The West Seattle Link extension (WSLE) is proceeding to a final EiS expected in 2024. The Ballard Link extension [BLE] with DSTT2 is heading to a new Draft EIS, timeline TBD. (Per Sound Transit email update.)

Federal Way Link is now expected in 2026. The bridge over weak soil will add $72 million ($) to the cost.

The Seatte Times surveyed 45 Seattle city council candidates ($) on their views and background.

The Route 40 upgrade has reached 60% design, and has a survey on new alternatives for Westlake Avenue North. One of the proposals is to pilot a freight-and-bus (FAB) lane. It would run for one year, and then SDOT would decide whether to install it permanently and consider FAB lanes in other areas. The survey ends June 19.

The monorail is on a roll with with high Kraken ridership. ($) David Kroman of the Seattle Times calls it a “golden age” for the monorail.

Seattle public school students want more bike racks at school. ($) “I have a friend who goes to Franklin and is forced to rent a bike locker at the nearby Mount Baker light-rail station.”

More below the fold.

Sound Transit has a lame survey about the downtown Link disruption earlier this month. It’s lame because it asks only a few questions, none of them about the workaround routing or platform-level customer service, and there’s no open-comment text box to mention those issues. If there were, I would tell ST about my friend who didn’t know about the disruption, and came back from a Cascades trip intending to go north. She went to Intl Dist station, saw it in incomprehensible disarray, didn’t see any platform-information staff, and got sent south to Stadium station to turn around and go north. (However, I always saw platfom-information staff making announcements.)

On Memorial Day most transit will be on a Sunday schedule: Metro, Link, ST Express, the streetcars, the West Seattle water taxi, Metro Flex. The monorail will run from 8:30am to 11pm. The Vashon water taxi will take a day off. (Metro email.)

The 3rd Avenue courtroom entrance will reopen June 15. (King County email.)

Seattle rents continue to go up-again, down-again in the pandemic recovery. This article ($) says rents were nearly flat in April compared to a year ago.

This is an open thread.

131 Replies to “Open Thread 8”

  1. The ST March 2023 ridership data is out! Note that it’s not viewable on many smart phones, so you may need a desktop/ laptop computer to examine these data.

    A few notes to get things started.
    1. Northgate was the busiest station rather than Westlake.
    2. Northgate Link in general is getting over 20K weekday average boardings at the three stations, meeting the expected total weekday ridership of 41-49K for the line (assuming that the same number of riders make a return trip — so doubling the reported boardings). I think the mostly full return of UW students using transit is a major factor in this.
    3. Saturday ridership is approaching weekday ridership.
    4. With less than 200 average weekday riders, North Sounder looks pretty awful. It may be time to pull the plug when Lynnwood Link opens.
    5. With Amazon workers fully reporting back in May, it’s the numbers reported for this current month that will be more telling. I expect that ST will publish those in late July.

    The monthly ridership reports used to be a regularly featured post on STB. The new reporting system provides station data for every month rather than just quarterly prior to 2020.

    My comments above highlight a bit of what I think are interesting about these data. Are there other interesting observations that others have?

    1. Link ridership continues to increase, compared to the same month a year earlier. This has been happening for over a year now. I find it odd that they don’t list that comparison, but instead compare monthly change (which goes up and down) and current month compared to 2019 (which is apples and oranges, since Link didn’t include Northgate then). In general, Link is slowly recovering from the pandemic, just like society at large.

      The same thing is happening with South Sounder, in that ridership is significantly better for a particular month than the year prior. The biggest difference is that overall ridership is nowhere near what it was before the pandemic. Again, Link benefits from having grown, but my guess is if you could erase the influence of Northgate Link, the rest of Link has still recovered better than South Sounder. North Sounder, on the other hand, appears relatively flat. Ridership was higher last March, making it an outlier.

      The express buses look similar to South Sounder, in that they are consistently better than a year ago, but still not as good as they were before the pandemic. The 574 is the closest to what it was from before the pandemic — it is only down 17%, with about 1,800 riders a day. The 550 is still ST’s most popular bus — with 3,400 riders. But it is down 59% from 2019. The 545 is similar. The 554 has recovered much better, and is now third in ridership, with over 2,000 a day, compared to 3,300 back in the day.

      As far as Northgate goes, it benefits quite a bit from being both the northern terminus, as well as having multiple destinations along the way. It will be interesting to see what happens with Lynnwood Link. My guess is a lot of riders will switch, although it will continue to do well. A lot depends on how the buses feed it, versus the other stations.

      1. IIRC ridership on the 550 was already down 30% in 2019 from previous highs.

        I also am interested to see Link ridership on Lynnwood Link which I think is probably the strongest of the “suburban” Link lines. Does the ridership decrease on Sounder N reflect fewer folks from SnoCo taking transit to Seattle, and will that be reflected in Lynnwood Link, which will only go south.

        Although Ross didn’t touch on the 554, the issue with feeder or express buses to an area like Issaquah, and why there are so many bus routes running west from there, is Issaquah is quite large and many of those riders originate in a park and ride. If a single feeder bus serves Issaquah it takes too long to serve the different park and rides, so you need a lot of buses going to Issaquah. Some (not Ross) think any bus — express or say feeder bus from MI to “Issaquah” after EastbLink opens — is the same but the key difference is what park and ride does it serve because none of those buses serve Issaquah neighborhoods. So when looking at frequency on this route it depends on what park and ride you are parked in, which is why driving to the park and rides on MI and S Bellevue will be preferred. Wait times are zero in that case.

      2. My impression is the 512 has been busier than the 550 since at least 2020, so I’m surprised the 550 is showing twice as many riders. However, Bellevue has only the 550, while the Lynnwood/Everett ridership is split between the 510, 511, 512, 513, and 4xx.

      3. “Does the ridership decrease on Sounder N reflect fewer folks from SnoCo taking transit to Seattle,”

        Sounder North is the most sensitive route to WFH (work from home) because the only thing it’s feasible for is peak commuting to Seattle. The schedule doesn’t allow off-peak or reverse-peak trips. Half the walkshed in Mukilteo and Edmonds is lost to Puget Sound. The bulk of those cities’ population is further east uphill and closer to 99 (Swift Blue) and I-5 (5xx, 4xx). So it’s really only conducive to P&R drivers, ferry riders from the West Sound, and the few people who live in the half-walkshed. That demographic is precisely the one that has fallen the most.

        “and will that be reflected in Lynnwood Link”

        Sounder North’s ridership is a drop in the bucket; the presence or loss of its riders on Link will be so dwarfed by other riders then won’t even be noticed. Snohomish County and Seattle are a lot more than people commuting to downtown offices 9-5. It’s people working and shopping in North Seattle, people going to Snohomish County, etc. Some who would like to take Sounder North can’t because of its schedule and location, so they’re already not Sounder North riders.

        “Lynnwood Link, which will only go south”

        I can’t imagine many people take Sounder North from Edmonds or Mukilteo to Everett. They can’t anyway unless they’re going north in the afternoon. And most of Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s residents live closer to Swift Blue than Sounder.

      4. It should also be noted that Sounder North has been cut to two trips per day instead of four. This means less flexibility for those who use it and less opportunity to transfer to/from other routes.

      5. “So it’s really only conducive to P&R drivers, ferry riders from the West Sound, and the few people who live in the half-walkshed. “

        Most of the Sounder riders from the Kingston side of the pond were lost when Kitsap Transit started the Kingston-Seattle Fast Ferry.

      6. There’s the Mukilteo ferry from Whidbey Island. It runs every half hour, so it’s more conducive to use than the other routes.

      7. Issaquah is quite large and many of those riders originate in a park and ride

        Yes. Interestingly enough, the Highlands Park and Ride becomes the new main transit center for Issaquah, with every Issaquah bus going there. This includes the peak-express to Mercer Island (218), the all-day express to Mercer Island and sometimes North Bend (215), the all-day bus to downtown Bellevue, which goes through town along the way (544), the all-day bus to Sammamish and Sammamish Road (269) as well as infrequent coverage routes, like the 202 and 203. In contrast, the Issaquah Transit Center will only have the 554, 202 and 203.

        At least that is the plan, for now.

      8. There’s the Mukilteo ferry from Whidbey Island. It runs every half hour, so it’s more conducive to use than the other routes.

        Yes, and Community Transit plans on running buses from there to Lynnwood every half hour (timed with the ferry) once Lynnwood Link opens. This will make the argument for getting rid of North Sounder even stronger. It really only leaves Edmonds as the main beneficiary of North Sounder. Everett gets more riders (just barely) but with express bus service to Lynnwood (at least every 15 minutes), folks from Everett have a very good alternative. I could see ST just running a few express buses from Edmonds to 185th as a way to compensate Edmonds for the loss of North Sounder. CT will run buses from Edmonds to Link (at Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood) but they won’t be particularly fast or frequent.

      9. It should also be noted that Sounder North has been cut to two trips per day instead of four. This means less flexibility for those who use it and less opportunity to transfer to/from other routes.

        Good point. You would definitely increase ridership if you increased the number of trips. But it is also highly unlikely you would increase ridership *per train*. Commuter rail tends to work this way, especially commuter rail that has alternatives (like express buses).

        While North Sounder has had a lot of criticism over the years, it is worth noting how low ridership is now. It took me a while to realize I was looking at monthly, not daily ridership. Holy cow, less than 100 riders a day, total. A bus can handle this load quite easily. It should definitely be eliminated once Link gets to Lynnwood, if not sooner.

      10. As far as Issaquah park and ride goes, it’s kind of in a horrible place.

        It’s got nothing interesting that is within 2 blocks of the transit center. It sort of is fed by hillside neighborhoods but they aren’t that populous. It’s a few signals off of I-90 so it’s not set up to divert interstate commuters (and Eastgate is about the same time to get to if someone is already on I-90 or north of I-90).

        If Issaquah Link ever gets built, I hope it doesn’t go to this site unless the adjacent parcels become something impressive. It would make so much more sense to put it near I-90 somewhere between Costco corporate and Target with pedestrian connections across the freeway.

      11. Al, Issaquah town center is a retail juggernaut but may be the least walkable town center anywhere. Even asdf2 couldn’t walk it. Old Front St. is semi walkable (for asdf2), but not for eastsiders. The rest has parking lots and big box stores you drive to with I-90 down the middle and without a doubt the most aggressive and entitled drivers in WA. Terrifying just walking from Fred Meyer to Home Depot.

        I suppose Issaquah Highlands might be the one place to place a Link station based on park and ride usage, but it isn’t very walkable.

        Issaquah actually has several park and rides, with as Mike notes almost no local bus service (like MI). If Issaquah Link is built all those park and rides will have to be consolidated into one massive park and ride or several statins with their own park and rides. By that time I think Link will be obsolete to places like Issaquah due to WFH and driverless micro transit. Transit is almost obsolete today because only downtown Seattle has inadequate parking and fewer and fewer eastsiders are going there.

        I suppose Issaquah could add multi-family housing in the town center but eastsiders don’t like to live where they shop and that land is too lucrative for retail.

      12. Daniel, if there are “Issaquah neighborhoods” which are relatively dense — I do not know anything about the specifics of Issaquah neighborhoods so don’t jump on me if I say something clearly wrong — then perhaps the “Blue Streak” model would be useful. Shuttles from one Park-N-Ride to a link station might not be as successful as routes with a collector / distributor leg “upstream” from the Park-N-Ride which then continue to the Link connection.

        I understand that most families in Issaquah have one car per person over the age of 16, but obviously some don’t. If those which don’t tend to cluster along arterials it might make sense to have buses which do “double-duty”, or even “triple-duty”. That is, if such a relatively dense, moderate income neighborhood with several apartment buildings exists in the south-west, south or south-east direction from “downtown” Issaquah, perhaps it makes sense for buses serving those areas to go through downtown, stop at the main Issaquah Park-N-Ride and then hustle to South Bellevue, with a stop at the Eastgate flyer station.

        This allows people like the Teen-age version of Mike to get on the bus and, yes, ride a somewhat circuitous route to South Bellevue where the region open up on one bus.

        I think that your observation that driving to and Park-N-Ride, taking a bus from there to Link and then Link to one’s final destination (or Link and yet another bus…) is not as attractive as taking one bus to Link and so on.

        There can’t be such “Blue Streak” service which bypasses the activity centers of downtown Issaquah and the Issaquah Park-N-Ride, but one which serves them all might be an efficient use of operations dollars.

      13. Daniel, if there are “Issaquah neighborhoods” which are relatively dense — I do not know anything about the specifics of Issaquah neighborhoods so don’t jump on me if I say something clearly wrong — then perhaps the “Blue Streak” model would be useful. Shuttles from one Park-N-Ride to a link station might not be as successful as routes with a collector / distributor leg “upstream” from the Park-N-Ride which then continue to the Link connection.

        Some of the routes have stops “upstream”, and some “downstream”, depending on which park and ride you are talking about, and which route. For example, the 554 will start at Highlands Park and Ride (HPR), then serve much of Issaquah before reaching the Issaquah Transit Center (ITC). After that it runs as an express to downtown Bellevue (via Bellevue Way). The 169 will no longer serve ITC, but serve HPR instead. The stop to HPR is actually in between Sammamish and parts of Issaquah. After leaving Issaquah, it will run as an express to Mercer Island, with the one stop at Eastgate. The 215 will go to North Bend, but it will run through the streets of North Bend before ending at the park and ride. The (peak-only) 218 will be the only bus that just goes from park and ride to a Link station.

        So yeah, these follow that same “Blue Streak” model, or variations on it.

      14. Issaquah has a planned urban growth center in the western side. If it didn’t, it probably couldn’t get Link. I’m not sure exactly where, maybe at the P&R, maybe north of I-90, maybe both. If it includes the P&R, that would solve the problem of nothing around it.

      15. When we use the term “Issaquah” it is important to understand what we are talking about.

        Issaquah is geographically large but has only 35,000 residents. Sammamish has around 80,000. When you add in Snoqualmie and North Bend total population is around 150,000 but total area is huge.

        Issaquah is the retail hub. These other cities want to be primarily SFH zones.

        So the park and rides in Issaquah serve all these other areas, and a lot of folks drive a long way to get to these park and rides because they don’t have a park and ride or like North Bend frequency is terrible. As a result the park and rides are spread out, and pre-pandemic could fill early.

        Of course there will be transit from “Issaquah” to MI after East Link opens. Today nearly every bus along this route stops on MI because it is so easy to exit and enter I-90, but few are going to MI. The key after East Link opens is there will be fewer buses to MI, and “frequency” will depend on when the bus that goes to your park and ride in Issaquah arrives. Taking a bus to the wrong park and ride when Issaquah has no local transit service is not a good idea.

