Get Link done ($), says ST’s Technical Advisory Group in a report to the board. The group suggests taking a harder line against local government requests, and treating contractors better.
Reconnect South Park gets grant to study removing Highway 99 through the neighborhood.
Zoning, Explained (City Beautiful)
New York state considers joining the zoning-override bandwagon ($) to get more housing, especially in New York City’s suburbs.
Spain’s high-speed rail network (RMTransit)
Empire Builder ($), a documentary about James J Hill, founder of the rail line from Seattle to Chicago.
This is an open thread.
178 Replies to “News Roundup: Get Link Done”
RE Link Schedule: I agree that the ST2 projects seem to be dragging out without much overt pressure to get them open. To me the revealing lack of actually running trains was the decision last year to not figure out ways to replace the Columbia City station tiles without disrupting the entire line for two weeks — especially knowing the work could have been done in about 40-60 hours.
I really feel that many just want to always be building a system — and embrace the excitement from photo ops — rather than smoothly operate one that riders will use.
As far as the ST3 schedule goes, I’m expecting the big reveal that even the financial realignment wasn’t enough — and that the system performance measures are so weak that FTA won’t support some of the extensions with enough New Starts money. Of course, then everyone at ST will blame FTA or Republicans rather than their own “draw lines where you want and don’t worry about ridership” approach that they took.
I’ll post my solution in a separate comment.
Admittedly I don’t glance at the report. Oh it’s a doozy!
First it implies that it’s Board interference creating delay! Man that’s pure staff arrogance! Consider that had ST staff revealed the East Link problems earlier the Board would need to push on staff. I actually think the Board has been too nice (hands off) and let the staff get away with secrets and study of infeasible alternatives. The Board should have instead forced the entire construction executive team to leave over that!
Two, it doesn’t put rider needs first — but instead puts avoiding interference first. How self-focused by the staff!
Three, it calls for better big project oversight — but the subsequent details are more geared to giving existing staff more power rather than handing over power to someone experienced who has better experience at both building and maintaining light rail somewhere else. Timm’s resume is remarkably weak compared to dozens of others in the industry. I was expecting to see a recommendation to use a seasoned oversight panel of former GMs that will be hard on everyone recommended — but no one at ST dares to do that!
Fourth, the chart of other places show that only here and LA is anything major funded. Minneapolis and Atlanta want to do bigger things but don’t have the funds. Because there is no longer a broad national interest in urban rail expensive projects, I expect FTA to have no qualms in denying the billions in funding requests that will continue to grow from ST.
All in all, it’s an Orwellian document.
Sadly, the report ignores fastest way to build ST3: To look towards much more inexpensive solutions — like putting three lines in DSTT or using automated, more frequent trains with shorter platforms or building cross platform transfers to enable 80 mph vehicles to reach Tacoma or Everett (both end stations that miss the heart of those cities anyway).
It boggles my mind how ST (or any other metro transit agency in the US for that matter) never consulted any agencies from around the world who have built far better transit for much less and in much quicker a time frame. We’re stuck with a system plan the is worst in almost every possible way. More expensive? Check. Worse for riders? Check. Takes longer to build? Check. Uses less efficient tech? Check. Tries pleasing everyone while pleasing no one? Check.
The board hired this consultant directly. Not “staff.”
In reading the consultant research, it’s clearer to me now that the product was a summary of interviews rather than a technical review of the project. If no one said that the project was I feasible financially or the wrong technology then it wouldn’t make the report.
Knowing that, the report reveals that none of the staff or Board sees almost no reason to worry about money or user experience or disruption to neighborhoods or the wrong vehicle technology, or low value to travel time or fare revenue. Instead, they think the problem is that others are in the way.
So yeah the report channels the arrogant ST echo chamber that exists inside the agency. The consultants were not arrogant; the interviewees were.
Al, the consultants’ report couldn’t be more transparent or predictable — or as you note superficial: either the subareas come up with the funding for the a la carte enhancements the stakeholders want or ST will (threaten) to claim the projects are essential public facilities and exempt them from local zoning (but not SEPA, a tragic flaw in the consultants’ report).
This is really about SEPA. The Board isn’t going to steamroll Seattle under an essential public facilities approach. The report is a teaser for the DEIS report.
The Board wants the subarea itself to cancel WSBLE because the stakeholders don’t want the bare bones WSBLE (at an additional cost of $5 billion) and the rest of the voters in the subarea (and Harrell) will never vote for $10 billion to complete the preferred alternative for WSBLE.
Yes, the project cost estimate has gone from $6 billion in 2016 to $9 billion to $12 billion to $14 billion to $15 billion and increases $50 million/month, and ST deceived everyone, but the ultimate reality is WSBLE is not affordable, and Seattle and the stakeholders won’t ever accept this until it is their money, not other people’s money.
They are asking for feedback on their new routing for TDLE. Please. Please. Please.
One of the concepts for the Fife station is a straddle station above 54th. So, there’s actually a slight chance ST will actually build a station with decent bus transfer access.
Now if only Interbay, Ballard and a host of others could get that same consideration.
“it implies that it’s Board interference creating delay! Man that’s pure staff arrogance!”
It’s not staff, it’s an external advisory group.
I get the feel that Sound Transit uses various advisory groups to further their own agenda by carefully selecting representatives who ultimately support their efforts, not outside experts who bring independent viewpoints to the table. I would love to hear what international experts such as Alon (https://pedestrianobservations.com/) and Marco Chitti would have to say about delays.
Agree with both posts TT.
As to Martin’s post in my experience required public meetings are often manipulated by agency staff to support their preferred alternative. Generally there is a “scoping” process with insiders and powerful stakeholders before anything is made public, and by that time staff’s mind is made up. At that point the only hope is to put political pressure on the elected decision makers, which is what the CID did, although from a long range transit planning point of view if there is a DSTT2 a station next to the existing CID station is pretty critical for transfers.
Since staff had made up its mind on a second station at the CID the local community was never part of the scoping process even though a DEIS process was required, and now ST is flailing around to find an alternative route for DSTT2 that makes sense because the Board is terrified of looking racist. Touché
Since the design and cost of DSTT2 are not good everyone cheered the CID on, although the whole design from a transit purpose depends on a second station next to the existing CID station.
If I were on the Board I would want staff to explain to me why opposition from the CID was not anticipated and why it first was known in the press when obviously the CID was going to use the racist card, which in Seattle trumps all.
Can anyone in Pierce Co. comment on how Keel is viewed.
Keel served three years as chair of the Board and elected to a two year term as vice chair last year. I have always thought Keel was one of the more astute Board members.
The Pierce Co. subarea has been paying ST taxes for a long time to subsidize Link in other areas. According to 2021 subarea report Pierce has around $1.2 billion in banked loans to other subareas.
From the look of things TDLE won’t be completed until almost 2040. This is what I consider the “I will be dead so don’t care much”. I think that is why we worry so little about Issaquah Link despite being a terrible project. Its completion date is so far away most of us will be dead so we assume smarter folks will change the project.
If you are going to build “regional” Link I would think Tacoma would be the obvious second location, certainly before Everett or Redmond.
Balducci is under some fire on the Eastside due to the delays in opening East Link, but that is 2025, and I think the reason folks are unhappy with her has less to do with not having Link service because the express buses are just as good and capacity is not an issue, but lack of transparency about the issues with the bridge and an appearance of incompetency.
How does Keel go back to Tacoma or Pierce Co. after being chair and vice chair and explain TDLE will open when many of them are dead. Not 2025, or 2030, but 2040?
Delays to Everett Link are easier to explain because it is smaller, poorer, and Lynnwood Link is a better “link” than Federal Way Link is to Tacoma, and when FW Link opens Tacoma may lose Sounder S service 16 YEARS before TDLE opens.
If I lived in Tacoma, and saw the city as the Seattle of S Puget Sound with ambitions. and so many other places from Shoreline to Angle Lake to Lynnwood to Redmond to you name it get Link almost 16 years before Tacoma even though Tacoma is the end of the line I would ask Keel just who is he representing on the Board, because it doesn’t look like Tacoma.
Think of the transit that Pierce Co. ST tax revenue could have gone starting around 12 years ago and extending for another 16 years before TDLE opens with Sounder S probably cut in two years.
“the express buses are just as good and capacity is not an issue”
The 550 takes 30-45 minutes, is half-hourly Sundays and evenings, and a trip from Seattle to Crossroads or Overlake Village takes an hour. Link is planned to run every 8-10 minutes until 10pm every day, take 25 minutes to Bellevue Downtown, and around 35 minutes to Overlake Village. Westbound in the PM peak and sometimes weekends, buses get bogged down in I-90 traffic and sometimes don’t use the express lane for some reason. So no, the express buses are not as good. You could only think that if you travel only peak hours, don’t go east of Bellevue TC or don’t count transferring to the B, and don’t count unpredictable I-90 congestion.
Mike, I just don’t see any complaints about the express buses on the Eastside by eastsiders. Granted ridership is low, but you are the only one complaining I see.
I don’t think eastsiders are too concerned about complaints from Seattleites using the express buses to go east that cost us $64 million/year.
I agree East Link should not be delayed five years, and noted the Eastside is mildly irritated at the delay, but this is about issue number 20 on the Eastside, well below whether to use recycled tires as fill for artificial turf.
Now if East Link was scheduled to open in 2040 like TDLE, and our subarea had been paying ST taxes for years to subsidize other Link projects, and Seattle was demanding a $20 billion WSBLE and DSTT2 that Pierce riders will have to pay $275 million for and worse use Eastsiders might be more upset.
But to be honest if ST announced East Link wouldn’t open until 2040 few eastsiders would care so few plan to use it, and there is this fear East Link will bring the problems of Seattle to the Eastside. When someone like you tells an eastsider it takes over an hour to catch a bus from lower Capitol Hill to Crossroads (and East Link won’t go to Crossroads) of all places on Sunday afternoon they look at you like you are from outer space. Just drive, they are thinking. Or skip Crossroads. Or Uber. Or Zoom.
The reason the express buses don’t use the HOV lanes these days is because congestion on I-90 is so mild, even during peak times, so it isn’t worth it for the buses to move four lanes to the left to get into the HOV lanes only to have to move four lanes to the right to exit.
If East Link opens in 2025 ok. If not, ok. You might be more than mildly irritated but we are not. The buses are good enough.
But the real question in my post is what do Tacoma residents think of Keel and the most recent extensions to TDLE. Do they even care?
“When someone like you tells an eastsider it takes over an hour to catch a bus from lower Capitol Hill to Crossroads”
From 5th & Union where the 550 starts.
“on Sunday afternoon they look at you like you are from outer space.”
The reason I’m going there is to visit an adult family home in Lake Hills to visit an East King constituent. And I lived east of Crossroads for 13 years and Overlake Village would be my local station.
Mike, have you considered asking the N KC subarea to contribute to east-west-east express buses like the 550 to increase frequency (rather than a $20 billion WSBLE, or $500 million on stations at 130th and Graham St.). As far as I am concerned the $64 million the Eastside subarea pays to run the express buses like the 550 that are mostly empty is more than enough.
For many years I had an aunt in assisted care in Crossroads. When I went to visit — usually with my dad — I drove. Parking is free.
Copied your Keep question to a top-level thread, since that was easier than copying a few Eastside comments.
I long for the day when routes like the Empire Builder and Sunset Limited are eliminated and intercity rail in America is truly revamped to focus on practical, shorter, regional routes.
Brightline is a perfect example..
We don’t have to eliminate all long-distance routes. The Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight are two of the most successful. I think I read the Builder is #1. It’s certainly 100% full across North Dakota, where it’s the only east-west transit without going 90 miles further south. I find it pleasant going through that low-stress corridor. Daniel once mentioned wanting to take an Amtrak trip, and I’d recommend the Empire Builder.
The Coast Starlight is interesting too, although people have more expectations of the I-5 corridor and it doesn’t serve some cities, it’s nortoriously the Starlate (I was in an 8-hour delay). I don’t know about the Sunset Limited.
Other countries don’t pit regional vs intercity rail: they have both. The problem is not prioritizing transit and funding it properly. Eliminating the long-distance routes doesn’t help that; it just leaves us with no long-distance passenger rail. There may be some corridors that are less worthwhile than others, but we don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Totally agree that Amtrak is stress-free and mostly pleasant. I enjoyed my trips on the Cascades and NE Regional. However, it’s highly impractical to travel from Los Angeles to Houston or Seattle to Montana via a slow-moving train that only goes once a day. Even if Amtrak were to boost frequency, it’s difficult to provide a departure/arrival times that aren’t at 3AM. Plus, Amtrak is often more expensive flying when it comes to long distance travel.
Side note: are you referring to long distance routes as being the most successful? Pretty sure the NE Regional is Amtrak’s most successful overall regarding ridership.
I meant that less-traveled corridors are more pleasant. On both Amtrak and Greyhound, the B.C-California corridor can be stressful, with more total people, more full vehicles, more time-constrained people, more worried people, and more loud or misbehaving people. In contrast, I’ve found the east-west corridors more low-key and relaxing: the Empire Builder, Greyhound’s Seattle-Spokane-Missoula route (which once went to Chicago), and Greyhound’s Seattle-Yakima-Pasco-Boise-SLC-Denver route (which on-again, off-again exists).
And yes, I meant the Empire Builder as the #1 long-distance route. The Northeast Corridor is far more busy, but I consider that a regional corridor like Cascades. I have limited experience in the northeast, and I haven’t taken Acela or the Northeast Regional, but I have taken buses between New York and DC, and it took four hours, and I imagine it’s four more hours the other way to Boston, so that’s similar to Cascades.
Currently in the center states of the country there are *no* transportation options. It’s insane in a country like the US you literally have no option other than to fly into a medium sized city and then rent a car and drive for hours more. Just about everywhere in the world you can get to any city using multiple different methods except the US.
Let’s not get rid of one option no matter how poor it is. Whenever I come back to the US it feels like I’m stepping into some third-world country except most third-world countries have better public transportation.
A big problem for small and midsized airports in the Midwest is airlines are cutting or eliminating flights so residents have to drive several hours to access an airport. Like a post office an airport that is served by at least one airline to a larger airport is existential.
The problem with rail in that part of the country is the size and lack of density make trips long and you still need a car when you get to your destination because there is no local transit or no Uber. Plus a rental car is cheaper. Not sure what the solutions to that are.
Small-town airports are subsidized by a federal program. They’ve been having trouble keeping up one or two flights a week. What’s missing is more intercity buses. They either don’t exist, run once a day, or don’t get close enough to be useful. A bus every 1-2 hours would serve not only plane transferees, but other people going between towns in a 2-3 state area.
The outside report for ST was interesting for a few reasons:
1. The Board extended project completion in the realignment to ostensibly raise enough revenue to close a $6.5 billion gap between revenues and costs (down from $12 billion) but the report (and Balducci) are now complaining about project delays. What is the solution to a funding gap requiring a 5 year extension.
2. The report recommends charging stakeholders for upgrades, such as having Seattle pay for 12’ sidewalks instead of 10’ and $200 million to move Ballard station from 14th to 15th (not unlike Bellevue and the Eastside subarea paid for the tunnel in Bellevue), although Seattle is looking at a budget deficit of around $250 million next year. I always assumed ST would wait until the DEIS report to do this. Harrell seemed cool to this idea.
3. The report recommends claiming projects are “essential public facilities” to bypass local concerns and objections that increase costs, which makes me think the outside consultants don’t understand that process is similar to the DEIS process.
4. The report doesn’t state how to expedite issues like the I-90 bridge or suspension bridge in FW.
5. At least two major contractors are unwilling to bid on projects, something Lazarus and I have discussed.
6. This report really seems to be about WSBLE to me, without questioning whether the subarea has the revenue for the design. TDLE is scheduled to open in late 2030’s which must burn Keel.
7. The report suggests putting more final design approval in staff rather than the Board, although siting such a project is really political. But the board takes a very long time to make a decision compared to other parts of the country/world.
8. It is very Seattle to spend months on another study to determine why completing Link is taking a long.
9. This report suggests there is zero chance the Board will consider a new technology for Ballard Link.
My guess is this report comes at a time that is designed as a primer for the DEIS report I have predicted all along: a DEIS report that is a la carte, beginning with a bare bones low cost (original) design for WSBLE with extra costs for each desired modification like moving the station in Ballard from 14th to 15th or 20th.
