Sound Transit is reenvisioning Sounder South, and will update its strategic plan this year. Sign up for email announcements; there’s not much else to do at this point yet. ST had been planning to lengthen trains and platforms, but is now looking at running more trains at more times instead. It will depend on negotiations with BNSF over the cost of new time-slots.

ST staff recommend prioritizing opening Lynnwood Link over an East Link Starter Line. (Everett Herald) The article also discusses strategies to handle the 41 Lynnwood Link railcars that can’t access the Bellevue Operations and Maintenance base until the fill East Link opens. Twelve cars can be stored at Northgate station, and eight at Angle Lake station. That still leaves 21 cars with no place to sleep. To avoid deploying those, staff suggest ST “can run shorter trains (two or three cars instead of four) with eight-minute frequency, run four-car trains with lower peak frequency, or shorten trips from running the entire span of Angle Lake to Lynnwood and boost frequency in areas with highest demand, such as between Northgate and downtown Seattle.” Also, “to mitigate crowding, Sound Transit is working with other agencies such as Community Transit. Sound Transit could use a bus shuttle service, restore two Sounder North commuter train trips and restructure its Express bus routes.”

West Seattle Link has rising costs too. (The Urbanist via Twitter) Rising land costs could impact the project.

RMTransit evaluates cut-and-cover construction, and says we should do more of it, but not everywhere.

Hamburg has “crazy good transit“. (RMTransit video)

This is an open thread.

316 Replies to “Open Thread 7”

  1. It may just be unclear reporting but it doesn’t quite make it clear if/why Lynnwood Link staying on time would actually have an impact on East Link Starter line. In CEO Julie Timm’s interview with the The Urbanist she made it clear that they are parallel tracks (pardon the pun), and they both could happen whenever they are ready. It’s not like we can store enough cars on the west side of I-90 for full service irrespective of if East Link is running.

    On Sounder — I really want someone to discuss, in seriousness, turning the S line into a S-Bahn type all-day every 15 minutes service, with infill stations at places like Georgetown, instead of lengthened platforms or adding parking. Luckily, ST3 was intentionally vague on the S line’s improvements, so this would fit in. There is enough rolling stock for this already — it’s just a question of negotiating with BNSF. I’ve spent enough time in Seattle to know that the three tracks (I’m counting the UP corridor which is fully usable for freight) from King Street station to Tacoma Dome are nowhere near full. If BNSF plays hardball and tries to charge exorbitant fees, ST can eminent domain the entire corridor and sell slots back to BNSF at whatever absurd rates they want to charge ST for.

    1. ST wants to space openings six months apart to get all the testing and preperations in without rushing. Each opening requires several staff dedicated to it. Lynnwood Link will be ready to open by spring/summer 2024 (I forget the exact month). Initially ST said, if the East Link Starter Line opens then, Lynnwood Link would have to be delayed six months to avoid overextending staff. Now it has started saying maybe it could open the starter line without delaying Lynnwood Link. I don’t think it’s certain yet. Many transit fans including myself think Lynnwood Link should get top priority, because of ridership and need and the ability to truncate a lot of express buses. ST staff seem to be falling that way too. So if Lynnwood Link is top priority, it will open next spring/summer, and the starter line can open whenever it can around that. That may mean the starter line would open at the same time, or six months later, or not at all.

      Some Eastside boardmembers want the starter line (Balducci proposed it), but I don’t know that the whole board and staff are for it. I think some just wanted it studied to see the possibilities. but aren’t convinced of it. Transit fans are divided on it. On the one hand it would be the most frequent service in the Eastside, and would address the slowness of current Redmond-Bellevue transit options. On the other hand, the big draw of East Link is Eastside-Seattle service, connecting to the entire rest of Link, and longer-distance trips where the advantages of rail are more significant. So just going from Redmond Tech to South Bellevue is a small benefit, arguably not enough for an opening.

      It won’t even serve downtown Redmond unless it’s delayed long enough for that segment to be ready. That loses a third or half of the potential trips right there. People will be asking, “Is the starter segment long enough to be worth using it or transferring to it?” Maybe not if you’re just going a few miles from the Spring District to Redmond Tech, or if your Spring District-Redmond trip has the overhead of transferring to the B at Redmond Tech. The longer the total trip or each segment, the more acceptable a transfer is or going up to a platform is, because it’s a small part of the total trip. When the total trip is just a few miles, a transfer or the walking distance to the platform becomes a large part of the trip, and then more people complain and won’t do it.

      1. So, start the East starter line in March 2024 and Lynnwood Link in September 2024, six months apart. The LRV storage issue is related to Lynnwood Link without the East base.

      2. @eddie,

        The Eastside starter line does nothing to alleviate the storage issue at OMF-C when Lynnwood Link opens. Only when trains can run routinely cross the floating bridge will the storage issue be resolved, and a starter Eastside starter line doesn’t address that.

        Additionally, an opening date of March 2024 for an Eastside starter line is out of the question. The very earliest this line could be ready would be December 2024, and likely much later.


        Because, IIRC, the first thing that needs to be done to make an Eastside starter line operational is that the control center needs to be relocated to the Eastside and upgraded. Flow time? Last I saw, one year.

        Then the system still needs to go through its 6 months of testing. So that gets you to 18 months. So, even if the board gave the go ahead to starter line next week, the earliest you would see he starter line is December of 2024. If everything goes well. “If”.

        Lynnwood Link will be ready before then. Which is why I think staff is recommending that it go first. It’s the right call, just need to make it work.

      3. ST says the starter line could open Spring 2024, Lynnwood Summer/Fall 2024, and Redmond and East Link Spring 2025. (page 17, also 6, 9, and 14).

        I assume “Spring” is April to June. At the time ST said that if the starter line opens then, Lynnwood Link would six months after that, so it would be delayed until December. Now ST is looking into whether that limitation is really necessary.

        The sensible thing to do is to declare Lynnwood Link will open on time, and the starter line if it’s approved can open whenever it can around Lynnwood Link. Getting some service to Lynnwood is more important than waiting until all the trains can be deployed. As long as regular off-peak frequency doesn’t go below 10 minutes south of Northgate.

      4. @Mike Orr,

        OK, so maybe they frontloaded some of that work, just in case. I hadn’t heard that.

        But Balducci has really been pushing this concept. I think she believes it will help her when she runs for KC Exec, but now that Dow appears to be staying in that position I suspect she will take her foot off the throttle.

        In any case, Lynnwood Link is still likely to go first, and that is what ST staff is recommending.

      5. Yes, I read the same ST piece that Mike shared. It did not include the constraint of a control center in late 2024. Spring 2024 could mean the March 2024 service change; that could be six months before the September 2024 service change, a great target for Lynnwood Link. We may await more analysis. Link testing may begin in fall 2023; I suppose that needs a control center.

      6. eddie, BNSF dispatches the entire 29,000 mile railroad from a single room in Fort Worth. This includes the roughly 20,000 route miles operating under some form of “CTC”or “TCS” and the remainder operating under Track Warrant Control (these days, that’s essentially by mobile radio)

        [Yes, it’s a NASA-sized room.]

        ST will not need “another control center” for East Link. How would it even work? Would the trains stop somewhere on the structure south of CIDS to “transfer control” between the “Line 1″ Control Center and thast of ‘Line 2”?

        No, most of the decisions will be made by the system itself based on the “priority rules” ST provides the programmers, with the dispatcher only taking charge during serious emergencies or blockages.

    2. Maybe Bill and Warren can gamble the corridor on the condition that CPSRTA electrify the entire trackway and provide transformer cars for freight catenary diesel-electric interface

    3. No, King County cannot “eminent domain” an active railroad right of way. Railroads are Federally chartered, and there is a large body of settled law severely restricting State powers over them.

      What you’re proposing is a pipe dream. BNSF does not need, nor does it want, a new fleet of passenger trains running between Seattle and East Tacoma. There are businesses to switch all along the line south of Black River Junction. You can’t have a switch run with a cut of cars it’s pushing into a siding in front of The Varnish, even if it’s Bi-Levels rather than The Broadway.

      The only way this happens is UP agrees to sell the east side of its ROW to Washington which then adds a second main track and pays for the wheelage created by re-routing most BNSF “through” freights [i.e. those headed to Tacoma or beyond.

      Even then it’s sketchy because of the switch jobs.

      1. What does “businesses to switch” mean, and the rest of that paragraph, and “wheelage”?

      2. There are quite a few sidings along the route from Renton to Auburn and a number of them appear to be in use. As you called out, there’s no world in which the BNSF tracks aren’t used to provide service to customers on those sidings.

        In addition, BNSF has a huge railyard in Auburn that’s heavily used and their Stampede Pass line branches off in Auburn. Both of those need to remain accessible.

        I’m sure that with sufficient infrastructure investment and financial coercion, some percentage of through BNSF trains could be routed down a dual-track line on the UP ROW. The money would likely be massive and the end result would still be a mix of freight and Sounder trains on the BNSF line.

        I’d think that working with BNSF to triple track more of the mainline is a more likely (and still very expensive) approach to expand capacity and increase frequency.

      3. Tom, agreed that BNSF doesn’t want it — that’s how they’ve gotten away with charging such absurd amounts for the existing slots. Ultimately, their shareholders want them to make money moving freight, and we can’t fault them for that. But at the same time, this is the reason why governments get involved because sometimes the region’s greater transportation needs exceed private requirements (thus why roads, for example, are completely socialized).

        I know it adds operational complexity, but if Sounder ran every 15 minutes, what physically prevents freight from running in between the passenger trains? Does the technology actually not exist for a freight train to enter/exit from a siding in < 15 minutes?

        Regarding Federal law, I assume there are requirements placed on Freight companies to provide access to passengers at fair market rates — e.g. this is how Amtrak runs?

      4. The legislation that created Amtrak says railroads can only charge it only the incremental cost of hosting its trains, not more for the existing infrastructure or a dividend to shareholders. That’s why Amtrak operates Cascades and Amtrak California, because it gets a deal no one else can.

        BNSF is more interested in money than freight per se, so it doesn’t object to hosting other passenger trains for a price. Some other railroads are more hostile to passenger trains, like Union Pacific I heard. So we’re lucky to have mostly BNSF here. But BNSF also doesn’t want to cut into its lucrative freight market, so it doesn’t want so many passenger trains it displaces freight. And the governments and unions don’t want that either because freight means high-paying jobs. That would be a problem with Sounder running every 15-30 minutes on the existing tracks. There’s not only getting out of the sidings but they may run at different speeds. It may only be possible for one freight train to fit between two 15-minute trains without conflicts, if even that. And if it missed the window it would have to wait for the next one, so the next one would need to be empty for it.

      5. Andy, if triple-tracking BNSF is feasible that might work as well, but it puts a lot of stress on the center track. The two outer tracks become essentially “one-way” double track with one freight hopping onto its right-hand “passenger track” when there’s a “meet” in the middle. BNSF hosts Amtrak and Metrolink between a junction a mile or so south of Union Station in LA and Fullerton where “The Transcon” main line diverges eastward and makes it work.

        They re able to do so mostly because the Metrolink trains are almost all in the peaks and one-way, like current Sounder South. There are eight trains northbound in the morning and two southbound. In the afternoon it’s seven southbound and two northbound. Amtrak is bi-directional, but runs only two trains in each direction during each peak. So BNSF can get by with running fewer freights on the line between five and nine in the morning and three and seven in the afternoon. They have what becomes a mostly double-track railroad for priority freights, but it’s a different two tracks in the morning and evening. I expect that they keep switch runs off the line during the peaks, though I cannot swear to that. They’d balk at more mid-day service because priority trains couldn’t get by the switching runs as easily.

        In Chicago the old CB&Q line to Aurora does run bi-directional hourly service through mid-day and in the late evening and also has huge peaks. Over twenty-five trains run inbound between 4:30 and 9:30 and outbound between 3:00 and 7:30, with roughly ten in the off-peak direction each peak. This is big-time commuter railroading, so it can be done.

        The famously anti-passenger UP even runs a parallel line between Elgin and Chicago with high frequency service on the also triple-tracked line it inherited when it bought C&NW in the 1980’s.

        But don’t expect BNSF to come running if it’s proposed for its line through the Green River valley. And such a proposal runs smack into the reality that both the UP and BNSF (CB&Q) lines have more than fifteen stations between the Fox River Valley and downtown Chicago, including some in the city proper. It’s fairly dense “streetcar suburbs” all the way, though the streetcars are replaced by commuter trains. Sounder South has six, and one of them, Tukwila, has nobody living within a mile of the station.

        Note that the mid-day service on both lines is hourly. You are proposing four times the frequency for South Sounder.

        Central Puget Sound South of I-405 is not the Chicago suburbs. It may come to resemble them more in the future, but for now “fifteen-minute Sounder” would be yet more money wasted on service that isn’t really wanted or needed.

      6. Tom, I’m legitimately curious how much of this (only hourly service, significant restrictions on freight during beak) is because of the way it was done in a world before Positive Train Control and it was hard/difficult to understand where all trains were at all points in time and thus large amounts of buffer were required for all train movements.

        If it was indeed possible for a single freight train movement between two 15 minute Sounder trains, that would still mean capacity for far more freight trains than are projected by 2040: — even in the high growth scenarios, they’re projecting 60 freight trains on the BNSF corridor (which is 30 per direction) daily. In a given day there are 96 (4*24) windows in 15 minute segments. So we’re talking about 30 trains scheduled into 96 windows — seems extremely doable. I know it’s not quite that simple, e.g. some trains may be very long or have to switch to the opposite track, which would take both sides being open, but even cutting the capacity in half still leaves a ton of headroom.

      7. Andy, my apologies. It was Stephen who proposed fifteen-minute Sounder, not you. And thanks for your excellent explanations for Mike. He is exactly correct about the Amtrak enabling legislation.

        It’s important to remember that the legislation puts no onus on railroads to open new routes that did not exist in 1970. This is why the proposal for a line between Meridian, MS and Dallas has run into some opposition. NS is the operator between Meridian and Shreveport though the line is technically still owned by Canadian Pacific. The last Illinois Central train between Meridian and Shreveport ran in the 1950’s, and the Southern Railroad did not relinquish The Crescent to Amtrak until its merger with N&W in the 1990’s forming NS. They host Amtrak between Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia because the lines used are old New York Central and Pennsylvania high-volume three- and even four-track lines, but only because they inherited the responsibility from Conrail.

        That’s not pertinent to Sounder South, but it illustrates most railroads’ aversion to increased passenger service. BNSF is actually the least resistant, but they’re not proposing new passenger routes themselves.

      8. Stephen, those are legitimate questions, but PTC doesn’t really add that much capacity to a rail line. It decreases the likelihood of collisions, for sure, but it doesn’t help with the slow acceleration and braking of freight trains.

        A “scoot” (railroad slang for a commuter train) usually is powered by four or more times as many horsepower per ton of train as is a freight, so it accelerates much more rapidly. Modern commuter trains typically have disk rather than shoe brakes, so they stop more quickly as well. They typically run at a higher top speed between stations also.

        So a trundling freight plodding along at fifty would bounce around within the envelope between the leading and following scoot. When the leading scoot stops the freight would gain on it, and a longish stop, say for a wheelchair to board or alight, might show the freight a yellow signal. At the tail end of the envelope, the follower might get snagged by a yellow as it catches up before its next station stop. The envelope doesn’t move at a constant speed as (ideally) does the freight and a long freight can take a minute and a half to pass a point at fifty mph. Fifteen minute headways for passenger trains are VERY hard to accommodate in mixed traffic with fewer than four tracks.

        Switching moves would completely destroy any moving envelope system, because industrial siding switches are not powered and never will be because of the complexity of co-ordinating with a dispatcher half a continent away in Fort Worth. Switchers often leave part of their train on the through tracks, because it’s not always possible to organize the train in the exact order of the customers to be served. That’s why when there are several customers on one side of the right of way, the railroad will place a switching siding from which the actual sidings into the customer property branch off. But that’s not always possible to accommodate.

      9. Clarification on the comment about BNSF and UP operations in the Chicago West lines. Because these lines are running almost completely through “streetcar suburbs” there are very few industrial customers along them except on UP right around its enormous Proviso Yard. There are industrial leads parallelling the mains through that area.

        BNSF between Black River Junction and the old Federal Center south of Auburn runs almost 100% through industrial territory.

    4. > On Sounder — I really want someone to discuss, in seriousness, turning the S line into a S-Bahn type all-day every 15 minutes service, with infill stations at places like Georgetown, instead of lengthened platforms or adding parking.

      A large reason why link is building new tracks in the first place is because those tracks are owned by the freight company and you can’t really run passenger trains so frequently.

      1. Some of us have speculated the state could buy out the BNSF track, build a third track to increase capacity, shift most freight to the UP track, and then it could run Cascades more frequently and also have room for 30-minute Sounder. But the state has shown no interest; it hasn’t even finished implementing its Cascades long-range plan it drafted twenty years ago, that would have increased it to 110 mph. And who knows under what conditions BNSF might be willing to sell.

  2. Focusing service on the busiest parts of the route is the best option to mitigate the rail-car shortage. Remember the 20 min, all-day frequency that was planned for 2-week maintenance last year? I’m not sure how or who spoke up but ST eventually changed its mind and deployed a solution that placed emphasis where it was actually needed – rather than a broad, cookie cutter solution.

    That’s what it needs to do next year for Lynnwood Link.

    1. ST has done it twice now; a bad 20-30 minute workaround for the entire line, then after a few days of it and public pressure, a better alternative that gets at least somewhat-normal frequency to the busiest northern half of the line. Maybe now that Julie Timm is in charge and she’s been through the Westlake fiasco, they’ll start getting it right the first time. She seems to be more responsive to passenger concerns and more transparent than her predecessors were.

      1. I think it’s been twice this past 12 months (Columbia City tiles and Westlake hole), but they did it several times with Connect 2020 including a few weekends before and after that big event.

        As I’ve stated before, ST needs to work on effective contingency plans for each segment of track in case it gets closed. They may have them — but given the recent keystone cop reaction to Westlake I kind of doubt it. An urban rail operator should expect track closures due to unforeseen circumstances that will eventually happen — from collisions with cars to pedestrian suicides to power outages to train brakes locking for for no clear reason to crime scenes in stations to whatever.

    2. Yes. Northgate to somewhere south of downtown where a reversal can be made easily and safely. The elevated tail at Northgate is clearly designed for safe reversals, but the same really cannot be said for the pocket south of Stadium. There’s not much of a separation between the southbound track and the pocket, and it isn’t paved.

      So I believe the best place to reverse short-turns would be to use the outer loop at the Forest Street Maintenance Facility. It’s signaled, has power turnouts under the control of the dispatcher at both ends and crosses no other train’s path.

    3. I don’t take it as given that the capacity needed north of Northgate is less than half the capacity needed south of Northgate. If Northgate is the second busiest station now, I would not be surprised if Lynnwood City Center ends up in the top two to four busiest stations, possibly behind UW and U-District, possibly not. None of the stations between Lynnwood and U-District will be in the same ridership ballpark. So I would discourage ST from deploying super-short runs that end at Northgate. Transfers at Northgate should be seen as a baseline for ridership to the north, not a good prediction of what it will really be once new stop pairings bring out new riders.

      Based on my observations of the two- and three-car trains interspersed in the Before-Northgate Times, the third car tended to have lots of wasted space. I would encourage ST to stick to a consistent train length. Four cars minimizes operators needed. Three cars reduces maintenance crew needed and extends the life of the fleet, in a way that may be more useful than minimizing operators, and may come closer to the peak frequency riders may be expecting after Lynnwood Link opens.

      I don’t think any of the riders will complain if the off-peak frequency doesn’t double overnight. Sure, some professional transit adversaries will. Doubling the all-day frequency was planned for East Link, not Lynnwood Link.

      1. It does seem odd that the service north would reverse at Northgate. At least there are three tracks there so it seems like they could reverse trains, but just going on to Lynnwood seems easier,

        I would consider branding a North only service the 2 Line even if it doesn’t cross the Lake.

        If ST also goes with the Eastside starter line, I would even consider adding a bus bridge between South Bellevue and CID and branding the operation as the 2 Line complete with a paid fare boarding area and a platoon of 2-3 buses with doors open that match every train — to simulate light rail service between these two stations. They could circle into Stadium Station from I90 if CID was too messy to reach.

        At some point just after Lynnwood Link opens, ST will need to start running test trains on East Link anyway.

      2. “Angle Lake Station” vs. “SODO Station” should get riders’ attention more easily than “1” and “2”, and be more informative.

        ST Express 550 is the bus bridge of which you write.

      3. Also, for riders coming from Capitol Hill and north, going to UW and catching route 271 to Bellevue will be faster. Heck, Westlake to UW, then 271 might be faster. That covers most of the riders crossing the lake and going to Bellevue.

      4. Doubling of the frequency in the urban core was set to occur when interlining started, but from a frequency POV, it doesn’t really matter if that interlining starts with East Link or with an overlay line (NGS to IDS), the effect is the same.

      5. @Brent White,

        I’m sure capacity needed south of Northgate is not twice what is needed north of Northgate, but that is actually an advantage of the overlay concept.

        Base 1-Link frequency and LRV train length on the LTC to Angle Lake 1-Line would most likely be set by capacity needs north of Northgate. Adjusting train length and base frequency to just meet capacity requirements outside the urban core would serve to reduceOMF storage needs.

        The overlay line would then operate at the same frequency, but train length would be set just to meet the additional capacity needs on the NGS to IDS segment. This would most likely mean the overlay would only require 1 or 2-car trains, which would further reduce OMF storage needs.

        There are details to be worked out, but the overlay concept does have the potential to reduce OMF storage requirements while still fully meeting passenger capacity needs. And it mimics the eventual operating configuration that will be in existence when East Link enters operation.

        Note 1: having shorter trains on the overlay as compared to the full 1-Link is an advantage because it is a visual cue to the traveler that “this train is different”. People in Seattle are used to buses, they aren’t used to interlining. A visual cue that “this train is different” will be important during this early phase.

        Note 2: if 1-Link capacity needs are greater south of IDS, then the 1-Link train length and operating frequency would be set by those needs, but I’m pretty sure that is not the case.

        Note 3: Since the overlay would be operating just like the eventual 2-Link, I would just call it the 2-Link. When East Link eventually opens the traveling public would just perceive it as an extension of the overlay. It would be a seamless transition.

      6. “A visual cue that “this train is different””

        The display will say “Northgate” and the boarding announcement will too. If real-time next-train displays are working by then, they will show that. And ST could adjust the station announcements.

      7. @Mike Orr,

        Yes, there will be other visual and auditory cues available, but people in this area are used to buses. They are not used to having two trains running on the same line. Believe me, there will be confusion, especially at first. Every additional visual cue will be helpful.

        But the main reason to right-size the length of the overlay trains is to ease the burden on the Ops Dept by reducing the required number of LRV’s to just the bare minimum required. Using longer trains than required just makes the storage problem that much worse.

        Ops is going to have their hands full for awhile. We shouldn’t be needlessly making their task more difficult.

      8. How many passengers count the cars, or can accurately count articulated ones? How many would even know that short runs have 3 cars and long runs have 4? Why would that be easier to identify than looking for a Northgate display, as people have always done for buses? It seems easier to spot one “N” or a short word than to count the cars or estimate its length. Especially since you can’t tell the length until the back of the train appears, while the “N” will have been long visible.

      9. Unlike a new 2 Line, a segment of the 2 line that operates only through 1 Line stations doesn’t really require letting passengers which train it is. If someone hit on the short train, they simply would get off at the end of the run and wait for the next train.

        Actually, encouraging riders to just get on the next train would reduce possible overcrowding on the long trains anyway.

        The most inconvenient thing would be that some riders may end up standing a bit.

      10. @Mike Orr,

        Again, the main reason to right-size the overlay train length is to reduce the OMF storage requirements and ease (or eliminate) the need for distributed LRV storage. Running needlessly long overlay trains just makes things worse per Ops and distributed storage.

        Per visual cueing, it’s just a little side benefit of running shorter trains on the overlay.

        And there is no counting involved. A short train that stops in the middle of the platform is obviously different than a long train that fills the platform from end to end. Even the most inattentive rider blasting music through their AirPods will notice that “something” is different.

        And a rider that notices that “something” is different is more likely to actually read the signage, or pause the music and listen to the announcements. So one backs up the other.