        MI always agreed to 12 buses per peak hour for the intercept. That is what Metro is planning although the buses won’t be full now (and my guess is low ridership, “equity”, and budgets will force Metro to rethink 15 minute frequencies, especially if the park and ride is not full) but Metro believes 15 minutes is the minimum frequency for peak buses. Non peak frequency drops off, and waiting on N Mercer Way for 30 minutes will be miserable.

        But there is a 453 stall park and ride across the street and a 1500 stall park and ride at S Bellevue. Someone going to Seattle on Link will drive to one of these two park and rides because there is little traffic congestion today and they are already in their car driving to a park and ride, or maybe take the 554 to S Bellevue due to it’s non peak frequency.

        I just don’t think eastsiders will willingly add a seat to their trip. Either there will be one seat buses like the 554 and 630, private company shuttles, or they will drive to a one seat park and ride, or just to their destination. I think it is foolish to think the few remains Eastside commuters who demanded one seat buses will suddenly agree to two seat bus/trains. These are not transit fans. Adding a seat because someone built a train to where they are not going won’t sell. It is all about convenience and time of trip.

        Mode just isn’t that important to eastsiders. For years they have had one seat express buses in dedicated lanes to Seattle or Bellevue and they hated commuting on those. The buses are clean and pleasant. They will demand one seat rides after East Link opens, or WFH. Only an idiot would stand on N Mercer Way waiting for a bus back to their park and ride in Issaquah, and these folks are not idiots but are demanding.

        Which is why Bellevue was keen on making sure these coveted Eastside workers have a one seat express bus from Issaquah to Bellevue Way and a 2/3 seat ride to Seattle.

        What Bellevue is waiting for is Amazon opening it’s Bellevue office towers to the 15,000 to 20,000 Amazon workers who live on the eastside. Bellevue learned long ago that competing with Seattle simply meant keeping Eastside money and workers on the eastside, especially since the other Eastside cities don’t want that kind of commercial development. As Freeman has noted, the issues with downtown Seattle have made that much easier for Bellevue. Bellevue wasn’t going to screw that up by adding a seat from Issaquah to S Bellevue, and when Bellevue and Issaquah agree on something ST is going to do it no questions asked. Years of abusive ST litigation with MI claiming the world would end if 20 articulated buses couldn’t access MI from Issaquah per peak hour gone with the 554.

        In my very first posts on this blog I tried to explain this but all anyone could see was the “privilege” of MI when all the power and privilege lie with Bellevue and Issaquah.

      16. “When we use the term “Issaquah” it is important to understand what we are talking about.”

        I was talking about the City of Issaquah and what transit is appropriate for its residents and visitors. Sammamish and Snoqualmie/North Bend are different issues and would need their own analysis.

        “Issaquah is geographically large but has only 35,000 residents. Sammamish has around 80,000. When you add in Snoqualmie and North Bend total population is around 150,000 but total area is huge. Issaquah is the retail hub. These other cities want to be primarily SFH zones.”

        In other words, Issaquah should expect a significant amount of transit, especially with its planned urban growth center, and the others shouldn’t expect much. Snoqualmie and North Bend are outside the urbanized area and the ST District, and ineligible for urban growth centers or large-scale development (beyond things like Snoqualmie Ridge). In other words, Sammamish and Snoqualmie/North Bend can’t expect priority transit.

        I find it hard to believe Sammamish has 80,000 people; it must have an unusually large land area.

        The primary factors in Eastside transit are travel between the largest and densest cities: Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, and on to Seattle, Renton, and toward Bothell. Issaquah is minor and one small part. Sammamish and Snoqualmie/North Bend are even more insignificant, especially with Sammamish’s low-density/little-commercial model, and the Snoqualmie Valley being a designated rural area. So Bellevue/Seattle transit does not revolve around Sammamish or Issaquah.

        We’re looking at different things. You’re looking at what Sammamish P&R commuters want. I’m looking at how to get around the Eastside all-day without a car better, so that transit can be a more viable alternative for non-work and non-traditional-office trips. I’m mildly concerned about Issaquah because it is a city with a walkable downtown and enough businesses that a pedestrian might want to live there. I’ve written off Snoqualmie as no hope because it’s so anti-that: it’s like a larger Mercer Island or Medina. Mercer Island gets a Link station because it’s on the way. Sammamish is in the outskirts and doesn’t even have that excuse.

        So for Issaquah I think: for somebody living in one of the closer-in houses/apartments, how can they get to Swedish on transit, to Costco, supermarkets, the library, a school, and a regional transfer point?

        Sammamish would need its own analysis, and Snoqualmie/North Bend its own. Sammamish has its Issaquah Highlands P&R, and I haven’t heard it’s too small. It will also have a Southeast Redmond P&R with a Link station. Metro’s goal is to give Sammamish all-day local transit at 30 minutes. The East Link restructure will at least get toward that goal. I don’t know whether one route on 228th is sufficient, or whether there should also be another route somewhere else. I haven’t heard any claims of need or suggestions for another location, so I assume it’s sufficient to have a route on 228th north to Redmond and south to the Issaquah Highlands (and optionally further, such as the rest of Issaquah).

        Snoqualmie/North Bend should have more than 90-minute transit, but 90 minutes is better than 120 minutes, so it’s a major start. They also have access to the Issaquah Highlands P&R, and again I haven’t heard them complain it’s too full. And they’re outside the urbanized area, so they can’t expect as much transit infrastructure or one-seat commutes as people within the largest cities. They’re not the tail that wags the dog.

        “I think it is foolish to think the few remains Eastside commuters who demanded one seat buses will suddenly agree to two seat bus/trains.”

        So what? We always expected them to. Sammamishites are reluctant to drive to a P&R for a one-seat ride, and they’ll be even more reluctant to for a two-seat ride. That goes along with its low density and single-family orientation. If they don’t use the P&Rs, then we can convert part of the land to housing.

        “Someone going to Seattle on Link will drive to one of these two park and rides because there is little traffic congestion today and they are already in their car driving to a park and ride”

        Again, so what? They wanted P&Rs, they got them. In the 2010s it was common to drive past other P&Rs to the closest one to Seattle (Mercer Island), then if it was full, try successively South Bellevue, Wilburton, or Eastgate until they find a spot. But others drove to the Issaquah Highlands P&R to have the shortest drive. We know that because the 218 was full, and the other 21x and 554 also managed to be full. I expect both patterns will continue. There will also be the future option of driving north to Redmond and taking Link to Bellevue, which has no counterpart now.

        And again, the office jobs in downtown Bellevue are centered around 108th, not Bellevue Way. So Link will serve them directly. Only people going to Bellevue Way retail or the park or the apartments there will have the inconvenience of getting to Bellevue Way.

      17. Mike. MI and Issaquah are much different when it comes to land use.

        MI’s town center is relatively flat and surrounded by a multi-family zone. It is very walkable and has excellent transit on and off the Island and good density. There a very few (none) big box stores. The problem is the town center residents prefer to drive.

        Issaquah’s town center is HUGE and definitely not walkable. What part are you saying is walkable?

        To dismiss a region with 150,000 citizens because you don’t like their land use would be like me considering Northgate simply based on the walkable surrounding area and not considering feeder buses. The folks in the greater Issaquah region simply prefer park and rides for first/last mile access because the area is too large for buses, even doorstep to bus stop.

        The reason this region has been coveted and transit tries to cater to it are: 1. It is very politically powerful and generates enormous sales tax revenue; and 2. these are the prize workers Harrell dreams of returning but Bellevue wants. These cities don’t care about an all day transit system for those who can’t afford a car. That is why East Link runs along 112th and the 554 will run along Bellevue Way.

        This really has almost nothing to do with transit. It has to do with high value employees. My guess is neither Bellevue nor Seattle will get them. They prefer to WFH. But with 15,000-20,000 Eastside Amazon workers, and basically Bellevue Way for their offices, Bellevue will do whatever it takes to get them, and Seattle is making that too easy.

        If your dream is some sort of all day frequent transit running from corner to corner of East KC, or some paradigm shift in housing desires, I think you will be disappointed. My advice is to focus on Seattle, or maybe Pierce Co.

      18. “Mike. MI and Issaquah are much different when it comes to land use.”

        I was comparing Sammamish to Mercer island, not Issaquah to Mercer Island.

        “MI’s town center is relatively flat and surrounded by a multi-family zone. It is very walkable and has excellent transit on and off the Island and good density. There a very few (none) big box stores. The problem is the town center residents prefer to drive.”

        OK, I wasn’t fair to Mercer Island. Its town center is relatively good and walkable. The problem is the other 90% of the island. That’s what Sammamish is like.

        “Issaquah’s town center is HUGE and definitely not walkable. What part are you saying is walkable?

        The area around City Hall, of course.

        “To dismiss a region with 150,000 citizens”

        You can’t lump Issaquah and the sprawl around Issaquah together and treat it the same.

        “The reason this region has been coveted and transit tries to cater to it are:”

        Does transit try to cater to it? Or are you just saying it does? I count two P&Rs, one all-day express, a handful of peak express routes, and atrociously minimal local service. The Issaquah Link decision was seven years ago and mostly due to strong lobbying by a small-city mayor who leveraged the most out of his position on the ST board, and created an urban growth center to get it. The pending restructure improves local and express service, but it’s still not as comprehensive as what Kirkland has for instance. So I don’t see a lot of catering. I see a lot of you saying there’s catering or should be catering.

      19. I find it hard to believe Sammamish has 80,000 people; it must have an unusually large land area.

        Yes, it does. That is why it is so hard to serve with transit (or anything else for that matter). It could be rural, like, say, Darrington. A couple thousand people, lots of farms and huge forests. It could be like a small European city — compact, and connected to the bigger city via an old train, or new bus line. But instead it is a sprawling low-density city — very difficult to serve with transit, but too big to ignore entirely. So it gets a single bus line, cutting through it. The line performs very poorly, despite being largely subsidized by more cost-effective transit that it connects to.

      20. There’s only so much we can do for people who drive to a P&R and insist on a one-seat express ride to everywhere they go.


        I don’t understand your issue Mike. Issaquah has one seat buses to Seattle and Bellevue today. Would you be happier if they transferred at Eastgate?

        When East Link opens Issaquah will have a one seat bus ride to Bellevue Way, and a one seat train ride to Seattle from one of two park and rides that serve East Link.

        In 2046 Issaquah will have a one seat train ride to Bellevue(110th).

        How many ride those buses and trains is another issue. Right now not many although those buses are not cheap. If ridership is a metric those buses could have less frequency.

      22. In defense of people who drive to P&R’s, expecting a one-seat ride to their destination, that was the way things were for the last 50 years or so. That was a big part of our transit system. “Yeah, Sam, but things have changed!” Yes, I know, strawman, but there’s probably a lot of people out there that still think that that system is still intact. That a P&R is a place one drives to to take a one-seat express route to downtown, or some other major destination. That’s ingrained in people. It will take a while to unlearn.

      23. Sam, they’ve already unlearned it. It’s called WFH. No transfers. Solves everyone’s problems (except transit and downtown Seattle).

    2. Thanks, Ross. By “the Park-N-Ride” I meant the one on SR900 in the northwest corner of town.

  2. I added a link to a survey of the Seattle City Council candidates on their views and background. It’s the third item.

  3. On the dividing of the WSBLE DEIS into two:

    I predicted this. It’s just too time consuming to wait for all the changes through Downtown including the CID changes to finalize the DEIS. The final EIS would seemingly take at least two more years if it was left as one document for the whole corridor. The lawsuits on just the West Seattle portion will still happen but leaving out the project parts north of SODO will make those also fewer and more easily addressable.

    I see this as interesting for a few other reasons.

    1. The stub will be so bad at attracting riders that a three line operating scenario through the DSTT seems more likely to evolve to get it a higher New Starts rating and FTA funding. Without the stub the project was barely attracting new system riders and surely the stub will deter even more from using Link.
    2. Closer scrutiny may be given to SODO transfers. I still hope against hope for the platforms here to get modified to enable cross platform transfers. Very few people have shown concern about this, but with the project now taking only four stations to the Final EIS the issue will hopefully be elevated in discussion by the Board.
    3. It sets the stage for adding a BLE stub alternative between Westlake and Ballard. I don’t think it requires it, but as costs and difficulty continue to grow for the DSTT2 portion it looks more and more like a Ballard-Westlake stub may be the eventual outcome or at least get some consideration.

    I still don’t see West Seattle Link stations opening before 2035. The end station is underground (adding time to the construction schedule), a new major bridge will still need to span the Duwamish and the land acquisition throughout the corridor is significant and potentially litigious.

    1. I was surprised when the three projects (Ballard-Westlake, Westlake-SODO, SODO-West Seattle) were combined into one EIS in the first place. That has always seemed cumbersome, and inevitably costs or alignment disputes or delays would accumulate in some segments more than others.

      1. The advantage if you are the Board with separate EIS’s is twofold.

        1. You can prioritize the completion of the projects with the timing of the DEIS. As I suspected the priority is pretty clear: first DSTT2 to SLU because that is what Harrell wants; 2. A WS stub because that is what Constantine wants; and 3. Ballard Link no one important wants prioritized.

        2. If you suspect you may run out of money the priority projects get completed, and then another Board down the road can either break the news to Ballard or pass ST 4. I think the odds Ballard Link gets built are less than 50/50, and for the money and ridership it is a bad project. Its only saving grace is it is marginally better than WS Link.

      2. “first DSTT2 to SLU because that is what Harrell wants”

        Does he?

        “Ballard Link no one important wants prioritized.”

        Yet it;’s the one transit fans prioritize. Nobody important.

      3. “ As I suspected the priority is pretty clear: first DSTT2 to SLU because that is what Harrell wants; 2. A WS stub because that is what Constantine wants; and 3. Ballard Link no one important wants prioritized.”

        DT, that’s not what ST is doing. They are putting your #2 as their #1 priority. They are not separating your #1 and #3.

      4. Mike, what makes you think “transit fans” prioritize Ballard Link? I don’t even see that on this blog. In fact most think Ballard Link is very questionable, and would switch to Ballard to UW if they could.

        The concerns about DSTT2 on this blog are Station location, design and cost. I think most transit advocates and urbanists would prioritize extending Link to SLU as their number one priority although granted a second tunnel from Sodo may not be necessary even with a midtown station and one on 5th at the CID.

        Ballard Link’s argument has been that 1. it will not be as expensive dollar per rider mile as WS, but then even Issaquah Link may have better dollar per rider mile than WS Link; and 2. Ballard is remote and hard to get too unlike WS which folks knew when they moved to Ballard. Oh, and the old future population growth and TOD claims.