I don’t think the city of Seattle has the money for the extra goodies in WSBLE so a levy will be required. How to select which goodies are on a levy for WSBLE, or how Seattle voters can choose which goodies to fund and which not to fund while dealing with large operating budget deficits and rising property taxes will be interesting too. The CID has one card WS and Ballard do not: equity.
Ahh.. that’s the ulterior motive! To set the stage for Seattlites to pay more in taxes so ST can build the WSBLE albatross!
I’m also struck by the lack of mentioning dividing the DEIS into two DEIS’s — which would expedite getting each finalized and construction started sooner. The current mega DEIS looks like a legal delay and funding delay nightmare to me.
I’d guess the CID may have enough juice to sink the 2nd tunnel entirely, but I’m not an expert on current city politics. I think West Seattle is politically invested, but Ballard? Hard to tell. Everybody wants the train, nobody wants their neighborhood dug up for 10 years. Because of a lack of money, the build times are longer and there’s less cash to smooth things over. The business in the CID said “no think you”. Will Ballard be next? If you’re hooked in the Ballard politics, please chime in. I have a pretty good idea of what the political mood is in the CID because it’s “younger cousins” are the Lincoln District and South Tacoma Way.
There’s zero chance of another Sound Transit levy passing in the next 10 years, even in Seattle. The political hole the agency has dug pretty seems pretty much a grave.
I was struck by the fact only 26 miles out of 115 are open for Link.
If the Board could get the albatross of WSBLE off its agenda things are not too bad.
East Link won’t open until 2025 at least but will be completed to Redmond. Assuming 4 car trains can run across the bridge every 8 minutes that will double frequency in line 1 from CID to Lynnwood. There won’t be much ridership on the Eastside but the subarea is flush and I doubt eastsiders will be upset at ridership much lower than estimated. So basically a win. Issaquah Link could be extended until 2146 and eastsiders wouldn’t care.
Link will run to Lynnwood. CT will truncate there. Northgate Mall will open. Everett will be a short bus ride away. So all in all a win. If the TOD pans out great.
There isn’t the money to run Link to Everett unless the other subareas contribute, especially East KC. So get ready for that.
Federal Way is delayed and is over budget. TDLE is a long ways off but if it terminates at the Dome as apparently the powers that be want and connects to the T it should be doable. FWLE will need doable.feeder buses in this big blue collar area, but I wouldn’t get rid of the park and rides. If the upgrades to Sounder S are cut that saves $1 billion.
Sounder N will get cut. Not sure about Sounder NS until TDLE opens although farebox recovery is terrible.
Graham St and 130th are waaaay over budget but N KC has around $10 to $12 billion extra if it doesn’t do WSBLE. Plus cancelling DSTT2 gives all subareas extra cash (and if I were on the Board I would probably take $275 million from EKC and NKC and use it to complete Everett Link, but the Eastside might be so pissed about zoning changes it says no).
There you have it. Use some revenue to fix Link in the RV, and express buses from WS and Ballard, and you have around 100 miles of Link within the budgets. If lots and lots of folks use it they will pass ST 4.
Then put capital $$$ aside for the certain deficits in the O&M budgets.
This whole drama is about WSBLE. So “pause” WSBLE, or make Seattle kill it with the a la carte DEIS that Seattle will debate over for 20 years before making a decision.
I have always thought the DEIS was a way to force Seattle and the stakeholders to put up or shut up, and this report is just a trailer of that upcoming movie.
The “4th Ave Shallower” CID alternative is proving to be popular, so I think they might have a solution in the CID that most people can be happy with. I think the question is how far north they build WSBLE before running out of ST3 money. It sounds like they probably have enough funding to get to Smith Cove, which is just close enough that voters in Seattle will approve enough money to get to Ballard.
Getting West Seattle to SODO started ASAP is how they hope to make it look like things are progressing along and the deadlines haven’t slipped too badly. On the topic of the report, the West Seattle contingency on the board continues to push costly modifications to the preferred alternative for political favors. An extra $50 million for the Junction station to build an escalator to 42nd St and an extra $50 million for Delridge to make Nucor happy. The latest report to the board suggested that the city of Seattle is going to chip in for that Junction modification in exchange for getting the Jefferson Square parcel for affordable housing.
It will be interesting to see if those costly modifications can get full board approval given the results of this report. There is also the “eliminate Avalon” option which would offset almost all of the added cost from these modifications. Of course the West Seattle-based board members want to keep the station but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them let it go in exchange for getting the other upgrades in. Public support for Avalon in West Seattle is mixed…with the main negative comments being due to displacements plus impacts to car access to the West Seattle bridge via Fauntleroy/35th.
While being understandably hesitant to take ST’s ridership estimates on their face why do north link extensions seem to have higher ridership estimates than south link (south of rainier valley that is) extensions?
It seems like a slight inverse of the Sounder ridership situation , with south Sounder carrying far more riders than north Sounder
Is it because south link extensions would take longer than north link extensions (in end to end travel time) when traveling into downtown Seattle? Is it because the frequency with east link interlining will be higher on north link extensions than south link?
Or is it maybe because the north sound seems to have towns and neighborhoods that huddle around I-5 while south sound I-5 runs through more greenfield with the neighborhoods not being along freeways?
Could it be simply that for peak commuting south sound has better options (Sounder) while in the north sound the really only viable option for commuting is I-5 (be it buses or whatever else) because the north Sounder is just that bad?
I’m not saying either extensions are remarkable in the ridership category but ST’s ridership estimate differences are noticeable (if at all close to accurate)
“why do north link extensions seem to have higher ridership estimates than south link (south of rainier valley that is) extensions?”
North Seattle has a higher population and density and better east-west topography, so that translates to more riders and trips. North Seattle is a third larger (145th Street vs Roxbury/100th Street). The north end is more geographically constrained and has fewer highways, so there are more traffic bottlenecks and more willingness to use transit alternatives.
Distance, grade separation, and intermediate urban centers also help. Lynnwood is the distance of north Kent (240th). Everett is the distance of just south of Federal Way. Between downtown Seattle and Lynnwood is the U-District and Northgate. I predict a sleeper hit will be Snohomish County to North Seattle trips; it’s already happening with the 512 transferring to Link at Northgate. The south end doesn’t have anything like that between downtown and Federal Way.
“It seems like a slight inverse of the Sounder ridership situation , with south Sounder carrying far more riders than north Sounder”
Sounder South goes right through the middle of the population concentration. South King County has 850,000 people, more than Seattle. When Sounder gets to Auburn, South Link is still between Rainier Beach and TIB, and North Link is at Lynnwood.
Sounder North runs along the coast, far west of the population center, and losing half the walkshed. It’s in a narrow area between the coast and hillside, with no room for expansion, and is prone to mudslides that repeatedly interrupt service.
“having Seattle pay … $200 million to move Ballard station from 14th to 15th”
I disagree with that one. The representative alignment in the ballot measure was 15th. Cities shouldn’t have to pay to keep the representative alignment.
If local leaders were adamant about the 20th street Ballard link station as has been brought up in the past then I’d see this being a situation in which Seattle should pay the difference to see that result.
In this case however I agree with you that Sound Transit came to voters with a promised alignment and it is their responsibility to find areas in which they can cut costs so this station alignment that they promised to voters is kept
JJ: it it is probably due to several factors: speed, frequency, and alignment. The south line is relatively slow as it deviates to the Rainier Valley (to attract riders); the north line has shorter waits; the east and south lines may not headways tighter than six minutes due to surface operation. The south alignment in next to I-5; the dense walkable downtowns of Renton, Kent, and Auburn are distant. ST has chosen freeway alignments. As freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish, it is difficult to provide access or development. The spine is too long for the mode. North alignments with short headway serve consecutive urban centers with strong two-way all-day demand for transit that are slow for surface bus service (e.g., U District, Capitol Hill).
There are already busy transit hubs at Montlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Northgate. South of SeaTac, except for Federal Way Transit Center, there isn’t that much.
Sounder South serves the actual population centers.
North of Lynnwood the line is more like the south line, and the ridership numbers reflect this. Estimated ridership north of Lynnwood is somewhere around ¼ of the section south of there.
What ST promises it can build in a levy and what it actually has the money to build are two different things. Plus ST is not very good at factoring in cost contingencies, or actual ST tax revenue in the poorer subareas.
One thing the report touched on that has always confused me is the realignment.
Rogoff comes out in January IIRC and announces ST has around a $12.5 billion deficit, which is what some predicted in 2016 based on ST 3. Then despite no material changes during a pandemic Rogoff says the deficit is around $6.5 billion four months later, but he is fired. Then the Board adopts a “realignment” that extends ST taxes five years but also concurrently project completion, when inflation was lower than today, and claims that closed the deficit. Rogoff goes along with this.
The report notes that each month of project delay costs ST $50 million/month. That is $600 million/year (the entire ST tax revenue for N and E KC subareas) or $3 billion over 5 years. At best extending the ST taxes and project completion concurrently five years keeps the deficit from getting worse. There is no new net revenue when extending taxes and project completion dates concurrently.
What ST “promised” and what a subarea can afford are two different things. Every subarea is finding that out. East Link is five years behind its scheduled opening. SnoCo won’t have the revenue to reach Everett. Pierce might make TDLE if the Sounder S improvements are eliminated and it’s contribution to DSTT2, around 2040. Not sure who will pay for the suspension bridge in FW.
The big daddy though is WSBLE. Based on what the stakeholders and Seattle want there is close to a $10 billion gap, despite what Seattleites might think was promised to them. If a barebones surface WSBLE is adopted the gap is closer to $5 billion, maybe $5.5 billion with stations at Graham St. and 130th
Seattleites will get the WSBLE they are willing to pay for, in a separate levy. Bellevue paid for its tunnel. Or WSBLE will get scaled down to a WS stub and future “promises”. Or do nothing.
If I live in Madison Park or the RV I am voting no on a SB5528 levy whether it is $5 or $10 billion for WSBLE when the plan is South Seattle gets the crummy tunnel and rich white folks from the Eastside and N Seattle get the good tunnel (DSTT1) King Co. paid for and double frequencies 100% below grade.
“If I live in Madison Park or the RV I am voting no on a SB5528 levy whether it is $5 or $10 billion for WSBLE”
You’re the only one suggesting that an SB 5528 levy would go to ST3.
Mike, I am just saying N. King will need more revenue to complete WSBLE, and the amount will depend on the design Seattleites want. I suppose the funding could come from Move Seattle 2.0 but the amount a barebones WSBLE will need is around 5Xthe current Move Seattle that only completed half the promised projects.
I never understood the point of SB5528 and the way the taxing districts were drawn when any city can place a levy on a ballot for just about anything, unless SB5528 was to help cities close ST funding gaps.
How would you raise the additional funding for WSBLE, or are you leaning toward the do nothing option?
We don’t even have an alignment yet, so we don’t know what a supplement would fund. First ST needs to finish the EIS, then it will select projects for construction. That will be the time to get a revised cost estimate and timeline, and to find out which options would require third-party funding and how much, and then we can decide whether to have some funding package for something at some amount. By then the economy may be different, and ST boardmembers and city councilmembers may be different and have different priorities.
SB 5528 is for Seattle rail projects. That could be contributing to ST3, or it could be something else that ST won’t do. Its purpose is an additional tax authority so the city doesn’t have to use the general fund. As to why not a levy, I don’t fully know, but one thing is that levies have to be renewed every five years so they provide no long-term certainty.
As to Move Seattle 2, there are other things Seattle needs too, like more RapidRide lines. We’d have to weigh WSBLE against all the other things Move Seattle might fund instead, things ST won’t do. So if we use Move Seattle for WBLE, we won’t get those other things. If ST chooses a bad WSBLE alignment (long downtown transfers, 14th Ballard station), I might not want to spend any Seattle money on it, and I’d rather let WSBLE take twenty years or not be completed/built. I’d want Seattle money to go to RapidRide, bus operations, or other rail projects.
But let’s wait and see what the final alignment is before deciding what to do about it.
“The report recommends claiming projects are “essential public facilities” to bypass local concerns and objections that increase costs, which makes me think the outside consultants don’t understand that process is similar to the DEIS process.”
This is about using ST’s regional power and Link being public transit to eminent-domain cities. ST has this power, it just hasn’t wanted to use it because it makes ongoing relations with the affected cities worse.
Don’t forget, almost every ST Board member is a mayor or council member.
“But the board takes a very long time to make a decision compared to other parts of the country/world.”
The Seattle Process strikes again!
“My guess is this report comes at a time that is designed as a primer for the DEIS report”
It’s an outside panel. ST didn’t know what it would recommend. The members themselves might not have even known what their final positions would be until the middle of report writing.
Member names and bios are on pages 34-42.
“I’d guess the CID may have enough juice to sink the 2nd tunnel entirely”
CID advocates haven’t suggested deleting the second tunnel; that was transit fans. CID advocates just don’t want a station at 5th & Jackson.
Fine. Use automated two-car Link-compatible — but new to get the automation at a discount — trains in half-sized stations. It wouldn’t be as “nice” as Light Metro equipment, but it would do the job, and not scare the horses.
Everything else you wrote is yet more incentive to dump West Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and the second tunnel south of Westlake. Heck, even though they’re monstrosities, if ST is dead-set against changing their designs, build the same underground temples that they’ve already designed. Just include a cross-over north of “New Westlake” so that it can be a terminus until everyone on the current staff retires or otherwise moves on. Then extend the line as a two-station First Hill line.
Seattle Subway weighs in…..
From the Seattle Times article …
“Sound Transit invoked that doctrine in 2002 to override the Tukwila City Council, which wanted a costlier route serving Southcenter mall and threatened to withhold permits. Instead, the agency with federal consent picked a more direct, cheaper path along freeways toward Tukwila International Boulevard and the SeaTac/Airport Station.”
So, ST pushed Link further away from a mall. A mile further away. How much further away is Downtown Bellevue Station from Bellevue Square? One or two blocks?
I think 3-4 Bellevue “double blocks”, right? Bellevue Square is west of Bellevue Way (which is basically 104th there) and the station is between 110th and 112th.
Bellevue Way is 100th. The main station is on 112-110th, Bellevue blocks which are loooong. Uphill. Then you are two blocks south of the mall but Lincoln Square S. starts on 6th. The plan is for a dedicated shuttle.
Bellevue Way is 104th. 100th is the western edge of Bellevue Square and Old Bellevue.
If the alignment closest to Bellevue Square was chosen, I believe the closest Link stations would have been at Bellevue Way & 2nd, and at the Bellevue TC, or next to it. Of course, Bellevue Way & 2nd would have been a better station than East Main.
A station at the Bellevue TC, or next to it, is kind of far away from the center of commercial downtown Bellevue. But, do you know what else is kind of far away from the center of commercial downtown Bellevue? The Bellevue Transit Center. And for many years transit advocates haven’t made a fuss about its off-center location. So to now say Downtown Bellevue Station is kinda far away from central Bellevue is an odd complaint to make. (The old BTC bus bay, at 106th & 6th, is now, at least on the west side, being used by private white buses. Tech buses?)
BTW, Bellevue Way has had many names throughout its history. Peach St., then Lincoln Ave., then 104th, now Bellevue Way. Maybe Lincoln Square is named that after the old Lincoln Avenue name?
To be fair, there was no fuss made because by the time Bellevue became urban enough to matter, the Bellevue TC was there to stay. And, as transit centers go, it’s not the worst spot, next to a few major roads which allow easy access from different directions.
I suppose that one could have tried to locate it closer to the mall somewhere, but that would have been problematic in other ways. I do think that having no bus go right by the mall is weird – it almost feels like the 249 should keep going down Bellevue Way instead of the jot up then back two blocks, it makes it slower and less useful in some ways. It might even justify throwing more buses to it if it actually does more than milk run its way across three cities or whatever…
That’s not my understanding of what happened in Tukwila. The representative alignment was surface on 154th (Southcenter Parkway) and 99 (Tukwila Intl Blvd), and would have taken a corner on Southcenter’s property without serving it. Tukwila objected to taking that corner, and to tearing up 99 again after the city had beautified it (so it said). I don’t recall Tukwila prioritizing a Southcenter station and ST refusing it. That would have been a completely different debate, and I would have supported Tukwila in it.
You’re not only missing a mall, but also a major convention center, hotels, and office towers on the west side of downtown. 10-15 minute walk is OK for more suburban locations, but pretty bad in a proper city center, and even worse, half of the walk shed is cut off by I-405! It’s not just the downtown Bellevue station either, the Main Street station misses Old Bellevue, and there is not even a separated walkway to compensate for it like there is between the transit center and Bellevue Square.