        The other thing to note is that this is a no-harm-no-foul situation. A rider that gets on a 2-Link train by mistake and gets kicked off at IDS will just wait for the next same direction 1-Link train. Same platform, same train they would have boarded anyhow.

      11. @Al.S,

        For the most part what you say is true, there wouldn’t be much of a problem during the overlay period if someone got on the wrong train and had to transfer later

        And that is certainly the behavior that should be encouraged at UWS after Husky games. Clear the platform, get on the first train headed your direction and transfer later.

        But encouraging that behavior generally could be problematic. For example, eventually the overlay will be observed into East Link, and a rider that just got on the first train headed the right direction might find themselves in Bellevue instead of at the airport.

        But again, the main reason to right size the overlay trains is to reduce the OMF storage requirement and ease the burden on Ops.

      12. @Al.S,

        I forgot to mention it, but the other reason not to encourage people just to get on the first train going their way is that the SB 1-Link trains arriving at Northgate will likely be full.

        Encouraging people to just get on anyhow would be encouraging needless overcrowding. In that case a rider would be better served waiting for an overlay train.

      13. @Mike
        The transit world is awful at communicating with its customers. To make it worse, customers are paying less attention to their environment. Header signage is no longer sufficient and announcements will catch only those who don’t have earbuds in. This is why I’m more in favor of old-fashioned, placard-holding staff members posted at stations to assist in wayfinding.

      14. Lazarus, I think you may be disappointed when the flood of new riders from SnoHoCo after Lynnwood Link opens –that is, folks who don’t currently transfer fron CT or ST Express — turns out to be a trickle.

        We can hope that over time folks will see the benefit of more frequent transit within Snohomish County and Shoreline that it will unlock, but it won’t happen immediately.

      15. spend more on operations and use three car trains at six-minute headway; it would provide the same capacity as four car trains at eight minute headway. Waits would be shorter, integration easier, and more riders would be attracted. 60/8×4 = 30 LRV per hour = 60/6×3

      16. Just ban the obnoxious inebriated football fans and things will be just fine.

      17. The big hole in this plan is what we already know: Riders will see 1- or 2- or 3- car trains become commonplace. Is this just a peak overlay or an all-day overlay?

        Riders will stand in a position where they can board whichever train comes along. The extra cars on the longer trains will not fill up, while the others get crushloaded. In effect, the commonality of the shorter trains will reduce the practical capacity of the longer trains.

        This has all happened before, and it will happen again.

        I suppose a “Wait here for the train that goes north or Northgate” zone could be spelled out on the floor, in front of the extra cars northbound, and “Wait here for the train that goes south of Stadium” zone could be spelled out on southbound platforms.

        Oh, and why would ID/CS be the southern terminus of the short line? The train has to continue through Stadium to get to the next switch, or to get to the OM&F base. ID/CS is not a good place to have trains dwell for inspection that everyone has departed.

        Encouraging people to just get on anyhow would be encouraging needless overcrowding. In that case a rider would be better served waiting for an overlay train.

        Um, no, a rider is best served by catching the first train headed to their destination. You can ask riders going to U-District to please wait for the short-run train until you turn blue in the face, but they are going to catch the next available train.

      18. “This is why I’m more in favor of old-fashioned, placard-holding staff members posted at stations to assist in wayfinding.”

        Probably the easiest strategy would be to put up projectors that cast down onto the platform every 20-40 feet or maybe on a screen suspended from the ceiling. The projectors can be set to any message using colors that ST wants. That way, riders can’t miss the info unless they are blind (so supplemental speaker announcements would be needed).

        I see projectors onto the sidewalk or on walls in use today. With LED technology backlighting the focused projection, it seems to be the cheapest, most flexible and most visible method to inform riders.

      19. Trifold stands are the easiest signage to quickly deploy and remove, should ST decided to ignore history and go with alternating train sizes.

        Staffers have easy visual cues where to put the trifolds: Next to the between-car-barriers.

      20. One more thing I would encourage ST to do when Lynnwood opens:

        Don’t let schedule idealization drive the service pattern.

        If 4-car trains can handle off-peak demand, running every 10 minutes, so be it. If, instead they have to run every 7.5 minutes, choose that as the service pattern rather than every 5 minutes. Running trains every 5 minutes all day 7 days a week would be a significant drain on operators needed on bus routes, age the fleet needlessly, and require more maintenance staff.

        If 3-car trains can handle off-peak demand, running every 10 minutes, then go with that. I’m thinking that won’t be enough, though.

      21. Brent, you are right that ST should not be too firm on setting exacting peak headways. Most high demand rail systems have developed a number of ways to manage peak demand. Some systems even have a handful of spare trains ready to roll if the loads get too heavy, for example. Some systems run an “express train” followed by a local one with things like A stops and B stops (like A trains would skip U District and Northgate stations but go all the way to Lynnwood and B trains would serve all stops but end at Northgate). Then there are special days when there are game crowds that require extra trains.

        It’s just another reason why ST should hire seasoned staff that have years of experience with heavily-used systems elsewhere rather than to keep promoting from within.

      22. ST needs both intra- and outside experience.

        Express trains can’t happen because Link does not have passing tracks through stations.

        ST already keeps a couple spare trains ready, as trains do occasionally break down, and biohazards happen. I’m pretty sure they are factoring this into any Lynnwood service plan.

      23. Brent: based on your earlier suggestion to evenly space the trips on routes 60 and 107 your know the importance of headway and waiting. Waiting is a very important variable for intending riders. As an attribute, capacity does not attract riders but the lack of capacity can deter riders. Shorter headway and waits actually attracts riders. So, let’s encourage ST to minimize headway. Four-car trains are not magical; they just fill the platforms. It would be good to provide short headways at all times; it is better for riders.

      24. I’m not suggesting that ST increase headway beyond 10 minutes, or that ST adhere strictly to 4-car trains, just that they pick a length, within a couple weeks of opening the extension, and stick with it.

        A printable clock-face schedule would be nice to have when Lynnwood Link opens, but I’m thinking *everyone* will guess wrong about the ridership patterns, and it will take a week or two to change things up to fit the new normal. So, we’ll need to have more patience than usual for the permanent schedule to be solidified and published.

        If I have my way, 60/107 schedule interlining will be back some day, but I’m still in emergency-rides-only mode. The CDCP and State of Washington going dark with the data doesn’t help (and the state had already done so over a month before the CDCP did). How can people make informed choices without data? (which is why published schedules are so important). I realize the loudest anti-masker voices here aren’t reading that data anyway, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others reading that data, and I do so almost daily, “hopescrolling” I call it.

      25. @Tom T,

        “ turns out to be a trickle.”

        If you have an FTA reviewed and approved modeling methodology that suggests that Lynnwood Link ridership will be less than currently predicted, then I am sure ST would want to see your data.

        If not, then ST has to plan per the scenario indicated by the current modeling. They have no other choice.

      26. “If ST also goes with the Eastside starter line, I would even consider adding a bus bridge between South Bellevue and CID and branding the operation as the 2 Line complete with a paid fare boarding area and a platoon of 2-3 buses with doors open that match every train — to simulate light rail service between these two stations. They could circle into Stadium Station from I90 if CID was too messy to reach.”

        1. Which subarea would pay for these buses? I am assuming N. King Co.

        2. The 550 basically mimics the route the three buses would take for a bus bridge, but accesses both downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue. Frequencies are 10/15/30 minutes. The 550 is never full during peak hours, and there is no one on it during non-peak runs (I just took it back from Seattle).

        3. Does it make sense to add three duplicate and empty buses when there is a driver shortage, especially when drivers would be needed for a starter line?

        4. Mercer Island does not want three additional buses per hour stopping on MI, especially if they are empty and truncate at S. Bellevue and CID. The CID wants fewer buses, not more, stopping at the CID.

        5. Who would take these buses? Someone from the eastside would have to get to S. Bellevue to catch one of these buses rather than the 550 (or several buses directly to Seattle from Issaquah) to then transfer at CID (or stadium) when CID is not the ultimate destination for 99% of eastsiders. That is 3 seats when most east/west buses are one seat. Coming the other way, a Seattleite would have to get to CID station, (or Stadium), transfer to a bus that truncates at S. Bellevue, and then catch the East Link starter line, to where? Wilburton? The Spring District? Microsoft is still WFH, and East Link does not go to downtown Bellevue although the 550 does.

        6. If the goal is some kind of muscle memory for when East Link opens across the lake I don’t think a bus bridge from CID to S. Bellevue is a good idea. First no one would take it because it duplicates buses that continue to the ultimate destination. Second when East Link opens across the bridge riders’ ultimate station won’t be CID or S. Bellevue. Third too many seats. I think eastsiders will be able to figure East Link out when it opens across the bridge, although I doubt many will be on it.

        I don’t think a starter line makes economic or transit sense, especially without an eastside transit restructure, and that is not possible without Link across the bridge. A starter line will mostly be decorative, and a political sop for Balducci, but the reality is very few will ride it because eastside buses will be faster, more convenient, go to where they are going, with fewer seats, and eastsiders are not riding those.

        I suppose if N KC subarea wants to pay 100% of the buses for the bus bridge, and MI and the CID don’t object to the extra (empty) buses, it could be considered, but I don’t see who would ride them when the 550 does the same thing but continues to downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue with one seat, and Issaquah is served by several one seat buses to Seattle.

      27. @Brent White,

        “ The extra cars on the longer trains will not fill up, while the others get crushloaded. ”

        Ah, that is not what I am seeing on Link. Riders are actually getting much better at shifting right or left one LRV to avoid overcrowding. I would expect them to be just as good at this in the future, and probably actually better. This is a non-issue.

        “ Oh, and why would ID/CS be the southern terminus of the short line?”

        For a variety of reasons.

        First, this overlay is essentially a small part of the 2-Link line, and eventually it will actually be absorbed into 2-Link. It makes no sense to condition the public to the fact that this interlined train (whatever you name it) goes to Stadium Station, and then a year later delete Stadium Station and send them to Judkins Park or MI instead. That would be really bad. Consistency matters.

        Second, after major events at Lumen Field you simply can’t have people boarding the first available southbound train at IDS and only going one station to Stadium Station and then being forced off. Stadium will fill up after only a couple of cycles and the whole system will be forced to shut down over safety concerns. It just isn’t a safe or practical place to have large numbers of people deboarding after major events.

        Regarding taking the first train going your direction and transferring later, it’s normally a good policy, but after 60 years of bad Metro bus-to-bus transfers, good luck convincing people that it makes sense. People in this region have become so conditioned to expect bad is transfers that they will do almost anything to avoid them, even in cases like this.

        Additionally, it works well at UWS, and at IDS in the NB direction, but not so well at IDS in the SB direction.

        Imagine the situation at IDS after East Link is up and operating. The IDS PA system on the NB platform is encouraging riders to take the first train going their direction and transfer latter, however riders on the SB platform can hear this announcement too. But if they follow this advice they have a 50% chance of ending up on the wrong train. Nobody wants to be on the wrong train to Bellevue.

        The best that can be hoped for is that enough of the public figures it out and eventually become savvy users of transit. ST can facilitate that educational process by rolling out the changes incrementally and being consistent once the changes are in place.

        But until then, ST is going to have to meter access to the platforms after major events, just like they do now.

      28. Lazarus, of course you’re right that they must plan for the forecast ridership. It’s just that the forecast is seven years old, and a lot has changed since then. Transit is much more a service used only by those who must use it. Those who must use it are taking the ST and CT expresses and Metro’s north end collectors already. They don’t fill the trains out of Northgate today. What is going to change when trains arrive in Shoreline, MLT and Lynnwood.

        What might happen and would be a good thing is that people, especially young people for whom car costs are important, take more local trips on the then more-frequent local services.

      29. “Express trains can’t happen because Link does not have passing tracks through stations.”

        You don’t understand how a A train followed by a B train works. You don’t need passing tracks.

        The A train goes first, doesn’t stop at a few closer stations but doesn’t catch up to an earlier train. The B train stops at the closer stations and either turns around at a siding (which Northgate has) or it skips stations further out. The result is that no trains pass smother in-service train.

        The advantages are that the further out riders can make the trip faster, and the close in riders have a better chance at getting onto a train if they get too crowded because there would be fewer upstream stops.

        It should be mentioned that overcrowded trains have to keep doors open longer. Riders have to push through a crowd before new riders try to board a train. An extra 30 or 60 seconds at each station to let riders push themselves off or on can really slow a train down. It doesn’t much happen on Link today so it’s not a problem that many posters here are used to.

        The problem is that every train does not stop at every station. That’s why it only makes since if trains are overcrowded and riders are savvy enough to underdtsnd what the operation is.

      30. “I would even consider adding a bus bridge between South Bellevue and CID and branding the operation as the 2 Line complete with a paid fare boarding area and a platoon of 2-3 buses with doors open that match every train”

        ST has never predeployed that much bus service ahead of Link, so I don’t think it will start now. ST has always forced people to wait until Link opens to get more service, even if Link is delayed. The bridge route is the 550, and it currently runs every 15 minutes weekdays and Saturdays, and every 30 minutes evenings and Sundays. It did that before East Link and it’s doing it during East Link construction. ST intended to raise the 550 to 15 minutes Sundays in 2022 to fill the underservice gap, but that got swallowed by the driver shortage. (Sunday service on the 535 also ran into that roadblock.)

      31. @Lazarus,

        The cleverness of some riders to stand at the between-car-barrier, and then see which car is emptier, in no way leads to even ridership among the train cars. It isn’t that many riders using that trick. I saw many times when a mixed-length peak fleet was the service pattern that the rear car was much emptier than the others on the longer trains. That’s a lot of data going against your wired hypothesis that the masses will suddenly figure it out

        You know what works to spread riders out the riders evenly? Consistent train length.

      32. @Lazarus,

        You are at Westlake, waiting on the northbound platform to go to Roosevelt.

        A train pulls up, saying it is going to Lynnwood. There is room for a few more passengers.

        Do you board it?

      33. I’m not Lazarus, but I’ll bite (through the mask)…

        In the pre-COVID days I would often hedge my bets a little depending on what I knew about the schedule. For example, with the 271, a typical pattern at Bellevue TC was that the Issaquah-originating bus would arrive about 10 minutes late, only minutes before the Eastgate-originating one would. So I would almost always wait. I got burned a few times, when the Eastgate one was also late, but not often.

        On the other hand, if I were at 15th and 65th and heading South, I would catch whatever the first option was that came (45, 71, 73, 373) because I couldn’t guarantee that the others were running on time.

        In the post-COVID days, I would likely wait for the emptier option to reduce exposure risks. But I am in the minority in that sense, as you know.

      34. I guess what I’m getting at is that the 2-Link plan is based on multiple bad suppositions of rider behavior, and that, in all likelihood, nothing will end up working except to let all the trains continue to Lynnwood. To the extent peak LRV usage has to be cut somewhere, that somewhere is going to have to be south of ID/CS, not north of Northgate. Give the new riders the red carpet, not having their frequency cut in half relative to other north-end riders, or have to transfer at Northgate.

        The Northgate turnback should be the very last-ditch measure.

  3. If they want to reenvision Sounder South Service, I’d say move towards better all day frequency and retiring the older Bombardier trains for Stadlers whem we need new trains to replace the old ones.

    1. However we can move the carbon footprint to the production of the trains, windfarms, and solar panels, I don’t care who the manufacturer is. Is Stadler set up for the Made in America requirements?

      For track upgrades, can ST please prime the market by contracting with a carbon-negative concrete producer, which would take a few years of planning? We missed a huge opportunity to shut down ST’s substantial carbon footprint with ST2 construction. Maybe the plinths would have been stronger.

      1. “Is Stadler set up for the Made in America requirements?”
        Stadler has a Salt Lake City plant where they build FLIRTs as they have for TexRail, Arrow, eBART, and DART

      2. The FLIRTs are single level:

        Stadler makes ok stuff, but I’m not impressed with some details. Eg: the cars they built for Rocky Mountaineer use the 24 volt battery system for truly everything, meaning if the batteries die you have no way to run the battery charger to recharge them. The main contactor needed to run the car from the 480 volt trainline is powered by those batteries, rather than giving it a method of being powered directly from the 480 volt trainline.

        Anyway, their stuff is decent, and with some effort invested in details they could probably produce even better equipment than now.

    2. RE South Sounder:

      What’s the amount of service that ST can run on the South Sounder tracks today? Isn’t it something like 8 weekday trains in each direction and maybe expandable to 10 weekday trains in each direction?

      That’s just not enough trains to spread out to be good all-day service. To run a train only every hour in each direction between 6 AM and 9 PM would be 16 trains a day in each direction. Setting up 30 minute service at peak hours would increase that frequency to at least 22 trains a day in each direction.

      One other aspect are the Cascades. Would a battery engine for the Cascades and Sounder improve acceleration and deceleration to allow for both trains to stop at the South Sounder stations that get skipped by the Cascades today? That could add to the number of weekday trains but it would be aggravating for riders going to Portland.

      Would safety upgrades help? What about track upgrades? What about electrification? There are some capital investments that could sweeten the pit for BNSF.

      The South Sounder funds in ST3 for garages and longer platforms are low hanging fruit that could be reallocated into something more beneficial. (My issue with the garages has been that many of the riders would come from Maple Valley and Black Diamond outside of the ST tax district. )

      I do think it’s important to let Sound Transit not lay out all their cards on the table. They are playing a “card game” with BNSF in this situation so some hidden cards that can be played can make a big difference.

      1. I highly doubt the existing agreement with BNSF would even allow the existing train runs to be more spread out. Passenger trains are a lot less impactful on freight if they are concentrated in a relatively short time period vs. spread throughout the day.

  4. Reposting this here because it got buried at the bottom of Open Thread 6, and because the 16th is the last day to comment:

    Washington State Ferries is conducting a survey about non-driving 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:

    1. I have a vague recollection that the bus connection at Mt. Vernon to each Anacortes from Everett is horrendously timed. Don’t remember the details, other than the wait time being very excessive. A little bit of schedule coordination could go a long way.

      1. It all depends on what service your talking about, but there are a number of transfers that all have to work, and most of them don’t. The only one that works really well is Skagit Transit 410 to 40X at March’s Point, which is a carefully timed transfer because, for whatever reason, Skagit Transit can’t operate a single Anacortes to Mt Vernon route, but must break it at March’s Point.

        There is no Skagit Transit service to the ferry on Sundays, which significantly reduces the ability to use transit for weekend trips to or from the islands.

        Belair Airporter only has a few trips due to the driver shortage, and except for SeaTac doesn’t really serve any transportation hubs. What few trips there are usually don’t correspond to the ferry.

        On the island end of things, they’re pushing “rideshare” but there already is supposed to be that, but as best as I can tell it’s no cheaper than the taxi services, so people probably don’t use it much?

        The guy who runs San Juan Transit says he could set up a weekend bus on Lopez, but nobody on the island wanted to pay the $6,000 additional funds beyond fares he would need to operate it, so now the island is stuck with limited car space on the ferries.

    2. Charge more for the cars and less for the passengers.

      Also, WSF’s effort to institute a low-income fare seems to have fizzled, probably a victim of WSF’s institutionalized only surveying its current riders.

    1. That’s Caltrains Stadlers, the KISS model. But they’re EMUs, and if you’re going to electrify Sounder, then EMU’s are just better.

  5. This morning I took 512 to Northgate to Link to King Street Station.

    Traffic was apparently backed up to about Marysville, so the buses were really slow. Lynnwood Link will probably be reasonably popular the freeway seems to be as awful as it ever was.

    Looks like Lynnwood is set up to be another disaster of a transfer situation, with buses about a block from the station.

    Google Maps suggested that I take the 512 to Montlake Terrace, switch to the 410, and walk from 5th and Yesler for reasons known only to itself, as apparently walking 5 blocks is faster than taking the bus through that part of town. 512 to Link definitely seems to have worked better than any of its other suggested options, except the 510 but that runs so infrequently I’d have missed the morning train.

    1. Do you have a map showing where the new bus transfer facility would be at Lynnwood?

      1. I’m assuming it will be the existing transit center. Fastest and easiest in-and-out for the busses. There is a walkway and new crosswalk connecting the transit center bus bays to where you would go up to the platform. And you don’t have to walk through the garage. Busses getting on and off the freeway will intersect with this crosswalk, so it may be interesting to see how that will work out during peak hours.

        As far as I can tell, there is no quick and easy way for the busses to get between the HOV ramps and the roundabout that it looks like will be the main passenger loading area for cars/Ubers/shuttles.

        I also suspect that many cars will just use the crosswalk area as the loading zone, which may delay some busses, because it’s a bit of an out-of-the-way roundabout route to get to the official designated loading zone. Similar issue with Northgate, where using the official zone and following all the signs means you have to go out of your way around the block twice, so most people seem to just use the crosswalk area or the garage itself for pickup/dropoff.

      2. No. You can see where it will be when you go through on the 512. The east end of the bus platform will be at the base of the south escalators, which is good. However, it’s as big as the existing platform, so it looks like many of the buses will be quite far from the station. It’s a bit south of the existing one, as best as I can tell (unless this is just additional bus platform capacity?)

      3. Brent:
        What currently appears to be the developing bus transfer location is where the P marker is on the Google map of the area:,-122.2956099,299m/data=!3m1!1e3

        It doesn’t look too bad on the map, but in going through the area yesterday it seemed like an awful lot of bus stops were going to wind up quite distant from the actual station. It seems like they could have done much better by centering the bus part of the transit center on the southwest escalator rather than shoving the whole thing to the north of the escalator.

        Still a bit better than some Link transfer situations, I guess. Almost akin to Bellevue, if Bellevue had an elevator and escalator access point on the west side of 110th.

      4. Unless something has changed since the pandemic (I was last there around 2019 or early 2020), the bus stops are in the same place now as they were since around the turn of the century. My memory fails me a little as to how the reconfiguration played out over the years – I believe that the last major remodeling of the Lynnwood TC took place around the time when the carpool + bus lane ramps were built, so… 2005 or so, maybe?

        At any rate, I don’t think that the bus stops were “shoved” anywhere. It looks to me like they just worked around the existing setup.

      5. Anonymouse;

        This is about the new bus stops. The new bus stops are being built where the map puts the P symbol. I don’t know what the plan is for the existing stops, but what it looks like is either they will add a bunch more stops or replace the current ones.

        Ideally, the replacement stops would be much closer to the station. Even at Northgate, it’s time consuming to get from the 512 to Link of you are southbound. Because they chose, for whatever reason, to not center the new stops on the southwest escalators, it will be a more time consuming transfer than need be.

      6. Thanks, Glenn, for the map. My memory of the transit center concurs with Anonymouse’s, though admittedly, it has been awhile since I’ve been through there.

        I’m pretty sure the design of the new bus transfer facility — which I presume will be aligned along 46th Ave W, and centered under the station, with bays on each side of 46th close to station escalators and no pedestrian having to cross the busway that is 46th — has long since been finalized, given where construction is.

        Well, okay, those trying to get to the carpark garage might have to use the station mezzanine as a pedestrian bridge, so bunches of riders might decide to jayrun instead, as happens when a pedestrian skybridge is much longer than just crossing the street.

        I look forward to playing Monday morning quarterback on the design when it opens next year (hopefully). Now, back to our regular program of nitpicking stuff we can do something about.

      7. Glenn,

        The “P” on the map is a legacy google designation for the parking that used to be there before it became a construction staging zone. I’m guessing it will become one of the surface parking lots again. But if you want answers rather than guesses, I’m sure ST would be glad to oblige.

      8. I love how the Interurban hike & bike trail is able to cross over 44th Ave W and the creek, and back under the transit-only I-5 overpass, a long-time feature, not something new.

        The connection I see to the station appears to be through the carpark garage. Ew. I’m guessing that cyclists and scooterists will be expected to walk their mobility devices through the garage and then have a skybridge pedestrian entrance from the garage to the station mezzanine.

      9. As best as I could tell, there’s no pointless station mezzanine this time.

      10. It is not easy finding detailed plans for these stations. This is the best one I’ve found:

        The bus should be able to get to the station quickly. The HOV lanes will continue to connect directly to the transit center. Ironically, it will pass right under the train platform before dropping people off. It does not look especially far from there to the escalators/stairs.

        Overall, it looks similar to Northgate, if Northgate had ramps to the station. There might be a little more walking on the ground, but the most time consuming part is getting from the ground to the station. I don’t know how high up the Lynnwood Station is, but I don’t think it is as bad as Northgate, and certainly not as bad as UW Station (which has other issues).

