Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm answered questions in a forum hosted by The Urbanist. Among the questions were the Link downtown reduction, the East Link Starter Line, Lynnwood Link, Federal Way Link, the CID station alternatives, all-day Sounder, and ST Express in the ST2/3 era.

Alon Levy is not impressed with the overuse of transit consultants, and uses the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) as an example. Alon is further unimpressed with transit agencies throughout North American and Europe doing the wrong projects, or doing the right projects the wrong way. (Pedestrian Observations)

Transit fares and finances in the post-covid world. (Vox)

WSDOT and four Eastside microcities disagree on who should mow the lawn ($) on the Highway 520 lids at Evergreen Point Road, 84th, and 92nd.

There’s still a lot going on; I’ll save some videos for the next open thread.

This is an open thread.

155 Replies to “Open Thread 6: Timm Q&A”

  1. David Zipper at Vox seems unaware that COVID is still endemic (meaning everywhere). A couple people I know got COVID in the past month, thankfully both of them vaccinated. They each went to an event without wearing a mask, and there COVID was.

    In general, just making fares free, except for those who totally can’t afford to pay, is horrible strategy. He got that point right. But there are ways to do free fares without losing revenue. The State Legislature did it the right way by providing replacement revenue, and then some, in exchange for fare freedom for those 18 and under.

    The author also lambastes electrification, unaware that agencies are doing it during fleet replacement cycles. So, yeah, not a transit expert.

    He is right that transit has to focus on good service, even at the expense of delaying giga-project openings. But his downplaying of safety undercuts his message of delivering good service.

    People don’t need to be avoiding crowded transit because of the virus. And yet, a chunk of the population is being forced to. Sound Transit could easily designate a masked-up car to welcome back those who have been afraid of catching COVID on the train. That’s not just those who are elderly, immunocompromised, immunosuppressed, etc, but others who have people at home who are. That measure wouldn’t stall the giga-projects at all. Nor would anti-maskers lose their right to ride maskless on other cars.

    It is time to stop forcing those having to avoid the virus into driving SOVs or finding other alternatives to transit, a point which the author ardently makes about all other causes of shifting from transit to SOVs, even while keeping his blinders on about COVID still being everywhere.

    Designating a car on the S Line, N Line, and 1 Line as a masked-up car is not that difficult to do, and will pay for itself in increased fare revenue.

    1. David Zipper is dead wrong about transit not being a social service. The less money you have, the more likely you are to ride mass transit. That’s just the way it is and it’s a big reason I support mass transit… and good public schools…. and a great parks and rec system. Because these things help everybody, but they help the poor the most. So yes!! Free fares all around!

      1. Supporting public transit means helping pay for it. Which revenue stream that you would personally pay into would you like to see increased? (sales tax, property tax, car tabs, etc)

      2. That’s easy. A mix of car taxes and a State income tax., along with Federal money.

        Yes, I know we don’t currently have a State income tax. But it’s impossible to have progressive policies with a regressive tax system.

      3. Transit is to an extent a social service, but it has very different economic characteristics from other social services. With a typical social service, each and every time it is used, it costs taxpayers money. So, in order to avoid quickly draining the budget, you have to ration the service to ensure it’s going to people truly in need. This rationing might take several forms, for example, income limits to be allowed to use it, limits on how much of a service one single person is allowed to use, with allowances depending on one’s life situation (or at least, aspects of one’s life situation that government is able to think about and codify). In extreme cases (e.g housing) , people might need to go on multi-year wait lists and/or enter lotteries to be allowed to use the service.

        Transit, on the other hand, is different. Every bus has lots of seats and the marginal cost to taxpayers each time somebody gets on is essentially zero (at worst, a few pennies worth of diesel fuel from having to idle the bus a few extra seconds). So, there’s no reason to bother with all this beurocracy to decide who is or is not allowed to use the service or for what purpose. Instead, you can just show up at the bus stop, wait for the bus, and hop on. You don’t need to waste time and effort proving to the government that you’re in need, or that the trip is for some purpose deemed worthy of taxpayer subsidy according to some bureaucrat. You don’t even have to live in the local area who’s taxes go to support the bus system, or even in the same country. People are always whining about illegal immigrants using public resources for health care or homeless services, for instance, but I’ve never heard of anybody (even Republicans) complaining about illegal immigrants taking up space on public transport and demanding that people produce proof of citizenship to ride it.

        When a service doesn’t cost the public money each time it is used, it can serve a purpose for people across the economic spectrum. For instance, people can use it for a return trip after walking the other direction, or it can be used by people who could afford a $40 Uber ride, but are simply too cheap to pay it. When enough people use it, it can also reduce traffic and parking congestion, benefitting everyone. Vancouver, for example, has lots of examples of relatively empty streets juxtaposed by packed trains and buses. When the need for car capacity is reduced, road space can also be switched to other purposes, be it bike lanes, wider sidewalks, even tree plantings. But, when you need the capacity for everyone to go everywhere in a separate car, any public street space being used for anything other than concrete to move more cars becomes harder to justify. Often, enough street capacity to handle rush hour means a severe overbuilding of roads at other times of day, which means a miserable and dangerous pedestrian environment and rampant speeding by drivers. Transit helps smooth out the demand for road space, avoiding the need to widen every street just for peak traffic loads that happen only a couple hours each day.

        However, there are some that want to transform transit by replacing buses with taxpayer-subsidized taxicabs for people in need. Sounds great at first glance in that one person in isolation can get where they’re going faster, so long as they are the only ones using the service. But, now each and every subsidized trips becomes a drain on taxpayer finances. Which means to avoid going bankrupt, an agency needs to impose rationing similar to what is used on most other social services. With ordinary people blocked from using it, their willingness to pay for it with their taxes is now dependent on some highly tenuous moral obligation to people they don’t even know of a lower social class. Once that happens, it’s a matter of time before taxpayer funding dries up and service rationing has to increase, until eventually, ADA paratransit becomes all that’s left.

        I want public transit to resemble public libraries, a service that anybody can walk in and use, without needing to justify themselves. I don’t want transit to become like food stamps, public housing, or Medicaid, where you have to prove that your use case is worthy of taxpayer funds, and have a bunch of restrictions even after being approved. And, a fixed route system makes transit like public libraries, subsidized Uber makes transit like Medicaid.

      4. The margin cost of a rider is not zero, it is a step function. 1 more rider on a bus is negligible cost, but 1 additional bus on a route to alleviate crowding certainly costs the taxpayer more money.

        All major transit systems ration access using fares. Only when transit is perceived primarily as a social service, not a fundamental part of transport infrastructure, is transit free.

      5. asdf2,

        The solution is easy. Disband Sound Transit, use the billions and billions saved by not building a second tunnel to support free (or a $1 fare) transit service . The Sound Transit tax base is robust…. why on earth squander that on crap projects?

        Service should be strongly bus centered and built for current riders. Local laws banning all TOD, or any public transit/private development involving transit. Make any transit rail project subject to a public vote.

        I’d like the new transit organization to be named NOW transit. Built to provide service for NOW! (and not 30 years in the future). Walk the walk, not talk the talk.

      6. Brent White,

        Pierce County voted no the last Sound Transit ballot. The Sound Transit tax district and its 30 years of endless fucking around on two votes….. not democracy. One project, one vote, results in 5 years (or less). Sound Transit B.S is the reason the many people don’t vote, because what difference does it make? Sound Transit does whatever it wants. Shoddy work? Over budget projects years behind schedule? Staff loaded with hard to work with assholes? This is all true…. cemented by a vote in 2016? With projects planned in way past 2040?

        Right now the City of Seattle and King County are planning a huge downtown subway hub where the current (empty) County government buildings are rotting away. So what you think it’s going to end up as? Underground shopping mall? Ritzy hotel(s)? Residential high-rise buildings? All partly paid for with public money. If the mayor and county executive have the time and money for this crap…. they can fully fund Metro for $1 a ride fares.

        Funny how the same crowd who don’t believe in free or low cost transit fares are the same crowd who believe in expensive rail projects and TOD projects that give millions of public money (and often free publicly owned land) to developers. Sorry, but real progressives, real Liberals are squarely on the side of people riding transit, not politicians and their developer buddies.

      7. At an abstract level, free fares make sense for several reasons. First, it is just more efficient. For example, boarding is much faster. This means the buses can run faster, which in turn means they can run more often. You don’t spend time dealing with cash, or even non-cash payments, like ORCA cards. All of this can represent a significant savings.

        Then there the social benefits. Yes, we have a low-income fare structure, but this has holes. It is much simpler to just make it free (like using sidewalks). There is a definite value in having good public transportation for those who are low income. Not only as a means for getting around, but also to avoid a vicious cycle. If you can’t commute to a potential job, you can’t be hired. If you are forced to buy a car to commute, you run the risk of losing the job when the car has mechanical problems.

        So from an abstract standpoint, it is just better to have free fares. But we don’t live an abstract world. We live in a political one. Ultimately fares are a political construct. If we have the political will to have free fares and a well funded system, then this is ideal. But often cities have one or the other. Instead of back filling the money from fares, they just cut service. This makes things much worse for everyone. Most low-income people can afford to ride the bus (as there are programs to help). But if the bus doesn’t run often, those same riders are screwed. They spend way too much time waiting for the bus, making life very difficult. Or the bus just doesn’t work, and they are forced to buy a car. Give the choice, it is often better for low income people to have discounted fares and a robust transit system, then free-fares and a poor transit system.

        Along with the political issue, there is the legal one. A liberal city like Seattle has shown that it will spend as much money as is allowed on transit. But the amount is limited by the state, and limited to sales taxes. Meanwhile, King County has rejected transit spending in the past. In general I would be less worried about Seattle than the county (just as I would be less worried about Tacoma itself than Pierce County).

      8. “Pierce County voted no the last Sound Transit ballot.”

        Pierce and Snohomish insisted in being included in ST, having a single regionwide vote, and subarea equity. That was so that Seattle Yes votes would overcome their No votes. So Pierce and Snohomish brought it on themselves. If their voters don’t like it, they should elect different county/city politicians to represent them.

      9. There are some other issues. One is distance-based fares. Generally speaking, longer trips cost more per rider. The alternatives to transit for long distance trips (driving, calling a cab, Greyhound) always cost more. Thus it is common to charge more for these types of trips. If all fares are free then it is likely you get rid of the longer trips. An alternative it to have two system — one free one that costs money. This gets complicated, but I could see it working. For example, Metro, Pierce and Community Transit could all be free. Link would not. Neither would ST Express.

        I could also see two types of ST buses — free and those that cost money. This would require special branding, but I could see it being quite popular for riders. This is an issue that come to the forefront relatively soon, even with the current fare structure. What to do with express buses from Seattle to Tacoma, once the train gets to Federal Way. If you truncate them at Federal Way, you inconvenience a lot of riders. If you continue to run them to Seattle, you are essentially subsidizing those riders, at the expense of others. If you were to keep those buses, but charge more (which might mean charging more than nothing) then it could work out better for everyone.

      10. If the mayor and county executive have the time and money for this crap…. they can fully fund Metro for $1 a ride fares.

        ST and King County Metro just reduced their RRFP and low-income fares to $1 last year. Both agencies’ services are free for very-low-income riders who qualify for the annual subsidized pass, as well as riders 18 and under.

        For everyone else, the $2.75 fare for riding Metro is not a deterrent to riding, when compared to the cost of alternative options.

      11. “For example, Metro, Pierce and Community Transit could all be free. Link would not. Neither would ST Express.”

        We should maximize Link use in its corridors, not minimize it. Link is not a luxury service; it’s the most efficient service for the highest-volume corridors and to connect regional pair. So we should encourage people to think of it as the first choice, not the last choice. That’s what subways are for and why other cities have them. Charging for Link but not buses sends a strong message to use buses to save money. Link trains are running anyway, so its operation/maintenance cost doesn’t go away if people avoid it.

        However, there are nuances with very short or very long trips. It doesn’t make sense to take Link between Westlake or University Street because it’s too short for the overhead of going underground and waiting longer for a train. Likewise, it may not make sense to take Link from Westlake to Federal Way when it’s more than 10-15 minutes slower than express buses. Local overlays like the A and 106 are clearly important, and some people will take one and others the other.ST Long-distance overlays like the 545, 550, 554, 577, and 594 are debatable if both they and Link charge a fare; the case for them is different for each route, and in the end it’s a judgment call and ST is the decision-maker. But I don’t see long-distance nonstop expresses as necessarily being free. Short-distance expresses like the 512 and 522 are another thing: it doesn’t make sense to charge $4 just to go from Roosevelt to Kenmore or Lynnwood to Ash Way.

      12. Distance-based fares are not coming back on buses (hopefully). But it would be nice for ST to charge for local routes the same Metro does, and charge more for true express routes, once Link reaches Lynnwood and Federal Way, especially when the Link distance-based fare might be larger. That said, I expect ST to study its Link fare system in time for the the opening of Lynnwood Link, and that a flat fare will likely be under serious consideration, for multiple reasons.

      13. Metro’s recent flat fare is based on the assumption that most of the long-distance expresses will only last a few more years until Link catches up. Metro has already truncated some of them like the 301. It has also proposed new expresses in areas Link doesn’t serve at all, like Mercer Island-North Bend and Renton-Enumclaw, where they would become the only route, and run all day if ridership is sufficient. Metro did suggest taking over the 577 if ST abandons it, but that may fall by the wayside in this fiscally-constrained environment.

