesn’t. As has been pointed out, many of these trips will be significantly slower than before, with a lot more stops and transfers.
In the end ST and Link are a regional system, not a single city system. Its whole point is to grab high hanging suburban fruit and turn it into low hanging urbanist fruit. When you truncate and infill lines, you destroy ST/Link’s very purpose for existing.
I’m not sure exactly what you are saying. We are supposed to ignore urban areas like First Hill and downtown Tacoma, while we hope that Fife becomes more urban? Somehow Link will create new “urban areas” in the distant suburbs, next to the freeway, with gigantic park and ride lots? Sorry, but that type of thing has been tried before (many times). It always fails.
More to the point, if we are focused on a regional transit system, spending billions on trains that will never be close to full (outside the urban core) is a really bad idea. You do what has been done the world over: run more buses, and leverage existing rail lines. That’s it. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but it actually works.
That’s the worst part about this. This isn’t urban versus suburban. Both are getting hosed. Both are getting much worse transit than they would if they simply followed a conventional approach. We could build a pretty good rail system for the city (along with the inner suburbs) AND build a very good bus network for the more distant suburbs. This would allow easy regional travel for the vast majority of trips. But instead we are focused on “the spine”, and other wasteful projects (which are not limited to the suburbs — I’m looking at you West Seattle). As a result, we will continue to see lots of people driving. Not because they want to, but because transit just doesn’t meet their needs.
“ I never understood why ST needed to economize on East Link (maybe debt ceiling), and am not sure about Bellevue asking ST to economize in other areas of East Link due to its tunnel. ”
It is a timing thing, DT. The decision to go at surface in the Spring District happened before the ST3 measure passed. It’s why it originally stopped at Microsoft. ST3 made everyone giddily flush with taxpayer money.
Groundbreaking for East Link was April 22, 2026. A 2025 opening means that the project took 9 years. Keep in mind that was after final EIS, FTA funds and lawsuits were all resolved. Applying that 9 year wait just for construction to upcoming projects Is why I don’t see things like WS and TD before the mid 2030’s, and projects like DSTT2 with Ballard and Everett any sooner than 2040.
Jeebus, Daniel, WHO do you think sits on the ST Board? There are FOUR — count ’em, FOUR — members who represent Seattle or who live there, Dow Constantine, Bruce Harrell, Deborah Juarez, and Joe McDermott.
All of them are, to the best of my knowledge, lifelong Puget Sound residents. They know that Bellevue is a “real city”, though of course, the rest of the eastside is indeed “suburbia”.
[don’t feed the trolls]
“Link tunneled to Northgate” is a long way. I understand why Link is tunneled from CID to Westlake. There was already a tunnel there, but I still don’t think DSTT2 is good transit or a good investment for the subarea.
From Westlake to Capitol Hill — as you have explained — needed a tunnel due to the hill. From Capitol Hill to UW needed to pass under Volunteer Park and the Cut. From UW station to 42nd and Brooklyn the route had to pass under the campus.
But we are not talking about that part of Central/Northgate Link, are we? What geological reasons are there between 42nd and Brooklyn to Northgate that Link must be tunneled? After all, Link did not need tunnels south of Sodo, and the geology looks pretty similar to me, although the residents don’t.
As Mike has noted before, much if not most of Northgate Link was originally designed to run above ground. It was later decided to place it underground, probably so the Roosevelt neighborhood would accept it. Think of that: one station between 42nd and Northgate, and the entire line is underground. That must be a subarea with a lot of excess money (which it is once WSBLE is abandoned).
Even though this area of Seattle is what I would call quasi-urban, I agree that if a subarea has the funding building subways in areas like this, although discretionary and much more expensive, makes a neighborhood more likely to accept a Link station and line, and actually builds Link to where the people ARE NOW.
This is why I told you long ago Ballard and West Seattle would demand tunnels and underground stations, when you thought each would accept “the bitter ale” of surface lines and stations, probably because you are not familiar with SEPA or politics. I didn’t say you were stupid or a sophisticated troll, just naive. And lo and behold, Ballard which has a lot of industrial land far from the center has indicated that if Link is above ground it will travel through the industrial area, just like Bellevue shunted East Link to 112th. West Seattle that has little industrial land for a surface line and station so is not offering a surface line or station, and has Dow.
It is you who has a real animosity towards the eastside, and sees this terrible competition between subareas despite subarea equity. The point I was trying to make — the same point I have made about Ballard and West Seattle — is that on the East Link route there are maybe three places, pre-pandemic, that makes sense for light rail: 1. downtown Bellevue (Bellevue Way); 2. Microsoft; and 3. downtown Redmond. The rest is in between nothingness, although the eastside likes nothingness. Once ST insisted on an above ground line through downtown Bellevue it got shunted to 112th.
I always like Ross’s approach to light rail: build it where the people want to live and work, for whatever reasons. Don’t hope that areas like The Spring Dist. will suddenly replicate Bellevue Way. Because guess what: density and jobs follow density and jobs. People will simply change modes to get to the density and jobs.
Now we see in–office employment at Microsoft way down, and we are seeing in the commercial office space a flight from Class B and C buildings to the very top-Class A (which I must admit I did not see but Ross predicted). Bellevue Way grows stronger, while areas like The Spring Dist. and Wilburton haven’t even gotten started with class B and C office space that is falling out of favor. Class A is about newness, but even more about location. Yes, the 554 serves this Class A office space, but not East Link. See an error in that?
Al actually posts something that was insightful. He noted that the reasons ST may have skimped on East Link is because it did not know in 2015-16 what a tax revenue juggernaut the eastside would become, and the excess revenue from ST 3. Still, just like Roosevelt I think there was time for Bellevue and ST to find an underground solution much closer to Bellevue Way, which would have required a tunnel much shorter than 42nd to Northgate through some of the most vibrant and expensive land in the region (maybe today THE most expensive, and a zillion times more valuable than Roosevelt), except ST was very heavy handed with Bellevue, which is exactly the wrong approach to use with Bellevue. But then ST has never understood the eastside or suburbia, so it badly hurt East Link, forever.
I don’t begrudge or disagree with Roosevelt getting a very long tunnel to Northgate, but if you know anything about Seattle you know West Seattle and Ballard feel they are far superior neighborhoods, and so deserve tunnels too, and I agree if the subarea has the money (which unfortunately it does not).
But by skipping Bellevue Way, along with the reduction in commuting to Microsoft and softening of the commercial office building market, East Link when it finally opens will have one destination: downtown Redmond, which is nice but at the faaaaaar end of the eastside, never even part of ST 2, and pretty much like every other eastside city from Issaquah to S. Kirkland.
What will eastsiders do? What they have always done: drive to downtown Bellevue, where most of us drive to if we have to leave our own eastside cities, or take a one seat bus like the 554. The vibrant Class A areas won’t change because Link does not serve them: people will just choose a different mode to get there.
Am I jealous of Roosevelt? Of course not (and I lived in that neighborhood for many years when young). But is seems such a massive error for a subarea that will have $600 million/year in subarea revenue with almost no place to spend it (if light rail) when the one place it does not serve is downtown Bellevue. Imagine if DSTT1 ran along the eastside of I-5 with a shuttle to downtown and Westlake? Imagine spending $4.5 billion (which no doubt will be closer to $9 billion just based on the distance) to run Link from Issaquah to 112th, not even downtown Bellevue. What is wrong with that picture? That is what I was trying to say is stupid.
“I think ST thought Bellevue and the eastside are just suburbia, whereas Seattle is “urban”.”
“Urban” and “suburban” have multiple contradictory definitions. I call the Eastside “just suburbia” because I get exacerbated at its refusal to make it walkable. But I wouldn’t expect ST or government officials to do that. Who do you think ST is? 85% of the boardmembers are suburban politicians. Even if you subtract the county ones who have a Seattle office (but still aren’t urbanists) it’s still 70% suburban. Are you saying those suburban politicans think the Eastside is “just suburban”? If they thought that, Link would be on Bellevue Way, and there would be no Issaquah-South Kirkland line.
I wouldn’t call Downtown Bellevue “suburban”. It not only has tall office buildings and high daily parking costs, but the residential density on many blocks rivals Manhattan.
It it’s a technical definition that someone wants, I would suggest using the number of trip ends per acre plus some cost or restriction to parking. There are suburban areas in Seattle and urban ones in Bellevue.
The reality is Seattle is 70% suburban (the eastside closer to 80% or 85%). Just check out a population and zoning map for Seattle. If Seattle were more urban it wouldn’t have one Link station between 42nd and Northgate (60 blocks) when the line is underground.
Well, Daniel, the station is between 44th and 45th directly adjacent to Brooklyn on a north-south heading. Brooklyn is “13th NE” with a name o n which people prefer. The original plan was to diagonal northwest to about 60th and a portal in the freeway right-of-way, with an elevated station across 65th at Eighth NE. The alignment was to have continued north in the freeway right-of-way all the way to Northgate Station, with a short tunnel section under the Lake City Way interchange.
However, after the bids on the tunnels between the connection to the existing DSTT bus tunnel and Husky Stadium Station came in lower than estimated and WSDOT expressed misgivings that the short and shallow tunnel section under the interchange might destabilize the old highway supports, it was decided to extend the tunneling all the way to 92nd where the portal was built. Since the TBM’s could take any path between I-5 and the Ravenna Gorge, it was decided to place the Roosevelt Station adjacent to 12th to get it closer to the activity center.
It wasn’t the cabal of corrupt urbanistas your bigoted mind so automatically conjures (doubtless through projection) that made the decision in order to enrich your second favorite boogey-man, “developers”. It was an engineering decision to avoid a vulnerable portion of the freeway and simplify the inevitable rebuilding that will have to occur there sometime in the foreseeable future.
These are widely and publicly understood facts of which you have been reminded perhaps not “at least fifteen times” but easily a half dozen. I know because I have reminded you that many times myself as have a couple of other commenters.
Now, I do not claim to know why the U-District Station was not aligned east-west with a portal south of 60th. It probably has something to do with the complicated braided interchanges at 45th and 50th and I-5. It would have been very difficult to weave a pair of rail tracks through there, though it certainly would have shortened the section of necessary tunnel.
This whole issue is your version of “The Big Lie”. If you don’t just stop it, we should all start addressing you as “Donald”, rather than by your name.
And screw you about my “real animosity toward the eastside”. I happen to believe that East Link will be much more successful than you do, simply because the companies that it will serve directly — Amazon and Microsoft — are very likely to survive and prosper, so it’s the one planned line that I think should be completed as planned.. I’m cancel even planning studies on the idiotic South Kirkland-Issaquah idiocy.
So, is my “animosity” because I am willing to point out the pomposity of bloviators who prop up indignant strawman arguments supposedly protecting BIPOC folks who in actuality they steamroller daily?
The board has not mused on when an ST4 might be or what it might contain. When ST3 was expanded 40%, it added things that were previously expected in ST4 (Ash Way-Everett, Ballard Link in addition to West Seattle Link). The suburbs’ stated goal since the 1990s is a Spine between Everett Station, Tacoma Dome, and Redmond Downtown. ST3 includes all of that now. Seattle hasn’t articulated what it might want after WSBLE. The purpose of expanding ST3 was to get enough votes to pass and to avoid going though a second vote and uncertainty. (Many transit fans said they wouldn’t vote for ST3 if Ballard Link weren’t included, and the suburbs said they wouldn’t vote for it unless the Spine was completed.) ST3 contains 25 years of planning/construction (now extended to 34 years) — that’s an entire generation. With so much on their plate now they’re leaving it to the next generation to decide on ST4.
There are a few preliminary expectations for ST4. Pierce asked for an extension to Tacoma Mall. Snohomish asked for an extension to downtown Everett and Everett College. Both said those are the final endpoints for the Spine. Those are both short inexpensive extensions, so smaller than previous phases if those subareas ask for nothing else. ST3 includes studies for a few potential projects in ST4 — I don’t know what those are offhand. East King, South King, and North King have not articulated what they might want in another large phase.
There are some other projects that have been studied but not yet built. A West Seattle extension to Burien and Renton. A 45th line from Ballard to UW. And some preliminary looks at an extension of the Issaquah line to downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake, or a line from UW to Kirkland, or from UW to Bothell and Kirkland, or a Boeing Access Road Sounder station. It’s unclear whether there would be much enthusiasm for those in an ST4 package. If not, then what else?
Transit fans have some suggestions, but none that the board and cities have acknowledged. A “Metro 8” line from Uptown to Capitol Hill or First Hill and Garfield High School. A line connecting Rainier Valley and Renton. Eliminating level crossings on MLK. Extending the Ballard line to 85th, Northgate, or Bothell. I’ve suggested Stride on Puyallup-Auburn-Kent-Renton (transferring to Stride 1: Burien-Renton-Bellevue). ST could complete the remaining three Swift lines in Community Transit’s long-range plan, and a few more Stream lines in Pierce County. ST’s long-range plan has possible BRT on Aurora; we could pursue that. Metro has a dozen RapidRide lines that don’t have funding yet, such as K (Totem Lake-Kirkland-Bellevue-Eastgate), R (Rainier), B/271 (Crossroads-UDistrict), B/245 (Redmond-Crossroads-Eastgate), 40, 44, 48, 62, 240, 372, etc. ST has contributed to SDOT/Metro before, such as the First Hill Streetcar, RapidRide G (Madison), and pending RapidRide C and D improvements, so there is a precedent.
So there’s a lot of things an ST4 could do. But no indication from the board or cities or counties on when it might be, what it might contain, or how large it might be. Everyone is busy completing ST 2 and 3.
If the suburbs go small, with Pierce only wanting the Tacoma Mall extension, Snohomish only the Everett College extension, East King nothing, South King nothing, then North King wouldn’t have money for a full-sized line. Would West Seattle-Burien go to the head of the line because it’s two subareas? Would that crowd out anything better in Seattle?
There have also been unofficial speculations that ST might go back to the voters to add money to ST3, scale it back, or modify it. I wouldn’t call that ST4; I’d call it ST 3.1. Even if it’s named ST4 it’s not a phase like the typical ones. We are paying the equivalent of ST1+ST2+ST3 taxes to complete ST3, so any supplement would go on top of that. Voters may be near the limit of an acceptable tax rate. And the disappointments of lower late-pandemic ridership, generally rising costs, the deep downtown transfer stations, the un-urban Ballard 14th alternative, the CID station controversy, may make voters unenthusiastic.
As for scaling ST3 back, urbanists suggest truncating Link at Federal Way and Lynnwood-or-Ash-Way-or-Mariner, deleting the Issaquah line, and replacing those with BRT or frequent ST Express. Suburbanists reply, “Of course you think that. And it’s not your subarea.”
As for modifying ST3 to give legal ground for alternatives, there are probably things I would do but I can’t think of them offhand. We could add First Hill to WSBLE, so that a routing east of 6th would be unambiguously in scope.
Mike, extending ST taxes might benefit a subarea like East King Co. that is nearing the completion of East/Redmond Link because the project cost won’t inflate because it is nearly done, while the taxes are extended from 2041-46. But this is a subarea with no other good areas to locate Link, and IMO East Link will have very weak ridership. So what is the point of extending ST taxes in a subarea that owes $600 million for East Link but will have $600 million/year in subarea revenue based on 2023 dollars for the next 25 years but no wise place to spend it?
For poor subareas like Snohomish Co. and Pierce Co. extending project completion along with ST taxes goes backwards because project costs — especially now that it is unlikely we will ever return to a 0-1% interest/inflation rate environment — increase more than the tax revenue in the outer five years, and these subareas are poor and still have projects to not only begin but complete, based on ST’s highly suspect project cost estimates that would likely require a 50% contingency based on history to be remotely accurate. To work ST would have to extend the taxes from 2041-46 but bond that revenue NOW and begin construction NOW, except I don’t think ST’s debt ceiling would allow that, and in this inflationary environment the future tax revenue (2041-46) would be heavily discounted in the bond rate (future value discount) because repayment on the bonds wouldn’t begin for 19 years.
Same with WSBLE. The project cost is almost 400% greater than ST estimated in a high inflationary environment. “Extending” ST taxes from 2041 to 2046 does nothing to make WSBLE more affordable. If Seattle wants WSBLE it will need to contribute close to $10 billion, or 10 Move Seattle’s. Only Seattleites can decide whether that is a good deal for them.
Even if the Board has carte blanche to extend taxes as long as they want it has a debt ceiling, and cannot control inflation and real project costs. If taxes and project completion are extended concurrently in a high inflationary environment no new net revenue is raised, and in fact you go backwards. Which is why many argue Forward Thrust should have passed when project costs were so much lower. ST is stuck with the underestimate project cost estimates unless it can find additional tax revenue — ST 4 — NOW.
Or cancel the ultra expensive and difficult West Seattle stub and “value engineer” Ballard by switching it to a high-capacity tramway on the surface, including downtown Seattle. “BLE” is eminently affordable if tunnels are avoided.
Would that be popular? No, probably not, but it’s worlds better than doing nothing while Ballard slowly strangles on its poor access.
I opposed a Ballard streetcar because Ballard needs high-quality transit that doesn’t take 20-30 minutes to get there. But seeing how WSBLE has deteriorated since the vote and even the subway might have long walks at both ends (negating its advantage) makes me wonder if a streetcar might be a reasonable fallback. I’m assuming the SLU streetcar would be extended north on Westlake to Fremont and on Leary Way to Ballard.
I still think the best train value to Ballard was the one that Bruce Nourish came up with, way back when: https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/12/06/some-thoughts-on-ballard-option-c/. Surface much of the way, but underground south of Denny. Of course that doesn’t save you that much money. You still have to build a tunnel, albeit with different stops.
Completely surface is an option going that way, or going over the Fremont Bridge (essentially the 40 route). That is option E, as described here: https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/12/06/sound-transit-refines-ballard-options/. I remember pressing an ST rep at an open house for which one he liked, and that was his favorite, simply because it carried the most people per dollar spent. Like Mike, I couldn’t support a system that was bound to get clogged up downtown. Given what we are looking at though, it looks like an improvement.
I agree with Tom though. The big problem is West Seattle. Without West Seattle Link, the new tunnel is obviously unnecessary. You have two lines from the south, and two lines to the north. Likewise, if we get rid of the excessive extensions, we can have a much better pairing. Trains go from Redmond to Ballard, and from Federal Way to Lynnwood. If that isn’t enough frequency from Northgate (or Lynnwood) to downtown, then run extra trains from SoDo to the north end. Personally I would just run trains every six minutes all day long on the entire system. This would more than make up for the loss of the extensions. For West Seattle you make improvements to the bus system (including the relatively small bottlenecks they have to deal with).
Of course I doubt I would do any of that. The more logical branch is at the UW. There is your split. That way you have double the frequency in the area with the most ridership (downtown to the UW). Then spend what you can making the buses faster and more frequent. It is wild thinking of what our bus system would look like if we spent even 1/10 of what we are spending on the trains.
SEPA is fundamentally a political process. It means the impacted community gets a voice in the siting and mitigation for an “essential public facility”. SEPA is a method to determine whether the proposed “essential public facility” is really essential, because usually communities and cities don’t want to host essential public facilities, whether an airport, OMF, prison, or surface light rail lines and stations because property values go DOWN near surface rail which is why ST runs so much of it along freeways because no one wants to live right next to a freeway either.
The catch-22 is a surface line is less expensive, which is necessary due to ST’s gross project cost underestimation and inflation, but like Bellevue if ST insists on a surface line (when so much of the rest of Seattle got tunnels) the neighborhoods or business community will want to locate the stations away from the hub. It is a lot easier to run Link on the surface when it crosses a bridge or runs along I-90 or cuts through a greenbelt. Much different when you get to “neighborhoods” or business centers.
This is true for CID in which just the years of disruption make the local residents and businesses want to move a second station for DSTT2 as far away as possible because they see very little benefit having lived with the station for DSTT1 for a decade or more, and it is true for downtown Merchants who want an underground line with very deep stations because again they don’t see the value in a second line compared to the disruption, and it is true of Ballard and West Seattle. They value economic vibrancy over rider experience.
It is a lot easier to site a surface station in nowhere or collector park and ride, or even an underground station that will cause disruption for years, whether that is The Spring Dist. or S. Bellevue or Federal Way or along a freeway, although Link then has to manufacture ridership out of those areas.
Mike thinks it is a no brainer that Link will increase property values in Ballard. Maybe, a little, in a dozen years, if like Capitol Hill or Roosevelt the stations are underground along with the line, but Link won’t move Ballard any closer to the UW or downtown. Link works in areas like Capitol Hill and Rosevelt and UW because it follows the density and where folks already want to live and popular areas, it does not create them, so best to be out of sight and sound.
West Seattle and Ballard already have strong property values and a character that long preceded Link those residents love. The “character” of those neighborhoods, in large part their zoning and SFH zoning, is more important to them than a train that might serve 10% of the trips post pandemic by mainly switching bus riders to a fixed route train, now with a transfer or two.
Using DSTT1 to interline West Seattle and Ballard is one logical way to cut costs and disruption along that route. There will be more than enough capacity with East Link trains that will be more empty than originally estimated when they arrive (which unfortunately is a big problem for downtown Seattle). But Ballard and WS are going to look at central Link north of Yesler and say we want that (underground), or we don’t want a station in the center of our neighborhood so like Bellevue shunt the station to 112th or an industrial area. Link isn’t that great. Spending $20 billion on WSBLE (whether there is DSTT2 or not) will move 600 daily car drivers to transit.
Ballard and WS also have problems with bridges. Although I have my doubts, ST now claims a tunnel under water costs the same as a bridge for Link due to the height required by the Coast Guard. West Seattle has a bridge that will be near the end of its life when WS is completed. Both have large areas of very low density or industrial areas between them and downtown Seattle where any transfer will be.
