The Sound Transit System Expansion Committee met yesterday and heard the latest briefing on project updates. Of note is East Link’s frustratingly sluggish progress, largely due to poorly built plinths, which now have to be entirely scrapped in the segment between International District and Mercer Island.

Mike Lindblom has more details in the Times:

Kiewit-Hoffman decided in late September, after mortar failures and a forensic investigation, that the best plan is to start over, according to Sound Transit. More than half the plinths were demolished and some rebuilds begun last fall, Deputy CEO Kimberly Farley notified board members in November.

Sound Transit’s latest timetable is to carry light-rail passengers across the lake by spring 2025. Demolition of the original plinths is nearly complete, and the track rebuilds will expand to six work zones this month, staff reported Thursday in an update to the board.

We reported last year that the construction mishaps had already added a full year to the opening. This recent development confirms that that was an overly optimistic estimate. The remaining saving grace for Eastsiders at this juncture is the momentum for a starter line, which may potentially open in 2024.

Construction overruns are typical in these types of projects but this need for a large-scale pre-opening demolition of trackway infrastructure is an abject failure. Increased transparency is a start, but Sound Transit must strengthen the accountability mechanisms it has with its contractors. Riders have already waited long enough as it is and should not tolerate much more of a remaining margin of error.

161 Replies to “East Link delayed to spring 2025 at earliest”

  1. I agree with your conclusions about the larger issue of accountability. I remember reading about this mess last summer when it was reported in publicola and just shaking my head:

    “Asked why Sound Transit’s inspectors didn’t discover these problems sooner, Farley noted that much of the construction took place at the height of the pandemic, when “it was just a struggle to get everybody on site, keep the work going, and keep the protocols in place.”

    ” “It was a very strange working situation for absolutely everybody, including folks who would have been on the ground looking at the work and now were required to work from home,” Farley continued. “So there were a variety of issues that led to this place where we find ourselves.” Earlier this year, Sound Transit hired a forensic engineer to evaluate Kiewit-Hoffman’s repairs and keep tabs on construction.

    “Board member Claudia Balducci told PubliCola she was glad Sound Transit staff revealed the latest issues to the board at this stage, rather than waiting until they had come up with fixes, noting that the agency has historically had issues with transparency. Former director Peter Rogoff could reportedly be tight-fisted with information, preferring to address issues internally rather than bringing them to the board or discussing them in public. “I want that kind of transparency,” Balducci said. “I don’t want staff to be like, ‘We won’t report to the board or to the public until months later, when we have identified a problem and fully engineered a solution.’” ”

    1. Interesting, Balducci used her quote to point out ST and not the Board was responsible for not revealing the plinth issue until 2022 (and handily threw Rogoff under the train since he is gone, which would explain why eastside mayors were in the dark, even those on the Board). Maybe that is why ST is scheduling tours with eastside councils to review the plinths right now. Still, it always seems that only when delays to opening Link are no longer avoidable does the public find out.

      Anyone want to bet East Link does not open in the spring of 2025?

    2. Perhaps the idea that people could “work from home” on a major construction project may have been an overreach, particularly if that work entails things like inspection and quality control.

    3. Does “struggle to keep protocols in place during the height of the pandemic” also apply to office and residential towers that were built during that time? I hope they aren’t going to have to rebuild the 555 Tower in Bellevue.

      1. I’m no construction expert but construction on a real estate project at a single site probably doesn’t afford you as many risks as does a rail project spread out over dozens of miles, just to be fair. That said, this oversight sounds largely preventable and quite frankly, inexcusable.

      2. It’ll be interesting to see how the Rainier Square Tower ages. That was a novel construction method at the height of the pandemic.

      3. @Tim,

        Concur. I got a VIP tour of RST right before it opened, including getting to see the penthouse at the top. Impressive building.

        I do like how they kept part of the composite shear wall exposed on the main floor. Sort of artistic, but I wasn’t completely sure about torsional rigidity with the system. But I hadn’t heard of any complaints.

        I just wish it was taller! FAA max is still a lot higher. I say “use it all”.

    4. How long are the ultra-light-concrete “plinths” going to last? I get that tearing down the old reversible lane structure would have been difficult; it’s a part of the westbound structure in a lot of places. But depending on an old elevated roadway to support four-car articulated LRV trains is quite sketchy. I hope they don’t end up with big cracks at the support joints like the High Bridge after a few years.

      Once East Link starts it’s going to be shaping the East Side and will quickly become an essential transportation facility. Having to tear down the reversible portion of the structure from the tunnels to I-5 in ten years to replace it with “real” rail supports would be a fustercluck of the FIRST DEGREE.

      1. Yeah. That would certainly be a total disaster. Btw, refresh my memory here if you could. How does the East Link guideway cross the East Channel? Is that an independent structure or was it tied into the existing bridge infrastructure?

      2. The tracks across the East Channel bridge were built on the existing bridge, using the roadbed previously used for the express lanes.

        The East Channel bridge is a beam bridge, not a floating bridge, although I don’t know if that impacted the types of fasteners used.

        The overall question about the lifespan of the tracks across the floating bridge is a fair one. The bridge itself will be over 35 years old when (if) East Link opens in 2025. For context, the predecessor to this bridge was replaced after 49 years and the Evergreen Point bridge was replaced after 53. Even if everything works this time with the rail, it may not be too many years before bridge replacement is necessary.

      3. Tom, at the time, I thought ST should have spent more and constructed its own guideway parallel to the D-2 roadway; it could have remained open and carried buses much longer. When I-90 bus routes lost both the bridge center roadway and the D-2 roadway, they were several minutes slower and more costly; the ST response was to cut trips. They starved bus operations of budget.

      4. Thanks for the info and the reply, Andy. Yeah I’m familiar with the history of the floating bridges and the Mount Baker Tunnels. I moved here from NY in the late 80s so I was here when the original I-90 (Murrow) Bridge sank. Thanks again for the info about the East Channel segment. I just couldn’t remember how that section of the guideway was constructed and was being a bit lazy. :)

      5. ST doesn’t have any money. The subareas do. If a separate bridge for East Link was built it would have to be a “shared regional facility” paid for by all five subareas, or E KC and N KC would have to share the cost. E KC has paid for 100% of East Link across the bridge and 100% of the express buses.

        The original intent was to have complementary forms of transit in the center roadway, until the rails had to be raised off the concrete due to vibrations, which precludes any form of transportation other than rail.

        RA-8 increased the general purpose lanes from 3 to 4 which was a huge improvement in congestion. The problem was buses had to move four lanes to the HOV lanes and then back between Seattle and MI, but East Link was suppose to open in 2021 eliminating buses across the bridge (except for buses like the 630).

        Post pandemic ridership on buses across the bridge is very light, and there is little traffic congestion so buses just stay in the outside lane to avoid moving 4 lanes to the left and 4 lanes to the right.

        A former STB poster named Bernie often brought up the lifespan of the bridge, and whether East Link could accelerate the need for replacement. Unlike 520 I think it would be difficult to build a new bridge alongside the old bridge because of the Mount Baker tunnels and access on MI. These same factors precluded a separate rail bridge in the past, and when issues with the hinge and post tensioning looked like they could preclude East Link in the center roadway

        From the beginning I have requested that Eastside councils and WSDOT require an independent third party to monitor the testing for East Link across the bridge span. I think a third party is even more important after the train derailment and concealment of the plinth issue for 3 months, and then ST’s public statement it would repair the defective plinths when we now know they were completely removing the plinths.

        I don’t trust ST. They have lied and concealed too much. East Link is almost irrelevant post pandemic based on current transit ridership and the effectiveness of the express buses despite very low ridership, but the bridge is existential for Seattle and the Eastside, especially the port.

        If East Link has to run fewer, slower or fewer car trains across the bridge span it won’t be the end of the world based on current ridership. If East Link can’t run across the bridge at all a bus bridge to S Bellevue is the most likely solution, although ironically it would require removing the plinths and raised rails in the center roadway.

        In any scenario the real impact to the Eastside would be minimal. After all, we won’t have East Link until 2025 or 2026 and life is going on fine.

        Some on this blog argue East Link will be transformational, but I don’t see it. At most 5 —10% of eastsiders take transit, and East Link might be a few minutes faster than buses on some parts of the route, but also adds transfers and has a route that goes to a lot of areas where the people ain’t.

        At best East Link even if it runs full capacity across the bridge will be a wash on the Eastside, and look for more one seat buses like the 554, 332, and 630 that go to where East Link doesn’t go, or where East Link does go, a transfer on 3rd in downtown Seattle.

      6. The essentially-finalized plan has ST Express 554’s western terminus at South Bellevue Parking Garage Station.

        The D[sic]APT on Mercer Island needs to make its mind up whether it wants fewer buses at MI Parking Garage Station or to keep its First Hill Express 630. Oddly, the lawsuit over the bus count is against Sound Transit, which will have zero buses going to MI Station.

        If they are worried about insufficient space at the garage, they can sue themselves for not having built a MI-ers-only parking garage. Heck, they could still build one in time for the station opening if their own bureaucracy does not tie it up.

      7. “The essentially-finalized plan has ST Express 554’s western terminus at South Bellevue Parking Garage Station.”

        The last East Link restructure proposal had the 554 serve South Bellevue, then continue north on Bellevue Way to Bellevue TC. That replaces the 550’s Bellevue Way segment and the Issaquah-Bellevue express (556).

        The 566 is not addressed in the restructure. It’s a South King route, so it may be waiting for the Stride 1 restructure and Renton TC, Federal Way Link restructure, the RapidRide I restructure, or will be addressed separately, or it won’t have any changes.

      8. There are so many errors in your post I don’t know where to begin.

        As Mike pointed out the 554 will run from Issaquah to Bellevue Way. Part of that duplicates East Link, but Issaquah always arrives to the party late, and those riders didn’t want to transfer at S Bellevue to then exit on 110th. And Bellevue did not want those riders going to Seattle.

        MI is partially subsidizing the 630, or will. It isn’t part of the transit restructure. It is a one seat ride to First Hill and avoids a transfer on 3rd in downtown Seattle (the third so many have posted about). Personally I think the hospitals and Seattle should be the ones subsidizing the 630 because they get all the benefit.

        My guess is large companies will continue shuttles after East Link opens and other cities will subsidize or demand one seat buses to areas like SLU or First Hill.

        MI was unsuccessful in the litigation over the intercept and had little say in the Eastside transit. restructure. But the pandemic fundamentally changed transit on the Eastside, especially peak commutes to Seattle. Bellevue wants those workers in Bellevue (although they want to be at home). Metro realized ST’s ridership estimates were dishonest, and doesn’t have the money to run buses empty or where riders aren’t.

        Also, as I predicted from the beginning eastsiders going to Seattle on Link are not going to take a feeder bus. They will drive to one of the park and rides that serves East Link.

        This meant MI — which few non-Islanders go to otherwise — was going to have very low boardings. Metro said it would start with 15 minute frequencies for buses coming to MI because 15 minutes is minimum peak frequency even if few are on the bus, but off peak frequencies will be 30 to 90 minutes, waiting on a bleak N Mercer Way. What idiot would do that with a park and ride across the street, or a 1500 stall park and ride at S Bellevue.

        The irony is under the restructure MI will get fewer buses and off Island riders than we originally agreed to, but ST refused to admits its boarding estimates on MI were rubbish, until Metro took a look.

        MI could never beat ST, especially after our incredibly stupid mayor signed off on the SEPA permits without a written agreement with the most dishonest agency in history, but just by luck a pandemic came along and decimated ridership on transit and ST does not know how to build light rail, even over flat dry land. I could have never predicted this in 2016 when based on ST’s inflated ridership estimates we were worried about capacity on MI. Jesus that makes me laugh, in an angry kind of way.

        So get your facts correct, do a little research on the Eastside transit restructure, look at ridership today on buses going from the Eastside to Seattle, but don’t blame MI.

        The real fun part is I don’t think East Link will be able to run at full capacity across the bridge, although that really won’t affect the Eastside. After all, it will be another 2, 3, or 5 years until East Link opens and life is good here.

      9. I should have added the 2017 settlement agreement between ST and MI provides MI with $4.5 million in matching funds to build commuter parking reserved for Islanders. . MI bought a parcel next to the station entrance on 80th, did the due diligence for the onsite pollution, entered into a MOU with a contractor to build a mixed use development with 100 underground parking stalls at a cost of $9 million for the parking and then the pandemic hit.

        When the pandemic ended the commuter — both on and off Islander — to Seattle had disappeared so the project was put on hold. MI has until 2025 to use the matching funds.

      10. “Personally I think the hospitals and Seattle should be the ones subsidizing the 630 because they get all the benefit.”

        You realize that the only reason the 630 chooses Mercer Island as the origin point is that Mercer Island happens to be the entity paying for it. If the hospitals were paying for it, the route would likely go somewhere else instead, perhaps Eastgate park and ride, or maybe even somewhere in Seattle (Green Lake park and ride?). There is nothing magical about Mercer Island that makes it have a higher concentration of First Hill doctors than anywhere else. That said, while I object to Metro paying for boutique routes like this, I have no qualms at all with big employers paying for them on their own dime. All the big tech companies do it, and the hospitals can do it too.

        However, the idea that Seattle taxpayers should fund a boutique route to First Hill for people that live in Mercer Island is completely bonkers. Why should Seattle spend money on a route that no Seattle resident will ever be able to ride?

        Also, in reply to your other comment about 30-90 minute frequency for connecting buses…the 90 minute frequency is only if you’re going all the way out to Snoqualmie or North Bend. The plan is for Sammamish to get 30 minute frequency and Issaquah to get two routes that combine for 15 minute frequency, in addition to the 554. Yes, 15 minute frequency is still enough of a wait that many will prefer to just drive to the train, but it’s still a whole lot better than 90 minute frequency.

      11. Asdf2, if you think doctors will take the 630, (or 322), or dentists or hospital executives, you miss the entire point. They get free parking. Doctors and lawyers and politicians don’t ride transit. I thought you knew that by now. With WFH very few ride transit on the Eastside. Period.

        But nurses — and nurses are leaving the profession in droves — dental hygienists, orderlies, techs, receptionists, the folks who do all the shit work in hospitals and clinics but don’t get free parking are the ones on the 630.

        Is it their fault 3rd Ave is too dangerous to transfer on. Or that Link doesn’t go to First Hill. No, it isn’t.

        Personally I don’t know why these high asset workers who are in huge demand don’t switch jobs to the Eastside. Everyone else is. Why am I subsidizing transit for healthcare for Seattleites? If I need healthcare I am either driving or going to a hospital on the Eastside since I doubt I will need treatment for a gunshot or knife wound. Unless I transfer on transit on 3rd Ave.