        The Sammamish Plateau is hard to get to and has twice the population of Ballard but that doesn’t mean you run Link underground to it.

        I would like to know any transit fans on this blog who prioritize Ballard Link at all. I know the powers that be don’t, but I don’t understand why transit fans would prioritize spending close to $10 billion all said and done running Link to Ballard even if the subarea did have the ST revenue.

      5. DT’s comment illustrate a basic confusion about “Ballard Link”. Its major benefits are first connecting SLU. Then it’s about connecting Seattle Center and LQA. Then it’s about connecting Ballard (and note that the single Ballard station boardings exceed to total boardings at the three West Seattle Link stations combined).

        I think it would be more strategic to call that project segment the NW Seattle Link Extension or perhaps the Seattle Center/ Ballard Link Extension. Otherwise, the ambiguity of what part of it is value added or not gets convoluted as DT’s post illustrates.

      6. Maybe I missed that Al. You are correct the EIS for WS is scheduled to be finished earlier although I agree with you the “preferred route” is going to be amended. I still think DSTT2 will be built first although Dow wants his stub. The Board knows all of WSBLE is not affordable so the key is which part(s) start and finish first.

        I also agree with your concept about breaking BLE into basically three segments from Westlake. When I say SLU I am including LQA or at least Seattle Center. It is the segment to Ballard I see the lowest priority. Interesting one Ballard station will have more Boardings than 3 WS stations, although that says more about WS than Ballard Link.

      7. “what makes you think “transit fans” prioritize Ballard Link?”

        Seattle Subway and people along the 45th corridor and people like myself were the ones who generated public support for a Link line serving Ballard and ST3 in general. Ballard is Seattle’s fifth-largest urban village and is disproportionately far from ST1/2 Link. I’d wanted a Ballard subway for decades but didn’t think it was politically feasible. Seattle Subway convinced me that enough people wanted it to make it happen. At the time were were thinking of an east-west line to the U-District. ST2 had funding for preliminary studies of Ballard-UW and Ballard-downtown corridors as a next step, although they weren’t expected to be done until the 2020s.

        Mayor Mike McGinn got on the bandwagon and championed Ballard-downtown ahead of Ballard-UW. He got ST to accelerate that study to the mid 2010s, and paid ST to also study a Westlake streetcar extension he wanted. The other subareas said, “Hey, we want to accelerate our studies too”, and that’s how ST3 got accelerated to 2016 instead of maybe the 2020s or 2030s.

        Transit fans always put Ballard first, because it’s the largest village without Link, has a lot of walkable businesses and housing for people to take transit to, and the 45th corridor has high ridership and high willingness to pay for high-capacity transit. You don’t see that as much in West Seattle, or even in Lake City. So Ballard was clearly the place to go next. It still is, which is why it’s frustrating if the powers that be are now prioritizing Ballard last. Canada or Europe wouldn’t do that.

        “The concerns about DSTT2 on this blog are Station location, design and cost. I think most transit advocates and urbanists would prioritize extending Link to SLU as their number one priority although granted a second tunnel from Sodo may not be necessary even with a midtown station and one on 5th at the CID.”

        Ballard has a 20-45 minute overhead to get to a regional transfer point (Westlake or U-District). The point of Ballard Link is to reduce that overhead so that it doesn’t take an hour just to get from Ballard to Bellevue or Capitol Hill or southeast Seattle. SLU has only a 5-10 minute overhead from Westlake — with four frequent bus routes and the streetcar to choose from — so it doesn’t have that problem. SLU’s problem is capacity, if many of the people in those highrises want to travel at the same time. Ballard also has a wider range of business, housing, and recreational destinations than SLU does, so a Link line serves a larger cross-section of the population. SLU attracts just a few kinds of people and trips. That could change, but it’s up to SLU to do so.

        However, with the Ballard Link plan, we don’t have to choose between Ballard or SLU: they’re both on the same line.

        “Ballard Link’s argument has been that 1. it will not be as expensive dollar per rider mile as WS”

        That’s not it at all. It’s about giving Ballard the appropriate level of transit for its size, density, walkability, commercial/housing diversity, potential, and distance from a regional transfer point. Ballard is disproportionately underserved without Link.

        “I think it would be more strategic to call that project segment the NW Seattle Link Extension”

        That’s part of the underlying concept. “Ballard” represents northwest Seattle, not just the urban village.

        “Interesting one Ballard station will have more Boardings than 3 WS stations, although that says more about WS than Ballard Link.”

        That’s what I meant by Ballard being Seattle’s fifth-largest urban village. And more of its population and businesses are concentrated in one area within walking distance of each other, so that generates more ridership.

      8. I mean fourth-largest. Greater downtown, the U-District, Northgate, Ballard, then Lake City. I said fifth because I’ve often wavered between whether Ballard or Lake City is fourth.

      9. Thanks for the excellent history Mike.

        Ballard is only 42,000 residents. Redmond has almost 80,000 residents and East Link is estimated to have 1300 daily boardings there and Redmond is remote too. The design for BLE has changed significantly and estimated costs have soared. The stretch from the Seattle Center to Ballard has very little population or jobs. Residents of Queen Anne can’t access Interbay. Regional and Seattle population growth is basically flat the last few years and big tech is laying off.

        Many of the reasons given for BLE — let alone prioritizing it — apply equally to Issaquah Link, but I don’t think Issaquah Link makes good transit sense even though that area will grow much faster than Ballard in the future.

        Yes, BLE makes infinitely more sense than WSLE, especially likely ridership. I don’t think N KC has the revenue for all of WSBLE so priorities won’t just determine what gets done first, but what gets done at all.

        I think Link to SLU/Seattle Center is the first priority, especially if ST is correct about capacity, unless we concede downtown Seattle will never recover, a weak second is BLE, and third WSLE. I think the power brokers agree with me on 1, but not 2 and 3 because of Dow, not because any rational transit person would put WSLE ahead of BLE, although I don’t think BLE is critical even if the subarea has the revenue.

        If you read the ST site it ends with a paragraph stating that once all the EIS’s are complete the Board will select final routes and stations. The four other subareas likely see DSTT2 as more critical to their projects and Harrell wants that $1.1 billion in subarea contribution, so I think that section will go first but will blow a hole in subarea revenue. . He just needs to find a way for better stations for DSTT2. ( or any stations). Al thinks there will be a big fight over Link is WS and I agree — just like CID or Issaquah folks don’t pay attention until well after the EIS —and those delays might bump BLE, although that will be contentious too once it reaches Ballard although we are talking one station.

      10. Population of Redmond vs Ballard isn’t the important part. The important part is the population and businesses within a reasonable distance of the Link stations.

        Of course, that gets into the whole mess of there only being about 12 things within walking distance of the Ballard Link station.

      11. Glenn, will the Ballard station serve as a major bus intercept for the greater area (mostly north)? How many riders are expected to walk to the station vs. by bus? I am assuming there is no parking.

      12. It depends on what they build.

        If they put the Ballard station at the edge of the commercial center of Ballard, as is currently planned, you get something like the Tacoma Dome station: sure there’s a bus transfer location, but it’s really in the wrong location to serve just about all actual transportation needs.

        As an example, let’s take the D: once Ballard Link is built there’s no real reason for that to go all the way into Seattle, is there? So where should it go instead? Ballard has a pretty extensive cluster of businesses and residential, so it makes sense for it to go there. It adds inconvenience to anyone going from Crown Hill to Seattle, but adds convenience to anyone going from Crown Hill to Ballard, and there’s a lot of possible destinations there.

        But, if the Link station is at 14th, then the D can’t do that. Instead, transfers happen in the middle of nowhere, and unless you are going from Crown Hill to the Ballard Market (one possible destination only) it adds inconvenience to all trips on the corridor.

        Suppose the plan for the 554 was to have it do a loop around Mercer Island for all the MI to Issaquah riders? Of course sending it to Bellevue makes the most sense. It shouldn’t go to Seattle, since Link goes there. Bellevue is the next logical thing to do, and now a new set of one seat rides are available. Sending it to MI would inconvenience the most number of passengers possible, while providing few benefits, unless MI decides to convert to condos or something.

        That’s a bit like building Ballard Link to not quite Ballard, and hoping it gets places added to it, while using a bus transfer to get to where the majority of people actually want to go.

      13. I think it is fair to say that “transit fans” (as you put it) considered Ballard Link the best major rail project in ST3. So much so that many considered it the only decent major project in ST3. Yes, Ballard to the UW would be a better value, but that doesn’t take away from the strength of Ballard Link.

        It is a misrepresentation to suggest that the strength of it lies in SLU. Just look at existing ridership (or rather, pre-pandemic ridership). The combined 15/D ridership per mile was as high as any in our system. Of course a very high percentage of the ridership came from Ballard. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have run the 15. To put things in perspective, they used to run about ten 15 buses and ten D buses at the same time, every morning. They wouldn’t run that many buses if not for crowding, showing the large demand there. Outside of rush hour, the D did as well as just about any bus in our system, despite being slowed down by bridge openings. Of course the stops along the way are important, but Ballard remains the most important part of Ballard Link. That is why it is important that ST not screw it up.

        If you chop it into pieces it gets weaker. This goes for any line. But ending in SLU adds very little to the system. Look at the existing line from SoDo to Westlake. Now compare it to the new line, but from SoDo to “South Lake Union”. At best it is a wash. So now you have replaced one set of downtown stops with a similar set of downtown stops. In theory this sounds good — after all, this happens in various metros around the world. People end up transferring from one set of stops to the other. Except wait — in this case it isn’t really worth it. The only stop that is significantly different is the one that is surrounded by a major interchange, an office park, and basically a whole lot of cement (“SLU”). The station is so weak they are seriously considering getting rid of it, with no stations between Denny and Seattle Center. Now remember that this is the end of the line. So all of the current riders lose their fast connection to Capitol Hill, the UW, Roosevelt and Northgate (stops that now dominate ridership) but instead just end downtown, at one of the weakest performing downtown stations ever built. Meanwhile, I see only a handful of people interested in transferring to reach the SLU station. Thus a lot of people have worse transit, while only a handful of people benefit. Overall, I think transit ridership would actually go *down* despite the enormous sums spent on this. It is like a temporary setback during construction, but one that could easily last years, if not decades.

        Oh, and let’s not forget the social justice angle. We aren’t sending the train from West Seattle or Bellevue to Ballard. We are sending the train from Rainier Valley there. So now it is low income riders who suffer most by the planning mismanagement of Sound Transit. It would be a good time to open up a torch and pitchfork shop in Rainier Valley. Expect to see me there.

        It isn’t until you get to Uptown that the new line begins to add enough value to make up for the changes. Even then, it is questionable. Riders from Rainier Valley will no doubt appreciate the one-seat ride to Uptown, but it doesn’t make up for the loss of Capitol Hill and the stations to the north. Uptown riders will appreciate the connection to say, the CID, except, whoops, there won’t be a CID station. It is still an improvement (Uptown to Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Tukwila) but not a huge one. Those who come from the other line simply switch from taking the monorail to Link — not exactly a huge upgrade.

        To really add enough value to make up for the bonehead decision to build a second line with terrible transfers and stops inferior to the existing ones (but close enough to not be worth transferring to) you need to go farther north. Smith Cove gets you next to nothing. Dravus is a nice intercept, but that’s it. You really have to go to Ballard to make any part of WSBLE worth it. The idea that ST would build the line completely backwards is not that surprising, but just another example of the general incompetence of their planning department.

    2. “I still don’t see West Seattle Link stations opening before 2035.”

      There’s no hurry; we don’t need them. If they’re delayed until Ballard-SODO open, so what? This is a perfect opportunity for ST to save money and postpone them. They can be “the park n rides of Seattle”, since Seattle doesn’t have any new P&Rs to postpone.

      1. That makes the most sense. In 2025, when his term is up, Constantine will be the longest running King County Executive ever. That is the point where even relatively popular candidates sometimes get competition within their own party. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dow just resigns. Without Dow on the board, it becomes a lot more difficult to champion West Seattle Link, let alone make the case that it should be next.

        If I had to break it into pieces, the most important section is Ballard to Westlake. That retains current service for Rainier Valley, while adding most of the value of WSBLE. At that point, someone might reconsider whether we even need West Seattle Link, and without West Seattle Link, maybe we should send the Ballard trains somewhere else, like First Hill. Yeah, I know, a guy can dream. Still, building Ballard to Westlake makes the most sense, since it is ultimately the only piece of WSBLE that could ever be worth the money.

    3. Again, Al, there do not need to be any more platforms at SoDo. Period. Spending a half billion dollars and ruining the busway for six trains per hour per direction is an egregiously stupid misuse of public funds.

      Yes, bridges at Lander and Holcomb probably should be built, munching up maybe half of the savings and Lower Royal Brougham closed at the crossing. Hardly any venhicles other than buses use it, though, so that’s little loss.

      If the Board is that careless with money, they ALL deserve to be voted out of their various offices.

      1. Tom, there is a near-fatal flaw design problem about using the existing SODO platforms for West Seattle trains. That’s because the current southbound track headed towards the Beacon Hill tunnel curves as the viaduct ramps up off the ground south of Lander. That creates both a grade change and a super elevation issue if there is a surface crossing (northbound trains from West Seattle and southbound trains headed towards Beacon Hill) and junction at the beginning of that sloping viaduct.

        So. How should ST get around this design problem? They would either have to rebuild that viaduct and close Link, or they can develop new options on how West Seattle tracks would connect. I guess they could reconfigure tracks to meet the switches into the OMF, but I think a more likely outcome is that the West Seattle tracks won’t connect with the current main tracks until they get north of the current station platforms.

        I really think they the SODO transfer connection needs lots more attention and work. This seems much more important now that the board now prefers not to have a transfer at CID. They already have proposed moving SODO platforms — but that still won’t resolve the track problem south of Lander.

      2. Al, here is a link looking straight south from Lander to the curve:,-122.3273581,3a,17y,175.19h,89.6t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1ssV13TI486Q9DzWhXWhrqQA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu.

        Yes, the tracks are rising through the curve into Forest, but there is no super-elevation. The southbound diverging track could simply go straight at the same slight grade, at least until a few feet beyond the frog when it could flatten out.