      11. Ah, got it! Thank you for clarifying.

        Location doesn’t look terrible to me – but I do remember even the bus-to-bus transfer being a bit of a walk if you switched from, say, the 512 to one of the local Lynnwood buses at the very opposite end of the current platforms. With 30 minute headways, that can be annoying when you get there on the 512 just as your local bus is about to leave. But that’s happened to me only once I think.

      12. Thanks for the map, Ross.

        I’m disappointed they aren’t using 46th to get the bus bays closer to the station entrance, but at least they aren’t spending money creating a worse bus transfer facility. Still, I expect most of the transfers will be between a bus and the train.

        Northgate’s transfer facility is about as good as it gets. Maybe it’s a tad further south than optimum, but getting it parallel to the station is the ideal.

  6. Pugetopolans want to fly and claim expanded plane travel is necessary for the region’s economy, by they’re not in my backyard ($) on siting a new airport.

    Four potential sites were in Pierce County, Thurston County, and near Enumclaw. All were greenfield sites with no existing airport. “Not a single city, county, or port, no government agency nor any sovereign Indian nation has supported any of the three greenfield sites.” The Enumclaw site also failed because it was too close to Sea-Tac’s flight paths.

    “None of the affected communities bought into the argument that the airport would bring jobs and an economic boost to the area. Instead, they focused on the detrimental impact on their rural lives.”

    The net result is that any new airport is in the far future. And thus, there may be an effective cap on air travel capacity. From an environmentalist perspective, that’s one way to reduce air travel.

    There are plans to expand Sea-Tac and Paine Field further, which would raise their capacity from 50 million to 67 million passengers per year. Passenger demand is projected to grow to 95 million by 2050. This would create a gap of 18 million would-be passengers who can’t get a flight. Now that the attempt to site a greenfield airport failed, attention turns to expanding existing airports. Some think this will be difficult too, saying the best place for an airport is away from populated areas to minize public health impacts. That contradicts the view that greenfield airports cause too much harm to the environment (and piss off rural residents around them). Remote airports, both greenfield and brownfield, also have a public transportation problem getting to them.

    All that money going to a new airport could go to the Cascadia high-speed rail proposal, and medium-speed rail to Spokane. That would absorb some of the demand at Sea-Tac and Paine Field, opening space for others who can’t use those alternatives.

    Attention should also be paid to making it easier to get to airports, wherever they are, on public transit, since 95 million is a lot of people.

    1. “All that money going to a new airport could go to the Cascadia high-speed rail proposal, and medium-speed rail to Spokane. That would absorb some of the demand at Sea-Tac and Paine Field, opening space for others who can’t use those alternatives.”

      This suggests that a good chunk of the air travel is to destinations covered by the high-speed rail proposal and medium-speed rail to Spokane. I don’t doubt that it may be the case, but do you have the numbers to show it? Just genuinely curious whether it pencils out that way. Asking because personally am not a fan of flying to close destinations like Portland or Vancouver (either one) – I’ve only ever driven or taken the train to those, but I’m an outlier perhaps.

      1. Wikipedia only lists top 10 destinations (not origins), but says ~600k passengers fly to Portland each year. The wiki for Spokane international says ~500k passengers flew from Spokane to Seatac.

        I think the real question is how many flights in and out of SeaTac are legs of multi-stop trips.

      2. Thank you! Interesting to see.

        Seatac is the main Alaska hub and a secondary Delta hub, while neither Portland nor Spokane (AFAIK) are hubs of any airline; Vancouver is a secondary hub for Air Canada, plus a major transit point for travel to Asia. So you’re right, a lot of these could be legs of other trips.

        For the record, I am not at all in favor of adding another airport near Olympia or in rural Pierce County, both because the location is not ideal and because people living there don’t want it. I can’t comment on whether travel patterns require the extra capacity (hence my question earlier).

        Also for the record, unlike Jonathan Dubman, I have lived under the flight path for Paine Field for a number of years and was not a fan. But I am perhaps more sensitive to noise during the night than they are, so I can appreciate the different take on the topic. I would just not go quite so far as claiming that “it’s fine because one person is okay with it”. Different people have different reactions to noise. I voted with my feet and moved, not everyone has that ability. So minimizing airport effects on communities (all of them, including around Paine Field and around Seatac) should be a goal.

      3. Portland is a hub for Alaska. American was going to be a transcontinental hub in Seattle but that never panned out for them due to COVID and abandoned the plans.

      4. Ah, I hadn’t realized that Portland counted as a secondary hub for Alaska. That makes sense I guess.

        Thank you for the info about American, also. I vaguely remember reading about this years ago when they (and United, I guess?) were fighting over gate space at SeaTac but it’s ancient history at this point :)

      5. The important numbers aren’t the number of passengers flying to Portland, Eugene, Vancouver BC etc out of Seattle, but the number of flights. The limiting factor is runway and terminal slots. A relatively small plane flying to Bend takes up as much runway space as a 747 flying to London.

        I’m currently seeing about 23 round trip flights per day between Seattle and Portland, between Alaska, United and Delta. Some of these may be “triangle” flights, as Delta used to do stuff like Atlanta – Portland – Seattle – Atlanta, to serve both cities with the same transcontinental flight and any seats filled just going between the two was just surplus revenue.

        An additional 13 or so round trips are from SeaTac to Vancouver BC.

        5 more round trips are SeaTac to Eugene non-stop flights.

        2 round trips SeaTac to Bellingham

        There might be a few other ones that I can’t get to show up. I know I’ve seen a few small commercial flights arrive and depart from Chehalis, and my guess is those would most likely come from Seattle, but so far I’ve not been able to get anything like that to show up.

        Anyway, there’s a fair number of flights out of SeaTac that seem like they are short enough distance to be replaceable by halfway decent ground transportation.

      6. Glenn, yes, the distance between Seattle and Portland is short enough and the alignment straight enough that even Higher-Speed (115-125) rail would be competitive with flying city center to city center. The State is dragging its feet, though, even on the Higher-Speed project.

      7. The market has ways of handling this on its own. For example, if we go with the “no build” approach, and the cost of takeoff and landing slots at SeaTac gradually goes up, airlines will react by replacing 23 smaller-plane flights between Seattle and Portland with fewer flights operated by larger planes. The freed up slots can then be used to meet pent up demand to other destinations. This will also increase airfares between Seattle and Portland, which also favors existing ground transportation options, be it buses, Amtrak Cascades, or simply driving a car down I-5.

        Again, this is not a problem worth spending $100 billion over, be it on a new airport or on high speed rail service.

      8. Should also note that the noise footprint of major airports extends further than one might think. The flight path into SeaTac includes places as far away as Capitol Hill, U-district, even Northgate. If you’re under the flight path, the rumbling above you is pretty much nonstop, except for about a 10 second break every 2-3 minutes. You can deal with it in the house by soundproofing your windows (at a cost of over $10,000), but when you want to take a quiet stroll outside, there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it except bus or drive somewhere out of the flight path.

    2. Passenger demand is not really some fixed number, but a function of price. When air travel is capacity constrained, that simply means that econ 101 kicks in – ticket prices go up until the more frivolous trips get priced out, but people who really need to fly simply cough up the additional money and continue to do so.

      For example, when ticket prices go up, a family might choose to cut back on vacation-oriented plane trips from every year to every other year, perhaps making up for it by making the remaining trips longer when they do fly. Or, they might choose to drive instead of fly when the distance is short. Higher ticket prices also provide further incentive for businesses to use Zoom meetings as a substitute for actual plane travel.

      All of the above hardly seems like the end of the world, and spending tens of billions of dollars building an entirely new airport (plus new roads, parking garages, etc. to serve it), and living with the permanent environment damage and noise pollution that the new airport would bring, just so a one-way ticket to Los Angeles can be $150 cheaper hardly seems worth it.

    3. I have yet to see an explanation for the projection of 95M passengers per year in 2050, and doing some basic reverse statistics, the number is super flimsy. When that projection was generated in 2019, Seatac carried 52M passengers (and Paine something like 0.6M). A projection of ~95M passengers in 2050 matches a flat 2.0% growth rate for 30 years starting in 2019.

      In 2022, SeaTac served ~46M passengers. 30 years of 2.0% growth gets you to ~83M passengers.

      If SeaTac doesn’t expand, flights will simply be more full more often, and airlines will simply increase their ticket prices until people stop filling planes. If SeaTac expands, there will be more capacity for flights, and ticket prices won’t increase as much.

      I calculate the following based on data from the FAA:
      From 2002 to 2019, SeaTac averaged ~4.2% annual increases in passenger volume. On the heels of the pandemic, the 2002-2022 annualized growth rate is ~2.9%.

      Again, if we assume 2% annual growth from 2019, SeaTac’s expansion “limit” of 67M passengers will be hit in ~2032. It seems to me that if SeaTac builds their North Terminal expansion (ideally with much better Link integration), they’ll just be at capacity again a few short years after they finish, and that’s 17M more passengers in however many more planes dumping millions of tons of pollution into the skies over the Sound. Sounds a lot like induced demand – one more jetway will fix it!

    4. No, I don’t have numbers. I just observe that in Europe a high-speed train line can decimate the short-distance flight market.

      Some cities have train stations at the airport so people can transfer to the rest of the country; e.g., London Gatwick, Duesseldorf, Zurich.

      1. Actually it’s often cheaper to fly than ride the train in Europe…

        The only thing trains are better at that planes, (and it is very important) is dropping people off at the City Center. Amtrak is better from Tacoma to Portland because you don’t have to fight though any airports. Berlin to Hamburg… easier by train.

        The suburban layout of most of the USA makes airports easier….

      2. Flying being cheaper than the train depends on a number of factors, just as it does here.

        At least one European discount airline was at one time advertising “London” flights to/from Oxford and other airports quite distant from London. So the additional time and expense to get to those airports has to be included.

        In the UK, privatization means the various operating companies have no incentive to lower prices beyond whatever the market will bear, as limited service and higher prices maximizes profit.

        There are a host of different ways to get cheaper than list price for train tickets throughout Europe. I’ve not had a reason to explore them, but I have read some of the articles from “The Man in Seat 61” about there being various tricks of getting discounted tickets.

    5. Yeah, that demand projection seems like it’s pulled from someone’s nethers. Reminds me of the vehicle miles travelled projections justifying highway building.

      I am also interested in the Cargo, Commercial, Private Jet mix in our 3 existing regional airports.

      If, as I suspect, private jets are taking an increasing share of runway capacity (likely at Boeing I think), perhaps we should be charging them vast and increasing amounts of money to put a damper on that environmental destruction. My understanding is private jets do not pay their own way, and they have a vastly outsized impact on the environment.

      I have a little more sympathy for cargo, but not a lot, if we could instead better utilize ship, rail and e-trucks with less impact, though perhaps not as quite as timely a fulfillment window.

      1. There is a massive cost premium for air cargo; what little cargo moves by air is already limited to product that requires the tight time window. Ship and rail are irrelevant. Trucks can occasionally compete with air cargo, but rarely.

        In my current job, the air cargo we deal with is all inter-continental. Moving by boat is literally weeks longer.

      2. Interesting numbers. Most of the air cargo being shipped through SeaTac is domestic. Not at all what I would have guessed (I would have guessed the same thing as AJ). Then again, FedEx built their entire business model on the idea of being able to ship anything between two U. S. cities overnight. I get what AJ is saying as far as costs go — it is definitely a lot more expensive to ship by air. But it should be even more expensive. I can understand the desire to expand the airport to allow for more flights, but to do that so people can get their stuff a little quicker? Sorry, no.

        The shipping numbers list tonnage. This is a big deal as far as the environment goes, but as mentioned elsewhere (for trips to Portland) less relevant when it comes to airport capacity. What matters is the number of planes that take off and land there. My guess is cargo is a much higher percentage than the trips that could easily be replaced by better passenger rail service. By all means we should have better passenger rail service — and fewer flights is an important benefit — but it is probably not the biggest problem.

        All of this suggests that the best thing to do is what they did — nothing. It is quite possible this will work itself out just fine. The numbers will not increase the way they predict, and even if they do, there are other alternatives.

      3. The airport debate just goes to show how much harder it is these days to site major projects. Probably a commercial airport is at the top of the unwanted list, but we saw this with Link, especially surface/elevated Link, DSTT2, affordable and supportive housing projects, multi-family projects, and so on. The days of Robert Moses are over. I guess you could call Moses the uber anti-Nimby.

        I also think that so many of these grand projects, at least in this area, were based on fantastical, pre-pandemic population growth estimates, and certain ideological assumptions about how folks could be forced to live (TOD). I would put the Convention Center expansion in that category. As asdf2 notes, Zoom alone has reduced the need to fly quite a bit. I think that as the younger generation — that was fundamentally changed by the pandemic — enters the workforce things will continue to change.

        2023 is definitely not the time to make a decision on an entirely new airport because we could end up building a white elephant with none of the necessary infrastructure or access. We still don’t know the new normal, especially when it comes to tax revenue and federal subsidies. Building any kind of HSR is just as foolish due to cost and the number of riders who will actually use it. Any kind of regional rail runs into a no man’s land: 3 hours (180 miles) or less like Portland the hassles of the airport make driving more convenient and just as quick but faster and more convenient for most than rail, and over 3 hours (180 miles eg Spokane) driving and rail become too slow. So rail is the second choice both ways.

        I often think that if there were no subsidies for transportation across the board we would spend our money much more wisely, although rural areas would end up with no roads and no rail (or airports which is a real problem for small cities today, like a post office was a generation ago).

        Take Paine Field. I have flown out of there. Paine makes the most sense for a second airport since it already exists and is smaller than SeaTac, and SeaTac is south of Seattle, except it is so hard to get to, I-5 narrows through Everett manufacturing congestion at nearly every hour that backs up, there is no transit or parking, there is no there there when it comes to Everett so you are not going to Everett, and for anyone living south of Seattle (or East) you have to go through Seattle and a dysfunctionally designed I-5 to get there unless you brave 405. I will not fly out of Paine again no matter the cost.

        But Everett would still be better than some of the other proposed sites, so everyone will favor SeaTac. My guess is upgrades to TSA and to the antiquated air traffic control systems, and good old market forces, will solve the problem, especially if regional population growth is flat over the next decade or two.

      4. Cam, when was the last time you rode on the Pierce Transit route 1? You have said that it’s a route that goes directly from your home to your work, but you allegedly don’t ride because it’s “not frequent enough.” When was the last time you rode it?

      5. Last week. A crappy connection getting to work from Seatac (just to make some dumb effort to keep this from being completely OT) on the 574 to climb the hill up to my work, Monday morning. Could have walked faster.

        I even talked a friend into driving PT, and he confirmed that rt 1 is the least requested route, from a driver’s perspective.

      6. Ok, I’ll accept that. Btw, talking about the PT route 1 is more on-topic to this blog than discussing cargo plane routes.

        I want someone to look something up for me. What is the average price of a round trip Seattle to L.A. Amtrak ticket vs the average price of a round trip Seattle to L.A. plane ticket.

        I also want someone to ride the route 630 from end to end, and write about their experience. Daniel?

      7. “I also want someone to ride the route 630 from end to end, and write about their experience. Daniel?”

        Sorry Sam, won’t be me. I don’t work on First Hill and very rarely go there unless it is to the dentist and then I drive. I also don’t take transit for recreation.

        I guess I could walk to the park and ride and catch the last stop on MI for the 630 before heading to First Hill but that isn’t end to end, and then the CID and library, but I already know what the CID and Seattle library are like having worked in downtown Seattle for 32 years, and if I wanted to go there by bus there are the 550, 554, 216 I think, and maybe more that stop at the park and ride which I can walk to. I really don’t understand why the 630 continues past First Hill in Seattle and think it should truncate on First Hill, especially if MI is subsidizing it.

        I did ride the 550 yesterday. My car is in the shop for a service and I had PT at the Polyclinic. My wife drove me in before work, but after PT I walked to 2nd and Cherry and caught the 550 back to MI rather than take Uber. It is a five block walk downhill but it was a lovely day.

        The thing is there are so few people on the street the few street folks really stand out because those are the only folks you see, usually at bus stops, even though I saw very few. Very quiet on this walk along Madison Avenue. The 550 was almost empty at around 11 which I expected. Although this part of Cherry had a shooting death last week it seemed safe and calm to me.

        The combined express bus service from MI to downtown Seattle is really good and frequent, and there is little traffic congestion, and plenty of seating. I don’t think any kind of bus bridge would be better, and don’t think East Link will be marginally better unless I guess you are going to UW or Northgate. It is just that eastsiders are not taking transit for some reason to Seattle, but it isn’t because of the transit because the buses are excellent on this route: clean, frequent, plenty of seating, pretty fast once you are on the bus, especially nice on a beautiful spring day.

      8. “Ok, I’ll accept that. Btw, talking about the PT route 1 is more on-topic to this blog than discussing cargo plane routes.”

        Not in this thread it isn’t.

        Happy to add one more datapoint that infrequent transit is pretty close to useless, and shouldn’t be used as the basis for future service, regardless of what PSRC or Ross say.

        Back on topic:

        GA Local Operations
        Air Taxi Operations
        GA Itin Operations

        Anyone have any idea what those flights include?

    6. The greenfield airport idea for Puget Sound is nuts. Air travel will evolve (electric propulsion for short hops, vertical take-offs and landings like drones, etc.) before such an airport could be permitted and constructed. The carbon emissions of such a project would never be paid back. Paine Field exists. (Boeing Field also exists, FWIW.) Paine Field, in Everett, is in a complementary location with respect Sea-Tac. It is the obvious and only reasonable choice for major airport expansion beyond Sea-Tac.

      My response to the whiners in Mukilteo (Tim Eyman’s old neighbors) about airplane noise is: What? I can’t hear you. I’ve been living under the Sea-Tac approach path for the last 30 years. And you know what? It’s fine. Airplanes make some noise. So do the leaf blowers (soon to be banned!) and the kids playing across the street. And so would the neighbors in any greenfield location, who will sue, sue sue until the cows come home. We should just select Paine Field and be done with it.

      1. How do you define “Cascadia”?

        I can think of several definitions:

        1) Where the Cascades are. This means northern California and just a bit of BC.
        2) The American States that contain those mountains (California, Oregon, Washington).
        3) Same idea, stretching further north, to include Vancouver.
        4) Just the areas west of the Cascade Crest.
        5) The boundaries of Ecotopia, either defined by the original book, or the Nine Nations of North America book.

        It seems like a stretch to include Boise. Boise is closer to the Rockies than the Cascades (although definitions of the ranges are fuzzy). To be fair, it would fit some definitions. Personally, I think the one given by The Nine Nations of North America makes the most sense, since it was designed to group areas by economic and cultural features.

      2. Cascadia is generally defined as Oregon, Washington, and BC. The Nine Nations of North America defines a climactic zone: west of the Cascades, south to the Bay Area, and north to southeast Alaska (Homer). This area has more water and milder temperatures than surrounding zones.

        Boise is in the Empty Quarter or Rockies or Intermountain West. The Nine Nations describes the Empty Quarter as a mining and ranching economy, with huge swaths owned by the federal government, and an ultra-low population (partly due to the lack of water).

        So Cascadia is characterized by a benign climate and environmentalism, and the Empty Quarter by an extreme climate and anti-environmentalism.

      3. Jim, CRMO is truly beautiful and a fantastic two-day trip. The colors in the lava are amazing, and the grotesqueries of the flung lava gobs is mind-bending. Highly recommended.

    7. I think it’s also important to point out that with global warming, some airports are experiencing days planes can’t safely take off.

      Seattle typically has moderate temperatures, but if it gets to the point where, say, average of 5 days of the year flights can’t take off, it rather discourages the use of that airport as a hub (Portland, being inland, is more likely to experience this phenomenon).

      1. @Glenn,

        “ with global warming, some airports are experiencing days planes can’t safely take off.”

        Technically that isn’t true, at least not yet.

        Most large jet aircraft have published performance data that goes out to 130 F, although in practice the airlines will actually back off a few degrees from that limit. Smaller jets I believe have a slightly lower limit. As the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was only 134 F, and was no where near a commercial airport, this limit of 130 F really isn’t much of a limit.

        But that doesn’t mean your flight might not be canceled due to heat anyway. Takeoff performance decreases with increasing heat, and that means payload decreases with increasing heat, and payload is money. So an airline might cancel a flight “due to heat”, but it really isn’t because the airplane “can’t” fly safely at that temp, it’s because the airline decided they couldn’t make enough money at that temp. I.e., it’s an economic decision not a technical limit.

        Airlines that operate out of hot airports with know this, so they tend to schedule their performance challenged flights either late at night or early in the morning when the air will be cooler.

        Check it out next time you fly through the middle east in summer.

      2. Living in the SW, I recall canceled flights a few years ago due to what the airports claimed were lift issues, iirc. They couldn’t take off at the length of the runway. This was Phoenix and Vegas at around 120 degrees F.

      3. Yeah, it’s not explicitly temperature related. It’s that hot, dry air (like Portland can get from the east through the Gorge) doesn’t have enough density for lift.

        Keep in mind runway temperatures are hotter than typical ambient due to radiant heat on the runway.

        Token transit content: due to similar heat buildup from radiant heat on unshaded railroad ballast, we currently use 140°F as a typical operating high temperature for our equipment. This is within range of some aircraft having lift issues, but not knowing that industry I’m not sure when they start to shut things down or decide they can’t take 1/3 the passengers due to weight limits or whatever.

        Just be aware it may become an increasing factor in airport reliability and demand for ground transportation.

      4. @Glen,

        It’s not just lift, it is thrust. Airlines can add speed to compensate for loss of lift (if the situation allows for it).

        It gets complicated.

  7. It is very good news that ST staff has recommended prioritizing a “when ready” opening of Lynnwood Link instead of pursuing an East Link starter line and potentially delaying Lynnwood Link. Now let’s see if the ST board goes along.

    With a stand-alone Lynwood Link, the overlay concept would reduce OMF storage needs and ease the burden on the Operations Dept somewhat, but it still appears as if OMF storage will remain an issue.

    I’d recommend looking at the LRV spares requirement. It seems a bit inflated. I’d attempt to reduce the spares just to those potentially needed on short term notice. All long term spares, or LRV’s down for major maintenance, I’d truck over to OMF-E.

    Every slot that can be opened up in OMF-C is one less LRV that needs to be stored elsewhere on the line, and that eases the burden on Ops at least somewhat.

    1. the ST staff presentation on the LRV storage issue showed they wanted two four-car gap trains or eight LRV. that was with four-car trains and an eight-minute headway. the same capacity could be provided with three-car trains on a six-minute headway; that would provide shorter waits and attract more riders. a bonus: two fewer LRV in gap trains.

    2. @Lazarus,

      The 10% spare ratio comes down from the feds. ST can ignore it at its own financial risk.

      1. @BW,

        ST Ops has increased the spare ratio to 20%. And they count gap trains separately from spares.

        It’s clearly a real big number.

      2. Correction to myself above:

        ST Ops is actually saying they need a 25% spare ratio. And that includes spares on gap trains.

        ST Ops is also saying they need an additional roughly equivalent number of spaces in the OMF-W for “Inactive fleet spaces”.

        So essentially that is one LRV sitting idle for every two in active service – a 50% ratio!

        And that doesn’t count gap trains as idle, even though that it what they are also held in reserve.

        50% seems a bit excessive when the goal is to get Lynnwood Link open as soon as ready.

      3. It also seems excessive when you consider these cars aren’t 40 year old NYCTA Redbird cars or something. These shouldn’t be falling apart yet.

        If they are that unreliable, then the spares need to be staged at every pocket track for quick replacement each time one fails in service.

      4. The spare ratio is a fuzzy term. A few vehicles should be available but they don’t need anywhere near 25 percent!

        The Feds seem to focus on counting the number of vehicles that were purchased. They can be stored at either OMF.

        That’s why (in an earlier post) I suggested that ST staff quit talking up a high ratio number and instead disclose how many spares they actually need available for service each week for the 1 Line.

        There are several ways to move a vehicle or store a vehicle if it’s not in use for several weeks or months. Since there are two OMFs ST has plenty of room to accept, test, store and do most routine maintenance on a fleet. It’s just that getting a vehicle across the lake is a hassle if needed if no track is available.

        Plus, ST will have a very large surplus of vehicles since East Link isn’t fully operating. If an in-service vehicle is inoperable for a long period of time, they can transport it from the OMF-C to OMF-E via truck and let it sit unrepaired until the tracks between the two are operable (months before the East Link opening date).