A loop of *frequent* shuttles in *dedicated* lanes (and driverless if possible) is the best way to salvage the situation, it could even “take” the lanes on the streets with less car traffic, e.g., NE 10th St., which is four lanes plus center turn lane, instead of the 8th Ave. car sewer that has the congestion getting to/from the freeway, perhaps even 100th Ave. NE instead of Bellevue Way itself. That would compensate for most of the wrongs of the station placement.
Idea to add some housing downtown. I recently read that 10% of City of Seattle employees are fully remote. 10% come into the office only one day a week. And the rest come into the office just two or more days a week. The City owns a number of buildings downtown, one of which is the old AT&T Gateway Tower, which is now the Seattle Municipal Tower, at 5th and Columbia. It’s enormous. Since they don’t need all that office space anymore, what about converting part of it to housing?
PS, before it was called MLK Way, it was called Empire Way, in honor of James Hill.
That’s an idea. The city can lead the way, and also make half of it affordable housing.
Eventually the region and the urbanists and the lovers of the toy train will have to face the music and admit that Sound Transit has failed…
The panel seemed focused on capital delivery issues and not service delivery. They seemed to assume that ST3 plans were good ones, even though they may have been at one percent design on a cocktail napkin. (I also heard that reference in regards the SLU streetcar).
D.T.: suppose ST3 is delayed for many years, could NKC afford DSTT2?
The group was formed after the realignment, so they probably saw their role as how to implement the given specs, not second-guessing the specs. Some of them are from out-of-state so they may not be aware of the Ballard station-area environment and such.
Re your second question, without Ballard or Tacoma Dome, DSTT2 would have nothing to run in it. And you must mean what could Seattle afford, because “North King County” and ST’s North King subarea are the same thing.
Shoreline and LFP are also in the ST subarea.
I think the panel was asked to focus on delivery and not service…. that doesn’t mean ST service isn’t a problem as well.
I’m not sure what NKC board members think…. I know the mood in Pierce County and South King County wasn’t good before this this report. Board members like Roscoe, Walker and Dammieir are in bad place politically because Sound Transit hasn’t kept its promises, but what than they do? Pray that somehow the LINK to airport gets built in the next ten years? I think everybody in Pierce County already expects the work and planning to be half assed…. Sound Transit can’t keep the escalators running in its tunnel downtown….downtown! The centerpiece of the system! I think most people in Fife believe their Link station (if it’s ever even built) in the hinterlands will be a complete garbage dump that Sound Transit ignores.
Eddie, I think the Board is terrified. These are amateurs. The hope was somehow the realignment would buy time and things would work out. ST 3 was underestimated when it came to project costs and overestimated ST revenue because ST 3 had to pass to complete ST 2. 2016 was transit’s gilded age.
Even more after this report, pretty esoteric alternatives that TT and Al suggest with alternative technologies are way too scary for the unsophisticated Board. If you have ever seen or met Balducci the idea she is in charge of now a $150 billion transit system would terrify you. She doesn’t know how to use Zoom. I kid you not.
The solution is pretty obvious, and to be honest about everyone on this blog got there before I did: kill WSBLE. The ridership is not worth it although WS and Ballard are wealthy, white, whiny neighborhoods, mostly Ballard. WS has that fabulous bridge, and in its heart is as suburban as MI.
Just like Issaquah, Link is just some kind of status symbol for WS. All they care about is the bridge, including buses. Ross has noted this forever.
Take the $275 million contribution for DSTT2 and give it back to the subareas for their projects. Take East KC’s $275 million and give it to poor SnoCo but eliminate upzones in eastside residential neighborhoods near East Link. Or ask which SnoCo would prefer: $275 MILLION or upzone Surrey Downs. Or ask the broke ass transit advocates on this blog who have no idea how much $275 million is. First rule in politics: ALWAYS take the money.
Finally you have Harrell. He looked pretty good early on but has been silent on upzoning SFH zones and looks like another pretty unsophisticated progressive who was just less progressive than Gonzales as crime soars. Genial, but out of his depth in a crisis. His whole campaign was he wasn’t Gonzales. He is desperate to pander to any neighborhood like CID but he looks clueless if the goal is to revitalize the downtown core, which is existential.
When the huge budget deficits hit next year he is going to look like the male version of Lori Lightfoot and the SFH zones that supported him by 65% will turn against him. Another one term mayor, this time with massive budget deficits.
The Board is hoping an a la carte DEIS for WSBLE will inoculated it from a decade of ST’s “ optimism”. Let Seattleites choose among a smorgasbord of options none of which are affordable. Even the base version of WSBLE would need Seattleites to fork over $5 billion if all goes well, which ironically will be funded by .., drum roll … property taxes.
The greatest irony is if WSBLE were in East King Co. and the Board scrapped it no one would notice. But change our zoning and we won’t give you a fucking dime.
The Board should not rely on an a la carte DEIS with a SB5528 price tag Seattle cannot afford to force Seattle progressives and transit advocates to kill WSBLE, although no doubt there is some irony in that. .
The Board should finish what it can – – which I think could be TDLE and Everett Link if they keep their contribution to DSTT2 and E and N KC give it their $275 million, so we have a spine that has zero hope of covering O&M with farebox recovery.
But that is a nightmare for another day, and hopefully R’s don’t control the purse strings for the next several decades.
This is what the report really says: hire someone with gravitas and big balls to tell Constantine and Ballard WSBLE ain’t happening, use the contribution to DSTT2 to help the poor subareas, tell Inslee who was the special needs candidate for presidency to leverage zoning in East KC for HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS for pour subareas and at least complete the spine.
But that will never happen. The players are too unsophisticated, and we live in a one party state that hasn’t known what budget deficits are. As a resident of East KC all I can do is cover my eyes, and apologize Balducci is our elected representing unless that is our way of telling you what we really think of you.
Congratulations, Daniel. You’ve just encapsulated the insanity that is an 80 mile long low-floor Light Rail line with a top speed of fifty-five miles an hour. That’s especially true when it’s placed adjacent to a busy freeway where no one wants to live for 60+ percent of its trip. It won’t even pay its drivers’ wages from fares, much less maintenance of the vehicles and trackway.
It is only by stopping cold on the non-bus ST3 projects, except an SLU / LQA stub, that the region will avoid a stinking carcass of a rail system that will hobble it for decades.
Even though a lot of money has been spent south of the canyon that must be bridged, end Line 1 at Highline College and build a bus-only bridge over the freeway at 240th with a ramp to the HOV lanes. Yes, the freeway would have to be widened a lane on one side or the other. Midway is far enough.
Adding only one station will make the core system small enough to get by with only two MF’s. Ballard would have its own.
“Votrr Approval” should not be care blanche for idiocy.
I can’t wait for the I-5 landscape to be covered with more graffiti all across the Link pilons for miles on end.
Enforcing transit fares on everyone equally is not racist. Until sounds transit can say that, we should stop spending billions.
Yes, Link fares should be “enforced”, but not by random fare checks, but rather by physical barriers barring entry to the platforms as in most large urban transit systems in the world.
That would mean “wrapping” the stations on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the three new surface stations in Bellevue with some sort of transparent barrier and adding entry gates from the crosswalks. It would mean completing the mezzanine at Mount Baker and dividing all the existing mezzanines into “fare paid” and non-“fare paid” areas with similar gates between them.
It would mean a police presence within the fare-paid areas of all stations to ensure the security of passengers.
It is not possible to have effective and non-racist “random” fare enforcement, because peoples’ sub-conscious filters effect who they “notice” and how they react to people.
Finally, smoking any substance within the fare-paid zone of a station or on any train should result in immediate expulsion from the system.
It is not possible to have effective and non-racist “random” fare enforcement, because peoples’ sub-conscious filters effect who they “notice” and how they react to people.
Incorrect. Check all. In fact lowering the goalposts for certain protected classes is racist.
“Check all” is exactly what I advocated: you get “checked” by buying a single-ride ticket or a pass at a vending machine in the non-fare paid area and tapping it at the gate or by tapping a pass or phone you had already purchased. The fare gate then lets you enter.
How much would it cost to “check all” manually with a “conductor” or “fare enforcement officer”? Let me remind you that transit systems used to do that on the subway and streetcars and still do on buses. It wastes enormous amounts of time for everyone.
Aside from that, it’s impossible to be truly complete. You would have to have a person at every door of the train or someone might get on at one station and quick like a bunny get off at the next before being checked.
Ooooooooh. Now we have de facto “favoritism” of a “protected class”. That protected class is “short riders”.
And not to put too fine a point on it, “lowering the bar” is not what actually happens to the members of “protected classes” in the vast majority of situations. That’s why the fare inspectors do their best to do exactly what you advocate: check all who are present. Except they only do it very infrequently, because it’s too damned expensive!
“Build those gates! Build those gates!”
The only way I see fare gates being used for the entire system is if they either install Platform Screem Doors (which wouldn’t be a completely terrible idea from an operations standpoint) alobgside turnstiles or rebuild a bunch of stations to be fully grade separated to mitigate people fare dodging by people onto the tracks to get onto the platform. And to the people who’d say that’s implausible, never underestimate the means for people to circumvent the rules.
Zach, yes, access by walking on the track is a problem for the surface stations; platform screens would be necessary as well. It’s harsh to say, but a few people every year will pay a very high price for trying to enter via the tracks, and that will probably limit it, at least for a few weeks after each incident.
Alderwood Mall has added a new wing of entertainment (Dave and Busters) and housing in place of the abandoned Sears store and some surface parking. Several surface parking lots surrounding the mall itself have also been converted in to housing, even mixed use (The Woods at Lynnwood Place). Much livelier into the evening now! But it leaves much to be desired in terms of walk-ability. The other night leaving the gym I was behind a fellow gym goer who drove to one of those apartments literally a 5 minute walk away. Can’t say I blame them because of the 4 feet sidewalks and poor lighting with many driveways and push button crossings, alongside a road that people usually do 40-45 on.
“How does Keel go back to Tacoma or Pierce Co. after being chair and vice chair and explain TDLE will open when many of them are dead. Not 2025, or 2030, but 2040?”
“Delays to Everett Link are easier to explain because it is smaller, poorer”
Poorer than who? I thought Pierce was the second-poorest subarea after South King.
“when FW Link opens Tacoma may lose Sounder S service 16 YEARS before TDLE opens.”
And the sky may be green. ST has not mentioned any plans to cancel Sounder South, either after Federal Way or ever. It’s still building Sounder P&Rs and expanding platforms. That would be useless if Sounder South is canceled in three years.
“When someone like you tells an eastsider it takes over an hour to catch a bus … to Crossroads (and … all places on Sunday afternoon they look at you like you are from outer space. Just drive, they are thinking. Or skip Crossroads. Or Uber. Or Zoom.”
That’s not an acceptable position for the Eastside as a whole to take. Fortunately the city and county councils know this; they aren’t stuck in the 1970s. “Just drive” may be a reasonable position for Concrete (in the North Cascades), but it’s not for an Eastside of 365K+, that’s part of the 12th-largest metro area in the US, and according to you thinks it can replace Seattle as the center of the metro area. It’s not reasonable to tell 365K people to “just drive” because we can’t be bothered to have non-coverage transit. It may be unavoidable until we can get the transit in place, but we can’t just leave it like this forever. It’s not good, and it causes distortions.
Mike, I don’t understand why you think it is unacceptable to ask N KC to contribute something to increase frequency on cross lake express buses.
No one said going carless wouldn’t have trade offs. On one hand you save around $12,000/year. On the other it will take you a few extra minutes to take the bus to Crossroads.
I think you forget there are working class eastsiders paying the ST taxes so their subarea can pay 100% of the cross lake express buses so you can take a highly subsidized bus ride to Crossroads. It isn’t as if there is no bus service. What you are asking is they pay even more in taxes so your heavily subsidized bus trip is a few minutes faster. That sounds pretty privileged to me.
Based on current ridership and capacity these express buses could easily go to one hour frequencies all day long. All you need is a bus schedule or transit app to know when to catch the bus.
BTW I would.be surprised if East Link has the frequencies you think it will. There just won’t be the ridership to run it at its top frequency which is every 8 minutes, certainly off peak. Maybe 15 minute at most off peak.
It’s not just me and my trip. Eastsiders travel, shop, work, recreate. My trip is just an example of a typical trip. There could be an Eastsider going the exact other way, to a home in Seattle somewhere. The fact that Eastsiders make trips is shown by the fact there are cars on the street. There should be a baseline frequent transit network so that some of those are on transit rather than cars. That’s what normal cities have, and they have higher ridership as a result, and less vehicle miles traveled, and less emissions, and a lower rate of car ownership.
Here, to show I’m talking about ideals and the ultimate goal, add this: East Link should be automated and have open-gangway trains.
“working class eastsiders paying the ST taxes”
They’d have $12,000 more per year if the Eastside transit network didn’t require them to have a car.
“Based on current ridership and capacity these express buses could easily go to one hour frequencies all day long.”
Would you ride an hourly bus? It’s not about current ridership; it’s about the minimum frequency a large metro area should have on its core routes.
“BTW I would.be surprised if East Link has the frequencies you think it will. There just won’t be the ridership to run it at its top frequency which is every 8 minutes, certainly off peak. Maybe 15 minute at most off peak.”
ST’s planning scenario for the East Link starter line is 10 minutes all day.
I ride half hour and hour frequency buses, yes. I work around their schedule. It is not nearly as bad as people here sometimes suggest. The area I live in right now is not dense enough to warrant anything more but I am happy to have the transit I do have, and make use of it.
Even in Seattle, I often used the half hour frequency bus which reduced my travel time or the distance I had to walk to connect to another bus or Link, over a more frequent bus which had worse connectivity.
It is worth remembering that we all make different choices, and not everyone makes the ones we want.
“The area I live in right now is not dense enough to warrant anything more”
Which area is it? If it’s an area like the 550, B, 226, 245, or 250 and it were in Canada or Europe, it would be full-time frequent. That’s the standard I’m using.
It works for some trips. But sometimes, just planning according to the bus schedule doesn’t work. Sometimes, you have to arrive at a specific time. Sometimes, you need to transfer and the schedules don’t line up. It doesn’t work for shopping trips, since you can’t control when you get through the checkout line. It also tends to not work well when traveling with kids, who always need to go to the bathroom at the last minute.
And, Daniel’s assumption that the entire Eastside is just coverage routes that nobody rides simply isn’t true. Sure, there are some routes like that, but not every Eastside bus is a 204 or 249. The other day, I was on a 250 from Redmond to Kirkland with 15 people on board. Several people got on and off during the ride, so a peak load of 15 people actually meant about 25 boardings or so. This was with half hourly service on a Saturday afternoon, and I’m sure more would ride it if it ran more often.
It also just so happens that my origin point that trip was Marymoor Park (I walked to Bear Creek Park and ride, the closest available bus stop) and my destination was Mercer Island. I walked in right by the under-construction SE Redmond Link station, and had it been open, I could have taken the train the entire way, and the travel time would have been cut in half.
The 255’s ridership is also growing, especially on weekdays. About once a week, I ride it into Seattle for the evening, and most of the seats are now full.
Also, the frequency of East Link is not just about the Eastside, but also about downtown Seattle to Lynnwood, since the train continues there. 10 service, the 1 and 2 lines can combine for 5 minute service on the combined section. 15 minute service on the 2 line, the 1 and 2 in Seattle become unevenly spaced, which results in alternating full and empty trains and/or train bunching. I fully expect the 2 line to run every 10 minutes.
The 250 runs 30 minute frequencies Saturdays and 10 minute frequencies peak weekdays. On the frickin Eastside post pandemic.
Considering transit budgets are fixed where would you take service from to increase frequency on the 250 on Saturdays, one of the lowest equity routes in King Co.?
The solution to ST express cross lake buses on Sundays Mike complains of is to have N KC contribute some — or ANY — of the cost rather than spending $20 billion on a gold plated WSBLE my subarea must contribute $275 million to, plus $64 million/year for the express buses that today serve as many Seattleites as eastsiders.
The solution to the 250 is to convince the planners ridership on the 250 demands better frequency on Saturdays, which means taking service from some other run when virtually every other bus route except maybe the 204 scores higher on the equity index.
I just wish some on this blog would recognize transit budgets are fixed, and probably will decline in the future when inflation is factored in, and so it is a zero sum game, which is the real world planners must deal with. Transit on this blog is about middle class white (north Seattle) service.