        I admit that the northbound track would be difficult to do the same with because of the need for a curved diamond through the curve, but I’ve already addressed that. Look how wide the bikeway is; it is wide enough for the northbound track from West Seattle to be laid right next to those buildings. There’s a “wiggle” at the first support under the curve that would probably require taking the rainbow colored building behind Austin Mac, and the third siding serving Franz Bread from the building to the south would probably have to be removed for the descending northbound track.,+Seattle,+WA+98134/@47.5777714,-122.3280372,564m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x5490402a1e0bffe1:0x8d2d5455d8565dfa!8m2!3d47.5777227!4d-122.3252171!16s%2Fg%2F11gf0qf1d8?entry=ttu

        Certainly adding another track across Lander would absolutely require building a viaduct over the Link tracks and busway.

        To save hundreds of millions of dollars of useless elevated structure and a station in the sky while making the reversing transfers at SoDo a relative breeze, a weekend of disruption to cut in the turnouts and perhaps some slow operation while the southbound West Seattle elevated structure is tied into the existing structure are a small price to pay for saving a half billion and much better reversing transfers.

      3. I detect a slight slope on the curve. Plus the mere fact that the tracks both turn and rise at different rates suggests that the train wheels will not have an even slope as it crosses at grade over the tracks. It may be a fine for an asphalt street and rubber tires but I see the unevenness as a real problem for train wheels.
        That’s not to say that it couldn’t be re-engineered. It just looks messy.

      4. Oh, I forgot about the SoDo busway. This is another way in which West Seattle Link degrades transit in some areas, while making relatively minor improvements in others. If you consider the cost for the net improvement, it is a ridiculously poor value.

      5. I agree, Tom, there is no need for WSLE but even if it gets built, a single track through Sodo would provide the best transfer experience. If the Board insists on running a separate line through DSTT2, they could build a split between Sodo and Stadium station which would also create an opportunity for diverting other trains from DSTT to DSTT2 in case of tunnel issues.

      6. Al, I said essentially, “OK, then don’t put a diamond in the southbound Beacon Hill track for northbounds from West Seattle to cross. Instead take the almost completely unused block of the bikeway between Lander and Forest for the northbound track from West Seattle to dip under the structure to Beacon Hill. Cross Lander and put the merging turnout between Lander and the station. There’s plenty of room.”

        I have been advocating this for a year and a half at least, and you’ve responded in ways that made me think that you understood the idea of placing a “fly-under” at the end of Forest Street next to the busway. I guess I was too optimistic.

        For other readers, a detail I did not include this time is the descent from elevation between the Horton Street junction to the Maintenance Facility and Forest Street. This would mean that the spur to the Franz Bakery building would have to be moved one track width eastward and the third track out from the building would be taken for the descent ramp.

        Google Earth shows that a pair of hopper cars was sitting on it when the current photo was taken, so it does get used occasionally. However there are a total of three tracks between the building and the busway fence and none has any cars north of the midline of the building, so there is adequate space for car storage on that portion of the two remaining tracks. Franz might need a “donkey” car-puller to re-position cars spotted by the railroad switch run farther down the track to the unloading point. That’s a commonly used means of positioning hopper cars above an unloading chute between visits by switch runs to take empties and bring loads. Or perhaps a second unloading chute could be placed at the building midline.

        Another complicatiin is that the existing elevated structure is too low for trains with pantographs at normal extension to pass under it at street grade, and if so they would have to slow to do so with depressed pans. But they would typically be doing so anyway in preparation for traversing the merging turnout. Or, for a very small amount more money the track from West Seattle could descend a couple of feet more into a shallow trench under the existing overhead.

        Assuming the completion of DSTT2, at the north end of shared operations — just south of the current Stadium Station where the tunnel portal would be placed — there would have to be a level crossing of the southbound track from the new tunnel and the northbound track to the existing tunnel. There is plenty of room to place a pocket for northbound trains headed for DSTT1 to wait for trains southbound from the new tunnel without fouling the path of northbound trains to the new tunnel which might follow them. It would use the space used by the existing pocket.

        Of course, it’s no secret that I believe that “shared operations” should continue right on through DSTT1 to Northgate. There’s no need for a directly adjacent parallel DSTT2, especially one with the crippled stations that Chairman Constanntine and Mayor Harrell are forcing on the system.

        However it might make sense some time in the distant future for a DSTT2 that goes via First Hill to bend back to that junction at Sixth and Massachusetts. For now, extending “BLE” south of Westlake Center to Ninth and Fir, with stations there and at Ninth and Spring for the hospitals would be of huge benefit to the system and Seattle. It would also allow the new p,atforms at Westlake Center to be considerably shallower since the tunnel wouldn’t have to get down to below the flats around CID.

        Ross and Martin, thank you for your replies.

      7. I should have “may be too low” in reference to the clearance under the structure at the curve into Forest Street. I have no way to measure it.

      8. Tom, I think your ideas are worth considering. While we may disagree on its implementation and difficulty, I think we both share a common belief that ST has not fully explored how platforms and tracks in SODO should work.

        Because there have been so many “big” debates with the entirety of WSBLE DEIS, the agency could not explore them all. By completing only the West Seattle segment EIS this year, each of the four (or perhaps three if Avalon is dropped) station layouts can now be given greater scrutiny.

        Maybe I’m living in a fantasy world where light rail decisions are made to make things better and more appealing for riders.

        Channeling rider access and transfer access difficulties in the current preferred station layout, I think that the notion of three platforms at SODO along with forcing those walking to the station to climb a new overpass at Lander the go back down again, or to go up one level to get above the catenary wire and the go back down again just to transfer is design overkill as well as adding effort to riders using the station. Plus it’s three platforms that need escalators and elevators, and everyone transferring (including every rider using the proposed stub trains from West Seattle) will be funneled into a vertical conveyance. Simply put: How can a West Seattle Link rider not have to change levels to transfer?

        ST modified Shoreline South / 145th (148th) after the DEIS. It may be too late but I hope for the sake of decades of Link riders that it isn’t.

      9. Thank you, Al. As you point out, the geometries of passing between the existing northbound platform and a center platform on a new elevated line are “challenging”, to say the least. If Sound Transit is going to do this crazy thing of building a two-track elevated railroad for twelve total four-car trains per hour, the elevated station should be directly above a slightly modified existing station.

        That “slight modification” would be to swap the southbound track and the southbound platform in order to create a “center platform” for the existing service, and here’s how to do it.

        1) Close the northbound lane of the busway just northof the Lander Street station by declaring a bi-directional, signaled one-lane road beside the existing Link station. It would begin at the south right at the end of the northbound bus platform and extend a few dozen yards to the north of the Link station. It would be stoplight-controlled and set to default to free passage for southbound buses. There would be a southbound counter for each bus that passed through the north boundary of the single-lane section that incremented a total and one at the south end that decremented the total. Therefore, a zero count would say that no southbound bus was within the single-lane section.

        When a northbound bus pulls into the northbound platform the light at the north end would go yellow and then a few seconds later red. At that time a countdown timer would start and when enough time for a bus to pass through the single-lane section had elapsed and the net count of southbound buses in the single-lane section if zero, the light controlling exit from the northbound bus platform would go green for long enough for two buses to enter the single-lane section. A counter on the north lane would register how many buses actually left the single-lane section.

        The northbound exit light would then return to red and the same countdown timer would start. When the countdown reached its expiration and the proper number of buses had been detected passing the north end, the southbound light would return to green.

        2) Once the single lane section was in place, the southbound platform would be closed to passengers and demolished. A new track would be laid in its place, as close to the Jersey barrier separating the modes as possible and extending to the north at least twenty yards. When that track is complete, it would be “cut in” to the existing trackway there and immediately south of the Link station where the cross-walk is situated today. Then the old trackway would be torn up and replaced by a new “center” platform directly underneath the center platform for the second line to be built above.

        There should be a “folded ramp” at the north end of the platform for people to change between levels. It wouldn’t be long before anyone desiring to “reverse” at SoDo between West Seattle and Beacon Hill would get in the front car of the first Link train of their journey. An elevator to the second floor would be constructed at the end of the center platforms at the existing cross-walk for ADA access to the upper platform.

        3) The new station for West Seattle would be constructed above the Line 1 platform and trackway with “wiggles” to the north and south of the platforms to connect to the elevated structure above the existing busway.

        This design allows passengers reversing between Lines 1 and 3 either to climb a ramp. I don’t know if it would make sense to close the existing northbound platform on the lower level, but it would probably make constructing the supports for the second level easier if it were.

        IMPORTANT: This is just a “fall-back position” to imporve the execrable design of the Line 3 station. I still think that the most cost-effective way to build this is joint operations from a junction just south of SoDo to as far north as we can convince ST to run it.

        However, if they won’t see the value in joint operations, this is by far the best design for the second station.

      10. Tom, another option would also to put northbound trains on the existing surface tracks and put the southbound trains on a new aerial structure (a “stacked station”). A variation on that is to phase the moving of tracks and platforms to eventually get a center platform at the surface.

        That northbound-lower, southbound-upper would allow for phasing to minimize disruption to the existing trains. SODO has crossovers just a few blocks on either side of the station platforms, so trains going in both directions could easily use just one platform while service stayed at 10 minutes during major construction times.

        I think it could also allow for the curved inclined viaduct south of Lander and next to Franz bakery to remain. The viaduct issue is more problematic for northbound Line 3 trains crossing tracks carrying southbound Line 1 trains.

        I’m no structural engineer so I may be off-base. Still, it just seems easier for the west Seattle stub riders to transfer, easier to have train track switching flexibility, easier to phase the construction, and wouldn’t require that Lander be fully closed (to add the proposed new overpass at Link) and may even not require that the SODO busway to be closed for long periods of time as ST is now proposing.

        ST could operate SODO with a ground level northbound platform and an aerial southbound platform for current Link line, with the West Seattle trains using the existing southbound platform as their ground level stub terminus. Then if DSTT2 ties in, the fourth platform for southbound trains could be sent to a second aerial platform.

        Operationally, ST could try to sync both northbound surface trains to cross Lander at the same time whenever possible. Of course, the southbound Line 1 trains would be above Lander on an aerial structure.

      11. Al, you need to put this “parallel trains at the same level” idea in a step by step list to define it more clearly. I simply can’t see how you get northbound West Seattle down to the surface in the western track (northbound Beacon Hill trains would have the eastern track I assume, because they would diverge to the east at Massachusetts Street) without permanently closing the right lane of the busway south of Lander for two blocks. Let me explain.

        You said you think that the rising curve at Forest Street would remain as it is. I can see no way other than by a pretty long-term Link outage that it could be changed, so I agree.

        The southbound Beacon Hill track would necessarily be the eastern track on the upper level because of the diversion to the tunnel at Massachusetts. It makes no sense at all to build a parallel trackway along the busway without the new tunnel.
        If combined operations in DSTT1 is sufficient north of CIDS then it’s for sure sufficient south of there.

        So, how does the eastern upper level track at SoDo Station move west to match the current rising track just south of the curve without forcing the western lower level track into the northbound lane of the busway to get around the then-unused western rise to the curve?

        It can’t use the bikeway ROW to duck under the structure because it would have to cross the eastern lower-level track to get to the right-of-way. It would make no sense to separaste the directions and also put a level crossing in the system.

        Are you proposing “stacking” SoDo Station as a first step by building the elevated eastern track first and connecting it back at Stadium? I don’t see any “fatal flaws” in doing that, but of course it means that the upper level trackway is pretty close to the transmission lines. That’s true of any “stacked station” plan at SoDo, including the one I proposed above. But if the trackway between SoDo and Stadium straddles the busway, it’s only at the station site that the power lines need to be raised or moved laterally.

        I can see if it were possible to construct lateral support beams for the new upper level tracks all the way across the busway south of SoDo that might make it possible to make that connection. Once it has been made, the rising hill beneath the current southbound track would be excavated, but it would require single-tracking Link between the western cross-overs by the MF and a new set of left-hand-only cross-overs between Lander Street and the existing SoDo Link platforms. Southbound trains would wait at the station for access to the single-track stretch.

        That would in theory allow the western surface track carrying the northbound trains from West Seattle to descend from the elevated structure from West Seattle between Forest and Horton by taking that same western spur serving the Franz bakery.

        However the tracks are configured south of Horton, there will have to be support beams straddling the busway and the active switch leads on both sides of the busway on which the trackway is built. I think they are in ST’s plans for that stretch.

        So it appears that it could work, but it would require a fairly long period of that single-tracking while the southbound curve to Forest is replaced. Remember that the trackway supports are unitary south of the end of the ballasted hill that does about 70% of the rise, ending just north of Forest Street. From that point on both tracks are supported by a single trapezoid-shaped concrete box which cannot be disrupted.

        However, the trackway has not attained its full elevation at the place of transition from filled hill to structure. So the replacement southbound Beacon Hill track way would have to descend a few feet to match the existing level of the transition joint and it would have to do it south of Lander Street where there will be two at-grade tracks crossing in your design.

        I expect that it would be possible for the northbound West Seattle track to dive into the same sort of trench I envisioned for the bikeway bypass, but it would have to be a bit deeper because the elevation of the structure is a few feet lower at the transition than at the curve. So, assuming laterals straddling the trackway and the busway south of Lander, it looks possible.

        But that’s just it: there can be no laterals straddling the trackway in the block south of Lander! Though the vertical supports on the east edge of the new structure might reasonably take the bikeway space the laterals that support the trackways in between can’t cross the descending Beacon Hill northbound track which must remain in uninterrupted service.

        So the supports for the new southbound Beacon Hill track can’t be underneath it, because the northbound West Seattle track needs the space if the busway is to remain. It can’t use lateral spans because they would block the eastern descending track from Beacon Hill. In other words, it can’t be built.

        So the northbound West Seattle track MUST occupy the northbound busway lane for most of the block south of Lander and a bit of the block between Forest and Horton in order for the supports for the new upper-level southbound structure to move into the existing southbound track’s air space.

        This analysis also omits the need for supports for the southbound West Seattle track which would also have to belly west south of SoDo Station to conform to the wiggle in its adjacent southbound partner headed to Beacon Hill.

        So, even with “stacking” the trackway to the north and the SoDo station the busway can’t really be saved with your plan.

        A permanent single-lane operation for the buses could be implemented there, but it must be reckoned an inevitable result of your parallel trains on stacked tracks idea.

        I continue to believe that combined operations is far better in the absence of plans for more trains than the ten per hour in each direction that the Rainier Valley can accommodate and the six per hour that “policy” assumes for West Seattle.

        The system is creaking ominously under the great weight of under-estimation of the costs to build it. Adopting combined operations as far north as is possible through SoDo is low-hanging fruit of “value engineering”.

        A “Bypass” to South King County might conceivably add another six trains per hour some time in the future, but it would probably also reduce peak Rainier Valley demand to policy headways as well.