        ST staff has not disclosed this detail in presentations to the Board from what I’ve seen. Instead they cry chicken little.

      5. ST also said Northgate Link is requiring more trains than expected, and trains are needing maintenance more than expected. That may be why the spare ratio is so high. If ST underestimates it, there would be more reliability disruptions.

      6. FTA spares definitions, etc:

        “ The number of spare buses in the active fleet for grantees operating 50 or more revenue vehicles should not exceed 20 percent of the number of vehicles operated in maximum service.” For purposes of the spare ratio calculation, “vehicles operated in maximum service” are defined as the total number of revenue vehicles operated to meet the annual maximum service requirement. This is the revenue vehicle count during the peak season of the year; on the week and day that maximum service is provided. It excludes atypical days and one-time special events. Scheduled standby vehicles are permitted to be included as “vehicles operated in maximum service.”

        Spare ratio is defined as the number of spare vehicles divided by the vehicles required for annual maximum service. Spare ratio is usually expressed as a percentage, e.g., 100 vehicles required and 20 spare vehicles is a 20 percent spare ratio. (Revised: September 15, 2009)”

        Seems pretty well defined to me.

      7. Glenn, that definition is for procurement as I said. That’s what FTA focuses on.

        The number of spares needing to be available each week at OMF-C seems like a different ratio.

        It’s interesting that they state 20% is a maximum rather than a minimum.

        If ST staff and/or consultants miscalculated the needed number of train vehicles, that’s a pretty basic miscalculation. ST is trying to play this like it was unexpected but that seems pretty disingenuous; they made a major analytical error. Who is to blame?

      8. @Glenn,

        “ It also seems excessive when you consider these cars aren’t 40 year old”

        Think of it in terms of in-service vs. idle LRV’s. ST Ops says they need 88 LRV’s in service to meet peak demand, but they also say they need 57 in some sort of idle status (8 gap +24 spares +25 inactive).

        That works out to a 65% idle ratio. That is a lot.

        Or stated the other way around, for every 3 LRV’s that ST Ops needs to meet peak demand, they also think they need an additional 2 LRV’s on some sort of idle status!

        That is horrific.

        Clearly some sort of change is required.

      9. @Glenn,

        “ FTA spares definitions, etc:”

        A few comments:

        1). Your link refers to buses not rail. Theoretically the spare ratio for rail should be less due to increased reliability (schedule and mechanical).

        2). Your link refers to procurement, not necessarily to operations.

        3). The 20% figure given is a maximum value, not a minimum value, nor even a target value.

        Additionally, the last paragraph pretty clearly indicates that gap trains should be counted as spares (not required to meet peak demand under normal operating conditions, therefore a “spare”).

        As such, the ST Ops total spare number should include the 8 gap trains plus the 24 listed spare trains. As such, the spare ratio is as follows:

        (8+24)/88 = 0.3636

        A 36% total spare ratio!

        Clearly something is amiss.

        Time for Timm to banish the ghosts of Rogoffs past and institute a better culture. Because this problem needs to be corrected, and Lynnwood Link shouldn’t be delayed because Ops wants to maintain a 36% spare ratio!

  8. Related to South Sounder, I have a general question about the tracks. Are the air rights available for free or a small cost? When an overcrowding gets built a pave the tracks, does BNSF get paid? Would a parallel track in the air count as a long overcrossing?

    While I don’t see that BNSF would give up a surface track especially with the need for sidings, an aerial structure for passenger trains seems a bit more possible to at least consider.

    1. Al, twenty miles of elevated heavy rail structure would be a LOT more expensive than thirty miles of at-grade second main track along UP and four or five overcrossings for that line would cost.

      Of course, UP might not agree and this might work as a fall-back “position”.

      How would the elevated structure work with the existing stations? Would they be replaced?

      1. I didn’t say it was cheap. I’m just framing options as a way to get through tough spots if BNSF plays hardball about sidings, signaling and speed. It’s probably the only way to get higher speed rail if I-5 right of way can’t be used, for example.

        The station challenge would vary by station, but I believe that would not be that much more difficult. Most of the stations already have property owned by ST for Sounder parking or there are nearby streets that are next to tracks.

        Generally speaking, corridors with stops fewer than every 3-4 miles are not well-suited to light rail at 55 mph. An aerial approach could also allow for two tracks too so frequent two-way service (perhaps automated) is possible. At stations, a third bypass track could even be added.

        It really pains me to see how difficult it is to add train sets to Sounder or to keep Cascade trains on time. At what point do leaders say “enough” and think differently?

      2. If it’s not “cheap” it shouldn’t be done. “We can leverage existing railroad tracks” is the ONLY reason to build Regional Heavy Rail in North America. Sure Paris is building new right-of-way lines for the RER, but they have no freeways through Paris. They’ve made the decision to use trains instead and are willing to shoulder the huge cost.

        Why do you think that providing fifteen minute super-express service to downtown Seattle and Tacoma to three small to medium sized cities in the Green River (plus one townlet) is important enough to warrant building what would probably become a twenty-mile, two-track — with passing sidings through the stations! — elevated structure?

        The region is not made out of money.

      3. The Sounder South serves 3 of biggest 6 cities in Washington State, all of which are growing. The catchment area is probably somewhere around a million people, and could theoretically serve twice that. Our highways are all choked with cars, and our planet is on fire. We are giving away close to a billion in tax breaks to companies, every year, that are feeding that fire.

        I am smelling smoke. And it’s May.

        I’m sorry, but that is just incredibly small thinking, if you think adding some improvements to South Sounder to make it usable for folks to get out of their cars is too expensive. I could have sworn this was a transit blog.

      4. ““We can leverage existing railroad tracks” is the ONLY reason to build Regional Heavy Rail in North America. Sure Paris is building new right-of-way lines for the RER, but they have no freeways through Paris. They’ve made the decision to use trains instead and are willing to shoulder the huge cost.”

        We need to get to a place where we have good non-car mobility. In South King County that means better local transit like we all know about, but it also includes Kent-Seattle and Auburn-Seattle all-day travel times that are closer to half an hour rather than an hour or more, because that’s appropriate for their distance and size and centrality. Saying we can’t do it because a hundred years ago we built private freight railways and fifty years ago we built interstate highways is just wrong. We need to reverse our mistakes and start investing in a better direction, as both France and Germany and The Netherlands did in the 1970s. They changed direction and have been continually improving it every year since. We also are making some improvements, but the total of Link and Sounder and RapidRide now and projected into the future is still far less transit mobility than we should have or than peer countries have. That gap hinders our productivity, economy, people’s mental health, climate resilience, etc. All that is a cost both monetarily and in other ways if we don’t make the improvements and have the vision that other European/Asian/Canadian/Latin American countries are doing.

        I’m not avocating a specific Sounder proposal. I’m just saying that in general we need to prioritize transit more, and focus on getting to a good level of transit mobility. And not saying we can’t do it because we invested in freeways and airports in the 20th century and Americans have unrealistic expectations about driving and density.

      5. Cam,

        I understand the frustration, but I think most of us here on the blog are very supportive to making improvements to transit, in general, to address the issues you are pointing out.

        The problem, specifically, is whether the improvement to Sounder South is cost effective RELATIVE to other improvements to other forms of transit that can be achieved with the same money.

        My understanding is that, unfortunately, they are not, because of the specific setup with the rail owner. That is all.

        As for thinking outside the box, as it were… For whatever it’s worth, I would much rather see certain ST3 projects be canned (e.g. South Kirkland — Issaquah, or West Seattle) in favor of that money going towards Sounder South improvements. If you advocate for that, and build up the grassroots support, I will definitely sign my name to the appropriate petitions. However, if your proposal is to do the Sounder South improvements in addition to all the ST3 projects, it will be a harder sell. If nothing else, because the bad projects are still spending money which I, as a working class person myself, likely do not have, either. I would much rather not pay for ST3 and pay for Sounder South instead. Make it happen and I’ll gladly do so…

      6. Cam, Mike, YOU DID NOT READ THE WHOLE THREAD! Please start over.

        I was objecting to Al’s proposal to elevate Sounder South. He even suggested double-tracked elevation with third central passing tracks in the elevated stations, I assume for Amtrak.

        That would cost multiple billions of dollars and is not a serious proposal given the ridership that has shown up for “all-day” Sounder in tests.

        I don’t have a problem with Sounder as commuter rail. I do have a problem with spending three or four billion dollars buying “slots” from BNSF, adding capacity to their railroad line, and then paying them an ever-increasing fee to run trains in those slots. If Sounder South is to be a long-term solution, the path to capacity lies in the UP right-of-way, not BNSF’s.

        Yes, there are places where BNSF can be triple-tracked, and some of that has already been done. But the real home-run is to create a two-main-tracks artery in the UP alignment by ST buying the east edge of the right of way from UP, adding a second track in it and allowing BNSF free “wheelage” on the ST side and paying the cost for the wheelage accumulated by BNSF through freights on the UP side less some accounting for the long-term maintenance costs for BNSF to run the same train on its own right-of-way. “Wheelage is the charge for allowing a train run by a “tenant” to use the tracks of an “owner” road.

        In trade for this increase in capacity between Black River Junction and East Tacoma, ST would receive the slots necessary to run 5 AM to Midnight service at some useful but not exorbitant headway. I expect that outside peak hours and possibly the shift changes around seven AM and three and eleven PM, half-hourly would be more than adequate.

        Now maybe Downtown Kent will turn into Washington State’s La Defense and fifteen minute service will be needed, but somehow I doubt it.

      7. In case you guys haven’t noticed, South Sounder is only getting about 25-30 percent of its pre-Covid ridership. It’s why ST is rethinking it in the first place! It’s not 2019 anymore, unfortunately.

        Single direction commuter-oriented only services are reporting much lower ridership these days across the country.

        The current South Sounder service is going to face real challenges in getting riders moving forward unless the kind of service that is operating changes. In particular, there will be a Link line just 3 miles to the west running every 10 minutes. Yes it takes more travel time to ride Link but at least a rider doesn’t have to worry about missing a train or returning at a time when there are no trains.

        I don’t see that adding a few more train slots will change much. I don’t think incremental approaches will help.

        What’s needed is to run lots more runs each day at a reasonable frequency all day and evening in both directions. That means three or four times more round trips than we see pre-Covid.

        Now how can ST get there? The best way to do so is to not pay a huge amount to BNSF to operate four times as many round trips according to their labor requirements. Yeah sure buying a track would be great solution but unless there is some major backroom dealmaking going on, it’s very unlikely to get that to happen. Plus two direction service will still require bypass tracks somewhere.

        I also doubt that BNSF will magically agree to having lots more trains each day for only a small fee. They are in it to make money. Then ST would have to mobilize equipment to do it and staff to run it.

        So what do you guys suggest? I just put one idea out there as a way to at least understand what a bargaining position may be. Where are your ideas? Can your idea leverage funds from the FRA to improve intercity rail? Can your idea get BNSF to come way down on a likely price to add lots more service? Can your idea reduce lab or costs? Can your idea make the journey faster?

      8. Just to be clear, whatever Sounder S plan folks come up with for all day service the subareas paying for it are Pierce, S KC and N KC. Plus operations. Current peak Sounded S has around a 11-13% farebox recovery. My guess is all day service would be lucky to have half that.

        Good luck. Those three subareas don’t have the future revenue for their own projects let alone a second train. What’s next: an elevated Sounder North?

        The reality is Pierce will have to stop all Sounder S if it hopes to fund TDLE which gets more unaffordable every year it is delayed, and someone has to pay for the next suspension bridge at FW. You don’t build a second rail project (all day Sounder) for this area when Link is unaffordable because the riders are not there.

        If the plan is to replace Link with more Sounder S ok, but I don’t see ST doing that, epsecially when Sounder S has so few riders. People take rail because they have to work. They don’t work in downtown Seattle any more. It is a new world. Transit has to scale, which means dollar per rider mile.

      9. “Sounder S plan folks come up with for all day service the subareas paying for it are Pierce, S KC and N KC.”

        Only Pierce and South King. It’s not a North King service; it has only one Seattle stop downtown. Its main purpose is for Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila, to access the rest of the region.

        “The reality is Pierce will have to stop all Sounder S if it hopes to fund TDLE”

        If that’s really the case. I haven’t heard of any significant cost increases on the Tacoma Dome segment. You seem to be the only one saying Pierce can’t afford TLDE.

      10. I know Mike. And I was the only person who said WSBLE wouldn’t cost $9 billion. And I am the only person who says DSST2 will cost more than $2.2 billion. What a fool I am.

        When it comes to the shared cost of inter subarea ST services like Sounder S please see AJ’s and Tisgwm’s prior posts on East Link about shared use (although there is no specific cite to any shared agreement for East Link). Please also see the 2021 subarea reports about whether any of these three subareas has the revenue for all day Sounder S service even if BNSF would grant it.

        Your idea that N KC would not pay toward expanded Sounder S service seems odd to me since a majority of the run is in N KC, and benefits N KC, or did pre-pandemic.

        To suggest Sounder S. continue let alone expand at 11% farebox recovery PEAK SERVICE through some of the poorest subareas post pandemic is very poor transit planning IMO.

        I have said this before: anticipate transit cuts. Which is what Metro is doing. It is 2023. We have to be smart with our money because it isn’t free anymore. Dollar per rider mile must be the metric we use.

      11. “I was the only person who said WSBLE wouldn’t cost $9 billion. And I am the only person who says DSST2 will cost more than $2.2 billion.”

        I’m not pushing back on your cost estimates; I’m pushing back on your assertion of what the affordability threshold is or what the agencies should do to keep under it. Sometimes you say things are unaffordable but then it turns out they are. Since I don’t see anyone in ST or the cities or people with transit-finance experience agreeing they’re unaffordable, I wonder if your threshold is accurate. I’m waiting for somebody official or with transit-finance experience to confirm your threshold. And I don’t feel right pushing for cuts based on a threshold I don’t have confidence in.

        “Your idea that N KC would not pay toward expanded Sounder S service seems odd to me since a majority of the run is in N KC, and benefits N KC, or did pre-pandemic”

        Benefit is based on where people live, not where they work. Between Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond-Kirkland it’s more bidirectional now, but in the north and south end it’s more lopsided one way.

        “To suggest Sounder S. continue let alone expand at 11% farebox recovery PEAK SERVICE through some of the poorest subareas post pandemic is very poor transit planning IMO.”

        The issue is mobility, not farebox recovery. Sounder is the only mode that’s capable of 30-minute Auburn-Seattle travel time, which I’ve argued is the appropriate level for Auburn and Kent.

        “I have said this before: anticipate transit cuts. Which is what Metro is doing.”

        It’s not doing your level of cuts though, or for the reason you think. It’s shifting resources from peak-hour to all-day service, as it has been doing since 2020 and said it would do if the peak/off-peak ridership distribution continued to flatten. It’s doing these suspensions because it doesn’t have enough drivers, not because total ridership is low or it can’t afford to run the routes (as you assert for Link and Sounder).

        In the future Metro may reach an affordability limit, but I’ll wait until Metro says when and how much it is and what it proposes to cut. There’s no need to imagine scenarios worse than what actually is, or to make cuts based on such imaginings, or to worry now because there might be some cuts at some vague time in the future but we don’t know what.

        “Dollar per rider mile must be the metric we use.”

        Dollar per platform hour is more useful. Dollar per rider mile is biased toward very long trips. People don’t ride transit to sit in a vehicle for miles; they ride transit to get to a destination. Dollars per platform hour gets to that more, for both short-distance and long-distance trips.

      12. “I know Mike. And I was the only person who said WSBLE wouldn’t cost $9 billion. And I am the only person who says DSST2 will cost more than $2.2 billion. ”

        I refute this. Myself and other posters questioned the cost estimates even before the 2016 vote. Someone only had to look at projects in Downtown LA or SF to see how unrealistic they were.

        Who was first doesn’t really matter. What matters is who pays the ultimate bill if ST keeps sticking their head in the sand about the project’s productivity. I speculate that without a good CID transfer the ridership forecasts should drop and it may actually result in fewer total transit trips than the No Build would have. $20B for a slight decrease in transit mode share is embarrassing.

      13. “Your idea that N KC would not pay toward expanded Sounder S service seems odd to me since a majority of the run is in N KC, and benefits N KC, or did pre-pandemic”

        As I’ve noted many times before, most of the ST taxes are collected where someone lives rather than where someone works or shops. To assign costs as if each subarea is somehow collecting them equally is fundamentally unfair , and to track subarea costs like they are all remote islands is absurd when a basic intent of the system has always been to enable better travel between them.

        I apologize for repeating this point again and again, but there are some posters here that still refuse to understand this very basic fact because it isn’t consistent with their view of the region.

      14. South Sounder is only getting about 25-30 percent of its pre-Covid ridership. … What’s needed is to run lots more runs each day at a reasonable frequency all day and evening in both directions.

        Wait, what? The train is performing really poorly, which means the cost per rider has gone way up. Now you want that number to go up even higher?

        The reason fewer people are taking the train is because fewer people are making that trip. You can give those handful of people Cadillac transit, but you still won’t get that many riders. The express trains are no different than the express buses. Ridership is way down on these longer distance trips. The answer is not to run express buses or poorly performing commuter trains all day. You just aren’t going to get that many riders.

        For a trip like this, you can break down the timing like so:

        1) Traditional Commute (to Seattle in the morning)
        2) Reverse Commute (to Tacoma in the morning)
        3) Midday

        This is usually the order in terms of ridership. For some places the reverse commute does really well. For others, midday ridership is quite good. But in the case of Sounder South, even reverse commute did really poorly *before* the pandemic. Well below what a typical bus. Midday was even worse. Of course overall ridership would go up if you added more runs, but the increase is far smaller than just about any bus trip imaginable. Because of the driver shortage, the relatively weak 28 will run every hour. Run it every 15 minutes and you get way more riders for the money spent. Same goes for the very poorly performing 230 and 231. These are pretty much the bottom of the barrel for midday service, but run them more often, and it is still a better value. The same goes for express routes. An all-day 510, for example — as poor as it would perform — would still be a much better value than an all-day Sounder. Why stop there? Consider all of the various 400 series express buses. Yes, ridership is way down. So we should run them all day?

        I get the concern. There is a definitely an impact on ridership if you feel “stranded” when the train isn’t running. But in most cases, riders just take the bus, just as they take a different bus if the express isn’t running. If I commute in from Everett and miss the 510, I end up on Link and then the 512, costing me quite a bit of time. I get over it. Even people in the city are quite familiar with this situation. Miss the last 15 and you are stuck taking the D.

        If you want to make the case for better express service to Sounder locations in the middle of the day, be my guest. Just keep in mind they will perform very poorly, although not nearly as bad as additional runs on Sounder would.

      15. Al, are you suggesting ST eliminate subarea equity to fund all day Sounder S service?

        Some ST taxes like sales tax are credited to where the purchase is made (including online sales). Some like vehicle taxes where the car is registered. Some like property taxes where the property is located.

        When lines cross subareas there are several methods ST appears to use to allocate the operating cost to the different subareas based on the distance of tracks in the subarea, boardings, rider miles, or other methods, and also credits that subarea with part of the farebox revenue. When it comes to capital costs the subarea pays for the ST infrastructure in its subarea.

        The two exceptions to this I am aware of are express buses which the Eastside pays 100% of, and subarea contribution to (DSTT2 (both of which I oppose).

        This means some subareas have more revenue than others, and ST is suppose to match those subarea projects to the subarea’s revenue. That is just how it is. N KC can afford tunnels; S KC can’t.

        There is no basis to charge E KC or SnoCo for Sounder S under subarea equity no matter how important you think expanding it is because it isn’t important to E KC or SnoCo, and doesn’t serve or touch those subareas.

        So before negotiating with BNSF over more track time for full day Sounder S. ST needs to know the capital costs, operating costs, and farebox recovery, and how those will be split among Pierce, S KC and N KC to determine whether all three subareas can afford this new project (I don’t think any subarea can), whether those subareas think this is a wise expenditure of their limited ST revenue, and if necessary which projects they would cancel (for example TDLE or part of WSBLE) to afford all day Sounder Service that would probably have a 5% farebox recovery rate IF BNSF agreed to lease additional track time or land for additional rail lines.

        You don’t have to repeat anything. You live in N KC. S KC and Pierce get to make their own decisions. But as far as I know no subarea is asking to waive subarea equity as you argue for, although ironically right now four subareas might not have the revenue to complete their ST projects — let alone future O&M costs — without adding new projects like Graham St., 130th, or all day Sounder S service. In fact it was only recently Pierce Co. subarea was struggling over whether to continue peak Sounder S service due to the very low farebox recovery rate post pandemic.

      16. Al, it seems pretty obvious to me that 30 minute travel time between Kent and Seattle is really not of interest to the people of Kent any longer, otherwise more of them would be riding Sounder at the peaks at least. ST is right to transfer service hours to other routes.

        They may have some trouble from FTA for grants for the most recent car acquisitions. That may be why there’s still service at all.

      17. A corollary of South King and Pierce paying for Sounder South is that it’s their decision whether to keep it or not. If they want to cancel it, I and most in North King wouldn’t object because it’s their decision. I have my ideals which I stated, but that’s more about the general level of service each area should have, not about a specific Sounder project.

      18. “it seems pretty obvious to me that 30 minute travel time between Kent and Seattle is really not of interest to the people of Kent any longer,”

        That’s a limited argument. Because the service doesn’t exist off-peak or reverse-peak, people don’t take it, they avoid living in or going to Kent or Auburn, and the general feeling grows that transit won’t be there when you need it and can’t be so they drive more and demand more free parking. Its a vicious circle. I’m not arguing for anything special for Kent and Auburn; I think all cities in a metropolis should be well connected like they are in other countries. You can’t just take what current residents are doing, because their demographics and behavior is shaped by the situation over the past several years. A future might be different, especially after several years of running all-day Sounder or some other improvement.

      19. The real issue is whether all day Sounder S. is affordable for those subareas.

        It isn’t as if Kent is an Island and we are talking ferry service. Kent has several highways that access it, and lots of bus service.

        I do think Tom is correct though: Sounder S. from Kent to Seattle is very downtown Seattle commuter oriented and that rider is probably not coming back.

        The question when it comes to all day service from Kent to Seattle goes back to a question Tom proposed about FW Link: tell me why those mid day riders are going from Kent to Seattle and I will tell you how many there will be. My guess is not many.

      20. “Because the service doesn’t exist off-peak or reverse-peak, people don’t take it, they avoid living in or going to Kent or Auburn, and the general feeling grows that transit won’t be there when you need it”

        Some years back there was an article on this web site that noted a bunch of riders between non-intuitive station pairs on Cascades trains. It noted that for those destinations, there was no alternative service that was even close to competitive when Sounder South wasn’t running.

        Capacity on Cascades trains is limited by Centralia and Olympia. There’s enough Seattle or Tacoma to Centralia or Olympia to Kelso and beyond ticket sales that those are the two places between which the seats get sold out.

        Therefore, I once again think it would be useful to reconsider what services serve what stations.

      21. it seems pretty obvious to me that 30 minute travel time between Kent and Seattle is really not of interest to the people of Kent any longer,”

        That’s a limited argument. Because the service doesn’t exist off-peak or reverse-peak, people don’t take it, they avoid living in or going to Kent or Auburn, and the general feeling grows that transit won’t be there when you need it and can’t be so they drive more and demand more free parking. Its a vicious circle.

        But there are natural limits to that argument. Consider the 24. It is a pretty average route for Seattle. For as long as I can remember, it has run every half hour. Of course it would get more riders if it ran more often, but there is no way it would get the ridership of a bus like the 8, no matter how often or how fast they make it. Not unless there is a major change in development.

        Or consider Everett trips to Seattle. For quite some time now, Sound Transit has been running all-day express buses to Seattle. Yet despite that, ridership from Everett just isn’t that high. Even before the pandemic, the 510 got about 500 riders from Everett, and the 512 got about the same. There just aren’t that many people who go that far on a routine basis.

        The same is true for the Sounder train to Kent. There just isn’t enough development in Kent to have huge ridership. Kent is the second closest trip to Seattle, but it still isn’t that close. It takes 27 minutes, according to the schedule. This to get the rider to the south end of downtown. For most downtown trips, there is a transfer. It is easy to claim that with better transit there would be more development around the station, but it will never reach the levels found with urban transit. The farther out you are, the more likely you are to just stay in your neighborhood.