        If MI is subsidizing the 630 you know Issaquah will, except Issaquah will demand Metro or ST pay full boat. Bellevue will want those workers to work in safe Bellevue. Our subarea will only have $600 million/year in ST revenue once Redmond Link is done in a year. I think we can afford a few one seat direct buses.

        The joke is I doubt East Link will open by 2026 or that it will run full capacity across the bridge. Do you demand these same workers today take the 550 downtown and transfer to a bus on 3rd to get to Capitol Hill.

        No one made you Czar. This is a very powerful demographic, as the 322 and 630 prove.

        My experience with ST and Link and just transit in general is things just work themselves out. Like the bus intercept on MI and Eastside transit restructure. My guess is by the time East Link opens — if it opens — all those MI and Eastside ESSENTIAL workers will have switched to jobs on the Eastside so this won’t be an issue. Of course we could eliminate the 630 today and force those ESSENTIAL workers to take the 550 or 554 and transfer on 3rd and Yesler and accelerate their move to Eastside healthcare jobs. Maybe ask the hospital executives on First Hill what they think of that idea. The reason MI has to subsidize the 630 is Seattle hospitals are wiped out from Covid and so many uninsured Seattleites. So I have to subsidize the 630 although I get zero benefit.

        What I really object to is transit riders — maybe the least political demographic in the region — demanding others ride shitty and unsafe transit because they created shitty transit and parking is artificially restricted and then being surprised when no one rides transit. Do you really think a nurse from MI wants to ride any transit, let alone to First Hill.

        The solution is there is no 630. Not because ST runs Link to First Hill, or Seattle becomes safe for women and normal people, but because no one on the Eastside ever has to go to Seattle ever again. From the ridership numbers on the 550 and 554 we are getting close to that reality.

      12. The proposed routing from Google maps is to take the 550 from Mercer Island to Bellevue, then get on the 550 going the other way to Seattle, then transfer to the 12 at 4th and Marion.

      13. The 630 is not actually useful at all to nurses due to its limited schedule. I’ve talked to nurses and know what their schedule is. They work 12 hours shifts 3 days a week, from 7-7, often asked to do the day shift one day, the night shift another day. I’ve seen people in nurse uniforms waiting for the northbound 512 at 7:20 on a Sunday morning, going home from their night shift. It’s the quality of the *all day* transit network that these people care about, some not special boutique service for 9-5 office workers which, even if it just happened to go to the right place, would still be useless to them because it only runs at the wrong time.

        The other elephant in the room about the 630 is the issue of how many people on nurse’s salaries are able to afford housing in Mercer Island to begin with. Intuition suggests the answer to be “almost none”.

        I would also like to point out that 3rd Ave. has been cleaned up a lot since Harrell took over, and that the time of day when the transfer is the safest – when there are most “eyes on the street” is precisely that limited period when the 630 is running, ostensibly (in your view) because 3rd Ave. is too dangerous, yet people who have to travel during odd hours, when 3rd Ave. is less safe – including many essential workers – they don’t get the 630.

        No, the “essential workers” argument for the 630 is about making people feel good, but really it’s about well paid professionals who work 9-5 jobs on First Hill, can afford a house on Mercer Island, don’t want to sit in traffic, and don’t want a transfer either. They feel that because they have money, they are entitled, and deserve a special transit privilege that the real essential workers don’t get.

        One final thing I’d like to point out is that once East Link opens, travel between First Hill and Mercer Island no longer requires waiting on 3rd Ave. anymore, even when the 630 is not running. You can instead just ride the streetcar or the 60 to Capitol Hill station and transfer there instead. Or, better yet, get some exercise and walk to Capitol Hill Station, which is more time efficient than doing a fully sedentary commute, only to drive to the gym later in the evening. So, maybe if you actually do care about essential workers working in First Hill who are worried about 3rd Ave. safety, East Link actually opening and running across the lake actually does matter to these people more you think it does. And the 630 and it’s useless schedule, less.

      14. I apologize for being in a rush and forgetting the 554 will terminate at Downtown Bellevue Station.

        At any rate, none of the buses DT cited will be going to 3rd Ave in downtown Seattle after the 2 Line fully opens, which is a minor digression from the topic at hand.

        Sans someone coming forward with proof, I’m not convinced ST is covering something up. Further delays still don’t mean the line should not have been built.

        Once it is open (if it eventually opens) those who wanted it will be celebrating, not grousing about how long it took. The grousing will continue from those who did not want it.

        And then there is the 4 Line, which may have helped the eastside vote veer slightly against ST3.

      15. “but really it’s about well paid professionals who work 9-5 jobs on First Hill, can afford a house on Mercer Island, don’t want to sit in traffic, and don’t want a transfer either. ”

        All both of them.

        Because, with only two trips per peak period, it’s hard to imagine more than two people riding.

      16. “But nurses — and nurses are leaving the profession in droves — dental hygienists, orderlies, techs, receptionists, the folks who do all the shit work in hospitals and clinics but don’t get free parking are the ones on the 630.”

        Why would all the nurses etc live in Mercer Island? They live all over, including the rest of the Eastside, Seattle, South King County, and Northshore. When I worked at Harborview I had nurses and support staff colleagues from First Hill, Issaquah, Bainbridge Island, and even Eastern Washington and Victoria (who came for three consecutive days a week). And how could nurses live on Mercer Island, which has some of the highest housing costs in the county.

        You’d better ask Metro who is riding the 630 rather than just blindly guessing. It’s probably a mixture of nurses and doctors, because, contrary to your assumption, not all doctors are transit-adverse or scaredy-cats. You can also ask your Mercer Island city council why it’s funding the 630, and tell them to stop it.

        “I think the hospitals and Seattle should be the ones subsidizing the 630”

        Why should workplaces be punished for where workers live? They have no control over that and can’t discriminate. Employees move without changing jobs, and two spouses work in opposite directions.

        “I don’t know why these high asset workers who are in huge demand don’t switch jobs to the Eastside.”

        Maybe they like their company, or there isn’t an Eastside job in their specialty, or they like First Hill, or they don’t want to disrupt a stable job, etc. Thousands of people live in the Eastside and work in Seattle, just like thousands of people live in Seattle and work in the Eastside. That’s just the way it is and always will be. You can’t expect hundreds of thousands of people to all think the same way and all think like you.

        “off peak frequencies will be 30 to 90 minutes”

        Link will be every 10 minutes. The Issaquah Highlands express will be every 30 minutes, if the final restrucure is like the last proposal. Every third bus will continue to North Bend. That’s more frequent than the current 208 bus., whose midday eastbound runs are at 9:23, 11:31, 1:30, 3:51. Currently you transfer in Issaquah and it’s not time-coordinated, so each run has a varying wait time. In the future you’ll transfer at Mercer Island and it will be a one-seat ride to North Bend. That bus will be even faster than the 554 because it won’t make intermediate stops or travel on surface streets between Eastgate P&R and Issaquah Highlands P&R. If you’re going to downtown Issaquah, you can transfer one stop east at South Bellevue and take the 554 every 15 minutes, whereas now it’s every 30 minutes. I don’t know what other route asdf2 is referring to that will give 15-minute service from Mercer Island. But Link will go to the biggest destinations: Bellevue, Redmond, Seattle, every 10 minutes. You might even find yourself taking it, because it will be more convenient than the 550 — except for the specific destination of Bellevue Way.

      17. “Doctors and lawyers and politicians don’t ride transit. I thought you knew that by now.”

        We know. Some do. And other politicians who don’t, still support a robust transit network, because they know their cities need it. And they know more about who all their residents are and where/how they travel than you do.

        “This is a very powerful demographic, as the 322 and 630 prove.”

        Why is there no similar route in Issaquah, Bellevue, Kirkland, Renton, or Kent? The 630, as far as we can tell, is funded by Mercer Island. We don’t know why it’s the only city to do that. The 322 is an attempt to avoid deleting a peak express by redirecting it to a downtown-adjacent neighborhood. There’s some justification for that, although not a strong one. If the attempt fails to be used or the hours are needed in a future recession, it will be deleted.

        “The proposed routing from Google maps is to take the 550 from Mercer Island to Bellevue, then get on the 550 going the other way to Seattle, then transfer to the 12 at 4th and Marion.”

        Google Maps is insane sometimes. Obviously you’d take the 550 west from Mercer Island. RapidRide G starts next year, so you won’t have to wait as long and it will be faster.

      18. Mike, I never said all nurses or healthcare workers live on MI. That is one of the extreme straw man arguments popular on this blog. Obviously all nurses and healthcare workers don’t live on MI. Otherwise we wouldn’t need the 322.

        What I said is LINK DOESN’T GO TO FIRST HILL. And these normal people don’t want to transfer on 3rd and James. Today’s Seattle Times has yet another article about the dysfunctional and dangerous environment on 3rd Ave.

        Asdf2 wonders how a nurse can afford to live on MI. Does he think the 630 is filled with Islanders going to their jobs in tattoo parlors? And no, nurses don’t work more than 8 hour shifts. Look at the CBA.

        Putting aside the large number of multi-family units on MI, these workers live on MI because THEY HAVE A SPOUSE WHO WORKS, and kids in the school system. Many times I have tried to explain on this blog how our housing affordability crisis in large part is driven by how many Seattleites live alone.

        We don’t make healthcare workers take the 550 or 554 today and transfer on 3rd and James to get to First Hill. We don’t require Kenmore to subsidize the 322. Why should we do this when East Link opens. Didn’t Harrell and Constantine just select this area for CID N because it needed “revitalization”? During Covid the city allowed these essential workers to park on virtually any spot on the streets so patients didn’t die.

        I recently asked our city manager about the 630. Ridership is so low options include originating the 630 in Issaquah to increase ridership but Issaquah doesn’t see the urgency considering East Link likely won’t be open for four years, moving to a private shuttle system subsidized by the employers on First Hill. Another option is to ask Seattle to help subsidize the route.

        It looks like more and more Island healthcare workers are switching to Eastside employers and that may be the ultimate solution. First Hill healthcare workers should live on First Hill, although private K-12 education in Seattle is around $20,000/year per kid. Eastside healthcare workers should live on the Eastside.

        I have never understood transit advocates who think transit should be as unpleasant and unsafe and abusive as possible with multiple transfers and very slow trip times even from MI to First Hill, then are shocked when choice riders who pay full fare and have a car in the garage stop riding transit as soon as they can, but have very unpleasant memories of transit. I just don’t get the animus you and asdf2 have toward nurses and healthcare workers on MI, unless it is because they live on MI.

        I still don’t quite understand why I have to subsidize the 630 when the 322 isn’t subsidized by cities along the route, Seattle has allowed downtown and 3rd to become too dangerous for normal people, and all the benefit of subsidizing the 630 flows to Seattle and Seattle employers. MI pays quite a bit of taxes that go toward transit but then has no intra-Island bus service while Seattle plans to spend $20 billion on DSTT2 with my subarea contributing $275 to DSTT2, but you and asdf2 have a fit when MI has to subsidize the 630 to get healthcare workers to First Hill without a transfer in a dead downtown too dangerous for normal people to transfer in. I don’t get it. No wonder so many choice riders are abandoning transit.

      19. “I never said all nurses or healthcare workers live on MI.”

        You continue to ignore the fact that Mercer Island and Northshore are the only areas that have peak expresses to First Hill. If it’s so important for these areas, why isn’t it so important for dozens of other areas that haven’t asked for it? Why isn’t it also important for expresses from Mercer Island to Ballard and the U-District? Those areas also have jobs, and people might not want to transfer downtown.

        “nurses don’t work more than 8 hour shifts”

        Harborview nurses work 4, 8, 10, 12, and 16-hour shifts. 8-hour shifts start at 6am, 10am, 2pm, and 10pm. 12-hour shifts start at 7am and 7pm. Those nurses from several counties away sometimes work two 16-hour shifts and one 8-hour shift.

        “Didn’t Harrell and Constantine just select this area for CID N because it needed “revitalization”?”

        He selected it to get ST to pay for replacing a county building, and because CID activists are being hysterical.

      20. I was the person who entered the nurses’ schedules into the database and distributed the monthly floor lists. I worked next to the staffer, who kept the day’s schedule and called on-call or idle nurses in to fill in last-minute holes. We scheduled a thousand inpatient nurses and staff (nurse managers, orderlies, mental-health specialists). That’s not including the outpatient clinics, the doctors, etc. Since then Harborview has added a half dozen buildings.

      21. “nurses don’t work more than 8 hour shifts”

        Yeah, I recognized that comment from Daniel T as bs as soon as I read it. I know a few folks who work in nursing at Harborview. My SIL has worked for years and years for UW Medicine at Harboview and she frequently works 10 and 12-hour shifts. (She commutes from Sammamish by the way and the last I checked that’s an eastside community, no?)

        UW – SEIU1199NW Master Contract 2021-2023 Biennium

        9.1 9.2 9.3 Work Shift. The normal work shift shall consist of eight (8) hours work to be completed within eight and one-half (8 ½) consecutive hours, ten (10) hours to be completed within ten and one-half (10 ½) consecutive hours, or twelve (12) hours to be completed within twelve and one-half (12 ½) consecutive hours. All work shifts shall include at least one (1) thirty (30) minute meal period to be taken on the employee’s own time if relieved of their duties during this period. Employees required to remain on duty during their meal period shall be compensated for such time at the appropriate rate of pay. “

      22. My elderly relative went to a Virginia Mason clinic in Bellevue for many years, and when she had a related surgery/test/specialist it was at Virginia Mason in Seattle. She took the 550 and transferred to the 2 as long as she was able to.

      23. “Mike, I never said all nurses or healthcare workers live on MI. That is one of the extreme straw man arguments popular on this blog.”

        Like no one ever said that nurses don’t live on MI, there likely is either as long time residents or a family member who makes less than their partner. But again you throw out your own strawman in saying “no doctor or lawyer would take the bus.” Despite no evidence to back it up. And yet they likely do if that is the case for this route existing. A special bus route like the 630 usually exists to serve a niche for like an employer and its employees.

        As for the strawman argument, you often strawman about various topics here (like the Eastside, Seattle, subarea, etc) and move the goalposts when you lose the battle instead of just admitting that you were wrong or incorrect in the assumption about something. Sometimes you, I, or other people can be just plain incorrect about something and better to admit wrong and learn from the experience than trying to dig the heels deeper on it when someone points it out. That’s just a fact of life in debating an issue.

      24. You can’t have it both ways: the 630 is vital for nurses and Mercer Island, but hardly anybody rides it, and if they extended it to Issaquah, hardly anybody would still ride it either. The 550 and 554 get more riders than that.