      14. The only people paying transit fares today are those who can afford them, and even many of them are not paying. IIRC a monthly transit pass is $99. If fares are free or discounted even more (ST is subsidized 60% and Metro 80%) it mainly benefits companies that fund Orca cards or transit users who can afford transit fares. (Personally, I have never understood why wealthy seniors get discounted fares. Next year I will be eligible for a Metro fare much lower than many on this blog get, or some kid working at McDonalds).

        I know some hope making fares free will encourage more to ride transit, especially the elusive and picky discretionary rider, but post pandemic there are too many forces opposed to that dream. Safety is probably number one, and number two is the fact discretionary riders ride transit when they have to, and today most don’t have to and have other alternatives they think are better even though more expensive. That is why the ST express buses that tend to serve the wealthier areas where a transit fare is most irrelevant (and most likely to be paid for by an employer) are empty. It has almost nothing to do with the fare.

        So if you lower or eliminate fares for those who actually pay a fare better know for sure where that lost revenue will be made up, or prepare for cuts to service (which I believe are coming anyway).

        Finally, if ST or Metro ever want to lure the discretionary rider back to transit the rider experience — safety, cleanliness, normal people, destination — have to improve. One of the biggest hurdles post pandemic for transit agencies is the legitimate perception that the ratio of scary to scared riders has gone way up. Fares on East Link were the tool ST promised the eastside would keep Seattle in Seattle once East Link opened. If my 22-year-old son and his friends won’t ride Link from Capitol Hill back to UW at night ST is never going to get the eastside suburbanite on Link (and to be honest they won’t ride Metro no matter what, unless it is the 630 or maybe 554).

        So much of the transit in this country was predicated on the transit slave who had to commute to urban areas with limited or very expensive parking and paid full fare. Now transit just like urban areas have to compete for that rider based on rider experience against stiff competition when that discretionary rider really does not choose based on cost, but I don’t think they know how, don’t care, and are run by agencies that don’t have to care because they have no skin in the game except for their CBA. So naturally we see WFH, Uber, and SOV trips exploding.

        Transit should be great, especially with the amount we spend on it, but mostly it sucks for the discretionary rider, although I still wouldn’t eliminate their fare because that has nothing to do with why they are not riding transit today.

      15. There is one aspect of the free fare issue that never gets discussed: the funding agreements for New Starts money from FTA. ST is getting ready to negotiate again for West Sealle and Tacoma Done extensions, and have four agreements still in progress for East, Redmond, Lynnwood and Federal Way.

        The ridership numbers for the two new extensions are a worse value than the prior four. The funds are not guaranteed. sT has gotten loans recently, but the New Startd grants are a harder hurdle.

      16. @Mike Orr,

        Saving 10 to 15 minutes on a long commute isn’t the only consideration. All those routes you list are expensive routes with very large per rider subsidies. And money counts too.

        And your estimate of a 10 to 15 minute savings by taking the bus is debatable. All those routes have frequencies of 30 mins or worse, meaning the average wait for one of this buses is at least 15 mins. For Link it would be 4 mins on average. So some of what the rider saves in transit time is eaten up in wait time.

        And those buses are often unreliable due to traffic issues. So even the 6 to 11 min theoretical savings on the bus is highly questionable.

        So from a planning perspective, I could definitely see buses like these being totally restructured or eliminated if they compete directly with Link. Link will be almost as fast, be more reliable, and require lower subsidy.

      17. On the one hand, I love the 574 and 594. I wish it were every 15 minutes, but every half an hour is okay, because the trip is long, and I can plan around it.

        On the hand, I hate the 574 and 594. A 40 minute trip Friday to the airport during a reverse commute situation took me 80 minutes, because someone inevitably blew themselves up on I-5 as I was boarding.

        That made for a very stressful trip to catch my flight.

        If you made it HOV 3, with a brick wall between bus and SOVs, it might be feasible. But not really. People blow themselves up in the express lane too.

      18. The 574 and 594 should be combined like the 512. When you add an hour travel time and a half-hour wait, you end up with 1 1/2 hours each way, or a 3-hour round trip. That seriously cuts into people’s ability to get things done or make the trip at all, and drives them to their cars. Before the 512, the 510 and 511 were each half-hourly, going to different places, so you couldn’t interchange them.

      19. Minor correction. The 510 and 511 were not combined into the 512, they were replaced by it. The 510 and 511 (and 513) were all express commuter buses in the early-mid 2000s, at least; the 511 stopped at Ash Way, while the 510 and 513 both went to Everett but I vaguely remember maybe only one of them stopped at Eastmont P&R. That may have happened only later, when South Everett Freeway Station/P&R was opened, though. The 512 was the local route that stopped at all locations during non-commute hours. It was very annoying taking the 512 all the way from Everett into downtown Seattle because it took forever, but at the time I did not have a choice at times. I would have preferred the express route even during non-commute hours because it cut down about 20 minutes of travel time to avoid the Lynnwood detour, and I could time my start and end times around the half-hour trips.

        It’s worth mentioning also that longer local routes can get delayed more, because there is no way to avoid bad areas. This was seen both on the 512, and more recently on routes like the 249 that milk run their way into all the slow areas around Bellevue. So there are trade-offs to the “increased frequency” that have meaningful impact on the travel experience. As Ross and I have discussed at some point in the past, reliability is in some sense more important than frequency; frequency is just a tool to achieve reliability, but it is an expensive one. Stop diets is another, and in some cases stop diets that lead to express routes that diverge at the tail end is not unreasonable.

      20. The 574 and 594 should be combined like the 512.

        To be more specific, Federal Way Commons Station could be added as a stop on route 594, as an efficient replacement for routes 574 and 577. That would go over a lot better than merely eliminating route 577.

        There are side issues like what to do to mitigate terminating route 578 at Federal Way Commons (e.g. more frequency on the remaining tail), and what to do about the split termini in Lakewood between the 574 and 594.

        And then, what would the peak network look like?

        There is also the question of whether route 161 would get more frequency to serve southeast SeaTac.

      21. tacomee, you won’t find any pushback from most of us if you can get TDLE canceled completely and Pierce seceded. The other sub-areas would owe Pierce sub-area roughly one and a quarter billion dollars, and there would certainly be a court process. Whether the one and quarter billion could be used for POBS [Plain Old Bus Service] in Pierce County is debatable; the Sound Transit Enabling Legislation says EXPRESS buses can be run in a corridor to get Light Rail before it is built OR “between regional centers” which won’t ever have it. Could PT 1’s BRT incarnation get some of the money? Probably, because there’s a smallish regional center at the bottom end. BUT, it’s outside the existing ST service area, so the folks it would serve haven’t paid into the pot. Any ST money spent would have to be within the Service Area.

        So, it’s a conundrum, but by all means, if you can pull it off, do it. Many more people will be better served by POBS in Pierce County than will ever ride TDLE. It has been a fool’s project from the very beginning, and no amount of lipstick can make it anything but a stinking porker. The Good Burghers of Pierce County fell prey to the Rail Story, which was never going to work for them.

        Oh, maybe not never; by 2060 there might be sufficient development in downtown Tacoma to make South King a commuter district for it, but an awful lot of things have to happen correctly for that to happen.

        Number 1 being that Emperor Xi doesn’t Nuke Puget Sound.

      22. @Cam,

        Frequency is nice, but reliability is fantastic. Once riders get used to having real reliability on their trip they come to count on it, and demand it.

        Unfortunately, a doubling of commute times on these long, thin, express buses isn’t that unusual. Too many things can go wrong when a bus is traveling long distances in mixed traffic. The only way for a passenger to correct for unreliability is to pad their trip by leaving early. Not good.

        I’m sure the 574 will get modified when Federal Way Link opens. The 574 is scheduled at 26 mins FWTC to SeaTac. Link will be 15 mins, almost half the time. And Link will be reliable, the only truly reliable option in the corridor. And frequent.

        Additionally, it is a lot cheaper to move a passenger on Link than on a 500 series bus. And that does matter. Even to ST.

      23. “Could PT 1’s BRT incarnation get some of the money? ”

        About 40% of Stream 1 is being funded by Sound Transit.

        Probably, because there’s a smallish regional center at the bottom end. BUT, it’s outside the existing ST service area, so the folks it would serve haven’t paid into the pot.

        Sound Transit District.

        What regional center are you thinking of? It goes down to Parkland, and terminates at P.L.U., is my understanding. That is all inside the ST district.

        It could perhaps serve as a model for a network of BRTs, though a local planner I talked to was somewhat skeptical it would be allowed.

      24. “The 574 and 594 should be combined like the 512. ”

        That might be not a terrible idea, but the slow winding around Federal Way Transit Center was a 15 minute deviation. I’m guessing because of Link construction. That can’t continue and still make the 594 a viable bus to Seattle. Not to mention the SeaTac odyssey. Another 15 minutes at least. And KDM and to a lesser extent Star Lake can be traffic choked as well.

        So a 45 minute bus from Tacoma to Seattle becomes an hour an a half, on a good day. That doesn’t work, regardless of frequency.

      25. The obvious answer is treat two cities like two cities, and use Sounder South as a intercity hourly or better service. Get rid of expresses. Get rid of TDLE. Get rid of Dupont. Keep the trains short, and jack frequency and add some improvements to improve speed to closer to 45 minutes.

        That’s the question I asked Timm. She is meeting with BNSF this week (even though those negotiations show they were supposed to occur 2020-2021 on the official timelines). Perhaps she can work some magic. She didn’t sound optimistic though.

        It seems like with UP parallel, there should be plenty of capacity for passenger and freight, if we forced them to actually coordinate better. Coordination is much cheaper and provides better passenger service than spending billions laying new track.

      26. The rationale for combining the 510 and 511 into the 512 basically works like this:

        1) Everett trades better frequency for longer trip times: a net negative for those able to work around a half hourly schedule, a wash otherwise.

        2) But, Lynnwood, on the other hand, gets to benefit from the higher frequency without any increase in travel time. They do incur a risk of service delay when I-5 is congested around Everett, but overall, the shift is a big positive for Lynnwood, and Lynnwood has many more potential riders than Everett does.

        3) Everett riders who access the bus by driving to the park and ride can avoid most, if not all of the added time by driving to Lynnwood and catching the same bus there, mitigating the impact of 1).

        4) Running the 512 instead of the 510/511 allows for express trips between Lynnwood and Everett. This isn’t huge because the 201/202 do that also, but the 201/202 and 512 don’t stop at exactly the same places, so it’s not fully redundant.

        In terms of rider counts, 3) and 4) are relatively minor, 2) is huge, and is the big reason for the change, while 1) is simply the necessary sacrifice to pay for 2), partially mitigated by 3). Like it or not, Lynnwood is more important than Everett, and people who ride the bus all the way from Everett to Seattle need to sacrifice a few minutes of their time for the greater good.

        That said, one thing I do wish Sound Transit would do that would help mitigate the time impact of 1) is extend the 512 to serve downtown Everett like the 510 used to way back in the day, rather than forcing a transfer at Everett station to continue one more mile. It would be a relatively cheap extension, and the time saved from eliminating a connection there would easily make up the detours to Lynnwood and Ash Way.

      27. As Ross and I have discussed at some point in the past, reliability is in some sense more important than frequency; frequency is just a tool to achieve reliability, but it is an expensive one,

        That is simply not true. Frequency is important in its own right. To quote Jarrett Walker “In urban transit, frequency is vastly more important than speed in determining how soon you get where you’re going.”

        He has a whole chapter in his book about how “Frequency is Freedom”. He has numerous footnotes referencing various studies showing the correspondence between frequency and ridership. This isn’t surprising when you think about it. The main competition from the bus is not the train, but the automobile. Not because a car is more reliable — far from it — but because there is no waiting.

        Reliability is separate, and effects all modes. Nothing is 100% reliable. Biking is probably the fastest and most reliable form of urban transit but you can still get a flat tire. When it comes to transit, frequency can mitigate reliability issues, but that is really a side benefit.

        There is no question that the longer the trip, the less important frequency is. But even for long trips (like Tacoma to Seattle) frequency matters. The plan is to run the buses from Tacoma to Seattle every 15 minutes. This will definitely improve things, even if you won’t see the type of rider increase you would see for a bus running within Tacoma (or within Seattle). Likewise, it would make a big difference if the bus from Tacoma to SeaTac ran every 15 minutes.

        All the various factors (speed, reliability, frequency) matter. Which one matters most often depends on what the competition is, not necessarily the weakest link. For example, I know the New York Subway system is notoriously unreliable. It is common to have significant delays. But catching a cab is not that reliable either — the taxi could very well be stuck in a big traffic jam. So even people with money to afford a cab will often take the train, especially when the streets are busy. It is usually faster and more reliable, while being quite frequent.

        The biggest competition with buses like the 594 is a car with one person in it. The bus may get delayed because of traffic, but the car would be delayed more. If the bus operates as expected (e. g. the driver shows up, there is no mechanical issue, etc.) from a reliability and speed standpoint, the bus wins. Thus the only advantage of the car is frequency. The more frequent the bus, the more this difference is minimized, and the more attractive it becomes.

      28. Cam, it’s not obvious because while Tacoma and Seattle are two distinct municipalities served by two distinct county transit agencies, they are a part of one conurbation. The point of a service like Link or RR-A (POBS ) is that trip pairs between the two cities are a small fraction of the overall demand along the corridor; most trip pairs may include Tacoma or Seattle, but very few include Tacoma AND Seattle. Sounder only serves those end-to-end trips. Dismissing Link and ST Express along I5/99 is basically treating all of SW King as ‘flyover country,’ something to pass over when trying to get to/from Tacoma & Seattle.