        This is true everywhere. The LIRR is a very successful regional rail system. It runs 24 hours a day. It has quite a few riders. And yet the New York City bus system gets about ten times the number of riders. The subway gets about thirty times the riders. Most of the world’s transit trips are simply not that long, even when folks have excellent long distance options (e. g. the outer fringes of BART). Inner city ridership is much higher than regional rail which is much higher than high speed rail.

        There is also plenty of evidence that longer trips are less effected by frequency. Ridership goes up, but not as much. An extreme example is trips to other cities. Going from hourly to fifteen minute trips to Portland isn’t going to change things that much. In contrast, run the 13 every ten minutes and you would get a huge increase in ridership. Not just during rush hour, but all day. Trips from Kent are somewhere in between. Same with trips from Puyallup, but they are worse than Kent. The farther out you are, the less frequency matters, and the more likely you are to take transit only for rush hour commuting. People are far more likely to endure a long transit commute, as it often beats the alternative. But long spontaneous trips just don’t happen.

        If we owned the tracks, then it might be worth running DMUs throughout the day. Better yet, we could electrify it, and run tiny trains every so often. But these vehicles would still not get the kind of ridership per service hour that a decent bus gets. The fact that we don’t own the tracks makes the idea of increased service a terrible value.

      22. “The farther out you are, the less frequency matters, and the more likely you are to take transit only for rush hour commuting. People are far more likely to endure a long transit commute, as it often beats the alternative. But long spontaneous trips just don’t happen.”

        This. Yes that’s the key to the “ridership gap” as it were. Piggybacking on RossB’s example, the LIRR and PATH trains serve their respective purposes but obviously this area is a far cry from metro NYC. Here we would be spending our precious transit dollars chasing a limited number of potential long/longer distance heavy rail commuters. There is no “multiplier effect” that you have with urban core bus and subway routes for exactly the reason Ross has stated, i.e., multiple spontaneous trips that are easy to make with a well-designed transit grid. Our area’s commuter patterns have changed and thus we need to be cognizant of that as funding decisions are made going forward.

        So, can we please pull the plug on Sounder North like yesterday?

  9. Trouble in Toronto with the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail:

    I like to post the Toronto articles because they give some perspective to the problems we see with building out rail technology here. Seattle is not that special, as Ross sometimes points out… and it turns out that our delays are not that special either, of course :)

    To that point, it is worth noting that this is the sort of thing which businesses opposing construction are worried about as well. For more information about the Toronto project, here is another interesting article from a few years ago (I picked one from a while ago to give a sense that this is not a new issue):

  10. “West Seattle Link Has Rising Cost too”.

    My under/over of $20 billion for WSBLE is looking better all the time, although I am getting worried the over is the winning bet.

    I must admit $20 billion seemed a reach when ST increased the estimated cost of WSBLE from $6 billion to $9 billion. Then Rogoff announced a $12 billion deficit for all of ST 3 but what could that really be except WSBLE (E KC has no deficits for ST 3), and the Board claimed a “realignment” that extended ST taxes concurrently with project completion when property and construction costs were rising each year faster than ST taxes — the original problem — even in a low inflation environment which meant the deficit would only grow. Then ST increased the project cost estimate to $12 billion, and now $15 billion (assuming no station on 4th Ave. S.).

    Then you have the DEIS hearing which told me ST is still claiming DSTT2 will cost $2.2 billion (plus $160 million extra for CID N that will be “captured” from developing old and vacant city and county buildings) and the four other subareas making it pretty clear their contribution to DSTT2 is capped at $275 million each no matter what the true cost of DSTT2 is.

    We still have SLU to design, and my guess is those will be very deep stations like the original midtown station, or like the midtown station no station at all, although DSTT2 (and WSBLE) are all about extending Link to SLU. The actual cost overruns for the station at 130th although the project cost estimates are quite recent suggest the same for WSBLE.

    So I figure with the actual cost of DSTT2 at around $4.2 billion, SLU costs, rising costs in WS and Ballard, WSBLE is estimated to cost around $18.5 — $19 billion right now, even though ST is still at $15 billion, and that assumes actual construction costs don’t increase the same percentage as the station at 130th.

  11. City shuts down for 2-3 years, people are going to look back and go what a wasted opportunity to build some transit. We didn’t even build the CCC Streetcar with the reduced traffic and business closures.

  12. The Murray-Kubly SDOT provided an infeasible CCC Streetcar plan. Instead, we should kill the CCC Streetcar and use the capital, rights of way, and service subsidy on smarter transit projects. The SDOT streetcar plan is only a one-car bobby pin shaped local circulator. It is Beckian; we have been Waiting for Godot.

  13. Throwing this out to the horde: If the Scott Kubly (SDOT head under Murray) SDOT proposal for the two tunnels had been put out for public meetings/comment (like the other Seattle light rail proposals) as opposed to making it up on the fly– would we have avoided the current, um, issues, with the proposals? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Murray and Kubly would have tried to ensure that ID residents and reps were aware of the public hearings, meetings, etc.

  14. “Twelve cars can be stored at Northgate station, and eight at Angle Lake station. That still leaves 21 cars with no place to sleep.”

    I guess I’m confused; Can’t they just store them at Judkins Park? Isn’t that section of track basically complete? It even has a 1,600′ pocket track.

    1. That’s near where the plinths are being replaced; it may be west of the station.

      And I learned from Andrew that plinths are the concrete tiles the track sits on.

      1. @Mike Orr,

        “Plinth” is an architectural term. It just refers to that big block of solid something that something else rests upon.

        Go to a museum to gaze upon that bust of Caesar sitting on that block of marble? That block of marble is a “plinth”.

        Go to Tibet to visit that monastery built on that base of stone? That base is also a “plinth”

        Likewise those rectangular chunks of concrete upon which East Link will cross the fixed spans are also plinths

        Unfortunately the contractor built them wrong

    2. The unused segments of the East Link (and Federal Way Link north of KDM) seem to be to be good candidates for storage. However I could see some bureaucratic issues.

      1. ST would have to take possession away from a private contractor early for the short segment. Had it been an ST internal project they maybe could be put into use. ST would however have to negotiate taking over the segment early.

      2. The power source would probably need to be active. I guess a locomotive could push the cars to the main track but I’m no authority on these things.

      3. The train control system would need to be active. That’s probably a level of programming. However, because the projects are late, presumably this should already be in place.

      4. It may interfere with testing.

      Oddly, I’m not aware of it being openly discussed. I suspect the staff prefers to not create extra work for themselves so they won’t suggest it and/or there is some sort of administrative or legal hassle to using the segments.

      1. Al, that’s a great idea to use the structure south of Angle Lake for storage! Just BACK a train down one track an eighth of a mile and have the operator deboard and walk back to the station, then back another down the other track and have its operator walk back. Then then back a second train down the first track almost to the train already there and finally put a second train on the second track.

        Voila, sixteen LRV’s parked safely overnight.

        Just reverse the moves in the morning.

      2. Addendum. There could even be a gate across the end of the station that is locked overnight to prevent folks from walking down to the trains.

        Ugly? Yes, but perhaps necessary.

      3. Al, I’d bet a sizable amount of money the “train control system” IS “in operation” at the turnouts to East Link today. “In operation” meaning that the TCS operator or the system itself can throw the turnouts at the junction. Either that or the turnouts had better be spiked in the “through” position for safety if they’re hand-thrown or have old-fashioned railroad switch locks on them. The East Link tracks are the “diverging” rails at both frogs.

        But with modern Train Control Systems, which are purely software, adding a pair of turnouts should take a day or two to accomplish and test. It has to happen some time, and it’s not dependent on any other project step, so just do it. There won’t be a separate TCS for East Link; it will just be a diverging route in the existing one.

        And even if the ARE still hand-thrown, they’d only be used at the beginning and end of service so unlock them, throw them by hand, park or unpark the trains, throw them back to Line 1 service and re-lock them! The last trains in service on the turnback line should be the ones stored there, because that’s where they’d enter service. That would leave the Lynnwood and Angle Lake tails for the first couple of trains out of those stations.

        Yes, all this means that crews have to be shuttled between Forest Street and the end of service at each end, and of course CIDS if East Link is used. That’s not free, but it won’t break the bank for a year or two until East Link opens. Unless, of course Lazarus is correct that the contractor can not even replace one quarter mile of the plinths on both tracks in a year’s time.

        Then it’s a much longer wait for MF East.

    3. @Jess,

      Not even remotely possible.

      The plinth issue is not on the floating bridge, it is on the fixed structures. Essentially all the plinths, and the rails attached to them, have been removed between IDS and Judkins Park.

      There are no plinths, no tracks, and no active catenary between IDS and the siding you think ST should use. There is no physical way to do what you suggest. None.

      1. Lazarus, all that de-construction you describe is NOW, May 2023. Are you seriously asserting that a quarter mile of each of the two tracks that climb the structure south of CIDS could not have the plinth work completed and the rails reinstalled in time for a 2024 opening? If so you are then pretty certainly predicting that the entire job will take until sometime in 2027 or 2028.

        Grant that fixing the plinths does not get energized overhead, and that too is essential, However, the supports are already there so re-hanging a quarter mile of catenary could also be completed easily.

        [It’s not clear why they had to remove the catenary. De-energize it? Absolutely, but these guys are using jackhammers and wheelbarrows to replace the faulty plinths. No heavy equipment is needed except the rail trains. But those have to operate under de-energized catenary all the time. So why?]

      2. Oh, sorry. I see you said “no ACTIVE catenary”. When the plinths are completed, it can be re-energized.

      3. @TT,

        “ Are you seriously asserting that a quarter mile of each of the two tracks that climb the structure south of CIDS could not have the plinth work completed and the rails reinstalled in time for a 2024 opening?”

        Bingo. That is exactly what I am saying.

        Storage at Judkins Park cannot be brought online in time to support a when ready opening of Lynnwood Link. It was actually one of the first things investigated as a storage solution, and it just doesn’t work out per the schedule.

        It’s off the table, and has been for a long time now,

      4. Well, then, you ARE implicitly suggesting that East Link won’t be completed until 2027 or 2028, even 2029. It may of course be somewhat sooner they improve their rate of plinth replacement through “learn by doing”.

        Just to be clear in case you didn’t read Al’s comment properly, he isn’t suggesting “storage at Judkins Park”. That was an idea folks were kicking around a couple of months ago. He’s now suggesting storing the cars as close as possible to the junction south of CIDS on the East Link structure or on the Federal Way Link structure south of Angle Lake. Both are completed, the catenary is up and are ten to thirty feet above ground with smooth “T”-shaped supports keeping the scumbags out. Using the East Link structure might require a security guard at the junction to keep the scumbags from walking up the structure. Fifty thousand a year won’t break ST’s bank.

        Surely there’s absolutely no reason that ST can’t request (or if necessary direct) the contractor to do the first quarter mile of the plinths beyond the East Link turnouts first if it turns out that storing trains close to Forest Street makes crew moves more efficient. Since there are about two miles of plinths in the two sections to be replaced, at a one quarter mile per year that’s eight years to complete the job! And you’re saying they can’t even manage THAT?

        If you seriously believe that is true today, right now, in May of 2023, you need to explain why your heroes are lying to us.

      5. @TT,

        I’m not saying anything about the eventual opening date of East Link.

        All I am saying is that ST (and others) have looked at the option of activating part of East Link for storage purposes and it has been deemed to be infeasible. That includes all the parts of East Link from IDS to the east portal of the train tunnels. Infeasible.

        But hey, if you have proof that the contractor is lying to ST about that, then please inform ST now. Because it sure will make things easier per launching Lynnwood Link.

        ST would be very happy. As would most of the traveling public.

      6. Well then, either staff, contracts management or the contractor itself is short-sighted and incompetent. Jeebus, we’re the country that won World War II by thinking up “work-arounds”.

        Finishing the first quarter mile of the East Link re-build before the rest might indeed be a “work-around” for the contractor. It might cost ST a few hundred thousand dollars in “impact payments” because the contractor has to do some work “out-of-order”. It might cost a couple of million. It might cost ten million!

        But it is doable and “worth it” to have a full fleet available when Lynnwood Link opens, regardless of how the contractor might be gaslighting ST.

  15. Watched the RMTransit video on Hamburg… I’ve have friends who live in Wedel and Shenefeld (Hamburg suburbs). Wedel is an old town surrounded by single family homes and row houses with a train station in the middle, Shenefeld is a new town, built around a shopping mall with a bus stop in front of it. The public transit in both towns is pretty good, although both places are 15 minute towns and many residents don’t leave much. There are a lot of bicycles around.

    Hamburg has a train system AND a bus system…. it’s quite easy to go downtown on either one. There’s not a lot of reason to get off a bus and take the train or vice versa. The system has a great deal of redundancy built it.

    The City has density and killer train system…. which outdate air and car travel. Think about that for a minute. If Seattle had spent the last 100 years perfecting train travel, we’d have a great system. Hamburg’s density is from the Middle Ages. There’s just no way to duplicate these things in 10-20 years in Seattle.

    Of course Hamburg is surrounded by suburban single house neighborhoods just like most every other city in the world. The lots are smaller, row houses more common, but if you have the money, you do get a yard in Germany.

    The difference between Seattle and Hamburg is Hamburg invests in things that already work. If Seattle was to do things the “German Way” there would be a single subway in the heart of the City and buses everywhere else. Transit only lanes on I-5? Yes please. Because Puget Sound already built a billion dollar freeway system. Maximize that and forget trains.

    1. The biggest difference between most North American cities and European cities is that most North American cities have lots of people in low density areas. Specifically, areas with less than 2k per square kilometer*. Other than that, European cities vary quite a bit. Hamburg is a big city, but doesn’t have that many people in really high density areas. For example, about half of Brussels lives in dense neighborhoods — areas over 8k. A significant number live in really high density areas (over 18k). Hamburg has practically no one over 6k. But again, the biggest difference is that both Brussels and Hamburb have very few people living in neighborhoods under 2k. European cities have suburbs, and rural areas, but they rarely have huge numbers of people living in suburbs that have the density of rural areas, like we do.

      As a result, transit becomes very difficult. Seattle has roughly a million people living in these low density areas — probably more, since the data was from a while ago. Hamburg has about 200,000. Hamburg also has a lot more people living in the 4k to 6k range (800,000 versus 200,000).

      European cities have low density suburbs, and high density suburbs, just like us. But we have way, way more people living in those low density suburbs. Those places are extremely difficult to serve, especially if they were built on the assumption that everyone drives everywhere.

      The difference between Seattle and Hamburg is Hamburg invests in things that already work. If Seattle was to do things the “German Way” there would be a single subway in the heart of the City and buses everywhere else.

      Yes, absolutely. But it isn’t even “the German Way”, it is pretty much standard for the world. The U. S. has its own, very unusual way of building things. It is basically commuter rail, built from scratch, in lieu of a standard subway and buses. If we did things the standard way, we would have a smaller, more dense subway (more lines and stations) with more buses everywhere else, although we would still struggle serving the large numbers of people who live in low density suburbs.

      * For the sake of brevity in this comment, I abbreviated density by number, which is shorthand for number of people per square kilometer.

      1. I don’t think that it’s a question of the US building things in an “unusual” way – it’s that the modality is mismatched to the reality on the ground. It’s true in a lot of subgroups of people, too – transit proponents like Seattle Subway ignore your observation and request rail modality to be deployed everywhere, the smaller suburbs all want a “piece of the transit pie” because they equate that with an increase in job density (and thus revenue), etc. So the motivations are mismatched, at some level, not the transit building itself.

        I am splitting hairs because I think it is important to identify the problem correctly in order to attempt to solve it. It’s not American Exceptionalism, it’s (IMHO) 1. wanting to have the transit modality others have without accepting the reality of our housing distribution, and 2. mistaking cause and effect, to an extent, about job density and transit. The former dilutes the message and the latter has perverse incentives due to the election cycles etc.

      2. “The biggest difference between most North American cities and European cities is that most North American cities have lots of people in low density areas.”

        No, it’s that the US doesn’t even try to have transit like Europe. Low density is just an excuse. Canadian cities have subways, BRT, and/or frequent buses in areas similar to American cities and suburbs, and have higher ridership because the transit is more frequent and comprehensive.

        Washington DC probably comes the closest to Europe, because it built several sensible metro lines and embraced Vancouver-like TOD around stations (but not highrises). New York has the most extensive transit system, but it stagnated in the 1940s and has hardly built anything since. European and Canadian cities are more build, build, build: they don’t let transit stagnate as much, or pretend they don’t need it.

        Perhaps the biggest thing that Pugetopolis is missing is that we have a big Link expansion, but where’s a similar bus expansion to complement it? Metro Connects exists on paper, but we need to realize it on the ground. And make those Frequent routes full-time frequent, not ending at 7pm five days a week, or being cut to infrequent every few years due to driver shortages or revenue shortages.

      3. I think you are describing the problem better, in that you are describing it in general terms. We aren’t building what is appropriate. Agreed.

        I am basically pointing a specific situation that is part of a more general problem. There are plenty of other variations. For example, the fixation on streetcars. Tacoma doesn’t need a streetcar. It needs much better bus service. Like Seattle, they are building the wrong thing. Plenty of other cities have done the same. Sacramento has one of the poorest performing rail systems in the world. They should have run a lot more buses first.

        But what I’m claiming is that what we are building in Seattle isn’t appropriate anywhere. The original Seattle Subway map never left the city. There were subways to the west side of Magnolia, Sunset Hill and Sand Point. This was a subway for another city (e. g. Paris). We seem to be building a subway for a city that simply doesn’t exist.

        At best you can claim that mega-cities have built this. Not Paris or London, but maybe some Chinese city. I’m not so sure. Shanghai has the longest Metro system in the world according to Wikipedia ( Moscow has the biggest one in Europe. And yet from what I can tell, they still end about 15 miles from the city core (they simply cover the hell out of everything within that circle).

        There are big “S-Bahn” systems, that combine a metro in the city with commuter rail outside of it. Some of these go deep into the hinterlands. But they do so while leveraging the existing railway. I don’t think any of them (outside the U. S.) run in the envelope of the freeway. This is really unusual in the rest of the world, but relatively common in the United States (San Fransisco, Dallas, Denver and soon Seattle).

      4. “it’s that the US doesn’t even try to have transit like Europe. Low density is just an excuse.”

        This is why I keep posting those RMTransit videos, because he can articulate what we need and show examples of it, and how it can work in a US context, even if we can’t change our land uses.

        We’d get the most bang for the buck if we changed both our transit and land uses, but even just changing our transit would go a long way. That means filling in the gaps that make transit inconvenient, so that it isn’t hard to go from point A to point B when you’re ready to travel. We can’t do everything: we may not be able to address the most isolated 10% of houses and cul-de-sacs, but we could do the other 90% a lot better.

        The problem isn’t that Link may be overbuilt or we have too much rail mode in some areas. The problem is the lack of robust transit around it. Why do cities want Link and RapidRide? Because they don’t trust that anything else will be high-quality or won’t get cut in a recession. They don’t trust that regular bus routes will be run like they are in Europe and Canada. What we call RapidRide is what some countries call a regular bus route.

        The Eastside has only one full-time frequent route, and that’s RapidRide B. One route, for the region’s second major economic area and 300,000+ people. Try adding three more of them, and then you’re talking. And we need them now, not just sit on our hands for a quarter century, because that’s a whole generation where people don’t have them.

      5. “But what I’m claiming is that what we are building in Seattle isn’t appropriate anywhere.”

        Agreed, as far as ST3 goes. I think most of the rest is fine. I would’ve changed a few things, like more stops on East Link, and a different path here and there, for example. But overall I think most of ST1 and ST2 are just fine.

      6. Oh yes, the WSBLE abomination is dubious. The Everett and Tacoma extensions are mere possible overbuilding. But they’ll still do their job of getting people from the stations, immune to traffic jams and more frequently than the existing buses. But WSBLE’s redesign has gotten so bad it threatens to be ineffective in what it intends to do: specifically the long downtown transfers, the split spine on top of that, and a possible 14th Ballard station. That’s psuedo-transit: a line that claims to do something but doesn’t really.

      7. “ Agreed, as far as ST3 goes. I think most of the rest is fine. I would’ve changed a few things, like more stops on East Link, and a different path here and there, for example. But overall I think most of ST1 and ST2 are just fine.”

        I also agree.

        I’ll add that the Link ST3 corridors began as also-rans to ST3 projects except for Downtown Redmond and Federal Way, which were too costly to build with just ST2 money. ST2 development put together a long list of corridors not productive to build and they got money for special studies.

        I’ll also add that the public was deceived in the ST3 vote. The cost estimates were demonstratively low compared to similar light rail projects happening around the US at the time. No one cared to discuss the cost-benefit of the listed ST3 projects due to expected low ridership on many segments. No advocate disclosed the depths of the subway stations. (The CID station was supposed to be as simple as a double stacked set of tracks under Fifth Avenue with one track next to the existing platform.) The measure then doled out little presents for other operators too like a rich uncle gifting nieces and nephews.

        The opening of U-Link created a vibe of “build, baby, build!” It was a heady time for light rail in Seattle. The giddiness kept calmer heads from emerging. There is still a block of people who are giddy even though things look very different today back in the long term reality.

      8. A fun fact about Hamburg transit.

        It’s good, but not as fast as me on a bicycle. Even fat, old me on a bicycle. Needless to say there’s a lot of bikes everywhere.

        The whole work from home revolution is going to change Germany a lot more than it will change the USA. The idea of living in a village and not driving a car except the weekends (to go the beach or mountains) is already a “thing” in Germany. That “village” could be in the country (like Kellinghusen, north of Hamburg or any one of the 104? quarters (neighborhoods) of Hamburg itself.

        The USA has a lot of places that don’t have much of an identity with the same 4 lane roads, Applebee’s and Home Depots. Lurup, one of the poorest corners of Hamburg, has its own coat of arms!

      9. Al, I would disagree/agree with you on two points:

        1. East Link is ST 2, not ST 3. IMO there are too many stops. MI (because the station was cheap and East Link had to run over MI, unfortunately), S. Bellevue for the park and ride for the Issaquah area (pre-pandemic), and downtown Bellevue (via tunnel). The rest is pie in the sky TOD.

        2. East KC had the revenue from ST 2 alone to complete Redmond Link, which even ST’s pre-pandemic ridership estimates will be very low. For example Redmond at 80,000 residents is much larger than WS or Ballard but will have fewer than 1300 boardings per day.

        ST 3 was all about completing WSBLE which determined the tax rates, and to a lesser extent Everett Link, FW Link (before the bridge), and TDLE.

        The irony is WSBLE, Everett Link, and likely TDLE depending on the upgrades to Sounder S still are not affordable, while E KC has so much revenue it is planning on that great urban transit route between Issaquah and S. Kirkland, plus $600 million/year in ST tax revenue to “loan” to other subareas, hopefully at current market rates.

      10. “It’s good, but not as fast as me on a bicycle.”

        That’s actually true of many places.

        Certainly tacoma. I could do laps around every bus here, and I’m an old man.

        But even in Seattle. Pre-link I could beat bus (or car) anywhere between N 65th and the Columbia Tower on a bike. It wasn’t even particularly close.

        If we made the built environment safe for everyone, 8 to 80, our last mile (or 3) would be solved instantly, and the health of our population would increase immeasurably.

      11. In the 1960s, Germany was on a path to having a lot of the problems caused by automobiles in the USA. There was a conscious decision to make transit better and retain early 20th century city design rather than destroy communities to make parking lots.

        I’ve been told much of this started in the run-up to the 1972 Olympics, because of the realization how miserable Munich would become if they followed the USA model while trying to accommodate such a huge event.

        Bringing this back to Seattle? Places like Belltown have more than typical European level density. It’s not where transit is being built, though. It has one bus stop. Examples persist across the USA.

      12. There were certainly multiple bus stops in Belltown when I briefly lived there about 20 years ago. Surely they haven’t eliminated all of them…

      13. “No advocate disclosed the depths of the subway stations.”

        I don’t think ST knew they’d be so much deeper.

      14. “East KC had the revenue from ST 2 alone to complete Redmond Link”

        Then why wasn’t it in ST2?

      15. Anonymouse;

        There’s a northbound stop at Broad and 1st for the 1 and 29, and a southbound stop for the 29 only. There’s an eastbound stop at Denny and Third. It seems like there used to be something around Denny and First, but it’s gone now.