So: 1. WSBLE is just a very bad project, like Issaquah to S. Kirkland, basically used without any study to sell ST 3; 2. N. King Co. does not have the funding to build WSBLE as promised and desired; 3. ST has to interline DSTT1 because the other subareas don’t have their $2.2 billion match and the CID and downtown Merchants who are on life support don’t want ten years of disruption when the commuter (at least from the eastside)is likely not coming back; 4. there will be plenty of capacity in DSTT1 with East Link, unfortunately, north of CID; 5. Ballard and West Seattle will claim they are certainly better neighborhoods than Roosevelt — a mostly rental UW neighborhood — and deserve underground lines and stations; 6. the costs of the bridges almost equal the cost of tunnels to Ballard and West Seattle and N. King Co. does not have the money for either; 7. don’t rely on federal funding; 8. A SB5528 levy in Seattle would exhaust all transit tax capacity for decades for very few riders; 8. no matter what the cost per rider mile for WSBLE is obscene.
Transit advocates who see all things through the prism of transit will argue force surface stations on these neighborhoods. The communities who don’t see their neighborhoods through the prism of transit, like Bellevue, will say if it is on the surface we don’t want it, we are not second-class neighborhoods like RV, and so put the station waaaaay over there.
SEPA generally works, although agencies sometimes think it is extortion although agencies can be myopic (which is exactly why the Board is elected representative). In the case of WSBLE, with the money available, what SEPA is saying is WSBLE is not “essential”, and never was, and is bad transit based on mode for mode’s sakes.
Ross, if ST had provided a vault for a divergence at U-District to Ballard, and if Wallingford, Upper Fremont, and your favorite neighborhood “West Woodland” were all turned into some version of North Beach for four blocks around each of five stations, Ballard-UW Merge would be a good line, maybe a great one.
ST’s bastardized three-station stand-alone subway through nowhere should not make the cut. It sucks as a “bus intercept” because all of the buses it would intercept are just that close to going semi-express on Aurora or Westlake and ST’s version would require two transfers. Sad. Merge, however, might attract a lot more intercept traffic, because only one transfer it required.
UW would never have allowed a diversion under campus, because a diversion requires a station box and that means a big hole in the ground for a few years. There’s not room between 15th and the curve into UDS and the north (west) bound track is on the inside of the curve in question, so it has to drop quickly or face a screechingly sharp turn to stay inside the adjacent northbound main track.
So any divergence would have had to be north of U-District, say at 50th or perhaps 47th, though there only with significant demolition.
By the time the track dropped down and curved under the mains, it would be at or near 55th so — making lemonade out of lemons — putting a station just west of Roosevelt at 55th would have made great sense. It would allow the entire strip between U-District Station and Roosevelt to be really urban!.
Alas, ST did not build that vault. As I have said in other posts you might still pull it off in the park at 50th and Brooklyn, but the neighborhood would probably scream bloody murder about losing its park for five years.
“UW would never have allowed a diversion under campus, because a diversion requires a station box and that means a big hole in the ground for a few years.”
As if an on-campus station wouldn’t benefit its students, staff, and visitors. UW built dozens of buildings over the past thirty years that had similar disruptions. UW just refused to think wholistically about large buildings, a large number of students, and mass transportation. The way American cities don’t think wholistically about residents’ transportation and its interaction with the environment and the social environment.
“putting a station just west of Roosevelt at 55th would have made great sense. It would allow the entire strip between U-District Station and Roosevelt to be really urban!”
I lived at 56th & University Way from 1989 to 2003 and saw the potential for a station there. Not to make it urban because it was already urban (walkable, multifamily, a variety of businesses, high pedestrian and transit usage), but to make transportation more convenient and comprehensive. All areas like that should have excellent transit.
“you might still pull it off in the park at 50th and Brooklyn, but the neighborhood would probably scream bloody murder about losing its park for five years.”
There’s a park behind the community center? We can’t speculate what people would do because there was never a specific station location or study of the construction footprint. There may be nimbys who value a park over non-car mobility, but there are also tens of thousands of people eager to use the station.
Although it really should be at 55th for station spacing. 50th is too close to 43rd, and too far from 65th.
“UW would never have allowed a diversion under campus, because a diversion requires a station box and that means a big hole in the ground for a few years.”
The UW campus is a school campus, with security. Many of the students are 18 and barely out of high school. The campus is really geared toward on campus — or close by — living. The UW did not want a station on campus that would bring non-student transit riders directly into the heart of the campus, day and night, and I agree, especially with the problems we see on Link today. It would have been a security nightmare for the UW because ST security is so lame.
I have a son at the UW. Right now UW security and the panhellenic assoc. are telling students (boys and girls) to avoid the station at 42nd and Brooklyn if possible, and if not possible to not use it alone. There have been stabbings and shootings, and on a daily basis there are a lot of vagrants just hanging around the station entrance. My son and his friends still take Link from this station to party at Capitol Hill, and more than anything what unnerves them are the crazies, and according to him at least in the evening the crazies are on the train.
I don’t think the UW regrets for one second its decision to not allow a station on campus. As a parent of a student I agree completely with that decision.
Mike, the thing built in the park/community center space would be the vault required for the diversion to create “Ballard-UW Merge”. This would be a technologically difficult but just barely possible implementation of the idea to make Ballard a “spur” from the U District. There must be a vault surrounding a diversion to an existing bored tunnel in order to disassemble the pressure rings. You can’t just bore into a transit tube like The Boring Company does for water and sewer lines.
The new station would be on the spur line at 55th and Roosevelt, not on the main line.
Ross, Bruce’s idea is essentially Ballard-Downtown as a dogbone stub. Look closely at the diagram. There is a station at the south end of the separated tunnel section south of Denny along Olive Way.
If this used Link technology it would definitely need a tunnel from the bluff above Elliott all the way to the dogbone station. The long trains –even two car ones — could not stop on the surface through Belltown with its short blocks.
But if it used five-section Citidis trams — about 150 feet in length — it could continue through Belltown and the classic CBD. It should have a short section of mostly cut-and-cover tunnel from the bluff to Third and Cedar to get past the mess at Elliott and Denny and better serve Lower Queen Anne.
“The UW campus is a school campus, with security. Many of the students are 18 and barely out of high school. The campus is really geared toward on campus — or close by — living. The UW did not want a station on campus that would bring non-student transit riders directly into the heart of the campus”
Other countries would say that’s ridiculous; of course a large university needs a station close to the center of the pedestrian concentration. That’s one of the biggest priorities of a transportation system. You don’t let “security” be an excuse for substandard transportation, as if transportation is unimportant. It’s a basic necessity. Even if a lot of students live in the U-District, a lot of others commute, and faculty and staff commute, and students have jobs, and people are visiting all the time because it’s a university. Pushing Link away because of “security” is like pushing Link away because you don’t want it near your front yard: it means people who do use it have to walk further, or find it such a hardship to use that they drive even if they don’t want to.
Security and public safety trump public transportation every single time, Mike, especially when it comes to kids. The UW did not need let alone want a station on campus, and I totally agree.
Most undergraduate students either live on campus or walk a short distance there. It must be a safe place, and right now it is not at least in areas surrounding the campus.
The last thing you want is unfettered access to the campus by non-student adults, especially on public transit, which is why the UW has fences and gates and guards. If this area, including The Ave., Seattle, and ST, are going to treat public safety like a joke then don’t be surprised if communities or universities don’t want a station on campus or near them. Imagine if the s*^t show at 42nd and Brooklyn was actually on campus? My guess is the UW would close the station. The UW does not care what ST thinks.
Although I have said many times safety is a deal breaker for public transit for the discretionary rider, it goes ten times more for our kids. We have told our son many times to just Uber to Capitol Hill rather than take Link at night on our tab, which he does unless there is a gang of them (which ironically makes Uber cost comparative). Even this group of pretty athletic 21 year olds is unnerved by the crazies at the station and on Link at night. You can’t fight a knife or gun. Fortunately, my daughter goes to college in CA in a lovely city with very little transit. I would NEVER allow her on Link, although she would never take it.
The difference in our approaches is for you public transit is the number one factor in your life, whereas at least for me it is number 20, and for my wife it is number 200, probably about where it is for the UW.
The UW knew from the Ave. and Seattle City Council (who are jumping ship) and ST a station on campus would put students at risk, and the UW’s number one priority — even above education — is making sure our kids are safe. It had little to do with a hole in the ground, and the campus has constant construction going on. We can afford cars and Uber, but we can’t replace our kids.
“Security and public safety trump public transportation every single time, Mike, especially when it comes to kids.”
That’s the suburban mindset. “We don’t need no stinkin’ station. We drive, we’ll drive our kids around, everyone can drive.”
“The UW did not need let alone want a station on campus, and I totally agree.”
UW never cited safety as the reason for no station on campus. Its main objection seemed to be construction disruption.
“the UW has fences and gates and guards.”
No it doesn’t. It has fences around a tiny amount of restricted areas, but not around the whole campus.
“If this area, including The Ave., Seattle, and ST, are going to treat public safety like a joke then don’t be surprised if communities or universities don’t want a station on campus or near them”
In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a station at Husky Stadium and another two blocks west of campus. Anyone intending to harm UW or assault UW students could easily walk from there. UW never objected to those stations, in fact it wanted them.
“Imagine if the s*^t show at 42nd and Brooklyn was actually on campus?”
What s*^t show? I walk out of the station and don’t see anything. Maybe there were tents there in 2020, or you meant Pioneer Square, 3rd & Pine, or 47th & U Way? Anyway, 95% of passengers aren’t like that, and some of them have business at UW.
London has menacing people, and you don’t see people saying there shouldn’t be a tube station near a university because bad people might use it or hang out at the station. Or that the students should all Uber because we can’t have a station there.
“London has menacing people, and you don’t see people saying there shouldn’t be a tube station near a university because bad people might use it or hang out at the station. Or that the students should all Uber because we can’t have a station there”.
Mike you are confusing near a campus and on or in a campus. There are stations next to high schools, but not on campus. Stations near a campus provide transit access to students without allowing non-student adults unfettered access to the campus. Can you name a university campus with a transit station actually on campus in the U.S.
The reality is if some adult transit riders get assaulted or robbed or shot people shrug it off. If it happens to students on campus at a station folks would go ballistic, and demand the station be shut down. I don’t know if you have noticed these days what fortresses our elementary schools have become, even though as you note maybe only 5% are bad people. It only takes one.
IMO ST is going to have to go to secured stations at some point if it wants to address the safety and perceptions of safety problem, and the Seattle City Council is going to have to get way more serious about public safety if it hopes to salvage downtown retail and business, especially for commuters who right how look like they are not coming back ever. My guess is when East Link fully opens the eastside will demand secured stations in Seattle.
Kemper Freeman is right: the Seattle City Council gave Bellevue the greatest Christmas present of all time.
When it comes to Uber I think you and some on this blog see it differently than the rest of us. We see Uber as just another mode of public transit. It is no more or less moral than a bus, bike or train. If it is faster, more convenient, or especially safer then it is the better transit mode. That goes 10X when it comes to our kids. Believe me, compared to the costs of tuition Uber vs. a bus or Link is pretty minor.
Every single kid I know has both the Uber and Lyft app on their phones, although Uber is winning out. Even I have the apps. It is the young people who have become the biggest users and fans of Uber because it is the young people who Uber around urban areas all day and night. If the bus or Link is a better mode for them they have ORCA cards too, but if safety is a concern that is always a deal breaker.
I trust people, including young people, to make the ride decision for them when it comes to any transit, including Uber, although as a parent we like to provide our input (since we are paying). But I supported 100% the UW’s decision to not have a station on campus, and don’t want non-student adults on campus for any reason.
As a current college student who rides transit as my main means to get around, the fearmongering around the homeless or poor people on campus is overly hyperbolic . I currently live in Denver, and we have 3 light rail stations around the college campus. Two of them directly on campus on the south and west of campus and one north off campus next to the arena. Along with a small transit center on the Northeast part of campus. There is very little crime that happens at said stations, and I know because I get alerts from campus police via email about incidents. We get at most ocassionally petty theft or more rarely assault or gun crime, but it’s so rare that i don’t really think about it in terms of my own safety. I still have situational awareness, but I don’t need to be paranoid about my safety. Metro stations are not some hotbed for crime like some people are implying here. People just want to get to A-B without much hassle, which is not really UW or U District Station’s strongest suits with needing to transfer to a bus. In my opinion, an actual on-campus station would’ve been more convenient for everyone. Students, Faculty, Staff, Parents etc.
Along with campus security in my experience from many different colleges I’ve been to take no nonsense, so you’re really unlikely to see problems if there were to be a metro station on campus.
I think a station under Kane Hall would have been great! My understanding is that some of the science departments objected, saying that a station would disrupt sensitive expensive physics and seismology instruments. Nothing to do with a public safety objection.
Just because sketchy people are in the vicinity of a transit stop, doesn’t mean transit caused it, or that if transit weren’t there they wouldn’t be there, or that it’s less safe on the bus or train. Homeless people and drug dealers have congregated at 47th & University Way and 3rd & Pine and Pioneer Square for thirty years, long before Link existed. There are buses on University Way, 15th, 11th, and Roosevelt, yet only University Way has sketchy people. And it’s not all of University Way, just south of 50th, south of 47th, and south of 45th. Not at 42nd or 41st of Campus Parkway or 52nd or 55th, even though all of those have bus stops too.
The idea that Link is some kind of mythical gang subway that brings criminals is just ridiculous. Link’s ridership is more middle-class on average than many local bus routes. It’s clearly more middle-class than the 7, 131, and 132 for instance. I see more crime and violence in the blocks around transit stops than in the vehicles. If you want to be safe, get on a bus or train.
“My understanding is that some of the science departments objected, saying that a station would disrupt sensitive expensive physics and seismology instruments.”
UW objected to the original alignment near 11th Ave NE that would have come close to seismic monitors detecting earthquakes. Montlake was the second alternative that avoids it.
The argument that a Link station on campus would cause safety problems is ridiculous. For decades, lots of bus routes have run right through the middle of campus, with stops all over Stevens Way. If there mere presence of a transit stop brought criminal activity like that, the UW would have vetoed the bus stops on campus, which they obviously haven’t.
Overall, the U-district neighborhood is pretty safe. But, I suppose if you want to be really paranoid about criminal activity, Uber is not 100% safe either, and cases of Uber drivers assaulting their passengers do exist. Even driving your own car, there is a nonzero risk of being mugged in the parking lot. The only way to absolutely guarantee you never get attacked in transport is to stay shut up at home 24/7, and even then, there is still a risk of a bad guy breaking into your home. Simply put, it is impossible to live at all without accepting at least some risk.
In any case, criminals looking to assault somebody probably don’t use public transit to or from their crime scene anyway. New flash: criminals have cars too, and use them. Riding a bus or a train to a crime scene with your face all over security cameras would be just plain stupid.
The argument of “unfettered access” is also ridiculous. The UW Campus is not like the JBLM, surrounded by fences, where nobody is allowed in without showing id to a guard at the gate. Rather, the UW campus is open in all directions. Anybody can walk through it from adjacent neighborhoods or transit stops, and I have done so myself numerous times, and whether the Link stations are on or adjacent to campus makes no difference in this regard.
In fact, even within the realm of public transit, there are many bus routes with stops right in the middle of Stevens Way, stops that have been served for decades. If the mere presence of a public stop on campus posed that much of a safety risk, you would think at some point, the UW would have ordered Metro to move their buses elsewhere. But, of course, they haven’t, and the reasons why not are obvious. The “safety risk” to the student body from the mere presence of a bus stop is non-existent, and students value the convenience of having bus routes on campus taking them right where they need to go. The idea that a Link station, staffed with full-time security guards, and security cameras spanning the entire station area, would somehow pose a crime risk to the public in its vicinity that an ordinary bus stop doesn’t is simply preposterous.
Rather, as Mike Orr said, the reasons why Link did not have a station on campus had nothing to do with crime. It was about minimizing construction disruption on campus, and about choosing station locations that better serve the surrounding area. For example, the Husky Stadium location works better than an on-campus station for 520 transfers and the UW Med Center, and the U-district station works better for the homes and businesses to the west of campus, while still being a short-enough walk for those headed to campus itself.
[Potential Link Stations like 44th and Aurora (on a Ballard to UW line)] sucks as a “bus intercept” because all of the buses it would intercept are just that close to going semi-express on Aurora or Westlake and ST’s version would require two transfers
You are completely ignoring the second biggest destination in the state: The UW. You are ignoring the fact that travel is not just about getting to downtown, it is about getting to places in the region. The more urban and closer the destination, the more likely people will take transit.
Your comment reminds of one I read before Northgate Link opened. Someone was complaining, because it meant that the 41 was going away. They had a point. Trips to downtown *are* slower. It does take quite a bit longer, especially at rush hour. But guess what? Northgate is now one the most popular stations in the system. If you look at the ridership at the other stations, it isn’t hard to see why. Ridership at the two UW stations is booming. Capitol Hill Station is higher than ever (I believe it is the only station that has higher ridership now than before the pandemic).
The same dynamic exists for an east-west line. A big reason is that east-west travel is especially slow. The 44, 45 and 62 are all slow. In comparison, the north-south buses are fast. That is why the catchment area is large. It makes sense to take a bus north-south, and the train east-west. Even if it means taking another train, it is still a much bigger improvement than what we are planning on building. The catchment area (via the buses) is much bigger.
One of the reasons why ST3 is so bad is that despite the really high costs, very little of it is transformational, the way that Northgate Link is. If I want to go to Capitol Hill, I think nothing of the fact that I will have to deal with a relatively slow bus, and awkward transfer. That’s because once I’m on the train, it very quickly gets me to Capitol Hill. I used to consider driving — now that seems silly. Capitol Hill is not alone. The UW is a much bigger destination, but it isn’t just the big destinations. I routinely take three-seat rides, just because the train is frequent and fast. I’m not alone, obviously.
For much of ST3, there won’t be that kind of transformation. West Seattle riders will gain a faster trip to SoDo, and that’s about it. At best — if they are heading to Capitol Hill, for example — they simply change their transfer point (from downtown to West Seattle). At worse, they are like the old 41 rider, bemoaning a transfers that will cost them time. It will be similar throughout the region. To the north and south, at best the transfer locations change, while they gain better access to places like Fife and Ash Way. Even the crown jewel of the entire package — Ballard Link — will have very little in the way of an improvement over the current system, let alone one that would be easy to build. If they build the station at 15th (or worse yet, 14th) then a lot of folks in Ballard will have to transfer from the 40. Many will just stay on the bus (especially since SDOT is making it much faster). For the folks on 15th (e. g. Ballard High School) it depends on where you are going and when. If you are headed downtown, the 15 is pretty fast, but it only runs during rush hour. By simply running an all-day 15 you achieve much the same speed savings. It is only for trips to Uptown that you see a big improvement. But that is still nothing compared to what Northgate Link created, or the kind of transformation that would occur if we had an east-west line from Ballard to the UW.
As far as the UW, the biggest problem was lack of stations, although placement issues occurred. Just to back up here, there are different goals:
1) Connect to the 520 buses.
2) Connect to the east-west corridor (the 44 primarily).
3) Serve the sprawling campus and U-District itself.
Basically, it isn’t that different than downtown Seattle. Except unlike downtown Seattle, they had poor stop spacing. As the crow flies, it is roughly 1.5 km, or almost a mile between the two stations. From 45th to 65th is a full mile (or 1.6 km). In contrast, the downtown stations are roughly 500 meters apart, and even then folks wanted to add a station at Madison. The stop spacing at downtown is appropriate for a downtown — the stop spacing isn’t appropriate in the city, let alone a major destination (Seattle’s second downtown, if you will).
There are several options they could have went with. I think the U-District station is fine. They could have added an entrance from the other side of 45th, but that is a quibble. Overall, it is one of the best stations ever created by Sound Transit. That becomes the starting point.
North of there is obvious — just put a station at 55th. That is not the type of spacing you have in downtown Seattle, but that is just fine for an urban (but non-downtown) area.
South of 45th it gets tricky. The first thing to consider is where to put the southern-most station. I see this going one of two ways:
1) Add a station above 520. This would have required cooperation with WSDOT. Buses would serve the area, and then basically just turn around. I’m less inclined to go with this, simply because of the improvements WSDOT is making. Buses will, on occasion, have to wait for the bridge. But they will be able to get right to the front, and travel in bus/HOV lanes right to the front.
2) Move the UW station to the triangle. This is by far the biggest failing of the existing station. It requires crossing the street twice to get to the biggest nearby destination (the hospital). From main campus, you have to go up and over to get into a very deep station. Even bus transfers are awkward. If the station was in the middle of the triangle, existing tunnels to the hospital would serve it, while a new tunnel could connect it to the main campus. At worse riders headed to the stadium would exit at the surface and use the crosswalk. During game days, there are traffic police waving people across.
In between this station and the one on 45th you would have another one. Again, I see going two different ways:
1) A station in the middle of campus (roughly the Hub). Connections to buses headed northeast (65, 75, 372) would be better. You wouldn’t have this conflict between serving the station or serving the campus like you do now. Riders who transfer to those buses would save over five minutes of walking, and a bit of time riding on the bus.
2) A station at roughly the Ave and Campus Parkway. Not only would this save a lot of people a lot of walking but it would work well as a terminus for buses.
Right now the stop spacing creates an unneeded dependence on the buses. If you are at University Way (the Ave) and Campus Parkway it is about a ten minute walk to the U-District Station, and farther to the UW Station. This is a long ways, and eliminates one of the key features of Link (that it saves riders time). As a result, we have lots of buses working their way through the U-District. They need to. Link just doesn’t work for those trips. Obviously we need some local service, and folks aren’t eager to make a transfer to travel a short distance within the U-District. You are bound to have some overlap in some areas. But the case for a “spine” in the greater U-District is stronger than ever, simply because of Link’s poor stop spacing.
Mike and “Donald”, I did not advocate for a station “on campus”. I said “a station box would have been required to construct a divergence” — e.g. “a switch” or more correctly, a pair of them — to connect Ballard-UW Merge anywhere south of U-District Station. Since ST was caught up in the heady 151 rum of 2010’s ridership projections, and it’s allergic to building junctions for possible future lines, it did not include the “bellmouth” connections when the North Link tunnels were dug.