        In addition, the Sounder corridor (aka the green river valley) is along a corridor worth serving, which is why it also has an express bus network and why ST continues to explore how to improve/expand Sounder service (rather than work with WSDOT for more Cascade trips).

      29. Back to free fares, I think Ross makes a good point about the role of some free service with distinct branding. I think differentiating by agency is clearly bad policy, but there is perhaps a role for some free service as a standalone mode. A good example is a downtown circulator, focused on short trips where the friction of collecting fares is most impactful. Good example would be Denver’s MallRide and Tacoma’s streetcar. The old ‘ride free’ zone on 3rd Ave was along this line of thinking, but without the distinct branding (for good operational reasons), which made execution difficult.

        Trailhead Direct or other niche services could also work well as free services.

      30. Ross: First, I apologize if it seemed like I was putting words in your mouth :) Rereading my own comment, it sounded like I was claiming agreement where I meant to imply only that we had discussed this topic before.

        Having said that, I think that we are in more agreement than it might perhaps seem. I also agree that frequency _is_ important. As you pointed out, there are different aspects (speed, frequency, reliability) and these interplay differently in different situations.

        I have not read Jarret Walker’s book in quite some time now, however, as I recall, and you yourself point out, “frequency is most important” _in urban travel_. However, the 51x series of ST express buses are explicitly intercity travel, and my discussion was very clearly in the context of that situation. My position is that in such a situation, reliability matters more than frequency, in particular because the travel times are always going to be long, and thus spontaneous trips will be very rare. Given that the trips are planned, reliability is key in order to allow the plan to proceed as expected.

        Your other point about travel in NYC, and how even those who can drive will choose to take transit because travel reliability via car is also poor – this is interesting but I draw a slightly different conclusion than you (slightly!) I wanted to emphasize this because I think it is important to note. None of these aspects (frequency, reliability, speed – and I will add also cost, and cognitive load, safety, etc.) come in isolation. They are all aspects which are used to compare different transportation modes in different situations. People take transit in NYC not “despite NYC subway reliability being poor” but “because NYC subway reliability is better than reliability of driving while also being cheaper and inducing lower cognitive load”. Again, we are agreeing on the data but interpreting it differently.

        Apologies again if it sounded like I was claiming your support when it was not there, really sorry about that, but I hope that now you can see what I meant (and perhaps even support) my take a little more :)

      31. ” Sounder only serves those end-to-end trips.” – AJ

        You know Sounder stops in Lakewood, 2 stops in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila, right?

        Almost all those have burgeoning downtowns near their stations with massive opportunities for increased density.

      32. Regarding combining the 574 and the 594 and moving to 15 minute frequency. I think that could work, after FW Link opens.

        The 584 (or something) going from 10th and commerce, stopping at the dome to pick up riders from the south from other bus services like Stream, and then 1 stop at FW transit center. Force a transfer on seatac-bound riders. Then non-stop to SODO. That would be a reasonable thing to do.

      33. The obvious answer is treat two cities like two cities, and use Sounder South as a intercity hourly or better service. Get rid of expresses. Get rid of TDLE. Get rid of Dupont. Keep the trains short, and jack frequency and add some improvements to improve speed to closer to 45 minutes.

        I think that would only work if the state made a big effort to improve train travel from Seattle to Portland. I’m not talking about bullet trains — that is silly, and the studies are a huge waste of time. I’m talking about this sort of thing: Do that, and 45 minutes from Seattle to Tacoma is quite possible. Ideally we own the tracks, or at the very least, lease them for fairly cheap.

        Otherwise, I don’t see all-day Sounder South working. It is just too expensive, and would not carry enough riders. Reverse-peak service had very few riders. Midday service would be worse. It is expensive to run a train while carrying a busload of riders, even when you own the tracks. You are much better off with a bus. For that matter, I don’t see it as being a significant improvement for riders. Prior to the pandemic, more people from Tacoma took the 590 than boarded Sounder at the Tacoma Dome. The 590 doesn’t run in the middle of the day; it competes head to head with Sounder. Despite the congestion — the one time when the train was generally faster than the train — more people preferred the bus. A lot of those riders start downtown (not at the Tacoma Dome). Midday service (on the 594) wasn’t great, but still got another 750 people. Part of the problem now is that Sound Transit hasn’t been able to run the buses as promised (every 15 minutes in the middle of the day). Dropping to hourly service would be much worse (and unless major changes are made, much more expensive).

        For now, the best thing is to muddle along with a combination of peak-only train service, and midday bus service. Improve the train system, and things could change fairly quickly.

        Note: I know Sounder South serves more than just Tacoma. The combination of cities makes for a stronger case. But unless you can get the prices down (or the ridership up) it still isn’t worth it.

        Oh, and none of this is really a priority for Tacoma. What they need more than anything is better service within the city itself. In comparison, the current city-to-city system (with buses every half hour, and the train during peak times) is outstanding.

      34. Cam, there are two geographically distinct corridors, one along the ridge (I5) and one down the valley (Sounder). My two paragraphs addressed the two corridors separately. As Ross notes, Sounder & express buses serve the valley corridor quite well. Along the ridge, Link may be overkill as an upgrade to the express bus routes, but hourly Sounder is not a useful service Federal Way, Highline College, and/or Seatac.

      35. Regarding combining the 574 and the 594 and moving to 15 minute frequency. I think that could work, after FW Link opens.

        Since the 1 Line would be 10-minute headway, the modified 594 would be either 10-minute headway or 20-minute headway, to sync with Link. It might start with 10-minute headway and then see, by time of day, when ridership justifies keeping that level of service. Peak could be more frequent than that, of course.

      36. “Otherwise, I don’t see all-day Sounder South working. It is just too expensive, and would not carry enough riders. ”

        I am optimistic, maybe overly-optimistic, that all day, evening, weekend service would induce demand. Right now the South Sounder is the last transit anyone ever thinks of using, with the exception of early morning commuters. The hours it runs are simply not useful for the vast majority of trips, so people don’t think to use it.

        My experience with the LIRR makes me think that if it were usable all day, and you could rely on it well into the evening and weekends to get home, far more people would use it. And it not only would get people out of their cars, but also make spontaneous trips back and forth much more common.

        From what I remember when looking at the data a few months ago, some branches of the LIRR had very similar ridership to the South Sounder pre-covid. Because LIRR is all day and evening, it has bounced back substantially more than South Sounder has.

        I also think this would spur development all up and down the Sounder South Line. An hourly train to Seattle would be a massive benefit, making the whole valley as well as Pierce, much more “close” to Seattle than it currently is.

      37. “As Ross notes, Sounder & express buses serve the valley corridor quite well.”

        I don’t think that is true at all. I don’t have personal experience with the expresses in the valley, but I’ve heard like most are an hour plus to Seattle. That’s not good service.

        It’s terrible from Tacoma as well. I am going up to Kent for a happy hour in Kent, and looking at the schedules, it’s a pleasant 34 minutes on the Sounder on one of the few reverse commute trains. But it’s an almost 2 hour odyssey on multiple buses for the return.

        I’ll be driving. In fact, except for this conversation, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to even consider the Sounder at all. It’s useless.

        But for people on Long Island, the heavy rail is the first and usually only thing they consider using going into the city. Anything else is insane. We should be the same.

      38. But for people on Long Island, the heavy rail is the first and usually only thing they consider using going into the city. Anything else is insane. We should be the same.

        Two big differences:

        1) The LIRR is owned by the MTA (the government). Sounder is operated by BNSF, on behalf of Sound Transit.

        2) The LIRR serves a hugely populated area. Sounder South does not.

        Thus outside of rush-hour, running trains is extremely expensive, and gets very few riders. Reverse peak service got less than 100 riders per trip. There are buses that average double that. Service throughout the day would likely be worse, and yet more expensive. Each trip we add costs more, because BNSF has a more difficult time juggling the freight it also runs on those lines. Thus you would be spending a huge amount of money, and getting very little out of it.

        You would be much better off with a regional bus network in the middle of the day, to complement the trains (that run during rush hour). Even then, the bus network would probably not be a great value — not nearly as good as improving transit service withing Tacoma, for example — but a lot better value than running the trains more often.

      39. An hourly train to Seattle would be a massive benefit, making the whole valley as well as Pierce, much more “close” to Seattle than it currently is.

        I don’t see that at all. Not unless the train is a lot faster. The only major destinations are downtown Seattle and downtown Tacoma. The train only serves one. Downtown Tacoma isn’t too far from the dome, but it isn’t in the heart of the city, either. So you are talking about a two-seat trip minimum, and most of the time, a three or four seat trip. There are other destinations, but there just aren’t that many people who want to go visit Auburn in the middle of the day.

        But hey, we can speculate all day about how successful midday trains would be, or we can actually look at the numbers. Reverse peak Sounder trains carried very few riders — before the pandemic. This is one of those times when the train seems genuinely appealing. If I commuted to Tacoma, I would probably take Sounder. Yet people prefer either driving, or taking the bus. It is easy to make the argument that “Yeah, but without all-day service, those sorts of trips require more planning. Miss the train, and you are toast.”

        Except you aren’t. Miss the train, and you catch the bus, and quite possibly, get there before a train would. So I just don’t buy the idea that reverse peak trains would suddenly carry *more* riders if they added more train runs. Quite the opposite. Ridership per train would go down, although overall ridership would increase a little bit. Not nearly as much as if you say, ran the 28 more often*, or the 17 all-day, but you would see some increase in overall ridership. But with fewer than 100 people boarding a train in reverse peak, I see even fewer in the middle of the day. Keep in mind, this is not the peak load of the train — this is the number of people who board at every stop, combined. Again, this was before the pandemic, when lots more people rode the train.

        It gets a little bit more complicated with stops along the way. There are people who travel from Lakewood to Tacoma, or Tacoma to Auburn. But even then, not a lot. About 1,500 or so, or roughly 20%. Given the very low numbers of midday riders, these trips could be handled just fine with buses.

        * I mention the 28 because it is being cut to hourly service, despite carrying a lot more riders per dollar than Sounder off-peak, if not Sounder peak.

      40. “1) The LIRR is owned by the MTA (the government). Sounder is operated by BNSF, on behalf of Sound Transit.

        2) The LIRR serves a hugely populated area. Sounder South does not.”

        I’ll give you the first, for sure. It’s from historical bad-luck, and can be fixed with the right measure of money and political will.

        I don’t agree with the second. It’s maybe twice the population, depending on where you draw the line. And if anything, it’s less dense. You can’t count Brooklyn and Queens, which are mostly served by subway.

        And it’s pulling 350K riders a day. We should be able to pull a tenth of that, with decent service, right?

        The mid-day and reverse commute data are complete garbage. They really are simply not useful. How many people do you know that are going to take a train knowing there is no easy way to get home? Very, very few.

        Until you provide round-trip service beyond those willing to get up at 5 am, you have no idea how popular South Sounder will be. None.

      41. I hope I found the thread with South Sounder and routes 594 and 574. For Sounder, I hope ST invites WSDOT and the UPRR to their meeting with BNSFRR on improving the off-peak Sounder service. Could some BNSFRR freight be shifted to the UPRR line to free up capacity? The rail lines have near monopoly power. Could the north Sounder funds be better used on Snohomish County bus and Link? Could the rolling stock be better used in the South?

        Ever since Sound Move paid for the FWTC and the South 317th Street center access ramps, there has been the potential for consolidation and an improved network. Since 2016, Link has dipped its toe into south King County; Link serves SODO. Route 574 could be faster if it skips Star Lake and Kent Des Moines P&R; the string of pearls route design does not work well with a congested freeway. ST could spend more on bus service. If Tacoma-SeaTac is worth billions for Link, why not double the trips on Route 574? (millions v. billions). Route 594 could serve FWTC and skip SODO; it could use the Seneca Street pathway and serve Westlake; it need not serve the length of downtown Seattle. Do both routes 574 and 594 have to serve both Lakewood and downtown Tacoma? If both were more frequent, could they specialize more; FWTC could be a transfer point. The over the road buses (MCI) have long dwell times; they would be better used on point-to-point service.

      42. @asdf2

        Hopefully this comment nests correctly in this rather long thread.

        “That said, one thing I do wish Sound Transit would do that would help mitigate the time impact of 1) is extend the 512 to serve downtown Everett like the 510 used to way back in the day,…”

        I’m not sure what you mean here. What part of downtown Everett are you referring to? Thanks in advance for clarifying.

      43. I do agree that the money would be better spend on local service rather than sounder. They should complement each other. Get to a city fast on heavy rail, then use frequent local service for last mile (or 10).

        But that’s not on the menu of choices. ST doesn’t have a mandate to run a bus up 6th, or along Pearl. My understanding is that they can really only barely justify Stream because it’s connecting the Dome station to Parkland. I guess we could try convince them to do a spoke of BRTS in all directions from municipalities to a “hub” in a heavy industrial wasteland, but that would be pretty silly.

        I also agree that the threading wordpress is bizarre and challenging.

      44. “The mid-day and reverse commute data are complete garbage. They really are simply not useful. How many people do you know that are going to take a train knowing there is no easy way to get home? Very, very few.”

        You have it backwards. The midday train is for someone to have the flexibility that when they take the train for the commute in, they can occasionally make a midday return. Or they work a split shift (now it’s common for hybrid workday to be remote halfway and in person the other half). The non-commute trip times may have low daily ridership but probably have pretty solid annual unique rider count numbers, as Sounder regulars use those trips a occasionally throughout the year.

        The reverse trips are nearly free – most of those are trains that would be otherwise deadheading, so might as well run them in service.