        In any case, everyone seems convinced that such a service will never be needed or wanted, so if the Bypass does actually come to be in 2050, a parallel trackway can be built fairly speedily at that time.

        Choose combined operations for now.

  4. I’ve long had a concern that our contemporary architecture often looks more like warehouse districts as opposed to neighborhoods. Apparently I’m not alone.

    This video lays out a movement to return to more classical architectural elements that is catching on in Northern Europe. For example, they discuss that sloped roofs are both more appealing to the anverage public and less likely to leak in rainy areas.

    1. Couldn’t agree more Al. Seattle especially has cheap looking housing architecture, and commercial too which is highlighted by the contrast with the natural beauty of the area. especially in the UGA’s like U Dist. Portland and SF did a much better job preserving their older architecture that is too expensive to replicate today.

      The developers think that if they make it look “industrial” the cheap design and construction won’t show through, although in the U Dist. developers don’t even do this.

      This is also relevant to:

      1. Whether to abolish or limit local design commissions so we guarantee we get the cheapest and ugliest architecture in Seattle in buildings that will last 50 years. .

      2. Whether to increase lot coverage limits (the amount of the lot area that must be vegetated) where the trees grow.

      The Seattle Council claims it just strengthened its pretty weak tree ordinance. Bellevue says it is doing the same. The proof is in lot coverage limits because trees don’t grow in concrete, and limits on gross floor area to lot area which determines “massing”, which is the feeling the building is too large for the lot.

      Either these cities are really gutting tree protections (and neither city has a very strong tree ordinance) in preparation of increasing lot coverage limits and GFAR after HB 1110, or like other cities they are serious and see tree ordinances as a way to blunt the impact of HB 1110 that really only applies to cities over 75,000 because nearly every city already allows two dwellings per SFH lot when including an ADU/DADU, and until 75,000+ residents HB 1110 only requires a city to allow two dwellings per lot if desired.

      I think it was Cam who noted the impact of HB 1110 will depend on whether a city likes 1110 or not, because cities have lots of tools to make 1110 unpalatable to builders, especially in areas where the price of just a SFH will make the builder the same profit as a 2-4 plex.

      1. Honestly, I cringe at the glass and concrete designs of many of our new Link rail stations. Not to pick on Mercer Island, but that station is just not inviting to me. It instead looks very industrial. I’m sure there are architects who think it’s pretty in an abstract way with the big wall of glass — but I don’t think I’ll feel a sense of arrival in a pretty little city when I will get off the train there.

        Gone are the days of rail stations with towers with a symmetrical roof line or a public clock. We look at King Street and swoon at its beauty, but then we let ST add new stations that have no personality at all. Many are to be so identical that it will be hard to know where you are unless you look at a sign.

        Probably my favorite ST-built Link station is Mt Baker as far as aesthetics goes. The Beacon Hill head house is decent too. The mere use of brick makes them feel like a real community buildings rather than a mere transit loading zone. Starting with ST2, ST started building stations as simple and brutalist as they possibly could — and all the new ones look like soulless structures.

        And, as the video notes, ugly buildings don’t attract people. Pretty buildings do. I have to wonder how many people won’t think to take Link because the station building is so unappealing that a casual traveler forgets it’s even there. (“Oh that’s the train station! I thought it was a convenience store!”)

      2. Or course, cheap looking housing architecture is just fine when it’s a new development of single family homes. It’s only multifamily dwellings that are subject to higher standards.

      3. Al, don’t get me started on the MI Link stations entrances.

        First it is a below grade platform. So why a 35’ facade from street level. Go to London or Paris. The subway entrances have almost no above ground structure because you are descending. But ST thinks station design is about them.

        Then the colors. Orange? Whether one likes it or not the MI town center has a consistent architecture. Mostly the terra cotta look. Instead these stations are Orange with glass.

        The “art” on top is ventilation fans.

        That being said, the landscaping is very nice, and will only get nicer as it matures. Once the trees grow the station entrances will be like (orange) houses in the woods.

        Plus in order to build the storm water vault ST bought the two old residential houses along N Mercer Way that were pretty run down. Since some lot area was necessary for the roundabout the lots are just barely too small to develop so ST turned the lots into a park and deeded it to the city. The new sidewalk/bike path is very nice too. Personally I have found the roundabout — also quite pretty with a vegetated center and brick paths — to be way better than the old 4 way stop.

        MI fought ST for years and always lost. Suddenly Issaquah decided the 554 would run to Bellevue Way, WFH became common, the intensity of the bus intercept was cut in half with at best the buses half full peak hours, and we ended up with some beautiful landscaping that will screen the stations and a very nice roundabout and a park. . I guess the irony is the city no longer knows what to do with the $4.5 million match for commuter parking because there is plenty of space in the park and ride.

        One downside is the station platform. It is 35’ below grade between 8 lanes of I-90 without the new quieter concrete (scheduled for 2037). ST gave the council a tour and some told me it is a very hostile place to wait for a train. There apparently is only an up escalator with very steep stairs down. It is VERY loud and needed a noise variance. For some reason only 1/2 the platform has a roof or cover. Since the platform is not in the center each platform is quite narrow which would have been a nightmare based on ST’s original boarding and intercept estimates. The lighting is a little bright for my taste but ST agreed to go with a warmer spectrum of lighting. MI tends to be very dark at night, including the town center, so some like the lighting for safety purposes.

        All we need now are some trains.

      4. “Issaquah decided the 554 would run to Bellevue Way”

        Issaquah doesn’t decide that; ST does. It’s Sound Transit, not Issaquah Transit. Everyone in East King gets a say in where the 554 goes.

        And as I’ve told you time and time again, rerouting the 554 is backfilling corridors that would otherwise go away when the 550 and 556 are deleted. ST and Metro don’t like to remove all service from a corridor; they try to backfill it with part of another route. This has happened many times over the years. The 550 serves south Bellevue Way; the 556 is an Issaquah-Bellevue express. The reroute backfills both of them. It also expands Issaquah-Bellevue express service to all-day, which is a longstanding goal of ST and the cities. That’s part of transit best practices, that the cities in a subarea should be well connected to each other. It didn’t just start with work from home.

        Do you know how long it takes to get from Bellevue to Issaquah without the 554, 556, or this proposed route? The 271 takes 43 minutes from Bellevue TC to Issaquah TC, which is on the western edge of Issaquah in the middle of nowhere. Then you have to somehow get to central Issaquah, maybe on the 208 or 554, but wait, we’re talking about a life without the expresses. So add a 10 minute ride and transfer wait, and you’re now at an hour or longer. With a more reasonable route like the B or 250, you can get from Bellevue to Redmond and back in that time, or from Bellevue to Kirkland and transfer to Totem Lake and still have time left over.

      5. Mike, you don’t need to repeat anything about the Eastside to me. I have lived here for 64 years.

        MI litigated with ST for years over the intensity of the bus intercept. The major source of that intensity was the 554 which has always accessed MI on the way to Seattle. To suddenly switch the 554 to Bellevue was unexpected and profound. To argue that the 554 will “backfill” East Link to Bellevue Way — the one place on the Eastside Link made sense — is to damn East Link.

        You way overestimate “Sound Transit’s” power. Do you really think any planner at ST thinks a Link line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland is the best use of $4.5 billion. But Issaquah did.

        Whether it is Bellevue shunting East Link to 112th, or the DSA torpedoing a midtown station, or the CID blocking a station on 5th, ST does not tell the major stakeholders what to do because the Board makes those decisions. If you think Balducci doesn’t take orders from Issaquah and Bellevue you don’t understand Eastside politics.

        Do you really think Timm is going to “put her foot down” with Bellevue or Issaquah? Bellevue and Issaquah don’t have to litigate with ST. ST only bullies the little guys.

        Originally Bellevue did not want S Bellevue to serve as the intercept for the entire Eastside thinking the intercept was about areas south of I-90. Issaquah as usual wasn’t paying attention in the beginning. ST naturally thought its fantastical ridership estimates would come from peak commuters to Seattle and fantastical population growth estimates because eastsiders don’t use transit for intra-Eastside trips.

        Bellevue then understood the intercept ((554) would be taking coveted Issaquah/Sammamish workers to Seattle when Bellevue was planning to build millions of square feet of new offices and replace Seattle as the region’s top city and Bellevue had shunted East Link to 112th. Issaquah started to pay attention —as usual waiting until the last second, especially for something like transit — and decided its workers were not going to east main and wanted a one seat ride to Bellevue Way. Fuck mode. Eastsiders like — demand — one seat. Eastsiders don’t do transfers, or they drive. .

        Voila. The 554 would go to Bellevue Way, not MI. Not what ST wanted or had planned for years. Years of litigation with MI pointless. Now MI’s problem is the lack of frequency of buses going east, but no one takes the bus east. They drive to all those free parking lots.

        You love transit but I don’t think you understand politics, or the lack of priority most cities give transit. You definitely don’t understand the Eastside. E KC now equals or exceeds N KC in subarea revenue and has never had Link and transit has had nothing to do with that revenue growth. East Link has been delayed five years now and no one cares. No one is riding the 554 or 550, and the 550 has a much better one seat ride than East Link will.

        You think transit is important or somehow transformational. These Eastside cities don’t, especially post pandemic. ST certainly doesn’t have any credibility on the Eastside after 5 years of delays. It isn’t ST’s money.

        MI tried for years to get Issaquah to pay attention to the intercept, but Issaquah figures it can make up its mind whenever it wants. Same with Bellevue. They generate most of the ST revenue so can do what they want. They are not LFP.

        The good news is transit is pretty dead on the Eastside. MI doesn’t have to worry about the intercept, and in the end got a park and some lovely landscaping. I just wish Issaquah had paid attention to the nutty intercept on MI plan (which ST didn’t hatch until 2018, seven years after the EIS, before the pandemic, but that was before WFH and downtown Seattle imploding.

        I’m actually getting a little excited about an Eastside only East Link if East Link can’t cross the bridge, but what eastsider will ever take East Link or transit EAST? None. Then I suppose the question will be where will the bus bridge from the west be? Maybe “Bellevue isn’t getting closer”.

      6. Asdf2, there certainly are ugly SFH. It’s always fun to take a boat trip around Lake Washington to see the different styles of houses by people who obviously have the money — if not the taste — to build what they want. I have a few friends who are real estate agents and they will point out the classic and timeless designs, which are always easier to resell. IMO interior design has replaced exterior design for many SFH. I also think the modern flat roof rather than a pitched roof is a big factor. Regulatory limits often end up eliminate porches which also break up massing since the builder or owner wants that space for interior uses.

        When it comes to SFH or a subdivision I think the key there is massing, or how large the house is compared to the lot, sometimes referred to as a McMansion. Height and yard setback limits are critical to prevent massing. Even classic SFH architecture can be a McMansion because one of the charms of a SFH is lot vegetation and the sense of space in the neighborhood between houses. It also helps if the neighborhood is expensive like Wallingford or Federal Avenue, so the houses and yards are well maintained and the architecture traditional and classic.

        A commercial or large multi family building is by definition massing which is why those zones are segregated with different regulatory limits and minimum lot sizes. There are often no yard setbacks and height is many stories. As a result there is little lot vegetation, and the architecture of the building is much more important. Personally I think a key for those buildings is street level retail and facade density to break up the massing. The exterior surface of the building and facade modulation are important.

        Commercial and multi-family is more often built solely as an investment. The owners won’t live there. As a result profit and project costs drive the design, which is why separate design review is often required for these buildings and not SFH, and why SFH are categorically exempt from SEPA review.

      7. “To suddenly switch the 554 to Bellevue was unexpected and profound.”

        And you are speculating why ST did it, and claiming to know other people’s motivations that you probably don’t. I’m pointing to ST/Metro’s general tendency to backfill, and the cities’ long-time desire for better connections between them.

        “To argue that the 554 will “backfill” East Link to Bellevue Way”

        Not backfill East Link, but backfill the 550 segment. You can’t backfill something that doesn’t exist yet.

        To use another example, the 560 runs from Bellevue to Renton, SeaTac, Burien, and Westwood Village. Stride 1 will go from Renton to TIB and Burien and terminate, losing SeaTac and Westwood Village. ST has mulled about extending the 574 to Westwood Village to backfill the SeaTac-Burien-Westwood Village segment. The 554 reroute is the same kind of thing.

        “Originally Bellevue did not want S Bellevue to serve as the intercept for the entire Eastside thinking the intercept was about areas south of I-90”

        So you say. Yet the project included a large parking garage, and there’s no mechanism to restrict use based on where people live. The 554 doesn’t have much to do with the origin of South Bellevue parkers or the Mercer Island situation either way.

        “Bellevue then understood the intercept ((554) would be taking coveted Issaquah/Sammamish workers to Seattle when Bellevue was planning to build millions of square feet of new offices and replace Seattle as the region’s top city”

        More wild speculations. Of course Bellevue was growing, as it has been doing since the 90s, and had been planning since the 60s. I don’t think a majority of the city council and the mayor had a secret plan to destroy Seattle’s office district and take all the jobs. The resulting effects would harm Bellevue too. Maybe one or two people said so, but that doesn’t make a committed citywide policy.

        “Issaquah started to pay attention —as usual waiting until the last second, especially for something like transit — and decided its workers were not going to east main and wanted a one seat ride to Bellevue Way.”

        Have you heard any Issaquah official say this or seen it in an article? Issaquah is really so hot on Bellevue Way? Anyway, the bulk of workers from Issaquah are not going specifically to Bellevue Way.

        “Now MI’s problem is the lack of frequency of buses going east”

        You’re complaining that there’s not enough buses from Mercer Island to Issaquah? The half-hourly 208 express will have the same off-peak frequency the 554 does now. And I doubt most Eastsiders going to the Eastside are going to Issaquah. They’re much more likely going to Bellevue or Redmond, which Link does, or transferring to Kirkland, which Link facilitates.

      8. Seattle especially has cheap looking housing architecture

        And yet folks fight very hard to preserve it. It is really bizarre how people push for the dominant form of housing architecture (the single family home) as if each one is a work of art, while resisting building something like this because it would contain too many people, or not have enough parking, or not be set back enough from the street (or some other nonsense).

        Oh, and then the all-or-nothing approach to housing (known in some circles as “the grand bargain” and in others as “the trickle or firehouse“) just makes it worse. One assumed benefit of such policies would be to preserve the rare old and interesting house, but ironically, it does the opposite. Houses like this — a true gem, rare in Seattle — are torn down, simply because they fall inside the little circles that allow apartments. Developers of course would rather replace a far cheaper building down the street, but they don’t have that option. Given the rather large amount of rooms, converting a house like that to an apartment would make sense, if not for the sky high demand for apartments.