It’s much harder to add them later, but as I said, it might be “doable” now within the publicly-owned footprint of the park / community center at 50th and Brooklyn.
I grant that I should have said “vault” rather than “station box” , but I got a blank on the proper word and used a near-synonym. They are remarkably similar in form and function. I apologize for the laziness.
Ross, the 44 runs at most every ten minutes, six buses per hour. Parking at UW is less convenient for most destinations on campus than the two Link stops and certainly than the 44, which skirts the densest collection of buildings on campus within a block-and-a-half. Propinquity is not going to be helped by Ballard-UW without that under-campus station. Riders would have to walk from wherever ST sites a station for an independent east-west line.
Yes that under-campus station is a lost opportunity, and maybe an independent east-west line could have a station at the crest of the hill above Montlake Blvd to serve all the student housing and U Village, but that was not ST’s plan.
Look, UW enrollment is about 35000 of whom roughly 9500 live in student housing another thousand or so in Greek houses and, what, another five or ten in walking range? So something like 15 to 20 thousand potential bus riders from all points and distances. Plus, of course employees of the University and the (ever fewer) non-public businesses in the District. According to “Indeed” they total about 70,000. So 90,000 potential transit riders headed to the district, which overall has bad parking opportunities except for UW destinations.
How many of them live more than say five blocks north of 45th and five blocks south of 85th or within four blocks of Aurora or Greenwood north of there? Because those folks are the likely ridershed of a Ballard-UW subway who wouldn’t just get on the 44. Nobody living in Wallingford south of 50th destined for work in the District is going to drive, unless they make “calls” as a sales representative or service provider.
My point is that you can forget about diverting people already on a bus that’s going “express” on Aurora or Westlake if they’re headed downtown. Sure, folks on the 28, 5, C and 62 (but only south of 60th) would be happy to switch to a subway to the District. It would be quicker to most destinations, for sure, though maybe not to Red Square.
But in the absence of LOTS of gentrification in that east-west strip north of 50th and south of 80th and along those two narrow strips to the north, it isn’t going to be enough riders to justify the cost.
Oh, and the same thing is true for diverting riders between Ballard and Downtown. Riders within a given station’s walks he’d would take the transfer at U District happily. But someone on the D or “RapidRideish” 40 will probably just stay on the bus instead of taking a transfer to a fairly infrequent Ballard-UW shuttle and than to the main line.
Also, I should have said “the E”, not “the C” in the previous comment.
All these caveats go away if the east-wast line IS a “Merge”, but that’s largely a pipe dream.
TT, with the current streetcar and RV surface issues, I don’t think anybody would consider a surface option for Ballard…
But to keep cost and carbon footprint manageable, how about doing an all-elevated automated line either to Interbay (either via Elliott Ave or along Westlake or Dexter) and do a gondola across the ship canal along 20th to Market St, may be with another station on 65th.
Interbay could serve as a bus intercept and downtown Ballard could be served via gondola.
Ballard-UW shuttle would presumably be highly frequent? Probably timed to run at the same frequency as the main line, with shorter trains. Martin is right, no one is proposing an at-grade Ballard-UW line, which would basically just be a streetcar 44, or an at-grade Ballard-downtown (while Ballard-Interbay could be more at-grade that currently proposed, there should be universal agreement LQA/SLU should be fully grade separated or shouldn’t be built at all)
“Or cancel the ultra expensive and difficult West Seattle stub and “value engineer” Ballard by switching it to a high-capacity tramway on the surface, including downtown Seattle. “BLE” is eminently affordable if tunnels are avoided.
“Would that be popular? No, probably not, but it’s worlds better than doing nothing while Ballard slowly strangles on its poor access.”
Is Ballard “strangling”. I haven’t noticed that. Ballard has had poor access since I can remember from the 1960’s, but no worse than many other neighborhoods. Madison Park is a bear to downtown, so is Magnolia, and so is Laurelhurst and Lake City. Who moves to Ballard for the “access”, especially post pandemic.
In fact, part of Ballard’s charm was its remoteness. Property prices seem strong. There is retail and restaurant vibrancy. Buses run in all directions from Ballard. Car access is not bad through Interbay where Mercer and Denny are the real problems, or 99 through the tunnel. Too bad the tunnel doesn’t have an exit downtown. 45th can be congested to get to I-5, but part of that is street design. Station placement in Ballard doesn’t seem like Ballard thinks Link is the be all and end all of Ballard. Ballard to Tacoma on Link would be something like 95 minutes.
The one place you can’t run “the bitter ale” of surface rail is IN Ballard, because then Ballard will insist that Link or any kind of rail gets shunted to the industrial zone. You can’t tell Ballard that Link or any surface rail is here to save Ballard, except you won’t get a short tunnel and underground station like Roosevelt of all neighborhoods got. Things that are not popular get located in areas where they are not seen. Surface rail is not worlds better than doing nothing. It is a noisy bus on rails.
Once ST decided to bury Link from UW to Northgate — which I agree makes for a better route if more expensive, which unfortunately is why there is only one station for 60 blocks which kind of diminishes the “walkshed” — West Seattle and Ballard were of course going to insist on the same (and the downtown business community was never going to go for surface rail no matter what you call it). That is what is important about underground Link through Roosevelt. That is the entire lesson learned from Bellevue and East Link which was built on the cheap but in a more rural area. Everyone wants a subway.
Just continuing buses would be an easier sell to West Seattle (that has fabulous bus and car access across the bridge) and Ballard than any kind of surface rail. Not many residents of either neighborhood are going to look at a surface “Tram” and not think WTF, that looks like surface Link with a huge SOUND TRANSIT” painted on the side. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=what+is+a+tramway&qpvt=what+is+a+tramway&form=IQFRML&first=1&tsc=ImageHoverTitle This isn’t the RV.
You can interline DSTT1, and I suppose run along the surface along Elliot if road capacity is not compromised, but probably not all the way to Westlake or through SLU so there is going to be tunneling anyway and I doubt Ballard will not notice that, but once you reach the bridge to Ballard Link is going to have to be underground, and ST now seems to accept that, except it doesn’t have the money (and claims a tunnel and bridge cost the same, so there you go).
That’s the rub. Ballard and West Seattle will insist on Link underground or no Link (or Tram), like Roosevelt, there isn’t the money for DSTT2 and the stakeholders don’t want the disruption of station construction through the urban core and want a terribly deep design because no one wants to see or hear Link, and the reality is today both neighborhoods are doing quite well without Link, and can do so forever. I have repeated this reality about a dozen times. Like Issaquah. It was fun when it was on paper in 2016.
Start with what is politically possible and popular if you want to understand SEPA. Not what is affordable, which is the flip side of an essential public facility argument, except Link isn’t essential compared to buses. Surface Link, or a Tram, is not better than doing nothing, at least for the residents, and will be seen as a huge insult after Roosevelt.
So far WSBLE has lost a second CID station, DSTT2 is deep and crap and on life support, and WS and Ballard want it underground when it gets to their door just like SLU. After Roosevelt there isn’t a way to tell them no. Welcome to SEPA where a tram to the average person looks just like Link, is painted the same, and has SOUND TRANSIT LINK written on the sides. Their response will be put the f%$#ing tram underground.
“The current cost estimates that ST3 will be unable to afford building the later ST3 projects. To me, the question becomes if ST will figure out ways to extend ST3.”
As I interpret the realignment, ST is assuming an extension from 2041 to 2044, and then everything is affordable. Project estimates will go up and down as their costs and future revenue become clearer, so the last project may be finished before or after 2044, but that’s the reference assumption. ST doesn’t have to “find ways” to extend ST3; the board just votes to do so. The tax authorization exists until the voter-approved projects are completed.
Whether the board will or will not do that is a political question. In the 2008 recession, it deferred South Link from 272nd to 200th, pulling it out of ST2 funding. In the recovery it re-extended it to 240th. If there were no ST3 or it failed, Link would end there. In ST3 it folded 240th into 320th and continued to 344th and Tacoma Dome. If there’s another ST4 phase like ST3, it could do something like that. But there’s no more Spine to complete. The Tacoma Mall and Everett College stations are 2015 additions, not the original 1990s vision that motivated ST1, 2, and 3. It’s unclear whether they’d really want them in a few years. So without must-have projects in the wings, how much enthusiasm would there be for an ST 3.1 or ST 4 package, even among the board? They’re close to the state ceiling on what taxes they could add before the ST3 bonds are paid down substantially (which won’t happen until the 2050s). So the other options would be to downscale or modify.
ST doesn’t need a public vote to downscale; it simply defers some projects out of ST3 like it did with South Link.
“create an “ST4” to fund ST3 with supplemental funds like a Seattle-only method”
It doesn’t need an ST4 vote to accept third-party funding. If Seattle votes to give ST funding, that’s a Seattle’s issue. ST can’t very well lobby Seattle voters to establish a Seattle tax to benefit ST; that would be unseemly. The other subarea that would need supplemental funds is Snohomish, because the Everett extension and Paine Field detour are expensive. The distance from Lynnwood to Everett is similar to Westlake to Lynnwood, especially with the detour.
“or pray that Bezos or Gates leaves some of their estate to Sound Transit. ”
They haven’t so far so why should they now? I’ve often imagined Paul Allen funding SLU/Ballard Link, but of course he was never interested.
I think in the future the subareas need to be decoupled when it comes to transit levies or ST 4. That is basically what SB5528 is.
The revenue for each subarea is so much different based on the same tax rates, and the project costs and desires so much different. N. King Co. might have $600 million/year in ST tax revenue but WSBLE as currently designed could very well cost $20 billion. I don’t think Snohomish Co. will have the revenue to extend to Everett no matter what the cost is, which of course was that subarea’s goal except everyone got screwed by ST’s “optimistic” project cost estimates, and we won’t know about Tacoma’s financial situation until the subarea finishes with Federal Way. My guess is Tacoma Dome is it.
I really can’t imagine where you would extend rail in S. King Co. since like Mercer Island it got rail because it had to run through S. King, and how that could be considered a good investment. On the eastside East Link doesn’t serve 405 except for RR, and 405 is the main congestion point, but those folks often don’t work in offices and take 405 to head south on 167/169 and they have no interest in changing their zoning for transit. The key to 405 is to widen it.
Once ST finishes Lynnwood, Federal Way and East Link the ridership numbers will tell us whether it makes sense to extend rail anywhere else in the region, and how likely a ST4 levy will pass. I think ridership will be weak, and the next big operations will be funding M&O as the system ages. IMO the one area subways and light rail make sense are in dense, heavily congested urban areas, and that is the main Seattle core from West Seattle to Ballard to Northgate to Madison Park to First Hill if one can call those dense, but the areas demand tunnels and those are very expensive, and we need to see whether Seattle regains its downtown office crowd and more inflow from around the region. I mean, did a middle brow neighborhood like Roosevelt really deserve the cost of tunnels, and if so every neighborhood — at least north of Yesler — deserves tunnels? Link always was about getting to and around downtown Seattle, and there, not from there. Like any urban metro system.
My guess is based on history Pierce, Snohomish and S. King Co. will vote no on any levy. They will see the least benefit from Link, and the subarea revenue is just not enough for the high cost of Link per mile and per rider mile. East King has been the swing vote in the past, but after East Link to Redmond — and God forbid Issaquah to S. Kirkland — where else could Link make sense on the eastside post pandemic, when ridership on East Link post pandemic will IMO be maybe 1/2 of ST’s estimates?
One also has to recognize the free fall in ST’s reputation from 2016 when ST 3 passed to today. The reputation of ST is in tatters, and the curtain has been pulled back on a dishonest agency whose CEO was fired for dishonesty.
I will also be interested (thank God I don’t live in the subarea) to see if ST really proceeds like WSBLE is affordable with its current design, hoping for the kindness of others and their money, because no way Seattle can afford the balance of WSBLE in a SB5528 levy.
The one way to pass ST 4 is if there is standing room only on ST 2 and 3 and the discretionary riders use it because they are the swing vote when it comes to transit levies and many now WFH, and we will find out when East, Federal Way and Lynnwood Link are completed.
My guess is ST 4 will never pass, in large part because ST 3 should have never passed, and would not have passed if ST had been honest in its assumptions in the levy. For the most part Link has been a financial debacle for the region, and the folks who really got screwed are in the more rural subareas who pay the same tax rates but get little Link.
I tried to keep this article on 2020s issues, but of course it’s hard not to talk about ST3.
I’ve long thought the subareas’ interests would diverge after ST3 and it might be necessary to split the tax district. The current structure was set up in the 1990s to get the Spine built, both because they needed Seattle’s Yes votes to make up for their No votes, and to prevent suburban money from going to Seattle instead of the Spine. SB5228 partly does that for Seattle, but only Seattle. And I think it’s limited to the monorail’s tax ceiling, which was around $1 billion, not enough for an entire line or to fill all the WSBLE gaps. Nobody has proposed a similar measure for the other subareas, so for now it’s ST# or nothing for them.
Ideally we should have done what Germany and Vancouver do. Düsseldorf and Cologne have a two-level system: a city rail network and a suburban S-Bahn. Vancouver has a hybrid system that’s similar to what Link would be if it only went to Lynnwood and SeaTac. Outer Surrey has real center-lane BRT, which is what we could do beyond that. (Vancouver doesn’t have a Bellevue/Redmond-like line, but then it has nothing like Bellevue/Redmond to go to.) But the suburbs didn’t want that. They wanted a metro to Everett and Tacoma (and Redmond), and they didn’t want to pay for a Seattle network instead. So we got ST’s current structure.
But after the Spine, Snohomish, Pierce, and East King will be harder-pressed to find large projects they want. That creates an imbalance with North King, which wants more Seattle lines. The only way to satisfy both is to split the tax district, so that each subarea can raise what it wants independently.
“I don’t think Snohomish Co. will have the revenue to extend to Everett no matter what the cost”
I don’t think it’s so dire. Everett’s extent is fixed; it’s just a matter of filling in the gap. ST estimates a 5-year delay (2036->2041). That could increase but I don’t see it increasing greatly. The Everett station alternatives (which I’m going through now) would add to the cost, but so far I think they’re good enough that ST should delay for them if necessary. ST is already considering splitting the project at Mariner. That would shift the least-justified part and the more expensive options to the second phase. Who cares when that finishes as long as the first phase is close to on time? Everett may care but I don’t. ST could also economize by dropping Paine Field. So Everett has some challenges but not to the point of “No way, Jose”.
Why are you worrying about Pierce? The entire alignment is elevated in public right of ways. That’s relatively inexpensive. Pierce has been saving up since the 1990s for the extension, so it has a large down payment. ST estimates only a 2 year delay (2030->2032). So Pierce doesn’t need to worry about funding that. It only needs to worry about the soils and long bridge in Federal Way, which ST is looking at now.
Pierce has other problems: Link only reaches the nearest corner, and never gets to the population centers in downtown Tacoma or Lakewood. Sounder is subject to BNSF money extraction, which is hindering the supposedly-funded expansion. Stream 1 is an important achievement, but Pierce needs so much more. But none of that affects the likelyhood of Tacoma Dome’s completion.
“I really can’t imagine where you would extend rail in S. King Co. ”
What it wanted in 2015 was a Renton-Burien line. The study interlined it with Burien-West Seattle, and therefore with West Seattle Link. Westlake-Renton travel time was 40 minutes, which is better than I expected and the same as the 101. But the study showed it would have high cost and low ridership. South King got quiet about it after that, so I don’t know whether it’s still interested.
“like Mercer Island it got rail because it had to run through S. King”
It got light rail because it wanted Federal Way as much as East King wanted Bellevue/Redmond, Snohomish wanted Lynnwood.Everett, and Pierce wanted Tacoma. South King was demanding SeaTac and Federal Way, and they demanded it first before Burien-Renton.
“On the eastside East Link doesn’t serve 405 except for RR, and 405 is the main congestion point, but those folks often don’t work in offices and take 405 to head south on 167/169 and they have no interest in changing their zoning for transit.”
That’s why 405 is getting Stride. The 405 stations don’t have great walksheds, but it’s the best transit can do for north-south circulation there. When I lived in Bellevue the 340 was a 405 express route, and I took it to Renton, Newport Hills, Kirkland, Bothell, and SeaTac. I had to walk a half-mile or mile from the stop to somebody’s house or downtown Kirkland, but I still rode it. Others will do the same with Stride, or take a bus to it. East King is vaguely thinking about some kind of Link or BRT to downtown Kirkland but isn’t sure if it wants it. For Bellevue-Renton, ST says ridership isn’t there yet for Link but might be in several decades. Right now there’s no way to get from Bellevue to Lynnwood on Sunday without going through Seattle or taking local buses (which would take over two hours), so Stride will fix that.
You don’t need to change zoning for something inexpensive like Stride, and the Stride plans don’t attempt to upzone 405 station areas. It’s just a stopgap measure for north-south travel in a challenged environment that the people are too SUBURBANIST to fix the land use. A Renton-Puyallup Stride could be a similar stopgap, and I assume zoning wouldn’t be changed. Downtown Kent, Renton, and Auburn are densifying anyway. The important point is there must be a reasonable way ti get from Auburn or Kent to Renton and the rest of the region without a car, and the 566 doesn’t do it. We need at least an hourly express bus, or better yet 30 or 20 minutes, or ideally 15.
“Once ST finishes Lynnwood, Federal Way and East Link the ridership numbers will tell us whether it makes sense to extend rail anywhere else in the region,”
That’s the wrong metric. The right metric is what’s the optimal amount of transit to make it reasonable to get around the three-county area without a car, even if it’s not as much as Seattle can expect. Or what other industrialized countries have. And that would be at least 15-minute transit in all significant corridors, meaning all proposed Link corridors and all Metro arterials and between all urban villages. Some of it might be rail, some BRT, some RapidRide, and some regular bus routes, but we must get to that level.
I’ve long said Link is not necessary beyond Lynnwood or Kent-Des Moines. We could do the bus alternative. But if the governments and public are willing to build Link, I won’t stand in their way. Because it helps the person going from SeaTac to Tacoma or North Seattle to Everett. It may not be the best network or the most cost-effective, but it’s better than not having it.
“My guess is based on history Pierce, Snohomish and S. King Co. will vote no on any levy.”
They never wanted to pay taxes in the first place. South King residents think they’re too poor for transit taxes.
“One also has to recognize the free fall in ST’s reputation from 2016 when ST 3 passed to today. The reputation of ST is in tatters”
Yes. That makes it much harder to imagine an ST4 passing. I doubt it would in the 2020s or early 2030s. After that it’s another generation and and a lot of future factors we don’t know yet.
“did a middle brow neighborhood like Roosevelt really deserve the cost of tunnels, and if so every neighborhood — at least north of Yesler — deserves tunnels?”
The downtown tunnel was already there. It was always going to be extended north through the U-District because of the hills and Ship Canal. Rainier Valley got surface because it’s flat. ST’s thinking at the time was you only build tunnels where it’s not flat. It was going to emerge at 63rd and follow I-5 to Northgate and beyond.
Roosevelt convinced ST to extend the tunnel and have a station in the center of the neighborhood. ST did, and maybe that was unfair to Rainier Valley, but it’s in the best place, so we’re lucky it was built there. And after ST decided to build the underground Roosevelt station, subsequent engineering showed it was less expensive to extend the tunnel to 95th than to emerge at 63rd as it had originally planned, because it costs money to weave up and down around I-5, and the freeway is so old that just saying “Boo” to it would damage it and ST would have to pay restoration costs. So the Roosevelt tunnel turned out to be cost-effective. But that only works if you’re extending an existing tunnel, not creating a new tunnel.
“Link always was about getting to and around downtown Seattle, and there, not from there. Like any urban metro system.”
Like the American mindset assumes. Link is not just suburban-to-downtown transit like the radial ST Express routes that have no other stops in Seattle. It’s a proper subway corridor with stops every 1-2 minutes and frequent bidirectional service. The designers knew full well they wanted that, and that the future would be not just trips to downtown, but also from downtown, through downtown, and between neighborhood pairs that don’t involve downtown. The region needed a circulation system for both everywhere to downtown and also Rainier Valley to the U-District, Capitol Hill to Roosevelt, everywhere to the airport, Bellevue to Redmond, Redmond to the Spring District, several areas to Microsoft, Lynnwood to North Seattle, South King County to Tacoma, etc. That’s what a county of 2+ million people and a metro of 3 million people needs. It will become increasingly important as the population grows, and as I assume people will increasingly realize that driving everywhere is not environmentally sustainable or the best way to live in a large metro.
Better Sounder and perhaps some Stride would plenty to absorb South King’s ST4 capacity. No need to dream up a Link project for that subarea.
Generally agree with Mike, but sharply disagree with this comment, “the Stride plans don’t attempt to upzone 405 station areas. It’s just a stopgap measure for north-south travel in a challenged environment that the people are too SUBURBANIST to fix the land use. ”
1. Stride is certainly not a stopgap measure. Most (not all) ST Express routes are intended to be replaced by HCT, but not the Stride lines. Stride is intended to be the permanent mode for those corridors.
2. 6 of the 11 405 Stride stations directly serve a PSRC growth center (though Renton’s is a terrible location). Burien, Bothell, and Kirkland all view Stride as central to their TOD and each city’s vision to growing vibrant urban neighborhoods.
3. Most stations have good zoning. The much mocked 85th has more aggressive zoning than most of Northgate. Along 405, I’d point to only 44th NE and Brickyard as delinquent on leveraging Stride to create a HCT anchored neighborhood (I’m good with Bothel’s plans in their downtown & Canyon Park, so I give the 405/522 a pass on TOD as it’s a transfer node not a neighborhood), and even with those two stations 44th’s is getting some midrise apartments and Brickyard’s P&R may be redeveloped.
“It’s just a stopgap measure for north-south travel in a challenged environment that the people are too SUBURBANIST to fix the land use.”
“Stride is certainly not a stopgap measure…. Stride is intended to be the permanent mode for those corridors.”
I mean stopgap in the sense that transit can only do so much in the 405 corridor.