If you want better frequency on your route you need to convince planners that increased service is more important than existing service somewhere else in KC. Good luck proving that for Saturday service on the 250 that gets about 2 Black riders/year through some of the highest AMI in KC, or Sunday service on the 550.
The reality is East Link won’t open until at least 2025. I am sorry our trains won’t double frequency for north Seattleites until then, but it isn’t our fault. Until then get N KC to fund increased frequency on ST express cross lake buses, and convince transit planners the 250 deserves better Saturday frequencies under the equity index.
I don’t care either way, and it isn’t my decision, but I get tired of folks on this blog demanding more coverage, more expensive modes, or better frequencies without identifying where they would take that transit funding from to make their heavily subsidized transit trip better.
I understand why MI receives virtually no intra Island transit service despite the taxes we pay for transit, because there are more equitable uses of that limited service. I think all of us should consider whether our transit trips — especially the 550 and 250 — are the most deserving of even more funding at the expense of less wealthy areas, and at least the existing transit service we would cut for our own routes. That is what planners do.
I generally agree with the spirit of your argument except for one premise: the idea that transit funding is fixed. There is no reason to believe that – as many have pointed out, Seattle (and to an extent King County in general) have repeatedly voted to increase funding.
Now, you could certainly make an argument that that money could go to other uses: housing, schools, bridge maintenance, etc. I certainly encourage you to advocate for whatever cause you are most dedicated to, whether on this forum or anywhere else. I have no doubt that you will pick a worthy cause – you are one of the most consistent advocates for equity and have mentioned having done so in your professional work as well, and I genuinely admire that.
Just don’t be surprised if others advocate for their own causes of interest, again whether here or elsewhere.
I guess I need to repeat this fact again: When ST2 and when ST3 Link are completed, Bellevue will have more Link stations per capita than Seattle will. That’s also true for Mercer Island once East Link opens.
The other thing that needs mentioning is that more of the ST taxes are collected at the place of residence. Sure commercial buildings pay property tax too but residential property taxes and auto tabs are at place of residence. A high percentage of sales tax is collected within a few miles of someone’s home (for restaurants and supermarkets) so it’s almost place of residence collection too. So trying to track subarea funding as exclusive within arbitrarily-drawn geographic borders is an artificial and incomplete explanation of “equity”.
In general, I think that service on the eastside is spread too thin, and that service should be more concentrated into routes that connect the major activity centers, with the highest ridership potential, rather than trying to trying to provide hourly service within 1/4 mile of every single single-family home. The 250 and the B-line are the two routes at the top of my mental priority list for connecting activity centers.
If you’re looking for a specific route to cut to pay for better service on the 250, the 226 and 249 are two obvious candidates. Both run close enough to future Link stations for walk+Link to serve as an alternative, and the 226 is also not that far from the B-line on NE 8th St. While these routes do have small tails that are a bit far from other service to expect people to walk, these tails all have very limited ridership potential.
Anonymouse, if citizens or the county increase transit funding that is a different issue, although again I think most Eastside routes do poorly on the equity index so doubt much of the additional funding would go to Eastside routes.
Asdf2 notes something I have posted many times: east King Co. is very difficult to serve with transit. It is very large, mostly undense, has first/last mile access issues, and challenging topography.
I agree with asdf2 that on the Eastside focusing transit on corridor routes between population/work centers makes more sense than spreading transit too thinly on the Eastside, (which is what East Link was suppose to be), although that leaves gaps. But some of those areas have very low transit ridership anyway. But there are transit gaps in Seattle too in areas with stronger ridership. As Ross has pointed out, transit ridership IS equity, but that is not how the transit planners and politicians see equity today.
30 minute frequency on Saturdays and Sundays on the Eastside seems fairly reasonable to me based on ridership. I just don’t see the transit planners feeling like that is a transit hole. If Seattle and the N KC subarea felt the express buses needed greater frequency they could chip in.
In any case East Link will open in 3 or 4 years. It won’t really help trips to Crossroads that much (ironically one of the few equity zones on the Eastside) or the 250. East Link was originally designed as cross lake commuter peak rail, but the route got screwed up. I don’t quite see the advantages of East Link coming from Seattle. Al notes East Link has more stations per capita than Seattle but look where they are. Who from Seattle is going to S. Bellevue, East Main, Main on 110th, Wliburton, The Spring District, or Overlake which is very difficult to walk, or even Microsoft these days.
The express buses in some ways are better because they go to where people want to go, often with one seat, albeit with 30 minute frequencies on Sunday.
The irony is East Link would score poorly in asdf2’s approach to prioritize transit on the Eastside that connects population centers. Even when a Seattleites can take East Link there will be a transfer to a bus that will have .., drum roll … 30 minute frequencies on weekends on the Eastside.
There isn’t anything any of us can do to open East Link early, Eastside transit routes score poorly on the racial equity index, and the Eastside already spends $64 million/year on ST buses that was suppose to end when East Link opened in 2021, so I don’t see a lot of change on weekend frequencies.
The first step is for the government to start thinking differently. Define a robust minimum level of transit that we should have. Metro Connects visions in 2016-2020 were pretty good; I would just add that the Frequent routes need to be 15-minute frequent until 10pm every day, not just until 7pm weekdays. The county has said it will do it someday, but that day never comes.
Then, to find the funding, prioritize transit over car infrastructure like other cities have done. Have a progressive tax system, because the tax changes since the 1970s funnel 90% of the wealth to the top 10% and they pay less proportionally in taxes than those below them, so that’s the reason we can’t afford infrastructure.
Then, implement it. Add service hours and actually implement the transit. Set a concrete number of years when it will be finished by. And do it.
Taking hours from one route to make another frequent under the current budget, just moves the problem around, it doesn’t solve anything. The lowest-productivity routes were already deleted in the 2014 recession, in various restructures, and in the 2020 recession. Excess peak service is already being reallocated to all-day service and will continue to be more so.
“if citizens or the county increase transit funding that is a different issue, although again I think most Eastside routes do poorly on the equity index so doubt much of the additional funding would go to Eastside routes”
The point of this additional funding is to have a robust minimum level of transit throughout the county, so that includes the Eastside. Equity wouldn’t come into it: equity would be service above that level. And if the level of transit is already optimal everywhere, there wouldn’t be any need for additional equity service in some places.
Maybe “equity” in that context would just mean shuttles to pedestrian-unfriendly medical facilities and low-income facilities, like Northwest Hospital, Four Freedoms, and the VA hospital, and a few long-distance equity expresses.In other words, not just filling in regular frequency and coverage — because those will be included in the minimum — but extra point-to-point service if needed to serve underserved communities.
“The irony is East Link would score poorly in asdf2’s approach to prioritize transit on the Eastside that connects population centers”
Asdf2 disagrees. A single straight-ish line connecting downtown Seattle->downtown Bellevue->Microsoft->downtown Redmond looks very much like “connecting population centers” to me.
Of course, it doesn’t hit *every* population center, but that’s not possible to do with one single line.
I also don’t really care about so-called “equity priority areas”. Ridership should speak for itself and to the extent that lower income people are more likely to choose transit, that’s already taken into account just from ridership stats. Also, a bus is only useful if it serves both ends of a trip, and a hyperfocus on “equity” results in people who live in poor neighborhoods being only able to get to other poor neighborhoods and not anywhere else.
The “equity” analysis especially doesn’t make sense when you start talking about race, independently of socioeconomic status. You can make a reasonable argument that a poorer person needs bus service more than a rich person. It’s a lot harder make a plausible argument why when two people have the same income but are different skin colors that one “deserves” transit more than the other.
Going back to the original discussion, there are some activity centers on the Eastside that I think are being shortchanged. For example, the Woodinville town center has a lot of multifamily housing and a lot of retail, but very little transit. The East Link service restructure is supposed finally connect this area to downtown Redmond with a bus that runs in a straight line, which Metro has this far, been very reluctant to do, presumably because the ridership potential for the rural areas in between is so low. Nevertheless, I think running it is the right decision, and this is a route I would like to see eventually upgraded to frequent service, even if the money isn’t available to do that now. I also think it would be a better route if it continued on to Bothell, catching that activity center too.
In general, I think that service on the eastside is spread too thin, and that service should be more concentrated into routes that connect the major activity centers, with the highest ridership potential, rather than trying to trying to provide hourly service within 1/4 mile of every single single-family home.
I think the problem is that the activity centers and density is very spread out. You mentioned Woodinville, for example. Woodinville can be considered an activity center. There is some density there. But it is a long ways from a major destination (like downtown Bellevue or downtown Seattle). You can extend some buses, or connect to major bus lines, but at the end of the day, you won’t get huge ridership. It is just too far of a trip. What is true of Woodinville is true of much of the East Side.
Take Kirkland for example. It is one of the more centrally located cities on the East Side. It is relatively close to downtown Bellevue and the UW. It has a lot more density than a lot of the East Side, as well as a better street grid than most. But even it is fairly spread out. There is downtown, but very close to downtown is plenty of single family housing. Juanita isn’t too far away, nor is Totem Lake. Totem Lake is not too far from a significant college — Lake Washington Institute of Technology — a school of 6,000. It all sounds pretty good, except for the fact that it isn’t quite big enough to be self supporting. A hub and spoke system with downtown Kirkland sounds pretty OK, except it wouldn’t get many riders. People want to go other places. Downtown Bellevue is a major destination, as is the UW. Redmond is very close to. If you are at the north end of Kirkland, you want to go to Kenmore. The places that are worth serving within Kirkland are spread out, while the destinations outside are very spread out.
Next thing you know, the ride from Totem Lake to the UW takes about an hour. Various places with apartments have half hour service, or nothing at all. Remember, this is Kirkland. This is a city that appears to be doing better than most. Things are just too spread out. The buses that connect the major destinations don’t get really big ridership because they run alongside miles of nothingness. It explains why apartments have no service at all. You can’t really create a hub and spoke system to Bellevue, because downtown Bellevue is just one of the major destinations (the other two being downtown Seattle and the UW). You can’t create much of a grid — the area is just too big, and the destinations don’t all lie on the ideal corridors. You just muddle along, which is what Kirkland does.
Again, this is typical for the East Side. When folks looked at the Metro’s East Link restructure, the big theme was disappointment. There really wasn’t enough savings from truncating the buses to create a great network. Some areas definitely came out way ahead (Issaquah) but overall, it just wasn’t great. There are things I might do differently, but I would be the first to tell you that there is no easy path. This isn’t a case of too much coverage — it is just a very hard place to serve.
The Kirkland-Redmond section of the 250 is somewhat rare in that it actually gets a fair number of boardings in the Rose Hill area between the activity centers (not the case for the Kirkland-Bellevue part of the 250). Still, it’s not like the activity centers on the Eastside are that far apart. We’re usually talking about distances of 3-5 miles along major roads. It’s not necessary for every inch of service to have high ridership, so long as the bus gets through the low ridership areas fast. There’s no excuse for Redmond to Woodinville to require a 60-90 minute journey when you can drive it in 10 minutes or even bike it on the Sammamish River Trail in 20 minutes.
Metro is making progress. I remember back when the 230 and 231 didn’t exist, and how convoluted the alternative Metro forced you to take instead was. I wish they would run more often than once an hour, but even once an hour is still a lot better than “not at all”.
Besides spending too much resources on coverage, I think there are still too many routes spending too much time on detours, largely for inertial reasons. For instance, does the 239 really need to go into Totem Lake Transit Center and Kingsgate park and ride, rather than simply stop on the street? Is the 239’s detour to Brickyard park and ride (in one direction only) really necessary? Could the 245 use the weekend routing (which avoids the grand tour of Bellevue College, but still stops within walking distance of it) every day of the week? In Newcastle, does the 240 really need to do an around-the-block-detour to serve one bus stop about 200 feet from Coal Creek Parkway, rather than simply moving the bus stop to Coal Creek Parkway itself? Does the 250 really need to go into South Kirkland park and ride, or can riders transferring to the 255 simply do it at Kirkland Transit Center instead? The list goes on and on. Individually, the cost of one detour in isolation may seem negligible, but cumulatively, when repeated trip after trip, day after day, over the entire system, they add up. And they waste rider time in addition to bus driver time.
Eastside is the worst of all worlds. Congested and dense enough to be annoying/generic, yet you must drive everywhere.
And people love it!
Light rail isn’t going to change much.
Downtown Bellevue Station construction time-lapse. 4 years in 20 seconds. 2018-2021.
Click Time-Lapses. For me, as the 20 seconds is counting down the first time, a still image appears for the entire 20 seconds. Then the time-lapse should start automatically. If it doesn’t, drag the ball back to 0:00, then the time-lapse will begin.
First you have to select one of the five views, then Time-Lapses, etc.
Very cool, thanks. I liked #2-View1, as you can see Spring District construction time-lapsing in the background as well.
“There just won’t be the ridership to run it at its top frequency which is every 8 minutes, certainly off peak. Maybe 15 minute at most off peak.”
“30 minute frequency on Saturdays and Sundays on the Eastside seems fairly reasonable to me based on ridership.”
What are you basing that on? What ridership threshold do you think a 10, 15, 30, or 60-minute bus route should have? Or a 6, 10, 15, or 30-minute rail line?
> There just won’t be the ridership to run it at its top frequency which is every 8 minutes, certainly off peak. Maybe 15 minute at most off peak.”
DT is probably correct. With 550 + 545 and other express ridership numbers East Link will probably have around 30~40k daily ridership. The existing 1 Line has practically double the daily ridership at 77k and off peak is running at 10/12 minutes. It’s highly likely they are going to run East Link at even lower frequencies off peak. And it is similar to what most American transit agency frequencies run at.
> “30 minute frequency on Saturdays and Sundays on the Eastside seems fairly reasonable to me based on ridership.”
I don’t think it’ll be as bad a 30 minutes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s every 20 minutes. They might also want to run shorter train cars to save on maintenance costs a bit.
Ridership will influence the length of trains, but it won’t lower frequency, unless it’s really really awful. The B line runs every 15 minutes. Link in Bellevue and Redmond beating that is a very low bar to meet.
Also, don’t forget, the 2 line’s ridership will be propped up by trips between Seattle and Lynnwood, and if the two line doesn’t run as often as the 1 line, that would have ripple effects in the combined section, like longer and uneven wait times.
That said, I don’t think Bellevue Link ridership will be that bad. You can start with the 545 and 550, but you’ll get additional riders simply from Link being more frequent and reliable than the buses it replaced. You’ll also get riders in the Bellevue-Redmond segment who would have otherwise slogged it out on the B line or simply called for an Uber because the B line was too slow. Then, you get other trip pairs like Capitol Hill to downtown Bellevue or Microsoft. And, of course, there’s new development in the spring distance and Overlake Village which is only beginning to impact ridership stats. And then people from Issaquah, Sammamish, or Newcastle who drive to the train, rather than take whatever bus they’d be taking before. Even Judkins Park to downtown will get some 2-line riders within Seattle.
No single use case fills up the train all by itself, but all these different use cases add up. I think ridership will be fine.
I’m not asking what agencies do, I’m asking what you (or others) think they should do. The current Link frequency is based as much on arbitrary decision-making or budget limitations as on ridership. Average American transit networks suck, so they should not be a model. And I’m primarily asking about bus frequencies, if that wasn’t clear. Both because they’re generally less frequent than subway frequencies, and because they serve many more areas, and many train trips often include a bus transfer.
> Ridership will influence the length of trains, but it won’t lower frequency, unless it’s really really awful. The B line runs every 15 minutes. Link in Bellevue and Redmond beating that is a very low bar to meet.
Ridership definitely influences frequency. When ridership falls transit agencies will tinker and lower the frequency. I’m sure during peak times and during the day East Link will run more frequently around 8~10 minutes but after that during the evenings it’ll probably drop to 15 minutes and latter times on weekends.
> That said, I don’t think Bellevue Link ridership will be that bad. You can start with the 545 and 550, but you’ll get additional riders simply from Link being more frequent and reliable than the buses it replaced.
Sound Transit’s own estimates are around 40~50k daily riders for East link which as we well know are typically overly optimistic. I set it at 30~40k which is probably realistic.
> No single use case fills up the train all by itself, but all these different use cases add up. I think ridership will be fine.
I think ridership will also be fine, but also that those will be the numbers.
> I’m not asking what agencies do, I’m asking what you (or others) think they should do.
I mean obviously I/we would prefer more frequency all else being equal but that’s kinda of an non-answer.
> The current Link frequency is based as much on arbitrary decision-making or budget limitations as on ridership.