        The “preservationists” as I call them (to avoid such controversial terms like NIMBY) — the folks clinging to the outdated idea that single family zoning is best for a neighborhood — are really only preserving extremely high housing prices, lots of parking, poor transit, lots of cars, and of course, boring architecture.

      9. First it is a below grade platform. So why a 35’ facade from street level. Go to London or Paris. The subway entrances have almost no above ground structure because you are descending.

        On that, we completely agree. Sound Transit often feels like each station should be a monument, as opposed to simply a place where one catches the subway. It is ridiculous, and I believe fits into the mindset that each station is something special, and grand. Even the naming reflects this. In NYC they name a station after the cross street. Here, we name it after the neighborhood, or half the city. It suggests a long distance rail system (Grand Central Station) rather than a metro (34th Street).

      10. I’m with Mike on the Bellevue Way thing. You need a bus on Bellevue Way — it is too important a corridor. There are a number of options, but ST decided to send the 554 there, on the way to downtown Bellevue. Is Issaquah getting screwed? NO! Issaquah is getting outstanding transit out of this. Not only will it have frequent transit to downtown Bellevue (and Bellevue Way) but it will have frequent transit to Mercer Island as well. Miss the bus to Mercer Island and only a few minutes later you can catch the bus to South Bellevue. It would be stupid to send the 554 to Mercer Island, given all the other buses that are being sent from Issaquah to Mercer Island. There are bound to be people who want to go to downtown Bellevue from the I-90 corridor.

      11. Ross, I never implied Issaquah was getting screwed by running the 554 to Bellevue Way. It was Issaquah that demanded that. ST’s goal/plan was to run the 554 to MI as part of the bus intercept. Issaquah rarely gets screwed.

        Mike makes it sound like ST — after litigating MI for years over the intensity of the bus intercept on MI that was mainly due to the frequency of the 554 — suddenly changed its mind during the transit restructure. Bellevue and Issaquah changed their minds, in part due to the large decline in commuting to downtown Seattle that began before the pandemic, and because Issaquah paid attention and decided its residents didn’t want to transfer to East Link to get to Bellevue Way (actually 110th).

        I agree that since East Link does not access Bellevue Way a bus from Issaquah should (as should a bus from Seattle like the 550 today but Seattleites will either have to transfer to the 554 or walk from 110th to get to Bellevue Way — at least to NE 4th). But ST’s plan was buses would truncate at S. Bellevue or MI and riders would then take East Link to the Main Street station and then walk to Bellevue Way. Obviously the best plan would have been to have East Link run under Bellevue Way or much closer to it.

        As Mike and I noted, the frequency of buses going from MI to Issaquah — now and after East Link opens — really has to do with which park and ride someone is parked in Issaquah. Not all those buses go to the same place in Issaquah so frequency is not necessarily good if you have to wait for the bus that goes to your park and ride.

        I agree with you most riders coming from Seattle will continue to S Bellevue and catch the 554 to Issaquah and the largest park and rides assuming you are parked in the park and ride the 554 goes to. Or simply drive to the park and ride at S Bellevue or MI and avoid a feeder bus or any wait.

        All of this was obvious to MI during the litigation but ST is very pig headed and Issaquah wouldn’t pay attention. When it did, Issaquah thought exactly what you thought (or folks would just drive and park at S Bellevue or Mi) after years and millions spent on litigation over the bus intercept on MI, a stupid idea from the moment ST came up with it in 2018, although to be fair Bellevue initially was opposed to S Bellevue being the only or main intercept which it was always going to be due to location and the size of the park and ride.

      12. “In NYC they name a station after the cross street. Here, we name it after the neighborhood, or half the city. It suggests a long distance rail system (Grand Central Station) rather than a metro (34th Street).”

        That’s a corollary of Link’s stop spacing. Capitol Hill Station is the only station for Capitol Hill. If’s the station for 15th and Summit as much as for Broadway. In New York and Chicago I get frustrated that the stations don’t have neighborhood names, so you have to figure out which station serves the neighborhood you’re going to.

      13. “You way overestimate “Sound Transit’s” power. Do you really think any planner at ST thinks a Link line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland is the best use of $4.5 billion. But Issaquah did.”

        That’s for large decisions like whether to have an Issaquah Link project, and only after years of Issaquah’s boardmember promoting it and convincing the board to make it the top Link project after East Link. ST Express reroutes don’t happen the same way. This probably came up from staff, and maybe first came up during negotiations with Metro on the joint restructure.

        “Mike makes it sound like ST — after litigating MI for years over the intensity of the bus intercept on MI that was mainly due to the frequency of the 554 — suddenly changed its mind during the transit restructure.”

        It does appear that ST suddenly change its mind. We don’t know why. You’re inventing this narrative that Bellevue and Issaquah forced it to because Issaquah feels very important about a one-seat ride to Bellevue Way (which it never had and never mentioned before) and Bellevue thinks the 554 shouldn’t go to Mercer Island because Eastside-Seattle commutes have declined so much (and Bellevue wants to grab the remaining Seattle jobs). Where is there evidence for this?

        Issaquah is small. Small cities can’t generate a lot of commuters. Most of the Bellevue office jobs they’d commute to are east of Bellevue Way, closer to East Link. Bellevue Way is mostly retail and housing. Are you saying there are a lot of Issaquah commuters to Bellevue Square boutiques and the surrounding teryaki restaurants? Enough to make it imperative to reroute the 554? And Issaquah only realized this in 2021? It had no inkling of it in 2015?

        The primary reason East Main Station exists is because Link’s stop spacing is typically 1-2 miles, and having no station between Bellevue and South Bellevue would create a 3-mile gap. The station was originally going to be at SE 8th Street but was moved to Main Street. I can’t see East Main Station as the biggest thing Link and the 554 revolve around. The station they revolve around is Bellevue Transit Center.

    2. That’s what I’ve been saying for years. Pre-1940s architecture is mostly human-scaled and pedestrian-scaled, so it’s inviting, well-proportioned, pleasing to the eye, and relaxing. It’s like the forests we evolved from. The older buildings on Ballard Avenue and University Way and the restorations on Pike-Pine exemplify it.

      Then came modernism and threw it all away. Modernism wanted to start afresh with abstract geometric geometric shapes and create a new aesthetic. At first there was a mixture between the two like art deco, which seemed radical then but feels more like traditional architecture now. Then came Bauhaus and the International Style and Brutalism and Le Corbusier and large concrete slabs and steel-and-glass towers, which took it to an extreme. Le Corbusier was already envisioning his towers in the park in the 1920s, but it was only after WWII that modernism became the majority of construction.

      Another aspect is huge monumental buildings that are meant to inspire awe and authority and fear with their size. These go back to at least Versailles, but in the mid 20th century they became the default for government buildings and big-box stores and even some apartment buildings. They look imposing, but they create excessively long walking distances, and often have only plain blank walls to look at along the way, or maybe one straight stripe.

      A third aspect is googie, those large neon signs up in the air and Space Needle-like buildings, or The Jetsons. Googie itself only lasted for a couple decades in the 50s and 60s, but it’s the precursor to those simple business signs high up on poles and large-scaled decorations. Traditional architecture was designed to be experienced on foot from the sidewalk. Googie and post-google architecture is designed to be seen while speeding fast in a car further away, so it looks grotesque close-up. Many business and apartment owners think only about the impression from a car, and have forgotten about the pedestrian perspective. That’s why we get buildings like Target or Costco.

      But there were two pushbacks against it, post-modernism in the late 20th century, and a revival of art deco and traditional architecture in the 21st century. Modernism, especially the International Style and Brutalism, rejected all decorations and things like moldings. Postmodernism brought some decorations back, but only partway, and in a simpler style than traditional architecture. So it’s only half-ugly instead of full-ugly.

      But some people went all the way back to pre-modernist designs. If not the entire building, at least one facade or sign. There’s the neon art in the windows of Children’s research center around 9th & Stewart (approximately), some tech-company type signs, etc. And full restorations of old building and facades. Sometimes a one-story brick facade is restored, and a multistory postmodern building built behind it, like a few on Pike-Pine. That’s fine: it gets more housing in and preserves the lovely first floor and sidewalk perspective, and the upper floors don’t matter as much. There’s also an increase in brick buildings again.

      One hallmark of traditional and traditional-like architecture is a vertical orientation. Buildings are taller than they are wide. They may be two- or three-story narrow buildings, or even one story that width. Modernist buildings tend to be wide and short, or boxy. So part of returning to tradition is returning to vertically-oriented buildings. You can even make a wide short building look vertically-oriented, by having vertical rows of windows, a vertical strip where the narrow buildings would end, etc. All these in the last two paragraphs are what I like and would like to see be the majority again.

      There’s room for new styles; they just need to be based on human-scaled aesthetics, which traditional architects understand and modernist architects don’t. Or even if they do, their customers don’t, and demand modernism. That’s what has to go.

      There are examples of all these styles in Seattle. I see them in different places; I just can’t remember where all of them are. I love the restorations, and I like the new brick buildings around Broadway, the new vertically-oriented buildings. I super-love art deco lettering and retro neon signs and the like. I like condensed (narrow) typefaces. I like the Main Street renovation in Old Bellevue.

      Part of the reason for plain big-box like architecture is that since the 1980s many projects are financed by Wall Street investors who live out of state and will never see the building or neighborhood. They want their investment back in 20 years, and don’t care whether the building burns down the day after. They also assume fashions will change by then, and it will be a good time to tear down the building and replace it with the latest fashion so they can get another round of investment return. In contrast, traditional buildings were built by their owners to last a hundred years, and to be beautiful. A beauty that still resonates and attracts a hundred years later.

      1. Reviving older styles to be new again has been a mixed bag in my experience.
        I’ve seen some “attempts” to revive like Beaux Arts style in the posh parts of Denver, but they often look ugly, cheap, and a “copy of a copy of a copy” vibes. And I wouldn’t even call it Beaux Arts Revival, because at least with Revival styles you could argue that it’s purpose is to evoke a sense to appreciate, romanticize, and be nostalgic about the past architectural movement. I guess this is a roundabout way to say it lacks emotion and soul to it. Which many people would agree is an issue with modernist architecture.

        On the other, I’ve seen new build brick townhouses in like Five Points that look great and while modern don’t have as much dated sensibility to them as many modern townhouses might. And blend in well with the neighborhood character and charm.

      2. “they often look ugly, cheap, and a “copy of a copy of a copy” vibes.”

        That’s still better than most of the modernist buildings, which look like they were designed for robots.

    3. “Portland and SF did a much better job preserving their older architecture”

      I’ve always thought Portland, Tacoma, and Spokane preserved their 19th century and early 20th century buildings better than Seattle did.

      “that is too expensive to replicate today.”

      That’s the excuse. There’s some truth in it, but there are also things they could do that wouldn’t cost more than what they’re building, or wouldn’t cost much more. They’re just refusing to do so. It’s possible to have good aesthetics without going all the way to intricate gargoyles with detailed fingernails.

      1. This depends a bit on what part of Portland. We don’t have a national historic district, so every year we lose a few older buildings that look just like anything else built in the last 20 years, with the exception of a rare few structures where they attempted to do something unique (Eg, about 7 buildings in the Central Eastside).

        Seattle has a number of structures where new buildings were added to the historic old storefront. This retains the street level decorations of the early 20th century designs while providing modern structural integrity. I think Portland has only one example of that type of reconstruction.

  5. A lawyer in an airline-injury case submitted a brief written by ChatGPT. ($) It was full of nonsense, citing previous cases that didn’t exist. The lawyer had asked ChatGPT whether those cases were real, and it said they were, and he believed it. The judge threw out the brief. “The program appears to have discerned the labyrinthine framework of a written legal argument, but has populated it with names and facts from a bouillabaisse of existing cases.”

  6. “the issue with feeder or express buses to an area like Issaquah, and why there are so many bus routes running west from there, is Issaquah is quite large and many of those riders originate in a park and ride. If a single feeder bus serves Issaquah it takes too long to serve the different park and rides, so you need a lot of buses going to Issaquah. Some (not Ross) think any bus — express or say feeder bus from MI to “Issaquah” after EastbLink opens — is the same but the key difference is what park and ride does it serve because none of those buses serve Issaquah neighborhoods. ”

    Issaquah needs a citywide transit analysis, which neither we nor the agencies have done. The issue with P&Rs is it ignores walk-up and intra-city ridership. The best non-commuter route to Issaquah is the 554 because it stops at City Hall, the closest thing Issaquah has to a walkable downtown. The transit center is in the far west in the middle of nowhere. And the local route between the transit center and downtown is the 208, the one that runs every two hours to North Bend. A regional city in the ST district has the same frequency as North Bend??? The 554 is also about the only route from City Hall to the Highlands. So the one route that most serves Issaquah’s neighborhoods is a regional express! And as it travels from City Hall to the Highlands P&R, it runs nonstop past a lot of close-together houses, a school, Swedish Ballard, and a library administrative building. Maybe even some apartments I’ve forgotten. That’s thousands of people in the in-between area who may want to walk to take transit but can’t, and have to drive to a P&R passing the express bus along the way.

    The proposed restructure is less than ideal too. Currently the 554 is half-hourly, stopping only at Issaquah P&R, City Hall, and the Highlands P&R. The 208 runs ever two hours east-west through Issaquah and on to North Bend. The 271 terminates at the western transit center, except a few evening runs for some reason. There was once a 200 circulator route but it was suspended in the pandemic. And a few peak-express routes go from the P&Rs to downtown Seattle. One peak express goes to downtown Bellevue, but only peak hours.

    Compare the restructure: The 554 would be raised to 15 minutes and go to South Bellevue/Link, Bellevue Way, and downtown Bellevue. I didn’t look closely enough at its Issaquah routing to see if it still has the same three stops. If it doesn’t, Issaquah is screwed. The 208 express will run half-hourly from Mercer Island to the Eastgate freeway station, Issaquah Highlands P&R, and every third run will continue to North Bend; it will NOT stop at City Hall or the western transit center, nor will it provide east-west local service in Issaquah. I don’t recall any other routes in Issaquah, although there might be. If not, getting from one part of Issaquah to another will be harder than it is now. And it still doesn’t address areas that the current routes don’t serve. One missing piece is getting to Swedish medical center, which is in the southern Highlands. Issaquahites can’t even get to their own hospital on transit.

    I don’t have a total solution for Issaquah because the area is so fragmented, so I’m not sure what set of bus routes could serve all of it and get residents to their Issaquah destinations and transfer points. It’s something the city and transit agencies should study, and address.