“6 of the 11 405 Stride stations directly serve a PSRC growth center…. Most stations have good zoning.”
I may have underestimated the amount of this. But still, if you’re in downtown Bothell or downtown Kirkland or Factoria, it will be hard to get to. It’s unclear that Totem Lake’s size and breadth of growth and amenities will make up for downtown Kirkland.
Stride will serve downtown Bothell directly (S3) and a rider will have an easy connection to 405 Stride at the 522/405 hub. The 85th station is a short (albeit steep) walk to downtown Kirkland, and KCM will have a Kirkland-Redmond route along 85th.
Sure it doesn’t serve Factoria, but Factoria is oriented to I90 corridor not the 405 corridor. I don’t call Link in the RV a “stopgap” service because it’s hard to take transit east/west from south Beacon Hill to Link; Factoria is to be served by a RR along Richards Road and a Link (for now) station on I90.
Totem Lake doesn’t need to ‘make up’ for downtown Kirkland, they are two different neighborhoods.
Although I am not a fan of build it and they will come, certainly on the eastside and certainly not post pandemic, every eastside city except perhaps Sammamish has zoned for their 2044 GMPC housing targets, and most of that development is planned for TOD in commercial areas because:
1. it accesses transit without needing to drive to it, which is nearly every SFH neighborhood;
2. the units although new will be much smaller and thus relatively more affordable, and each unit whether a studio or four-bedroom house with four occupants counts as one housing unit toward a city’s GMPC future housing target; and
3. the problem with cities from Shoreline to Lynnwood to Bothel to every other TOD is these cities either accepted higher than legal required housing targets, or plan to meet their housing targets, in part to gentrify their commercial cores, (including Mercer Island), and so want the TOD housing to be as high class and expensive as possible, not unlike downtown Bellevue. The Spring Dist. if it ever gets built as planned will be a good test whether these are the folks who ride public transit when each unit will have at least one parking spot, be very expensive, and Uber is ubiquitous.
The problems with 405 congestion are twofold:
1. it has too few lanes, which WSDOT is remedying with more lanes and WFH helped a little, except the users of 405 often have to drive for work; and
2. it serves huge undense areas south along 167 and 169. You have to drive 10 miles on 167 south to even get to the start of any kind of housing density, which is all SFH. It is too bad Highway 18 does not access I-90 farther west, but it too is very congested during peak hours (which is around 1 hour earlier for the construction trades).
For transit to work well it ideally has its ultimate destination on both ends, or at least one end. Pre-pandemic that one destination on the eastside was downtown Seattle (and to a lesser extent downtown Bellevue) which was mostly solved by park and rides on the eastside. If a rider needs first/last mile access on both ends (i.e. transfers) transit ridership will suffer. I read a lot about “walkability” on this blog, but really there are very few areas that are really “walkable” even in Seattle if you are not asdf2. Even downtown Seattle from Yesler to Pine is not walkable IMO, and today there is a lot of nothingness between the two. “Like the American mindset assumes. Link is not just suburban-to-downtown transit…” It is on the eastside, and the reality is population is declining in King Co. and Seattle, although more in King Co. The reality is a regional population for Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties is very undense.
So AJ is correct: eastside cities have zoned for future growth and transit the same as Seattle. They just zoned increased growth next to transit, which is mostly in their urban centers. Upzoning the SFH zones makes little sense for the reasons I list above (first/last mile access, and these folks tend to not ride transit).
Whether the people will move to the TOD post-pandemic I don’t know. It won’t be cheap, but cheaper than a SFH on the eastside, so I guess a good starter home for a well-off young couple moving to the eastside. The Highlands and multi-family housing in downtown Bellevue prove the reasons people choose live where they do are many, and usually transit is a minor consideration. Look at Mercer Island: you simply cannot beat the access to and frequency of transit from the town center that is zoned 4 and 5 stories but it is like pulling teeth to get the residents to ride to transit despite a five-minute walk, and today five-to-ten-minute frequency both directions, probably because to afford a unit you have to be a certain age.
I agree with AJ that Stride on the eastside is not a stopgap measure because I don’t know if HCT makes sense anymore. We will have to see when East Link opens and RR from Renton whether the ridership supports the costs. RR makes more sense, but the next big project up for the eastside subarea is a line from Issaquah to 112th/405 to S. Kirkland that IMO will have very low ridership, will be very slow, will access a lot of undense areas, will miss downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland and downtown Issaquah, and will serve a transit averse demographic. I don’t know if this is what Mike is advocating, but I think it is a terrible waste of money except I can’t think of a better place for Link on the eastside (because there is none). Oh well, at least the subarea can afford it.
Personally I think the Stride routes follow Ross’s paradigm I like: if the Stride routes with HOV access are too packed build RR, and if RR is too packed build Link. I don’t think you will get to Link with TOD on the eastside, but might get there (dollar per rider mile) with Stride, but like I noted above the ridership numbers from East Link and RR will tell us what we need to know.
Tom, please stop calling Daniel “Donald.” It is an ad hominem, plus it is moderately confusing to figure out which commentator your are speaking to.
Could Ross or Mike please moderate all the insulting comments from Daniel accusing Tom of drinking or being mentally unwell, or Tom calling Daniel “Donald.”
AJ, OK. The odd thing is I mostly agree with him on the substance. I just cannot stand his spite toward people who want to live more closely together than he does and walk around.
I took a little online quiz about how much I thought I could affect climate change by doing a list of about fifteen or twenty things, and the only three that registered “Large” were 1) being vegetarian 2) use “renewable” electricity — presumably solar, wind and hydro and 3) live carless. Everything else was “Small” or “Moderate”, even “use efficient appliances”.
So those people who want to live carlessly close together are helping the rest of us out. They should be honored, not jeered.
Mercer Island is preparing its Climate Action Plan (CAP) in coordination with K4C. https://kingcounty.gov/services/environment/climate/actions-strategies/partnerships-collaborations/k4c.aspx Here are the major sources of carbon emissions in order on the eastside, and the steps cities like MI and citizens are taking.
1. Generation Of Electricity. A majority of PSE’s electricity is generated by carbon sources including biomass (woodchips). file:///C:/Users/Dan%20Thompson/Downloads/Renewable_Energy_Target_Report_2022%20(1).pdf. Electricity demand continues to increase each year. Id. Ironically as there is more demand the more PSE is required to buy from spot markets at higher prices that are mostly carbon based. Some ways cities on the eastside are looking to reduce carbon generated electricity are:
A. PSE has a green energy program citizens and governments can opt into. It charges a premium and uses that premium to buy green electricity, although it is obviously not segregated when shipped to a user. The reality is PSE buys most of its green energy from independent sellers. So far wind power has been the major source of green energy but is still a relatively small percentage of electricity.
B. Solar panels. The Infrastructure Reduction Act incorporates Obama era subsidies for solar panels, especially on single family homes. MI hopes to set up a program that provides help on applying for subsidies and referring citizens to reputable installers. With smart metering excess electricity is sold back into the system, and solar panels over time can be cost neutral.
C. Reduced electricity use. The most effective programs are those that provide the same level of service but with reduced electricity use. Electric clothes dryers, LED bulbs, federally mandated efficient appliances, timer switches on light switches, etc.
D. More Efficient Transmission Lines. Most electricity is generated in rural areas but consumed in urban areas in part due to aesthetics and pollution from generation. Most of the transmission lines are old and inefficient, and waste an enormous amount of electricity travelling long distances to get the electricity to urban areas where it is needed. One issue however is that as more and more use is moved to electricity the need to bury power lines will be very costly.
E. Electricity storage. Electricity demand surges during peak hours, just like traffic, and providers must build for that peak. Meanwhile some electricity must be generated during non-peak times, and at night. One of the holy grails is electricity storage. Some examples including heating salt with solar because salt cools slowly; batteries to soften peak demand; and using solar car batteries with smart metering as batteries.
2. The Cost To Heat And Cool Buildings.
This is the second largest carbon source. Some programs include:
A. Switching to heat pumps. The Washington State Building Council just mandated electric heat pumps in all new residential construction beginning July 1, 2023, although as the load increases on PSE so does the use of carbon to generate electricity. K4C requires cities to use current sources for generating electricity when scoring CAP’s rather than estimates of future green energy from the same provider.
B. Energy audits, and subsidies for new windows and insulation, which dollar for dollar has been one of the most effective programs.
C. Shared living. Living alone requires each unit to be heated and cooled for one person. If two live together in the same amount of GFA the amount of carbon is cut in half, and so on for 3, 4 or 5 residents living together.
D. Much more efficient commercial office towers, which will take time as older buildings are replaced with newer buildings.
A. Flying is a huge source of carbon, and when emitted at high altitudes has a multiplying effect. The only remedy to flying is to not fly. Trains and driving EV’s can emit less carbon, but if distances are too great or trains too slow few take them. Currently the federal government is looking at banning lead in aviation fuel, and making the fuel greener. Electric planes are in the concept stage. It was more than ironic when 400 private jets flew into the recent climate meeting in Switzerland, often carrying only a few passengers.
B. Cars. Both Inslee and Biden see the future in EV’s. Look for the Washington State Building Council to mandate fast charging in all new residential construction. Inslee and Newsom have promised to phase out new gas cars by 2035 although both states are way behind on charging infrastructure. Meanwhile state and local governments are trying to incentivize more charging stations, and the IRA provides subsidies for EV’s.
C. Transit. Transit is a mixed bag. The carbon being emitted to build Link will take decades to pan out, and so far the ridership estimates have not materialized even for the main urban core. Some buses are diesel, and the carbon emissions depend on the number of riders. Buses are electrifying, except that is placing a strain on transit system budgets. Many routes require driving to a park and ride for first/last mile access. IMO however the public good for public transit is not reliant on carbon.
D. Not driving or taking transit. Walking, biking and work from home emit zero carbon.
E. A Recession. The last time WA came close to meeting its carbon emission goals was in 2012 at the height of the great recession. It is a painful way to reduce emissions, but we saw steep declines during the pandemic as well. Many economists are predicting a global recession next year. WFH looks to be one of the most promising techniques to reduce carbon emissions with no pain.
F. Population Reduction. This is true especially in the third world that is urbanizing quicky and needs cheap electricity (coal). First World countries have seen a pretty steep decline in their birth rates (which has other consequences), but it will take education of women and acceptance of birth control in the third world to meaningfully reduce population levels, and not really something we can do at the local level.
4. Trees. Environmentalists, or at least elected leaders, are finally realizing that even if all carbon emissions ended tomorrow there is still too much carbon in the atmosphere that must be removed. A perfect and cheap method to do that is with trees, although urban areas (and suburban areas too) have not been very good at preserving tree canopy, although that is changing. Obviously the denser the lot the less pervious surface there is for trees. I know some folks on MI who drive an electric car, have smart metering, solar panels, and a yard full of trees, and they are less than net zero carbon emissions.
5. Land Use. Most cities have zoning that already meets their GMPC future housing targets based on estimated population growth by the Dept. of Commerce. Most cities’ zoning is allocating that new housing in their downtown or commercial cores because: 1. They want the new housing to gentrify their downtown areas; 2. it is nearer to transit, often even walkable first/last mile access; 3. the units will be smaller to meet their housing targets and affordable housing targets; 4. multi-family in this zone can receive additional regulatory limits for affordable housing set-asides that are not available in the SFH zone; 5. there is tremendous political blowback on upzoning the SFH zones; and 6. the SFH zones are not walkable today, upzoning will not make them walkable, and it is not economically or practically possible to serve them with feeder transit. If the goal is density, you don’t upzone the outer bands; you upzone the inner bands. However this TOD zoning has less to do with carbon emissions (and of course has fewer trees if any on each lot) and more to do with transit ridership and affordable housing (better to install solar panels on a SFH with smart metering, buy an EV, and plant trees). Any new construction on the eastside in a commercial core — say Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond or Issaquah will be very expensive per sf, especially for someone living alone — so this TOD really has little to do with carbon emissions, although the Masters Builders Assoc. wants you to believe it does.
6. Miscellaneous. Other action items include banning two stroke gas appliances like leaf blowers and mowers, planting less grass, replacing gas grills and cooktops with electric although the major study on that used estimated “leakage” when the appliance was turned off to reach its estimates, banning gas fireplaces, etc. The issue with these miscellaneous action items is the carbon savings are often low, the political opposition stiff (for example banning gas cooktops), and there are tradeoffs like the cost to local governments and organizations like the UW to not use gas leaf blowers or mowers.
The point is no matter what zone a person lives in they can reduce, and in some cases eliminate, their carbon emissions. A person on a SFH lot with solar panels, smart metering, an EV or WFH or both, a heat pump, LED’s and efficient appliances, and lots of trees can actually eliminate more carbon than they produce, especially if they live with more than one person. Density is one way of living, it allows more walkability if the streets are safe and the residents affluent and transit good, and the individual does not live alone or in an older building, but it does not necessarily produce less carbon per person and generally allows fewer trees or onsite solar panels. So it is very hard to generalize or think suburban cities do not take climate action seriously.
Wait. Third world countries, airplanes, and already built out Link in the main urban core? What do any of these things have to do with carbon emissions in East King County?
It is true A Joy that local government and citizens can’t control all aspects of carbon emissions, especially things like new coal plants in China or India, although we can choose to fly less. Sometimes folks look at things we can’t control and argue we shouldn’t even try. Since MI’s CAP is really derivative of KC4 it looks at or at least recognizes emission’s outside of just MI, as do most climate activists. The reality is it doesn’t matter where carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, and who is better suited to address education of women and availability of contraceptives in the Third World than the U.S.
@DT, you miss my point. I am directly calling you out for “the major sources of carbon emissions in order on the eastside” you list as often listing causes that are utterly alien to the Eastside. Last I checked, neither Bellevue nor Mercer Island were in a third world country. So somewhere in this “information” pipeline, somebody is lying. I cannot say who it is, but your statements are utterly and obviously BS by their very nature as a result.
I doubt there will be an ST4. ST3 has become a boondoggle. This would not be the end of the world, except that ST3 was suspect to begin with. Unlike ST2, or ST1, there were lots of transit advocates saying it was a bad idea. So it isn’t like ST1, where failing to get to the UW meant only a delay (given how strong the case is for rail from UW to downtown). There are plenty of people who question the wisdom of various ST3 projects before they ran into cost overruns.
As time goes on, the extensions become harder from a political standpoint. As Link gets to Lynnwood, the case for Everett Link gets weaker. Likewise with Federal Way and Tacoma Dome Link. Public support erodes as you get less and less for your money. I believe they timed the ST3 vote perfectly. If Link was already in Lynnwood, a lot of folks would have said “that is good enough”. By the time it does get to Lynnwood, a lot of people will say “that is good enough and it took too long”. That isn’t good.
This adds to what Daniel mentioned, which is that different subareas want different things. Seattle is willing to spend a fortune on rail. Other areas aren’t. I just don’t see how things can be worked out to get a decent package.
I could see allowing each subarea to vote on their own package. I could also just see the state allowing counties and cities greater taxing authority. It is crazy that Sound Transit was created in the first place. If the King County representatives were allowed sufficient taxing authority, we wouldn’t need it. If the county was allowed the same 50% majority levy as Sound Transit, it would have been built much earlier (the main Forward Thrust proposal got 50.8%, but it needed 60%). If the state gives cities and counties greater taxing authority, ST4 would seem silly.
When both tax-haters and transit fans have serious doubts about an expansion, watch out. Tax-haters never wanted Everett or Tacoma or any of it. Transit fans wanted the U-District, Rainer Valley, and Bellevue-Redmond, and thought Lynnwood and KDM were a sweet-spot compromise to end at and intercept a lot of express buses and have the inevitable terminal P&Rs. So transit fans went along with everything else to get those things done. Suburban cities went along with Seattle’s wants to get their extensions, so they wouldn’t be left out of future job growth and prosperity. Transit fans wanted the original Ballard alignment if they couldn’t get better, and were ambivalent about West Seattle. But after the vote we found out about deep downtown stations with long transfers, and an un-urban 14th station in Ballard that the other stakeholders were pushing, and the cost rises. Those two made transit fans wonder, “What’s the point of building it if it’s so ineffective at serving the mobility needs we expected it to serve? Maybe we should just cancel it and fall back to Rapid Ride C, D, and 40 improvements. At least we have one north-south corridor, and that makes a world of difference even if you’re coming from Ballard or West Seattle.”
ST3 was originally going to be smaller, the same size as ST1 and ST2. Seattle politicians got West Seattle Link in before Ballard, and left Ballard with a streetcar concession. Transit fans including STB editors blew their top and said they wouldn’t vote for ST3 without full Ballard Link. That plus the perennial anti-tax and nimby factions were enough to probably sink ST3, so ST hurredly added Ballard Link and expanded the program, and Snohomish’s similarly-demanded Everett and Paine Field.
So if ST3 continues going like it is, with perennial tax-haters and nimbys against it, and transit fans having significant doubts about Ballard’s and DSTT2’s design choices, or even whether DSTT1 should be upgraded instead, that looks like a similar situation as the previous Ballard revolt. In that situation it may not be a good idea to have an ST4 and expect it to pass.
Forward Thrust would have put us in a much better situation. Costs were lower then, and cost-generating regulations were less. I could have used it between downtown, the U-District, Northgate, and Bellevue for the past forty years — my entire high school, college, and early career into midlife. Hundreds of thousands of other people could have done the same, and saved a year’s worth of time in not being stuck in traffic or waiting for less-frequent buses or walking further. AND we might have built larger urban villages around the Forward Thrust stations, and people might have become more transit-oriented. AND we could have built extensions to it, starting in 1985 instead of 2009. We could have built a lot of extensions and additional lines in those 15 years, and we’d have a more comprehensive transit network now. AND it was before the Eyman initiatives that crippled transit expansion and general infrastructure. Maybe if we had built Forward Thrust and those expansions, and people had become more transit-oriented, those Eyman initiatives wouldn’t have passed in the first place.
Subarea equity just isn’t. The meaning of equity is that those with the greatest needs get priority. In this case, it’s the subareas with the least resources. Subarea “equity” in it’s current, twisted meaning, is really just sucking up to the east side and saying there money WON’T go to the places that need it most. Opposite of equity.
What we need is a state level dedicated funding stream, similar to the gas tax for highways, that supports transit. Transit where it is most needed, not just transit where the rich live. They don’t want it any way. The theft of the tunnel to funnel rich (east side ) to rich (north end) and cut out the valley is just an abomination.
Tax ’em ’til it hurts and use the money right.
The M-W, relevant definition of equity (I quote but with formatting modified slightly):
a) justice according to natural law or right
specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism
b) something that is equitable
Where equitable is further defined as (again, I quote but with minor formatting definitions):
1) having or exhibiting equity : dealing fairly and equally with all concerned
e.g. “an equitable settlement of the dispute”
2) existing or valid in equity as distinguished from law
e.g. “an equitable defense”
Leaving aside the circularity, it is not clear to me that the lack of bias implies redistribution of funds.
Please note that I am not arguing against a redistribution of funds, per se – only looking askance at whether the definition of equity, as implied in the post above mine, is in fact accurate. However, the topic of whether redistribution is “appropriate” may well depend on who is being asked and which direction the funds flow in – for example, some politicians in Pierce County have used the current imbalance in fund allocation as a reason to advocate for pulling out of Sound Transit altogether; “redistribution” where funds go from Pierce to King could well be viewed as “inequitable” according to the definition used in the previous post.
I will further note that I suspect that “subarea equity” is a term defined in the relevant RCW chapter (is that the right term?) which established Sound Transit, and thus the most useful definition for purposes of this discussion is that one, not the dictionary one I gave _or_ the implied one by the above post. I am terrible at finding the relevant RCW passages when I try, though; perhaps one of the lawyers frequenting the blog can do a better job than me? Otherwise I can try later when I have the time to get frustrated by my own inability to use the Internet :)
Equity, as I have always understood it, means everyone is treated equally. As in, everyone gets the same level of service. Not Bellevue taxpayers paying for service in Kent.
Of course, Kent needs some service. But it should be paid for by people who live in the south king area, not subsidized by the rest of the county, at the expense of their own bus service.
No. Equity and equality are not synonyms.
Equity is building stairs for and able bodied 20 year old, and a ramp for a person in wheel chair, and an elevator for an 80 year old. You don’t build 3 “equal” sets of stairs.
My geography professor explained it as, equality is the same outcomes. Equity is the same opportunities.
Yeah, I wrote a reply about how that translated to transit, but it must have gotten snared in spam filter or something.
Mike I think you have it reversed?
Goodness. The ‘equity’ in Subarea Equity is a finance concept, as in the share of the Sound Transit Balance Sheet that is owned by each of the 4 subareas.
The relevant M/W definition is “the money value of a property or of an interest in a property in excess of claims or liens against it”
Ha. Thanks, AJ. Good to know it isn’t quite as bad as I thought. At least they aren’t trying to hide to crap distribution of resources with misnomers.
Mike, Forward Thrust would have been better for all the reasons you listed, plus it stayed completely away from the freeway except on the east side.
What people don’t understand is that Heavy Rail has a much better rider experience, assuming decent law enforcement. But that’s easier because HR does not typically have open stations; there are turnstiles of some form controlling ingress.
The trains are faster, accelerate more quickly, and are higher capacity.
And since so much of Link’s trackage is within freeway rights-of-way, the need to fence at-grade would have been essentially a non-issue.
What people don’t understand is that Heavy Rail has a much better rider experience, assuming decent law enforcement.
My understanding is that it is more about high floor versus low floor. In other words, a high-floor light rail line is significantly better for riders than a low floor line*. Heavy rail may be a step up from there, but a smaller one. Low floor is great for trams, as you don’t really have to build stations. It can basically stop anywhere, while allowing people to easily get on board. In contrast, a high floor vehicle needs higher platforms (or people need to step up into the train). It isn’t that hard to build these platforms (they are merely ramps) but it is more work.
I’m not sure exactly why we ended up with low floor trains. It may have been simply what they imagined in the future — lots of surface stops, similar to Rainier Valley. That seems odd, given the interest in very long distance travel, and the general shortage of stops (it is miles and miles between Rainier Beach and Tukwila).