        Where are the other Belltown stops?

        The few stops for the 29 really don’t count as transit service, since it only runs several times a day. So basically all Belltown gets is a single northbound stop going into Queen Anne.

        Sure, you can walk all the way over to 3rd, but it’s difficult for me to think of a single European city that would built that sort of density for some 80 square blocks (Alaska to 3rd, Denny to Stewart) with only a single northbound bus stop that connects the area with not much to the north, and no bus stop for equivalent southbound traffic, and a few stops for a rush hour only bus operating several times per day.

      16. My understanding is that ST2 had money to complete the design work for the Link extension to downtown Redmond, but did not have enough money to actually build it. That money was provided by ST3.

        Also, the initial ridership estimates for this extension would have been drawn up back in the early 2000’s when ST2 was first being proposed, at a time when the population of downtown Redmond was much smaller than it is today. I don’t think it will have any problem getting more than 1300 daily riders. Just riders switching over from the 545 alone already gets you more than halfway there. The rest will come from from a combination of better service frequency, protection from traffic, and the offering of a new express service between downtown Redmond and downtown Bellevue that does not even exist today.

      17. Glenn, if you know anything about Europe, then you also know Europeans don’t complain like Americans do about having to walk two blocks to a transit stop. Europeans view a short walk to a transit stop as a natural part of living in a walkable neighborhood. Americans view the short walk as a handy excuse to drive instead of taking transit.

      18. “it’s difficult for me to think of a single European city that would built that sort of density for some 80 square blocks (Alaska to 3rd, Denny to Stewart) with only a single northbound bus stop that connects the area with not much to the north”

        It connects them to their supermarkets. Safeway and Metropolitan Market are in Uptown. Trader Joe’s is at the top of Queen Anne Hill. Downtown has Pike Place Market, PCC, and Target but no ordinary supermarkets.

        “Europeans don’t complain like Americans do about having to walk two blocks to a transit stop. Europeans view a short walk to a transit stop as a natural part of living in a walkable neighborhood. ”

        That’s for individuals. Europe would still look at a dense area of 50,000 people and think it needs a transit route that serves the whole area, as well as an ordinary supermarket. There’s a steep hill between 1st and 3rd. If you go further west down the hill to the acres of Western and Elliot Avenue highrise apartments/condos, there’s no transit at all.

      19. Mike, are you suggesting that 1st Ave needs a bus route, like the old, infrequent, unreliable due to freight trains, underperforming route 99 that ran on 1st and Alaskan Way? Or the waterfront needs public transit again, like the waterfront streetcar, which also ran infrequently, and was more tourist attraction than public transit?

        If Seattle’s waterfront/1st Ave corridor would be a great place for public transit, why doesn’t a transit agency put a bus route there? Isn’t it because when those corridors had public transit, they were poorly ridden, or weren’t primarily used as public transit?

      20. It doesn’t connect anyone with grocery stores downtown. The only direction they can go is north, unless they use a peak only route.

        Part of the effort in Europe aimed at making transit service faster than driving is putting stops and stations where they are close to where people need them, not 5 blocks from where they need them.

      21. ““East KC had the revenue from ST 2 alone to complete Redmond Link”

        “Then why wasn’t it in ST2?”

        Because Mike in 2004 when the design was being studied ST could not have estimated the ST tax revenue in E KC. The design of East Link reflects a subarea that was estimated to have much less ST tax revenue than it does.

        Two keys for ST are: 1. Subarea equity which requires tax revenue raised in one subarea be spent in that subarea; and 2. the tax rates have to be the same for all subareas. The other key is the subareas were formed long before ST 2, based on estimated ST tax revenue and economic activity, and things change.

        The trick or variables for ST are: 1. estimating project costs well into the future; and 2. a subarea’s economic activity that ST taxes apply to. No one ever thought ST tax revenue in 2022 for E KC would equal ST tax revenue for N KC.

        The last numbers I saw estimated E KC will have a $5.5 billion surplus from ST 2 and ST 3, more than the total cost of East Link (ST 2), although that was before the realignment and the additional bridge repairs and work (my understanding is the contractor will pay for the plinth replacement although the cost is only around $14 million IIRC). Imagine if the budget for WSBLE was $3.2 billion like it was for East Link.

        While many on this blog have rightly criticized ST for “optimistic” project cost estimates, mainly to sell the levies, it is hard to criticize ST for not predicting economic changes in five subareas 20 to 40 years later when trying to figure out what a subarea could afford in projects. I also think ST always assumed there would be additional levies, including ST 4.

        Today we know WSBLE is not affordable, but mainly due to ballooning project costs estimates. It doesn’t look like Pierce or SnoCo will have the revenue for their planned projects. E KC will have way too much revenue after ST 3, even for questionable projects like Issaquah Link, but unfortunately, we cannot go back and solve some real errors in design for East Link which of course is the most important part of eastside rail. The biggest error IMO was skipping Bellevue Way with a tunnel and placing stations at E. Main and “Main” (112th), and I am not sure about two stations, one at Wilburton and The Spring Dist., although it is easy to say that post pandemic. Another irony is the eastside planned for rail service to future SLU’s (Wilburton and The Spring Dist.) in Bellevue’s zoning while Seattle zoned SLU and got the development it wanted without rail service to SLU.

        Even E KC’s ST 3 projects like Redmond Link were built on the cheap, and according to ST’s ridership estimates will not have many boardings, but where else to spend ST 3 revenue? If you look at Issaquah Link it is also a cheap design, at least by Seattle’s standards (north of CID).

        East Link was designed for a subarea with much less ST tax revenue while ironically WSBLE was designed for a subarea with way more subarea revenue. If we could go back in time and reroute East Link along Bellevue Way or one block east with a tunnel and scrap the two Main St. stations it would dramatically improve East Link, while on the other hand who knows what cuts will be necessary for WSBLE to meet N KC’s estimated ST tax revenue (or TDLE or Everett Link), although my belief is those cuts will come at the ends, WS and Ballard, not DSTT2 through SLU.

        The problem for ST is I don’t think the reallocation of regional taxes post-pandemic is finished and the subareas were formed nearly 30 years ago, and there won’t be a ST 4. Along with some optimistic project cost estimates ST has much different problems depending on the subarea. For E KC it was a bad design on the most important part of eastside rail: downtown Bellevue, when Roosevelt got a tunnel from U Dist. to Northgate.

      22. Glenn, I think you are over-idealizing transit in European cities. Yes, many of their cities have superior transit. But, you’re painting a utopian picture where at almost any point in any European city, one can step outside their apt and there’s a transit stop or station within a few steps. That’s it’s unheard of to walk more than a block to ride transit. That simply isn’t true.

        1st and Broad is near good transit. It’s two blocks away from 3rd Av, and two blocks away from Denny Way, both of which have good transit. That same exact two block walk to transit scenario is what many Europeans living in large, dense cities go through every day. Many city-dwelling Europeans must walk a couple of blocks to get to transit, just like us.

      23. I don’t get this concern about walking 2 blocks to catch a bus, especially for an “urbanist”. Yesterday I took the 550 home to MI. I could have taken it to the Polyclinic on Madison as well. Probably half mile walk from my house to the bus stop, very flat, and then three blocks from 4th up to 7th on steep hills. On the way home it was a 5-block walk from 7th to 2nd downhill, and two blocks to Cherry, and then 1/4 mile from the bus stop on MI to my new office. This is to serve the entire eastside. Both were lovely walks, and it was a trip down memory lane walking down Madison.

        How can Seattle have an urban environment or any kind of transit if folks can’t walk two blocks, especially when everything east of 1st is one way? Meanwhile folks on this blog think eastsiders can walk from the Sammamish Plateau to a park and ride to catch a bus to East Link to go to Seattle. Sounds to me like Seattleites need to toughen up a bit, or buy a car and own a garage. If you want to ride transit you are going to have to walk, and the farther you get from downtown Seattle or Belltown the farther you are going to have to walk to a stop or station.

        Come on Seattle urbanists. You can do it. Walking is good for you, although 2 blocks won’t get you a lot of exercise. Geez, the walk from eastside parking lots at the big box stores are nearly two blocks, and often you are pushing a very full cart.

      24. “Mike, are you suggesting that 1st Ave needs a bus route, like the old, infrequent, unreliable due to freight trains, underperforming route 99 that ran on 1st and Alaskan Way?”

        You know what I always say: an infrequent route is effectively no route. It has to be frequent, especially downtown. There’s a reasonable case for a 1st Avenue bus or streetcar from Seattle Center to SODO.

        “If Seattle’s waterfront/1st Ave corridor would be a great place for public transit, why doesn’t a transit agency put a bus route there?”

        That’s a good question.

        “Or the waterfront needs public transit again, like the waterfront streetcar, which also ran infrequently, and was more tourist attraction than public transit?”

        “Isn’t it because when those corridors had public transit, they were poorly ridden, or weren’t primarily used as public transit?”

        The history of transit on 1st Avenue and Alaskan Way is complicated, so let’s untangle it. When I started riding Metro the 15 and 18 (Ballard, Alki, WSJ, Fauntleroy) ran on 1st Avenue. I don’t think there was any transit on the waterfront. First Avenue also had a concentration of prostitutes, X-rated theaters, and flophouses, like many American neglected inner cities. In the 80s the police dispersed the prostitutes to Aurora and Pacific Highway. The city closed the SRO hotels and they were eventually replaced by swanky boutiques and condos. The panhandlers and loiterers migrated from 1st Avenue to 3rd Avenue. The waterfront streetcar started at one point, limited to 20-minute frequency due to its single-tracking.

        In the middle of this transition the 15 and 18 moved from 1st Avenue to 3rd Avenue. I’ve heard conflicting stories about why. One (as I thought at the time), it was due to complaints about the sketchy neighborhood on 1st. Two, that it was part of the Viaduct replacement construction, that made buses on 1st untenable. That seems unlikely because the viaduct replacement didn’t start until years later.

        You may be wondering why people at the time preferred 3rd when 3rd is so sketchy now. The answer is that it wasn’t as sketchy in the 80s and 90s as it is now.

        Then the Waterfront Streetcar ended when its northern base was replaced by the Sculpture Park. A bus #99 replaced it, half-hourly I think. Later Viaduct construction forced the 99 to move to 1st Avenue. It had very low ridership. In recession cuts it was reduced to peak-only in winter and eventually deleted. BUT, it ran only every 30-60 minutes, and not at all midday part of the year. It was one-way, northbound on 1st I think. So it wasn’t a full-service bus route.

        It would make sense to have a frequent 1st Avenue route from Seattle Center to SODO.

        The Waterfront vision includes a shuttle battery bus or minibus on Alaskan Way. It doesn’t specify a frequency, and I haven’t heard anything about SDOT implementing it. That would effectively be local service for Alaskan Way: it wouldn’t address north-south transit on Western or Elliott Avenues.

      25. “I don’t get this concern about walking 2 blocks to catch a bus, especially for an “urbanist”.”

        The denser the area and the more pedestrians, the higher the public expectations of bus frequency and route density.

      26. “I don’t get this concern about walking 2 blocks to catch a bus”

        Says the guy who has repeatedly complained about not wanting to walk two blocks to catch a bus.

      27. I made the mistake of taking the waterfront shuttle once to get to King Street Station from the north end of the waterfront. It took 45 minutes to get to the ferry terminal due to it spending most of the time stuck in traffic, I wound up running the rest of the way, and came close to missing my train.

        I’m not quite sure where people are getting the “2 blocks” thing from? From Victoria Clipper to the closest thing on 3rd, you have to walk south one block then over 5 blocks, so really 6 blocks total. Part of this is extremely steep, and unlike European streets many of these intersections are quite time consuming to get across. Much of Belltown is the same way: sure, it looks easy on a map, but then try actually doing it in person.

        This is a detailed transit map of Potsdam, Germany, including its southern suburb of Babelsberg.

        Babelsberg population density is something like 1/3 that of Belltown.

        If you then switch to the Babelsberg map, you will find that despite the awful street arrangement, much of Babelsberg has easier access to transit than much of Belltown, with most streets that would need to be crossed actually being minor alleys with almost no traffic:,13.1001008,16z

        And so far, nobody has explained to me why Belltown deserves northbound service from the 1, but doesn’t deserve southbound service from this same route. Is the expectation that people would only need to go north to the grocery stores in Queen Anne, and not need a stop when they are carrying stuff home?

      28. “I don’t get this concern about walking 2 blocks to catch a bus”

        “Says the guy who has repeatedly complained about not wanting to walk two blocks to catch a bus.”

        Glenn, I walk to work every day which is a little over 1/2 mile each way. The reasons I usually don’t use transit have little to do with the walk to a stop, let alone 2 whole blocks. The entire concept of urbanism is WALKABILITY. Like a 15-minute city. Or just a mall. Otherwise stay at home, WFH, use Amazon and door dash because the chances there will be a transit stop within two blocks that will take you to transit going where you want to go each time are nearly nil, in any city.

        If a city is safe, vibrant, and has dense retail folks usually want to walk around it. I do. I go for a walk every day during lunch, in the MI town center which is not exactly Paris, but it has two nice grocery stores and pretty trees, a park, stores, post office, bank … My God, folks on this blog think a three-seat transit ride with long transfers is wonderful.

        I guess if someone really objects to walking two blocks to transit transit is probably not for them, certainly in suburbia (and in Seattle with its one way streets you have to walk at least one block to catch a bus going in the direction you want to go). In that case my suggestion is buy a car and a unit with a garage or onsite parking and go where there is free up-close parking. If you can’t walk 2 blocks you can get a disabled parking permit which will allow you to park in front, and many stores now have motorized scooters you can use to shop. Or sign up for micro transit that will pick you up at your door. But our transit agencies just don’t have the money, or stop spacing when it comes to Link, to guarantee a stop or station within one block, or right outside your door.

      29. Glenn, you said there is virtually no transit at 1st and Broad, and I said there is good transit two blocks away on Denny, and good transit two blocks away on 3rd. Being two blocks away from good transit is living a neighborhood with good transit. “But, Sam, how is someone supposed to get from 1st and Broad to the Great Wheel on transit?!?” I could find two areas in Manhattan that aren’t connected by transit. What does that prove?

        Btw, I remember the days when the lower Alaskan Way could get very congested southbound. It was usually on a late summer afternoon, and during an M’s game, which created some of the worst city street congestion I’ve ever seen.

      30. There are very few trips you can make on transit without walking a couple of blocks. That’s not a problem per say, but the system working the way it’s intended to, as it is not economically feasible to serve the front door of every single home and business. Even if it were, if the bus that serves your front door isn’t the bus that goes in the direction you want to go, you’re walking a few blocks anyway to get to a bus that does.

        Of course, any particular address in isolation, you can always bend this bus or that bus so that people can reach it without having to work, but only at the cost of making transit slower for everybody else, and it just doesn’t scale. It also makes for bus that that are structurally slow, meaning that the bus already takes twice as long as driving, even ignoring wait time, even between two stops on the same route, even if nobody is riding the bus, so the bus never has to actually stop. This is not good. In order to have any kind of chance at being time-competitive, you least need buses that can keep up with cars when they are empty, so any bus-specific delay is a direct result of people actually riding it.

        In the case of Belltown, having the #1 detour to 1st and Broad so that people who live on one particular street corner don’t have to walk two blocks doesn’t make much sense. Having the #1 take a different route than all the other buses reduces the effective frequency on the combined corridor, preventing people from waiting at one stop for whatever comes first. People who do live on 1st and Broad will need to walk to 3rd anyway to go south, and coming back north, another bus that is not the #1 will probably come first, and in practice, it is unlikely that people will let a bus go by and keep on waiting, just to get two blocks closer. It also gives people on one section of Queen Anne the short end of the stick, asking them to sit through a detour on every trip into downtown they ever make.

        Of course, there are some cases where reducing walking distance to transit can be done at essentially no cost. For example, one of my pet peeves about the 28 is that at its northern terminus by the QFC, they drop people off, but they won’t let people get on without walking half a mile to 95th St. While a half-mile walk is not unreasonable in general, in this case, it’s completely unnecessary and serves no purpose. If the bus is sitting around by the store anyway, there is no reason not to put up a bus stop sign and let people get on the bus there, even if the number of people riding the #28 to the QFC is probably not particularly high.

        So, in summary, no, I don’t think having transit on 1st Ave. downtown makes sense. Alaskan Way, you can make a stronger case from a coverage perspective because it’s further away from 3rd – both horizontally and vertically – but there’s no clear obvious route to run on Alaskan Way that isn’t just a short shuttle (and short shuttles are generally bad for ridership because the bus has to compete with walking, and unless the bus runs very frequently, walking usually ends up being faster than waiting). Also, the destinations along Alaskan Way are mostly frequented by tourists, rather than residents, and out-of-town tourists would be unlikely to discover such a bus, even if it did exist. Plus, we have a driver shortage and running such a shuttle route would mean cutting service somewhere else to pay for it.

      31. There’s a bit of a difference between having to walk several blocks to get to the 24 in Outer Magnolia and not running any transit, except a single direction stop, in one of the most densely populated areas in the state.

      32. There’s a bit of a difference between having to walk several blocks to get to the 24 in Outer Magnolia and not running any transit, except a single direction stop, in one of the most densely populated areas in the state.

        Of course, but as Sam mentioned, being a couple blocks away from transit means you have transit. The generally accepted international standard for walking distance to a bus stop is 400 meters*. Any more than that, and you start losing riders. Because of the “skip stop” nature of buses on Third, the stops are fairly close to each other. As a result, coverage is bigger, and extends down to most of the waterfront. The service hole is tiny, and trying to fix it would likely be worse than simply living with it.

      33. “The service hole is tiny, and trying to fix it would likely be worse than simply living with it.”

        That’s if you move a route from 3rd to 1st. That’s not what I advocate. I’d advocate adding a route on 1st and keeping the routes on 3rd. Robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn’t solve anything; it just means overall transit availability is worse. Like that one-way loop between 1st and Alaskan: it didn’t serve any use cases very effectively. Because as Sam said, if you go to a store to buy gifts, you have to bring the gifts back home too.

      34. “not running any transit, except a single direction stop, in one of the most densely populated areas in the state.”

        What is the longest distance people have to walk right now?

        When I was living in Belltown it was about 3 blocks and that seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I could’ve done at least 3 more before getting to feel like I was being inconvenienced in any way.

        Also, the “single stop” (leaving direction aside) seems like a bit of a red herring if the area is small enough.

      35. “The service hole is tiny, and trying to fix it would likely be worse than simply living with it.”

        That’s if you move a route from 3rd to 1st. That’s not what I advocate. I’d advocate adding a route on 1st and keeping the routes on 3rd. Robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn’t solve anything; it just means overall transit availability is worse.

        But adding a route on 1st is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The money has to come from somewhere. Put it this way, what bus would you run less often so that we can have a new route on 1st? No matter what you come up with, it isn’t worth it.

        If anything, shifting a route to 1st is a lot more reasonable. We have a pretty good spine on Third. A couple buses moved to 1st would not hurt 3rd much at all. I’m still not sure it is worth it, but given the fact that we pretty much promised 1st Avenue transit, at least reasonable.

        I’m not sure which buses I would shift. If the biggest concern is the (relatively minor) hole in Belltown, then I would shift the 24 and 33 (which through-route with the 124). Riders from Magnolia could transfer to other buses if they would rather travel on Third, although the transfer isn’t great (and could be improved). Going the other way, the transfer is easier.

        If we wanted center running (like the streetcar) then the thing to do is pair the 7 and 70, where center running in other parts of town is justified. They could overlap (like the streetcar) for better headways downtown. This would have the advantage of crossing more of the other routes, providing better overall connectivity. In both cases, the service cost would be minimal, if not zero. In other words, we cover 1st for free.

        I don’t think any of this should be a priority. That is the perhaps the worst part of the streetcar plan. If they build it, nothing much changes. A few people get to ride a streetcar on First, instead of walking to third, where buses are far more frequent. But the current problems persist. Buses to various places — including dense areas like Queen Anne and everything east of downtown — suffer from infrequent bus service. Hugely popular trips — like First Hill to South Lake Union — remain indirect and very time consuming. The Streetcar doesn’t come close to solving the biggest issues we have with transit in this city, and if we end up transferring service to it, could easily make things worse.

  16. Assuming ST Ops goes with the 2-Link short run plan:

    I would hope it would just be a solution to the peak capacity problem, and not run all day, all evening, or on weekends, certainly if it confuses riders with different train lengths.

    When it is running northbound, there is certainly no harm to starting pick-ups at SODO (if coming out of the OM&F Base), or Stadium (if the train is turning around at the switch).

    When it is running southbound, there is concern about some riders going beyond SODO accidentally getting on it. I don’t see that as a problem. They alight at Stadium or SODO, and get back on the next train, which will be headed to Angle Lake.

    The concern becomes elevated when a bunch of sportsball fans or concertgoers are coming to ID/CS en masse. But when would that be happening? It would be happening on weekends, or later in the evenings, when the 2-Link line is no longer running. Sure, extra trains could be sent to Northgate and turned around to pick up the peak crowd, but I don’t think the southbound ridership from the events has been large enough to justify a surge train.

    The surge trains will really be needed to take riders north, and then there is no harm just having all those trains go to Lynnwood, where they might have needed to go to storage for the night, anyway.

    Having the 2-Link trains stay in revenue service to Stadium Station (where they have to go anyway, before the first available track switch) would definitely come in handy on event nights, especially Mariners game nights, so half the riders going to Stadium don’t have to transfer trains at ID/CS just to get one more station. Peak tunnel Ops really can’t afford that unforced algorithmic error.

    I realize many of them will have to transfer from 2-Line to 1-Line trains after East Link fully opens, but which is more important: Keeping the passengers happy during the year-or-two-or-three period-of-maximum-LRV-constraint, or keeping the never-reduce-service-anywhere purists happy? I stand firmly on the side of the former, especially after there was no outcry when south-end peak headway went from 6 minutes back up to 7.5 minutes.

  17. Cam Solomon: “I even talked a friend into driving PT, and he confirmed that rt 1 is the least requested route, from a driver’s perspective.”

    What’s wrong with it? It seems like one of the highest-ridership corridors, and Stream 1 is under construction which will take care of the frequency issue in the southern part. (At least relatively. I’m not confident it will be as frequent as RapidRide. But PT has to start somewhere.) Is it an area with druggies and miscreants?

    1. That brings up an interesting subject. A great route for passengers might not be a great route for drivers. For example, here on the Eastside, I imagine the route 246, a slow and meandering route, might be torturous to ride for passengers, but for a driver, it might be ideal … Few riders, pleasant neighborhoods, no drama, etc. And, maybe sometimes the opposite is true. A route that the passengers like, drivers might hate. Maybe too much of a workhorse, too much drama, etc.

    2. He says he gets yelled at. A higher proportion people with mental health issues.

      I would guess this is because it goes close to both a lot of social services and other agencies like the courts downtown, and also goes way south on Pacific, where much of the cheap housing is.

      You have to know how to handle that kind of crowd. Most of the drivers on the 1 do, but some just aren’t cut out for it.

      He did say some actually prefer the 1. It is certainly more interesting. Lots of people willing to chat.

      1. If I remember correctly, Nathan almost exclusively drives Metro’s route 7. It’s probably not a sought-after route to drive. He probably likes how busy it is. Never a dull moment. But, I think for most drivers, once their seniority allows them to choose other routes, they do.

        Btw, a RapidRide FEO once told me their least favorite route to work (I asked), was the A Line. Their favorite, they said, was the B Line. They didn’t explain why.

    3. It’s sort of the same problem Denver has about getting RTD Drivers to drive certain routes, mainly the Colfax and Broadway routes (0, 15,. 15L, 16, W) Though it’s primarily the 15 and W with the most issues. Along with generally varies by shift. Rush hour and midday they’re alright, with late night being where issues crop up.
      I ride the 15L as I live near Colorado Blvd and sometimes use the 40 & 15L to get to Auraria Campus. And to me, the 15L is generally on par with the RR A Line in terms of vibe. Generally safe ride with some odd characters occasionally. Same with the 16 as well. Main issue is loitering by some passangers with occasional drug use issues that crop up. But most drivers don’t tolerate it and will kick people off or call the police for rule violations.

    4. I don’t think it’s surprising at all that bus drivers would prefer to be driving near empty buses than near full buses. Fewer people to deal with, you get paid the same, why not?