        What’s really funny is saying nobody will ride East Link but they will ride the 630 — when it’s the other way round.

      25. Mike, you missed the point I was making: no nurse or healthcare worker using the 630 is working more than 8 hours because of the schedule of the 630.

        Obviously Metro and the powers that be feel today the 630 is necessary. East Link will mimic the route the 550 and 554 take. Because that same route is by rail and not bus is not relevant. If the 630 were not necessary it should be eliminated today and MI riders just like with East Link will transfer on 3rd and James to get to First Hill. I guess it really never was necessary to run Link to First Hill if the 630 is unnecessary. Folks can just transfer. Maybe now folks on this blog will stop talking about running Link to First Hill. Just transfer on 3rd no matter where you come from.

        I don’t know whether the 630 will be subsidized after East Link opens. I would imagine the same factors that support the 630 today would support it when East Link opens considering there is virtually no difference between the routes of the 554/550 and East Link through downtown.

        According to our city manager she has reached out to other Eastside cities along I-90 to see if they want to share a 630 but one benefit of the 630 is all the neighborhood stops on MI. An Eastside 630 would probably only stop on MI at the park and ride, but today there is plenty of capacity.

        I will also be interested to see if the 322 continues as a one seat ride to First Hill without subsidies. My guess is all along has been there will be more buses after East Link opens like the 630 and 554 because Link has some big holes.

        Personally I don’t get bent out of shape providing a one seat ride from MI to First Hill for these essential workers who clearly don’t want to transfer on 3rd in downtown, and I am paying for it, not anyone else on this blog.

        I plan to post a post on MI’s ND asking whether any First Hill healthcare workers (not doctors) have switched jobs to the Eastside, and how they get to and from First Hill if they live there. When I get to a computer I hope to find ridership levels on the 630 post pandemic. It may be ridership does not support the route at all although Metro is paying 100% today, about the only bus service Metro does pay for on MI other than the 204.

      26. You know that brutal service slash you’ve been predicting? The 630 and 322 would probably be among the first routes to go, along with least-used coverage routes like the 204, 221, 249. Routes that were suspended during covid is another guide.

        Are you sure Metro is partly funding the 630? Why does it have a 600-series number then? That indicates a special route. I think the 635 is funded by Des Moines.If it were a Metro-funded route I’d expect a number like 205, or 905 if it’s a van.


        Maybe the 630 will go to DART service which is an alternative to the 630. If Metro is providing micro transit to Sammamish I would think a short trip from MI to First Hill for essential workers would have priority over that.

        No one has answered my fundamental question: what is the difference between East Link and the current cross lake express buses that validates the 630 today but not when East Link opens? Exact same route, exact same transfer on 3rd. to the same employers.

        I think there is a perception that the islanders going to First Hill on the 630 are rich or privileged suburbanites, a toxic combination on this blog. Asdf2 even wonders how a nurse can live on MI so certainly the 630 must be filled with wealthy surgeons sponging off Metro.

        I also think there is an intellectual inconsistency on this blog about transfers. When Lazarus proposes a hub and spoke system for 3rd to try and revitalize a dangerous and blighted avenue — a concept used throughout the world — what is the main objection? That it would require a quick transfer on 3rd, but that same transfer for an essential worker from MI — that I will end up paying for in the future — is no problem. When I suggest residents from Issaquah won’t add a transfer to a feeder bus to get to East Link folks on this blog state transfers are part of transit. But if you have to cross the street to go from DSTT2 to DSTT1 or take a tunnel it is the end of times.

        The good news is the folks paying the bills get to make the decisions. If MI decides to subsidize the 630 because we don’t want our spouses transferring on 3rd even though most of the benefit goes to Seattle the 630 will continue to run. So piss off.

        Same with a starter East Link line. Dan Ryan raises an axiomatic issue that shouldn’t there be some ridership estimates before deciding — although what ridership with no feeder buses except the 550 that will continue to Bellevue Way — but money is irrelevant in this decision, and so far for Link in general although reality is setting in.

        No one I know on the Eastside is worked up over the cost or delay. If Balducci needs this politically, or Bellevue or the developers or the 1300 riders in downtown imRedmond in 2024 (probably really 600) they will open a starter line. It won’t solve the problems with commercial financing, or realize all those grand pre-pandemic upzones that were going to make everyone billionaires. but it will be a neat toy for the first few weeks, but not serious transit. And eastsiders aren’t riding transit anyway, even very good transit like the 554 and 550.

        Ridership has never been an honest metric for East Link or it would have never been built. That is why ST lied —and still lies today — about ridership on East Link. Same with WSBLE and Issaquah Link. The Eastside subarea has the money. If the stakeholders want their toy opened early it will open early. No one will ride it, but hardly anyone will ride it when and if fully open. More importantly eastsiders don’t care on way or the other. If the starter line doesn’t open it won’t have any impact. Same if it opens.

        East Link like TDLE like WSBLE like Everett Link is just a vanity project. The only difference is the E KC subarea can afford it, even a starter line. It’s very irresponsible fiscally but what isn’t when it comes to Link.

        We talk about a $20 billion WSBLE when each ride from WS will cost between $180,000 and $360,000 over 30 years and a toy starter East Link line but folks on this blog go apoplectic over the 630, even when MI is subsidizing it. Why is that? All those surgeons on the 630 sucking off the government teet?

      28. Mike, a suggestion. Instead of focusing on the DART route 630, why not do a post one day on the DART service. Here’s a link to all the routes. Then, as objectively as you can, evaluate the routes, and see if any stick out as not meeting whatever criteria DART uses to justify the existence of a route. If we’re going to say … “The people who ride the 630 could take this other route, or these other two routes, instead,” don’t we need to ask that about the other DART routes?

      29. Metro provides over 10,000 service hours per day. The route 630 eats up 4 of those hours.

        – Sam. The comment section’s only Mercer Island expert.

      30. “what is the difference between East Link and the current cross lake express buses that validates the 630 today but not when East Link opens?”

        The argument is that the 630 today is not validated; it’s just running anyway. This is hardly the first route we’ve questioned its existence. If Mercer Island funding 100% of it, as I suspect it is, then I have no problem with that: that’s a question for you constituents. I’d just point out that Metro Flex or DART over the whole island would probably be a better use of Mercer Island’s tax money. That’s an advantage of being a small island: things like that could be feasible.

        One Saturday afternoon when I was on Link south of Rainier Beach station, I saw three Metro Flex cars parked together in a parking lot and waiting for a call, and a fourth car next to the station. So that’s what Metro Flex is doing.

        Sam, all the other DART routes serve a local area (Federal Way, Duvall-Redmond, Southcenter-Fairwood) or a far-flung exurban corridor (Black Diamond-Renton) with no other transit. The 630 is the only one where 3/4 of the route is an express to Seattle, never mind overlapping several other express routes.

        DART just means a scheduled route with a flexible service area. E.g., the 906 (Southcenter-Fairwood) is a route that’s mostly fixed on 180th/Carr Road/Petrovitsky Road, but at the eastern end in Fairwood it will go to your house if you call ahead. The justification for these routes is the same as an equivalent fixed route. The 906 is justified as one of the few east-west routes in South King County: specifically it connects Southcenter, IKEA, Valley Medical Center, and the southern Renton residential area. That’s true regardless of whether it’s DART or not. I’ve ridden it from Southcenter to IKEA. On a Saturday afternoon it got 8 riders in the western quarter of the route. And the entire route is less than an hour from end to end, so that’s a decent number of riders.

      31. Seems like the 630 could be a pretty popular route if it did more. Eg, rather than loop it down to Jackson have it go up to the UW Medical Center too. You might wind up with a fair number of people transferring at Mercer Island to bypass downtown, and it could also help with north side to First Hill connections.

      32. The 630 is a DART route. That means that for a small section of Mercer Island, it can deviate from the standard route.

        As far as data goes, I only have information from the 2019 Metro system evaluation. At that point, it was a pilot route. Compared to other pilots, it did quite well. It cost $4.72 per rider to operate, while other pilot routes varied from $11.61 (Trailhead Direct, Mount Si) to $40.68 (Black Diamond Enumclaw Community Ride). But I don’t know how the cost per rider compares to typical routes. Metro evaluates most routes in terms of ridership per hour, but I don’t know how to convert one from the other.

        Nor do I know where the riders come from. The 630 has unique routing within Seattle. Only the 9 and 630 go along Boren, which is largely just an extension of the Rainier corridor. The 9 follows Rainier all the way to Rainier Beach (although it skips a few stops) while the 630’s first stop along there is at Dearborn. But the 630 continues on Boren further to the north (all the way to Seneca) before heading downtown. The 9 turns on Broadway, and ends on Capitol Hill. Thus it is quite possible that a lot of the trips on the 630 never leave the city ( Since the 630 also goes downtown, it is quite possible that a lot of the riders are headed downtown from Mercer Island.

        Which brings up an other important issue. When evaluating routes, it isn’t enough to just know whether they get good numbers. We need to consider the alternatives. The 41 got great numbers. But once Link went in, the alternative was obvious. It isn’t that the 41 wouldn’t continue to get good numbers, it is that the alternative (Link) is still very good. It is far more cost effective to ask people to transfer, even if many don’t like it.

        When East Link arrives, one alternative would be to just run the 9 more often. If you are coming from Mercer Island and heading to First Hill, you would transfer at Judkins Park Station. Some riders, of course, will take Link to University Street Station, walk a couple blocks, and then take the G up the hill. If you are going from Mercer Island to downtown, you would take Link across the lake. If you are going from Rainier & Dearborn to First Hill, you take the 9 (at worse you walk a little bit more). I think if you did an in-depth analysis of the route, you would find that this would cost only a relatively small handful of people a relatively small amount of time — a lot less than the loss of the 41. Like the 41, the savings from ending the route would more than outweigh the inconvenience.

        In the long run, I think we need to reevaluate the 9. The 9 is a skip-stop route that overlaps the 7, while also providing one-seat rides from Rainier Valley to First and Capitol Hill. Skip-stop routes make sense when the main bus (in this case the 7) is really crowded, and running more buses doesn’t improve headways in a meaningful manner. They also make sense if the main bus is relatively slow, or the route is really long. If the 7 is converted to RapidRide (with a stop diet) I doubt the 9 is needed. The 7 would be faster, reducing the value of a skip-stop line. The 7 peaks out at eight minute headways — nowhere near where the point where you are focused more on crowding than improving headways. If nothing else I would truncate the 9 at Mount Baker Station (MBS).

        There are other things I don’t like about the 9. Rainier/Boren is not very peak-oriented. Quite the contrary. There is a peak, but there are also people coming and going all day long. I also think turning on Broadway is a bad idea. I don’t think the bus should continue to Seneca and head downtown either. It should continue along that corridor to South Lake Union. Replacing the 9 (and 630) with an all-day bus from MBS to South Lake Union (via Boren) would be very rewarding, and improve transit quite a bit. This could take the form of an independent new route, or it could be an extension of the 106 (since riders of the 106 have very easy options for getting downtown, either via Link or the 7).

        This would cost money, and should be part of a bigger overhaul of the system. You could probably come up with a revenue neutral plan that made travel in that area much better (like Houston did). It should probably happen with Madison G, but won’t.

      33. Thanks Ross for the research on the 630. Although the data is from 2019 the fact is these are essential workers who probably can’t WFH. If the cost per rider is $4.72, and I imagine the fare $3+ (probably subsidized or paid for by the employers in Seattle which I think is required), I can see why the city of MI wouldn’t have a problem with subsidizing the 630 when East Link opens despite pretty tight budgets like most cities these days.

        If MI does subsidize the 630 I imagine the city would want to determine where in Seattle MI riders are using the 630, and eliminate some of the other stops that don’t serve Islanders. Maybe the cost per trip with those cuts could be lower than $4.72/rider.

        At $4.72/trip I have to think other cities along I-90 like Issaquah will look at direct buses to First Hill like MI. Or they could just drive to the park and ride on MI to catch the 630, which is what I imagine is happening today because there is plenty of space at the park and ride, so the cost to Metro or MI includes a number of off-Island riders coming to the park and ride. MI has so many stops for the 630 on the Island I wouldn’t be surprised if Islanders living on the south end near where the 630 starts don’t drive to the park and ride to catch the 630 along with off-Islanders with the next stop being First Hill, not only a one seat bus but a one stop bus.

      34. Metro’s fare is $2.75. ST Express is $3.25. That could be a reason for people preferring the 630, especially for such a short express trip. Metro used to have a higher fare for trips that crossed the Seattle boundary peak hours; I forget when that was eliminated.

      35. $4.72/rider is definitely much less than I expected. In fact, it almost seems too good to be believable for a route that runs only one direction, only during rush hour, as buses of this nature are required to travel more distance each day deadheading than actually carrying passengers. Maybe it’s because since it’s a dart bus, they get to contract it out to a company that uses nonunion bus drivers.

      36. @asdf2

        > $4.72/rider is definitely much less than I expected. In fact, it almost seems too good to be believable for a route that runs only one direction, only during rush hour, as buses of this nature are required to travel more distance each day deadheading than actually carrying passengers.

        It’s probably that it’s a pretty ‘short’ route since most of it is on the freeway and close to Seattle. Checking the schedule it just uses one bus/driver per day.

        I’m not sure if for longer (total travel time) peak routes if the bus could make it back in time to run a second time, without one effectively having to run 2~4 busses to run during the peak time.

    5. I’m an electrician involved with the project, I spoke to the inspector who found the issues. And it turned out not only did the concrete guys screw it up and try to hide it, but they tried to lie about fixing it. The inspector then raised hell because someone involved with quality control tried to shut him up.

      1. @Ryan.

        Dude, if anything you say is true then you have a legal and moral obligation to file a whistleblower report. Honest.

        Having such information and not reporting it up through proper channels will get you in big trouble. Do the right thing, report it.

        And if the agency is corrupt and silences you, then contact ML at the Seattle Times.

        But I suspect you aren’t telling the truth. Prove me wrong though. Do the right thing.

      2. Wow that’s quite an accusation, and if true filing a whistleblower report is necessary in my opinion. Negligence and covering that up is bad enough, but what if the error was intentional? A coverup suggests that possibility, and there should be an investigation to make sure.

      3. Yeah, your best bet it is to talk to reporter. I would contact Mike Lindblom ( The reporter can quote you as an anonymous source if you fear retribution. As much as people believe whistleblowers are protected, they really aren’t. The law is clear (and designed to protect people who speak out) but the reality is that it is difficult to protect whistleblowers. That being said, I assume the market it pretty good for electricians right now, so worse case scenario, you still have a job, and you get to sleep better at night.