It may have had more to do with the bus tunnel. Buses have to be able to reach to the curb. Thus a high platform that is level for a train would require stepping down (and then back up again) to use the bus. Unless, of course, there are special buses that can handle this (I don’t know). In a Twitter conversation someone suggested splitting the station (high floor trains on one end, low floor buses at the other). That seems reasonable, except there were lots of buses running at the time. Maybe if they built Link in the right order (starting with the UW, if not Northgate) you could have replaced a lot more buses from the beginning. You would probably just stick with two car trains until the system expanded, and you could kick out all the buses.
* Reece Martin used to have a really good video describing the advantages of high-floor trains, but I can’t find it. The basics are fairly simple. It has to do with the bogies, or wheel chassis. A high floor trains sits above the wheels and bogies. This gives the riders a lot more room. Otherwise, you have what you have with Link trains. There are sections that sit above the bogies, and are thus a bit cramped. It also means you have more flexibility when it comes to the engineering. A high floor train can make sharper turns, and run faster. But then you start getting into semantics. This is a vehicle considered “light rail” in the brochure. It is capable of running at 65 mph. If you ran four of those together on a grade separated line, is it still “light rail”, or is it “light metro”? Hard to say.
Anyway, while our vehicles are not ideal, I think it is way down on the list of problems and bad decisions. The lack of a First Hill station; the lack of station coverage in general; no line from Ballard to the UW; way too much money spent on low performing lines or sections — all of those are bigger problems.
Ross, sure. Thst’s the crux of it. High floor cars are just better dboth ynamically and spatially. They’re typically wider, too, since they never will have to fit within a lane of a roadway on some tight extension.
High floor LRT, like the Type 1 MAX cars and those in San Francisco’s system, is terrible for wheelchair access, which is why Tri-Met has never run all-Type 1 trains since they got the Type 2’s. Outside the Muni Tunnel, few stops on the western lines have wheelchair access.
It’s gotta be the bus tunnel: running high floor LRVs alongside buses would have been difficult – the LRVs would have needed dedicated ADA ramps at certain doors, which buses would have then been unable to serve; I don’t think it would have been feasible to split the tunnel, given the DSTT needed four buses loading/unloading to manage peak bus throughput. In the context of joint operations in the DSTT, low floor was the right choice.
Also, in Sound Move it was assumed the extensions into Shoreline and south of SeaTac would have looked much more like the Rainier Valley. With ST2 they shifted away from at-grade intersections (except for Bel-Red), but at that point switching back would have required rebuilding all the existing stations.
Similar to quality improvements in buses (smoother rides, hybrid power systems & regenerative breaking, greater capacity through articulation or double-decking) is reducing the advantages of a streetcar over a bus, I’d imagine advances in LRV technology (smoothness, speed, etc.) are reducing the difference between high & low floor.
AJ, yes, combined operations would have been impossible in the bus tunnel with HRT vehicles. However, the tunnel was closed for a couple of years to rehabilitate the trackway and power distribution systems, and the changeover could have been made at that time. The world was certainly more difficult for downtown Seattle during the closure, but Busmageddon did not arrive. Unfortunately, by that time RV Link was fully under construction, indeed nearly complete, so the opportunity to convert was missed.
Given the eventual design of the system though — “BART del Norte” squeezed into freeway rights-of-way — failing to use HRT vehicles will condemn riders to artificially long rides for essentially NO improvement in access to the cores of peripheral activity centers using available surface pathways which is the primary value of LRT in large metros.
Link is a poster child for failure to plan and analyze the needs of a transit system before building it.
By the way I do understand that HRT can also mean “passenger rail”. What I’m meaning here is “off-the-shelf” NYCTA / LA Red Line / Washington Metro third-rail “subway” cars. Not “Sprinters” like WES in Portland. Not custom-built special gauge “space-age” cars like run on BART Originale. Not “Bi-Level” commuter trains. All those are “Heavy Rail Vehicles”, too, but I do not mean them. I mean plain-jane, walk-through the train “subway cars”.
LRV technology is essential for East Link – multiple at-grade crossings in Bel-Red, and the stations at South Main, 130th, and SE Redmond all avoid vertical conveyances by having riders cross the track to access both station platforms. The station at 130th has perhaps the best pedestrian station access in the entire system (alongside some of the other at-grade stations), only possible because of the low floor LRV.
It is only with ST3 (and TDLE) has the Link design standards stopped leveraging the advantages of LRVs. I’ve argued that WSBLE should be a s standalone line for this exact reason, and I’m optimistic that Everett Link will value engineer down to at-grade operations in the Paine Field MIC and perhaps also at the terminus in Everett station (I’m disappointed Link isn’t at-grade at Tacoma Dome, but it is a tricky environment & it is not intended as a terminus). Kirkland Link will almost certainly be at grade.
AJ, had HRT been the chosen technology the six blocks at grade between the two Spring District stations and the stretch north of South Bellevue would have been elevated. Sure, that would cost a few tens of millions, but having 70 mph top speeds instead of fifty-fiveforever and the additional capacity of “subway cars” would have been worth every penny.
So far as the expansion sections you named as ripe for “at grade”, yep i agree! They’re just like miles and miles of BART, WMATA, CTA and NYCTA trackage with fencing. The damn thing mostly runs in freeway rights of way where it isn’t in a tunnel and the extensions will too.
Freeways are already fenced…….
Tom, you made my point for me. By leveraging LRT and not HRT, we saved tens of millions up front and continue to save millions by avoiding vertical conveyance at multiple stations. Aside from perhaps the Lake Washington crossing, the time savings of running at 75 rather than 55 is minimal and is easily offset by the time saving of easier station access. Link should be stopping frequently enough such that the speed above 55 isn’t impactful. This is where the “BART el norte’ comparison breaks down: BART is regional rail, has many segments of running at top speed, and is a reasonable way to travel long distances; Link has closer stop spacing and is not designed for long haul travel. “Takes a long time to travel from Everett to Seattle” isn’t a compelling criticism of Everett Link because improving travel time into Seattle isn’t a desired goal of Everett Link. The Spine is not optimized for end-to-end travel; Link is optimized to move people within each subarea, with travel across subareas a secondary benefit of using the same mode across the spine. Commuting into Seattle is a helpful basis for initial ridership, but all 4 subareas are looking at Link as a way to boost ridership for trips other than Seattle bound commutes.
I’m looking for at-grade running between 112th & Boeing Freeway. Airport Road isn’t fenced; it’s not a freeway, it has driveways. There are no stations like East Main in NYC/WMATA/BART, etc.
I don’t find the ‘subway car’ capacity argument compelling; I would rather see driverless LRV as a way to create more capacity with 4-car trains, and boost frequency whenever there is a capacity issue.
I want to chime in here, and mention a few things. High floor vehicles (whether they are considered “light metro” or “light rail”) could serve every single station. It is just that the stations themselves would change. Most would have been built differently from the very beginning. In the bus tunnel, the stations would be altered to have a higher platform. The surface stations (in SoDo, Rainier Valley and Bellevue) would have ramps from the street, leading to a higher platform. The cost between this and what was actually built would have been minimal. The user experience would be very similar to what we have now. It would be level boarding, the same as now. It would *not* be like some Amtrak stations, where people have to step up to the set of stairs to get on the train.
There are several advantages. The trains are more nimble — able to turn more sharply. It is possible this could have limited the expenditures in some cases. The trains could carry more people. Not a lot more, but it would still be roomier. Finally, they could go faster.
For a lot of the line, it doesn’t make much difference. But as it turns it, there are a couple of places where it would. It is about 5.5 miles from Rainier Beach to TIBS. Thus a train traveling at 70 mph saves over a minute (80 seconds not counting acceleration and deceleration time). Judkins Park to Mercer Island is about 3.5 miles. Mercer Island to South Bellevue is almost 3 miles. It is tougher to determine the savings, since it means calculating the acceleration and deceleration times) but it is likely another minute, if not more in savings between Seattle and Bellevue. Thus even for the parts of the system we consider to be fairly well built, this makes a difference.
For the more distant stops, it matters even more. Everett Link will be 16 miles long, with 7 stations at most, or an average of over 2 miles between stations. Tacoma Dome Link will add 4 stations over 10 miles, again, well over 2 miles between stations *on average*. This does look a lot like BART, but with slower trains.
There really is little downside to using high floor vehicles. A handful of stations would have required a bit more work. The main reason we didn’t was because of the way the system evolved. A lot of folks just assumed that Rainier Valley (with its three and soon be four surface stations) would be the norm. But mostly it was the bus tunnel, and shared operations.
Changing the stations would likely be very expensive, and not worth it. Of all the mistakes made by ST, choosing the wrong station type (and thus train type) is way down on the list.
Good clarification Ross … we started out talking low vs high floor but Tom and I ended talking light vs heavy rail.
Because of the lower speeds, when I see Link segments that have long stop spacing, then I see an opportunity for infil. The TIBS to RB segment will be broken up by BAR station, and there could plausibly be another station in Tukwila (144th? 133rd?). Snohomish is due an infill station at 220th, and if they are going to do the Paine alignment then I’ve argued they should serve it with two stations (choose current alternatives A & C, perhaps moving option C south to closer to 100th)..
No, AJ, I made the first comment, saying that Link chose the wrong technology by not being “classic subway”. Then Ross made the assertion that “it’s essentially just high-floor versus low-floor” which is indeed a critical part of it — there are no “low-floor” subway cars — but not the entire difference. His later comment is I think very accurate and well-balanced.
Since if South King County does grow — and where else is the Puget Sound region going to grow except farther-flung exurban Pierce or north of Marysville — there will come a time when the Rainier Valley line is either bypassed for Tacoma trains or “buried”. Running LRV’s down it was a useful first step, but the vast majority of the system as now designed and envisioned would be better served by classic subway technology. If it’s buried, the cost of five stations of current ST “cathedrality” would be enormous, while had they been built originally as a subway, they would have been much more spartan, like Beacon Hill.
It seems to me that the choice they’ll come up with is to bypass through Georgetown and South Park down to BAR and just run turnback’s to the airport via the Rainier Valley. That would preserve the strong airport employment service that Link now provides. The Tacoma trains will take the bypass.
Yes, Ross, I know that “South King County has not expressed an interest…..” They will if they grow. The eight minutes saved simply by stopping four fewer times and running at 55 will be a powerful attractant for regional riders.
Bypassing the high street in Tukwila should have been a wake-up call that “Oops. Our trains are not right for the job.”
In any case, I didn’t “hijack” the discussion as you imply. I started it with an observation about heavy rail technology and it morphed to high-floor versus low-floor LRT comparison, which is of course a valid point.
And just as a general point, since the early ’90’s when the system was envisioned, it has always been a regional Metro, not a classic light rail system. The distances between the end points are huge for a low-speed technology. Why didn’t somebody point that out? Sure, ST got a quick fix with the surface Rainier Valley line; people were riding! But it permanently hobbled the much bigger system enshrined in state law.
Oh, I apologize, but I didn’t really finish my thought. It would be:
In the meantime do an engineering analysis of how much it would cost to change to HR technology including the costs to bypass the RV, elevate or bury 112th and the stretch in the Spring District.
Ballard-Downtown could be through routed with high-capacity multi-section trams on the RV line once the surface tracks are bypassed or replaced by a tunnel. Yes, it would take marginally longer to go from Mt. Baker to IDS via surface trackage, but it’s considerably shorter and arguably more useful for the riders.
Dearborn is hardly used these days; it wouldn’t be a problem to take a pair of lanes from it and the part of Rainier north of Martin Luther King will have bus lanes that could be replaced with center tracks. This would match technologies with purpose much better than does Link.
If ST goes ahead with its silliness of building an elevated line over the busway, replacement HR trains to South King should use it as well. They could go either by bypass or buried line down the RV with just a couple of stations.
Or, keep the existing routing on the surface through the Industrial District and transition to a surface route using Seattle Way, Fourth South and two-way surface operation on Third or a couplet on Third and Fourth to connect to Ballard-Downtown.
The point is to separate the genuinely LR-feasible short inner city lines that makes sense — the RV to Ballard and maybe across town north of Lake Union — and the “Regional Metro” which by all rights should be HR technology both for quality and cost.
Alstom/Siemens/Stadler are still making progress on LRV technologies such as more capable bogies as demand around the world is high. I wonder whether LR technology will be able to catch up with HR to allow for faster speeds. That would solve the issue. In the mean time I don’t think a few minutes will make a huge difference.
Sure, ST got a quick fix with the surface Rainier Valley line; people were riding! But it permanently hobbled the much bigger system enshrined in state law.
I don’t think Rainier Valley had anything to do with it. There are only three stations! It would have been trivial to raise the platforms. The stations are in the middle of the street, which means they aren’t really “curb side” (unlike a typical streetcar). In other words, the platform height is arbitrary, and chosen to match the trains, not the other way around.
Hard to say why they decided to go with low floor light rail, but here are some theories:
1) We figured eventually it would operate like low floor light rail, with dozens of stations on the surface.
2) The folks who handled things didn’t really know what they were doing. They just bought low floor light rail because other cities (like Portland) were doing that.
3) The transit tunnel needed to have both bus and train access.
If you feel generous, you assume item number three, which is quite reasonable. But it is quite possible it was a largely arbitrary decision, while keeping the options open for surface stops. But in the grand scheme of things, choosing a different type of vehicle is way, way down the list of mistakes that ST has made over the years.
It seems to me that the choice they’ll come up with is to bypass through Georgetown and South Park down to BAR and just run turnback’s to the airport via the Rainier Valley.
Wait, what? The only major problem with the line to SeaTac is that it doesn’t have enough stops, so you want to build a second, largely redundant line with fewer stops? That is just silly.
It seems like folks keep forgetting that one of the keys to ridership is proximity: https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe#proximity. The little diagram and explanation explain it better than I could. The closer places are, the more riders you get, simply because it takes less time to go between those places. There is a limit to how far people are willing to go. It is why even with the greatest high speed rail lines in the world, way more people travel within the city. To make matters worse, it costs a lot more to go farther. Thus you get fewer riders while paying more to serve them. Oh, and this would be a second, largely redundant line!
We couldn’t possibly afford good frequency with the second line. A second line (if it was every built) would run every 20 minutes at peak. Look around the U. S. and you can see many similar lines. People complain, using the same argument (why did you build it if you aren’t going to run it often) and the answer is always “because it is too expensive to run it more often — we just don’t have enough riders”.
Sorry, but give ST some credit. This idea just doesn’t make sense. If we are very lucky, there will be enough people using Link to force ST into running the trains every 6 minutes. In all likelihood, they will continue to run the trains every 8 minutes at best, simply because there aren’t enough riders.
Ross – that sounds right; the meeting probably didn’t cover much more than “high floor would make the DSTT worse, we don’t have any money so the RV stations need to be as simple as possible, low floor it is, meeting adjourned.”
Tom, your Peirce/SKC comments read more like an argument to invest in Sounder. Electrify & steadily expand the span of service. If SW King gets so big to merit a bypass line, then Link light rail will still run if only to connect SW King to SE Seattle.
“Bypassing the high street in Tukwila should have been a wake-up call that “Oops. Our trains are not right for the job.”” Shoot, I’d love to see Link rebuilt to run along TI Blvd, transitioning to run at-grade briefly for an at-grade station at 144th-ish, before reconnecting with the original alignment at BAR. They have the right train, they just chose the wrong alignment.
The key is for the other subareas to not design their alignments for long haul travel & maximize the value of LRV technology when it comes to station design & station access. SK didn’t do this well (it could have been along Aurora with two more stations), but East King did (tight stop spacing, surface running in BelRed and South Kirkland). TDLE doesn’t leverage LRV at all, but it’s plausible Pierce’s next extension (to the mall or into downtown) could include significant surface running & tight stop pacing. As I’ve pointed about above, Everett Link has opportunity for miles of surface running outside of freeway envelopes, and in ST4 could run at-grade north of Everett Station. Snohomish is due an in-fill station at 220th and could explore more infill.
Think of Link as four light rail systems, focused on Seattle, Bellevue, Everet/Paine, and Tacoma, which then choose to connect to each along the freeways to create a regional system. (this paradigm would be a lot more legible if T-Link was, well, light rail compatible with C-Link and not a streetcar)
Ross, the State has changed a lot politically since the Sound Transit District legislation was passed. The population in the Puget Sound counties now easily outnumbers that in the rest of the State. So it might be possible to give individual counties extra taxing authority, though it might be constrained in some way by the State Constitution.
I’m not saying I believe it is, just putting in a caveat that it might be.
Ross, I said “forty years from now, if South King grows blah-blah…” Of course it doesn’t make sense now. It doesn’t even make sense to go to Tacoma now. But who knows, climate change and the drought in the Colorado River basin might drive six million people up here in that forty years. It might drive ten million. There are forty million in California now; that’s a sizable pool of potential migrants.
It would be the height of irony that a Dust Bowl helped populate California between the World Wars while another might help depopulate it soon.
Just because you’re generally spot-on that transit ridership projections should mostly be based on current ridership patterns does not mean that extreme “long-tail” events might not force an inflection point that invalidates them some time in the future.
AJ, agree completely that the Highway 99 alignment should have been selected. In addition to the opportunity for two (or maybe even three) additional stations, here are a couple of places “behind” the businesses in which it might have been possible to step down from structure for a mile or two to save some money.
And of course I’d still run the RV line to the airport. I said that in the comment:
I agree you have a point about “four light rail systems”. But if that’s the case, then they should be connected not by a “fifth” under-powered light rail system with inferior equipment. Instead, each one of the four systems should have to stand alone on its own merit. Once one takes that position, both Everett and Tacoma become laughable.
At this time, of course. If permanent Droughtmageddon does descend on Arizona and California, Tacoma and Everett are going to turn into cities of a million+ each and with their smallish arterials will need rail badly.
“should not be connected….”
Your little diagram doesn’t say anything like what you claim it says. After all, the ridership and number of stops in the example you cite start out identical!
All the example says is that a shorter line getting a certain number of riders will be cheaper to operate than a long line getting that same number of riders from the same number of total stops.
Think of it. The example given has 4 stops. If it is 4 miles long and gets 10,000 riders, then of course it will be cheaper to operate than a 40 mile long line with 4 stops that also gets 10,000 riders. Because, Duh! It’s shorter.
The second part of the text then says that if the operator tries to constrain costs by reducing service on the long line, then ridership will also be reduced. All this is saying is that less service usually means less ridership. Which, Duh!
But the example does not say that more stops equals more ridership. It actually doesn’t directly address the issue.
Come on people, let’s at least read what we post before posting it!
Sure the standalone systems aren’t justified, which is why we are building from the center out. There is massive savings from shared costs (OMF, fleet, back office, etc), and the long distance travel is still very useful even if it is slow.ish). Link travel between counties will indeed be slower than many of the current express bus route for major trip pairs, but that’s the intentional trade-off of switching from a commuter oriented bus network to an all-day oriented light rail network.
In this theoretical world that the population of South King was so great it needed the Duwamish bypass … wouldn’t the population of Seattle also have grown dramatically? There would be a half dozen stops between SeaTac and SoDo on this new line as well (or even more if it routes through West Seattle). If there is gong to be an express bypass, it’s going to be down in the valley along the Sounder alignment not up on the ridge where Link runs. And if there is a 2nd Link line running from SeaTac to Seattle, Link from the RV won’t turn back but it will continue along the current alignment, as Link from SeaTac to Tacoma can handle two lines (and would presumably merit the doubling of frequency in this proposed future). There would be a reverse branch, not a turnback, at SeaTac.
Put another way, I would rather
1. Invest in Sounder electrification,15 minute frequency, and all day service
2. Have a Duwamish LRV line that can interline with the existing SoDo at-grade operations, interline with the South King line, and place a few stations in Georgetown, South Park, or wherever. (This line would only need to be a few minutes faster between South King & Seattle to resolve a crowding issue in the RV)
Before I would want to spend the money on a new HR line in a fresh alignment. A greenfield Heavy Rail line simply isn’t important with Sounder already there.
Also, I think you overestimate the importance of the airport stations, in particularly in a future in which there are a million people living along the ridge in Tukwila/Kent/Federal Way. The ridership at the non-airport stations will be higher than at the airport, just like in all other urban corridors. https://humantransit.org/2017/07/the-dangers-of-elite-projection.html
@Tom — Yes, I got that. I realize that the second line idea is based on growth and ridership that may or may not happen. I’m just saying it is highly unlikely. Several things have to happen:
1) Growth in the south Sound area has to increase dramatically over what has occurred in the past ten years or so.
2) Those riders will have to be interested in going to Seattle, and going to Seattle in the path provided by Link.
3) Alternatives will have to be worse.
I don’t see any of that happening. We have entered the era of urbanization. Seattle is growing faster than the suburbs (per acre). Even if this reverses itself, and Federal Way becomes a high density suburb, there is no reason to assume that a high percentage of people want to go to Seattle during peak, given the distance. The farther the distance, the less attractive the trip (as Jarrett Walker clearly showed).
Finally, even if these two unlikely things happen, that doesn’t mean we need a train. To get even decent ridership which leads to decent headways, Sound Transit (and to a lesser extent Metro) will force riders out of their express buses. They won’t be given a choice of train or bus. It will be train. For many if not most, this will be an inconvenience. If, in the very unlikely event that the trains run every six minutes and are full, they will simply run express buses, like they do in similar situations in other parts of the world. New Jersey, for example, has many express buses to NYC. This is ridership that dwarfs even the most optimistic hopes for South Sound, and yet they keep running the buses. They aren’t going to spend billions just replacing them with a new, extremely expensive rail line.