        I share Cam’s bullishness on all-day South Sounder ridership potential, but much of the upside is based upon the intermediate stations growing density such that they look much more like a typical LIRR station area, many of which follow a pre-war, non-auto-centric development pattern.

        As for 35K daily riders, in 2018 ridership was 16K, and the Sounder Sounder Strategic Plan assume 42% growth in annual ridership, or roughly 23K. So 35K would be a bigger leap.

        Fun fact – the SSSP is being updated this year!

    2. Starting a new Sounder subthread because the other one is long.

      “How many people do you know that are going to take a train knowing there is no easy way to get home?”

      People who are glad to take a train one way and a bus the other, just to take a train at all. I can never take Sounder two-way because of its schedule, but I take it one-way when I can.

      “Sounder & express buses serve the valley corridor quite well.”

      “I don’t think that is true at all. I don’t have personal experience with the expresses in the valley, but I’ve heard like most are an hour plus to Seattle. ”

      Sounder from Seattle to Kent is 20 minutes, vs 52-68 minutes on the 150, or 58 minutes on the 162 (peak-only, and to be suspended in September). This is probably the most-used station after Tacoma Dome.

      Sounder from Seattle to Auburn is 30 minutes, vs 54 minutes on the 578.

      To get maximum ridership we need to get these all-day travel times to well under an hour. Sounder is the only existing technology we have to do that. However, adding Sounder runs is expensive because a monopoly BNSF owns the timeslots.

      Link will not help with Seattle-Kent and Seattle-Auburn travel times.

      Let’s say we want a Seattle-Kent Link trip+bus to beat the midday 150 (60 minutes). Link to SeaTac is 39 minutes, leaving only 21 minutes to spare. The 161 SeaTac-Kent takes 27 minutes, so we’ve already failed our goal even before adding walking/transfer time. And the 161 is half-hourly evenings and weekends. (The previous 180 SeaTac-Kent was 20 minutes; I don’t know whether the longer time is due to congestion or the move to 84th.)

      Metro plans a KDM-Kent-132nd RapidRide on KDM Road. That may or may not be faster than the existing KDM-Kent buses, but the total travel time will still probably be slower than the 150.

      Now try to beat Seattle-Auburn, 54 minutes on the 178.. Link to Federal Way will probably be 55 minutes, so you’ve already failed. Transfer to the 181 (future RapidRide), currently 19-23 minutes.

      So 99 and the Kent Valley really are separate transit corridors.

      And Renton is a third corridor. The 101 Seattle-Renton takes 40 minutes. Link to TIB is 34 minutes, and the F TIB-Renton is around 24-34 minutes. Stride 3 will improve this, although it’s hard to guess its travel time. The 560 SeaTac-Renton is 20 minutes, but that includes a significant detour. If you try going via the 150, Seattle-Southcenter is 36 minutes, and the F Southcenter-Renton is 24 minutes.

      Travel time at this distance between these cities should to be well under an hour to make transit fully successful and attractive. Sounder is the only one that meets this goal, and it only runs a few hours a day. And Link can’t replace the 150 or the 101.

  2. Conversation between Cotton Mather and Ms. Timm:

    Cotton Mather: Good day, Ms. Timm. I trust you’re well. I wanted to discuss an intriguing topic with you today—subterranean tunnel stations and decompression sickness. It’s a subject that has caught my attention lately. What are your thoughts on the matter?

    Ms. Timm: Good day, Mr. Mather. I’m quite interested in discussing this peculiar topic. Subterranean tunnel stations, with their underground networks, offer fascinating transportation solutions. However, the issue of decompression sickness is indeed a noteworthy concern. The abrupt pressure changes when transitioning between the underground and surface levels could potentially have adverse effects on individuals. What specific aspects would you like to explore?

    Cotton Mather: Well, Ms. Timm, I find myself wondering about the potential risks faced by commuters in these tunnel stations. As we delve deeper into the Earth’s depths, the atmospheric pressure can differ significantly from that on the surface. This variance, if not adequately managed, could lead to decompression sickness or “the bends.” Do you think modern tunnel stations employ measures to mitigate this risk?

    Ms. Timm: Absolutely, Mr. Mather. Tunnel stations that operate at substantial depths generally prioritize the safety and well-being of their passengers. Adequate measures are taken to minimize the risk of decompression sickness. For instance, some stations employ gradual pressurization or depressurization systems during entry and exit, allowing commuters’ bodies to adjust gradually to the pressure changes. Additionally, train speeds may be regulated to ensure a smoother transition, reducing the likelihood of sudden pressure fluctuations.

    Cotton Mather: That’s reassuring to hear, Ms. Timm. It’s essential for tunnel station designers and operators to prioritize passenger safety in such environments. I also wonder about the role of education and awareness. Do you think commuters are provided with sufficient information regarding decompression sickness and the precautions they should take?

    Ms. Timm: Education plays a crucial role in ensuring passenger safety. Tunnel station authorities often have informational materials, including signage, brochures, and audio announcements, which highlight the risks of decompression sickness and provide guidance on appropriate actions. They may also emphasize the importance of equalizing pressure during the journey, especially for individuals prone to the condition. By raising awareness, they empower commuters to make informed decisions and take necessary precautions.

    Cotton Mather: Excellent point, Ms. Timm. Empowering commuters with knowledge is key to fostering a safe and responsible commuting environment. It’s heartening to know that steps are being taken to inform passengers about the potential risks and how to mitigate them.

    Ms. Timm: Indeed, Mr. Mather. With proper safety protocols, awareness campaigns, and effective design considerations, subterranean tunnel stations can provide efficient transportation while minimizing the risk of decompression sickness. As technology and understanding continue to advance, we can anticipate further improvements in this area.

    Cotton Mather: I couldn’t agree more, Ms. Timm. Thank you for engaging in this enlightening discussion. It’s always a pleasure to exchange thoughts on matters of mutual interest. The world of subterranean tunnel stations and their impact on passenger well-being is a fascinating one indeed.

    Ms. Timm: Thank you, Mr. Mather. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation as well. It’s through such dialogues that we expand our knowledge and deepen our understanding of these intricate subjects. I look forward to our future exchanges on equally captivating topics.

    Cotton Mather: Likewise, Ms. Timm. Until next time, I bid you a wonderful day ahead.

    Ms. Timm: Thank you, Mr. Mather. May your day be equally splendid. Goodbye for now.

      1. @Mike Orr,

        Salem Witch trails.

        Small pox in the American colonies..

        What that has to do with ST is beyond me.

      2. I think it means Julie Timm is as reasoned a person as Cotton Mather. It’s a compliment.

      3. @Brent White,

        Cotton Mather was a Christian minister that believed that God wanted him to own slaves – for their own good. And that the use of the whip was good for their work output.

        Ya, times were different, but I’m still not sure it is a compliment to be compared to him.

        And I’m not really sure what the late 1600’s can teach us about mass transit.

      4. Thanks, everyone, for your speculations, but I really wanted Franklin’s Ghost to explain why Cotton Mather would be talking about transit tunnels.

        Is this some sort of three-cushion bank-shot about pro-transit folks being “true believers” with a Medieval Mindset? I really can’t get any other possible reason for the “metaphor”.

        And what is all the bowing and mutual fluffing at the end? Clearly Ghost has “chatted” with “support” way too many times.

      5. Why does does the person from circa 1700, and the person from the year 2023, both have the exact same style of speaking?

    1. I took it as some sort of parody. Perhaps a jab at ST building some very deep stations.

      1. @Tlsgwm,

        All the supposed behavior that led to the Salem Witch Trials occurred on the surface.

        So maybe “Franklin’s Ghost” was trying to make some direct connection between Cotton Mather, witchcraft, and buses.

    2. Link elevators ascend faster than airplanes. I feel good about shorter travel times already.

      Maybe something needs to be added to the announcement that plays every few minutes: “Trains are running every 10 minutes. Sound Transit does not tolerate harrassment. The elevator at the Seneca Street entrance is out of service. Stay behind the yellow line. To avoid risk of decompression, passengers are advised to swallow or chew gum when entering or exiting underground stations. However, it is prohibited to spit gum onto floors, seats, walls, or any other surface on Sound Transit property.”

      1. At the depth of these proposed stations, they need to be as fast as the elevators at the MAX Washington Park station. UW platform to street could be done in half the time.

        My ears do sometimes pop on them though.

    3. You nailed it, Sam. Ghost clearly didn’t listen to Ms. Timm, who is a straight shooter if there ever was one.

      No, she’s not going to say anybody is an idiot [not that kind of “forthright”], but she was quite forthright about ST’s goals and methods.

  3. It seems awfully unjust for WSDOT to inflict such significant maintenance (greenspace maintenance) responsibilities onto the poor and disenfranchised cities of (checks notes) Yarrow Point, Medina, Clyde Hill, and Hunt’s Point.

    As discussed in the article, WSDOT makes the adjacent/surrounding cities maintain greenery on the lids everywhere else. Maybe the governments of these small, poor towns ought to be figuring out more effective ways of funding themselves, like lobbying for allowance of progressive income taxes at the city level, or zoning for more flexible land uses that includes retail or commercial offices to tap into existing sources of revenue, or allowing for any redevelopment whatsoever which increases taxable property values.

    Instead, Medina is trying to figure out how to bury a Housing Action Plan (paid via state grant) which says they should plan to build more housing.

    1. If one has every seen how poorly the state maintains their properties in Seattle with regard to freeway graffiti, those Eastside towns should be glad the state isn’t maintaining freeway lids.

      1. The article describes how the state has been maintaining the lids, and only recently has threatened to stop doing anything other than basic maintenance. Apparently, the annual cost of maintaining the greenspace atop the lids is ~$200k.

      2. WSDOT might not have enough resources to clean the graffiti on the highways in Seattle precisely because they are spending hundreds of thousands mowing the lawn on lids of microtowns.

        I’m surprised we haven’t seen a state referendum to compell the state to clean up its graffiti off the highways. Private properties get fined daily for having graffiti up.

  4. Regarding “WSDOT and four Eastside microcities” – Hunts Point is not a city (micro or otherwise) – it is a town, same as Beaux Arts. If you’re going to use derogatory terms towards the jurisdictions in question, I would suggest at least using the factually correct term, also. Source:,_Washington

    On a related note, I tried to find a definition for a “microcity” (even a colloquial one, in urbanist blogs) and could not. Looking at Clyde Hill and Medina (which were both in the 3-4k population range in 2018), and comparing them with say Normandy Park, which was around 6k in the same year… is Normandy Park a microcity, too? If so, then why is there never any derision towards it? It could also be merged into Burien or Des Moines, just as Clyde Hill could be merged into Bellevue. It’s not isolated, like Duvall or North Bend are. It’s average income is actually much higher than the surrounding cities’, too, just as Clyde Hill is compared to Bellevue. Is it just that in Clyde Hill’s case the average income is __also__ much higher than the overall county average, or something, whereas in Normandy Park that’s not the case? Or do we just “know it when we see it” and that’s all there is to it?

    1. I deride Normandy Park all the time. ;)

      Seriously, any jurisdiction that isolates itself from the broader community through exclusionary zoning is worthy of derision. Including the one I live in.

      1. Fair point ;)

        Is zoning in Normandy Park significantly different from Des Moines or Burien? Honest question, I don’t actually know. I believe that Clyde Hill zoning is similar to residential Bellevue, for example – the lots are bigger on average but no different from other parts of “rich” Bellevue. Is the argument that they should not isolate themselves by providing commercial zoning, too, not just the SFH zoning that all other neighboring cities are providing?

        All of these are also genuine questions. I get that Medina “feels” bad – rich people live there! And they don’t want the poor to live near them! Yes, except the same is true of Broadmoor and Laurelhurst, one of which is just a gated community, the other of which is… well, rich, but just a big city neighborhood.

        To me, a more valuable metric is taxation level. I believe that Medina, at least, has lower tax rates than other cities in the area (e.g. Bellevue), so an argument can be made that they are not paying their “fair share” to the broader community. I would not disagree with such an observation, and I would support a form of equalization of tax rates.


    Although I can understand the request for a train car reserved for those wearing masks, I think the biggest hurdle is the legal mechanism to support that. So far state, county and federal agencies and authorities have removed the emergency orders for Covid and rescinded mask requirements in public. The CDC’s mask requirement got struck down because despite a mask mandate for two years the CDC had not done the medical research to support the efficacy of masks, and the Biden admin. decided politically not to pursue that fight.

    Can the ST Board reserve a train car for those wearing masks or require riders wear a mask on any part of Link even if it could enforce such a mandate? Or Timm? I don’t think so, unless there is some kind of county, state or federal medical order that is backed up by provable medical research that will hold up in a court of law today based on infection rates and death rates, and the efficacy of masks, which will open up a can of worms.

    Maybe Tisgwm has some thoughts on this, but right now I don’t know who has the legal authority to reserve a train car for those wearing masks (and what about the station platforms), and don’t see any will among those with the authority to do so when so many politicians want to put the pandemic, closures, and mask mandates behind them and move on (except for the R’s in the House of Reps. who have exposed a kind of seat of the pants approach by the CDC and Fauci).

    Without the right legal order by those who can issue them (and I am not even sure who can) — which I don’t think are Timm or the Board — and defensible medical research I just don’t see how reserving a train for those wearing a mask has any legal basis or hope, despite the politics in a VERY blue state, county and city.

    1. Thank you for the legal side explanation of the difficulty – that is a very good point, and one that I had not thought of very deeply before.

      I have asked this earlier and I don’t think you addressed it in your post – do you think that the ADA could be useful here?