  2. The contractor should be responsible for paying incremental costs to operate the 550, 566, 232, B, and similar routes that would have been wholly or partly replaced by Link. Sound Transit and King County Metro weren’t responsible for these problems; they shouldn’t be left holding the bag.

    1. William: yes, routes 232 and 550 will be changed with East Link according to ST and Metro proposals. But for some odd reason, ST did not included Route 566 in the project scope, even though it will duplicate East Link between BTC and RTS. The B Line will complement East Link. The agencies will just shift service hours to different routes; it is not clear they bear a cost from the delay.

      1. It seems obvious ST Express 566 should be truncated at Downtown Bellevue Station when the 2 Line opens (partial or whole).

        But what about the portion from Auburn Station to Kent Station? Or why not shift its southern terminus to Tukwila Sounder Station to avoid a few miles of clogged freeway and increase its ridershed?

        Is the Auburn Station car parking garage not large enough to make Auburn P&R moot?

    2. There were plenty of experts involved. Here is a link to the Independent Review Team report that preceded East Link design, commissioned by the legislature . Among other things you will see WSDOT prohibited ST from drilling holes in the bridge deck to affix normal plinth blocks. That decision led to the lighter touch design using epoxy fixation and nylon sleeves. One of the highest risk items flagged in this report were the transition joints — ST took their advice and accelerated design on the joints, ironically years later, to keep the I-90 segment off the critical path.

  3. How do we forget how to build a rail line? Are there no experts anymore? Just as in Tacoma with Link….many of us old rail and urban transportation armchair engineers are baffled (that is how I got away BTW…I jumped a train after the jump).

    1. There are experts. They are just all in other countries, and we are not allowed to use them for national pride reasons.

      In an ideal world, we would have just hired some Chinese company to build Link with Chinese trains, and they would have gotten it done for much less cost. But, unfortunately, for political reasons, we can’t.

      1. Ask Boston how hiring the Chinese for their subway has worked out for them. Google “Orange Line MBTA Chinese”

      2. We could do a lot better than a Chinese company. Spain, Italy, South Korea, Norway and Sweden all do very well, and yes, we could learn from them.

      3. I was kinda wondering why the rail cars don’t work as CRRC train cars work fine in china. It seems to be an odd situation where they chose CRRC for being cheaper but also had to obey buy America rules

        > Cars come to Springfield from China as unfinished shells and are completed here, with 60% of the components made in the U.S. workers in Springfield install the motor, electronic controls, seats, interiors, lights and nearly everything else. The cars are tested on a track running parallel to Interstate 291.

    2. The US doesn’t build many rail lines anymore. It refuses to learn from the experts in other countries, especially non-English speaking countries. The “Buy America” provision prevents us from getting state-of-the-art vehicles or construction companies, because the US doesn’t have a large enough rail or trolleybus market for most companies to set up permanent American operations and wait for projects to come in.

      1. There are plenty of seasoned rail designers in the US. It’s just that ST prefers to hire Northwest people rather than say “bring someone in from another region”.

        I think they are secretly just scared of an outside persoective.

      2. Which American metro, streetcar, regional rail, or high-speed rail line built since 1976 is as good as a typical European or Asian line? It’s not just ST.

        (I chose 1976 because that’s when the DC Metro opened, which I think is the only one comparable besides New York City transit.)

    3. The I90 plinths are a unique challenge. I’m not defending the contractor, but it’s different than typical LRT construction.

      Because the plinths are being constructed on an existing bridge/roadway each and every plinth is different. Roads and bridges for cars have a near-ever-changing surface. Superelevation for curves and drainage are constantly changing longitudinally and transversely. So each plinth is different. It’s a unique construction challenge. Not unsolvable, but different than new LRT guideway construction.

      1. Too late to change now, but it makes me wonder if they’d been better off just replacing the entire fixed structures.

        TriMet’s entire “Better Red” project is $215 million. Including ≈ 1 mile of new elevated track, double tracking at the airport, expansion of Hillsboro Fairgrounds station, a new platform at Gateway, and 10 new light rail cars.

        Even if you were to attribute half the project costs to the new elevated structure over I-84 and Union Pacific, that’d be $1.2 billion for a completely new structure to replace 12 miles of roadway between the lake and CID with new structure.

        Hindsight is 20/20 of course. Very few places get a chance to replace a set of highway lanes with light rail.

  4. Is HDR the contracted construction management group on this segment of East Link? (I can’t remember and ST has been pretty inconsistent in maintaining its published annual procurements reporting, at least as far as online availability is concerned.) I know HDR has been awarded several of these types of contracts for ST’s LR projects. I believe they are the outfit that has the construction management contract for the Bellevue segment.

    There is also this angle to consider. Note item #3 in this section.

    The following is an excerpt from ST Board Resolution R2018-40, adopted Sep 27, 2018, and effective Jan 1, 2019. (Amended on Oct 27, 2022 with R2022-27 but not impacting the quoted section that follows.) The purpose was for adopting an updated Procurement, Agreements and Delegated Authority Policy:

    “2.10 System expansion projects

    “2.10.1 The CEO is authorized to conduct preliminary project planning, scoping, environmental reviews, permitting, preliminary engineering, and environmental testing necessary for system expansion projects, provided the estimated combined cost of all such activities does not exceed $500,000, excluding taxes, and when the expenditure does not exceed the authorized budget or other Board authorization.

    “2.10.2 Unless the Board requests more frequent reporting, the CEO must report quarterly to the Board on the progress and status of system expansion projects.

    “2.10.3 The CEO must notify the Board in a timely manner if it becomes apparent that:
    2.10.3.a A system expansion project cannot be completed within the authorized amount including contingency,
    2.10.3.b Delays to a system expansion project will have negative financial, community, or operations implications, or
    2.10.3.c There is a possibility of substantial scope change to a system expansion project.

    “2.10.4 The CEO is authorized to increase the total authorized amount for contracts for system expansion projects to include betterments when the following conditions are met:
    2.10.4.a The requesting entity fully funds the betterment work,
    2.10.4.b The betterment work is in the scope of the contract,
    2.10.4.c No individual contract modification for betterment work exceeds $500,000, excluding taxes, and 2.10.4.d The incorporation of such betterment work has no adverse impact on Sound Transit project work.”

  5. I also think the longer it’s delayed, the greater the chance the Eastside-only line happens. Also, if covid hadn’t happened, but the East Link delay still occurred, people would be very annoyed. But, covid did happened, and I don’t get the sense that most Eastsiders are all that bothered if East Link doesn’t open for another couple of years.

  6. East sider here. Personally I’m not too bothered by the timelines so long as ST and King County Metro can get their act together and run service at an acceptable frequency. The key selling point of rail is the higher frequency and more predictable timing compared to current busses making it more convenient. They could easily just put more busses on the road in the meantime to start building that regular ridership. I could be taking the 566 to and from work, as an example, but the limited number of runs make it inconvenient compared to alternatives.

    1. ST was going to fill in 15-minute Sunday frequency on the 550 and Sunday service on the 535 in 2021 or 2022, but the driver shortage swallowed it.

    2. The whole driver shortage is really just a byproduct of our dysfunctional immigration system. I’m sure there are numerous qualified bus drivers in other parts of the world who would be more than happy to move to the US and work for KCM/Sound Transit, if it weren’t for the fact that the US government won’t let them in.

      So, instead we have to get into bidding wars with other transit agencies for what drivers exist and make service cuts. It’s a big disappointment.

      1. Our free-movement-for-commodities-not-people laws certainly do contribute to worker shortages. But failure to keep wages up with inflation is also a major contributor, and so is failure to protect the health and safety of workers. We are making backslides on that last score, and some actual celebrate each backslide in worker safety.

        For school bus drivers, there is also the contract cycle where everyone’s job ends with the change of school board majorities, and then everyone has to get hired again and start from the bottom. The agencies doing this cyclical contracting and running out of drivers have done this to themselves.

  7. Failing to build our capacity to engineer and construct rail in the northwest would be a huge mistake. Pushing the problem down the road is not a viable strategy. This is expertise that the Seattle region must re-learn. It will take money it is true but it’s also the best course in the short and the long run. Shipping in designers or workers from elsewhere is just not the correct approach. We need that capability here in Seattle and it is more than likely that outsiders would make their own mistakes on our dime. Outsiders would make different mistakes but their mistakes would be maddeningly embarrassing and costly too. Lest we forget that Spain, a high speed rail super power, purchased rolling stock that didn’t fit their tunnels not so long ago.

    Let’s agree we need these capabilities now but since we haven’t nurtured them over the last 50 years we start from where we are. In my walkthroughs of a number of stations prior to their opening I’ve been nothing but astounded and proud of the work that our designers and construction workers have performed. I say stay the course and learn as best we can. I’m looking forward to the skills we learn now turning into High-Speed Rail construction skills in the not too distant future..

    1. 10 minutes to get from platform to surface at Westlake is going to decrease crowding by chasing passengers away, not by adding meaningful capacity.

      We aren’t developing any local skills by building stuff that doesn’t work well. If we were instead to learn from those who have world class skills, it might lead to some local talent.

      The management issues that led to the Spanish train width mess aren’t that different from what happened with the Tacoma Bypass line: not enough good quality oversight and not making sure requirements were met.

    2. Aerial stations with side platforms and only one elevator …

      Mezzanines for … ?

      Tracks installed for future use that turn out to be merely decorative, but require years of tunnel closure to replace …

      Streetcar stations that are lower than the floor of the streetcar …

      Streetcar tracks just the right gauge to keep getting bikes stuck and their riders run over …

      Escalators that aren’t designed to handle transit-sized crowd usage…

      Station planning where the stations are treated as dots rather than segments longer than a football field, so we end up with one exit from the station and lose a lot of walkshed …

      Elevators that all break down at once …

      Airplane manufacturers that are trusted to inspect and perform government required safety testing on their own planes … What could possibly go wrong?

      Contractors that get to keep winning low bids because state law provides no mechanism for punishing them for previous catastrophic performances …

      We need to develop local talent, but we also need to still learn the basics of how things are done correctly elsewhere, so we don’t keep making all these freshman mistakes.

    3. There is definitely value in in-house expertise. But those experts also need to learn from the rest of the world. The United States is terrible at transit. Terrible. Part of the problem is a lack of local domain knowledge, but part of the problem is the inability to learn from other countries.

      Personally, I think the best solution it to have the federal government take more of a role in local mass transit projects. I don’t think they should micro-manage bus routes, or small projects, but the system right now is the worst of all worlds. Agencies have no idea what they are doing. They come up with arbitrary plans that are unlikely to work. They then spend a bundle applying for federal matching funds. The project runs into trouble, and looks like a bad idea, but they don’t want to lose those matching funds. This goes for everything from the CCC to West Seattle Link to Tacoma Dome Link. No one is stepping back and asking what is the problem they are trying to solve; what is the biggest bang for the buck. If they did, we would have a much better system, and so would cities around the country.

      Or consider the Canadian model. By no means is Canada great at transit, but they are clearly much better than the United States. It is largely driven by provinces, in cooperation with the federal government. SkyTrain started as a way to showcase new technology being developed by Urban Transportation Development Corporation, a Crown Cooperation from Ontario. It was BC Transit who developed SkyTrain, though. They had no preset agenda. They studied various routes throughout the province. So you had the (large, experienced) provincial government working with a large, provincially owned corporation to develop an improvement to the existing transit system run by the province. In contrast, Sound Transit was a brand new organization with a preset agenda ( building the “spine”) and no relationship to Metro or any other large transit organization. What could go wrong? Plenty, obviously.

      A state by state system could definitely work, but it could also be unwieldy. There are only ten provinces, there are fifty states. Having the states run things (with the cooperation of the federal government) would definitely be a huge step up, but I would prefer a larger role by the federal government than that in Canada. It is one thing managing ten agencies — it is another managing fifty.

      1. I agree, the current system is a mess, but I’m not convinced a larger role for the federal government would make things any better. The problem is, whichever party is in power, politicians (and the people they appoint) are too ideological to ask tough questions and prioritize good projects over bad. When Democrats are in charge, they will try to sprinkle money everywhere – or they’ll allocate funding based on irrelevant factors like how many BIPOC people live near it, rather than how many people will actually ride it. When Republicans are in charge, they will just try to defund everything, and good projects will die, indiscriminately, along with the bad. They money will be redirected into some mixture of roads/highways and/or tax cuts for the wealthy. Also, the yo-yo effect where projects are constantly getting funded and defunded every 4-8 years as the presidency changes hands is bad for transit in its own right. Especially if bus service frequency rises as falls depending on which party is in power.

        There are actually times when I think the best solution is for the federal government to replace all of its transit funding with block grants to local agencies in proportion to metrics such as served population or ridership, and let the local agencies figure out how to spend it. It definitely would not guarantee good outcomes, but it would, at the very least, eliminate the overhead of applying for federal grant money.

  8. I remember after the I-90 bridge sank 30+ years ago, they tried to minimize human involvement in the sinking, and pin most of the blame on mother nature, which was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. But, blaming a storm worked. Of the very few people today who even remember that event, most mistakenly think a bad storm sank the bridge, when it was actually human error.

    Is covid the new wind storm? Many years from now, if anyone even remembers this, are they going to say, oh yeah, I think East Link’s opening was delayed a couple of years because of the pandemic.

    1. Well said, Sam. Thanks for reminding everyone about the “manhole cover” fiasco.

    2. Well, the storm ended, but I don’t recall declarations of the storm emergency being over, so let’s stop spending money on torsion surveillance.

      We also gave up a lot of freedom, like the freedom to drive across a sunk bridge. My uncle fought a war for our freedom to drive over sunk bridges. Shouldn’t it be a personal decision? and not the decision of the scaredy-cat passengers?

      And bridge supports? Y’all are still using bridge supports? They keep failing! There is no conclusive study bridge supports work. So, why do we keep building them, when we can fully rely on the Great Pumpkin to protect us from this Law of Gravity thing that is being forced down our throats? Haven’t you heard on TikTok, Facebook, and Youtube that the Law of Gravity turned out to be false? And the data backing it up was cooked up by someone who plagiarized a whole mathematical language? That was gain-of-function research, and it was happening at taxpayer expense!

    3. “New York”, by Edward Rutherford, chapter “Snow”, set during the blizzard of 1888: A petty-criminal woman sneaks out of a Brooklyn hotel, intending to catch a train to Chicago to start a new life. She reaches the Brooklyn Bridge to walk across it, but an official says, “The bridge is closed due to snow. You can’t cross.” She says, “How can it be closed? It’s a bridge.” She pretends to turn back, distracts his attention, and crosses the bridge. She discards part of her costume on the bridge, to make it look like she died there, so they won’t pursue her. Then she takes the train to Chicago.