Your little diagram doesn’t say anything like what you claim it says
Sigh. I thought I could save us all a lot of time by simply referencing a very well written description. I guess not. I guess I will have to explain, bit by bit, what the diagram and the description is. Let me repeat the main points I wrote:
1) The closer places are, the more riders you get. This is clear in the diagram. Shorter distances are faster and cheaper to serve (emphasis mine). Faster trips lead to higher ridership. (I can cite studies if you want, but this is fairly well accepted.) Again, people are more likely to take trips that are shorter (in terms of time). More people will take half hour trips than hour long trips. Again, this is well known, and again, I can find studies to back this up if you doubt it. Thus all other things being equal, the shorter the distance, the higher the ridership.
2) It costs more to serve longer distance locations. This is clear in the diagram. Shorter distances are faster and cheaper to serve (emphasis mine). Walker even goes into the reasons why, although again, it is fairly obvious.
This is the nature of long distance transit. It costs to provide the same level of service (i. e. the same frequency) and yet even if you do that, you will get fewer riders.
I almost described this very situation, but then I realized that Walker had done it already. Look at that diagram. Ignore the edge parts — just look at the trip from the buildings to the houses. Now imagine in the first instance it takes ten minutes to make that trip, while in the second instance it takes 45 minutes. Even with identical frequency, there will be much higher ridership. That is because it is “faster” (in the sense that “faster” means it takes less time to get there).
AJ, I mentioned continuing to run the RV line to the airport NOT because of people catching planes, but because there are a LOT of service jobs of all sorts at the airport, and the RV is the closest place with reasonably dense housing in which the workers can live. Tukwila doesn’t want them.
I specifically mentioned the work connection as the reason.
An HRT bypass which would use the (unnecessary) new elevated trackway to be built for a train every ten minutes to The Alaska Junction could / would connect to the existing route at BAR. In fact it could be more than half “at-grade” between Airport Way and the BNSF main south of the Boeing Field “terminal”. The rail right-of-way is already fenced. Just make Airport Way two lane — it is lightly-used — and lay the tracks where the northbound lanes are today. There’s even a bit of separation between the roadway and the westernmost track that would be a buffer.
All of us agree that putting the BAR station above the BNSF tracks instead of along Marginal Way is useless in the absence of all-day Sounder and have said so. So the junction with the existing trackway could look a lot like the existing “turnpike” interchange between Airport Way and Boeing Access Road.
I grant that implementation of my wish to make the RV line a tramway through-routed to Ballard conflicts with this. There would have to be separate platforms at TIBS and Sea-Tac stations for the low-floor trams and BAR if along Marginal Way, though they could certainly share the trackage for the three miles between the junction and Sea-Tac. Ideally Tukwila would relent on surface trams on Highway 99 and the RV trains would go that way, but that’s not likely.
And Ross, you keep hoping for something — real LRT with frequent stations — that ST has rendered impossible by building along the freeways everywhere except in the cities. So the region IS going to end up with “BART del Norte” whether it makes sense or not. BUT it will be 55 mph BART del Norte instead of 75 mph BART del Norte. And that will make a further impact on ridership.
So Federal Way will have a population boom but Tukwilla won’t?
No one here is defending the I5 freeway alignments, but the solution is to 1. build TOD around the stations where they are (Shoreline should be a good template), and 2. strive to pull future stations away from freeway alignments, if not the rest of the alignment. Continue to build upon the light rail system we have, which will serve the other subareas internally just fine (as Ross says here, short trips within counties are easier served than long trips between counties), rather that start anew with yet another mode.
I did not say “Start anew.” I said “convert” The Spine to the proper technology for what has been built and will even more obviously in future stages be built as a “Regional Metro”. I recognize that will not be easy or cheap, especially the station conversions, but given that ST is not going to replace the freeway routings it has so enthusiastically adopted north of Northgate and South of Rainier Beach, at least it should operate its average three-mile station spacing folly in a way that doesn’t penalize riders for choosing it.
In-city lines in Seattle and Tzcoma can be operated with LR technology in order to utilize non-exclusive rights-of-way where available. Thirty miles an hour with frequent operation is great for sub-ten mile rides in the city, if the vehicles are only infrequently interrupted by private vehicle traffic.
But ST is baking its “exclusive right-of-way ideology into what it is building that future expansions into Tacoma and Everett, where the “tails” might serve the local communities as LR does best — with surface stations on well-populated arterials — are going to be on structure along freeways right up to the terminal station. Ditto Redmond.
These are the designs of BART, WMATA and the LA Red and Purple Lines. But they’re building them with puny LA Orange Line Extension technology. The LA Orange Line is way too long for LR technology. So is The Spine.
And so it begins.
This is the first regular media story I’ve seen regarding the issues and tradeoffs related to whether Lynnwood Link can, or should, open before East Link. It is becoming clear that Lynnwood Link will be ready to open first, but can it?
What most people don’t understand about East Link is that it isn’t just about the Eastside. East Link is absolutely critical to the operation of Link between IDS and LTC. Basically the successful opening and operation of Lynnwood Link depends on an open and functioning East Link interlined on the same route.
Open Lynnwood Link without East Link and the system is likely to have massive issues with overcrowding, to the point where passengers might not be able to board at NGS in the morning. Similar problems would occur in the evening.
What to do about this?
1). Delay the opening of Lynnwood Link and do a Big Bang opening. Ya, this would simplify things, but Lynnwood Link would lay fallow and unused for 6 to 12 months. Not a good option, but maybe the leading candidate at this moment.
2). Crank up the frequency. But you can’t just crank up the frequency endlessly because ST doesn’t have the required operator and platform hours. And there is still the issue of where to store all the LRV’s required.
3). Go to 7.5 min headways AND delay all bus restructures until after East Link opens. But headways of 7.5 mins only adds 6.7% in capacity, and delaying the bus restructures probably won’t decrease demand much. People will still overload the system near NGS.
4). Open Lynnwood Link along with a Westside only interim East Link line. This reverses Balducci’s concept of an East Link starter line by putting that starter line on the westside where it would support Lynnwood Link, but ST would need to be able to run what would essentially be a turnback line.
So what to do?
My favorite is #4. It requires fewer platform and operator hours than simply increasing frequency, and it puts those hours where they are most needed. But it also requires a heavy lift from ST in operations, and there is still the issue of where to store all those LRV’s.
Items that might affect the discussion? Whether ST can get the IDS to JPS segment of East Link open early to facilitate the interim East Link line and LRV storage. And whether operating an interim East Link line would interfere with ST’s ability to spool up the full East Link line for demonstration testing.
And beyond all this is a wildcard. WSDOT is preparing an RFP to rehab I-5 between Seattle and Shoreline, starting potentially in late 2023. So it is possible that I-5 will be capacity restricted (along with its buses) at the very time that Lynnwood Link is either laying fallow or also capacity restricted. Not good!
Not an easy situation, to say the least. And with 4 agencies involved it isn’t going to be any easy discussion.
Good post Lazarus. I agree with your analysis. It will be interesting to see just how much of SnoCo Lynnwood Link serves, and how many go all the way to Seattle. I am not sure the capacity problems you anticipate will occur. But definitely open Lynnwood Link as soon as possible because who knows with the I-90 bridge.
It won’t help Balducci’s career though, and her sole goal is to succeed Dow. Some eastsiders will wonder why “East Link” is running to Lynnwood at 3.5 minute frequencies when there is zero frequency on the Eastside (and even when open frequency on the Eastside will be 8 minute peak) for several years. But about 99% of eastsiders won’t even notice transit ridership is down so much, and East Link will make most transit trips on the Eastside worse when it opens.
How many more train sets can ST handle at the Central OMF? I like the option 4 but the challenge is where to put the train sets as well as how to reverse them.
I think 3- car trains may be fine, if only for a Westside-only 2 Line. With same station ridership down about 20-30% in the RV, a three car train today would be about like a 4 car train in 2019. I know ST hopes that ridership boosts back but with partial or full-time WFH much more common than before, I don’t see it changing that much by 2024.
As far as an Eastside-only 2 Line goes, I see it as a service done partly for show, and ST would have the equipment to operate it.
PS. If ST can’t find the drivers but can figure out the added train sets for the Westside, simply reduce Eastside-only 2 Line to be less frequent and/or operate fewer hours per week (like no weekend or evening service).
See this is one reason why ST should have hired a CEO with experience running a crowded rail system. It looks like the staff is too busy playing chicken little, and Timm isn’t experienced and strong enough to push back until the staff comes up with a better solution. It’s solving these kinds of big problems that explains why seasoned rail CEOs can get paid big bucks.
My understanding is that ST needs to find storage space for 16 individual LRV’s, although I’m not sure which configuration of Westside service that corresponds to.
Per resources, just cranking up the frequency for the entire Central Link line is the worst option (largest number of required LRV’s and operator hours), whereas running a short interim East Link line IDS to NGS is the best option (fewest LRV’s and operator hours required.). An interim East Link line IDS to Lynnwood is in the middle.
Best option for solving the storage problem is to have ST prioritize fixing the IDS to JPS section of East Link first. If that set of track can be powered up for non-revenue service, then ST could store the extra trainsets in the Mt Baker Tunnel. If not, then ST would need to look to every pocket and tail track in the system.
And holy cow the mess that will occur if WSDOT starts resurfacing I-5 during this period. I can’t imagine what lane closures on I-5 would do to transit service if they occur before the Link trunk route is operating at 100% capability.
“If ST can’t find the drivers but can figure out the added train sets for the Westside, simply reduce Eastside-only 2 Line to be less frequent and/or operate fewer hours per week (like no weekend or evening service).”
Trains require fewer drivers than buses per passenger. ST hasn’t said anything about not having enough drivers for Link openings. It has a year or more to find them. I’ve heard switching to Link is popular among Metro drivers.
“ST should have hired a CEO with experience running a crowded rail system”
Isn’t Timm from Los Angeles?
Timm’s recent experience is in Tennessee and Virginia. Mike you might be thinking of Greg Spots the SDOT director, who came over from AL?
Lazarus: pretty good.
Two. ST and Metro have more than a year to hire and train Link operators. The 587 contract is being negotiated now. I expect train operators have better operating conditions than bus operators. Security issues are probably important in hiring and retaining bus operators.
Two. Platform hours should not be a difficult issue. ST has three large tax streams from 1996, 2008, and 2016; operations takes millions; the delay from spending more on operations to the long term capital projects taking billions may be very slight.
Two and three. Train length matters as well; capacity is a product of both cars per train and trains per hour. Short headway and waits attract riders and make the bus restructures easier. ST need not always use the monumental four-car trains. Waits are long now. The night storage question could be solved.
Four. The plinth issue is present between IDS and Judkins as well as east of Judkins. The second north-south line would be best if it served Judkins; but it could also be based at South Forest Street.
Night LRV storage: how about in the tunnel south of North 92nd Street; it could be secured.
Orr: Spotts, SDOT, is from LA; Timm, ST, was in Virginia.
I have it on good authority that operator training is one of the key issues. Labor is tight right now, and ST can’t just poach as many operates from Metro as often as they want whenever they want. It doesn’t work that way. And the number of operators required is fairly high.
Regarding frequency and capacity, it’s not just the obvious math. Frequency induced discretionary trips will not be created equally across the system. Meaning that simply increasing frequency will be highly wasteful on some parts of the system, while providing the sought after capacity at the choke point. And increasing frequency in the RV will reduce reliability.
Thus option 4 would be the preferred short term solution. Basically provide increased frequency just across the capacity choke point and you won’t be wasting platform hours elsewhere or need to find parking for too many extra LRV’s (basically just enough LRV’s and platform hours to address the choke point).
I believe that Dow Constantine requested info from ST on the possibility of a turn-back line 10 or 15 years ago. Dow is a reasonably intelligent guy, and I think he understood that simply increasing system-wide frequency would eventually lead to poor resource allocation and other potential problems.
So hopefully ST has at least a scoping study of the concept that they can brush off. Because it appears that now is the time.
And they still need to figure out the parking issue.
Laz, but how would that work? When ST wants to hire Link operators, it’s up to the operators at Metro, and other transit agencies, if they want to apply to become a Link operator or not. Metro can’t stop ST from recruiting for the Link operator position, nor can they stop a Metro employee from taking another job.
eddiew, I’ve advocated turning trains using the outer loop at Forest Street for five years, so I heartily agree with your proposal. The problem is that if you run all the trains south of IDS, then you get into the level crossing problem that limits frequency. When I did advocate turning back there it was for long-term “overlay” trains doing peak hour short turns and it depended upon overpassing Lander and Holgate and closing Lower Royal Brougham to cross traffic.
This was in the context of making a diversion just south of SoDo for West Seattle instead of having a separate line.
There are three operationally correct ways to do temporary turnbacks at the south end:
1) turn back at Stadium using the pocket track;
2) turn back at Forest Street using the outer loop; and
3) turn back at Judkins Park using the scissors just west of the station to let it act as a “terminal station”.
#1 requires double seating; don’t take any guff from those who say “the union will agree”; it won’t;
#2 may suffer from some reliability issues when Forest Street is moving cars between the maintenance facility and the parking tracks, but if they’re careful they can stay on the inner loop;
#3 depends on the plinths between JPS and IDS being fixed first.
Storage in any tunnel other than at a station means that the operator has to walk between the tunnel portal or the nearest cross-tunnel and the train cab just operated or to be operated along the narrow walkway. An employee-only shuttle on the other track has to pick them up or drop them off at the portal or the cross-tunnel.
This is not a practical solution.
Lazarus, Northgate is not ready for high-frequency train reversals. It works just fine as a terminal using the scissors just to the south as a train placement tool.
But reversing a short turn between IDS and Northgate would require double-seating at both ends. You can’t really reverse at IDS; the center track is for reversing unusual moves between East Link and Forest Street, probably for heavy maintenance. So you’d really end up reversing in the pocket track at SoDo.
The union will never agree to make operators walk the train in regular service in those tail tracks. It’s modestly dangerous and really, November through January would suck big time. Operators simply can’t be made to get wet between runs.
So your idea of reversing at Judkins Park is superior because it has scissors in place for times when the floating bridge is closed for events or storms. Some sort of temporary comfort station facility would have to be provided there, though.
And Northgate would still be double-seating. It might be better overall to run all the way to Lynnwood in order to get the scissors track selection.
Nevertheless, turning back the interim Westside only East Link starter line at NGS is exactly one of the options being discussed. As is running the interim East Link starter line all the way to LTC and terminating there. So someone must think it is possible, at least in the short term.
As per terminating the interim East Link at IDS at the south end, this only refers to revenue service. Whether the LRV’s actually reverse at IDS, Stadium Station, JPS, or OMF-W is somewhat immaterial. Anything south of IDS is proposed to be non-revenue.
But please note, powering up IDS to JPS in time to support this is still a heavy lift for ST. Good risk mitigation planning would suggest having a Plan B ready to go for both storage and operations.
The location of the capacity chokepoint is actually a function of frequency. At low frequency the chokepoint is near NGS, but at higher frequency it is located between UWS and CHS.
Since the purpose of the interim East Link line would be to specifically address the capacity chokepoint without overburdening the entire system with increased frequency, you’d really only need to run the line something like NGS to IDS. Such a short interim East Link line would make the best use of resources and create the fewest issues with LRV storage.
Looking way forward, whether the temporary Westside East Link line and a permanent turnback line addressing the chokepoint look slightly different, or have slightly different infrastructure needs, is a topic for detailed planning.
I suspect someday we will have have permanent turnback line on this stretch of track. It is the smart way to provide the level of service required without wasting resources at the termini of the various other lines.
And the term is “crossover”. Specifically in this case, “double crossover”.
“the interim East Link line would be to specifically address the capacity chokepoint ” I don’t think this is true? The interim East Link line would run in Bellevue & Redmond, not Seattle. Independently, ST could run an overlay service on Line 1 to address capacity issues, but that’s unrelated to the East Link interim service. “Westside East Link line” is not a thing; I’ve never see anyone outside of the STB comment thread bring up opening Judkins Park station earlier, independent of the lake crossing, I suspect because ST doesn’t have the capability to service Line 1 and serve JPS with regular service without all-day access to OMF-E (there’s is not Plan B if they can barely find room for 16 cars outside the OMF for regular Line 1 service), and if trains can run across the lake they there’s no reason to not just open East Link for revenue service.
An Eastside starter East Link line is highly unlikely to happen. It would be an operational CF for ST to do such a thing, and the implications elsewhere in the system are just too serious. The proposal was more politicking than reality.
However, Lynnwood Link will be ready 6 months to a year before East Link will be ready. But the problem is that a functioning East Link (on the Westside trunk line) is absolutely critical to the functioning of Lynnwood Link.
This is what people don’t get about East Link. People think East Link is about the Eastside, and it partly is. But you basically can’t operate Lynnwood Link at any acceptable level of service without East Link operating at least between DT Seattle and NGS.
Try to open Lynnwood Link without at least part of East Link operating and you run a very good chance of not being able to board passengers at NGS and Roosevelt SB in the morning. And the evening return from DT Seattle would be just as bad.
So what to do? The proposals are as follows:
1). Let Lynnwood Link lay fallow and unused for 6 to 12 and then do a Big Bang open of all 3 lines.
2). Open Lynnwood Link in conjunction with a Westside only interim East Link starter line to address the capacity issues between NGS and CHS.
3). Open Lynnwood Link without any supporting capacity from East Link and just let the s*** hit the fan.
There are many variations of the above, and obviously there are some tweaks to operations that you can make, but obviously the choices are bad.
Only #2 allows Lynnwood Link to open when ready and open without a total meltdown of operations (and politics) like you would get with #3. So it actually IS being discussed.
Hopefully ST can find a way.
“An Eastside starter East Link line is highly unlikely to happen. It would be an operational CF for ST to do such a thing”
You keep saying operations will be this, engineering will be that, as if you know better than ST. ST has dozens of engineers who are paid to spend all day studying these things. If it were as infeasible as you say, they and the staff would be shouting at the board, “It can’t be done”, and the proposal would have been scrapped by now.
Anything “can” be done. That is not the question.
The question is, “Should it be done”? Or, more precisely, “Is it worth doing?”
These are questions for policy makers and politicians, not engineers. Case in point, the analysts said 130th St Station didn’t make sense and shouldn’t be built, but we can all see it going up alongside I-5. Oh well.
But the politics align against an Eastside East Link starter line too. So I’m pretty darn sure it won’t happen.
Lazarus, if you are going to talk as if you are more knowledgeable, at least get the jargon correct.
“OMF-W” is not a thing. The existing OMF is “OMF-C,” at it is in the center of the system. OMFs will be Central (Seattle), East (Bellevue), South (south King), and North (Snohomish somewhere).
“Lynnwood Link without any supporting capacity from East Link” is a nonsense sentence. East Link is a construction project that is proceeding independent of Lynnwood Link. What is relevant is running Line 1 to Lynnwood with or without access to OMF-E. Given the primary cause of delay on East Link completion is the plinths that needs to replaced on a four-mile section of East Link through Mercer Island and Seattle, there is no revenue service in Seattle that can be supported by OMF-E until East Link as a whole is completed (as the plinth replacement appears to be the final critical path).
“Westside East Link line” is not a thing; call it Line 2 running from Lynwood (or NG) to Judkins Park. I haven’t seen staff suggest an earlier opening of JP, which to me implies the track around JP is included in the “East Link through Mercer Island and Seattle” rework. This is consistent with staff proposing the eastside interim line to serve SB Station but not MI Station.
Why would an East Link interim line be difficult for Operations? Running a few trains back & forth between SBS and Overlake seems pretty easy given the direct connection to OMF-E.
Yes, there are concerns about capacity, clearly highlighted by staff to the board. Your Westside East Link line is irrelevant – ST will run as many trains as they can at peak, and if some need to be short-turned, they can do that with or without JPS. Opening JPS earlier might be a nice win, but is irrelevant to addressing capacity issues in the downtown core. I think you correctly identify the bus restructure as a key assumption; I could see ST or CT retain some peak only expresses into Seattle until they are confident Link has sufficient capacity (which may not be until Line 2 starts)
the analysts said 130th St Station didn’t make sense and shouldn’t be built
That is BS. There were no big engineering challenges, as you imply. ST simply worked backwards, based on an arbitrary set of assumptions. Somehow they got in their heads that a station at 145th made more sense than 155th (a decision that looks worse now than ever). Then they just made a rough guess as to how many people would use 130th, based on the size of the park and ride. Since it won’t have one, they guessed “a handful”. They never bothered to consult with Metro, even though an expert would tell you that the vast majority of riders will arrive by bus — something that is true with many, if not most of the stations. They just came up with an arbitrary number as justification for omitting a station that (Metro) — the largest transit agency in the region by ridership — considers essential.
I do remember when there was an independent analysis of an ST project though. It happened in Kirkland. The city hired a transit consulting firm to look at the Cross Kirkland Corridor (or CKC). They recommended BRT. The board wanted rail. Thus the board — which is not made up of transit experts — refuted the advice of an independent expert. Eventually, of course, Kirkland ended up with rail to South Kirkland, something no expert in the world would recommend.
ST suffers from a lack of meaningful analysis. Various decisions have been made ignoring best practices, or even just common sense. Build a subway line from Everett to Tacoma? Who does that? It is really a bizarre thing to do, and yet ST just thought it would be nifty.
RossB on NE 130th Street: amen. The ST Board chose the I-5 alignment; the board and local governments chose the NE 145th Street station. ST was forced to add NE 130th Street by political pressure, but it will also make practical sense with frequent bus service. It would probably have been best for Link to be in the SR-99 corridor supplemented by frequent fast bus service on I-5 between Everett and Northgate via Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. ST only studied a SR-99 alignment that deviated back to Mountlake Terrace. Once I-5 was chosen, the optimal stations may have been at NE 130th and 185th streets, skipping the congested full interchange of of NE 145th Street. Link should serve pedestrian centers; most of its riders will use bus connections. Freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish. But we have decided; we have to find the lemonade recipe to use the freeway alignment. Stride1 and Stride2 will also have issues with bus and pedestrian connectivity; it is difficult to get intending riders to and from the center of I-405. Consider the awkward eastern terminal for Stride3 that ST decided upon beneath I-405.