    2. I doubt Metro or ST have piles of evidence backing up other elements of their rules of conduct (no eating on the bus, no amplified music/noise that others can hear, no harassment, etc). They just have rules of conduct because they can. The rules make sense, are lightly enforced, and didn’t require any sort of legislative or court approval. Nor has anyone argued that the rules don’t work, therefore we should just let everyone eat, smoke, or play the boombox loudly on the bus.

      If someone sued to stop ST from designating a train as masked up, I’m pretty sure they’d be laughed out of court, as no freedom of theirs is being impinged.

  6. A few quick thoughts on free fares (haven’t watched the Q&A with CEO Timm yet):

    Making transit free costs. And once transit becomes free, it is easier for politicians and voters to rationalize low-quality service. “Well, it’s not great, but beggars can’t be choosers.” Additionally, giving something away for free *in America* implants the idea that it is worth nothing. “It’s not great, but what do you expect? It’s free.” I feel that it brings us closer to a low: poor transit that is so inconvenient that only the most destitute use it.

    The problem with high-quality service is that it costs a lot of money to operate. Fortunately, high-quality service also tends to have greater rates of fare recovery. Therefore, if I can temporarily ignore other factors that affect transit ridership, like land use and culture, the route to high fare recovery is through investment (in high-quality service, in capital projects). In turn, fares promote the sustainability of high-quality service.

    Ironically, both alternatives seem to require upfront cash: we spend to provide free fares, or we spend to invest in service and capital projects. But only the latter option is a pathway towards high-quality transit.

    There are certainly exceptions to this general framework, but I think the patterns I described above hold true.

    Finally, there’s an interesting quote in a book I read recently about piracy of television shows (anime, specifically):

    1. My concern is we need higher frequency more than we need free fares. Free fares could be an excuse to let the current frequency stagnate. Both Metro and ST have expanded eligibility for reduced/free fares for those who need it. I see free fares as a long-term ideal, but you can’t ride a nonexistent bus even if it’s free.

      1. I agree. Maintenance of service or improving service on routes that could benefit from it should be the priority over free fares.

    2. oops that last line, I meant to delete. Might as well paraphrase:

      “When you are giving away your product for free, things are great. But when you start charging even a single cent, you are in the business of fighting and scratching for every dollar.”

      I think that, in some way, the need to fight and scratch for every rider is positive. If there are still fares, there is more of an incentive to do so.

    3. The free fare issue has many many unintended consequences. One of the biggest is loitering on vehicles.

      Consider that if transit is crowded, having stinky homeless people on vehicles is not helpful and can be a health problem. Riders will give up on transit and start driving. There is already a segment of people who believe transit is unsafe and that will grow if an operator has no way of keeping “disruptive” people out of a transit vehicle.

      I remember the former free fare zone downtown. I remember riding buses for just 10 blocks and taking 15 minutes because several desperate people would get on and off buses with their belongings insude the zone making it very slow. Believers like to think it makes boarding faster, but not if the extra boardings are those just hanging out.

      A regular transit rider like many of us understands that it’s the experience of using transit that affects our interest in using it. Some barrier has to be in place to keep it from being a slow moving public trash can. Instead, there are programs to provide transit fares for those in need.

      Meanwhile, employers pay for bus passes for employees and that revenue would go away with free fares. So making the public pay more in taxes and employers less increases the wealth gap.

      1. What is to stop someone (who is homeless) from “just hanging out” now? The simple answer is, nothing. Many have ORCA cards. Those that don’t can board, and it is unlikely that the operator will stop them if they don’t pay.

    4. Hey, Andrew B,

      I have a few Tacoma transit questions for you…. but I think the answers can easily be expanded to other Sound Transit/local transits situations.

      How much money has Sound Transit sunk into Tacoma Link? Where does the Link go? Who does it serve? If we were to make a heat map of transit dollars spent over the entire City, Would the Hilltop-Downtown- Stadium district be bright red? (2 square miles for you non Tacoma folks)…. and how about East Tacoma? (or any other neighborhood South of the freeways) Are those tax payers getting any transit return on their dollar?

      Sound Transit isn’t building high quality anything in Tacoma, are they? And poor Pierce Transit remains under funded? Do you believe Tacoma has a working transit system now?

      Transit is not about trains… or tunnels… or buses. It’s about moving people. Today… not 20 years in the future.

      If we took all the money Sound Transit squandered on Tacoma Dome Station and that silly toy train to nowhere, Tacoma could have easily built a killer bus system with $1 fares. Other towns Tacoma’s size are doing just that.

  7. Hugh Sisley is a great man. Affordable housing activist and provider. Friend to the poor.

  8. The tone of CEO Timm’s remarks were quite good.

    For the ST2 projects, she knows the issues with Lynnwood Link, East Link and its potential starter line, and FWLE. There may be interesting revelations on Thursday at the System Expansion committee. For Lynnwood, I hope ST chooses to run shorter trains more often; the same capacity would be provided by six-minute headway three-car trains as eight-minute headway four-car trains. Yes, the shorter headway service uses more operators and power, but it also would attract more riders by having shorter waits.

    She knows that LRV storage is the main challenge. she reminded us that the OMF East may be short of staff. The starter line could also be tried with shorter headway and shorter trains, though she hinted in the other direction, longer trains and longer headway.

    For the ST3 DSTT2 dilemma, she understood those tradeoffs. In and ideal world, she would chose the shallow 5th Avenue South option. She likes the shallow 4th Avenue South option, but it may have practical difficulties. The ST board preferred option is that suggested by Constantine-Harrell with statins north and south of IDS. That would have awkward transfers forever. I hope ST avoids it. The recent Reese Martin video on the lost opportunity of a great hub was good. He reminds us to consider benefits as well as costs.

    ST3 is avoiding the study of placing the east, south, and west lines into the existing tunnel that was suggested by several posters here at STB. That is an elegant solution to several issues; the transfer point, the budget, and the difficulty of constructing the second tunnel. ST staff is saying it will be not studied as it is not consistent with ST3 and would have capacity issues. Should those capacity issues be studied again? What has changed since 2015? Note that ST3 definitely includes two stations at South Jackson Street; so, is the Constantine-Harrell option also inconsistent with ST3? With its fiscal challenges, several parts of ST3 have been postponed.

    1. The problem, to an extent, with “He reminds us to consider benefits as well as costs.” is that often the costs are born by different people from those who benefit. I don’t mean just in the sense of “one neighborhood benefits, another pays the cost”, though that may also be true. A big part of it is that the cost is paid by people now, while the benefit is born by people who will be here in 10+ years. This is a concern for those who are towards the end of their career and have small businesses in the CID, potentially.

      In an ideal world, things would compensate – their benefits would come from costs paid by someone else, in some other way, thus balancing out. But it appears that that particular group of people does not believe (justified or not) that the balance will come. Thus, a claim that “consider benefits as well as costs” is scant comfort when that lack of trust exists, and it may even cause more distrust in the short term.

      1. People now have the benefit of costs paid ten years ago, like RapidRide A-F, the initial Link segment, and Libraries for All.

      2. You don’t have to convince me, you have to convince the CID opposition.

        Have you asked anyone there whether “Libraries for all” makes up for the inconvenience of ST3 construction? If so, how did it go? If not, will you go and try it out? Or should we ask Sam… :)

      3. “You don’t have to convince me, you have to convince the CID opposition.”

        I don’t have to convince anybody; a fact is a fact. And the CID opposition can’t unilaterally determine where the stations are. That’s a decision for everyone in North King, for whom the line is being built, and to meet a citywide/regionwide need. Politicians may let the CID opposition determine it, but they shouldn’t.

    2. I may be a minority opinion, but I believe that Timm is still unable to stand up to the Board’s preference to make DSTT2 about real estate and not riders. I’m hopeful that she or someone else can make a difference to counter the approach that our leaders take , which I see ST as just a convenient pork barrel effort (that powerful interests see more as way to make more or less profit out of real estate deals or construction and engineering contracts).

      For starters, the CID is not united against the station at Jackson St. The forces opposing the Jackson station location have some sort of power to sell an idea that’s simply not universally believed in the CID. We should call out any posts that imply this.

      The primary objectives of ST should be the rider experience and usage, along with cost effectiveness. Even little problems like the service difficulty from the Westlake jackhammer incident chase some riders away. Bigger problems like lack of down escalators or out of service escalators and elevators chase even more riders away permanently . Opening day delays of the extensions are just eye rolls to those in power but it hurts future rider demand and revenue every month that it’s delayed. ST3 projects serve very few riders and barely move the needle on increasing transit mode share (perhaps now actually making it worse without the Jackson station) yet no one in power will point this out this fundamental problem.

      Perhaps the problem is the ability to extend ST taxes way into the future. There is no longer any general public accountability for another 25 or 30 years and growing. The agency has been given a very long period of time to do whatever they want regardless of ridership usage or experience — and the legal right to extend it even further out. Had ST3 tax authorization required renewal in 2026 or 2031, the focus of the agency would likely be very different.

      Admittedly, Timm has stated that ST should no longer be focused on being a planning and building agency and instead be focused on being a real transit operator. The area that ST has the most direct influence over operations today is the state of vertical conveyances even more than Link operations.

      She still has a year or two in her honeymoon period to hire more outside senior team members, shift the agency culture away from seeing riders as second class citizens and get the Board more concerned about the effect on riders rather than the developers and property owners that independently parade in and out of their closed door meetings.

  9. Anon: yes and there are several margins. You note folks in different times and those who ride transit and those who suffer from the negative externalities of construction. Reese Martin emphasizes the network benefits and costs of future riders. The Constantine-Harrell stations will have long transfers forever; rider time is a huge factor.

    The ST board has made some good decisions. The Roosevelt alignment and station on 12th Avenue NE rather than on 8th Avenue NE was one.

    1. Right, don’t get me wrong – I am not disagreeing with the benefits you are stating. I am just pointing out that it is not a matter of ignoring said benefits; it is a mismatch (or mistrust) of whether they will balance out the costs, specifically _for the people who will bear the costs_. Pointing out additional benefits helps only if they in fact help offset the costs for those people. I doubt that “long transfers forever” will matter to those who will not get enough foot traffic to maintain their shops through retirement.

      To be clear, I get that I am building a strawman, to an extent; I don’t actually know that the opposition comes from late-middle-aged shopkeeps, but my sense is that it is something _like_ that. Others here have pointed out that the way to improve the situation is to actually figure out what compromise (i.e. what benefits) would satisfy the opposition. It seems to me that the compromise of “you suffer, and your grandchildren won’t have long transfers forever” has not born fruit.

      1. I think the well is poisoned when it comes to a Station on 5th for DSTT2. It is emotional. Decades of disrespect have convinced the CID it is racism. I think they are right. But the only real way to cure decades of racism is money. White rich progressive people don’t give poor brown neighborhoods money unless they need something. Or like the Central District they just take it.

        I personally think the CID is making a tragic mistake. Not a station for DSTT2 serving S Seattle and S King Co. There is no benefit to the CID from a second station even if it could be built in a week. The DSA knew that.

        The mistake is the loss of $$$ mitigation. Done well there was $250 million, plus zoning control which is critical to preserving this area from gentrification.

        On the other hand, the recent bypass at PSS showed a station at CID N can work pretty well. An idiot watching the hearing on the DEIS knows a station on 4th S. is unaffordable and would never get the votes from the Board. The key — the key to all transit and downtown Seattle — is whether the stations are safe and secure including the tunnel between PSS and CID N. If not, Seatttle, DSTT1 and DSTT2 are irrelevant.

        Recently I posted the Times’ article noting the CID has been added to the list of the 11 most endangered cultural neighborhoods in the U.S. which seems convenient. The irony is recent upzoning changes guarantee gentrification, and the CID’s failure to negotiate for a station on 5th for DSTT2 that every uptown neighborhood including SLU knows is a turd is about the one chance the CID will ever have of getting the zoning control and cash to survive in a hungry high AMI very white city. The salvation from East Link ended with the pandemic, endless opening delays, and huge migration of Asians to the Eastside. A station on 5th for DSTT2 no one else wants was the lever the CID needed to survive but they were just too angry and abused to see that.

        CID N will work fine if downtown Seattle recovers and the stations are secure and safe. But my guess is the CID looks like Belltown in 20 years because this is the look developers and progressives like and it is their city.

      2. Does anybody believe Sound Transit can get a project done on budget and on time? I think the CID has little to no trust about anything Sound Transit promises. One thing I learned working in construction is just because people speak poor English, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

        I think the solution is to help the Asians realize they’re outgunned and need to move out so developers can build “Belltown South”. TOD gentrification at it finest. Leave a few Chinese restaurants for local color please. Yuppies love take out! Not that gentrification wouldn’t happen anyway, but I’d rather not fund it with tax dollars.

        Another quick word about property ownership– it’s really the only choice in America. If the State builds a freeway or subway though your house… it sucks, but you do get paid. If you’re renting, you’re just screwed.

      3. > Does anybody believe Sound Transit can get a project done on budget and on time?

        Of course they can – after they’ve completely blown the original budget and schedule, you just let them make up a new one. Tada, it’s “on time” and “within budget”, just like Central Link.

  10. The Seattle Times is reporting that Metro will cut back or suspend “20 low-ridership routes” in September as an alternative to unpredictable trip cancellations on higher-ridership routes. There’s not a full list of routes yet, but the two mentioned in the article (73 to half-hourly, and 320 outright) parallel or overlay other routes, so this seems like a good move. I’ve noticed that trip cancellations are coming back in force on the 44, with sometimes the equivalent to half-hourly frequency even at peak times.