  9. Good for the power brokers on the east side. They don’t want to connect to Seattle anyway.

  10. Expansion sequencing presentation: The East Side starter 2 Line looks very probable. However there is no talk of opening KDM before 272nd and Federal Way. With the FW Link construction change means that it looks like KDM could be opened at least a year earlier.

    Alternatively, these extra tracks look like they could store the extra train cars needed for Lynnwood.

    To do either would appear to require ST to start looking at how to take over the project in segments rather than all it once.

    I will add that KDM station and tracks are very visible from I-5, meaning that there is a visual symbol to I-5 drivers that they could use the train to get Downtown. However, the new station may just appear to move the people that now park at Angle Lake so that there wouldn’t be many new riders.

    Thoughts on an early KDM opening?

    1. In theory you could store the cars linearly on an unopened line like this, but in practical terms they become easy targets for graffiti. You also have to have some way of getting the operators to the cars, as a one mile walk from the nearest platform isn’t going to work too well.

      None of this is impossible. I’m sure they have a hi-rail vehicle of some sort they could use to deliver the operators to the trains and patrol the storage area, but it does deserve some consideration.

      1. @Glen,

        It’s not graffiti. It’s servicing. Most of those stored vehicles get used during the day, which means they need servicing. And doing that online, away from the OMF, and hauling all the necessary supplies back and forth is a big problem

        Insolvable? No. But a big problem.

        This is part of the reason I’ve been advocating for an overlay between NGS and IDS. If a way can be found to open Lynnwood Link without online storage, and without overcrowding, then so much the better. For everyone, including for Ops.

      2. I don’t think that the Lynnwood train supply problem is that large. It may be that only 2-4 four-car spare trains would be needed for storage here. Plus they may be spares that are not used in service unless other trains need to be pulled.

        ST does not need a storage yard with dozens of vehicles for this task.

        It would be less likely for the train cars to get graffiti simply because much of these tracks would be hard for graffiti creators to reach.

      3. Are the short line runs really needed for more then an hour or two in the peak direction?

        For AM peak, just run trains in service up to Lynnwood, since doing so costs nothing extra and gets some more passengers and revenue. Or run them out of service, whatever. ST already does this.

        For PM peak, the trains would start at Stadium Station just after leaving SODO OM&F, and others coming out of service would still be pretty popular in the counter-peak direction before telling everyone left to exit the train at Stadium Station, especially on sportsball nights, of which there are *a lot*.

        Crowding is a reason to open Lynnwood Link as soon as it is ready, not a contraindication.

    2. Personally, I think that K-DM ought to be the permanent end-point. The opportunity for a bus-only bridge at 240th (where there is no crossing currently) and a bus-only exit to it from the HOV lanes is very obvious. Plus, Highline College is an all-day destination. Buses from Des Moines would pass through PCH and K-DM Road and turn south at 30th Avenue South to the station then just continue in-direction to 240th, turn left and cross the bridge to Military. A bus lane between PCH and 30th would get the buses past the worst of the interchange congestion.

      The other direction a bus-only left turn lane could be added to K-DM east of Military using the herring-bone stretch of embargoed street to the east. Then, the wide bike-lane southbound on Military could be taken as a bus-only lane to 240th and the bike lane moved over into the parking strip.

      Or for more money, a two-way busway could be built from the east end of the new bridge right alongside the K-DM off-ramp to the little stub street just south of K-DM where the westbounds would just turn from that new left turn lane and eastbounds would have a bus bridge over Military to a merge just north of the Public Storage building.

      Whichever way one handled getting to 240th, the buses would cross the freeway, turn right on 30th and then left into the station drop-off. After dropping off they’d turn right onto PCH and turn left at K-DM.

      But of course there’s the “sunk cost” fallacy to extend “at least as far as Federal Way; they’ve got all that grading done!”

      1. Yeah except for the long-span bridge section that has cause the delay, Link to FW is very much going to be completed; the engineering & construction contracts are all signed & underway.

    1. There are no pluses. Only minus is the extra cost as long as buses continue their current routes which are better than the route of East Link. Even when/if East Link fully opens the difference to the Eastside between buses today is so marginal as to be irrelevant.

      Ridership could be embarrassingly low for ST. A starter line will not jump start development in the upzoned station areas along the route in the current economic environment. Very low ridership on a starter line could actually hurt future development and financing by exposing ST’s ridership estimates as highly inflated.

      Unless of course East Link will not be able to cross the bridge. Then a “starter line” will effectively be East Link, although some kind of “bus bridge” will be necessary (which would require another EIS), but then like the 554 it would make sense to continue the 550 to Bellevue Way which would make East Link irrelevant.

      1. “The East Side’s ghost train to nowhere. Story at 5.” I predict a future local tv news segment with a reporter on a nearly empty East Link starter train.

      2. “The East Side’s ghost train to nowhere. Story at 5.” I predict a future local tv news segment with a reporter on a nearly empty East Link starter train.”

        Sam. I think the opening, if a starter line is opened, will have a big ribbon cutting ceremony and a packed inaugural run from S. Bellevue (where everyone will park) to Overlake (although I have no idea what the luminaries will do when they get to Overlake, probably get picked up by staff and driven away). It would be a bit awkward if they rode the train back to S. Bellevue because there is no stop anyone wants to get off on or is remotely walkable.

        And then that will be that. Life will go on. Eastsiders won’t complain if their bus service remains the same because they won’t see any difference in their lives. I am sure some will take the train once as an amusement (and have to figure out how to buy an ORCA card and wonder WTF), but there are no stops people go to and will get off on: East Main, 110th, Wilburton, The Spring District, Overlake, and so on. They will have to backtrack to S. Bellevue after their joy ride where they parked their car. And on the reverse: is someone from Overlake going to take East Link to S. Bellevue where they don’t have a car? Even if an eastsider has to go to those areas they will drive and park for free. Is someone on the 550 coming from Seattle or MI going to transfer to Link at S. Bellevue with a 10-minute wait to go to 110th rather than Bellevue Way in a one seat bus?

        Things could change a bit if Redmond Link opens before the bridge does, but the big risk there is ST is only estimating 1300 boardings per day — pre-pandemic — from this station that one would think would be a major ridership driver because Redmond is so far away, has 80,000 residents, and Bellevue (kind of) is along the line, and retail in Redmond is pretty weak (or at least suburbany). Ridership at Redmond on a starter line could be less than 500/day.

        The tricky part for ST is publishing the ridership data on an East Link starter line, and how to explain that. Either ST will have to somehow avoid releasing that data for a few years, or have an excuse for ridership levels that shock folks.

        The other data that will have to be concealed is the cost of operating the starter line, because that info along with ridership levels would allow a dollar per rider mile calculation. One thing eastsiders could understand is being told each trip on East Link is costing $50, one way, not including the capital costs. At that point I think eastsiders and the press would demand a reduction in frequency. If no one is riding the starter line with good frequency, we don’t have to worry about induced demand if we cut frequency due to dollar per rider mile.

        If I were advising Balducci I would tell her to skip the starter line, and she has a habit or proposing amendments to DSTT2 or a starter line I think she thinks won’t pass or happen. Too much political risk when her voters are pretty nonchalant about the delays in opening East Link. If East Link can’t run across the bridge, or at full capacity, that decision is many years off, and even then Balducci could blame ST on the poor ridership on an eastside “starter” line that would now be permanent because of the bridge issues.

        Unless ST can guarantee Balducci the ridership data and operating cost data for a starter line could be withheld for several years I think opening a starter line is a big political risk for her when she doesn’t need to take that risk right now with almost no upside.

    2. Daniel’s ’embarrassingly low’ is a matter of taste. But there’s a serious question there – what is the right number to argue that a starter line is worth it?

      It makes no sense the eastside starter line discussion has gotten this far with somebody at Sound Transit having an estimate of what the ridership number will be.

      Particularly if it ends up having implications for the opening of Lynnwood Link, and we have no current ridership estimates for that either (yes, there are pre-covid estimates and 2040 estimates, but why not current estimates for 2024 or 2025 that are based on hybrid workplace realities?).

      How does anybody have a cost-benefit view on any of this when the relevant numbers are secret or don’t exist in the first place?

      1. Walker’s take seems a license for accountability-free decision making, tbh. Everybody gets that stuff happens & things change. Nobody likes those ninnies who won’t shut up that Sound Transit missed some 20-year projection by 10%. But the notional ‘freedom’ to use transit, divorced from actual ridership, is a recipe for waste.

        How does one make a decision about expending real resources without having at least a starting point based in fact? There are opportunity costs to making this investment in place of some other. Board and staff need to take ownership for having enough ridership to justify opening a starter line early, and they should have a reasoned view of what ‘enough’ means.

      2. Ridership also depends on the variety and uniqueness and quality of destinations along the route. That’s outside the agency’s control, and changes over the lifetime of the route. When I discovered the Husky deli and Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle, I started going there more often. At various times I attended a certain BJJ class at 95th & Aurora, an MMA school in South Lake Union (the only one in Seattle at the time), a yoga class near Judkins Park, and Vegetarians of Washington dinners at the Mt Baker Club and a place in Greenwood. That’s what I meant by downtown Redmond is setting up the physical layout for a transit draw to its businesses, but it will depend on Redmond itself to make sure it has destinations that will attract people.

      3. Yes, make decisions using facts, real trade-offs, and opportunity costs. Just don’t treat ridership forecasts for a mode or route that does not yet exist as one of those ‘facts.’ Walker argues that anchoring on expert’s ridership forecast is itself the abandonment of accountability by hiding behind fake analysis, and using different criteria is more honest & therefore more accountable.

        Saying we should only open a line if the forecasted ridership is above X is as meaningless as when a politician argues for some novel change to the tax code because it will raise X revenue.

      4. Walker seems to believe you begin with a vision of a city you want, no matter whether a majority of residents will conform to it or want it.
        wh Walker was not always anti-predictions by experts (that began around 2018) when he thought they supported his urban vision.

        The unanticipated results from the pandemic to Walker’s vision of urbanism and transit (despite the geometries of cities remaining the same) force him now to reject predictions of the future, because those predictions no longer support his “vision” when based on current data. Ridership or urbanism or whatever will follow. WSBLE will induce enough riders to make it pencil out. Induced demand for just about everything: build it and they will come, although Walker has been mostly wrong over the last 5 years.
        Walker’s and Musk’s public feud over freedom” tells you a lot about each person’s vision.

        Walker is correct that predicting the exogenous events in the long-term future are likely going to be wrong (or really missed). Obviously the pandemic could not be foreseen but it happened, although some on this blog have pointed out before WFH was only accelerated by the pandemic, not created by the pandemic. It was WFH, not the pandemic, Walker and others should have really seen, which led to a deurbanization, although crime in major cities is once again swinging the pendulum on migration. You can’t have a vibrant urban city without people. When Walker first burst onto the scene the country was urbanizing, and major cities were coming out of their bleak period from the 1970’s to 1990’s.

        Walker regularly rails against Uber, and driverless technology, two inventions he should have seen. He has always claimed cars don’t scale in a city, including parking, but then is often surprised that the remedy is not what he predicted: a car free transit-oriented system. Instead, you get 94 million Uber/Lyft miles in Seattle in 2017 at the expense of transit. Walker thought it was bus frequency that kept folks in their cars, a tragic mistake.

        Walker has the same conundrum today many urban or transit “experts” have: WFH solved the “cars don’t scale” problem, but decimated transit, not cars, which has hurt urbanization. Walker’s thesis begins with a simple approach: cars are bad for a city, get rid of cars, cars don’t scale, densify housing, but so far his remedies have not gotten rid of cars because he dislikes cars so much he fails to see their inherent advantages over public transit, like safety, time of trip, ability to carry things, door to door service, pleasure at owning a car, privacy, and so on. For Walker increasing bus frequency — induced demand — will solve all these inherent deficits.

        So one of Walker’s remedy: get rid of parking. But then you see retail in an area like downtown Seattle die, or Uber explode, when the real original goal was a vibrant downtown city, which is best done with tons of access by every mode (including the mode 90% of shoppers use) and then create pedestrian only, vehicle free areas. Like a mall or U Village. Walker’s vision can never survive in suburbia.

        Walker was once an idealist. He thought that if folks could see his vision of a transit oriented, dense, urban city they would naturally adopt the things necessary to create that vision: eliminate parking, increase transit, create more dense urban housing, force folks to walk more.

        It is a pretty vision. It works in Paris for those who like to LIVE in Paris. It begins with safe streets and very populous cities with dense retail and living. It just isn’t working in large American cities today, and expert predictions of the future based on data today don’t support Walker’s vision (although to his credit Walker has always recognized the cost advantages of buses over rail), so reject predictions or farebox recovery or WFH or empty buildings or increasing crime or declining urban retail. Build it and they will come. If only that were true.

        What Walker is arguing against in this podcast, and what he has always argued against, is freedom of choice. He does not like the choices a lot of folks have made today post-pandemic. His grand vision is crumbling. Despite transit frequency most U.S. cities still never get more than 10% of trips. It is much deeper than that. It is that folks ride transit because they have to, not because they want to, and when you force folks to something they don’t want to do the market usually corrects that (WFH, Uber, shopping in suburbia where parking is free).

        Ironically, I always thought Uber was one of the bright spots for urbanism because it lured customers to a dense city that has inadequate or overly expensive parking from suburbia that often has free parking, provides quick and easy access throughout the city at a reasonable cost if the city is dense and vibrant, and can overcome safety issues in cities folks don’t want to walk in or transfer in. But Walker just hates cars so he doesn’t see that. His vision MUST begin with eliminating cars.

        I always thought Donald Shoup was the more sophisticated planner. Shoup also thought there was too much land devoted to parking in urban areas, and too much free public parking that was too spread out and too disorganized because it was free, or paid public parking revenue was never put back into the infrastructure that might help reduce parking needs. He felt the market should dictate parking minimums, although he would probably be surprised (but not aggrieved because he believed in the market) that investors often demand more parking than cities do in large projects. One Union Square is a perfect example of a white elephant because Royer thought he would experiment with no parking buildings (which was remedies with Two Union Square).

        Ironically Shoup would likely not object to Uber because it helps solve the issue he had: too much space in urban areas devoted to parking. If folks in a dense city don’t need to park they don’t need parking. The problem Shoup never really addresses is different jurisdictions having different costs for parking. If Bellevue has free parking for retail customers and Seattle charges $20 for the weekend, and U Village is free, the outcome is pretty obvious, and what we see today.