      1. It’s not quite so cut and dry – Nathan Voss likes driving the 7, as it has been pointed out. There were very senior drivers on some of the UW routes – I used to ride the 372 or 68 (I forget which) with one of the “Operator of the Year” award holders, who had been around for something like 30 years, I believe, and they certainly enjoyed the crowded routes.

        But, yes, in general I agree that it is much more likely that a driver would prefer a quieter route like the 246, over a busy route like the 7.

        There are other considerations. I was talking with an East Base-based driver once, who said that they did not enjoy the South End routes because of the base location, it made for a much longer commute for them. Some drivers prefer to explicitly avoid certain bus types. And so on.

    5. About the PT route #1.

      My wife rode that route off and on for 10 years… she called it “the rapist and loser express”. All the office women did. The crazy shit that goes down on that bus can’t even be repeated on this blog. Homeless camps down on the RXR tracks, no-tell motels on Pacific, the methadone clinic at the health department (hundreds of homeless get methadone in Tacoma, with little if any case management)…. everything the rest of Tacoma doesn’t want around is on the #1.

      Crazy true story. My Mrs. told a City Council member the #1 bus was the “rapist and loser express and they spit out a huge stream of coffee laughing so hard. Felt bad the kids at Anthem Coffee who had to mop it up, but it was pretty darn funny.

      Honestly, the #1 is a rolling joke about everything wrong with Tacoma.

      1. Not sure about case management, but as I found out a few weeks ago, even in the middle of a psychotic episode, they listen carefully to the nurse who gives then drugs.

        Like I said, thec1 is the fun bus.

        That’s what happens when it is so infrequent only the truly desperate ride the bus. We shall see what happens when stream makes it usable for people who value their time.

      2. It’s not about the bus, that whole neighborhood in under siege. There are hundreds of homeless drug addicts surrounding the Pierce County Health Department. There’s the “legal” city sponsored homeless camp at 35th and Pacific and dozens of other camps tucked away on any vacant land there is.

        It’s a messed situation caused by the more White and affluent North enders pushing all the problems to the other side of the freeway and crazy Liberals not wanting any limits on batshit crazy behavior or drug use.

        No one in their right mind would ride the #1 after dark. I used to walk around Pacific at all hours of the night. Not anymore.

        But heck! Tacoma does have a train! Light rail to nowhere ….

      3. That just isn’t true, tacomee. I work there. I walk Pacific every day, including in front of the sanctioned encampment. I feel just as safe as in Stadium District walking my boy to school. Don’t succumb to media hysteria. The most dangerous thing about Pacific is the cars. By far.

  18. Oh oh. It will be a traffic mess in north Seattle this weekend.

    Ya, they are going to divert all of NB I-5 into Montlake Blvd and make everyone turn around? Really? Oh, this will be fun.

    Best adjust your bus trips accordingly, because the buses will be just as slow as traffic. Best option is to transfer to Link and just go under the mess. Shouldn’t be an issue if you’re not dependent on the street grid.

    Seems like this should be getting more press. People are going to be surprised.

    1. I think a lot of people are going to end up detouring onto local streets instead, which will be bad news for anybody riding the 70, 48, or 49. Fortunately, the Link tunnels are unaffected, so transit riders have an option to bypass the mess.

    2. There have been things like this almost every weekend for the past few weeks.

      It sounds like the Montlake Blvd detour is just overnight Friday and Saturday morning, when traffic is the lightest. You know, when there’s one car every ten seconds.

      I wonder how many drivers will be able to find their way in the dark.

  19. Hopefully the good folks here at STB will perhaps do a post about this update on the STRide capital program recently covered by The Urbanist:

    “The much-delayed Stride bus rapid transit program continues to get more delayed. Generally speaking, the three projects — dubbed the S1, S2, and S3 Stride lines — are trending one to two years behind the 2021 realigned schedule and three to four years behind the original Sound Transit 3 plan, according to a recent update from Sound Transit. The earliest arriving project, serving the SR 522 corridor, is now tabbed for 2027, while the two I-405 projects are delayed to 2028.”

    Here’s the link to the full article:

    1. ST also just published a review of its recent feedback on S1, S2, and S3. I was going to write a short article on it but there’s not much there: most of the feedback is about construction impacts, access to parks along S3, etc. None of it that I saw was about station locations or other usability issues that STB readers usually care about. That may be because they didn’t know about the surveys (I didn’t), the lines and stations are generally good, or the flaws seem unfixable. (E.g., 85th is at the freeway and can’t be moved from it, and the City of Renton is adamant about the future Renton Transit Center location.)

    2. The Urbanist article says ST will contract out bus operations and maintenance instead of going through Metro and CT.

      It also says S1 and S2 will have double-decker buses, and S3 articulated buses. That raises a concern about S1 and S2. Will I find all the lower seats filled, and it’s diffcult for me to go up and down the stairs, or to walk hunched down under the low ceiling of the upper deck, and I’d be worried about getting down to the doors without missing my stop. I’ve tried the 512’s upper deck once or twice and didn’t like it.

      1. Would a rider notice a difference in service or quality between an ST route that’s contracted-out to someone other than Metro and CT?

      2. Thanks for the reply, Mike.
        For the record, I’m not a fan of sitting in the upper level of the double deckers either (being a person needing the extra headroom). So whenever I take any of the 5xx to get to downtown from up here in SnoCo, I will take a first level seat as well. :)

        The delays for getting the ST BRT lines up and running really irk me tbh. One would think that such a feat could be accomplished within a ten-year period, no? I’ve been reading the capital program progress reports pretty regularly and there have been narratives given in those reports for over a year now, I believe, pertaining to the BRT lines that the staff has been writing up repeatedly explicitly stating that the schedules were unrealistic. With that said, it doesn’t really seem to be registering with the board. I’m just waiting for the board meeting wherein the topic comes up and some board member inevitably asks “when was this first known that the schedule is going to be a problem?”

      3. “Would you also complain about double decker trains?”

        The few I’ve been on have higher ceilings, and the stairs aren’t as cramped or steep as on the CT buses. And it was before my stair problem got worse a year ago. I think I recall being on the upper level on Sounder and the Amtrak Capitols. And on the Coast Starlight everything is on the upper floor so you don’t go down again until maybe 24 hours later.

      4. Thank you, Mike. For the record, I actually prefer the steeper steps, for some reason – I forget if it is the Caltrain or the GO Train cars that have weirdly shallow but very cramped stairs that curve a little, and I’ve had to ride standing on them while carrying a heavy backpack on my back, and while packed among other riders in a similar situation. That experience was both a little nauseating and very unstable, balance-wise, and not because I was jetlagged or fatigued by earlier travel. So I guess I actually have a bias towards the CT buses.

    3. Thanks Tisgwm. I hoped that 405 S Stride could open earlier because this corridor needs all the help it can get, and I agree with you this does not seem like a project that should take 10 years. If there is one corridor on the Eastside — even post pandemic — that needs more capacity — transit and cars — this is it.

      Maybe ST like Lazarus just prefers light rail. Opening a starter East Link line while extended Stride on 405 is a head scratcher if ridership is a metric. If rapid transit is not coming to this corridor in the next 10 years the number of 405 lanes is going to keep increasing and those transportation habit become more ingrained.

      The delay is opening Stride along 522 well after Lynnwood Link opens is also a head scratcher.

      1. “The comprehensive plan update next year better include a lot of allowance for denser, family-sized housing outside of the urban villages.”

        Amen to that.

      2. HB1110 says six-plexes are allowed within a quarter mile walking distance of a major transit stop. It considers Rapid Rides a major transit stop. So that should open things up a bit. Not deep into neighborhoods, but better than now. There are a lot of rapid ride stops in King County.

        Tacoma sounds like they may be asking for an exemption, so they can continue working through the nitty gritty of Home in Tacoma, which allows only triplexes in what was formerly SF zones. It will make the process harder, but I hope they don’t get it.

      3. What do you propose Tisgwm, at least for Seattle?

        Are you recommending more than four units per residential lot? If so, how many?

        Are you recommending increasing the 50% GFAR limit on residential lots, or any other regulatory limit? If so, what regulatory limit and what do you propose that limit be increased to, especially yard setbacks and height which determine the building envelope?

        Or increasing the boundaries of the UGA zones, or those regulatory limits to more like Belltown? For example, Capitol Hill seems prime to me for a major upzone, at least to Belltown limits.

        Are you proposing different limits for different residential zones in the city, say north and south Seattle? Are you concerned about gentrification of poorer neighborhoods, and if so which neighborhoods and how would you deal with gentrification if one of the goals of greater density is to create affordable housing, or limit rent increases.

        Or do you recommend lowering minimum lot sizes, and if so where, and what is the new lot minimum you would recommend for Seattle understanding there are many different neighborhoods in Seattle?

        “Denser family–sized housing” is a nebulous term. One has to define the regulatory limits to achieve that, which zones, and which neighborhoods.

        I don’t live in Seattle so really don’t have any skin in the game. The different stakeholders all seem to be well organized. Almost every council seat is up for election so hopefully this is a campaign issue. It was in the Harrell/Gonzales race for mayor. As I like to say, land use IS politics. At the same time market economics will likely have more impact than any zoning changes, certainly if the goal is to have new construction create more affordable housing.

      4. It depends on the size of the city Cam. Six-plexes are allowed in cities over 75,000 I think, or maybe it is 225,000 if near “major transit”. Four plexes if the city is between 25,000 and 75,000 within 1/4 mile of major transit although that radius has not been defined by the Dept. of Commerce.

        It also depends on what regulatory limits a city requires. I think Tacoma abolished single family only zones, but I don’t know what Tacoma requires for setbacks, parking, height, impervious surfaces and GFAR in its residential zones.

        Height and yard setbacks are key because they determine the building envelope (or volume) which determine GFA, and how much of the lot is devoted to vegetation or other non-housing uses (including parking). I don’t know if Tacoma has a large percentage of single households like Seattle so don’t know what the market would be like for a lot of very small units, studios really for most residential lots cut into 6 units with the same GFAR and other regulatory limits as a SFH but with six separate kitchens and bathrooms.

        Tacoma is a little different than Seattle because so much of it needs gentrification, which is coming slowly, which is reflected in new housing prices and rents.

        It is the age-old conundrum: gentrification is great if you own, not so great if you rent.

      5. Tacoma doesn’t “need gentrification.”

        It needs housing. It needs better transit. It needs safer streets and more equitable distribution of the built environment. It would probably benefit from a broader, more diverse business mix with more living wage jobs. It needs better schools. It needs investment in recreation and vocational training for our youth.

        The south-end is crisscrossed with urban highways that kill and maim an already disadvantaged population and a much higher rate than the north end. Folks in the southend, Lakewood and Spanaway have no choice but own a car. That car ownership burns a giant hole in their budget which sets many up for disaster and homelessness, if they get hurt or lose their job.

        The people of Tacoma need a lot of things, but they don’t need gentrification.

      6. Whether Tacoma “needs” gentrification or not it is coming. Just look at the new construction and rising housing costs. Inviting in a bunch of developers and builders and hoping for some kind of socialist utopia is naive. Look at the history of Seattle, which the politicians in Tacoma are desperate to copy.

      7. In most cities in the US, developers and landlords prefer to own apartments in the poorer parts of town. They make more money there.

        Seattle and the handful of superstar cities are the exception to this. In Seattle, landlords make more money in the rich parts of town.

        So to the extent that Seattle’s housing woes brought on my years and years of low-vacancy rates due to very tight and widespread exclusionary single-family zoning amidst a population boom bleeds down to Pierce County, we may see some gentrification. If we loosen zoning sufficiently and quickly though, and enough houses are built to house everyone, we probably won’t see much. Rents will stabilize, and people will be able to stay in their neighborhood if they want to stay in their neighborhood.

      8. October 04, 2021 at 5:26 pm PDT

        “Among metropolitan areas in the Puget Sound, Tacoma saw the highest year-over-year rent growth, the report shows:”

        Tacoma: 18.9%
        Bellevue: 18.7%
        Bothell: 16.8%
        Everett: 16.7%
        Redmond: 16.3%
        Renton: 16.0%
        Lynnwood: 15.4%
        Issaquah: 13.7%
        Kirkland: 13.2%
        Kent: 13.0%
        Seattle: 12.0%

        Washington state’s average was at 14.2% and the national average was 15.1%, the report shows.

        “While rental prices grew, the actual cost of a rental is still cheaper in Tacoma compared to other metro cities in the Puget Sound. The median monthly price for a two-bedroom apartment in Tacoma was the lowest, the report shows:”

        Redmond: $2,560
        Bellevue: $2,520
        Kirkland: $2,400
        Bothell: $2,260
        Renton: $2,190
        Seattle: $2,170
        Kent: $1,860
        Everett: $1,730
        Lynnwood: $1,710
        Tacoma: $1,680

        This is what you call a classic case of gentrification. The least expensive area for rents — Tacoma — has the highest year over year increase, although increases in Tacoma cooled in 2022. What every city in this index has in common is rising AMI, and for some of the cities to the south an exodus of folks from more expensive areas looking for cheaper housing.

        Gentrification is not a bad thing, especially if you own, and all that new construction creates tax revenue and attracts a higher income resident and cleans up a city, although it does displace some existing residents who can’t afford the new housing rates or just cost of living.

        The fact Tacoma has the lowest rents of any city suggests Tacoma needs a little gentrification, and as Cam notes the lowest priced areas are usually very attractive for builders, especially a city like Tacoma that has good bones. A bunch of new housing construction with a rising AMI and folks moving in from more expensive areas is not going to help those folks who are displaced, or retail places that are displaced. Tacoma is like Seattle of the 1970’s, but gentrifying fast.

      9. I grew up in Tacoma and I can say that gentrification really hasn’t hit the South Sound the same way as Seattle. Some of it is due to the more liberal housing policy compared to Seattle where housing density has grown steadily since the 90s without the problems Seattle has had in adding supply.

        But also there aren’t a lot of neighborhoods that you can really persay did “gentrify” compared to Seattle. University Place Town Center, 6th Ave, Proctor District, Point Ruston, Stadium District, etc were all considered on some level already posh or upper class before seeing new developments, with Point Ruston being the odd outlier due to being a brownfield development. And the land that is being redeveloped right now in the city (like near TCC) was already commercial property, like an abandoned movie theater.

        Tacoma I’ll add has had better smart housing growth than some cities in the region. It’s been a lot more nimble to add new housing supply like townhouses or condos compared to other cities in the region. It also hasn’t been mired in the housing redevelopment debate like Seattle. But that might just be a perception of what Tacoma is and where it sees itself compared to Seattle.

      10. I tried to look up population and job growth statistics for both Seattle and Tacoma, unfortunately, BLS seems to aggregate Seattle with Bellevue and Everett (and surrounding areas) and Tacoma with Lakewood, so it’s harder to get just city limits stats, and the effects get washed out somewhat. I was curious to see whether the meteoric growth Amazon had (and to some extent other tech companies, too) in Seattle had a measurable effect, but the data I found doesn’t allow me to gauge that.

        However, for those who are more familiar with Tacoma, can you think of reasons for job growth rates to be skewed by something similar in Tacoma as well?

        Where I am going with this is that Seattle has been growing its population at a higher rate because of job growth reasons, and that may partially explain why Seattle hasn’t kept up with its housing stock – not __only__ because of its tighter zoning restrictions, but __also__ because its needs were fundamentally different.


        Stopping gentrification is like stopping the tide if the area’s AMI is increasing and population growing. The legislature last year in ESB 1220 required counties to address gentrification, but the King Co. subcommittee on housing affordability basically determined it was impossible to stop gentrification.

        Tacoma is experiencing what Seattle experienced: people moving in with more wealth and higher AMI, many from Seattle. Tacoma’s 2021 rezone won’t change that because new construction will be geared toward the new higher AMI residents.

        I was surprised Tacoma had the lowest rents in the region because it actually has the bones for a good urban experience when I don’t think a place like Kent does, and I expect Tacoma to gentrify quickly, which is kind of sad because part of Tacoma’s charm has been its blue collar scruffiness. But those new residents want sushi and white wine and that is what they will get along with $700,000 townhomes.

      12. I looked yesterday at % of college grads in Pierce over time. The was a spike in smarty-pants, presumably Seattlites looking for a bump in their quality of life, around the same time rent and real estate starting going crazy a decade ago.

        The exported their rent and homeless problem to Tacoma.

      13. Or do you recommend lowering minimum lot sizes, and if so where, and what is the new lot minimum you would recommend for Seattle understanding there are many different neighborhoods in Seattle?

        I would lower lot sizes to 1,000 square feet across the city. Based on the existing rules for NR1, NR2, NR3, I would also:

        1) Get rid of the Floor Area Ratio.
        2) Reduce lot coverage ratios for smaller lots.
        3) Retain the height limit.
        4) Get rid of front and rear yard requirements if adjacent to street or alley.
        5) Allow owners to “buy out” the yard requirement from a neighbor. If a neighbor agrees, the owner can build right to the property line in between them. For subdivisions, this makes it easier to build row houses. For existing lots, owners can pay their neighbor for the right to build up to the property edge.
        6) Get rid of the parking requirement.

        I would also liberalize the ADU and DADU rules in a similar manner (although the state may have effectively done that by allowing duplexes).

      14. “Among metropolitan areas in the Puget Sound, Tacoma saw the highest year-over-year rent growth, the report shows:”

        The rates are tending toward equalizing. First Seattle went up and people were displaced to Renton and Kent. Then Renton and Kent filled up and people went further to Auburn and Tacoma. And it spread from the working class to the middle class, as burdensome housing costs seeped up the income ladder. Now so many people go south that people who wouldn’t have thought about doing it twenty years ago are doing it now. And because Tacoma is at a lower cost level than Seattle or South King County, more people go to it to get that low level. So many people do it that prices started rising faster than in Seattle. And everybody needs to live somewhere. So the long-term price trend seems to be going toward equalization across the region.

      15. Gentrification is when ONE neighborhood increases in value while the surrounding neighborhoods remain the same. What we have is a REGIONWIDE housing shortage that’s driving up prices everywhere. That’s not gentrification. The prices aren’t rising because the houses are getting newer and fancier and the neighborhood more tony: they’re rising because demand is so high for anything anywhere.

      16. Tacoma has lower costs because it’s so far from the main high-paying jobs centers in Seattle and Bellevue. Everett has lower costs for the same reason. People don’t want to commute thirty miles if they don’t have to.

      17. There are two reasons prices are rising faster in South King County and Pierce County than in Seattle. One I’ve said, that they’re starting from a lower price base, so people who need or want that are flocking there, and so many people are doing it that it drives the prices up.

        The other is that Seattle built a lot of housing in the past decade, while South King County built hardly any, and Pierce County is probably also lowish. Nimbyism is stronger in the suburbs and outlying cities, so that leads to less growth. So more people compete for units in cities that haven’t grown much, and that drives prices up faster than in cities that do grow.

      18. “Nimbyism is stronger in the suburbs and outlying cities, so that leads to less growth.”

        A slightly less inflammatory way to look at it: urbanists encourage people who want to live in SFHs on large lots to move into suburbs. So they actually do. Now it would be great if Seattle did its part and actually kept the growth in the city, so that those who want to live in dense areas can do so as well, while letting those who do not want to live in dense areas to remain where they are, instead of having to move again, even farther out, when the displaced urbanists follow them into the suburbs and change the rules of the game.

        I’m oversimplifying, a lot, obviously. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect this to be part of the “NIMBY” attitude in the outer suburbs.

        To argue against myself, a little, it can certainly be said that such people are not paying their “fair share” of societal costs made as a result of their choices. If society votes to increase their taxes or make them be more responsible for their own finances, then that seems fair. Society could even go as far as splitting the county to “force” them to have to pay for their own choices. Maybe it wouldn’t be the exact split other people have mentioned here (Seattle vs. Eastside), but rather just the exurbs alone.

        I am giving a bunch of these straw arguments not because I necessarily agree with all of them myself, but because I think it is not unreasonable that people do want different things out of life, and some of it can involve things we on this board mostly do not want anything to do with. I would never live in a place where there is no transit within ten miles. But I also don’t want to build a bunch of housing on top of people who do want to live like that, on the edge of civilization, and then complain that there is no transit there. I might include places like Issaquah Highlands and Snoqualmie as examples of what not to do; these are places that are dense enough that warrant “some” transit, but hard to serve well. Instead, we should have left them much less densely populated, and fixed the zoning in Seattle and Bellevue (and Renton, etc.) to accommodate those people instead. Water under the bridge, now – but it’s why we have a bunch of people upset at each other, because they don’t serve either set of needs well.

      19. The reason we are in Tacoma is because we could have our cake and eat it too. We are a family witha kid with 5 animals who almost needed a SFH with a yard. We also love walkable neighborhoods. Tacoma was where we could find both of those things. We moved to NM. In 5 years our house there declined in value, and our house in Lake City we sold had doubled. If we moved back to Seattle, we would have had to make sacrifices to live in the increasingly rare air N Seattle. It is increasingly mostly of those pulling in very high incomes or those who won the housing lottery but are still just scraping by, due to the high cost of living. No funville.

        Tacoma is also much more interesting and laid back, with mixed neighborhoods, with a variety of jobs and housing types. 100 year old apartment buildings and 5000 sq ft historic homes cut into 4-8 apartments peppered throughout a historic neighborhood of sfh. Think parts of Capital Hill in the 90s. Corner stores. Local pubs. Shops, grocery, dozens of bars and restaurants within walking distance. Close enough to walk to downtown. Win win win.

      20. Cam, some say the T Line is helping gentrify the Hilltop neighborhood. You are on the record saying you wish the Pierce Transit route 1 bus route was a streetcar line. Some might see that as an attempt to gentrify Pacific Avenue. What do you say to those who accuse you of attempting to gentrify that part of Tacoma?

      21. “Nimbyism is stronger in the suburbs and outlying cities, so that leads to less growth.”

        I think that is a fair assessment. Now considers something else: much of Seattle is suburban by style, if not distance. Seattle is a very young city. A lot of it grew up after the automobile. So instead of an old big city or a collection of small towns that grew into each other, much of it is suburban. Just yesterday I walked around Discovery Park. On the way home we drove through a couple blocks of Magnolia, to turn around. This an almost mythical suburb — you can practically hear the “Leave it to Beaver” theme song playing. There are nice sidewalks, with a mix of housing, much of it middle class in nature. There are no cul-de-sacs, but it exhibits a major trademark of modern U. S. suburbs — separation of uses. It is a long walking distance from the nearest shop. In some cases, well over a mile. Historically, towns and cities simply didn’t evolve this way. This exhibits a classic trademark of the modern suburb (you are expected to drive everywhere).

        Of course the NIMBYism in this area is going to be stronger than in other, more urban parts of the city. The Central Area, for example, has always had a much more organic mix of uses from way back. They were used to change. There is a difference that Charles Mahoon points to: the suburbs were often built as if they will never change. Cities weren’t. The same can be said for Magnolia versus the Central Area. People in the Central Area will fight to preserve particular buildings (sometimes with plenty of justification). They fight to retain a sense of identity and community. But folks are far less concerned with the size of the building, than what it will contain. In contrast, a lot of folks in Magnolia don’t want change at all. They can live with the very long walk to a store or restaurant, or the extremely high cost of housing, as long as they are surrounded by houses, and nothing but houses. Yet Magnolia — as suburban as it feels — is remarkably close to downtown. It is less than five miles to downtown — short enough to bike to, if you have the strength (and courage).

        urbanists encourage people who want to live in SFHs on large lots to move into suburbs.

        I don’t think that is quite true. Urbanists have no issue with someone who wants to live in a SFH on a large lot. They just don’t feel that the laws should bend over backwards to favor that land use. I’ve yet to hear any urbanist suggest that we should tear down the mansions on Capitol Hill. Change the zoning? Absolutely. But if you can afford a mansion in Capitol Hill, or a big house on a big lot in Magnolia with a view, knock yourself out. What folks don’t like is the laws that restrict middle class housing. Those “middle class” houses in Magnolia are no longer middle class. Here is a house that went for well over a million a couple years ago: In 1980 it was $74,000. The median income was $21,000 in 1980; it is about $70,000 now. Thus the house cost less than three times an average salary back in 1980; it costs well over ten times that now.