Well yes running frequency based on the ridership makes the most sense. Running extra busses/ trains* on a route that isn’t using them doesn’t really make much sense. If they are automated as in skytrain one can separate ridership from frequency a bit but these all require drivers so ridership and frequency are tied together.
> What ridership threshold do you think a 10, 15, 30, or 60-minute bus route should have?
Probably just extrapolate from the existing ridership numbers to existing frequency. The Rapidride’s D, C with 10k ridership, Route 255 (with ~7k) run every 15 minutes and enter 20/30 minutes later in the night. Rapidride E with ~20k ridership runs every 7 minutes and then every 10 minutes on the weekend. Route 50 ridership is only ~2k and runs every 30 minutes and becomes 40 minutes/1 hour later in the evening.
Heading into 60 minute bus routes veers more into coverage reasons or express bus service than for ridership reasons.
> Or a 6, 10, 15, or 30-minute rail line?
The ridership thresholds for rail lines are much higher for each frequency threshold. Though this also partly depends on how long of the train cars each train is (and how long the route is). If you build your rail line correctly and (more importantly upzone along the stations) one shouldn’t be worrying about lack of ridership but this is USA so we do have to take that into consideration.
> And I’m primarily asking about bus frequencies, if that wasn’t clear. Both because they’re generally less frequent than subway frequencies and because they serve many more areas, and many train trips often include a bus transfer.
If you’re just focusing on bus transfers on the Eastside then it’s less about ridership and more about coverage/minimum acceptable frequency. I mean at a certain point, it’s cheaper to just subsidize uber/taxis for low ridership routes than run busses more frequently.
* A bit off topic, but there is a downside to over-capacity with trains on some routes leading to under-frequency that can be worse than busses. For an example BART in oakland runs less frequently than their BRT. Or say in DC on the weekends the silver, orange and blue lines run every 15 minutes. Caltrain itself runs incredibly low frequency off peak partly because running the large trains is overkill.
We make recommendations on routes, alignments, modes, and technologies based on our understanding of transit best practices, often contrary to what the agencies are currently doing. We can make recommendations about frequency the same way.
So you think Metro and Sound Transit already have the right ridership thresholds for each frequency level. I don’t. I think minimum frequencies should be based on the population size of the area it’s serving, regardless of ridership. You need a robust minimum frequency to have useful transit service. Seattle and its main suburbs are large enough to have 15-minute minimum service on core corridors and most coverage corridors.
If you want a numeric ridership threshold, 10 bus riders per service hour is widely used in the transit industry for a worthwhile run. I get the feeling that some commentators think a bus needs 40 or 50 riders (80-100% full) to justify another run. That seems to be where this “30 minutes is fine” is coming from. I’m not sure how to adapt the threshold for Link, but since one Link line is equivalent to multiple bus lines, maybe 40 riders per hour would make sense.
> So you think Metro and Sound Transit already have the right ridership thresholds for each frequency level. I don’t.
The bus drivers don’t come from nowhere. If you were to lower the ridership thresholds aka increase frequency for low ridership routes, then you are decreasing frequency for high ridership routes.
If the population is there to support the frequency but the ridership isn’t, it’s time to figure out what restructure or other change needs to happen for the ridership to be there.
You can’t force folks to ride transit. Pre-pandemic offices in urban areas with high parking costs and urban atmospheres many workers didn’t want to raise a family in forced people to take transit, and they hated it. Today transit has to compete for the “choice” rider (discretionary is my term).
To answer Mike’s question about ridership to equal frequency, that begins with budgets. Mike argues the legislature should adopt a progressive income tax the state Supreme Court finds constitutional and (Eastside) voters pass more transit levies to increase weekend frequencies on the 550 by 15 minutes. That seems like a reach to me.
The region spends a fortune on transit. The Eastside subarea has $600 million in debt while trying to complete Redmond and East Link while dealing with the bridge issues and still spends $64 million/year on ST express buses.
A four car link train holds 596 passengers. If it runs every 10 minutes that is 6 trains X 596 = 3576 spots per hour. I would expect at least 1000 riders/hour to validate that frequency. After all, a key basis for Link is capacity. I didn’t suggest spending $100 billion on light rail.
For a bus. a single bus can hold 53 riders. An articulated bus can hold 105. Again I think around a 1/3 ridership threshold should determine frequency. If the single bus ran 4X per hour that is 212 seats so around 70 riders for that frequency. If ridership is more the question is whether to increase frequency or go to an articulated bus (capacity) — especially considering the driver shortage. 10 riders per hour IMO would support at best hourly frequencies.
I am not a transit planner. I imagine the whole point of their job is to figure out how to provide service when there isn’t sufficient revenue to mimic cars frequencies. The reality today is racial equity is going to influence where that service is located.
The reality is net transit budgets will decrease because of inflation and lower revenues. Link will never meet its 40% farebox recovery goal for O&M, and Metro already knows service levels will have to be cut. The decline in fare paying percentages is another factor that will require service cuts.
No one on this blog advocating for more service on their route ever identifies where they would take those service hours from. It is a zero sum game. Ross posts some detailed and realistic transit restructures and they are all about tradeoffs, although I am sure Ross and Metro wish they didn’t have to make decisions like not serving Lake City Way based on equity, let alone taking that service for the Eastside.
Over the next few years the real debate will be where to reduce service. Yes it will be painful. Racial equity will be a major factor. If LCW is losing service the 250 isn’t going to 15 minute frequencies on weekends.
If a transit planner wanted to serve all of east KC with 15 minute frequency there would be no
money for the rest of KC, and the dollar per rider mile would be terrible. (Which is why I don’t support upzoning these remote areas because then they will demand that service. This is a subarea that doesn’t even care that East Link won’t open until 2025, if then. Increasing transit frequency is not going to get these folks out of their cars.
I don’t know where the transit cuts will come in the next few years. I know it won’t be MI because we have so little intra Island transit service. I don’t know what ST will do about frequency on East Link if Eastside boardings are very low, although in the long run the subarea will be flush. Then for Metro the budget squeeze will be feeder buses if you don’t use a park and ride serving Link. Link can have 3 minute frequencies but if the feeder buses have 30/60 minute frequencies what is gained?
Service mirrors funding and costs. That means service will go down in the future. Where I don’t know, but my guess is poor, politically weak white north Seattle neighborhoods like LCW because the wealthy white neighborhoods don’t want to share, and S Seattle has the racial equity card (and crummy Link).
Sure you can.
Just make driving nosebleed expensive. That’s how they do it in Europe and what Oregon plans to do.
I grant that Oregon mostly will be charging Washingtonians and truckers who can’t do much but grumble. There are few jobs north of the river for all the folks who live there. And Vancouver has a pretty high home ownership ratio, sticking people in place.
When the tolls go on, real estate sales in Clark County will go off. So Oregon will probably get away with it: people will ride transit because they can afford only that way to get to work.
“Just make driving nosebleed expensive. That’s how they do it in Europe”
This ignores the past 70 years worth of work done in many European countries to improve transit.
If the population is there to support the frequency but the ridership isn’t, it’s time to figure out what restructure or other change needs to happen for the ridership to be there.
I assume we are talking about the East Side at this point. The trains will run at whatever frequency ST sets. Even if the ridership is low, I expect trains to run every ten minutes in the middle of the day. That isn’t great, but a lot of American systems are worse.
In the case of buses, the easiest thing to do is just spend more money. Seattle did that. They passed a measure and ran the buses more often. I could see Bellevue doing that (or the county as a whole doing that).
I don’t see a bus restructure for the East Side showing much promise. I think folks had some good ideas for improvements, but they didn’t add up to a lot. Nothing in there looked like it would increase frequency substantially. That’s because there wasn’t too much wrong with the plans put out by Metro. ST favored Issaquah more than they should have, but in general it was fairly good. It didn’t look like they were favoring coverage over ridership. Of course they could just leave huge swaths without service, but rarely does any agency do that. I would make changes here or there, but I don’t think there was much wrong with their proposal (especially given how big it was).
In contrast, the proposal for service after Lynnwood Link has more potential. A bigger portion of the routes are redundant, wasteful and time consuming. Clean them up, and you can increase frequency on a lot of routes. It helps that it is likely Seattle will add additional money as well.
If I wanted to force people onto transit, I would: Bring congestion pricing to downtown Seattle. Toll every road/electronic tolling. Increase the tolls on HOV lanes. Increase the fines on red light and speed camera tickets. Spread red light and speed cameras to more places. Turn more street parking into parklets. Turn street parking into outdoor dining areas. Turn more streets into Safe Streets. Spread traffic calming measures to more streets. Increase MVET fees. End parking minimums. Convert more traffic lanes into bike lanes. Reduce the number of freeway lanes. Increase downtown parking meter fees. Reduce parking meter usage times. Pedestrianize more streets. Turn more streets into traffic malls. … I could go on, but you get the idea.
I was talking more in general terms.
Eg, in Portland bus routes 19 and 14. 14 serves the Hawthorne Blvd corridor. The 19 serves Sellwood. The 14 has been cut back to only serve several blocks of downtown, so it has a bit of a disadvantage over the 19. Both of these areas have similar population along the routes: single family homes away from the main corridor, and a mixture of multifamily and businesses along the main street served by the bus. Hawthorne has more restaurants and a more popular movie theatre. The outer end of both routes pass through suburban areas with much less along them than these particular neighborhoods.
Until 1950, both neighborhoods were part of the streetcar network. Until 1958, both had interurban train service serving the far end of the areas, except Sellwood’s connection was a bit closer. So, development pressures that formed the neighborhoods over time wasn’t that different.
Despite these similar characteristics, Sellwood has a long history of far worse ridership of using the 19 than Hawthorne Blvd does of using the 14.
Sure, you can throw money at it and run the Sellwood bus more often, but it’s not going to solve the basic structural problems of the route, which has it making a time consuming left turn in the middle of its path through Sellwood to also serve the outer reaches of southeast Portland. The route also takes a somewhat time consuming diversion through southwest Portland, which doesn’t have too much to serve but does have a lot of congestion due to the several major highways that produce a plate of spaghetti of interchanges.
To really solve the problem, TriMet would probably need to break the 19 into a couple of different routes, which isn’t going to happen any time soon. It is, however, worthwhile to note why these two areas have so much different transit use even though the basic neighborhood characteristics aren’t that different.
Of course, anyone that has dealt with Seattle transit and this web site for a time know all too well there are some routes with basic structural issues that make ridership difficult. Witness, for example, Magnolia and route 24. I’m sure there are places on the eastside that could be provided with a corkscrew like the 24. Ridership would probably be better on routes that don’t act like they are in a rat maze though, given the exact same population characteristics along it.
So, if the population is there and the ridership is not, as a general rule it would be best to figure out why the ridership isn’t there. 24 style corkscrew routes? Badly timed transfers to other routes? TriMet 19 style diversions halfway through the logical corridor because the route is trying to serve several different areas rather than the one people actually want to travel along? Buses stuck in traffic waiting for a drawbridge?
“If I wanted to force people onto transit, I would: Bring congestion pricing to downtown Seattle. Toll every road/electronic tolling. Increase the tolls on HOV lanes. Increase the fines on red light and speed camera tickets. Spread red light and speed cameras to more places. Turn more street parking into parklets. Turn street parking into outdoor dining areas. Turn more streets into Safe Streets. Spread traffic calming measures to more streets. Increase MVET fees. End parking minimums. Convert more traffic lanes into bike lanes. Reduce the number of freeway lanes. Increase downtown parking meter fees. Reduce parking meter usage times. Pedestrianize more streets. Turn more streets into traffic malls. … I could go on, but you get the idea.” – Sam
That is coincidently many of the things that we need to do to achieve our Vision Zero goals of zero traffic fatalities and severe injuries. Seattle, Tacoma and Pierce County have all committed to attaining this worthy goal. Seattle in just 7 short years.
Whether that was just toothless lip-service is left as an exercise for the reader.
Glenn, of course, but support from the public for the “work” [e.g. “investment”] came because fuel and registration fees were then and still are much more expensive than here.
Europe has relatively little domestic oil production and has always been dependent on the major oil companies for fuel. In the post-war era here in the US gasoline was less expensive than water, gallon for gallon retail. The small producers and refiners kept the price down with intermittent “gas wars” until the Embargo limited imports, the price soared and the little guys got bought by the Majors.
Also Europe did not have money or space for sprawl until the 1970’s, so the transit habit had not waned there like it did here in the post-war era.
At this point, though, the road network in the US is so enormous that no amount of money thrown at transit will make much of a difference anywhere except in a few places with high density or governments willing to put a high cost on personal driving. Such governments typically are voted out quickly in the US.
“You can’t force folks to ride transit.”
The low-hanging fruit is people who want to take transit or would take it if it were more frequent. Every service level has a margin of people who are on the brink of deciding between transit or driving, and a little nudge of more or less frequency is enough to make them choose decisively one way or the other. People find 30-minute service inconvenient, often a long wait, and they’re not going to risk doing it if they don’t know the schedule. That’s on top of transfers (15 minute wait +30 minute wait = 45 minutes of waiting), unreliable buses (15 minutes may turn into 25 or 30 minutes), or just missing the bus but you’re already at the bus stop, or not taking transit because you don’t want to risk that. So 15-minute service makes transit significantly more viable for some trips, and makes transit a more competitive choice. And if a route is running every 15 minutes day and evening, that in itself can convince people who previously didn’t think they’d ride it to start riding it.
For whatever it’s worth, for me it’s almost always a matter of travel time, not travel frequency. I use transit primarily in the context of commuting and planned errands, so I can work around the schedule, but I am unwilling to make trips that take too long. Reliability of transfers is a close second issue. If either of those is a problem, I will find other options (and I say this as someone who does not own a car).
“I think around a 1/3 ridership threshold should determine frequency. If the single bus ran 4X per hour that is 212 seats so around 70 riders for that frequency.”
Thanks for the numbers. I disagree, but I want to hear what you and others think, and to make our assumptions explicit. I think different people have different assumptions about frequency and don’t realize they’re not universal. I think many people visualize how full they must see a bus/train (e.g. 3/4 full) to justify additional runs. There are a few problems with that:
– A lower threshold may still be worthwhile in transit cost/benefit terms.
– If one person gets on/off in an early part of the route and another in a late part, they’ll never see each other, and an observer would count one passenger instead of two.
– Even “full” has different thresholds: packed with standees, every seat full, or one person in every double seat. In a post-covid environment many people have moved more toward the latter.
– Metro aims for 3/4 full if I recall, with nobody standing more than X minutes. Ridership fluctuates widely day by day, so an average of 3/4 full can end up with overcrowding on several days.
– A widely-used threshold in the transit industry is a bus should have 10 riders per service hour to be worthwhile, or new routes should be building up to that.
Here are some examples of lower-volume bus routes:
– The 226, midafternoon eastbound, often has 6 people between Bellevue TC and 124th where I get off. (I wouldn’t see any boardings east of there.)
– The Southcenter-Fairwood van (S 108th St/Carr Rd), on a Satuday afternoon pre-covid, I saw 8 people between Southcenter and IKEA, which is the western third of the route. So it would only need 2 more to reach 10. The entire route from end to end is less than an hour.
– The 62’s eastern third is low, sometimes with three people on it. But the entire route from end to end is 55 minutes, or less than an hour. And the number of people who board in the western two-thirds is more than 7.
If ridership is more the question is whether to increase frequency or go to an articulated bus
Mike, depending on schedule reliability I don’t think frequency is a main issue.
The first issue is first/last mile access. With a car you have neither. This more than anything determines time of trip and convenience.
Next is whether you have to carry things. Including kids. If you do transit is not an option.
Next is whether there is a transfer. People hate transfers (and frequency when it comes to transfers probably is important).
Then you have weather.
Next is perceptions of safety. This is a critical factor for women. Stories in the press about crime and drugs at stations and bus stops and on buses and trains that mostly are in Seattle taint all transit. If safety is a concern it usually is a deal breaker.
When you add up these factors so many discretionary riders never get to considerations of frequency, which is usually a function of funding. The best frequency today is still peak runs but that is where we have seen the steepest ridership declines. Those folks use to have to take transit. Now it is a choice, and factors well before you get to frequency are the deciding factors whether someone rides transit.
“The first issue is first/last mile access.”
If one end of your trip is near Bel-Red Road or 156th, you don’t need last-mile access to ride the 226 or 245. That won’t work for everybody, but it will work for some people, and there are apartments in those corridors.