        One thing I don’t think Shoup or Walker really ever expected was so many peak commuters would choose to not go to the big city if they did not have to. They like home, and then their suburban town, better than the big city, especially if the big city is unsafe, unclean, or unvibrant. Commuters HAD TO spend two hours of their lives commuting on public transit uncompensated, and the fact so many “experts” and urban planners missed that is remarkable Once given the chance those commuters would stop doing that so urban cities suddenly had much bigger issues than parking or transit or Uber, like Harrell is struggling with, problems that are existential to the city because neither Shoup’s or Walker’s vision work in suburbia because there isn’t the density or population. Theirs is an urban vision for those living in urban areas, but if the people are not there their visions are irrelevant.

      5. If ST3 planning costing billions can be done by the Board without an eye to cost-effectiveness and closer looks at ridership, then a temporary 2 Line starter line likely costing less than 10 million to operate annually seems irrelevant to the Board. A typical transit board member would ask for more solid numbers, but this is the ST Board that will make the decision — and their repeated silence about productivity probably will be maintained about this one. Just look at the productivity of Sounder North or Tacoma Link as examples if their perspective!

        As for Jarrett, it should be mentioned that his professional perspective grows from decades of working hands-on with several dozen transit agencies to improve their productivity. I appreciate his approach — which I see as “put up or shut up” when it comes to routing and scheduling useful transit lines that match complementary land use decisions.

      6. Wow. A lot of people misrepresenting what Walker has written on the subject. Everything from “he doesn’t care about the numbers” to “he has no idea how anti-urban the suburbs can be”. Neither is anywhere near the truth.

        I won’t spend much time dismissing most of what Daniel wrote, since it is like shooting fish in a barrel (and then more fish pop up). I will say that if you think Walker ever assumed that transit was based entirely on getting suburban riders into town, you are sadly mistaken. Have you even read his book?

        Walker doesn’t dismiss the value of predicting ridership either. To quote the introduction from the paper you referenced, “None of this is to question the tremendous value of good predictions.”

        In this case, a lot of what he mentioned in the paper simply doesn’t apply. This is a decision based on a temporary arrangement. It is fairly easy to determine what this would mean in terms of mobility (e. g. what people could do instead of what they will do). But it isn’t clear what the alternative is. If we spent the money elsewhere, what would that mean in terms of what people could do. In other words, how much “freedom” could we get if we spent this money on improving bus service. Can we even do that? Where does the money go if we don’t spend on this project?

        It is quite likely that Walker would be the first to tell you that this is one of those times when there is “tremendous value [in] good predictions”. Knowing how many riders can be expected to ride, and how much time they actually save is very important. It has to be factored into other things as well. For example, we would have to work with Metro to determine if there could be savings as a result of an Eastside-only Link. What would a temporary restructure look like, anyway. How would that compare to simply spending more money on the buses. There are other issues as well. How does this impact other projects, for example.

        I think this is one of those cases where Dan’s approach makes the most sense. This is not a major turning point when it comes to transit. We aren’t discussing where to run East Link or even where to run the buses (which could change in a few years). This is a relatively tiny change, and knowing how many people could actually be expected to take advantage of it is very important.

      7. “I won’t spend much time dismissing most of what Daniel wrote, since it is like shooting fish in a barrel (and then more fish pop up). I will say that if you think Walker ever assumed that transit was based entirely on getting suburban riders into town, you are sadly mistaken. Have you even read his book?”

        Where did I say, “Walker [ever] assumed that transit was based entirely on getting suburban riders into town, you are sadly mistaken.”

        Anyone familiar with Walker’s works know that is absurd. Geez, I linked to Wiki on Walker Ross. Did you read it? Walker has not only never said transit was based entirely on getting “suburban riders into town”, but his work also virtually never deals with suburbia, and he has been one of the last to accept WFH, which has been a phenomenon for around two years now. Anyone familiar with Walker’s work knows his work could not have been based on getting suburban workers into cities.

        Walker has actually written more than one book btw, but I assume you are referring to, “Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives” from 2011, and yes I have read it, which is why I think it is so out of date post pandemic, and was becoming out of date by 2018 when Walker started dismissing predictions of the future for transit projects because the data was not supporting his 2011 vision. I know Walker is one of your heroes, but his work has not aged well, in large part because he is so bad at predicting the future, like Uber.

        “It is quite likely that Walker would be the first to tell you that this is one of those times when there is “tremendous value [in] good predictions”. Knowing how many riders can be expected to ride, and how much time they actually save is very important. It has to be factored into other things as well. For example, we would have to work with Metro to determine if there could be savings as a result of an Eastside-only Link. What would a temporary restructure look like, anyway. How would that compare to simply spending more money on the buses. There are other issues as well. How does this impact other projects, for example.”

        I think you are putting words into Walker’s mouth Ross (actually Dan Ryan’s words), especially if you watched the podcast or read his 2018 work on estimates. Walker is saying the opposite, and has been since at least 2018.

        “I think this is one of those cases where Dan’s approach makes the most sense. This is not a major turning point when it comes to transit. We aren’t discussing where to run East Link or even where to run the buses (which could change in a few years). This is a relatively tiny change, and knowing how many people could actually be expected to take advantage of it is very important.”

        Did you read Dan’s post Ross? What Dan said is it is foolish to open a starter line for East Link without ridership estimates, and that he disagreed with Walker’s new approach to dismissing expert predictions. What I have said all along about an East Link starter line is actual ridership has nothing to do with whether it opens or not, and actual ridership never had anything to do with whether East Link (or TDLE, WSBLE, Issaquah Link, or Everett Link) are built. Like Dan I wish it did, but it does not.

        Here is Dan’s post:

        “Walker’s take seems a license for accountability-free decision making, tbh. Everybody gets that stuff happens & things change. Nobody likes those ninnies who won’t shut up that Sound Transit missed some 20-year projection by 10%. But the notional ‘freedom’ to use transit, divorced from actual ridership, is a recipe for waste.

        “How does one make a decision about expending real resources without having at least a starting point based in fact? There are opportunity costs to making this investment in place of some other. Board and staff need to take ownership for having enough ridership to justify opening a starter line early, and they should have a reasoned view of what ‘enough’ means.”

      8. Here is the thing though: In all likelihood, a ridership prediction isn’t going to change the narrative. The B Line is the closest thing to an Eastside-only version of Link. It has about 6,000 riders (before the pandemic). It has a lot more stops, serves different places, and is fairly slow. Any prediction is bound to have a fair amount of uncertainty. But at 6,000, it is well within the range where being better or worse makes a huge difference. Assume they predict 6,000 riders. Now assume they were pessimistic, and it turns out 12,000 riders use it, because the stations are good, and the train is so much faster than the B. Or imagine the opposite, and it only gets 2,000 riders. If you are optimistic, it may be easy to make the case for running the trains. If you are not, then it is a waste.

        In contrast, if they predicted, say, 500 riders, then this would be very different. It could have five times the expected ridership, and still not be worth it.

      9. One of the highest ridership B line segments, between the BTC and Crossroads, would see almost no riders opting for the East Link starter.

      10. IMHO, the B and East Link are complementary; the slow, somewhat meandering route the B takes to get to Redmond Tech Center (and even Overlake P&R) makes it prohibitively expensive to get to those areas, let alone farther out from there. OTOH, the B goes to places East Link won’t, like Crossroads, and East Link will go to the Spring District, which the B doesn’t serve. So I don’t think that there will be much cannibalization of the ridership on the B, but I also don’t think that there will be a huge ridership opportunity because of the path taken by East Link.

        Since some companies are moving away from keeping offices in downtown Bellevue or Spring District and retreating or further building out their Redmond campuses, it will be interesting to see if there will be some commute ridership from people who chose to live in or near Downtown Bellevue to be close to their work. That seems like the single biggest source of “new” riders on the East Side only.

      11. I think you are putting words into Walker’s mouth Ross

        I literally quoted from the paper! I wrote:

        None of this is to question the tremendous value of good predictions

        That is on the second page of the PDF for which you are basing all of this:

        As for what you wrote, let me just quote your first paragraph:

        Walker seems to believe you begin with a vision of a city you want, no matter whether a majority of residents will conform to it or want it. Walker was not always anti-predictions by experts (that began around 2018) when he thought they supported his urban vision.

        That is complete bullshit. Walker is not “anti-predictions by experts”, because the very paper that you base that assertion clearly states the opposite! He goes to great pains to make sure no one gets the wrong idea, and yet sure enough, you did.

        Good God, what a world. You write a paper and go out of your way to make sure people don’t get the wrong idea, and yet sure enough, they assume you are an extremist. There is no attempt to actually understand the nuance with someone’s argument, because that takes too long. Screw nuance. Just assume the other person — someone who is head of a major transit consulting firm — doesn’t give a rat’s ass about predictions.

        It is ludicrous. The guy heads up a major transit firm. A few years back they restructured the buses in Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States. They agreed to focus on 75% ridership, 25% coverage. Do you really think they didn’t use any modeling to try an increase ridership? It is absurd. Of course they did.

        The idea that he just ignores ridership predictions is ridiculous, and a gross oversimplification — no, a complete misrepresentation — of what he wrote.

        I think it is funny that Walker actually mentioned Nate Silver in his intro on the paper, because the same thing happened to Silver. Silver came up with a model for predicting the election, and managed to get every state right. People thought he was a genius. He clearly pointed out that he wasn’t. Things just broke that way during the election. It would be like the favorite winning every game. A few years later, it was the opposite. His prediction was not right. Now everyone questioned the value of polling. He again calmly explained statistics and probability, and how this was definitely within the range of expected possibility. Yet all of that was lost. Worse yet, they misinterpreted what he said. People thought Silver was suggesting the polls have no value. Complete lack of nuance and understanding.

        People want simple answers to complex questions. They misinterpret what people write so that the answer is simpler, or fits some bizarre narrative (e. g. “Walker has always argued against freedom of choice”).

      12. Ross, this is what you wrote:

        “I won’t spend much time dismissing most of what Daniel wrote, since it is like shooting fish in a barrel (and then more fish pop up). I will say that if you think Walker ever assumed that transit was based entirely on getting suburban riders into town, you are sadly mistaken. Have you even read his book?”

        I asked you to point out where I wrote, ” I will say that if you think Walker ever assumed that transit was based entirely on getting suburban riders into town”. You just made up what I wrote. Nobody on this blog wrote that, and anyone familiar with Walker’s work would never write that. Walker’s work is really not about suburban riders. Of course such a statement is “sadly mistaken”, which is why no one on this blog wrote it, least of all me.

        Then you began that post by writing:

        “Wow. A LOT of people misrepresenting what Walker has written on the subject. Everything from “he doesn’t care about the numbers” to “he has no idea how anti-urban the suburbs can be”. Neither is anywhere near the truth.”

        [Emphasis added].

        I don’t know who you are referencing — folks on this blog or other experts in the field — when you write, ” A lot of people misrepresenting what Walker has written on the subject. Everything from “he doesn’t care about the numbers” to “he has no idea how anti-urban the suburbs can be”.

        Just who are you referring to when you write “a lot of people”? Who are all these people who are writing these things about Walker? Who exactly, because I didn’t see anyone on this blog write, “he has no idea how anti-urban the suburbs can be”. Who wrote that? Who thinks the suburbs are “anti-urban”, and what does that mean? Do you mean anti a specific city, or anti urbanism in suburbia? Who are you referring to? What does Walker’s work have to do with how the suburbs feel about urban cities?

        I do think you are projecting your thoughts onto Walker. You tend to be a data driven person, and clearly admire Walker, and so you want to believe Walker really believes what you believe, that numbers and predictions do matter when it comes to spending large amounts of public money on transit projects. In fact, you may be the most data driven. But Walker isn’t anymore. Sure you can find Walker prefacing his comments by saying the future matters, because otherwise he would look foolish, but he is discounting any predictions of the future that don’t comport with his original 2011 thesis because “the future” which is today turned out much differently than he thought.

        You are correct: “A lot of people” do question Walker’s recent discounting of estimates and predictions of the future when it comes to large transit projects. I make the same complaint about ST. I think is it is common for public agencies or experts to discount future estimates that are contrary to their vision, a vision they made their reputation on. You especially see this in the hard sciences, and in the financial industry. They just hate to admit they may have been wrong, or things turned out differently.

        Like Dan, based on the podcast, and Walker’s work since 2018, I think he has discounted predictions of the future because he thinks his ideas about his vision for a city will create the “predictions”, or ridership no matter what. His theories supersede estimates, which is a sign someone has become to believe their own hype despite a pandemic.

        In fact, you acknowledge “lots of people” feel this way, that Walker “doesn’t care about the numbers”, although I would not put it that way exactly, although it is close enough. It is more like he wants the numbers to be different than what they are. Different folks see it differently. “Lots of people” feel like Dan and I do, and you feel like you do.

      13. If the 2 Short Line runs for just a year, and is a ridership dud, so be it. I’d love to see what ends up happening, just to inform transit planners elsewhere who are making decisions about more permanent lines instead of a mere 1- to n-year pilot project.

        That said, opening up the permanent lines when they are ready takes priority, and now we know ST needs 6-month buffers between train line openings.

        It’s the eastside’s money, so whatever they want to do.

      14. So, Daniel can say “I think you’re projecting your thoughts onto Walker” but I can’t highlight his constant assumption that he knows exactly what “Harrell” or “Dow” or “Balducci” or “The Board” “thinks”?

        Noted. May we have a list of the banned forms of “snark”?

        To the topic of the thread: there is no plausible reason to build any of ST3 except the underway projects to Redmond City Center, the bus improvements, the infills, Federal Way (only because they have spent a lot of money on it), and the arc through South Lake Union. Then, if you go as far as Smith Cove it isn’t that much more to go to Ballard. So maayyyybe Ballard, though mostly at-grade through Fremont would be better overall.

        Except, ooopsie, the Coast Guard wants to refit Oligarch Yachts in Lake Union so ST has to dig a tunnel under the Ship Canal. So, Westlake to Smith Cove with a teensy MF or Bust!

        Forget about the rest of it. ALL of the rest of it. Settle up any outstanding inter-sub-area debts at the end and terminate the capital taxes in 2035.

        THAT’s what “ridership estimates” say, deafeningly and clearly. The “stretch” estimates from 2016 are ridiculously over-inflated.

      15. there is no plausible reason to build any of ST3 except the underway projects to Redmond City Center, the bus improvements, the infills, Federal Way (only because they have spent a lot of money on it), and the arc through South Lake Union. Then, if you go as far as Smith Cove it isn’t that much more to go to Ballard. So maayyyybe Ballard, though mostly at-grade through Fremont would be better overall.