    1. Wow. 13% of Metro routes will be outright eliminated and another 8% will see service reductions? That is pretty big.

      Most are peak only though. Would be nice to see the numbers presented in terms of actual operator hours. If that is what is truly driving this reduction, then Metro should show the public the problem in those terms.

      1. Yeah, most are peak-direction only. The 121 and 301 are peak and reverse-peak direction. That’s it. No full-time route will be eliminated.

        The routes that will see fewer runs include buses carry a lot of riders (7, 10, 36) along with buses that don’t (20, 73, 79). My guess is that in both cases, it is largely peak service that is being cut.

        The article is a good one; Lindbloom has a good understanding of what is going on here. “The cuts mainly affect peak-only lines where other buses travel the same roads or a few blocks away.”

        I’m not sure if what the official name is, but I tend to call these buses “peak overlays”. The 15, for example, is similar to the RapidRide D, in that it gets riders from Ballard to downtown. But it does so much faster, since it avoids Queen Anne. If the D is crowded, and running every few minutes during rush hour, running the 15 is handy. Instead of running another D (to deal with the crowding), the run a a 15. This not only gives some riders a faster trip to downtown, but is cheaper to operate. The problem is, if the D is not crowded, and frequency is based on providing good service, then the 15 is hard to justify.

        It gets a bit more complicated, when you consider Link. A lot of the routes are designed to provide express service, even though they run right by a Link station. Often they serve a different part of downtown. These buses have sections that are largely redundant with Link, although the riders sometimes avoid a transfer or two. This makes them significantly different than buses like the 15, even if there is crowding. They both offer the same sort of thing for riders — fewer transfers to particular downtown locations, and a faster overall trip — but the 15 saves service time (if there is crowding). The 320 does not. I’m not surprised that these buses are on the chopping block as well.

      2. Now that I think about it more, the fact that the 20 will still be running at all is irksome. At 15-minute headways, it’s sort of useful, but 30-minute is just useless considering that between the U-District and Northgate, there’s frequent routes (45, 62, 44) that are parallel to the 20 the entire way.

        Between Northgate and Lake City, though, it seems like there could be decent ridership since the other frequent routes are a bit further away. Would it be possible for Metro to run the 20 at its current headways but just between Northgate and Lake City?

        I know RossB has talked about the problems with the 73 vs the 67 and Link, but at least the 73 is a straight shot down 15th until it reaches Roosevelt Station, compared to the 20 making turns at the worst possible places the entire route.

    2. Metro has a press conference now. I’ll try to get an article up this evening or tomorrow morning. I missed the first 20 minutes of the meeting due to juggling three things, so is anyone else on it?

    3. Metro to suspend
      > Seattle/Shoreline: Routes 15, 16, 18, 29, 55, 64, 301, 304, 320

      Checking (Page 51), it generally isn’t actually that big of a cut, at least in terms of bus hours

      * route 15: 19 hours
      * route 16: 23 Hours
      * route 18: 11 Hours
      * route 29: 19 hours
      * route 55: 23 hours
      * route 64: 19 hours
      * route 301: 22 hours
      * route 304: 9 hours
      * route 320: 35 hours

      For comparison say route 32 is 100 hours; route 101 uses 153 hours; route 62 is 223 hours; route 7 is 309 hours. The biggest cuts seem to be with the 3XX routes. I didn’t check all of the eastside/others route hours but I most seem to be small as well. Most of these routes removed were also the ones that were suspended during covid and recently ‘partially restored’ last year in 2022.

      1. It is interesting that Metro is keeping routes 302, 303, and 322. That trial balloon for moving route 322 to Northgate seems to have already popped, thankfully.

      2. BTW, are they explicitly saying it is an operator shortage, or is it at least partially a funding shortage?

      3. The article also mentioned a mechanic shortage.

        In either case, it is 2023, this is the new normal, and transit agencies need to begin looking at routes with low ridership, whether the cuts — which at this stage are not deep at all — are due to driver/mechanic shortages or funding shortfalls, which are probably coming. For the last 10 years it seems like transit agencies have abandoned dollar per rider mile as a metric where to allocate resources, but I think those days are over.

      4. Some of these reductions are obvious in hindsight. During the Northgate Link restructure, Metro never really wanted to run frequent service along Northgate Way. They made the 75 frequent but had it take over the 41’s path between Lake City and Northgate. It was only community outcry that had them upgrade the 20 to frequent, but now at 1 of their first opportunities they are cutting service on the 20 to every 30 minutes all day.

      5. Amazon is asking employees to go into the office 3 days a week, and a fair number work in Ballard (according to another King 5 story). The D and 40 has definite clustrf@#$ potential.

      6. I thought Amazon provided its own dedicated shuttles, especially from areas with a lot of employees like Ballard. I am told that is why eastside buses to Seattle have not seen an increase in ridership since Amazon opened: the workers are using the private shuttles to commute.

      7. It was only community outcry that had them upgrade the 20 to frequent, but now at 1 of their first opportunities they are cutting service on the 20 to every 30 minutes all day.

        It wasn’t just public outcry. The city spent money for the increase in service. So basically they spent money on nothing — or they spent money to prevent the 20 from running every hour. The midday cuts seem to fall hardest on Seattle, which suggests that Metro is doing exactly what they promised they wouldn’t do — use the Seattle funding to allow them to shift service elsewhere.

      8. Thanks for bringing up the STBD “hold harmless” clause, RossB, I had forgotten that. Are there any city council members who could be convinced to dig into the accounting to see if Metro actually is violating the terms of that agreement, or is Metro counting on the upcoming council turnover as cover so they can do whatever they want?

        It also seems like this is great time for SDOT to speed up their transit improvements, since roadway and signal improvements will make Metro’s existing drivers more efficient.

      9. The City did not just pay for more service on route 20, it proposed the route. Metro added it at the City’s request.

        When does the STBD expire? or its remaining money once the sales tax bump goes away? Do the hold-harmless agreements go away with the STBD money going away?

  11. Question about the ST board and how decisions get made, especially when it comes to the East Link starter line. Will it ultimately come down to a board vote? Is it as simple as if a majority of the board votes for the starter line, it happens, and if a majority votes against it, it doesn’t? Or, is the starter line a Julie Tiimm decision? (Which I highly doubt it is).

    1. It’s a board vote not a Julie Timm decision. Especially since it would cost extra money.

      > Later in 2023, the Board will determine whether to launch new 2-Line service between eight of East Link’s 10 stations, from South Bellevue Station to Redmond Technology Station, as early as spring 2024.


      Though at least from how the other meetings/items went it could a bit more complicated than just a simple vote. The starter line item is under the System Expansion Committee, where Claudia is the chair, which would then be brought to the Executive Committee. For example the North King (lynnwood) members could try adding a provision saying the Lynnwood Link extension cannot be delayed etc.. Or there might be multiple competing proposals like what happened during the Chinatown station vote.

      1. I think the Board generally defers to the Board member from the subarea. That is what happened during the hearing on the DEIS for DSTT2: the Board deferred to Constantine and Harrell, with two caveats: 1. No more delays; and 2. Each subarea’s contribution to DSTT2 is capped at $275 million (which is why Constantine had to claim the additional $160 million for a CID N. would come “capturing” unrealized profits from development revenue, a phrase I think Balducci came up with).

        Although I agree with Lazarus that a starter East Link line doesn’t make a lot of economic or logistical sense, especially without an eastside transit restructure to feed East Link or service to Seattle (which are empty today too), I am beginning to suspect a starter line will open early.

        The subarea has the money for a starter line, and there is no cost to the other subareas. My guess is down the line subareas like SnoCo and Pierce will need some of the $600 million/year in ST tax revenue the eastside subarea will realize after East Link and Redmond Link are completed, which is pretty soon, so won’t want to pick a fight with Balducci. Balducci also put Constantine on his back foot when she proposed WS use DSTT2 so he will go along. Timm isn’t going to get in the way.

        WL is right I think, the key will be that there is no delay to opening Lynnwood Link, but let’s face it, it will be East Link trains that subsidize Lynnwood Link, and OMF-E.

        The eastside is so agnostic about transit right now, and things post pandemic are pretty good, I think the citizens won’t really care one way or the other. No one understands or follows subarea equity or costs or budgets. Balducci will claim the eastside is owed a starter line, and why not get part of it up and running to work out the kinks which will be better for all the subareas along East Link when the bridge opens. “A limited train is better than no train”. Since no trains will be coming from Seattle eastsiders won’t be worried about undesirables on East Link. Who knows, we might get used to an eastside only East Link.

        So what the heck. If the subarea has the money to burn, and East Link right now is scheduled to open 5 years late, the Board and Timm are not going to object, and Balducci wants it, and there are no issues with undesirables coming from Seattle, why not open a starter line. These are the kind of problems other subareas dream about having.

      2. @Daniel T
        “The subarea has the money for a starter line, and there is no cost to the other subareas.”

        Want to try again? You have reviewed the last several years of subarea equity reports, correct? If so, then how do you make such a statement knowing full well that the East King County subarea has been running deficits for multiple years now? The subarea hasn’t been in a positive net position since 2017.

        I can already guess at what your reply is going to be, something along the lines of either, one, “I was only speaking about non-capital costs”, or, two, “I was talking about future years when the subarea is no longer running deficits”. Honestly, this donor/recipient discussion gets rather silly when most folks here already understand the structure of the “grand bargain” is such that there will be subarea borrowing along the timeline of the agency’s capital program.

        So, from the Snohomish County subarea, you’re welcome for the assist. We welcome the favor being returned.

        Now, this part of your comment I do have a more serious reply:

        “…but let’s face it, it will be East Link trains that subsidize Lynnwood Link, and OMF-E.”

        What did you mean by this?

      3. Tisgwm, I addressed this before. The eastside subarea has around $600 million it owes in subarea loans after nearly completing East Link and Redmond Link. It should break $600 million in subarea revenue in 2022.

        Meanwhile the eastside subarea pays $64 million/year for the ST buses that run from the eastside (empty) to Seattle and back which now total over $1 billion because of the delays in opening East Link, and has paid 100% of East Link across the bridge. So yes, you are correct, now that ST revenue has been extended until 2046 the eastside subarea is going to be the one subarea with much more revenue than its ST projects in ST 2 and 3 will cost, especially if the park and rides are permanently cancelled. Usually if someone has a mortgage that equals one year of income that person is not considered debt stressed.

        You act like a loan is a gift. My mortgage is not a gift from the bank to me. Loans are paid back with interest. I suppose Pierce Co. — the main “loaner” –and SnoCo could have invested their ST revenue in some kind of fixed income investment when rates were around 1%, and the eastside subarea could have issued municipal bonds for East Link and other ST 2 and 3 projects at very low interest rates, but to keep bonding rates down ST came up with subarea loans which also eliminates the underwriting costs.

        You also sound like you are arguing a subarea cannot add additional expenditures like a starter line if it has any debt, despite the fact the subarea’s future revenue will dwarf any current debt. N KC added stations at 130th and Graham St. and it has debt and can never realize the ST revenue for WSBLE. What is more important than debt is debt to income ratio, and for E KC that is very low, and in a year could be zero.

        From my review of the likely honest project costs, and subarea revenue and banked loans in the 2021 subarea report, I don’t think SnoCo will have the ST tax revenue to complete its ST projects, and neither will Pierce despite around $1.25 billion in banked loans and maybe cancelling the $1 billion in Sounder S. upgrades (and maybe even Sounder S. that has around an 11–13% farebox recovery rate today). No matter how long ST taxes are extended. I don’t anticipate “loans” from E KC to SnoCo and Pierce to complete their ST projects because neither will have the revenue to repay those loans back, but basically gifts, although they will be termed loans with incredibly low interest rates and maturity dates. Unless of course Pierce and SnoCo vote for ST 4. The Board reps from SnoCo and Pierce understand that if you may not.

        I also imagine that when ST’s underestimated O&M costs are acknowledged (which ST just raised by $1.2 billion) and reduced farebox recovery it will be E KC that somehow pays for the shortfall because it will be the only subarea with excess revenue, which is probably good because eastsiders are totally agnostic about transit these days.

        When it comes to East Link trains servicing N KC and Lynnwood that is a bit of mystery. So far, no one can point me to anything concrete stating who will pay for what trains and how much, the exact formula, or their operational costs. The ST documents are all quite vague. Hopefully it is by rider mile because then E KC will have to pay very little since few will be riding them.

        Nothing would make me happier than to have E KC write a check for its subarea loans in the next year or two, with interest, and for there to be pure subarea equity, but then Tacoma won’t get Link and neither will Everett and despite both being poor they make more sense than Issaquah, S. Kirkland, The Spring Dist., East Main, Wilburton, and Redmond.

        Folks usually don’t say thank you for loans at market interest rates when they could have obtained the same loans through municipal bonds (and not had their park and rides cancelled for WSBLE — although that might have fouled up WSBLE which is truly unaffordable — but they do say thank you for gifts. N KC should say thank you for E KC paying 100% of the buses, and running East Link across I-90, because those were gifts and don’t have to be paid back. It would be great if SnoCo and Pierce could pay back the loans each will need to complete their ST projects, but I don’t see it with their revenue. Pierce is better than SnoCo which is a basket case, but after ST 2 and 3 and all these years all Pierce has banked is $1.2 billion which E KC generates in two years when TDLE alone is “estimated” to cost $3.2 billion, which really means $5 billion.

        I agree with Lazarus an East Link starter line makes little sense from a transit or economic point of view and I don’t support one and never have, but if the eastside powers that be want a toy train to start with and have the money for it what is the harm I guess. Don’t worry: there will still be plenty left over for SnoCo.