        As a result, people are pushed out. A lot of people who would much rather live in a townhouse in the city, are forced to live in distant suburb, simply because they aren’t building enough townhouses. This runs contrary to the goals of urbanists. They aren’t encouraging anyone to move to the suburbs — quite the contrary. The policies they favor are designed to encourage them to stay. Those who place a high priority on having a house on a big lot (which is really a small minority of the population) will pay extra if it is in the city. But zoning has little to do with that — there is just more demand to live here than there was in say, 1980. But urbanists want people to have more affordable choices in the city. If townhouse (on small lots) were around 300 grand, and condos were half that, then a lot of people would have no interest in moving to the suburbs. This sort of thing is possible — if the zoning laws are changed. Unfortunately, the suburban nature of much of Seattle makes it more difficult than it should be.

      22. Oooh! There is a record. I’m excited to hear that, as my memory, particularly of this quote is poor. Please show me.

        I will say that true gentrification is actually a fairly rare beast.

      23. Cam, I’m disappointed that you are pretending to forget you have advocated for expanding the T Line, including having it replace certain segments of the route 1 bus route. It’s not a single quote. You have done it on multiple occasions. Why are you now reluctant to admit it? To paraphrase Jean Girard in Talladega Nights, I want you to say “I love streetcars.”

      24. I think you are confusing me with someone. Maybe Zach? This is why I was excited about you keeping a record!

        In any case, my opinion is nuanced.

        My strongest advocacy has evolved to our first priority being a grid of true fast, frequent BRT buses in Western Pierce, separated from general traffic lanes. Since you are a keeper of the records, I assume you have my mention of this on multiple occasions, “marked and ‘membered.”

        I am excited for the streetcar, mainly because it is close to my house and it will be the only frequent service in all of Tacoma. The political reality is that they have to keep it at a usable frequency, so it will be the only usable transit in the city. Somewhat selfish, but it is streetcar support is not a position I advocate for. I merely have stated I would use it, and my life will be improved by its existence.

      25. But all that said, we had a series of Trams in a grid around Tacoma, Lakewood, Parkland, UP, and Fircrest with dedicated right-of-way that would be similarly frequency-protected, I certainly wouldn’t say it was a terrible idea. That would be predicated on a massive funding windfall, however. And if it was a trade-off where we would lose frequent service elsewhere, it’s a non-starter.

      26. “But those new residents want sushi and white wine”

        I’d say it’s less that and more upmarket coffee or brunch spots is more accurate.

        While Tacoma has a history of being fairly blue collar, it being the location for the West Coast main military base has shaped its community a lot. Military servicemembers are exposed to various cultures in their service, this includes Korean, Japanese, SE Asia, Middle East, German, Italian, etc. And such contact with the military has brought people over to Tacoma to live and work there.

        The South Sound is home to a large Asian diaspora community. On South Tacoma Way in Lakewood, it has one of the oldest and long-standing Koreatowns in the PNW on par with the ones in Federal Way, Lynnwood, and Bel-Red. The Lincoln International Disrict south of I-5 is home to the South Sound Vietnamese community. Japanese community has a storied history in Tacoma wirh the Japantown in Downtown Tacoma that was there for decades in the early 20th century before destroyed by WW2 with the forced internment at Camp Harmony (where the Puyallup Fair currently stands). The Filipino population in the South Sound has grown a lot in the last few decades.

        And many of these people have brought their food over as well. My dad still speaks of this one time in the military back in the 90s at the community center on base where a bunch of older Korean ladies were gathered around a large clay pot making kimchi for a community meal. Sushi, pho, and teriyaki are part of the local food culture in the South Sound. My family’s favorite teriyaki/sushi place for nearly 30 years is run by a Korean family.

        I hope this provides some context for you where the South Sound is then and now.

    1. @mdnative.

      That is awesome. Seattle is once again the fastest growing big city in America, and it is growing at the same pace as it was before the pandemic.

      I don’t think everything has completely settled out yet, but it just goes to show you how you can’t keep a great city down.

      Two things of interest from the article:

      1). Seattle proper is growing, and growing fast, while the rest of King County is losing population? Really? I can’t remember when Seattle was growing while KC was shrinking.

      2). The fastest growing of the smaller neighboring cities is Shoreline. And Shoreline will also be the next city to get LR, and they have been the most aggressive in rezoning around LR.

      Item #2 I can attest to. My sister-in-law is young and doesn’t really drive. So when she bought a house she bought one in Shoreline near the future 185th St Station. When Lynnwood Link opens it will get her where she wants to go (The Ave, work, Cap Hill, and Green Lake.). And Link will get her to those places fast.

      She planned ahead and took advantage of the future Link extension in Shoreline. Good for her.

      Now if ST can just get it open.

      1. I think this is the second time Seattle has gained population and King Co. lost population. In the past there was some speculation the decline in Seattle population during the pandemic, and the recent increase, had to do with the UW (and other universities in Seattle) going back to in person classes. The census counts students as residents while at school.

        To meet the OFM’s future regional population growth target of 1 million new residents over 20 years the region and King Co. would need to grow by 50,000 residents/year. That estimate is from 2018–2019 and basically regional and Seattle population growth has been flat, so to meet that 1 million growth estimate the region as a whole is short about 250,000 residents it has 15 years to make up to reach 1 million by around 2040.

        I am not sure whether Seattle will increase dwellings per lot beyond HB 1110 which allows four while Seattle’s current zoning allows three. I could see a further expansion in the boundaries for UGA’s, but there is plenty of area in the UGA’s today for new multi-family housing.

        Currently Seattle has 11,852 apartments for rent throughout the city.; Price depends on location, size, and how new the construction is. Not surprisingly, affordable or lower cost units are in shorter supply, especially north of Sodo. New construction is not going to create lower priced market rate units.

        The keys for multi-family housing — other than financing which is very tight today — are lot size and regulatory limits. If the size of the pie is fixed (e.g. 50% gross floor area of all units vs. lot area, or GFAR) all you are really doing is creating more but smaller units when allowing more units, which helps if you live alone although that is the biggest factor in determining what percentage of a renter’s income is going toward housing.

        The key metric to follow is apartment vacancy rates. Right now, in Seattle it is around 5.2 % which is still low but rising. 6% is considered the rate at which an oversupply begins and when builders generally cut back building, even in a good interest rate environment. 11,852 available units is something builders and developers and banks take notice of. Each month a unit sits empty the owner loses 8.3% of annual rent, when the loan rates on those projects don’t go down.

        The other metric of course is average median rent price, and whether those are rising or declining. Those in the business I have spoken to expect a 10%/year rent increase for the next two years just based on inflation, rising property taxes, and to recover the losses during the pandemic, so I am not sure I would blindly applaud Seattle gaining population, at least if you rent.

      2. As someone who is a landlord in another state , if there is a 5 percent vacancy rate, I don’t jack up the rents unless I really want to take a bigger deduction for owning an unrented unit. In the big bad real world, rents are based on the market – I suppose you can offer first month free or a lower security deposit if you’re a bigger landlord./corporate landlord, but it has the effect of lowering rent.

      3. Why is everyone breaking out the champagne because Seattle grew in population? More people moving here is a double-edged sword.

        (I would humbly like to submit this for comment of the month consideration).

      4. Sam, if you win comment of the month award, you’re responsible for writing a page 2 article, “SeAtTLe iS a DyInG HEllsCApe twHeRe PeOPle waNT to MoVe!!!”

        -mdnative, shadow editor, STB

      5. “6% is considered the rate at which an oversupply begins and when builders generally cut back building”

        The number of new buildings per year is tiny compared to the number of existing buildings, so new buildings can have only a small impact. Conversely, cutting back building has only a small impact.

        The biggest problem comes when the market has been stagnant for a few years (like in 2008), then demand suddenly shoots up (like in 2012). The builders need a couple years to ramp up, so in the meantime prices shoot up the fastest.

  20. Apparently there is a Kitsap Sun article saying Kitsap Transit is considering going fareless.

    1. Drat. The Kitsap Sun isn’t going fare free.

      Certainly, they’ll have to keep collecting fares for the cross-Sound ferries.

  21. “I’m not quite sure where people are getting the “2 blocks” thing from? From Victoria Clipper to the closest thing on 3rd, you have to walk south one block then over 5 blocks, so really 6 blocks total”

    The original comment was about going from 1st to 3rd, so that’s three blocks. The waterfront and western Belltown (Western and Elliott Avenues) weren’t included. Most people don’t know western Belltown exists, so they don’t realize how dense it is or how far from transit the apartments are.

    “Nobody has explained to me why Belltown deserves northbound service from the 1, but doesn’t deserve southbound service from this same route.”

    Nobody thought it was good; it was just a way to get some service to both 1st and Alaskan Way for the cost of one route. People going south would theoretically take the loop around. So you can see that this isn’t even a coverage route; it’s half a coverage route.

    1. From 1st to 3rd is two blocks, not three. This is where the “2 blocks” thing comes from, though, yes.

      When I lived in Belltown, there were some buses running on 2nd and 4th, too, as I recall. So I was going from my apartment down on Elliott up to 2nd, which was only three blocks up the hill, and coming back from downtown I would stop on 4th and go 5 blocks down. Or maybe it really was on 3rd even then – I honestly do not remember. I never felt like it was an imposition, either way.

      1. “When I lived in Belltown, there were some buses running on 2nd and 4th, too, as I recall.”

        Those are mostly suburban expresses, so they aren’t as useful to Seattle residents, and many are peak-direction-only. Twenty years ago the Magnolia routes (19, 24, 33) were also on 2nd and 4th, so that gave a few Seattle routes there. But they were later consolidated to 3rd with the rest of the Seattle routes.

        By the way, when I said the 15 and 18 were on 1st in the 80s, and the 19/24/33 on 4th, most of the other routes were already on 3rd. The 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 13, 14, 16, 71, 72, 73, 74, 305, 307, etc. Probably the 5, 26, 27, 28, etc. So 3rd Avenue was full of buses already in 1979. So when the sketchy people moved from 1st to 3rd, it wasn’t because the buses had ruined the neighborhood. The buses had been there for a long time. But 3rd only got really bad later.

      2. This was about 20 years ago, yes :)

        I don’t remember if it was the 19/24/33 or the 26/28/39/42 that I was taking. One of those two groups, anyway.

      3. Tom T. In fall 2011, Routes 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56 were shifted to 3rd Avenue from 1st Avenue due to AWV projects; the WOSCA detour was to block 1st Avenue South; SCL was to dig up a vault a Cherry Street. In fall 2012, the pairing of routes 10 and 12 was broken; 1st Avenue was jammed with AWV related traffic; the AWV had been reduced to two lanes in each direction; there was a long queue for the Western entrance; traffic queued on 1st Avenue to reach the Columbia Street entrance. The AWV was damage by the 2001 quake. Gregoire promised to take it down by 2012; it stood until 2019. The AWV opened in 1953.

      4. The 15 and 18 lasted to 2011 on First? I thought it was considerably earlier than that, but you sound like you know, so I’ll agree. The shift was a loss for the system as a whole, but a big improvement for Ballard and West Seattle riders.

  22. What did happen in the 70s before I became aware of transit? Was Metro only a couple years old in 1979? When did the 7 split into the 71, 72, and 73? When did my route the 226 start? Was there another route by another company on NE 8th Street/Northup Way before it? It all seemed to me at the time that all these routes were many years old and the buses didn’t look brand-new either. But were they really? Had they just been renumbered and expanded just a couple years earlier? I know Seattle Transit and some private suburban bus companies were absorbed into Metro in the 70s, and many of the Seattle routes go back to streetcar routes in the early 1900s. But how did Metro change the routes? Did it just renumber them, or did it do a lot of rerouting too? Did the pre-Metro companies have as many routes in the suburbs as Metro did in the 80s? Was there even a route on NE 8th Street to downtown Seattle (226)? Was there a route on 405 (340)?

    1. These links don’t necessarily answer your many questions but I think they’re helpful in understanding Metro’s early days. (Perhaps you have seen them previously.) As I didn’t live here back then and my spouse really only took a couple of routes serving the Beacon Hill area while growing up, I don’t have much info to offer in response to your comment. (Sorry.) Hopefully some of the other “old-timers” on the blog can offer what they know about these early days.

      A great old map of the routes in Seattle in 1970. Note the blue streak lines….

    2. Metro was created in 1973. As far as transit in the suburbs go, before ’73 there were an assortment of private transit companies. Prior to the early ’60’s, there were transit companies like Overlake Transit, which provided service to the Eastside, Suburban Transportation System, which served the north part of the county, and Lake Shore Lines, which served Renton, Bothell, Issaquah, and North Bend. Later, a national company called American Transit Corporation bought Overlake Transit, and other systems … anyway, there were various buyouts and mergers throughout the 1960’s, and eventually most everything locally became known as the Metropolitan Transit Corporation, which was owned by American Transit Corporation, which in turn was subsidiary of a conglomerate called the Cromalloy American Corporation. At its peak, ATC owned 38 different transit companies across the country. When Metro was formed, transit in King County was in a sorry state. From WW2, all through the 50’s and 60’s, public transit use was declining in KC, even as the population was increasing.

    3. Seattle Transit and the suburban lines merged in 1973. There was a sales tax. Service improvements followed. it was increased in 1980; more improvement. Before 2000, the state provided MVET revenue to Metro as well.

      Between 1940 and 1963, before I-5 and during the electric trolleybus era, routes 7 and 8 served Eastlake with very short waits; route 7 also served Rainier; Route 9 also served NE 55th Street. Other ETB routes included the 5, 6, 15, 16, and 18; routes 15-18 served both Ballard and West Seattle via 1st Avenue.

      In the 80s, downtown Seattle service was a mess. There were sometimes three service patterns per tail for northeast Seattle: Eastlake local, express, and 5th and Cherry. 3rd Avenue had a wall of buses. There were Seattle routes on 2nd and 4th avenues. Everything was slow.

      The DSTT opened in fall 1990. Executive Locke shifted funds to service; restructure were funded and implemented. Over time, routes were consolidated and downtown service simplified. The DSTT was closed between fall 2005 and 2007; that was a great incentive to improve the network design. Seattle agreed to transit priority for 3rd.

      Earlier, the chain discussed 1st Avenue and the waterfront. Between 1940 and 1963, there was frequent ETB service on 1st Avenue. The ETB network was contracted. Between 1998 and 2011, routes 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56 provided 10-minute headway on 1st Avenue; routes 10-12 were also there. The AWV project forced them off. The SAM sculpture park killed the Benson line in the aughts. Route 99 replaced it with 20 minute peak only service. it was a loop. the seawall project killed that. Route 99 on 1st Avenue ran until the CCC Streetcar utility project killed that.

      Yes, there was suburban service before Metro, but it was much less. It was expanded under Metro. Most service was radial or oriented to downtown Seattle.

      1. eddiew, do you know in the years just prior to 1973 … prior to the creation of Metro Transit … if a route went from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue, do you know what that route number was (If it was numbered. Maybe it just said To Bellevue), or where the main transit center or main bus stop was in downtown Bellevue? Was it the old TC at 106th and 6th, or someplace else? Same with Kirkland. What came before the route 255?

      2. In 1979 there was no transit center in Bellevue, so there probably had never been one. Different routes in downtown Bellevue crossed each other on different streets wherever they happened to be. You had to know where each route or transfer pair was, and if two routes were going to the same place on different streets, you had to know which one was coming next to go to that stop. Bellevue TC was built in the early 80s. At first it was just a row of street stops on 106th. Later it moved to its current location so that it could expand.

        I don’t remember Kirkland as much because I only went to it occasionally. But before Kirkland TC it was more like Bellevue before its TC. I don’t remember where the stops were.

      3. between Bellevue and downtown Seattle, I think routes 226 and 235 served Beaux Arts and Mercer Island. I do not know what preceded the BTC. The BTC and AVTC were opened by Metro in 1985; both have been reconstructed since.

      4. So, before Metro, there might have been only one public transit route that went through downtown Bellevue. And, if there was only one route, there wouldn’t need to be a transit center, because there’s no other routes to transfer to.

      5. eddie, the ETB service on First was only to the Pike-Pine couplet. The 1 and 2 ran between the Market and Denny using First until the trolley re-build when they were shifted to the Third Avenue trolley spine.

        The service for the full length of First Avenue had always been the 15 and 18 diesel lines. That continued for a decade or so after the trolleys were moved to Third. Unfortunately, the folks in Ballard and West Seattle did NOT like making that climb up from First to the office core on Fourth and Fifth, so they, too, were shifted to Third Avenue briefly before being superceded by the C Line and 40, both of which serve Third still. I am pretty certain that the removal of 15 and 18 from First Avenue pre-dated the Viaduct removal.

      6. Before Metro was formed “Metropolitan” was the bus company that went to Tacoma via Federal Way, to Auburn via Kent, Bellevue via Mercer Island and North Bend via MI and Issaquah. I think it was a different company which provided Everett-Seattle service, but I’m not certain about that.

        Metropolitan used Greyhound-style single-decker buses, with a single “armstrong” door at the front of the bus. They used the “We’ll take you to the town; you get to your destination on your own” model of “intercity” buses.

      7. In 1979 the 10 turned around on Pike-Pine, and the 13 ran from Seattle Pacific to Interlaken Park. Then the southern half of the 13 was renumbered to 12, and the 10 and 12 were through-routed on 1st. So there was trolley wire between Pine and Madison. There was also the part north of Broad Street that the 1, 2, and 13 use. But I don’t think there was wire between them or south of them.

      8. CT was using Greyhound style buses as late as the early 2000s. They were pretty common on the 401/402, 410/411, and a few other routes, as I recall. Others, like the 413, 415, etc. were using the 60 footer buses more similar to Metro articulated buses of that era.

        I remember the 40 footer Greyhound style buses as having too soft seats and being hard to lean against the windows to nap on the long slog down I-5, because the sills were too high (for me, anyway) to lean my elbow on. #firstworldcommuterproblems

        I’m sure they were not the same buses used in the 80s – but I do remember them being old even then, and the seats seeming kind of worn and dusty. And at least one of the operators I was good friends with was complaining about them being temperamental, or something along those lines.

      9. “1952: The idea of building a modern rapid transit system plays a major role in the battle to establish a new county charter. The plan is denounced as “communistic” and rejected by a 2-1 vote. on November 5.”

        Looking up McCarthyism, it started in 1947 and withered in the late 1950s, so this was right in its heyday.

        “1952: State Highway Department rejects Seattle Transit proposal for rail transit in new Central Seattle Freeway (future Interstate-5).”

        I never heard of that proposal.

        “1970: Seattle Transit launches the first express bus service between downtown and Northgate on September 8. The “Blue Streak” is the model for dozens of subsequent park-and-ride routes.”

        “1979: Fare raised to 40 cents [one zone] and 60 cents [two zones].”

        That’s what I first remember it being.

        “1980: Fare raised to 50 cents and 75 cents. 1982: Peak-hour fare surcharge of 10 cents starts. 1985: Peak fares reach 65 cents and $1. 1988: Peak fares reach 75 cents and $1.25. 1991: U-Pass starts. (Bulk fare discount for University of Washington students.) Peak fare reaches $1 and and $1.50. 1998: Peak fare reaches $1.25 and $1.75.” It ends in 2003 so I can’t trace the fare increases to the current $2.75.

      10. Eddie, here’s a 1950 Seattle map that shows the transit routes (in red) you mentioned. You’re right, the 15 and 18 went along 1st, and so did the route 1, and a few other routes ran on 1st going south. So it seems like 1st had quite a lot of public transit back in the day. Why lots of 1st Ave routes then, but none now? In the upper left corner of the map is the bus route key.

      11. Nice job Sam. I had forgotten about this guy’s flickr site (I have it bookmarked). It’s a great collection of local historical information, old photos and other tidbits. I have really enjoyed paging through it several times in the past. Anyway, here’s another page in the collection that has a street map of Seattle as it existed in 1948. It also included the transit route numbers

      12. Yes, Mike, there has been wire along First Avenue all the way to Jackson since the streetcars were retired. But once the 15 and 18 were de-wired (I think it must have been the 1950’s) there was no “through” service from Belltown to Pioneer Square under that wire. It was just used for “base” moves.

        From Queen Anne West the 1 and 2 turned from First at Pike southbound and went east to Sixth Avenue then south to Seneca. In the other direction the 2 and 12 came west on Seneca to Sixth, south to Pine and then west on Pine to First. The 1 was through-routed to the 12 which was the Nineteenth Avenue service.

        Similarly the 3 and 4 served the two little stubs on North and East Queen Anne, and went past Seattle Center on Fifth North but I can’t remember how they got to Pike and Pine. But they did and they followed the same path to Ninth and Seneca as the 2 and 12. Then they turned south on Ninth to Harborview and the current route. It was only with the trolley renewal that the wire on Madison and James west of Ninth, on Marion at all and on Seneca and Spring west of Sixth existed. They used the easy grades on Seneca and Spring to get up to Ninth, I think to allow operation in the snow.

        As a part of the trolley renewal the wire down Third North to SPU was installed, along with the wire for the 43 on 23rd Avenue and across John/Thomas. From that time on the service on Nineteenth East bounced around.

  23. Bus service was taken from 1st Avenue for several reasons. The AWV project blocked it with the WOSCA detour; SCL had to dig up a substation at Cherry Street for AWV relocation; during the AWV project, it was full of traffic going to/from the Columbia-Seneca ramps. Next, several successive Seattle mayors (e.g., Nickels, McGinn, Murray) had the dumb idea to build a local circulator streetcar on 1st Avenue. The Kubly SDOT advanced an infeasible operating plan and signed a contract to buy 10 new streetcars that did not quite fit the existing platforms or operating bases. The mess was uncovered during the Durkan term. Seattle put new utilities under 1st Avenue to get ready. Downtown has grown uphill. With the AWV gone, downtown will now also grow west again.

    1st Avenue is ready for frequent bus service if Seattle decided to kill its streetcar dream. It has two-way electric trolleybus overhead with connections with South Jackson Street, Union, Pike-Pine, Stewart-Virginia, and Lenora streets. Seattle could decide the level of priority provided. For the CCC Streetcar, it planned to remove all parking and devote two lanes to 12 streetcar trips per hour per direction. Seattle and Metro could shift many more bus trips to 1st Avenue than that. We are Waiting for Godot (the CCC Streetcar).

    1. “infeasible operating plan”

      I had’t heard that part. Are you referring to the proposal to overlap the two lines between Intl Dist and Westlake every five minutes? What’s infeasible about that? Or are you referring to voltage? I think the Kubly streetcars were a different voltage that would have required replacing the existing vehicles?

      1. Mike: the Kubly SDOT assumed no new service would be needed; this seems in error. Yes, they planned on overlapping trips from the two unreliable tails. That meant that the planned five-minute headways in the CBD would not be even but more likely somewhat bunched. The SLU line often gets jammed at Mercer Street. The FHSC is slow on Broadway and has the deviation to 14th Avenue South. I had not read of a voltage issue. But I did read of platform and base issues. The Durkan review said service subsidy would be required. Over their history, both lines have needed additional service subsidy or more than forecast.

      2. Eddie is right to point out that the service operations have a great likelihood of bunching. Keep in mind that streetcars cannot dodge things like turning vehicles in front of them like buses can. Plus there are turns planned with the CCC that look like they would be at places with mixed traffic and pedestrians.

        Of course, it’s important to point out that SDOT is not a transit operator. I think letting SDOT manage this project was a mistake. They don’t design it with an eye to faster, reliable service as the main objective. It’s how the FHSC project turned from a great project on a map into a snail of an operation while transit money built a bicycle track.

    2. Would all the existing catenary on 1st Ave have to be removed to make way for streetcar catenary?

      Don’t the existing streetcars already *not* fit the stations properly? As in… not level boarding? Someone failed at measurement, so time to deploy and retract ramps had to be added in to dwell time. Please, oh please, don’t double down on making the rest of the fleet have the same mistake.

      If they are serious about making the streetcar work, it should be five-minute headway (four minute-headway peak) end to end. Without frequency, it will remain a tourist curiosity.

      A department that is so lacking in attention to details like holding onto its web domain is not ready to build the CCC. It needs staff that knows how to build a streetcar right the first time. Right now, it is basically a stepchild sleeping under the stairs of a department focused on a lot of other projects. The staff that leads the project and knows what it is doing needs to not have the rug pulled out every four years every time a new mayor brings in the next political appointee to head and manage the department.

      1. I’m with eddiew. Just don’t build it. You could have more ETB service serving more destinations on 1st, serving more people.

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