        I wouldn’t go that far. I would add the infill stations, along with the bus projects. I would finish the work to Downtown Redmond and Federal Way. That is about it.

        I don’t see much value in a Ballard Link “starter line” that doesn’t actually go to Ballard. Not with a brand new tunnel. There is too much lost, and too little gained. Trips like UW to Rainier Valley or Northgate to SeaTac become a two-seat ride. Riders from Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and places to the south have much worse stations downtown. Even before we consider cost, this is a huge loss in transit functionality.

        For what? If you are coming from the south, Denny Station does not make up for the loss of the other downtown stations. Transferring to it seems unlikely. The transfer will not be easy, South/Ballard Link will not be that frequent, and the Denny station is not that far from Westlake. Just go to the surface and either walk, or take the streetcar/bus. The so called “South Lake Union” station is poorly placed. There is very little around there. It is designed as an intercept for buses coming from Aurora. The thing is, those buses are going downtown anyway. If you are going from Greenwood to downtown, you stay on the bus, especially since there are only two downtown stops on the train (and more on the bus). You could transfer to get to the Denny Station or Seattle Center area, but it is probably quicker to just hop on an 8, rather than deal with the two very deep stations. At best you simply change the transfer point if you are going from say, Greenwood to Rainier Valley. This would save you a little time, but not a lot. The best station, by far, is Seattle Center. It would be nice for folks on the south end of Link to get a one seat ride there, but this doesn’t make up for the loss of a one-seat ride to Capitol Hill and the UW. Seattle Center is far enough that a transfer is definitely worth it. Except guess what? We already have a monorail that does that. If you are going from the UW to Uptown, a Link/monorail trip is about as good as a Link/Link trip. So that leaves Smith Cove, a station in the middle of nowhere. At best this enables the D to operate like the 15, skipping Uptown, and taking a more direct route to downtown. That is nice, but you could do the same thing by simply extending the 8.

        For the amount of money saved, you could dramatically improve headways, while also making the buses much faster. By the time they break ground on Ballard Link (or Smith Cove Link), the Ballard Bridge will need replacing, which means bus lanes across it (or even just to the front of it, like the Montlake Bridge) would be quite reasonable. Add a stop under the Dravus overpass of 15th (along with some paint) and you are pretty much ready to go.

        But that isn’t the only place where I would do work. Unlike UW-Downtown, this particular corridor isn’t that special. There are around a dozen corridors that could use a lot of work — corridors that are not quite busy enough for a subway, but could definitely justify major improvements. For example, the path of the 7. There is no way in hell that ST would consider running a train there — I can hear the cries already: “Rainier Valley already has a train”. Even if the area continues to grow, and the 7 becomes by far the highest ridership per mile bus in the area, there will be no interest. ST treats mass transit like it is a community center. Fife gets a station; Ash Way gets a station; Ballard gets a station (as long as it is anywhere in Ballard, it is all the same).

        But I digress. The point is, Ballard Link was by far the best major project in ST3, but even it wasn’t that great. It was fragile. It followed an expressway much of the way (unlike UW Link). This means that with a little bit of work, alternatives could very well be just as fast (at least for many of the destinations). The expressway has very little in the way of crossing buses, outside of Magnolia. Smith Cove, for example, has water on one side, and a green belt on the other. In an attempt to serve more of greater downtown, it curves north, then west. This is laudable, but tricky. You have to get the details right. It doesn’t. The Denny Station is too far west. Again, it is laudable that ST (finally) acknowledges the value of bus intercepts, but unfortunately ignores the fact that the buses and trains are going essentially the same direction, and in the case of the biggest destination, the same place. There are just a lot of little things that have to be done just right — including station placement in Ballard — and it is very unlikely that will happen. The new tunnel through downtown will be worse for existing riders, which means it is highly possible that more people lose than gain with this proposal.

    3. One plus is that it would work like a “soft opening” for the stations and tracks on the segment. If there is a problem, ST can fix it before it gets more heavily used and critical for lots more riders.

      Downtown Bellevue parking isn’t cheap so I think it will get some use. There are some non-work destinations that may also attract riders who live near another station.

      I don’t think a “soft opening” needs to run for a year. That part seems like a waste of money — but not as wasteful as North Sounder or Tacoma Link.. I suspect that ST will keep its service to a minimum to save money— like shorter trains, less frequency and limited hours of service.

      1. Shorter trains yes, less frequency and limited hours of service no. If the start line is the be successful, it needs to serve short local trips throughout the day. It’s the same logic as the WSBLE – the shorter the line & the shorter the trip, the more important is frequency. (unlike WSBLE, East Link stations as all at and nearly at grade, so the station access is good).

      2. The final schedules are a function of operating budget, driver assignments and usage. For example, Tacoma Link fully stops by 10:30 pm weekends and runs every 12 minutes. In contrast the 1 Line link runs 8-10 minutes for most hours of the day and trains run well past 1 am on weekdays.

        I think a good case could be made that whatever hours and frequency Tacoma Link gets, the 2 Line starter should also get. However, I’m not sure how ST Expresses would overlap and how that would affect the 2 Line interim schedule — so that tradeoff (say 550 versus 2 Line Eastside only) should enter into the scheduling decisions.

    4. The planning scenario released this year has 10-minute frequency for the starter line, like regular Link. The trains would probably be short. This idea that ST will run 15- or 30-minute service due to few passengers has no evidence. It didn’t do that in 2010 when off-peak runs were 2-car. Were there 1-car trains? The only time it reduced frequency was during the height of covid, and it was widely criticized for that.

      1. It’s also interesting to read the comments and see how it was almost an entirely different group of commenters in 2010 than today.

    5. If train from nowhere to nowhere this pushes any of the real train openings out even further, I’m going to be seriously annoyed.

    6. I have a promotional idea if they decide to do the starter line. Every rider on opening day gets a free piece of plinth as a souvenir.

    7. The net impact of the Eastside starter line depends on its level of service and the bus restructures. Perhaps the agencies will be nimble; they could have two restructures. How about one-car trains on a five-minute headway. Intra East trips will be enhanced. Route 550 could retain its current structure but have shorter headway; yes, ST could spend more on current service. Route 566 could be included and truncated at Bellevue. With downtown Seattle office work way down, the one-way peak-only network could be vastly scaled back if not deleted (e.g., routes 212, 214, 216, 218, 219, 256, 630). Route 545 could be deleted and its hours folded into Route 542. The ELC Route 554 could be re-thought in the interim.

      1. Eastside trips will be enhanced for who though? It’s basically just a parking lot shuttle for downtown Bellevue, plus maybe lunchtime Microsoft workers to restaurants in Bellevue (though not many restaurants are walking distance to the Link station).

        I just don’t see what transportation need this helps solve, until there are more residential units near it. The land use near these particular stations doesn’t suggest that’s much of a possibility until it runs to Seattle or is extended to Redmond.

      2. That’s an interesting concept Eddie and raises an issue I have thought about: does East Link really need to travel across the bridge?

        Let N KC and SnoCo figure out how to increase frequency on Line 1 to Lynnwood and service the trains, and have East Link be intra-Eastside only from MI to Redmond.

        The Eastside pays 100% of the cross lake buses. Based on current east to west ridership the number of buses going west and their frequency could be greatly reduced as you suggest. Seattle/N KC could subsidize more bus service to the Eastside if they want. That way the starter line would really be the final line until MI and the Eastside bus restructure you suggest could be implemented as soon as the starter line opens.

      3. The East Link restructures were based in part on saving money from Link. From what I can tell, an Eastside-Only Link (EOL) provides only a minimal amount of savings. The 566 gets truncated, and that is about it. The bus runs about a dozen times each direction, and only spends about ten minutes going between downtown Bellevue and Redmond. So that doesn’t add up to much. You could cancel or consolidate some of the Issaquah to Seattle express buses, but that could happen with or without the EOL.

        Part of the issue is that the 550 is the only bus along Bellevue Way. Quite a few riders use the stops along there (either direction, although mostly headed to Seattle). You could end the 556 at South Bellevue, which would save you something. But the 556 only runs ten times a day, each direction, so that wouldn’t get you much. There just aren’t that many buses doing what the EOL will do, in whole or in part.

    8. Getting to Downtown Bellevue by bus (which I do almost every day) is incredibly annoying. All the routes somehow manage to hit every red light, every time. I don’t think the City of Bellevue is actually trying to do this (rather they don’t care in the slightest), but whatever system they use for timing the lights is incredibly disadvantageous for buses.

      On the days that I don’t go to Downtown Bellevue, I go instead to Downtown Seattle. The trip to Seattle is more than twice the distance, but it takes almost exactly the same time.

      I am looking forward to Short East Link. It would probably save me 40-60 minutes a day. I think there are a few at-grade crossings, but it should still be much faster. Although I’m quite sick of the suburbs at this point, and there is a strong possibility that I’ll just move to Seattle before it opens anyway.

  11. Glenn, yes, one transit purpose would be to serve downtown Bellevue and it does have some paid parking and some scarcity of parking. Before Covid, a few auto-access riders parked at South Kirkland and South Bellevue and used transit to reach downtown Bellevue. But it could be a reliable frequent Eastside spine. All the stations should have good local bus service (that needs improvement). Trips between Overlake and Bellevue will be much faster and more reliable; waiting will be less. The Redmond extension seems to be coming along nicely. It would riders get to/from Seattle via routes 271 (270), 542 and 550.

    1. a few auto-access riders parked at South Kirkland and South Bellevue and used transit to reach downtown Bellevue

      I don’t know about South Kirkland, but in the case of South Bellevue, very few. The were 7 riders (on average) going from South Bellevue headed to downtown Bellevue prior to the pandemic. I think the same thing would be true of a few of the stations, in that they would have very few riders. On the other hand, the B Line did fairly well before the pandemic (carrying over 6,000 riders) so the Bellevue/Overlake/Redmond connection is worthy. It is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison though, since the B goes to a lot more places.

  12. Once again sound yransit shows that it is simply not fit for purpose As a transit provider. When will actual action be taken??


    “As part of a larger plan to “activate” Seattle’s depleted downtown, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced Monday he will sign an executive order to increase policing and treatment around drug use.

    “The first stages of Harrell’s downtown activation plan will also focus on restoring business and foot traffic to the central business district.

    “Essential to any long-term neighborhood revitalization is safety and health: The fentanyl crisis on our streets is causing death and disorder — we have an obligation to do more for those suffering from substance use issues and for all neighbors,” Harrell said in a statement Monday.

    “In an executive order, Harrell will direct the Seattle Police Department to collaborate with local and federal law enforcement partners to crack down on the distribution of drugs like fentanyl, which has boomed in areas of the city’s core since the start of the pandemic.

    “The order also calls for a pilot expansion of the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One program to include an overdose response unit and the piloting of a research-based drug abatement program known as “contingency management,” using gift cards to incentivize people who experience substance abuse to join a 12-week treatment program.”

    I think this is all good stuff if years late, although Harrell has a police dept. down over 300 officers. It is also the endless articles in The Seattle Times that frightens the bejesus out of eastsiders going to Seattle. Whatever what we think about Walker the reality is Walker’s (or Shoup’s) vision begins with a safe, walkable, vibrant, populous city, and WFH won’t make that easier.

    Andrew Lewis is quoted in the article:

    “District 7 Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, whose district includes the central business district, said Monday that the plan was a good step toward the future of downtown.

    “I think it is a good start to get things rolling in trying to revitalize downtown,” Lewis said in an interview, noting the importance of improving treatment options for substance abuse disorder and calling for police to focus on the arrests of drug dealers downtown.

    “I don’t know why we have so many drug dealers who can operate with impunity without any pushback,” Lewis added. “But I’m glad we have a mayor who’s focused on rebuilding our downtown.”

    Ouch to his outgoing councilmembers. And Diaz.


    This sounds interesting. Tickets will be $300 to $1000 for first class accommodations for a train departing at 10:30 pm and arriving at 8:30 am.

    “Early estimates for the cost of train tickets would range between $300 and $1,000 for accommodations ranging from one-person “roomettes” to larger premium rooms. Right now, the goal is to launch the night train in summer 2024, but that will largely depend on funding.”

    Has to be cheaper than HSR. But more expensive than flying.

    1. They’ve talked about this ever since the last overnight train stopped — I think sometime around 1980.

      Given the cost of hotels and air tickets and ground transportation or parking, it’s not an unreasonable price.

      I wonder if it will become a “party train”. That could be pretty fun!

    2. A night train is a great idea. Go to sleep on the train, wake up ready to start the day at the destination. I think there are already night buses running this route with lie-flat beds, but a train is less space-constrained than a bus, and can offer better accomodations.

      In our neck of the woods, a night train (e.g. the Empire Builder) is already available for those wanting to visit Montana; it’s a great way to get there and, yes, you can arrange to have a rental car waiting for you at the train station when you get off.

  15. Minor update about tacoma dome link extension ride times. They emailed me back.

    Apparently while the above website says “South Federal Way to Tacoma Dome Station in 20 minutes” It should actually say “Federal Way downtown to Tacoma Dome Station” in 20 minutes.

    Unfortunately, they are still checking if they have information for travel times between ST3 station pairs so will have to estimate for the rest of the stations.

    1. Interestingly, the FW Link Extension page says 15 minutes from Federal away to SeaTac and TDLE says 35 minutes to Seatac from Tacoma Dome. So that means that the 20 minute pair is what you say.

      I really wish ST published a travel time diagram for the system.

      1. Then when the real travel times are determined during testing, and published, some full-time transit critics would call the estimates “broken promises”.

      2. Suppressing information rather than risk making a mistake is a reasonable approach — if you care more about your reputation than you do informing the public.

        In other words, that is a lame excuse.

        Being off 1-3 minutes is nothing like skipping the main transfer point on the system. Now that’s a big broken promise!

  16. Was just in Denver.

    Man, Seattle’s problems are definitely not unique to itself.

    H line felt like the worst the E line.

  17. This is a sad situation due to, IMO, being a short-sighted decision to put Link across I-90 to replace a perfectly fine ST-550 express bus route, probably to pacify one or more construction/union lobbies, when the sensible choice would have been to put Link where the congestion has been for decades: the “S” curves through Renton. It will never happen in my lifetime, but Link from Bellevue to Renton to Tukwila International Station made so much more sense, but alas, Renton’s 100,000+ population lacked the representation on ST’s Board, while Issaquah’s 39,000+ did, and they’re getting light rail while Renton has to suffice with a souped-up ST express route.