The increased costs for the station at 130th are pretty staggering. If WSBLE is abandoned 130th makes sense, and when the Board added Graham St. and 130th (at a much lower estimated cost) when WSBLE was clearly underfunded I figured that was the Board’s way of saying don’t hold your breath for WSBLE, although ST is going through the DEIS assuming Santa Claus will come.
The reason 130th wasn’t initially included was ST’s focus on cities and subareas. Seattle already had its highest priorities: downtown, the U-District, and Northgate. The next priority was Lynnwood, must-serve because it’s a PSRC growth center. Next was a station for Shoreline and and one for Mountlake Terrace. 130th was a third-level Seattle priority, and it wasn’t a priority at all until late in the Alternatives Analysis. Activists noticed ST’s extra 130th station in the Aurora alternative, and when I-5 was chosen they said, “If 130th station is possible in one alternative it should be possible in the other.”
“They never bothered to consult with Metro”
They didn’t even need to ask Metro, they just had to look at the size and density of Lake City and Bitter Lane to realize they should be served. That’s what subways are for. If they had been separate cities they would have gotten higher priority, so ST could say it’s serving those cities.
“I do remember when there was an independent analysis of an ST project though. It happened in Kirkland. The city hired a transit consulting firm to look at the Cross Kirkland Corridor (or CKC). They recommended BRT.”
There was also an activist group “Save Our Trails” in southeast Kirkland that didn’t want anything. ST didn’t want to get into a 3-way controversy like southern Bellevue, so it deferred downtown Kirkland until later. If you think ST should not build light rail on the trail, you should be glad of that; it means BRT can be built later. Although I’ve walked the trail and I think two asphalt lanes would be horrible. It’s the only nonmotorized corridor in the area, and parts of it feel like a far-away woods. That’s a major transportation infrastucture and amenity in itself. Put BRT on 108th.
Lazarus, based on actual ridership and not ST estimates why do you think Lynnwood Link would overwhelm capacity at Northgate when it opens? Obviously ridership on Northgate/Central Link today is much lower than ST estimated, and I have to assume ST’s estimates of how many people will actually board Lynnwood Link and take it all the way past Northgate Link is inflated post pandemic. So why can’t current frequency at Northgate handle the ACTUAL increased ridership from Lynnwood.
I agree with you opening an interim segment of East Link from SB to Overlake is a bad idea, and will have extremely low ridership (because even when all of East Link opens ridership is going to be at best half of ST’s estimates), and that Lynnwood Link should open as soon as it is ready, but do we really need all the gymnastics about additional trains and where to store and maintain them. Are you sure current frequency and number of trains at Northgate can’t handle the additional riders from Lynnwood?
“why do you think Lynnwood Link would overwhelm capacity at Northgate when it opens?”
It’s at least possible because Link is currently almost standing room only in the afternoon at Capitol Hill and the U-District, and has only a few spaces left peak hours. It would take only a moderate influx to overcrowd it. ST is concerned about possible overcrowding if the double frequency doesn’t start in 2024 as expected; it’s in the presentation in the article, first link, page 12. ST has the passenger counts and experience with train loads and growth over time.
“ It’s at least possible because Link is currently almost standing room only in the afternoon at Capitol Hill and the U-District, and has only a few spaces left peak hours.”
You are correct. Anyone who has ridden Link at anywhere near peak time knows how full it currently is. It won’t take many more riders to push it over the edge and saturate it. And if the opening of NG Link is any indication, the next opening is sure to dump a ton more passengers onto that line.
And the concern is right there in the linked material. ST is not operating blind. They know they have an issue.
If Lynnwood Link opens without East Link, ST is sure to have a problem. The 1-Line doesn’t have the capacity to operate as a standalone line at 8 min headways after Lynnwood Link opens, and Lynnwood Link will overburden OMF-W with its storage requirements even at 8 min headways.
This is why there is so much chatter right now within the transit agencies. There is real concern about the impacts of a delayed East Link.
It’s basically a resource allocation problem. ST can’t endlessly add LRV’s to the system via frequency because of the storage constraint, but capacity demands dictate you need to increase total LRV capacityon IDS to NGS.
How to thread this needle is the question of the day.
I think ST needs to look at interim interlining on the Westside.
Lazarus, a “scissors” is a specific type of “double crossover”. It is one in which the crossing tracks themselves cross one-another. Ordinary double-crossovers in suburban or exurban territory are sequential. One direction occurs and the other direction occurs immediately after or before, depending which direction one is traveling. Scissors crossovers are almost always used when space it at a premium OR when track selection at a terminal station is to be achieved. That’s why there are scissors just south of Husky Stadium, just south of Northgate and (will be) just south of Lynnwood. The other two pair on the existing line are just north of SeaTac and just north of Angle Lake.
These are all locations which have in the past, are now, or will in the future be temporary termini. The ability to direct a train arriving at the terminal to either platform, and to line a train departing from either platform to the outbound main track as close to the platforms as possible is why scissors are located where they are.
The have that name because they look like slightly opened scissors.
ST will not use the tail track north of Northgate for reversing except for emergency removals of disabled vehicles. The union will not agree for scheduled reversals without double-seating the train during the reversal. “Walking the train” is not risk-free and would be miserable in the rainy winter. Operators have a right not to get rained on except in unusual circumstances.
It would work just fine for reversing Line 1 trains from Federal Way or eventually Tacoma. The operator is going to get a break after than long a run, and “double-seating” by boarding the relief at the northbound platform for a ride into and out of the tail track is entirely reasonable.
But for short turns in which the same operator could take the reversed train back the other direction, ST will not incur the extra labor cost when for a ten minute ride on north they could use the track-selection power of the Lynnwood scissors.
Where do you get this stuff?
“Scissors” is an imprecise term that is used more as slang. In fact, if you go to the CSX railroad dictionary, where they also include a lot of slang, they don’t even list “scissors” as a railroad term. Honest.
“Double crossover” is the better term. Usually the crossing tracks in a double crossover cross each other and form a so called “diamond”. This link has a good schematic of what a “double crossover” is. And, yes, that is a real site.. Not fake.
As per those other discussions, you are mainly right about ST’s route choice north of UDS.
The original routing involving the portal near 60th, an aerial station near 65th, and the weaving over and under the freeway ramps to the north was found to only have marginal cost benefits over the route eventually selected. Additionally the construction risks were much higher, the distance travelled a bit greater, and the aerial structure somewhat undesirable given the siting constraints.
And….. The neighborhood actually advocated for the station being in the heart of the Roosevelt district, and they also wanted a modest upzone.
So it all worked. And it actually does work!
Scissors double crossovers are almost never found on “real” railroad lines except in yard or terminal throats, because they require a diamond in the middle as you noted. If there’s anything the M of W folks hate, it’s a diamond, especially one with an oblique angle in which the frogs can “pick” a flat-wheeled car relatively easily. It limits the speed of trains through the plant more than sequential simple cross-overs do.
It does shorten the plant, of course, so if cross-streets are an issue, one might be chosen on a main-line. Speeds of course would be slower through an area with cross-streets that close together.
Thanks for supporting the history of the alignment choices. I didn’t mention the problems with an aerial station at 65th and Ravenna/Eighth, but you’re absolutely correct: it was not popular. Unfortunately, that just feeds Donald’s argument that the White “Urbanist” Snowflakes of the Roosevelt neighborhood got “special treatment” that the Abused But Valiant People of Color in the Rainier Valley did not.
Huh, I read the link after writing what I did, and I see that a sequential pair of different handed cross-overs is called a universal cross-over, NOT a “double cross-over”. at least insofar as Agico Corp is concerned. So thank, you, I learned something. However, every thing else I wrote was almost verbatim what they wrote, especially the reasons that scissors are used only in extremis.
I would note that Agico is a Chinese company, and if you’ll read Trains or Modern Railroads I think you’ll see the sequential version referenced as “a double cross-over” regularly.
Terminology varies slightly with source and by region, but what is located just south of NGS is definitely a double crossover.
[trolling]., it’s because a large number of southbound riders will depart at U-District. CT won’t be running any buses on I-5 south of Lynnwood once Lynnwood Link opens, so roughly 40 buses worth of riders during each peak will be added to the folks who use Northgate and Roosevelt now. Some, but relatively few, will deboard at Northgate and a tiny number at Roisevelt, so, without the more frequent headways of “two lines” running, riders boarding will be forced to wait.
This is a strong argument for running the short turns all the way to Lynnwood. If they turn back at Northgate , every other train at Northgate and Roosevelt will be packed and every other essentially empty.
Either CT will have to continue running the 400’s — adnittedly not the end of the world considered alone — or the turnback trains will need to go to Lynnwood. Given the difficulty of turning back at Northgate once the line continues north, this is the better choice.
As you state, the problem with Lynnwood Link going before access to OMF-E is fundamentally one of resource allocation. Without East Link a stand-alone 1-Line to LTC doesn’t have the capacity at 8 min frequency to satisfy the ridership demand, and even at 8 min frequency OMF-W will be over its storage capacity by about 16 LRV’s. 8 min frequency on a standalone 1 Line essentially doesn’t satisfy any of the requirements.
What is the solution? Get smarter about resource allocation! Essentially REDUCE FREQUENCY on the 1-Line while adding a short segment of the 2-Line from IDS to LTC.
How much reduction in 1-Line frequency is required, and how many LRV’s the 2-Line trains will need, is a subject for detailed analysis. But the key constraints are:
1). When does the 1-Line become capacity constrained, and at what frequency, north of NGS and south of IDS. This sets the floor on how far frequency can be reduced.
2). What train length is required on the IDS to NGS interim 2-Line to meet the capacity requirements in the interlined section.
The answers to 1 & 2 will tell you how close to the OMF-W storage limits you are, or conversely, how far over limit you are. Hopefully it would work at a base frequency of 10 or 12 mins within capacity and OMF limits.
The interesting thing about this approach is it could be used as a stepping stone approach to smooth out ST hiring and training needs, while reducing operational risk due to experience gained.
Basically the short interlined section of the 2-Line could be implemented today at existing frequencies. No need to wait for Lynnwood Link. Hire a smaller number of operators (and OMF) employees and get them spun up while learning how to operate the two line system
When Lynnwood Link gets to demonstration testing, only then reduce the frequency, but leave the 2-Line as IDS to NGS only. This requires the fewest new employees.
When access to OMF-E is obtained, then the frequency can go back to the targeted value and there is another small hiring bump.
When East Link goes into demonstration testing then there is another hiring bump.
Basically the idea would be to meet demand while slowly ramping up hiring and training. Only when East Link gets to full demonstration testing would employment be at 100% of the eventual requirement.
So a slow ramp-up in hiring, while steadily gaining operational experience. Basically one ball in the air at a time reduces the risk, and reduces the hiring spurts
Is #2 relevant? Wouldn’t it just be one line, but with some trains short-turning at ID (or SoDo or wherever)? I think Lazarus’ general point is where we probably end up – if crowding on the north side of downtown gets bad enough, ST will need to trim frequency south of downtown to increase frequency north.
I’m confused by your statement. There would be two lines, just like there will eventually be two lines. The only difference is that they would start out shorter in length than their eventual, full configuration. This would be particularly true of the 2-Line (East Link) which would start out just running between IDS and NGS (revenue service).
So if the base frequency is 12 minutes, then the trains for the 1-Line would operate uninterrupted from Angle Lake to LTC (for example) at 12 minute intervals.
And if the 1-Line is operating at 12 minute intervals, then the 2-Line would also operate at 12 minute intervals. The difference being that the 2-Line would only carry passengers IDS to NGS (for example), and the 2-Line trains at any given station would arrive 6 minutes after the previous 1-Line trains.
So in the section of track where both the 1-Line and 2-Line trains are operating a train would arrive every 6 minutes, even though the base frequency of each line is 12 minutes. The capacity on this stretch of track would be the sum of the capacity of the two lines.
On the stretch of track where just the 1-Line is operating the capacity would just be the capacity of the 1-Line, and would be based on 4-car trains.
How long the 2-Line trains need to be on the interlined section is set by the capacity over and above what is being carried by the 1-Line. This train length will undoubtably be less than four cars. Exactly how long is TBD per detailed analysis.
I just saw an add on TV in which CT is offering $5000 bonuses for new drivers. I don’t know what the terms are, but I think CT would prohibit ST from poaching drivers it paid a $5000 bonus to.
KIRO TV just had a piece that Career Builders is advertising for 379 heavy and tractor-trailer drivers.
Bloomberg reported tonight that of the 50,000 layoffs in tech in the U. S. so far 20-30% are foreign Nationals here on a work visa who will have to return to their country of origin. To follow up a prior post could those be our future transit drivers. No need to increase legal immigration levels.
Sure driving a bus in SnoCo or Pierce might not pay the same or be consistent with someone’s education but how many college graduates really work in their major, and it is probably better than returning to their country of origin. I bartended during law school and before that in graduate school and absolutely hated it, but it paid the bills until something else was available.
For years progressives have claimed blue collar workers in manufacturing or fossil fuels could find new jobs in green energy or tech. Maybe a reverse migration is in order now that federal policy is repatriating manufacturing back to the U. S.
Somehow, I just don’t see laid-off Twitter engineers transitioning into a career in bus driving. I just don’t see it.
I do have a buddy applying for a PT driver job. Body got pretty beat up in construction. He was salivating over the 5K bonus, but Everett is too far.
Reece’s latest discussions covering Seattle Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gKrW_aj75I&t=6s
I saw that last night and was thinking about quoting several paragraphs from it.
Guadalajara, an example for Seattle?
Great. I recall reading about Guadalajara in the 90s. ST Link is a product of its governance: a federated board for a district spread over three counties.
WMATA is split between 2 different states and DC, they seem to be making more progress. Does anybody know about their governance structure?
Reece only touched on it: https://youtu.be/b6X312phkUw
Dc’s Metro is governed by an appointed commission. The basic explanation is described in Wikipedia:
This model of appointed transit boards is common in large systems. Often, small systems are managed by elected officials like mayors our city council members while large systems are not.
An elected official model works fine if it’s a small operation — especially if it’s managed day to day by someone else. However, at some point a system can be too big for a generally elected official to spend time doing. Oversight becomes token. I think this (expecting officials who wear multiple hats to be on top of things) is a structural part of some of our transit oversight problems in our region.
Another nuance of their setup is the firewall between funding, construction and operations. DC Metro depends on other commissions to obtain their funding. It may sound inefficient, but it’s actually an excellent check on runaway project budgets and referenda funds.
It always strikes me as surreal that we expect some members of our county councils to sit on not just one but two different transit boards in addition to their other job responsibilities. We aren’t a tiny place like Hooterville, and there are probably hundreds of citizens that could better oversee our transit operations better than the elected officials that can’t get on top of the issues in these agencies because they do so many other things.
Yes, it is a double coss-over of the scissors design, because it is (temporarily) the northern terminus of Link. Once Link is extended to Lynnwood, it might be used occasionally to bypass a track and platform if one needs to be removed from service.
I will continue to contract “scissors double cross-over” to “scissors”.
As I said in the open thread, my next articles may not be for a week or two because I’m busy with something that must be done by the end of the month. This article has a lot of comments but it seems to be well organized so it can take more as long as people start new threads when the topic changes. The open thread has lots of room: it’s at 91 comments, 59 less than my target maximum of 150. I’ve got some links saved up and will publish them when I my other things done.
Honestly we should be asking for a short ST3 line that connects First Hill with Westlake and then goes to SLU and Seattle Center, and call it a day. And it doesn’t even have to be with current Link technology which leads to huge and cumbersome stations. It can be automated like SkyTrain or even Monorail technology. Screw Ballard and West Seattle.
Go small, go sooner. It’s better than some 2040 pipe dream.
I agree with “go small, go sooner”, SLUer!
The WestSeattleSkyLink.org folks have been pushing for a gondola a decade sooner…
I had suggested a gondola from Pioneer Sq Station up First Hill to Harborview / Swedish along Jefferson. Others had suggested a gondola line from SLU/Seattle Center up Denny or John to connect to Capitol Hill Station and may be beyond to KP hospital.
Building a gondola is much easier to plan and usually gets constructed within 2 years and costs a fraction of a subway and a far smaller carbon footprint.
We might even be able to resurrect some prior (abandoned) designs: https://www.seattlemet.com/travel-and-outdoors/2014/03/the-waterfront-gondola-is-really-happening-probably-march-2014
Martin, NOBODY WILL RIDE from West Seattle to SoDo. They won’t ride the Link Stub either, of course, but some will ride Link when it goes all the way through downtown, through Capitol Hill, and to the University.
A few may even ride it on north.
Is it worth building through the hilly West Seattle topography? Absolutely not. But nor it is “worth” dangling bumpy little ski lifts two hundred feet above the Duwamish Waterway. It’s an amusement park ride.
NOBODY WILL RIDE from West Seattle to SoDo
Which is why light rail is a terrible choice. West Seattle Link only significantly improves travel time to one destination — SoDo — which very few will use. Light rail is such a bad choice that the gondola idea is actually quite reasonable in comparison. It isn’t a very good place to put a gondola, but it is an even worse place to run a train.
The other day I was looking at the RapidRide H, which will replace the 120. It takes 11 minutes to get from Delridge & Andover to 3rd and Madison (https://goo.gl/maps/eiBXUjUWsmgkueqz5). This involves a one minute walk. From SoDo to 3rd and Madison takes 11 minutes (which involves a 6 minute walk). Thus there are places in downtown where the existing bus (not the RapidRide) is faster than the train. This doesn’t count the time it takes to actually get to the station (which will likely be very high in the air). Obviously Madison is somewhat of a cherry-pick. It sits between two Link stations. But the fact that it is at all close shows that the train offers little to no advantage for trips downtown, even if you are standing right next to the Delridge Station.
Of course very few people will walk to that station. It is designed as a bus intercept. The vast majority of people who use that station will be transferring from other stops further south. But if they continue to run the new RapidRide H, why would they? Why would someone transfer from the bus right before it is about to get on the freeway, and run express-mode to downtown? The transfer will not be painless. The train will, most likely, run every 8 to 10 minutes during the day, and every 15 minutes at night. It will also take a while to get to station platform, as it will be high in the air.
Riders who are headed to Capitol Hill or other north end destinations might consider making the transfer in West Seattle. But even then, it isn’t clear they save any time. If they stay on the bus, they double their frequency when they make the transfer downtown. Even if you time it perfectly, you save maybe a couple minutes with a West Seattle transfer. It is still better to stay on the bus to downtown, and transfer there.
The only significant improvement is a trip to SoDo. That’s it.
From a system wide standpoint, there is an advantage to the train though. Buses will not run from Delridge to downtown, even though that would be better for the vast majority of riders. They will be asked to transfer, to save service hours. Given that only a handful (i. e. those headed to SoDo) will prefer the train, the service savings will be by far the best thing to come out of West Seattle Link.
Which is why the gondola idea is quite reasonable. Either way, West Seattle riders will be asked to sacrifice — their trip to downtown will take longer and be less convenient. Might as well minimize the transfer time, improve the experience, and dramatically lower the capital costs.
It is unlikely that West Seattle Link will ever be seen as a success. Ridership won’t increase, and time savings may actually be negative. The operational costs go down, but the capital costs are extremely high. Spending billions to save millions just isn’t a great idea. On the other hand a gondola — however similarly inconvenient for riders — could end up saving the region some money over the long term. Some would transfer at SoDo to take the train north or downtown. Others would ride the gondola to downtown. Operating a gondola like that is probably no more expensive than running West Seattle Link, while you still get the financial benefits from truncating the buses. Mostly it is just much, much cheaper.
There is also the psychological aspect of this. People hate waiting. So much so that frequent service that is always moving just seems faster. The other day I was heading to my home in Pinehurst from the Roosevelt neighborhood. I checked One Bus Away, and the 73 wasn’t supposed to arrive for another 14 minutes. After some thought, I decided to take the train. I got to the platform, and it arrived soon after. Then I waited for the bus. Luckily, I have more buses to choose from, and they run more often. I ended up taking the 75, which eventually goes east on 125th. Out of curiosity, I checked on the 73. The 75 and 73 were approaching Pinehurst at roughly the same time. As my bus crossed 125th and 15th, I could see the 73 further north. Long story short, I would have saved time just waiting for the 73. I suspected this was the case all along, but like many people, I just hate waiting.
With West Seattle Link, West Seattle riders will have an annoying transfer. At least with a gondola that transfer time will be minimized, and not involve long waits, like the one I avoided with the 73.
“if they continue to run the new RapidRide H, why would they?”
All of Metro’s long-range plans have RapidRide H going downtown. There hasn’t been an LRP published since 2020 so we don’t know if Metro has changed its mind, but there’s no indication it has.
SkyLink actually proposed running the gondola not only to SODO but on to CID which has more frequent Link service and more directions. That would make it far more attractive than having to wait for a RV train.
“It’s an amusement park ride”
Mexico City is now building their 4th gondola line, Toulouse and Haifa have one, Paris is building one. Germany is looking at various lines, the government just published new guidelines for urban gondola deployments as they see them as an opportunity to build sustainable transit systems with reduced carbon footprint and cost. Do you think they would invest in an amusement park ride?!? Yes, Disney built a few gondolas, you might want to keep an open mind for technology used around the world…
How long is the gondola Paris is building? And what locations and/or points of interest will it connect.
You are proposing one over five miles long, creeping along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour, nearly two hundred feet in the air across the Duwamish Waterway. And even with the section through SoDo it will just get to the edge of downtown. Eighty-five percent of the riders will have to transfer within a node in which vehicles headed on into the CBD stop at three different locations. People would have to choose which of the three works best for the daily!
While connecting First Hill to downtown might make sense,, for THIS route, it’s just a gadgetbahn.
This blog has discussed ad nauseum why WSBLE is not a wise use of transit funds (and ST even admits all N. King Co. can afford “at this time” is a stub from West Seattle to that mecca Sodo). According to Martin’s research 600 West Seattle drivers/day might switch to Link if built, and the closure of the West Seattle bridge proved that West Seattle residents will drive even if the bridge is out, let alone up and running with not a lot of traffic congestion today. As Ross has posted recently, bus service from West Seattle to downtown Seattle is very good, and takes you directly to a Link hub.