    One possible solution is to fall back to Metro Flex. It already exists in Sammamish going down to the Issaquah Highlands. Maybe expand it to all of Issaquah. I don’t like how demand-response taxis are less cost-effective and energy-efficient than buses, but at the same time Issaquah needs some kind of comprehensive transit, and if this is the best we can politically get, it’s better than nothing.

  7. Regarding aesthetics and ugly modernist buildings, at the Bartell’s at 45th & University Way, in back by the pharmacy there’s a photo series of the storefront and logo over the years through several renovations. The most striking thing is that every update is worst than the last. If Bartell’s had just stuck with its first design or went back to it, it would be a more inviting and less alienating place.

    1. I will ask the same question I asked about the bus stop shelter in LA. Clearly someone thought that each of these updates was a good idea, so what were the criteria for doing so? What would we have lost by the owners making it “more inviting and less alienating”?

      If I may step up on a soap box for a few seconds, also…

      Design is difficult. I am not a designer by trade but occasionally get to talk with some who are. Sometimes I question their choices (in the literal sense, as in “why did you choose to design X in a particular way”) and give some explanation for why I am asking about it. Almost invariably, the explanations I get in return both encompass my own logic by flipping it around and explaining how their version also achieves it, and point out five new things I had not thought about.

      I don’t mean to denigrate any lay person’s intuition by providing this anecdote; we all have our own take on things and those opinions are valid. But we should not be so hurried to pre-judge the alternatives without understanding the reason for those decisions. For something closer (and more concretely tied to) topics here, an example of this that I have been thinking about is the roof shape. We have loosely toyed with the possibility of an extension to our house in order to accommodate aging relatives by getting more space. However, we do not want to mess with our neighbors’ view, and adding another story on our existing structure would do so. One way to minimize the impact is by using a flat, or almost flat, roof instead of the steeper slope roof more traditional in older structures. Do I prefer the design? Perhaps not, aesthetically speaking, but it does achieve other purposes.

      I will now jump off of my soap box and wash my hands off of the topic :)

      1. The argument I outlined is based on things I’ve read, not just my own individual preference. I don’t remember where all I read them. But you just have to look at what remains popular and sought-after decades or even centuries after they’re built. City Beautiful, art deco, piazzas in Italy. The most widely-cited beautiful buildings in downtown Seattle are the Smith Tower, the WaMu building (whatever it’s called now), the brick buildings in Pioneer Square, and Pike Place Market. In contrast, the downtown library is widely seen as a disappointment even just after it opened. People go to it in spite of the building, not because of it. Do you think people will love it in fifty or a hundred years? And in the comments section we repeatedly get complaints about ugly new apartments or office buildings or Link stations, and the complaints all tend to converge on the same things. Then there’s Freeway Park, an example of Brutalism. Do people still love its design? Do they go there because of the concrete or in spite of it? Which paintings does the public most buy now? Impressionistic and nature things.

        There’s also a physiological impact: modernist buildings and unwalkable city designs are at least partly responsible for the sense of alienation and nervousness that has become epidemic in our society.

        It goes right back to what the architect intended. Traditional buildings are designed to be human-scaled and inviting, like something evolved from nature. Modernist buildings are designed to be anti-nature, to make a statement with sweeping lines, and geometric shapes. A new architecture for a new society. But it ends up being inhuman, totalitarian, ugly.

        Modernist buildings arose in concert with big-box stores and huge parking lots in front and anti-walkability. It can be hard to disentangle which caused which, but they reinforced each other.

        One book is “Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities” by Wytold Rybczynski. It explains the differences between Garden City, City Beautiful, Radiant City, and Broadacre City. It’s more about city environments as a whole than building facades in particular, but it gets at some of these themes.

        Re Bartell’s renovations, I would have to go back and look at the pictures to say exactly. But the first design had a traditionally-lettered logo and facade, and a window with display items that you could see through to the interior. The last design has a Target-like aesthetic, red and white and abstract, and no window.

        The first three designs were before I was born, and people thought differently in the 40s and 50s. The traditional styles were seen as old-fashioned, and there was some yearning for something new. Modernist paintings had been around for decades by then, so architects applied the concepts to buildings. Maybe it was a necessary phase, so the public could see what it would be like. And they couldn’t have foreseen the big-box stores and huge parking lots that were still in the future. Bartell’s could have gone somewhat more modern, but not as many reinventions or as far. Make one of the earlier styles better rather than throwing it away.

        In any case, it’s 2023. Regardless of what people thought in the 1940s and 1950s, it’s a different era now. Modernist construction has been the majority for seventy-five years now, and is now the vast majority of buildings. Many people are tired of it, and the physiological/psychological implications of it are now understood more. People yearn for art deco and traditional signs and buildings, or at least something closer to that. People gravitate toward and are comfortable with vertically-oriented, pedestrian-oriented buildings.

        Some companies are responding, with retro buildings or signs or advertising campaigns. And brick buildings have made a comeback. But there’s still too little of it. And many companies and cities still resist it, thinking customers and residents don’t want it, but they’re wrong. And they get caught up in this argument that it’s too expensive. Well, make it inexpensive! Focus on traditional proportions and at least somewhat more subtle moldings and details, even if you can’t have gargoyles with intricate fingernails. Something less geometric, less linear, smaller-scaled. Something that’s inviting, that people will want to be in and around, not just now but in fifty or a hundred years.

  8. There is a Route 554 thread above; it lacked a reply place, so I will comment at the end. DT may be correct; the post East Link network may be better off with two separate Route 554s. The original bus integration network did have Route 554 oriented to the Mercer Island station; that was appropriate given running times. There may also be a need for a direct connection between Issaquah and Bellevue. So, the post Link network could have a Route 554, MI, and a Route 555, B. The arterial segment of Route 550 could be served by a blue or green bus; the riders will not care. How about Route 240 on Bellevue Way SE? The I-90 markets could meet Link at MI; the north-south markets could meet Link at South Bellevue. With East Link delayed, there is more time for the agencies to ponder the network.

    1. You lost me Eddie with dueling 554’s. . Here are the factors that will always determine transit after East Link opens:

      1. Folks from Issaquah’s major park and rides want a one seat ride to Bellevue Way. ST wanted them to truncate onto East Link but work commuters from Issaquah don’t like transfers, especially after driving to a park and ride, especially if East Link doesn’t serve Bellevue Way.

      2. Eastsiders are not great walkers, especially up hill.

      3. Bellevue wants those workers to go to Bellevue, not Seattle.

      4. More and more Eastside workers want to go to Bellevue, especially after Amazon opens its Eastside offices to Eastside workers.

      5. Any Eastside worker going to Seattle will drive to a park and ride that serves East Link. Why drive to a park and ride to catch a feeder bus and then wait for the bus going home?

      6. Eastsiders don’t use transit for intra Eastside trips.

      7. Eastsiders don’t go to MI. It is always tricky putting a bus intercept where folks don’t normally go, especially a plain bus stop on N Mercer Way. They like the park and ride, or did, but other than that MI’s town center may be the worst on the Eastside except that is how we like it.

      8. Ridership on East Link will be around 1/2 of estimates, at least on the Eastside.

      9. ST hopes to reduce express bus costs after East Link opens.

      10. Eastsiders are not urbanists or transit fans. They take transit only if they have to. Mode is less important than transfers and total trip time when I-90 is wide open. Hence the 554 and 630, and more I assume when East Link opens.

      11. If you live on the Eastside you understand ST built East Link where folks don’t go and parking is free.

      The folks who really get screwed, to use Ross’s term, are riders from Seattle who must transfer to the 554 at S Bellevue to go to Bellevue Way or walk from the Main St. station. Of course, MI residents going to Bellevue Way have the same issue, for those who take transit east which according to Metro was 173/day pre-pandemic for the entire Eastside.

      So that is how it is. No one on the Eastside plans to take a feeder bus, let alone from MI. Great place to live, terrible place to visit, let alone wait for a bus on N Mercer Way which is on the opposite side of I-90 from the town center with virtually nothing to do but watch all the cars whizz by and listen to I-90.

      1. Daniel, you do understand that, though the Glorious East King Subarea could certainly have afforded a subway under Bellevue Way with a station at Main Street, the City of Bellevue didn’t let them to build it there, mostly because Kemper Freeman told them not to, right? You understand that, yes?

        So those poor, poor “riders from Seattle who want to go the Bellevue Way” are screwed not by Sound Transit — or even by the Clueless Consultants — but rather by the City of Bellevue.

      2. Let me just state the obvious: The 554 is not the only bus to Issaquah.

        In the middle of the day, there will be 15 minute service from Issaquah to Mercer Island, just as there will be 15 minute service from Issaquah to Bellevue. During rush hour, there will be more buses headed to Mercer Island than headed to Bellevue.

        The idea that the buses are somehow ignoring Mercer Island is absurd. Sound Transit and Metro worked together on the plans, and decided that Issaquah would have frequent service to both downtown Bellevue and Mercer Island. There may be flaws in the design, but lack of service to Mercer Island is not one of them.

      3. “In the middle of the day, there will be 15 minute service from Issaquah to Mercer Island”

        How? The MI-Highlands express is half-hourly. Which other route will fill in 15-minute service?

    2. Splitting the 554 into two separate routes would be a bad idea; that would mean that each route can’t run more often than once an hour. Hourly service is terrible, and should be avoided.

  9. What’s up with that Schoolhouse District in Woodinville? Went to it this weekend for a playdate and some drinks. Man, felt super dystopic with the fake grass, saddest playground, fake urbanism (A Walk Anywhere Community (TM)), and primary colors everywhere. These new cramped suburban fake “town center” developments are incredibly cringe.

    1. See: Point Ruston for another shining example of fake urbanism. Despite being next to a waterfront trail, the Sound and a ferry, it’s about as car-centric as you can get. The slow-boat PT 11 doesn’t really even come close enough to serve it. Pretty much everyone has to drive. Which in-turn forces them to charge for parking in suburbia. Worst of both worlds. A bike would be the obvious way to deal with living there, but their is really no good way to ride a bike along Schuster Parkway. Either you are dodging and pissing off walkers and runners on the glorified sidewalk, or you are pissing off cars on the narrow waterfront road. Bumper-to-bumper Schuster is one of only 2 ways out of this island of despair, that really only Realtor could love.

      They do have the Ruston Runner, which is basically a van that will pick you up anywhere in the “Ruston Zone” and drop you off, point-to-point. I can’t imagine that is even a remotely reasonable way to spend scarce transit dollars.

      1. Cam Solomon,

        Because it’s hard to take transit to Point Ruston, it keeps the homeless and their tents away and the upper class with their cars and money rolling in. It may not be what you and I envision for the Tacoma/Ruston waterfront, but it works for the people who count in Tacoma.

      2. I don’t think it’s that so much as Pierce Transit being an extremely cash strapped agency, whose service is already spread too thin, and adding any bus to Point Ruston would require taking service away from some other route, which already has too little service.

      3. The obvious solution would be to have the 11 go down and hit either the entire Point Ruston strip (via Ferdinand), or just a stop at the northern traffic circle (via Baltimore) and hit Pearl at 51st rather than 45th. Pearl already has service via the 10, and the 11 only goes there so it can serve the ferry.

        You sound like Kemper Freeman and Link, tacomee.

  10. Can ST Expresses 574, 577, and 594 be consolidated into a single route from Lakewood to Tacoma Dome to Federal Way City Center Station to downtown Seattle, running every 10 minutes mid-day? Is there a better plan than this in the works?

    1. You’d have to figure out the southern tail. You would have to speed up the on/off in Federal Way. Otherwise the 594 express is no longer express.

      594 goes to downtown Tacoma. The 574 goes to Lakewood.

      I could see a 584 mix that did Downtown Tacoma -> Federal Way -> SODO working just fine until 2035. When FWLE opens, that will provide a nice transfer for those who want link, or a non-stop from Federal Way to SODO.

      The problem is the right now it takes 10-15 minutes to wind your way through Federal Way. So the express no longer is competitive with either link or driving. They won’t let the drivers use the HOV onramp at 317th for some really bad reason, and Link construction is tying everything in knots.

      Were you asking about the next 3 years, the next 13 years, or forever?

      1. Link construction is tying everything in knots.

        Ah, OK, that makes sense. In theory, getting on and off the freeway ramps at Federal Way should be simple and quick ( But with the construction, it is a mess, which is why the 594 doesn’t stop there (opposite the 578). So Federal Way continues to wait for drivers that probably won’t show up for months, if not years.

      2. Yeah, right now it’s a mess. Probably more of a mess than it needs to be. Metro is allowed to use 317th, but for some reason PT drivers (driving ST buses) aren’t allowed to. They do a lap around FW coming in, and another lap around FW leaving.

        Do we have data on how many folks ride the 574 between Lakewood and the Dome?

      3. Do we have data on how many folks ride the 574 between Lakewood and the Dome?

        The service plans has stop data, and it includes the direction. I tend to look at the one from before the pandemic, just because we are approaching that sort of ridership as time goes on. So this one: Northbound, the 574 had about 450 riders from the two Lakewood stops. Around 80 riders got off in Tacoma.

        I see the big advantage of combining the buses as the cost savings. It is a bit of detour to go to Federal Way, but running a bus from Federal Way at the same time as we run a bus from Tacoma only makes sense if the buses are full (and they aren’t in the middle of the day). Combining routes would be a cheap way to get Federal Way 15 minute headways.

        Of course ST wants to get Tacoma 15 minute headways (before Federal Way Link). The 578 goes to Federal Way, too. Either the bus becomes redundant (from Federal Way to downtown) or it skips Federal Way. There are alternatives, but none that look obvious to me.

      4. Hmmm… Thanks Ross. It looks like Sounder boardings dwarf all the bus boardings coming out of Lakewood. Those bus boardings seem awfully low, unless I’m misreading things. I wonder if ST could leverage track ownership south of the dome somehow to avoid that’s southern tail entirely, and just serve downtown Tacoma with the combined 15 minute express service.

      5. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m asking about between the opening of Federal Way City Center Station and the opening of Tacoma Dome light rail Station.

        For ST Express 578, I would propose making FWCCS the northern terminus, and upgrading to 20-minute all-day headway.

        The 594 would go back to serving Lakewood Town Center instead of Lakewood Sounder Station. It would enter downtown.Seattle by the 577’s current path. It would skip the downtown Tacoma loop, relying instead on connecting to the river of frequency, including the T Line.

      6. Honestly I’d just take a reliable, consistent hourly sounder from Lakewood to King St., 5am to 11pm, 7 days. Then you could just drive all those express buses into the Puyallup. Pay for it by:

        Cancelling TDLE. Save a few billion.