    1. This is fulfilling a vision started in the 1950s. It failed in 1970’s Forward Thrust to get a supermajority, but when I-90 was finished in the 1980s and the Hadley bridge built, it was intended to carry future rail in the center lanes. The federal contribution was based partly on that. This is just fulfilling that vision. The 550 is not “perfectly fine”; it travels on surface streets with stoplights to get to its stops, and it could never continue east of Bellevue TC as quickly as Link can while still serving non-freeway stations, nor give a one-seat ride to Capitol Hill or the U-District as fast as Link can, nor have Link’s capacity.

      Construction/union lobbies are only a small factor. They don’t control ST, and even less do they control the city and county governments that are the biggest factor in ST’s project decisions. Microsoft is a much larger employer than construction companies, and downtown Bellevue brings in a lot of tax money unrelated to construction companies.

      You’re right that Issaquah used its board position to put its thumb on the scale disproportionately to its population, but that’s about Issaquah Link; it has nothing to do with East Link. What Renton most wanted was a West Seattle-Burien-Renton extension, not a Renton-Bellevue line. ST thinks the Renton-Bellevue corridor may have Link’s ridership in a few decades but not yet. The Stride line is intentionally a precursor to prebuild and demonstrate ridership, that would make the case for future Link easier.

      But you are right that Renton should have gotten proportionally more given its size as the second-largest Eastside city, and a lower-income area that needs infrastructure.

    2. Congestion on the freeway is not a good indicator that a rail line would be successful there. There are several reasons for this. First, people will drive out of there to go to the freeway, because despite the congestion, it is faster than driving on surface streets. Congestion can spread to areas where there are relatively few cars. The actual trip pattern may be quite different than where the congestion is. Congestion also tends to be peak oriented — good mass transit runs all day. Adding HOV or HOT lanes in response to congestion is sensible, but it may not be a good idea to build a new rail line anywhere near there.

      All that being said, there is an argument for just having buses crossing the lake. If East Link just connected downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle, I think you could make a very good case for that. You could make it faster by simply skipping South Bellevue, and connecting right to downtown Bellevue (via 405). There are HOV lanes most, if not all of the way.

      But East Link does more than that. It connects to several neighborhoods east of downtown Bellevue. It is the combination of trips (including those across the lake) that tips things in favor of rail, in my opinion. It is possible you could create a busway from downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond (following the Link path). That would save you the cost of running rail from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue, but otherwise be roughly the same cost.

      You would likely increase operation costs. One of the assumptions with East Link is that the trains are reasonably full. Folks from the I-90 corridor (Issaquah, Eastgate) will be asked to transfer. You could do the same thing with buses (like how the 128 feeds the C) but you might have too many riders for one bus. It would probably make more sense to just have a trunk and branch system, with express buses from downtown Bellevue/Redmond, I-90 as well as Bellevue Way converging to and through Mercer Island. That could definitely work, but it would cost more to operate, and still not be that cheap to build.

      You also have the problem downtown, which is that we kicked the buses out of the bus tunnel. Third Avenue can handle the buses, but not as well as a tunnel. I think there are trade-offs with East Link that make it difficult to assess in comparison with a bus-based alternative. In contrast, Everett Link, Tacoma Dome Link and West Seattle Link could easily be replaced by buses, and it is highly likely we would be better off. The opposite is true with Link to the U-District. A bus tunnel approach, or any enhancement to the old system would not have worked as well as the train.

    3. “The opposite is true with Link to the U-District. A bus tunnel approach, or any enhancement to the old system would not have worked as well as the train.”

      Ha ha, we tried a bus tunnel approach for 16 years before Link. The buses melted down with overcrowding and got caught in congestion on I-5 and Eastlake, and there was no room to add more surface lanes. The only solution would have been to extend the bus tunnel to the U-District. That would have cost as much as the Link tunnel, and the buses would still be lower capacity. At a time when we’re debating whether 3-minute Link trains will be enough capacity between Westlake and U-District.

    4. Seattle and Bellevue are the most successful cities with dense employment centers in the region, and it’s not close. Renton is a sprawly suburb incapable of generating much transit ridership even if it were criss-crossed with rail lines.

      The rail bias that a city is not properly served with transit unless your 65mph bus is replaced with a 55 mph train is weirdly obsessive.

      1. Once the eastside was formed into a subarea it had to spend its ST tax revenue. Downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle makes the most sense, and based on ST’s future ridership estimates, and future population growth estimates pre-pandemic, light rail across the center roadway between the two cities made very good sense, especially in 2008 when Bellevue saw its connection to Seattle as a huge benefit to what was then a pretty suburban town center, although express bus service east–west was pretty good, at least in the center roadway. Traffic in the rest of the eastside was pretty bad, especially 405 and Bellevue Way. And the route was relatively cheap, mostly in public ROW’s with no tunnels.

        Unfortunately, Microsoft which is a big gorilla on the eastside (but tends to change its mind every time it gets a new president) demanded East Link go to it, which meant stops in Wilburton, The Spring Dist. and Overlake which do not support light rail, and then Redmond felt it was only practical to continue it to Redmond even though ST’s ridership estimates, which are generally inflated, only had 1300 daily boardings in “downtown” Redmond. Plus a stop at a park with loads of parking and everyone has a dog.

        Then things changed. There was a pandemic. Buses were kicked out of the transit tunnel, and commuting from the eastside to downtown Seattle began to decline pre-pandemic due to safety and that affected the mindset of eastside workers, and then stopped during the pandemic when WFH became available. At the same time downtown Seattle began to decline under its current council, and the onslaught of negative press about downtown has been relentless on the eastside by reputable sources like The Seattle Times (and Harrell). Or as Freeman calls it, the biggest gift to Bellevue in history.

        Then the route got screwed up. It doesn’t go to downtown Bellevue. It goes to East Main and 110th. Commuting to Microsoft’s campus is way down, and from what I hear the percentage of Microsoft workers living in Seattle along Link is much lower today as they all got old, and they prefer to WFH too.

        The bridge issue is unknown, but what isn’t unknown is Bellevue now sees itself as Seattle’s equal, and just like it learned when Daniel’s opened in Bellevue after the new I-90 bridge eliminated the exit and entrance directly to the Daniel’s in Leschi there is a ton of money on the eastside that needs to stay on the eastside, which is reflected in the eastside transit restructure for when East Link opens that favors downtown Bellevue (554) and disfavors trips to Seattle (MI intercept).

        Then ST 3 passed in 2016, and ST revenue on the eastside ballooned because the economy had boomed because all the eastside money was staying on the eastside, and had to be spent somewhere. ST needed to sell ST 3 to the eastside which is the swing district, and knew Renton was not in the club with Issaquah, Kirkland, and sort of Redmond, so the natural Link line would — on paper — have Issaquah and Kirkland in the name, although neither city really wanted Link and no one will ever use it, and Issaquah is a long ways out. But those two areas were not going to vote for ST 3 if Renton was in the name of the next Link line, and Bellevue was not all that thrilled with a Link line directly from Renton to downtown Bellevue.

        But the story does not end there. Interest rates were low and Chinese money was desperate to get out of China and so any developer could get financing, and Bellevue was very friendly to developers in the downtown core (but not SFH zones), and increased height limits to 660′, unheard of for a city like Bellevue. Inflation got way out of control, the Fed raised interest rates, banks with development loans were suddenly undercapitalized, and so all those pretty dreams and zoning showing places like The Spring Dist. going from car lots to downtown San Francisco went out the window, and now Bellevue like Seattle finds itself with more office space than it needs, and new projects “on hold”.

        Now we are talking about East Link opening in 2025 or 2026, and maybe a “starter line” when folks are not even commuting to downtown Bellevue. The irony is the express buses TODAY are as good as East Link will be on the eastside based on ridership, and at around $64 million/year much cheaper, and S. Bellevue has a free 1500 stall park and ride but is empty. But that wasn’t the prediction in 2004 and then 2008.

        The real difference is the future turned out differently than ST, Seattle, Bellevue, and Microsoft thought. One of my favorite lines on this blog is Ross’s, “build it where the people are”, because they rarely move. Don’t build it hoping they will come. Don’t try to figure out why they like to work and live where they do because no one is that smart. Don’t try to force them to change. The real problem today, though, is they are at home during peak hours, and in the cars during non-peak hours because there is no congestion and parking is free and the eastside is safe and meets their suburban needs.

        Will that change? Will Harrell revitalize downtown Seattle and will folks actually believe it is safe enough to go there, or worth going there compared to their local area? Will eastsiders suddenly want to live in urban housing, or will the region grow by 1 million residents by 2042, and will East Link have 43,000 to 52,000 riders/day, especially on the eastside, or even will East Link be able to go across the bridge with full capacity for the bridge’s expected life expectancy which will be less than 15 years by 2025-26?

        Who knows. Who cares? If the pandemic taught us anything it is you can’t predict the future, or control it. But folks on the eastside seem pretty happy today, the pandemic has ended and schools are open, folks are taking vacations, kids are beginning to recover from the shutdowns, crime is low on the eastside, and East Link is never a thought in their day. Whether they are happy or sad has nothing to do with East Link, and never will (which is probably good).

      2. Yeah bizarre take by transitrider. Stride is serving that exact Bellevue to Renton to TIBS corridor.

    5. The delay isn’t because of the bridge. It’s the plinths on a number of places between CID and South Bellevue. So I think the problem isn’t a bad design choice but is a problem with ST oversight itself. For whatever combination of reasons, ST staff appear to have a dysfunctional relationship with engineers and contractors hired to do the job. I notice how many times ST seems to bow down to whatever requests the contractors make (the planned full two week disruption for Columbia City tile replacement that could have been done over two weekends being the ultimate poster child of this). ST Board however prefers to hire “nice people” as management so that they can play political favoritism behind the scenes rather than hire a strong and seasoned management to be demanding on getting things done with a minimum of service delay or disruption that the Board couldn’t control as easily.

      I think I-90 is the right corridor. Going through Renton adds about 20 miles. However, it still should be noted that the lake crossing remains untested. It may still be problematic.

      I think that a “Plan B” (hopefully never needed) is using a transit vehicle that has less PSI on the bridge. To me, that would be a rubber tired train like those in Paris, Montreal and other cities. I’m aware that the ride is less smooth and the OMF-E would need to be redesigned so it wouldn’t be easy. If it does come to that, then that pretty much would require that DSTT2 be for Eastside trains. This is one reason why I wish ST would not go final on the DSTT2 decision until after 2 Line is operating on the Lake Washington Bridge for awhile.

      As far as the 405 corridor goes, it’s pretty horrible for many hours a day. It seems worthy of more than a Stride line that stops more than one time between South Renton TC and Bellevue TC as planned. A north Renton station and one near Factoria are particularly obvious omissions to me. The ridership for an Issaquah -South Kirkland line is strongest for Eastgate and Factoria — and had Stride stopped near Factoria the light rail line would be even less useful.

      1. Stride stops twice in Renton.

        Advantage of Stride is infill stations are straightforward. I think it’s likely there will be an infill station at or near Southport Drive to serve the north end of Renton’s urban core. Other good options are Andover Park W (in Tukwila to serve Southcenter) and S 3rd (in Renton). S Renton TC could also be abandoned as a Stride station and replaced by an infill freeway station (Lind Ave?) if ST Board decides to improve speed & reliability.

        I’m less optimistic on a Factoria Stride station, as the topography is not conducive. I think they will first try to figure out the I90 station (currented a Link station)

      2. I don’t really see how they can build a factoria station? I guess the easiest way would be to build it a Coal Creek Parkway with a direct access center hov ramp but it seems too far from Factoria.

        > I’m less optimistic on a Factoria Stride station, as the topography is not conducive. I think they will first try to figure out the I90 station (currented a Link station)

        I also don’t see how stride 1 on the 405 can get to either the South Bellevue Way station or to Eastgate park and ride without a huge detour. The only way I could think of would be from downtown bellevue to go down 108th avenue to South Bellevue way station then head south on 405 or have a detour to factoria. Which basically is just semi-reimplementing the proposed 240 after eastlink opens.

      3. Why would Stride 1 go to South Bellevue? There’s a Link transfer at Bellevue Downtown, which is also a large destination. South Bellevue isn’t only south of Bellevue Downtown, it’s significantly west of 405.

        Factoria seems difficult to serve by any through route. I have my doubts that the closest Issaquah Link station will be perceived as a reasonable walk from the mall.

      4. AJ, I think Stride certainly needs infill stations. Plus, the South Renton stop is not conducive to the 405 Express lanes as you know. ST designed the line to be cheaply done. You are right that Renton has two stations but NE 44th (two miles north of Renton Landing) is effectively serving Newcastle more than Renton even though the site is barely inside the Renton city limits.

        Unfortunately, improving the line with more stations is not easy or cheap anywhere. 405 would need to be widened by up to 40 feet for almost a mile to add an inline station or access ramp.

        Would the Eastside subarea kill off a station at South Kirkland (1100 boardings only in 2040) or rethink the Issaquah line (currently performing so badly that it won’t get FTA New Starts funds) and add projects to Stride? I do find it telling that the sales tax from IKEA, Walmart, Target and the car dealers in Renton goes to pay for the Issaquah light rail project.

      5. Bellevue is who is really driving the bus for “Issaquah” Link, to connect Link to Factoria and Eastgate, so it’s plausible Bellevue city leaders (including Balducci) could pivot to Stride, in particular if it could then be delivered early. I think Issaquah cares more about making I90 more permiable with a new station (they are seeking funding for a new I90 crossing at ~12th street, which a Link/Stride station could provide), plus as the Highlands builds out it will become a constituency within Issaquah that would benefit greatly from a Stride route if it follows a 219 routing (with an infill freeway station to serve the valley floor) rather than 554 routing.

        I’m not sure an inline station needs 40′; how much are they widening at Brickyard to accommodate the station? Southport Drive (exit 5) is in the WDOT 405 Master Plan for an HOT exit, so the currently 405 HOT lane project already accommodates the footprint of a rebuild station. If Burien/Tukwilla riders hate the S Renton diversion, there could be a SK/EK consensus to more the Renton station to something that doesn’t leave the freeway.

      6. “I’m not sure an inline station needs 40′;”

        That’s both directions added together. It looks like the Mountlake Terrace stop and the Lynnwood Access ramps require about 50 feet in total.

    6. Renton is getting Stride before 2030, while Issaquah is slated to get Link sometime in the late 2040s, if ever. Issaquah is the one missing out due to mayor Fred Butler’s insistence on rail service rather than applying the Stride framework to the I90 Bellevue/Issaquah corridor.

      When I was on Issaquah’s transportation commission, I told the city staff repeatedly they should figure out how to pivot to Stride.

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