For whatever it’s worth, for me it’s almost always a matter of travel time, not travel frequency. I use transit primarily in the context of commuting and planned errands, so I can work around the schedule, but I am unwilling to make trips that take too long. Reliability of transfers is a close second issue.
Travel time and frequency go together. Even some of your examples hint at that. Commuting and planned errands, for example. For shift workers, if the bus runs every half hour, that means an average half hour tacked onto the travel time (round trip). You time it, but you arrive 15 minutes before your shift (and leave 15 minutes after). Not only that, but when you time it in the morning, you allow extra time, just because you sure as hell don’t want to miss it. With some jobs, if you are late a few times, they fire you.
Transfers also mess everything up. Two half-hour buses can leave you sitting a while (again, even if you time it). Often time a trip “takes too long” simply because the bus doesn’t run often enough.
Ross – right, sure. But “on paper” frequency is not particularly useful. For example, the 271 was on paper running every 8 minutes or so during the afternoon rush hour; in practice though it ran every 15 because the buses bunched up. So I had to time my transfers accordingly, even though the frequency suggested I did not have to do so.
I am not a shift worker, but even as a white collar worker I have to arrive to work at a certain time; so the same thing applies to me as well.
To me, it is important to identify the actual goals; minimizing ride time is one goal, yes. Minimizing the variance of the ride time is in many ways just as important. Frequency can help with one but not the other, potentially, so to me frequency is not a goal, it is a tool towards achieving some other goal. Too often it feels to me that people forget this.
I am not a shift worker, but even as a white collar worker I have to arrive to work at a certain time; so the same thing applies to me as well.
It really isn’t the type of work exactly, it is whether you work shifts or not. There are jobs where arriving early is pointless. You simply wait around until your shift starts. Likewise, at the end of the shift your job is over. In contrast, I’ve worked in jobs where I could start the second I got there, and keep working until I felt like leaving. Infrequent commuting (e. g. riding buses that run every half hour) was fine in my case, but not in the other.
As far as reliability goes, eight minute buses should never bunch. You are right — that is very bad reliability. Effective frequency is more important than frequency on paper. I agree with that.
But I disagree that effective frequency isn’t in itself a goal. It is arguably the most important goal. Imagine the RapidRide E running 10% faster, but running every half hour. Ridership would plummet. Or imagine the 27 being just a bit slower, but running every five minutes. Ridership would be huge.
Of course this isn’t the way things work. If you speed up a route, you save service hours. This means you can run the bus more often. Ridership increase a bit when you speed it up; it increases a lot when you make it more frequent. By increasing the speed and reliability of a route, you enter into a virtuous circle — more frequency, more riders, more cost effective, etc. Next thing you know you have a highly successful bus route.
Jarrett Walker wrote that it really isn’t top speed that matters, but the reduction in delays. People call Link “fast”, even though just about every car in the city can go faster (if on the open road). Link is considered “fast” because it isn’t delayed by traffic or traffic signals. This also makes it a lot more reliable. Dwell time isn’t great for a metro, but much better than our buses. Going with more off-board payment and better stop spacing would speed up the buses (and make them more reliable). So would adding bus lanes. All of these are important changes, and are happening bit by bit around the city. But frequency remains critical. Jarrett Walker has a whole chapter on frequency (“Frequency is Freedom”). He mentions it in other contexts as well (https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe#frequency).
Ross, just to be clear, there are significant “diminishing returns” on increased frequency beyond ten minute headways. Bus irregularity means that ten minute headways are often 15-5, so most people give a five minute pad.
I’m not arguing with the basic premise; it is certainly true that increasing frequency beyond “coverage” levels will increase ridership, but it’s never “one-to-one”. You don’t get double the ridership from doubling the frequency, even between 30 and 15 minutes. To double yet again to seven and a half nets maybe a 15-25% increase in ridership, IF the neighborhood is pretty dense.
Going below seven and a half is never worthwhile unless the neighborhood is good enough to fill them up at seven and a half; in that case some sort of BRT treatment is not only called for, it is necessary to control costs.
Ross, just to be clear, there are significant “diminishing returns” on increased frequency beyond ten minute headways.
Right, but the same is true with speed as well. Replace Link with faster trains — which given the huge gap between Rainier Beach and Tukwila is not a crazy idea — and you won’t get that many more riders. The speed difference is just not significant. Double the frequency and you will get a lot more riders. There have been a lot of people here clamoring for East Link merely so that we can run the trains every five minutes north of downtown (some have even suggested running a stub to SoDo or Judkins Park, however impractical that is).
There is nothing magical about ten minutes. It is all a curve. The more frequent you make transit, the less important further frequency is. But there is no evidence that it is ever unimportant. A train running every 90 seconds is going to be more popular than one running every 3 minutes. Not a lot more popular, but still.
Irregularity is a related, but different subject. Frequency helps combat it. To quote Walker “frequency is a backstop for problems of reliability. If a vehicle breaks down or is late, frequency means another will be along soon.”
At the same time, irregularity makes increases in frequency more difficult, and less valuable. A bus that averages five minute headways is meaningless if it bunches and they run every ten. To make route more consistent there are a bunch of tools. The most common culprit is dwell times, which is why off-board payment is huge. Avoiding traffic is another one. Simply making the routes shorter helps. There is also sophisticated GPS software which can keep buses equally spaced. This may slow down a trailing bus, but prevent them from bunching. This doesn’t mean that buses arrive at the specific time — but that the gap between them is consistent. For very frequent buses (running every five minutes) this is important.
The RapidRide G won’t be that sophisticated. It won’t be that fast, either. But by avoiding most delays, it will be considerably faster than the old buses, and often faster than driving. By being short and having short dwell times (and just enough in the way of bus lanes) it can manage 6 minute headways all day. This last item will be its biggest selling card. Not that going up to First Hill will be super fast, but that it will beat walking every time, simply because it is more frequent (and reasonably fast).
I think that my point was, there are potentially other fixes that would address my specific concern that do not require increasing frequency. Changing routes might be one way (to avoid choke points); another might be to fix choke points by restriping, signal changes, etc. I don’t know where the 271 bogged down when I was taking it – I assume that it was/is in getting past Eastgate, but maybe it was in Issaquah. I can tell you though that it was much more likely to happen with the Issaquah runs than the Eastgate short turn runs.
The advantage of some of those options are that you might be able to increase frequency on some of the even less frequent routes, and improve the network overall. I think that you’ve made the point before that frequency should be improved when the volume of riders justify it; I am just following that suggestion, and propose that lack of reliability should not be addressed by increasing frequency, because it is a wasteful approach when other options may exist. But I admit that I am not necessarily a typical rider, in that for me it is more important to have consistency of trip times, and I do not often do short trips that are likely to benefit from very high frequency routes.
Here are my thoughts on the East Link ridership:
1. Covid era travel behavior changes seem to reduce actual ridership to about 75-80% of the before times. Projecting that for East Link ( expected at 42-50k on a weekday pre-Covid) it puts it at 31-42k.
2. The next biggest factor will likely be the cost of parking in Downtown Bellevue. Before Covid, parking wasn’t cheap. If employers start enabling free parking, ridership won’t come close to the estimates.
3. The Downtown Redmond station won’t get many riders. Marymoor will mostly get riders from the parking there and it will be heavily oriented to morning and evening commuters. There is a reason why the extension got cut.
4. The high percent of foreign born residents (40% for Bellevue), most from countries that typically support riding transit more than local people who are used to driving, will help make ridership decent. They don’t have as much of an aversion to rail transit.
5. Judkins Park has been estimated to be a station used by 15-20 percent of Link riders. While many may head east when boarding there, I expect many will also head west to Downtown and UW from there. That could even pull ridership from Mt Baker. Plus, the new 23rd Ave access is going to attract riders like a new station — with Route 48 and maybe Route 8 being particularly strong feeder routes from the north. It’s actually walkable from much of the southern CD.
6. How drop offs and pickups evolve will be important. Many in the area will be doing this — more than what I think ST planners expected. I think this will be greatest at East Main, Wilburton, Judkins Park, Mercer Island and South Bellevue but will happen at every station. It’s just too easy to text someone or get Uber or Lyft or maybe use a private shuttle. I hear people even now forgoing a long ride from North Seattle or Shoreline to SeaTac in favor of just getting to Link (and SeaTac traffic is wildly terrible for many hours a day).
7. UW students from the Eastside south of 520 won’t want to drive. Unless they live within walking distance of a 520 bus or can’t find parking at a Link station, they will all be on Link
So I think 30-35k on a weekday seems attainable. The lowest station usage will likely be Downtown Redmond. The demand will be highly peak focused. ST will run at least three-car trains because the Downtown to UW segment will have more all day riders. That also means that the 10-minute base frequency won’t likely get cut further except late at night or on Sundays.
A final guess is that East Link ridership won’t grow significantly once the line opens. Parking garage sizes are fixed. Rapid apartment growth is pretty much restricted to Judkins Park, central Bellevue and maybe a bit in the Spring District and Downtown Redmond. Several stations are not likely to see much land use densification happening. UW students that want to use Link will adjust quickly and those that don’t want to use Link won’t change their mind after 1-2 years. Line 2 won’t enjoy the initial growth of 5-10% annually like Line 1 did between 2011 and 2015.
I think Bel-Red/130th, East Main, Wilburton, and Spring District/120th will all have a lower station usage than Downtown Redmond in the first few years.
For me the better metric is boardings on the Eastside for East Link. Counting boardings from Judkins Park to Lynnwood might be important to allocate service costs but not ridership on “East” Link.
Boardings on the Eastside will be much lower than estimated because of WFH, subsidized parking, and dedicated buses like the 554 (which will skew O&M costs based on boardings to N. King Co. Doubling frequency on Line 1 won’t be free.
The only area that charges for parking is Bellevue Way for workers. But today there is plenty of parking in buildings. Amazon’s towers have 1100 stalls. (Microsoft just built a 3 million sf garage).
I think the best metric is ridership on buses today that mimic East Link’s route, minus riders on the 554 who take East Link to Seattle but will likely drive to the park and ride.
The other metric is the park and ride use That was the major complaint pre-pandemic. All of them were full by 7am on weekdays with workers going to Seattle. Seattle could adopt Sam’s idea about congestion pricing but why would an Eastsider care if they don’t plan to go to Seattle (although Harrell and the chamber might care. You know. The folks who actually pay the bills).
East Link won’t magically lure riders because it is a train. Eastsiders drive because they need to go someplace and first/last mile access is terrible. They take transit BECAUSE THEY ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO BUT HATE IT.
In the past that meant commuting to Seattle in heavy traffic congestion where parking was very expensive. Those days are gone. At best some of those workers will go into the office a few days/week at their employer’s Eastside office and probably drive unless the 554 is convenient and one seat.
Also, if the 15-minute neighborhood Downtown Redmond has the lowest station usage, and anti-15-minute neighborhood Marymoor Village gets high station usage, what does that say about 15-minute neighborhoods?
> So I think 30-35k on a weekday seems attainable. The lowest station usage will likely be Downtown Redmond. The demand will be highly peak focused. ST will run at least three-car trains because the Downtown to UW segment will have more all day riders. That also means that the 10-minute base frequency won’t likely get cut further except late at night or on Sundays.
Maintaining 10 minute frequency on east side link could be possible but I could see Sound Transit seeing the doubled frequency in the core as overkill and lowering it. Currently the Line 1 only runs 8 minute frequency during peak time and really most of the time runs at 10 minute frequency. If there’s both Line 1 and Line 2 running that’d be 5 minute frequency’s in downtown Seattle to Lynnwood. Though an alternative could be to have either eastside or seatac trains run turnbacks and not go all the way to lynnwood.
I guess since Sound Transit link routes will become longer and longer it’s time to more seriously talk about turnbacks in order to maintain frequency in the core.
> A final guess is that East Link ridership won’t grow significantly once the line opens. Parking garage sizes are fixed.
Pretty much agreed.
Sam, park and rides are people going to somewhere. They are popular on the Eastside because of difficult first/last mile access, the transit takes them where they are going without a transfer, and for some reason they can’t drive to their destination. The reason the park and rides are empty today is most eastsiders don’t have to go someplace they can’t drive to.
Will an eastsider drive to a park and ride to ride Link to another Eastside stop on East Link if not for work? Probably not. If one plans to drink alcohol Uber is safer than a park and ride, and there isn’t a huge retail vibrancy between the different Eastside retail areas. Eastsiders don’t “club”. We tend to go to one restaurant or bar.
A 15 minute city depending on retail vibrancy is someplace someone wants to go to, not from. Bellevue and Redmond IMO are the only Eastside stops that are 15 minute cities. Overlake is a large big box store area with tons of free parking. Better to drive there (although Issaquah is better and higher class).
Would I take Link to Bellevue? Maybe. I would have to consider the walk or drive to the park and ride and walk from the Main station. Parking is free in the evening. If I was going to Old Main Street obviously I would not take Link. The alternatives for me are driving or Uber.
Would I take East Link to Redmond? No. I don’t go to Redmond today. Same first mile issues, longer ride, and Redmond isn’t better than Bellevue, Issaquah or Seattle, and isn’t more vibrant than MI to support a long transit trip or drive if it is just a night out in suburbia.
Redmond and Kirkland each have around 75,000 residents. Those folks support the retail, they don’t need Link or transit to get to their town center., and rarely travel to the other city for pleasure. They ARE 15 minute cities so why leave. It would be like someone in Ballard driving or taking transit to West Seattle to shop, dine or party.
Oh wait, ST is spending $20 billion on Link from Ballard to WS.
Daniel, I think you are like me in this respect. Frequency isn’t a big factor in whether or not you take transit. Time and convenience is. So, will you take Link to Bellevue, if, for example, you are just going to Bellevue Square? Possibly. Will you take Link to Bellevue if you want to go to Bellevue Square and Home Depot? Absolutely not. True?
I honestly doubt Downtown Redmond will have the lowest ridership for a station on the line. Downtown Redmond serves multiple destinations within Redmond like Historic Downtown, Transit Center, and Towne Center. It will also serve bus connections to rest of Redmond, Duvall, Totem Lake, Education Hill, Cottage Grove, etc. I honestly expect a restructuring of bus service once East Link opens to see Redmond get a suburban bus restructuring that either makes service all day for many peak only routes. Or improves frequency between areas like Education Hill, Kirkland via Totem Lake, and Woodinville.
WL, the 2 Line will take 2 hours and 26 minutes to make a round trip between Redmond and Lynnwood. Assuming a driver break that’s 16 trains with drivers to have 10 minute schedules.
The different ST routes today seem to take about 16 drivers in buses, although it’s hard to guess how many will be truncated as opposed to fully cut. I see ST just thinking it’s all pretty similar.
The five minute service to Lynnwood may be overkill. I do think adding Lynnwood riders will make the UW to Downtown segment busy enough to warrant that five minute service.
I’ve long believed turnbacks are inevitable so I agree with your point. However, ST doesn’t seem open to them. Northgate is the obvious one — and overcrowding notwithstanding it seems inevitable that it would be needed when or if 1 Line reaches Tacoma Dome. A seasoned rail system operation can make them work — but we are talking about ST here.
I don’t see ST turning back many trains permanently at the East OMF. The 2 Line is already a branch and a turnback would put everything east of there at 20 minute frequency. Given how low ridership will be east of central Bellevue it’s not out of the question though.
Scheduled turnbacks at Northgate will require double-seating the train during the turnback. Since trains from anywhere south of Federal Way would be pushing two hours, the incoming driver is due for a break anyway, double-seating is not a huge expense.
Forcing operators to “walk the train” on an un-sheltered, windy structure forty feet high with trains moving on adjacent tracks is a non-starter.
Asking an employee to walk a hundred yards or so every hour or two is a non-starter?
How messed up is that?
> Scheduled turnbacks at Northgate will require double-seating the train during the turnback. Since trains from anywhere south of Federal Way would be pushing two hours, the incoming driver is due for a break anyway, double-seating is not a huge expense.
> Forcing operators to “walk the train” on an un-sheltered, windy structure forty feet high with trains moving on adjacent tracks is a non-starter.
Why wouldn’t the operators just change at northgate station itself as is done for most metro systems? they could do it before or after turning back heading south. Double seating is a huge expense unless I’m interpreting it incorrectly. Also the times when using turnbacks the frequency won’t be that high to where the train blocking the station for an extra minute will be an issue.
Tom Terrific is talking about walking the Northgate turnback at https://goo.gl/maps/fQFsTtTqyB8SYgq57
Which really isn’t necessary. The new operator could get on at Northgate station and change operators at the station. Which is already done sometimes.