But Dow Constantine lives in West Seattle and wants to run for governor, and Balducci is desperate to replace Constantine as King Co. exec. which means getting his endorsement. West Seattle — shock and surprise — is demanding tunnels and underground stations like Roosevelt got for 60 blocks and one station, and West Seattle has a point if Roosevelt got a tunnel and underground station (in the singular, so not a great walkshed for a 60-block tunnel).
At the same time, we on the eastside get a line from Issaquah to 112th/405 and S. Kirkland that will not access downtown Kirkland, Bellevue or Issaquah, even though the subarea will be able to afford it. Frustrating to be sure.
The more I think about it the more I think ST should consider improving the lines it has, considering it can’t afford WSBLE and likely never will be able to (so I guess we should remove the “B” from the acronym). How about WSSSE( West Seattle Sodo Stub Extension). Has a nice ring to it for several billion dollars.
Although the 130th St. station’s new cost blows me away, and I suppose Graham St. will also cost twice its estimate, compared to $20 billion from DSTT2 and WSBLE they seem pretty reasonable.
So how about we use the “equity” card to actually do something better, and box in our progressive friends Constantine and Balducci.
Let’s use the funding for WSBLE to bury the lines and stations south of Seattle.
It seems strange to me to build a 90-mile spine from Everett to Tacoma on the claim it will create a regional connection that will rival cars if in the middle of the run there are a bunch of non-segregated surface stops and crossings, especially when that entire surface line tends to be where the Black and Brown people live (no doubt entirely by coincidence, because the engineering REQUIRED burying a 60 block line from UW through that metropolis Roosevelt to Northgate). S. King and Tacoma get screwed if going north, so do folks travelling south to the airport, while folks in north Seattle get 3.5-minute frequency courtesy of East Link on a mode that is already slow for rail. In the law we call that racial disparity. It isn’t so much the intent but the outcome that is unfair (including to anyone trying to get to Seattle, the UW, Capitol Hill or Everett from the south).
The icing on the racial cake, as Al has pointed out, is if DSTT2 is built West Seattle will access DSTT1 while areas south of Seattle to Tacoma will use DSTT2.
My guess is South Seattle will densify much more than West Seattle, Ballard or Roosevelt over the next decades, because Ballard, West Seattle and Roosevelt are better at fighting upzoning, and the more affordable housing in the future will be in south Seattle. Does it make sense that density will come first to an area directly adjacent to downtown Seattle (think The Central District) like South Seattle compared to distant SFH suburbs like WS and Ballard that require crossing bridges to get to them?
I think one reason N. King Co. is reluctant to abandon DSTT2 is the 1/2 contribution from the other subareas, from the original $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion based on current cost estimates. I don’t know if three of the subareas have their share, but if they do, and N. King Co. contributes its 1/2 (plus maybe a little more) why not use those funds to begin burying Link in South Seattle to increase frequency and speeds from Tacoma to Everett? Make the Link line we have better with the money.
Not burying Link through South Seattle was clearly an error at the time, and the buried line through Roosevelt proves ST must see the surface line through South Seattle as both bad transit, and inequitable. I would much rather see my subarea’s contribution toward DSTT2 (at $275 million) go toward burying Link in South Seattle so the spine doesn’t have this choke point than some kind of ridiculously priced WSBLE/DSTT2 serving all white SFH suburbs.
The problem with WSBLE today is no one has challenged The Board and Dow with an alternative that is better transit and more equitable. I think forcing Constantine, The Board, and Balducci to choose burying the lines south of Seattle or WSBLE, so there pollical calculus for WSBLE or just the stub has a downside, or even just a stub to Sodo, would drive home how inequitable WSBLE is, and how bad transit in comparison. I also think Tacoma, Federal Way, and places south would agree.
the Paris line is only 3 miles long, but Mexico has several 4-5 mile long lines very similar to the WS line (4.4 miles) and just as many stops.
If you want to continue North, you can already transfer at SODO, but if you want to connect to Eastlink or streetcar, you might go all the way to CID. It would still take less than 20min and still be better than the WS stub line where you may have to wait 10min at the Junction and 10min at SODO – even if the ride is faster.
DT, I like thinking about increasing equity – the WS line for example would serve one of the least diverse neighborhoods in South Seattle while a gondola could extend at least to High Point, one of the former redlined areas and may also serve the Duwamish Longhouse.
I’m not sure adding a tunnel for RV would be a prudent idea, I would rather close a few cross streets and put road crossings underneath the others to make the line grade separated. Or leave the line as is and use the funds to add the Duwamish bypass line – fully grade separated to serve more diverse neighborhoods (White Center, Georgetown, Tukwila) while allowing shorter headways to the airport and beyond. But I tend to agree with Ross that currently demand his not high enough, more frequent bus service might be more prudent for now.
Martin, sure if by “continue north” you mean to Capitol Hill, U-District or farther. But you said that one of the major benefits of the gondola is that it put people at the edge of downtown where more vehicles run. Yes, they certainly do. Unfortunately, they stop at three different zones one of which (the train platform) is completely out of sight of either of the others. The buses can be seen from a well-placed vantage at Fourth South and Jackson, but crossing Jackson to take advantage of “the other stop” is not quick.
Look, people may LOVE the gondola for the first few rides; it would have a GREAT view, especially on a clear winter day. But remember that the gondola suffers from the same fundamental flaw that Link to West Seattle does: only a few busloads per hour of people do or will live in the walkshed. Everyone else will have to take a feeder bus or kiss-n-ride. There will be no “park-n-ride” in West Seattle.
After the “WOW” factor fades, the slow speed will be extremely frustrating, because it is possible to optimize transfers to and from a feeder line at a single location. No, it’s not possible to have off-and-on transfers everywhere in a grid like Chicago has developed for its BRT’s. But for a bunch of radial “spoke” lines feeding The Junction, Avalon and Delridge stations, Metro can do a pretty good job of coordinating with a Link line.
Even though I do think that “timed transfers” can be made to work, given goodwill between the agencies, I still think that the West Seattle branch should not be built, certainly not in the “stub” incarnation. That’s asking too much of riders to transfer twice when at least some of them have direct service today.
But a gondola is likely to be a long-term flop also, unless the center of West Seattle grows drastically.
But a gondola is likely to be a long-term flop also, unless the center of West Seattle grows drastically.
But I think you can say the same thing about West Seattle Link. I expect it to be a long-term flop. But there are several important differences. First, a gondola would be a lot cheaper to build. Second, it doesn’t increase the number of trains in the existing tunnel. Third, it doesn’t screw up the SoDo busway. Fourth, it would be an attraction in itself, similar to the monorail (which is both practical and attractive).
I agree with your assessment of the stations. Very few people will walk to them, whether they are served by a gondola or train. It is all about the feeder buses. The best option for riders is for the buses to just keep going to downtown. But since that isn’t going to happen, the second best thing is to have well timed transfers. To get well timed transfers, you need a few things:
1) Minimal transfer time.
2) Consistent bus travel times.
I don’t see either happening. I’ve spent a lot of time using the Northgate Station. I think it is great. It has changed my life, and the life of many people. Yet the bus-to-train transfer isn’t quick, and the buses aren’t consistent. So much so that Google often suggests taking a single bus, rather than the bus/train that I prefer. To get from Pinehurst to Husky Stadium this morning (where I’m meeting a friend) it suggests taking the *eastbound* 75, instead of a bus to Link. This bus goes all the way around Sand Point Way, and is fairly slow. It requires a hefty walk at the end as well. The transfer is just that bad.
I don’t see how either West Seattle stations will do any better. The buses may be a bit more consistent, but it is very hard to time routes that are that long, and run on the surface. Even with off-board payment and lots of red paint, you still have traffic lights, and other delays. But a lot of it is the transfer, and I just don’t see the transfer being any better in West Seattle than it is at Northgate. Some riders get from the bus to the platform very quickly, while others take a lot longer.
Typically, the way that agencies handle the situation is to simply run the train more often. If the train runs every five minutes, this is no longer a problem. Just run the buses as often as you can, and don’t try and time anything unless it is late at night (when the trains run less frequently, and the buses can run very fast and consistently). But again, I just don’t see that. I don’t see the trains running that frequently, or even close. They will run every ten minutes, which means that riders will, on occasion, get to the platform and have to wait almost ten minutes for the next train.
So then it gets down to which is worse — a long wait, or a slow ride. To a certain extent it is psychological. Overall, either new option will take roughly the same amount of total time. From a practical standpoint, riders will be worse off than they are now, either way. The question is whether waiting at a station or riding on a slow gondola is worse. Personally, I would probably go with the gondola. I like the sense that I’m moving, even if I’m not moving very fast.
But from a practical standpoint, the gondola is clearly better, simply because it is cheaper, and doesn’t mess with the existing system. Either a gondola or a Link will be a dud, in the sense that it will make travel times worse for just about everyone.
Of course, this is all a pointless discussion. A gondola won’t happen, nor will they focus on just making the buses faster. They are going to build a light rail line from West Seattle, no matter how silly.
Ross, in the paragraph immediately before the quoted one about a gondola being a flop I said that, even assuming good co-ordination between the agencies, I still do not think that West Seattle Link is a good idea.
But you launched into “professor mode” anyway and itemized your list of talking points why West Seattle Link is a bad idea. It is a bad idea, specifically because of the horrid, expensive engineering challenges it would have to overcome. If there were no hills and no Duwamish Waterway between The Junction and the “Link Trunk”, it would be a fine place to reverse trains from the far north while serving a modest activity center.
Do you think that I have not read what you have written about this topic for the past four years? The same primary argument against opening West Seattle Link as a stub which you have repeated dozens of times — i.e. it forces a three seat ride on everyone not within its walkshed — applies permanently to a gondola, even one to Union Station.
“But you launched into “professor mode” anyway and itemized your list of talking points why West Seattle Link is a bad idea. It is a bad idea, specifically because of the horrid, expensive engineering challenges it would have to overcome. If there were no hills and no Duwamish Waterway between The Junction and the “Link Trunk”, it would be a fine place to reverse trains from the far north while serving a modest activity center.”
IMO West Seattle Link is a bad idea because of the likely ridership. If there is enough ridership almost any transit engineering and cost issue can be justified. It isn’t so much the overall cost of West Seattle, which is very high, it is the extremely high dollar per rider mile. Based on likely ridership on WS Link it would need very low construction costs to justify it (which Tom states) because basically you are moving bus riders to a fixed route train for billions and billions of dollars (which is what Ross is saying).
Why ridership will be low is important too, because in some ways it tells us whether those hurdles can be overcome in order to increase ridership on WS Link to justify its very high cost. For West Seattle the hurdles as I see them are:
1. Incredible access by the bridge. Both for cars and buses. The WS bridge ties directly into 99, I-5 and I-90, and traffic congestion today is much less than in 2019. Even when the bridge was closed residents preferred to drive around.
2. Because of the bridge excellent bus service that is not on a fixed route, which is more important today because of the loss of the downtown work commuter. A lot of transit riders from WS are not going where WSLE will go.
4. Lack of first/mile access. There are no park and rides, and so most WS link trips will begin with a bus, and riders hate transfers, which means very few drivers will switch to Link. Not unlike East Link.
5. Car culture (suburbia) in part due to the excellent bridge.
6. Opposition to increased density along the line (suburbia).
I don’t think any of these factors can be changed to increase transit ridership on WS Link over bus ridership today, and may actually result in a decrease in future transit ridership from WS.
So we can’t really change the geography which drives the cost of building WSLE, and we can’t increase ridership over buses today which is about as high as it can be for this demographic and culture because bus service is excellent due to the bridge, so dollar per rider mile is waaaaaay too high, so of course ST just makes ridership up except ST does not even have the money to build WSLE.
How to break the bad news I don’t know. I don’t think it will be the residents of WS who will be upset. After all we are talking decades away. I think it will be Dow, some folks who think light rail, and transit, is transformational like at the Urbanist, ST, pretty much the same kinds of folks who would be upset if Issaquah/S. Kirkland Link were scrapped even though the subarea can afford it (at least based on the estimated $4.5 billion price tag although it will average around 10 boardings/day).
I’ve advocated for an aerial incline above Jefferson St to Harborview from Pioneer Square Station for quite some time, of course. The street is bordered by public property anyway, and there is room for landings at either end on public property. It may even to be possible to put in a halfway stop adjacent to the parking garage on Sixth.
It’s far enough from Madison to serve a different market. It would tie the Broadway and Second Ave bicycle tracks together. It would provide a level floor trip up the hill to Harborview, which is easier for people with casâmes or walkers or in wheelchairs.
The first station could be right on top of the main PSS entrance, then next one on Sixth, then Harborview and one on Broadway. Yes, it would tie the cycle lanes together, connect the streetcar with Link and provide much better ADA access than any bus and connect South First Hill and the upper Yesler Terrace to downtown.
Half of the “walkshed” at Sixth consists of the freeway. The other half consists of the jail. Put no “station” at Sixth. Cool your jets. A two-station funicular of some technology between the little park by Pioneer Square Station and Harborview makes sense. Nothing else does.
People leaving or destined for Yesler Terrace are only a block and a half away. They can, you know, walk!
“ casâmes” = canes
I am not averse to a cable- driven line from the Space Needle to Harborview. Cable technology doesn’t move like light rail, but interim stops are so close to each other and one direction is just 2 miles. The slowness would hardly be noticed.
The big unknown would of course be how deep a tunnel with cable vehicles would need to be. It’s the building footings (in addition to the slope for Midtown Station) that is making the DSTT2 and SLU stations so deep. There are also the OMF, the train car lengths and the needed tunneling dimensions (certainly smaller than LRVs with catenaries on top) to consider. Cable liner systems can handle steeper grades and a clever design could make driverless trains anble to arrive at high frequencies.
The difficulty of building any new subway line in Downtown Seattle is obvious no matter what technology is used. It’s why an aerial cable liner system along Jefferson St is so appealing. Even if full ST3 is built, Harborview with its thousands of employees and service to many low income people remains off the rail system.
A Space Needle – Harborview cable system would pretty much freeze extension possibilities of the line to Ballard, while a Pioneer Square – Harborview system would not be considered something that needs extending.
I agree, Al, a Jackson gondola makes the most sense.
High frequency Cableliner systems have been perfected at airports and a few downtown lines, but any subway is tricky in Seattle as we have seen with DSTT2.
I still think the next low hanging fruit would be a gondola along John or Denny. It could serve SLU and take off load from the CHS to Westlake portion of Link.
You could even have a branch along Bell St to serve Belltown and the waterfront.
Reece Martin just made the argument for automated lines whatever the technology is: https://youtu.be/ybql0RXXtHc
“Go small, go sooner”? As in, “It is never too early to give up”?
We aren’t going to solve our regional transportation issues with little patches here and there. And we aren’t going to solve our local transportation issues by ignoring our relationship to the whole.
Na, the phrase should be, “Go big or go home”.
Now is not the time to just give up.
“Go big or go home”.
What should happen when a large part of the plan doesn’t significantly improve transit short distance travel times (partly from deep stations in SLU and Downtown), demand forecasts that are weak (lower in the DEIS than the ST3 pitch), the referendum was already for 25 years and is being extended, and cost estimates are showing that the project is 40-70 percent higher already.
Wait 50 years? 60 years?
Or would it be better to examine using taxpayer money in a more efficient way, like exploring use of DSTT or designing for shorter automated trains like many of the new lines being built these days?
If we did “go big or go home” with the freeway plans in the 1950’s, Seattle’s abandoned freeway projects would have been being built for 50 years without rethinking the concept — and completed in the last decade or two. The same could be said about the monorail plan.
It’s wholly appropriate to rethink the 2016 referendum proposal assembled by politics in only a few months rather than by effectiveness and productivity analysis .
We aren’t going to solve our regional transportation issues with ST3, either. Going in the right direction (by making incremental and smart improvements) is better than “going big” in the wrong way.
Honestly we should be asking for a short ST3 line that connects First Hill with Westlake and then goes to SLU and Seattle Center, and call it a day.
There is a lot to be said for that idea, especially as a first phase. Eventually it would be extended. From First Hill (e. g. Madison & Boren) you could continue east, to 12th & Jefferson, and then on to 23rd & Jefferson (Garfield) where the train would turn south. Or it could just stay under Boren/Rainier until it got to Mount Baker Station. Both routes would add stops along the way, including a connection to Judkins Park. This is more or less the “Metro 8” idea, except with the connection point being Westlake, not Capitol Hill.
Northbound, the bus could at the very least connect to Elliot. This would allow the Ballard buses to follow the more direct route downtown (what the 15 does). Before that I would put more work into Elliot/15th corridor, by putting the Dravus Street bus stop under the overpass and building ramps to the bridge, so that the buses could skip to the front when the bridge is up. Similar work could be done in West Seattle. Eventually I would like to see the train get to Ballard, but that could be put off for a while. I would not bother with a train to West Seattle — it adds way too little for the cost.
[I can no longer add comments, but I can edit, so I’ll clarify things.]
So yeah, this would be a subway line. The first stage would be Uptown to First Hill. It would have the same proposed stops as the Ballard line, but a new stop in First Hill (Madison & Boren). Then it would be expanded in both directions. I have no strong feeling for what the order should be. Northbound could have two different stages, although the route is fairly clear:
Northbound Stage 1: Extend to Elliot (e. g. Smith Cove). This allows the D to follow the pathway of the 15 (i. e. keep going on Elliot/Western to downtown). People transfer to the train to get to Uptown, SLU or First Hill.
Northbound Stage 2: Extend to Ballard.
Southbound I see different options for the route:
Southbound Option 1: Follow Boren down Rainier, then connect to Mount Baker. Urban stop spacing.
Southbound Option 2: Curve further east. So maybe Broadway & James, followed by 12th & Jefferson. Then over to Yesler and then over to 23rd and south (connecting to both of the other Link lines).
That is the basic idea. Just a thought. The main idea is to start in the middle and work outward, which is actually fairly common throughout the world. These are the most congested, most densely populated areas currently not served by Link. It would be fairly cheap to run a train back and forth frequently, which means that the only key part is getting the transfer right.
I thought that Sound Transit had determined they can’t connect from Westlake to First Hill due to the steep slope?!? Would we end up with an incredible deep tunnel station at First Hill?
Would they have to consider other technologies?
If it’s a short line, then a cable based APM/funicular may work, but if you want to be able to extend it, you may need to look at maglev.
First Hill Station was dropped because of potential soil conditions. ST was afraid they might cause cost overruns.
Ross, you’re proposing a new bus tunnel from the Elliott bluff diagonally across LQA and SLU to Boren and eventually on to Twenty-third? Because Martin was talking about a “cable drawn” subway whatever that is, though I don’t know why we’d choose that particular form of propulsion.
How would the few remaining passengers willing to brave the carnage in downtown Seattle so vividly described by The MI Sage get there? Would they transfer to the streetcar?
That might juice the streetcars ridership.
Oh, I see. Ballard and Magnolia buses would continue as now to downtown, but folks headed to LQA, SLU or First Hill would transfer to the “Metro 8” which would be grade separated, but operated by buses. Or do you just mean a surface bus line? It’s not clear.
I like that you’re considering having it follow Boren to Rainier and on to JP and Mt. Baker. That stretch of Rainier can be made high-rise with views above the fifth floor and nobody would complain. The bottom floors could be retail and offices, like The Pearl and South Waterfront in Portland, both still thriving, even with the implosion of downtown otherwise. It also goes right next to the big cluster of buildings at Olive and Minor.
It would be great if ST added a station to the Pine Street Tunnel there by the old bus station. I don’t think the flat part is long enough for platforms, though.
IIRC Ross’s route accesses Westlake, although I don’t know how you combine the stations.
One good thing about this route is it connects SLU to Central and East Link at Westlake.
Again IIRC the difference with Frank’s proposal was Frank’s First Hill line connected to Judkins Park so those riders could easily transfer to either go east or to First Hill. But the route would be long and slow to get to Westlake or SLU, and Eastside riders going to those destinations would just stay on East Link. Again I am not sure how you would combine the stations at Judkins Park.
Probably the biggest issue is cost. If this route is underground that would be expensive, but ST ran Northgate Link 60 blocks through Roosevelt with one station, and the density is about the same. I know Tom doesn’t see the discrepancy, but if I lived in South Seattle I might wonder why Link north of Yesler is always underground and Link south of Sodo is always above ground, on the surface, often not grade separated. Especially now that the Central Dist. is 15% Black.
I also worry that ST general fund revenue in NKC will be lower than originally estimated post pandemic. No one ever though that in 2023 the East KC and North KC subareas would have the same ST tax revenue, around $600 million/year, and some of EKC’s revenue is coming at the expense of NKC. One thing I don’t think Tom understands well (or the Seattle Council despite large budget deficits beginning in 2023) is the lack of activity in the downtown core that once accounted for 2/3’s of Seattle’ tax revenue will impact ST general tax revenue
I doubt the four other subareas would contribute to this line, so nominally that is a loss of $1.1 billion, but then I don’t think three of the four have their contribution for DSTT2 anyway, even at a $2.2 billion estimated cost.
My back of envelope calculations leave N. King Co. with around $6 to $8 billion left over from ST 2 and 3 through 2044 in a high inflationary environment after the costs for 130th and Graham St., probably closer to $6 billion. East Link to Redmond will cost around $5.5 billion including the cost overruns for the bridge, whereas DSTT2 was estimated last year to cost around $4.2 billion plus 30% cost contingency. So if N. KC wants to tunnel the money won’t go far or cover many underground stations.
I would focus on connecting SLU and Westlake and burying some of Link in South Seattle, because the ROW is already owned, this bottleneck affects the spine from Everett to Tacoma, and it is the fair thing to do.
Dollar per rider mile Ross’s route and Frank’s route try to address coverage issues and the high costs of WSBLE, but I don’t think either will get political momentum, and I doubt the subarea has the money for either route. Unless N. King Co. is willing to run the line above ground north of Yesler, and that begins to look like a streetcar.
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