      4. @Tisgwm

        > Want to try again? You have reviewed the last several years of subarea equity reports, correct? If so, then how do you make such a statement knowing full well that the East King County subarea has been running deficits for multiple years now?

        Daniel is probably correct. East King can easily afford the small additional cost in the starter line. I mean the East Link was supposed to be running in 2023 already so the ‘operational money’ is kinda already budgeted in. Regarding East King’s deficit position that is true, but all subareas will be net negative for a while while their largest capital projects are ongoing. More importantly is if their future revenue for that subarea will be sufficient for what they are trying to build.

        > “…but let’s face it, it will be East Link trains that subsidize Lynnwood Link, and OMF-E.”

        It’s a bit complicated but generally the formula Sound Transit uses to allocate the operational cost sets it to the outer suburbs. At least for the Sound Transit eastside busses (aka 520) have all the cost set to East King not half to Seattle subarea. I’m not sure what formula they will use for the East Link trains to determine who’s paying for when the train is running.

      5. Daniel, if North King “can never realize the ST revenue for WSBLE” [meaning, I think, that the revenues generated by all ST taxes within the North King Subarea will not be sufficient to pay for WSBLE], then WSBLE won’t be built. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

        Oh, sure, the execrable West Seattle Stub will almost certainly be completed, but probably with only one station on the plateau. And there will be the even more execrable Second Tunnel, starting at Massachusetts Street and continuing as far north as the funding will take it, which will probably be Denny Way or “South Lake Union” Station.

        There it will sit as a pretty useless reversing stub for Rainier Valley trains for fifteen years and then it may be completed. It would be totally appropriate to call it “Seattle’s Second Avenue Subway”, except that some people want to put a new tube under Second Avenue and should not be encouraged in any way.

        Worst of absolutely all, the two stubs will be joined not by using the existing trackage alongside the busway, but rather by closing the busway permanently in order to erect needless elevated structures for an all-new line with six trains per hour per direction. What folly! This will permanently harm riders from Skyway, Renton, Kent, Southcenter and potentially Southwest King County.

        The bottom line is that the State Legislature is not going to let Sound Transit issue bonds it can’t pay for within the limits of its voter-approvals, so this is a sadly inescapable future.

      6. @Daniel T
        “You act like a loan is a gift….”

        What an odd conclusion to draw. It’s just subarea borrowing, nothing more, nothing less. The East King County subarea’s subledger simply reflects the agency’s financing strategy in this regard as this particular subarea has run deficits (since 2014 IIRC) while the ST2 capital program has progressed, thereby reducing the need for additional bonding agency-wide until later in the timeline. Thus, the rest of your paragraph doesn’t warrant further discussion as it’s just conjecture about other paths not taken.

        “You also sound like you are arguing a subarea cannot add additional expenditures like a starter line if it has any debt,…”

        Again, this is such a strange conclusion to draw based on my earlier comments. Honestly, it just comes across as a non sequitur.

        “I don’t anticipate “loans” from E KC to SnoCo and Pierce to complete their ST projects because neither will have the revenue to repay those loans back, but basically gifts, although they will be termed loans with incredibly low interest rates and maturity dates.”

        The agency, to date, has steadfastly maintained its commitment to the underlying principle of subarea equity throughout the financial policies guiding its capital program, i.e., the Sound Move, ST2 and ST3 approved plans. It most recently confirmed this during its 2021 capital program “realignment”. A section of the January 2021 “Program Realignment Board Briefing Book” had a chapter dedicated to this subject matter. What follows is an excerpt from the aforementioned document:

        “As the Board considers subarea equity through its realignment deliberations, it is worth noting that Sound Transit manages agency finances on a consolidated basis. Sound Transit keeps account of subarea finances on an annual basis, and routinely allocates available funds to subareas to help meet their expenditure needs in order to continue to deliver the program as planned, and to ensure a balanced and affordable Financial plan. All subareas routinely borrow and lend funds among each other and borrowed funds are paid back during and after the completion of the capital program. The financial policies adopted by the voters also permit the Board to allocate grant reimbursements to other subareas as it deems necessary to complete the system plan. In addition, and consistent with the subarea equity principle, the Board has the flexibility to consider cross-subarea and regional benefits when developing the realigned capital program.”

        Whether the agency will ultimately be able to truly “settle up” the subarea subledgers at some point in the future is anyone’s guess. I share your skeptism in this regard, particularly with the financial challenges that the agency is facing on all fronts as well as the disparities inherent in the subarea structure. As you and others have stated multiple times on multiple threads, what exactly does the East King County subarea spend its capital dollars on in the future? (RQ. Hopefully not other ridiculous projects like Issaquah Link.)

        “When it comes to East Link trains servicing N KC and Lynnwood that is a bit of mystery. So far, no one can point me to anything concrete stating who will pay for what trains and how much, the exact formula, or their operational costs.”

        I suppose this is in response to my asking you this in my earlier comment:
        ” “…but let’s face it, it will be East Link trains that subsidize Lynnwood Link, and OMF-E.”
        What did you mean by this?”.

        IIRC, I believe myself and a few others offered information to your query about this several months ago. (If I have the time, I might be able to dig up that info/previous blog discussion.) On a very basic level, the Snohomish County, North King County and East King County subareas are all paying for the fleet that is needed to support the East Link extension. As far as the O&M I believe those costs are being allocated to each subarea by track mileage. (Perhaps AJ can confirm that is indeed the chosen driver for this allocation.)

      7. @WL
        “Daniel is probably correct.”

        Nope (for all the reasons I gave in my earlier comments). Just to be clear, I was never talking about “running the starter line”, i.e., the associated O&M costs.

      8. @Tlsgwm

        > Want to try again? You have reviewed the last several years of subarea equity reports, correct? If so, then how do you make such a statement knowing full well that the East King County subarea has been running deficits for multiple years now? The subarea hasn’t been in a positive net position since 2017.

        Generally East King (570 million annually) doesn’t really have to worry about money. Their subarea brings in as much money as North King (600 million), but they don’t have enough transit projects to spend money on. That’s why they ended up adding/ can afford yet another issaquah to south kirkland link line.

        Snohomish (250 milllion), South King (260 million) and Pierce (390 million) on the other hand bring in quite a bit less money. Snohomish wants to build a very long detour to Paine Field that is also 7 miles elevated instead of at-grade. South King and Pierce while they aren’t getting many link stations — it’s still a lot of trackage to build and a lot of it is now elevated. Granted they could save a lot of expenditure by rethinking sounder capacity improvements.

      9. Between FW and Fife, once you get south of Kitt’s Corner, it’s basically woods and farms. Very few high-volume crossings. This would be an ideal place to go at-grade and save some money.

      10. ROW O&M is allocated by track mileage. Vehicle O&M (driver salaries, regular maintenance, electricity costs, etc.) is allocated by platform hours.

        If frequency is exactly uniform across the line, the platform hour allocation would mirror track mileage, but in practice there is some difference – peak trains, special event services, and trains pulling in/out of service at the OMF rather than always starting at the line terminus.

        The incurred O&M for a starter line would presumably be less than the main line, because the trains will be shorter and (at least at peak) less frequent, and therefore less platform hours per track mile.

        As for vehicle capital costs, those are allocated based upon the incremental vehicle count needed for each expansion. For example, if ST2 requires 100 additional cars, in the ST2 plan it was allocated that 40 were needed for East Link, 30 for Lynnwood, and 30 for FW.

        Tlsgwm does that provide what you were looking for?

      11. Do you have a citation for East Link AJ. Last time I researched this I found several different methods to allocate Link costs across different subareas — including specific subareas — but nothing specific for East Link.

        You write:

        “As for vehicle capital costs, those are allocated based upon the incremental vehicle count needed for each expansion. For example, if ST2 requires 100 additional cars, in the ST2 plan it was allocated that 40 were needed for East Link, 30 for Lynnwood, and 30 for FW.”

        Is this statement based on actual figures or just a hypothetical?
        E KC for some time has felt subarea equity was less iron clad as some think.

      12. @AJ
        “Tlsgwm does that provide what you were looking for?”

        It does indeed! Thank you.
        I knew there was another driver involved in the allocation of the O&M costs, i.e., platform hours, but I just couldn’t remember it when I posted that earlier reply.

        Regarding the vehicle expansion costs, I subsequently found the article from The Urbanist that covered that topic that I had saved on my phone. It gives the capital requirements as follows but I’m still not sure how this matches up with the current cost allocation.

        From The Urbanist piece*:

        Extension, Planned Opening Date, Vehicle Requirement

        Northgate Link, 2021, 40 LRVs
        East Link, 2023, 48 LRVs
        Lynnwood Link, 2023, 34 LRVs

        Originally, the ST2 fleet expansion costs were contained in the individual expansion project templates, but after ST2 was passed the agency pulled these costs out of the individual projects and created a consolidated project specifically for this sole purpose. It’s been numbered/named capital project #T400032, LRV Fleet Expansion, since doing so. This is reported in the annual end-of-year budgeting cycle when the agency produces its next year Financial Plan & Adopted Budget (which includes the TIP and associated appendices). In the most recent version, the project detail pages are contained in Appendix J:

        Project #T400032, LRV Fleet Expansion

        Scope: Plan, design, procure, inspect, and test 152 light rail vehicles (LRVs). The vehicles will support revenue service for Northgate Link, East Link, Lynnwood Link, Federal Way Link and Downtown Redmond Link extensions.

        Allocation (YOE$, 000’s) –
        Snohomish – $85,183 North King – $224,438 South King – $97,034 East King – $334,064 SUBAREA ALLOCATION TOTAL – $740,718

        *Since The Urbanist piece was published, an additional 30 LRV’s were added to the program to support the additional extensions. Additionally, ST was able to obtain better expected pricing based on the larger fulfillment requirement.

  12. Really off topic from the past, but this is an open thread anyways:

    I was reading the old HSR plans by Alon to Seattle that would route it down i-5 and was wondering why couldn’t it a potential HSR line share the Link tunnels?

    As Alon noted, the Vancouver side and in between to Everett are ‘relatively’ easy however, the approach into Seattle has the largest problem. It could potentially get some i-5 lanes up to near Seattle but the hardest problem would be the lanes near downtown itself.

    I do understand it would involve a lot more stops rather than a direct train, but possibly it could interline at Northgate and then use the link transit 1 tunnels and work in the interim until enough money/demand for a completely separate alignment to skip all of those stops.

    Or alternatively, if the original tunnel doesn’t have capacity, perhaps help build the elevated approach from northgate over to Ballard (HCT Study: LRT from Ballard to Bothell via Greenwood, North Seattle, and Lake City) and use the ‘new’ second transit tunnel instead. Though granted I feel that might end up costing more money than using the i5 downtown lanes.

    1. Ignoring obviously financial reasons why HSR in the PNW region is never happening, there are a number of technical reasons why routing Amtrak to Vancouver through the Link tunnel won’t work.

      1) The trains won’t fit. They are too high and too tall.

      2) You can’t run diesel engines in Link tunnels. As Link is electric, the ventilation systems are not designed for it. That means any Amtrak trains in the tunnel would have to either pull power from the overhead lines, like Link trains do, or run on batteries.

      3) With Link trains alone running every three minutes, Amtrak trains and Link trains would for sure get stuck behind one another, causing delays. The Amtrak trains would have no way to pass Link trains stopping at every station. When the Amtrak trains stop, they would take much longer than Link trains to load and unload, so Link trains behind them would also get delayed.

      There’s probably more.

      1. 1) The trains won’t fit. They are too high and too tall.

        A pretty good counter point, I didn’t quite think about this part. Though it seems it’d still be possible to run regular express trains?

        2) You can’t run diesel engines in Link tunnels. As Link is electric, the ventilation systems are not designed for it. That means any Amtrak trains in the tunnel would have to either pull power from the overhead lines, like Link trains do, or run on batteries.

        I’m assuming such an HSR or express train would be electrified.

        3) With Link trains alone running every three minutes, Amtrak trains and Link trains would for sure get stuck behind one another, causing delays.

        Link trains won’t be as frequent as every 3 minutes, granted it is possibly 4 minutes during peak time. But from that perspective it is just one additional train running. The additional express train while it does have to wait for many link trains, can possibly skip minor stations.

        Or alternatively if it serves the same stops as link could work as a weird shadow service?

      2. > Amtrak trains and Link trains would for sure get stuck behind one another, causing delays. The Amtrak trains would have no way to pass Link trains stopping at every station.

        Yeah that’s the largest trade off, but given the current Amtrak trains have to wait for freight trains and can’t run that frequently even if they wanted to I think it’s a generally better trade off.

        > When the Amtrak trains stop, they would take much longer than Link trains to load and unload, so Link trains behind them would also get delayed.

        The express/amtrak train wouldn’t have to stop at every station. Though granted yes it would have less doors most likely and people getting their luggage off.

        > There’s probably more.

        I’ll think about it a bit more. I was generally thinking about how cahsr will run blended with caltrain and how other intercity services also started out just using the existing tracks. But yeah there are lots of issues with reusing the link tracks and stations.

      3. HSR trains are locomotive hauled. Even if you stopped the train with the locomotive inside the “farside” tunnel, the length of an HSR train would be dictated by the length of the platforms. They are usually longer than 450 feet behind the locomotive.

        Also, true HSR trains are “high-platform”. Talgo’s might work with Link’s low platforms, but they aren’t stable at HSR speeds. Spain’s AVE trains are high-platform like other systems for that reason.