Or if for scheduling issues during high frequency, the new operator could get on and have the previous operator drive it into the pocket track. Switch operators in the pocket track and then drop off the previous operator once heading southbound.
Tom, if 1 Line can be run from Federal Way to Lynnwood, then Tacoma Dome to Northgate seems like a similar duration. If Federal Way to Lynnwood is a problem then ST has made a major service design blunder starting in 2026..
Note too that the 1 Line is shown in all the maps as running from Lynnwood to Tacoma Dome for several years (which is why I think that the Tacoma Dome Line will be stubbed at SODO instead of West Seattle.
Anyway, drivers today have a bit scarier walkway at the OMF for routine driver changes. The Northgate turnback tracks are in the middle. And there is plenty of room next to that walkway (which runs between two tracks) for a driver to switch cab ends. It seems safer comparatively.
True Sam. When I go to Home Depot I have large and heavy things to bring home. Those are purely utilitarian trips.
The only reason I would take East Link to downtown Bellevue is because I plan to drink and can walk to the station on MI. Otherwise parking is free in Lincoln Square north and south. Today my wife and I could catch the 550 that goes directly to Bellevue Way from the same spot on MI but we never do.
I think when East Link opens my test run will be to Redmond because it is a long way and I rarely go there. I do think however the development Redmond has allowed ruined a lot of the charm the city had in the past. It looks like development for development’s sake, not unlike some of the development in Seattle that little architectural charm or interest.
On the Eastside there is almost no way to force residents to take transit so transit has to offer something driving does not. With WFH, low traffic congestion, cities that don’t try to disadvantage driving, and free parking there is nothing transit offers the discretionary rider. Really first/last mile access from your front door is where driving becomes more convenient and faster than transit, before you even get to perceptions of safety. and adding a transfer from a feeder bus or dropping someone off on 110th doesn’t help.
“Rapid apartment growth is pretty much restricted to Judkins Park, central Bellevue and maybe a bit in the Spring District and Downtown Redmond.”
That’s 6/12 stations. And other stations will get non-apartment things.
– Judkins Park.
– Bellevue Downtown.
– Spring District.
– Bel-Red. (Future expansion area for Spring District.)
– Overlake Village. (I’m adding it. Sam has posted large adjacent developments, and a B feeder from Crossroads has apartments.)
– Redmond Downtown.
– Mercer Island. (Little growth, but islanders will use the P&R, and downtown has apartments and retail.)
– South Bellevue. (Strategic P&R, the favorite of riders from the east, south, and north.)
– East Main. (Highrise offices and hotel.)
– Wilburton. (Two hospitals, potential retail.)
– Redmond Tech. (Industrial center, P&R.)
– Marymoor. (P&R, park, maybe Redmond Town Center retail. Does RTC have apartments?)
That’s not bad for a suburban line.
“East Link won’t magically lure riders because it is a train.”
It will for being 8-10 minute frequent, immune from traffic, more one-seat rides east of Bellevue Downtown, and better stations, compared to existing bus routes. It will lose some people who lose a one-seat ride closer to their house, but it will gain other one-seat rides, and other riders. And there’s also Judkins Park, which will gain riders with one end of their trip on the 23rd/Rainier corridor. (My nephew lived in a condo on Rainier and worked in a law office on Mercer Island.)
“Seattle could adopt Sam’s idea about congestion pricing”
None of the past few mayors have supported congestion pricing. Durkan gave it a glance but didn’t pursue it. I don’t even support congestion pricing in downtown Seattle. It’s not as large as London or New York, and the topography requires people to drive through downtown because there aren’t many alternatives. When I and my friend drive from southwest Capitol Hill to Costco in SODO, we have to go either through downtown or around via Beacon Hill/Holgate Street. What is Sam’s congestion-pricing model?
“I think when East Link opens my test run will be to Redmond because it is a long way and I rarely go there.”
Redmond has several trails if you like that. Redmond and Issaquah are the cities with the most trails. They pass within a couple blocks of Redmond TC and the Issaquah City Hall 554 stop.
@Mike Orr: Redmond Town Center does not have apartments, but multifamily buildings are sprouting like mushrooms on the northern edge of the complex, and RTC does have a couple of hotels and office buildings on site. That’s a source of future Link users, going to Bellevue, the UW or Downtown Seattle for work or entertainment, and who can get to the station without need of a car.
I also think Marymoor station will get usage. The park is popular for its many sports fields and dog area, and they’re building a professional-level cricket field for the new US cricket league and a future Cricket World Cup the US is co-hosting with the West Indies.
BTW, the Wilburton station was originally called “Hospital”. That made more sense to me, as I don’t think many Eastsiders are quite sure where “Wilburton” is, but they’ve definitely seen the two huge hospitals next to the station.
WL, “double seating” doesn’t mean throughout the trip. It just means that as a train arrives at an intermediate terminal with a “farside” “tail track” in which it will be reversing, the relieving operator boards the train in the rear car while the current operator stays in the forward cab. The relief operator enters the rear-facing cab of the last car and “boots it up”.
The front-end operator takes the train out of the station and into the pocket track, then releases control, and the rear-end relief operator assumes control. The now-rear end operator (the one who brought the train into the terminal) shuts down that cab, exits it and locks up. Then, when the time to depart from the pocket track arrives, the relief operator takes the train out of the pocket and into the station. The original operator deboards for their break and the relief takes the train on its next run.
This adds between six and fifteen minutes to each run, depending how long the train stays in the tail track, so it does cost more than an end-of-track reversal right at the platforms.
It’s also not the same as the Tri-Met turnback method using a third platform track. In that method, which is by far the best for short-turns, but has to be engineered into the system from the time a turnback station is built, the current operator brings the train in, shuts down, exits, locks up and deboards with the doors of the train left open for people to board. The relief then comes a couple of minutes before departure, unlocks the cab at the other end of the train, boots it up, and departs “on the advertised” [hopefully….]
Sorry, WL, I didn’t read your second post. You described double-seating accurately.
But you also proposed an alternate of turning back in place within the station like at an end-of-line terminal. That’s just not possible on a frequent line. It takes a couple of minutes to shut down control at one end of a train and transfer it to the other end. You wouldn’t want to tie up a main track doing that at Northgate. Headways will be five minutes base and probably more frequent in the peaks, and you have to “fill in” the opposite direction properly.
That’s not an easy thing to do with just two tracks; the station would have to be at just the right separation from the next station in the heavy traffic direction [i.e. Roosevelt] that a northbound train arrived just as a southbound train was departing. There might be one headway cycle that made that possible (say six minutes between trains — 12 per line), but any other headway (say 4) wouldn’t. The train wouldn’t get to Northgate until two minutes into the next “gap”.
Do you understand the issue? I expect you do.
Guys, yes, ST has made a much better walkway at Northgate than the ones at Rainier Beach and Stadium. Much better. I can see that there are yellow pavers to identify the designated safe zones. But there is no shelter over the walkway, and it’s the freaking Northwest and forty feet in the air. When an atmospheric river comes our way and dumps a half an inch an hour for six hours, that walkway will be a miserable place. Operators shouldn’t have to work in drenched clothing as a regular thing.
It’s perfectly fine for an operator to abandon or reclaim a train that’s parked there for a mechanical issue or even for a peak hour short-turn operator to reverse. He or she can bring a raincoat to be worn twice. But for hour after hour, day after day turns that facility has to have a cover and wind screens. It doesn’t, at least as of when that photo was taken.
Until it does, ST should double seat any trains turned there in base-period scheduled service.
Right now it takes right at an hour to go from Northgate to Angle Lake. Federal Way will add another twelve minutes. Lynnwood will add yet another fifteen. The total is right at and hour and a half, so yes, Federal Way to Lynnwood can run through. There is no need to turnback ST 2 operations, except perhaps some really short turn peak trips between SoDo and Northgate.
But essentially all of us except Lazarus advocate running all three lines through the existing tunnel for ST3, and the consensus is that Tacoma Dome to Lynnwood is a bridge too far — assuming that ST gets it’s mini-me Tacoma Narrows Bridge built over the Grandiose Canyon. Anyway, trains every three and a third minutes all the way to Lynnwood seems excessive, to say the least. There’s certainly nowhere south of Northgate set up to reverse trains running at that torrid frequency.
So Northgate it will be if we win the argument about DSTT2, which is a must win for the region’s future. Adding a roof and wind panels to the walkway at Northgate — or even biting the bullet and double-seating the Tacoma trains during the turn back — is a footnote on the scale of what would be saved.
I have an interest in local transit history, so I don’t know if anyone else will find this interesting, but I found route instructions for the route 340 from 1991. The amount of places it went is amazing.
With Aurora, Bothell, Bellevue, Renton, Airport seems similar to the Stride BRT route? https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/stride-brt
Somewhat similar to Stride, except the 340 spent a lot of time off of 405 in making its way to Burien. In fact, looking at the route instructions, it looks like when it got off 405 approaching Renton near Sunset, that’s the last time it will have been on 405. I believe the rest of the way to Burien is on local roads. Even the way it goes from Southcenter to the airport is unusual. It didn’t go on highways 518 and 99, it went up the back side of Mcmicken Heights, and then up and over the hill.
It became more local west of Renton as the 240 was gradually truncated. When I started riding them in 1979 the 240 went Bellevue-Burien. Then it was truncated at SeaTac and maybe later at Renton.
Yes, the 340 was a Grand Tour of King County, for sure.
Before 2000, Route 340 had hourly midday headway and poor reliability and hence terrible service. When ST began serving I-405, routes 341, 342, and 140 were begun. Route 140 was absorbed by the F Line. Route 341 was absorbed by Route 331 in 2003. Route 342 has very low ridership; today, it even skips the Bothell P&R.
The 340 was half-hourly middays in the 80s when I rode it home from high school. That may have been only south of Bellevue, so it may have been hourly north of Bellevue.
It was quite an unusual route. It was the precursor to Stride 1 & 2, and the 535 and 560. Most Eastside routes were hourly, but the 226/235 doubled for half-hourly service between Bellevue TC and downtown Seattle, and the 340 was half-hourly weekday daytime.
Between Bothell and Coal Creek Pkwy, the 340 stopped at 160th, 132nd, 70th, Bellevue TC, along 112th Ave SE, South Bellevue P&R, and the Coal Creek Pkwy exit. I used to take it from Bellevue TC to 70th and Coal Creek. 70th for southwest Kirkland or a longish walk to downtown Kirkland, and Coal Creek when I lived with my dad in Somerset and transferred to the 210 or walked the rest of the way. I’d also sometimes take it to Renton, the airport, or from Bothell.
Thinking more about the WSBLE, the original problem stems from both adding West Seattle and a new tunnel (and somehow ignoring the 99 tunnel), then trying to breach subarea equity. Without West Seattle, one could just dig a new Ballard Tunnel into the existing downtown transit tunnel connecting at 3rd ave and pine street.* Then there’d be two lines going north and two lines going splitting south pretty evenly. For too long train routes lines, simply use a turnback.
Sound Transit wanted to build a connection to West Seattle though as well as wanted to build a new tunnel instead, so using the excuse of not enough downtown capacity proposed having the suburbs help pay for the tunnel when it really wasn’t needed. Now Sound Transit can’t back down from using larger station platforms nor routing SeaTac/Eastside trains for a West Seattle-Ballard tunnel because then it means there is no rationale to force the other sub-areas to pay for the tunnel.
*(sure it’ll probably involve closing the link connection for 2 year or three years in between Westlake and University Street station to build a T, but makes much more sense then digging an entirely new tunnel to barely use the capacity).
> new CEO Peter Rogoff wants to change the territorial mindset. Suburban taxpayers would cover half the $1.7 billion cost for a second downtown Seattle transit tunnel.
> Without a second tunnel, trains might get stuck in the Chinatown International District, delaying a regional 116-mile network serving a half-million daily riders. The whole system — from Tacoma to Everett and Redmond to Issaquah — would depend on the tunnel, Rogoff reasons, so everyone should pay.
The letter you’re looking for is really “Y”, not “T”. In any case maybe you can build it, depending on your definition of the connection.
If you mean a simple level “junction” at the Third and Pine curve, you could build that very quickly. If you had the connecting tunnel ready for trains, demising the north wall at Third and Pine, cleaning up the mess, and cutting in the turnouts and diamond might take two or three months tops. Lots would have to have happened before that, including full tests of the new tunnel as a “standalone” line. But the interruption to existing Link service could be kept reasonable.
Sadly, such a simple level junction would play Hell with northbound schedule-keeping. ST would, rightly, say “Absolutely not!”
If you opened up the street from Union to Pine and ST were willing to have a level crossing as long as it was preceded by a pocket track [i.e. a “holding track”] for Ballard trains, then triple-tracking north of USSS would not be horribly expensive, probably less than $2 billion. It would be an extremely complicated job, though, because there is barely enough room for the middle holding track. Trains snaking into the holding track will protrude a few inches outside the normal operating envelope toward the southbound track, making the measurements crucial.
Both this option two and the next one require building a cut-and-cover tunnel around the existing tubes and then disassembling the compression rings of the existing tubes for some large fraction of the distance between USSS and the Pine Street curve.
I believe there is enough room between thectracks to add the holding track, but in the absence of the engineering diagrams for the tunnel, we can’t be certain. If it is too narrow between the existing tracks with the tunnel rings disassembled, it would mean that the southbound track would have to be rebuilt westward right next to the existing track. Then the existing track would be torn up and the holding track built in the middle. Since the trackway in USSS has to remain fixed, there would have to be a “wiggle” just north of the station box to get alignment back. That would add several months to the project.
It would also mean that the turnout for the holding track would have to be be closer to Pine than with a wider center region, because it would havge to be north of the “wiggle back” to the existing portal.
There would probably still be enough length to park a northbound Ballard train waiting for its “slot” to cross the southbound track since Ballard trains can probably be three cars even in a non-automated system running longer headways. Three cars will fit between Pike and Pine.
The best idea is to do the same basic thing as option two, but have the diverging track ramp down to pass under the southbound track at the Pine curve.
That has to deal with the supports for the Westlake station box, but if they can be navigated it guarantees that no crossing train will delay another.
Because of the ramp and the resulting deeper northbound tunnel, this option would be somewhat more expensive than option two. But, the section of southbound track that would have to be moved over if the middle is too narrow could be shorter,. This means that the existing track geometry at the Pine Street curve could remain unchanged except for cutting in the turnout. A full-length widening would require that the portal be mover west as well, possibly requiring that the west wall of the box be moved,too. That would probably kill any possible approval.
In all options the southbound junction is a simple level trailing-point turnout. Southbound trains from Ballard simply wait in the tunnel for a clear time to merge into the flow of trains.
>. The letter you’re looking for is really “Y”, not “T”. In any case maybe you can build it, depending on your definition of the connection.
Thanks yeah I meant wye.
> If you mean a simple level “junction” at the Third and Pine curve, you could build that very quickly…. Sadly, such a simple level junction would play Hell with northbound schedule-keeping. ST would, rightly, say “Absolutely not!”
SeaTac trains max out at 10TPH while eastside ridership will probably also be 10TPH. The tunnel from Westlake to Northgate can only handle frequencies of 3 minutes right now 20TPH (though maybe can probably be increased).
If it is at 20TPH then a simple level WYE would might work rather than a more complicated flyover/underpass wye (aka like for bart in oakland or canada line airport’s wye) Though it would impact north-bound schedule keeping at peak times as you noted.
> I believe there is enough room between the tracks to add the holding track, but in the absence of the engineering diagrams for the tunnel
Yeah that would be most ideal to just add a holding track in between University Street station and Westlake for northbound Ballard trains.
WL, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I was very happy to see you embrace the idea of a holding track.
I’d just point out that the problem with congestion at a level crossing is made worse by the vagaries of operation through the RV where traffic signals can delay a train for what turns into two full minutes including the stop and start times. East Link will occasionally suffer those sorts of delays as well though to a much smaller degree because of the stretches along 112th and through the Spring District.
So trains headed north to UW won’t march up to USSS with military precision every four minutes at peaks. It will be five then three then four then six then two. And don’t forget that if service to SLU and Ballard is to be meaningful the trains taking the crossing will have to be frequent as well.
So the schedule through the tunnel between CID and USSS might be four-four-two repeated six times an hour in order to have equal headways on The Spine north of Westlake. But the reality would be trains frequently bunched and stopping between stations awaiting access to the next platform.