        Cancelling platform extensions. Save a half a billion.

        Postpone extension to Dupont indefinitely. Save a half a billion.

        Some day a real train will come and wash all these expresses stuck in traffic off the streets (to paraphrase Taxi Driver).

      7. Anybody hear any news on the result of Timm’s negotiations with BNSF last week?

      8. Providing some context for how much ST might pay.

        “”This agreement permanently guarantees that Snohomish County commuters the choice of leaving behind their cars and the I-5 corridor’s growing congestion,” said Sound Transit Board Member and Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel. “Beginning a mere four days from now, these agreements will change the lives of generations of Snohomish County `residents.”

        This is what happens when politicians make up the majority of members of a transit board.

        “Sound Transit will pay BNSF a total of $258 million over four years for easements to operate trains on the segment between Seattle and Everett and $32 million to purchase the Tacoma-to-Nisqually section of track.”

        Struggling to find what we pay for the Sounder South slots.

    2. Now, or after Federal Way Link?

      For now, the 574 goes to SeaTac, while the other buses go to downtown Seattle. The 577 is peak-only. Presumably the buses are reasonably full, along with the 590, the peak-only bus from Tacoma. If not, then yes, I could see the 590 and 577 being combined during peak hours. The 586 (from Tacoma to the U-District) stops in Federal Way, which just shows how ridiculous that bus is. Outside of peak hours, the 578 serves Federal Way, and it starts in Puyallup. You could increase service to Federal Way by simply having the 594 stop in Federal Way, and run opposite the 578. I’m not sure why they don’t do that. Perhaps because they planned to improve headways, and then ran into the driver shortage. To quote the article by Alex:

      Service to Tacoma and Federal Way would be getting a big upgrade. While up to now, off-peak frequency for both of these corridors maxed out at every 30 minutes outside of peak hours, Sound Transit’s proposed 2022 service plan would give both corridors service every 15 minutes all day, 7 days per week, with service dropping to half-hourly in the evenings, and then hourly in the late evenings. Route 578 to Auburn, Sumner, and Puyallup is also getting its frequency doubled to every 30 minutes on weekends. To Tacoma, this means adding route 590 trips to/from downtown Tacoma in between route 594 trips (which continue to Lakewood every half-hour off-peak), with both routes combining for 15-minute frequency to/from downtown Tacoma. For Federal Way, this will look like both route 577 and 578 going from hourly to half-hourly, with both routes combining for 15-minute headways from Federal Way.

      Unless I’m missing something, that does seem like a waste. I would think that the 590 could stop off at Federal Way along the way, which would mean you wouldn’t need the 577 outside of rush hour (when it is crowded). If you are in Federal Way and want to go Seattle, you catch the 590 (which started in Tacoma) or the 578 (which started in Puyallup) just like the rider in Tacoma catches the 590 or 594.

      When Link gets to Federal Way, ST has a couple important choices: Truncate the buses in Federal Way, or continue running expresses to downtown. The 574 will likely be eliminated. It think the 577 goes as well. I think the 594 runs every 15 minutes in the middle of the day, whether it continues to downtown Seattle or not. There are a lot of options for the 578, and the rest of the Sounder corridor for midday service. The restructure (by both Metro and ST) should be very interesting.

  11. I’ll drop another link to a Toronto Star article as I think it’s interesting and potentially relevant to the discussion here. As before, (minor) paywall – some free articles with sign-up, I believe.

    The TL;DR is – there are a lot of condos being used as investment properties and the economics on those are starting to no longer pan out; close to half (and over half of the larger ones) are already “underwater” in the sense that investors can’t make enough to repay their own loans by renting them out. This is a problem because we’re already expecting a decrease in new construction in the near future; only about a third of the needed units are expected to be built as it is.

    Some quotes from the article:

    “This comes back to the issue of relying entirely on mom and pop investors to drive rental supply,” he said. “Ultimately you’re left with a big supply gap at a time when rental housing is needed more than ever.”

    “People often villainize condo investors but rental supply would be a lot worse without them, said [Urbanation president] Hildebrand.”

    And another:

    “But the capital position of those units is just going to get worse,” said Hildebrand. “If investors aren’t buying today, obviously construction starts are going to begin to fall soon and those deliveries will begin to fade dramatically in a few years time. What’s happening today with the investment dynamics for new construction units is going to ultimately affect housing supply in the years to come.”

    “The Toronto region needs about 300,000 rental units in the next 10 years but is scheduled to build only 125,000, leaving a shortfall of 175,000 rentals, according to a report published in February by the Building Industry and Land Development Association that represents homebuilders and the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario. Hildebrand was one of the report’s authors.”

    If I may editorialize a little, now…

    I think it is interesting because one of the aspects of zoning decreases here is that we believe it will reduce the cost of building. However, if the expectation is that it will also reduce housing “price” to renters/new owners, then this will not solve the problem of the economics not panning out. Since Toronto zoning is similar to Seattle zoning, I expect that the economics are also similar. This is something that others involved in construction on the blog have also pointed out a few times now, so I thought it was interesting to see an article which (indirectly) supports those points, IMHO. But I am curious what others think.

    1. I’ll preface this with a big “not an economist” disclaimer, but the Canadian and US mortgage markets are surprisingly different. Most mortgages in Canada are short-term 5-year mortgages that have to be rolled over several times over the course of owning the property, compared with 15- or 30-year mortgages in the US. This means that the mortgage market in Canada is a lot more sensitive to short-term interest rate changes, compared to the US where potentially an owner “stuck” with a low-interest-rate mortgage could just rent the property out rather than sell (i.e. increase the rental supply while decreasing the ownership supply) — as long as the rent + maintenance is above the mortgage it doesn’t matter if it’s “market rate” or not.

      There’s definitely positives and negatives to both approaches, but I think it is a pretty big difference so it makes me wonder whether our two housing markets are comparable despite being adjacent geographically.

  12. If I (investor) buy a condo(s) and try to make money off of finding somebody to pay rent, there’s a risk involved. If I get burned, that’s just the way it is. Maybe the renter can qualify for a mortgage and buy me out? But I’m still going to lose money.

    Toronto doesn’t really have a problem if these units are occupied…. the investors/owners might take in the shorts, but as long as somebody is willing to pay to live in these units, life goes on.

    Imagine Seattle had a whole bunch of “underwater” condos! Pent-up demand from young wanna-be home owners who buy ’em up like hot cakes! Problem solved.

    Zoning doesn’t build anything…. credit does. The key to building more housing is always finding the money. Personal credit is the absolute safest money in America. The 30 year mortgage (with the tax breaks it brings with it)

    1. Right, I think my point was that with less chance of the financials panning out, there will be fewer people taking on the projects, regardless of the demand.

      To put it differently: the demand is at a certain price point, but if the financials don’t pan out at that price point, the projects won’t get built. An argument is that the financials can get to pan out if you reduce the cost of land (i.e. decrease the cost) – but then the demand price point also shifts downward, so the financials still don’t work out.

      1. Last week I posted about an article in the Wall St. Journal that noted smaller apartment investors and managers are getting wiped out as the interest rates on their purchase are reset at higher rates. The person in the story had lost 3000 of his 7000 units to foreclosure in the last year, and his investors have lost millions. These were rental units the investors hoped to convert to condos after the rents had paid off much of the loan.

        I have to imagine getting a loan to purchase a condo these days is very tough at any rate. As Tacomee notes, in times of uncertainty the SFH is the safest investment for the buyer and the builder.

      2. Yeah, that’s the paradox – prices are coming down but new construction isn’t happening, either, which reduces the benefit from the prices coming down. Combine that with the high interest rates and it’s a shitshow.

        If the Feds really wanted more construction in places which need it, they would adjust the financial incentives to make it more appealing to investors/builders/etc. – it would also have the advantage of keeping people employed in an upcoming recession. But there’s no appetite for that in the current Congress, and I don’t see the executive branch paying much attention to it either.

      3. Prices are coming down and new construction is slowing for the same reason: higher interest rates. Higher rates make it more difficult for a builder to make a profit, especially if the builder/developer plans to hold the loan and rent. They also reduce the monthly mortgage rate a buyer can afford so prices decline.

        At the same time regional banks that do most construction lending are having to mark their loans to market and are hoarding cash for financial stability and because depositors are demanding higher savings rates.

        Nearly a decade of almost free money has distorted the housing market, and just about everything. Right now investors are being flushed out as their borrowing rates are reset. Homeowners with very low fixed interest rates can’t move. Those with adjustable rates are underwater. If an investor can buy treasuries with zero risk and 5-+% interest construction loans are going to be 10%|year, and no one can afford that.

        I don’t think rates will ever return to the ultra low rates of the last decade. The Fed will be lucky to get inflation down to 3% although 2% is the goal. At around 2-3% interest rates (which means 4% borrowing rates) we will see things pick up but much more responsible lending and projects.

        Although ST won’t admit it they too are underwater in four subareas because borrowing rates, land costs, and construction costs have risen Significantly.

      4. When it comes to real estate, I’m all for KISS principals. Complex deals have a way of going south.

        Owner occupied housing is by far the most stable housing. So your “investment” is underwater? Well, you’ve got to live somewhere and it often makes sense to ride it out. A mortgage works more like an insurance policy than an investment. It’s a hedge against inflation.

        Commercial real estate (retail, office and light industrial) is the flakiest because investors are quicker to walk away…. sometimes during the construction process even.

        Residential real estate has been a safe haven for a couple of decades now, but it’s also not immune to interest rate hikes. If you’re renting an apartment that’s “underwater” it’s a good bet the owners/investors are delaying maintenance. Maybe they just don’t fix anything for 20 years, quit paying the taxes on the building and bail with as much rent money as possible. @$%^#*( Chinese slumlords! For those of you in Tacoma, almost all the new apartment buildings on Yakima are Asian foreign national owned. There’s a damn good chance that turns out badly for the City of Destiny. And our City Government gave them tax breaks to build. Now the City Council wants rent control…. That’s going to please out foreign slum lords.

        The worst sort of housing is any public/private sort of mix, because the investors are way smarter than public officials. This generally means private profit and public risk. Not something you want your tax dollars tied up in.

    2. Zoning doesn’t build anything…. credit does.

      Credit, lumber, concrete, labor, land … there are a whole bunch of things that determine the viability of new construction. In most of the country, these are the only things that matter. But in several places — including Seattle — there is a very important factor: zoning. With rents high, building apartments remain lucrative, despite the high cost of credit, lumber, concrete, and labor. The problem is, there is so little land that can actually be developed into apartments. So they build houses instead. Seattle continues to build lots of houses, and not enough apartments as a result.

      If rents drop enough — or other costs go high enough — then it won’t be worth building anything. In Seattle, we are nowhere near that point.

  13. “The 3rd Avenue courtroom entrance will reopen June 15. “

    That should read “ The 3rd Avenue (King County) CourtHOUSE entrance will reopen June 15. “

    There are no courtrooms on the first floor of the Courthouse (which is the floor you enter via the 3rd Avenue entrance).

  14. 4th & James bus stop. March 1975. This is taken from the east side of 4th, looking southwest, in front of today’s city hall. There’s no longer a bus stop there. The white sign in the bottom of the windshield says welcome aboard. The bus routes sign on the light poles I think says 17, 19, 24, 26, 28, 251, 254, 255, 256, and the last one I can’t read, but I think it says to Everett. Directly below that sign should be a sign similar to the one in the second link below, which is a Magic Carpet Service Stop sign, aka Ride Free Area sign.

    1. If it’s Metro, why are those two buses red and gray? From MEHVA website … “In 1973 Metro Transit was formed, merging the Seattle Transit System and Metropolitan Transit Corporation into a county wide transit agency. By 1975, red and gray began to fade in favor of Metro’s new identity, “Sunrise”, a combination of brown, ochre and yellow.” In other words, they would soon be repainted.

    2. I’ve never seen Metro buses or signs like that, so they were swept away just four years later. Those look like 1950s buses, and probably are. The first buses I saw were mostly white with some brown/yellow/ochre or such. That was all the buses I saw,

      1. @Mike Orr,

        Those are just late 60’s Seattle Transit System buses that have been rebranded as Metro buses, but not yet repainted in that horrific color scheme that Metro forced on the region when they took over regional bus transit. They look like old Flxible buses with a 2 speed transmission.

        The red and gray scheme was a Seattle Transit System attempt to distinguish its new service that was added in response to increased needs related to the viaduct and freeways coming on line, and in response to the need to increase service north of 85th without extending the trolly wires. Hence the fact that the lead bus appears to be serving 145th.

        The red and gray rebranding of new STS service wasn’t too much different than the red and yellow rebranding that Metro has attempted with its “Rapid”Ride. It’s interesting to see Metro repeating some of the same old tricks used by STS 60 years ago. Progress!!! Not….

      2. Oh man, I hadn’t noticed!

        The advertisement on the side of the bus is for the Butterworth Funeral Home! That is a long time seattle business, but I’m not exactly sure that is the best advertisement for your new bus service.

        Hey, but maybe Butterworth figured people riding the bus would need funeral services soon! Crazy.

      3. It’s not just repainting, it’s a different kind of bus. A 1950s/60s style bus. With Streamline Moderne angled windows, and two destination rollers in front.


    And the CCC is back! Sort of. Although I wouldn’t call this a “third streetcar”. I’d just call it “finishing the one line we have already started”.

    Every time seattle studies this it comes out as a no-brained to build. The completed line will outperform every bus route in the region by a wide margin, and the operating economics will be superior too.

    Hopefully this time it just gets done. It’s about time.


    This video has gone viral across the news agencies and country. This Philadelphia bus driver was fired for bringing a firearm to work after a shootout with a passenger who pulled a gun because the driver wouldn’t let him off before the scheduled stop.

    If a transit driver has a valid permit to carry a pistol should they be allowed to carry it while driving?

    Does anyone think these risks are a reason transit agencies are having a problem attracting drivers?

    Does anyone think this incident — the driver suffered gun shots to his arm — will result in existing bus drivers leaving this transit agency for another job?

    Does anyone think videos like this will discourage discretionary riders from riding transit, especially in urban areas?

  17. I’m sure this might be a sore spot, but I’d like to just open up the possibility of expanding the monorail. It’s girders take up like a sidewalk worth of space on the street. It’s a way more pleasant experience than Metro. It could probably be automated. If funding is the issue why couldn’t private capital back it? It’s profitable even as a stub line.

    1. SDOT is strongly against center-running pylons like those on 5th Avenue. I’m not sure what the specific reasoning is.

      In a similar vein, though, I think we should reopen the conversation around at-grade operations along Elliott/15th through Smith Cove and Interbay.

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