        Finally, HSR locos are pretty heavy, in order to deliver sufficient tractive effort to the rails. I doubt that the Link track structure could handle them.

    2. With the sharp curve near Third and Pine, using DSTT for high speed trains seems to me to be a silly premise. I don’t think the train cars could fit that curve in the tunnel.

      My alternative view is that any DSTT2 should be reserved for longer, faster, further-distance destinations if it ever happens. That way, the number of central Seattle stations can be kept at a minimum and the tunnel can be deeper. It’s one reason why I think Link should have all three lines in the original DSTT.

      The challenge becomes rethinking the very layout of the ST3 Link system in the first place. That’s such a change of direction for ST I don’t see it happening politically.

      Had Link remain terminated at Lynnwood (or maybe Mariner) and at Federal Way it may have had a chance. The Everett and TD extensions could have been starter segments built with fewer stations and battery locomotives resulting in faster travel speeds from the ends of a shortened Link at a lower cost than the current ST3 plans. Then the HSR effort could eventually connect the two together as part of a HSR program. But that’s very long range thinking and that requires an advocate with power and a pretty big amount of funds to get it at least studied.

      1. > With the sharp curve near Third and Pine, using DSTT for high speed trains seems to me to be a silly premise. I don’t think the train cars could fit that curve in the tunnel.

        Yeah, that is a pretty big counterpoint. I guess I didn’t quite realize even normal passenger trains like brightline’s can’t use the tunnel.

        > My alternative view is that any DSTT2 should be reserved for longer, faster, further-distance destinations if it ever happens. That way, the number of central Seattle stations can be kept at a minimum and the tunnel can be deeper. It’s one reason why I think Link should have all three lines in the original DSTT.

        I mean part of why I thought about it in the first place was how DSTT2 digs a new tunnel that is near the international district station and also near the freeway alignment (the 6th avenue alignment). It seems if there was an HSR route going down the i-5 it seems kind of a waste not to just connect it together. Or some kind of a plan to put it together rather than digging yet another separate tunnel

  13. Hey transit nerds,
    Does anyone know where I can find historical maps for King County Metro? I’m looking ideally for something year-by-year where I can see route changes over the years. But anything would be desired.
    Thanks yall.

    1. I don’t know/ and also couldn’t really find any maps online for like before 2000s. I’m assuming it’d be in the Seattle/King county libraries historical archives if they existed.

      If you want the more detailed data there’s the GTFS data though only going back till 2013. Probably a bit overkill though there are some simple gtfs viewer applications you could use to browse through it without coding

    2. Oran Viriyincy (who has often contributed here in the past) has a bunch of maps posted:

      I believe that Sam has also posted a bunch of interesting historical documents in the past, so perhaps they can share those sources again. I cannot immediately find them. Neither those nor Oran’s are year-by-year, though, but perhaps they can help.

      1. Here is a Metro system map from 1977. The sideways arrow on either side of the map will take you to other maps and years, like 1988, or urban or suburban route maps. There are only a few years of Metro maps in the link. Notice the route 255 had two versions, the regular, which follows a similar path as it does today, and the 255F, which traveled on 405. F stood for flyer.

    3. I’ve had some success with the wayback machine (internet archive) when looking up old KC Metro route information. It’s kind of hit and miss though as some archiving snapshots are “deeper” than others. You’ll also have to contend with multiple sites. Good luck.

  14. Fresh reporting from Ryan Packer on Publicola regarding Design Review:

    One of the interesting points from architects is made in opposition to complete abolition of Design Review Boards: the boards can approve deviations from code requirements in a public forum, whereas administrative review is apparently much less lenient.

    It seems to me that the compromise (requirements for clear review requirements & number of meetings) is good, but it will be interesting to see if the net effect is simply fewer attempts to deviate from code requirements, which will reduce the pool of potentially-profitable development projects. It seems to me that the way to increase the number of economical development sites (thus speeding up construction and slowing inflation of the market rate) is to loosen design codes – or abolish them altogether.

    1. In my experience the design review process is heavily influenced by who is on the commission, which is heavily influenced by who appoints them. Cities often require — or at least hope — to get qualified architects, builders and landscape architects on the commission, but in smaller cities at least that is not easy so you can end up with lay citizens who really don’t understand the codes or development in general.

      On Mercer Island at least, the past design commission was headed by a committed urbanist and political party precinct chair who pushed for 14 story building heights during the 2016 town center code rewrite (the building heights ended up 5, 4 and 3, although ironically the 3 turned out to the biggest problem because it eliminated required street level retail space that was just fixed by the council) appointed by his good friend the mayor who had also been past political party chair. The commission under this head took the position the design commission could not increase any regulatory limits, but could relax them.

      The process can add a lot of time to the permitting if the citizens get involved and object, although the building code permits usually take longer. Some developers and architects like a “master planning process” in which there are very large regulatory limits for a commercial type of project the design commission can choose among, some high and some low, to craft a “master plan” but my experience is that usually circumvents the development code and highly favors the developer. Instead, the MI code tried to incorporate some of these design elements into the code itself like facade modulation, daylight planing, vegetation limits that include green walls and rooftop gardens, affordable housing set asides, driveway placement, parking minimums, et al.

      Most of our new mixed-use development was built under the old design commission (there really hasn’t been a new development in the town center in over 8 years despite some vacant lots). It has a remarkably similar look, which I don’t think is bad, but there are some articles noting that most of the mixed-use development in the U.S. looks like this for various reasons, not unlike the buildings in the photo in the Packer piece. As Packer notes, variances are VERY difficult to get at the administrative level but were granted quietly by the past design commission until that was prohibited.

      Developers complain about design commissions that add design elements and cause delay, and citizens complain about design commissions who think they have the legal authority to waive or modify code requirements they only find out about when the construction is underway, although usually not the big ones like height, GFAR, setbacks, etc., although there are lots of ways to fudge those.

      You only have go to areas like Oak Harbor or S. King Co. (or Seattle) to see some truly awful looking development, and go to some areas like Kirkland or Totem Lake that have strict codes and design commissions, to see the two ends. The reality is more attractive construction will cost more. That building is going to be there for 50 years so my suggestion is to not rely on the good faith of the developer in a free market system, or the admin. level, or that they have any intent of building affordable housing (developers HATE affordability mandates and usually choose the fee in lieu of if the building is in a good neighborhood and were the biggest opponents of ANY affordability mandates in the upzoning bills in the last session). A design commission, depending who is appointed to serve on it, is supposed to be the opportunity of the neighbors to determine what they want their neighborhood they made attractive for the developer to look like.


        This looks interesting although the cost per unit to build — with land donated by ST — is not provided, nor the rents:

        “A new high rise building in the First Hill neighborhood is the first of its kind in Seattle in 50 years.

        “The building is at the intersection of Madison and Boylston and while it’s all one building, it serves two functions. One part of the building is called The Rise and provides units for low-to-modest income families. The Rise occupies floors six through 17 while Blake House, which provides permanent supportive housing for those facing chronic homelessness, occupies floors one through five.”

        It makes sense on paper to have a migration of housing, from supportive to low to modest income, although in the past it has been difficult to co-locate folks with 30% — 50% AMI with supportive housing (0% to 30% AMI), or folks in the 50% to 70% AMI with folks below 50% AMI. I wonder if there are separate entrances considering the Rise is for families and Blake House is on floors 1-5 and is for the homeless.

      2. I wonder if there are separate entrances considering the Rise is for families and Blake House is on floors 1-5 and is for the homeless.

        Wait, what??? Haven’t you ever worked in an office building with a variety of clients? Certain floors are leased to one business, and other floors to another. They all use the same entrances, the same elevators, the same stairs. Folks might rub shoulders with lawyers, but after a good shower, you get over it.

        [I’m just joking. My mom was a lawyer, and one of my kids is a lawyer. But everyone likes a good lawyer joke (if if that wasn’t a very good one). ]

      3. We don’t know what a shared low-income/homeless building would be like because there’s never been one. If the homeless units and support services are high-quality, that should lessen the problem of homeless people misbehaving. If others don’t want to share an entrance and elevators with them, that’s a “separate-but-equal” bias we shouldn’t cater to. Let’s at least build one shared building and see how it goes, before assuming the homeless floors must have a completely separate entrance and elevators. If the entrance is large and there’s more than one elevator, that will allow people to have some distance without completely putting them in separate areas.

      4. Daniel, wouldn’t the proper term for the denizens of floors one through five be “formerly homeless”? Most “formerly homeless” people do actually shower regularly when they gain access to the needed facilities.

      5. Another name would be “people”. Yet another name would be “families”. I’m not sure if Blake will cater to families experiencing homelessness, but there are a lot of families that are.

        Families interacting with other families. Sounds dystopian.

      6. Well, they haven’t moved in yet Tom. The article used the term “chronic homeless” suggesting social and vocational issues beyond just the ability to afford rent.

        The Blake House/Rise paradigm is not new. Basically that is what a congregate shelter is. The migration is from cot to enhanced room. The new paradigm is to move directly to enhance room before treatment.

        The problem has always been poor people don’t like living among poor people, just like folks in Laurelhurst don’t want ruff raff living there.

        The gap between supportive and affordable housing is huge which is 0% to 30% AMI. Same with 30% to 50%, 50% to 80% which is why developers always opt for a fee in lieu of if affordable housing is below 80%.

        Blake House /Rise has one big problem: cost. If those tenants don’t migrate to private housing at some point we just built each one of them a $400k condo.

      7. “wouldn’t the proper term for the denizens of floors one through five be “formerly homeless”?”

        People stop being homeless when they have long-term housing. If you couch-surf from one friend’s place to another every few days, you’re still homeless. If these people can stay in the unit a year or more (if they don’t find a better place in the meantime), then they wouldn’t be homeless. But they’re homeless when they go into those units, so the original sentence is correct. The units are “for” the chronically homeless, even if they’re not homeless anymore when they get the unit. Because if they didn’t have the unit, they’d be chronically homeless again, at least until/if they can stabilize and get a better unit.

  15. Confused about the #50.

    I just started working near SODO station and I see the 50 all the time. But it’s actual operating route does not reflect the map online or in print.

    The map says it runs up/down the bus way between Spokane and Lander.. But I’ve seen the bus run along 6th Ave north of Lander.

    What does the bus actually do?!

    1. I don’t ride it often enough to say what it’s doing now, but it does go from West Seattle to SODO station and southeast Seattle. In the past it has sometimes been on reroutes that take it north of Lander. If nobody knows you may have to get on and ask the driver what they’re doing. It’s also possible that the buses you saw aren’t really an active 50 but a bus going to/from the base that forgot to change its sign.

      1. Buses can be forgetful sometimes. I saw one the other day rolling in clover in a park, blissfully ignoring its solemn purpose.

        [Ed. Corrected spelling.]

    2. Half of the West Seattle Route 50 buses turn around in SODO rather than continue through to SE Seattle. It’s the buses turning around that you probably see.

      As a SE Seattle Route 60 rider, I wish that all the buses went from end to end. Most Metro routes don’t have half the buses turning around in the middle of the route.


    This article has some interesting data. Seattle did not make the top 20. The cities that did make up the top 20 are quite different from one another, although the article suggests the exodus from NYC could be a factor on nearby cities. Three things to keep in mind when reading this somewhat hysterical article are:

    1. A 6% vacancy rate for apartments (or 94% occupancy) is considered the point at which the supply begins to exceed the demand.

    2. The article is undercut by the large number of days apartments are on the market, 38 on average. This suggests landlords are very picky, or there isn’t that great of demand. It also shows that landlords lose over a month on average in rent when apartments turn over.

    3. New construction makes up a tiny percentage of the rental housing stock, even in cities where there is a lot of new construction, on average around 0.3%, suggesting zoning is not the magic bullet.

    Unfortunately the article does not list the average price of an apartment for each city, or the ratio of AMI to rent.

    1. There’s the housing shortage right there. In the 1990s it was mostly only California and New York. In the 2000s it spread to Seattle and other coastal cities. In the late 2010s it spread to most of the country, both cities large and small and rural areas. It’s all because we’re not building enough housing for the population, and it eventually reaches a tipping point in each area.

      “A 6% vacancy rate for apartments (or 94% occupancy) is considered the point at which the supply begins to exceed the demand.”

      I’ve heard some estimates at 5% and others at 10%, so I assume it’s somewhere in the 5-10% range. Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland were below that for most of the 2000s and 2010s, sometimes going down to an extreme 1% or 2%.

      “the large number of days apartments are on the market, 38 on average”

      That sounds like the long-term average though. I’d say 4-5 weeks is typical in a stable market. What’s been happening at the worst times is that units go in one week or the first open house day has three offers. That’s a sign the shortage is a crisis. It’s like when houses get two offers higher than the asking price, and buyers forego inspections or even buy sight unseen, in order to be the one who gets it, because they know it will be hard to find another one.

      I don’t know why the vacant-days would remain so high with 10 prospective tenants. But “prospect” I assume means looking at a unit, not necessarily making an offer. Half the people who look at a unit may not want it afterward, or may have another one they’re also considering. Different cities have different rules about how picky a landlord can be. So the number of offers may be lower than it appears, or landlords are taking their usual time in cities where they don’t have to accept the first qualified offer. I think many landlords think they’re doing good if they fill a unit in a month, because it’s not realistic to always fill it on the first open day or in a week.

  17. Washington State Ferries is conducting a survey about access to the Anacortes-San Juan Islands route. They want to reduce the amount of car traffic on the route as the vessels are quickly filling up. Survey must be completed by May 16th:

Comments are closed.