Though the holding track would ensure that the junction wouldn’t “make things worse” the unequal headways south of USSS necessary to make equal headways north of Westlake possible mean that things would be pretty chaotic most of the time northbound.
So, on balance, I really do believe that an independent “stub”, with its own MF and a non-revenue single-track connection for use only at night is a better plan.
It limits the impact on the current tunnel to “holing through” one track at Third and Pine and cutting in the connection to the southbound track. That should require the same brief interruption that a level diamond crossing without a holding track would.
Glenn thinks that the stub wouldn’t need any connection at all and that trucking LRV’s at night for heavy maintenance is viable as a long-term practice. I’m skeptical that either the City or ST would opt for that, but we could ask.
Yes, a stub means Ballard riders have to transfer to go farther downtown, but the line to which they would transfer will be very frequent. This of course assumes that the connections would be better than now planned, perhaps not a reasonable assumption.
TriMet has far more surface running than Link ever will. They manage to do these junctions fairly well. The third track at Rose Quarter hasn’t been used in many years, except for track maintenance work that has trains turning back there.
The first Ballard line station needs to be just north of the curve so that it serves as the equivalent to Westlake. This gives southbound trains the ability to wait for each other.
Again, we’re talking about 6 trains per hour from Rainier Valley, 8 trains per hour from Bellevue, and with the atrocious ridership estimates for West Seattle about 4 trains per hour on that line. That’s 18 trains per hour per direction, and there should be more than enough time between trains to allow for schedule slop. This is not a São Paulo level of frequency we’re looking at.
If the tunnel ever gets too congested, THEN it’s time to think about adding a second tunnel – somewhere where it will actually be useful.
Glenn, certainly there would need to be a “New Westlake” somewhere around Third and Stewart. I have never said that the southbound side is a problem. Trains can wait in either station for an extra thirty seconds for a train merging from the other line to clear the merge point without causing havoc. But that’s true southbound only because they will arrive from cordoned trackway where the only delays are mechanical, not external.
But New Westlake wouldn’t be a transfer point. Transfers would be spectacular with a central platform at USSS. Reversals would involve a walk of ten feet, and in-direction line changes could happen either there or at Pioneer Square. Yes, there are emergency egress problems with a center platform, but there’s also no reason to allow passage to and from the mezzanine to it during ordinary service. Up for emergencies? Absolutely.
It’s the northbound side that will be made more complicated by a level crossing, and it’s already the problem child because of the surface segments.
You know that Tri-Met makes “the junctions” work by holding Yellow and Green Line trains at the Greyhound station regularly for as long as four or five minutes until the partner train reaches a certain control point. They can do that because both lines have 15 minute headways.
And, Glenn, I’m amazed that you think I’m advocating for a second tunnel. Do you not read the entire comment? I’m not and have not for well over a year. I doubt one will ever be needed south of Pine except, we can hope, an extension of a non-interlined automated Ballard stub into First Hill.
I think we need to explore the possibilities for interlining which is why I replied to WL. It’s the responsible thing to do. But there are a large number of obvious difficulties with putting a level crossing directly in the center of the system. At the peripheries like the junctions in East Link? No problem. It would probably even be fine to make a West Seattle stub connection a level crossing at the top of the ramp south of Lander, should it ever be built. A second elevated trackway for this small line is egregious waste. There will never be more than six trains per hour to and from West Seattle. Never ever in a million years.
But, it’s not impossible to imagine that line to West Seattle itself hosting a junction for “the bypass” whether South King elected officials think it’s needed today or not. If that day were ever to come it would be time to consider a second tunnel, perhaps an extension of the First Hill dig. But that might be 2050 if the region is lucky and the tunnel shouldn’t be under Fifth Avenue.
I never said you were advocating for a second tunnel.
“TriMet…They can do that because both lines have 15 minute headways.”
Currently, it’s 4 lines across the Steel Bridge.
They have 15 minute headways on the weekends. Peak period pre-pandemic was 31 trains per hour per direction. They operated the blue line with as little as 4 minutes between trains.
The problem with the holding track concept is ST will most likely put part of it in the station, like they did at IDS. This will make transfers much worse than they need be at USS.
Properly built with a connection to both lines, a holding track between USS and Westlake could be pretty good as it would also serve the turnback needs of the track currently occupying the center space at IDS.
This is from a reply to my comment. It sure sounds like you are saying that I advocated for a second tunnel. If that’s not what you meant, you might have prefaced it with some mumble on the order of “From a wider perspective…” to shift the focus from the reply to a “policy” statement.
So far as using the mooted holding track also as a reversing turnback for trains headed to East Link and using the space now occupied for that at CID to add a center platform there, that’s a very good idea. It’s not that much farther to USSS from Forest Street, and this planned reversing move is supposed to be quite rare, used by LRV’s needing service that can’t be provided at the East MF (wheel turning, motor replacement and similar heavy maintenance). Having a reversing platform at CID for East-South connections would be just as fantastic as having one at USSS for Ballard-North transfers.
IF this can be made to work without a super long shutdown of Link, it should certainly be studied. If it is possible to dig the box around the existing tunnels with them in service I believe it may also possible to remove the rings as well without closing the line completely as long as it’s done at night when there is no traffic on the line and the overhead can be de-energized. They would be disassembled from the top “keystone” section down both sides. If it would be possible to remove all the segments from one ring in one night, stabilize things and support the overhead through the newly opened section then trains could run through the construction zone during the daytime at a reduced speed. Shades of the NYCTA with bare bulbs hanging from long cords in construction zones. Very noir.
This would be extremely sensitive work, especially because of the live overhead during the day hours, but I’m sure it’s been done somewhere by some agency. Ross’s guru probably knows where and by whom.
Oh, about the Tri-Met thing. The “both lines” I referenced are the Green and Yellow that go down the Mall. They are usually what is varied to make the bridge crossing work. The Red and Blue “main line” trains get first priority; yes, Tri-Met tries to align them so that one going each direction crosses at the same time as well, but if a partner train isn’t available at the other end, one of those line trains can cross alone. The Yellow and Green trains wait at the bus station eastbound and the Yellows wait at Interstate/Rose Quarter for a “slot” and almost always cross as a pair. The Red and Green coming from the east are better at schedule keeping than the Blues because they have no street running, but the Red is regularly held at Gateway for a couple of minutes longer than boarding requires in order to set up a matched crossing.
An interesting article about cheap rural housing in Japan.
https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2023/03/05/millions-of-empty-homes-in-japan-are-being-sold-for-a-song-or-even-given-away-foreigners-are-taking-notice.html (sub required but a few free articles/month are available)
There was a recent article about how you can buy a house or flat in rural Italian towns for $1 because of declining population, both overall and in rural Italy because there are no jobs for young people. However the article went on to describe the expense of making the house or flat habitable, the cumbersome permitting process, slow contractors, and in the end you are in a sleepy Italian rural city where houses and flats are $1 for a reason.
The time is now to shut down link and disassemble the system. Recycle materials for freeway and road expansion.
A new British class of train with many new user friendly features is the topic of this video:
It’s pretty interesting!
Not too that the trains are battery powered.
They closed Liverpool Central for 3 days to extend the platforms to fit 8 car trains.
I wish US operators were capable of that type of expediency.
Tacoma Dome Link opening day is pushed to 2035 now…
By the way, it’s been nearly a year since reader Yvr Lutyens gave us the beautiful sentence “In case anyone missed it, behold Escalatorpalooza:” in regard to the preposterous Westlake station being proposed. I feel like that one deserves a celebration of some sort.
+ 100. Thanks!
It’s nice to have one’s literary efforts appreciated.
And since then we’ve had a “Page One” proposal for an automated Ballard-West Seattle line, which reinforces some of your points.
And just because we can’t say it enough, feedback to ST on the current West Seattle-Ballard Link Extension proposal is due Friday
Verging toward petty I know, but I would probably use the word “summarizes” rather than “reinforces”.
The YVR in my name probably gives away my location and my inappropriateness to comment, but the SEA folk obviously should do it. But they should also try meeting some people in person. I met the city engineer in Surrey during the LRT vs Skytrain debate there, and he was clearly following the party line without actually believing it. He kept saying to what “they” think, referring to the mayor and council and not himself. He just didn’t buy it. Meeting people in person makes it clear what the sticking points are and what they really believe. And comments periods can get handled by consultants that don’t have the authority to rock the boat and put forth anything radical but just to fill in boxes within the existing framework.
I had difficulty finding a word. The first word that came to mind was something like “confirm” , but I dismissed it as inaccurate since the article wasn’t reviewing yours. “Reinforce” gets at my intent, that it adds to or builds on the point you raised. I couldn’t think of a better word for this so I went with it.
I’ve always thought Skytrain sets a North American standard. I first encountered it ca. 1991 when a friend and I drove up to Vancouver and stopped on Granville street to look around. I saw a sign saying “Granville” and asked, “What is this?” He said, “It looks like a subway station.” So I immediately wanted to ride it. It was 8 pm and I was worried about getting stranded, so I picked up the information phone and asked, “How frequently does the train run in the evening?” He said, “Every 5 minutes until midnight.” I was floored. At the time there was only one line to Scott Road. We took it, and a while later I saw a station named “Metrotown”. I asked somebody, “What’s Metrotown?” and they said, “It’s a mall.” So we got off and explored Eaton’s and saw the dense mixed-use village around the mall. I was impressed with that too.
Since then I’ve thought automated trains were a good idea. I didn’t think they were politically feasible here until Frank, Martin, and I started discussing how to respond to ST’s WSBLE proposal, and I found that Frank was thinking along the lines of automated trains and Martin was too, so we all collaborated on an article for it. But you were the pioneer, penning that Vancouver article a year ago, that I’d forgotten about until this link.
Of course you have appropriateness to comment. Good practices are the same the world over. A Skytrain-like network here would have similar benefits to the one in Vancouver, and those are a lot of benefits. Different people have experiences with different cities, and we need to hear all of those. I’ve only visited Vancouver a bunch of times, so I have a third-person’s perspective but I don’t know what it’s like to live with it every day and commute on it. That’s where your expertise is invaluable. And not only Skytrain, but the frequent trolley buses, Surrey BRT, somewhat-frequent buses to Skytrain stations in the suburbs, and the upcoming SFU gondola, and the integrated network.
I’ve also seen a few other things about Skytrain. People assemble for social events at Skytrain stations, waiting for people to arrive by train. That reminded me of the Moscow metro, where you’d come up to the entrance and find thirty people each waiting for somebody, or a group would assemble at a Ring Line station to walk to somewhere for a night out. When I visited a remote church in Surrey, members carpooled city-dwellers from Scott Road station. And when there was a transit strike and all buses stopped operating (but not Skytrain), the nightclubs lost a lot of business because people couldn’t get home so they didn’t go. All this points to a widespread transit-oriented lifestyle, and that’s a sign of a well-functioning and popular network.
On a negative note, I also experienced a Skytrain outage, and I think I had to wait an hour on the platform and it got crowded, but that happens everywhere sometimes.
I’ve got no problem with what you wrote, but I thought that an article that heavily summarized my points ought to have given a nod. This is me six years ago to RossB:
“I would like to belabour this argument about stations because it is important. Stations are a big part of the cost of subways, and bigger stations are an even bigger cost. So there is a real economy is designing a frequent system with three-car trains every two minutes versus a system with six-car trains every four minutes.”
Ah Eaton’s. After Eaton’s went bankrupt its downtown store became Sears, and after that closed it became Nordstroms on the bottom floors and Microsoft on the upper floors (this was a huge store). The Vancouver store was doing well, but apparently it was the only store in Canada doing well (https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-nordstrom-store-performance-canada-shutdown). Now the chatter in town is what will fill the space.
Yes a Skytrain shutdown is a real nightmare. When a piece of infrastructure is important, you miss it when it goes on the fritz.
The author joined STB recently, so it may have been after your last article and he never saw it. I’d forgotten your article existed; I can’t remember all articles. And automated trains is hardly one person’s exclusive idea; it’s been mulled around independently by different transit advocates and groups. And the impetus for the article came up suddenly, with a short deadline, as we felt we needed to get an alternative out there that would get ST out of its bad transfer/high cost conundrum ahead of a system expansion committee meeting.
With all due respect, the nature of the more recent article and yours is quite different. The recent article is a realistic proposal. From a practical standpoint, it is very similar to what the voters voted for. It doesn’t have a “Midtown” station, but the board is ready to eliminate that as we speak. It is actually very similar to Dow Constantine’s proposal. There is only one significant difference, which is that trains from Ballard aren’t sent to the south end. This is a very big improvement for those in the south end (they keep all their downtown stops, as well as their one-seat ride to the UW). So in that sense, I think it is better. This proposal adds almost as many stations. It doesn’t add one at Pioneer Square, but it could easily be modified to add one at First Hill, which is much better. (It would make sense to have a First Hill and Yesler Terrace station be “provisional”.)
The point being, that proposal is quite realistic for the Sound Transit board. Yours is not. It would be like me arguing for a bus tunnel again. Sure, it is a better proposal — I agree. But it just won’t happen.
If your main argument was that you want automated trains on the new line, you sure as hell buried the lede. Again, compare your title to the one Martin Pagel wrote. It might be a mouthful, but Martin’s makes it clear what the goal is. In contrast, your title suggests musings, while the main picture suggests a completely different route from downtown to Ballard. Again, I think it is better, but that misses the point. There is no way the board approves that. Aside from opening up a completely new can of worms (e. g. where are the Queen Anne and Fremont stations?) you’ve also got all of those people from Interbay who would suddenly get nothing. It is one thing to tell them they will lose a downtown station or two (which is what Dow is telling them). It is another to tell them that they will lose the train line entirely. There is just no way the board approves that.
The second proposal is even less realistic. I’m not sure it is at all practical. A second line to Bellevue? Why?
Way down deep in your essay you actually make the exact same argument as the more recent article. Kudos for that:
My goal isn’t to come up with something entirely new but to adapt the current plan as much as possible to make it workable and cheaper. In the main this means a tunnelled, automatic metro with very short platform lengths:
Excellent. The problem is, you don’t really do that. After that colon, you have a map with the trains skipping Interbay again (this time on Westlake). That means skipping Uptown as well. Again, I could see how doing so could actually be better, but it just won’t happen.
You also have the line going to West Seattle, which makes a lot of sense, but it ignores one of the really big advantages of the more recent proposal: eventually serving First Hill. Your proposal is both unrealistic and pessimistic. Unrealistic to the north, and pessimistic downtown. Somehow we manage to do things completely differently north of downtown, while reproducing arguably the biggest blunder of ST3 in the city — the lack of coverage with the brand new downtown tunnel.
So yeah, you did write about this first. If Martin Pagel used your post as inspiration, then he definitely owes you credit. If, on the other hand, he noticed that there are various systems around the world that have moved to smaller, automated trains (and stations) then chalk it up to just two people having the same idea. One with a concrete, realistic plan and another with musings on how we could have done it all a lot better.
It is doubtful that ST will follow the suggestions of its advisory group. Going back to the advisory group for ST-3, Sound Transit buried that report in a warehouse akin to the one at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” alongside their plans for the direct access ramps on the north side of Ash Way, installation of which would’ve saved taxpayers millions of dollars, bus riders tens of thousands of hours they’ll never get back, and the same for motorists who’ve had to avoid buses sliding back and forth all of the lanes in both directions. Anyway, the ST-3 advisory group suggested having all ST-2 and ST-3 costs revealed to taxpayers on their website for the entire duration of the projects. This came after several months of pleas from many quarters to publish a calculator on their website. Two months after the advisory committee was shut down, having concluded their business with the release of their recommendations, in the peak travel season of August and with no fanfare from an agency that otherwise spends more on PR than any other transit agency in the region, a calculator was put on the website. It was only for one year of costs. The more opaqueness, the better ST and other public agencies and governments (see the present battle over open government in Olympia) love it, for many of their ballot measures and legislation probably wouldn’t pass otherwise.
Please don’t conflate ignorance — what the ST Board is afflicted with — with corruption. Almost nobody in Washington government is self-dealing or colluding to picking favorites; the transparency laws are way too stringent for them even to try.
No, the problem is that “learning transit” is not going to help any Board member get elected to the job she or he must be elected to in order to spend some time on the ST Board. So “getting up to speed on transit” is about fifteenth on their list of priorities.
They’re just ignorant and maybe a little lazy, but they’re not corrupt and hiding in the dark. That’s January 6th Crazy. Stop it.
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