The Sound Transit board on Thursday refined the Everett Link plan ($). Mike Lindblom in the Seattle Times reports that the main Everett Link station is moved to the downtown arena. This puts it right in the middle of Everett’s most walkable streets like Broadway, Hewitt Avenue, and Colby Avenue. The arena is where the Everett Silvertips hockey team plays, and is called the Angel of the Winds Arena or the Snohomish County Civic Center. Until now the station had been expected to be three blocks southeast of the arena, at a combined transit center/Amtrak station/P&R at the edge of downtown with a limited walkshed. I don’t know how they’ll reconcile having two “Everett Stations”, whether some bus routes will serve both stations, or how P&R drivers from the north would get to Link.

The board also prefers a western alternative for Alderwood station, now called West Alderwood, closer to buses and apartments. It wants the Southwest Everett Industrial Center station on on Highway 526 outside Boeing and Paine Field property, to avoid impacting industrial job capacity. It decided to wait on choosing an alternative for the Casino Road/Evergreen Way station location.

The opening date is now 2041. A first phase may open in 2037 to Mariner or the Paine Field area. (I assume it’s Mariner. The article says the Paine Field area but that may be an approximation.

Staff have started telling the board which locations they prefer rather than waiting for the politicians to tell them. This implements one of the recommendations made by an external technical advisory group.

There’s disagreement on whether to put Link stanchions in the middle of streets.

Update: ST announcement and links to documents.

This is an open thread.

263 Replies to “Everett Link Station Moves Downtown”

  1. Cue the repetitive, rambling comments about how grade-separated/fixed guideway transit makes no sense past Lynnwood, and/or how the ridership estimates haven’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t justify $5-7B + $2.2B for an OMF, and/or how freeway alignments are bad transit, and/or how all the ST3 projects are a waste of money. Yawn.

    I know there’s hesitance to link to The Urbanist these days, but they actually had a pretty detailed review of the “leaked” presentation a few days ago:

    There’s disagreement on whether to put Link stanchions in the middle of streets.

    Aside from the inflationary factors out of any builder’s control, ST’s avoidance of above-ground alignments in existing ROW seems like single biggest contributor to the exploding budgets since 2016. The point of tram transit is to expand the density at which a specific ROW can move people by replacing existing lanes, and only building new ROW when absolutely necessary.

    I don’t know who to blame for the obsession with grandiose stations and unnecessary grade separation, but it seems like the ST Board is treating ST3 as a construction jobs program with a bottomless budget, not an opportunity to build reliable, high-density transit between along a linear-ish string of population centers. Where’s the restraint? Where’s the efficient use of existing ROW which Light Rail was specifically chosen to take advantage of? What’s the point of a board meeting when half its members don’t bother to show up?

    In a more positive light, I’m curious to read opinions on the proposed station locations – especially now that the diversion to Paine Field seems like a done deal.

    1. “Where’s the efficient use of existing ROW which Light Rail was specifically chosen to take advantage of?”

      Is it though? Look at Lynnwood Link as an example of how ST actually builds (private property takings far exceeding ST2 plan estimations and even EIS numbers, excessive staging areas, significantly more elevated segments than envisioned, temporary parking zones that become surplus property, etc., etc.). And then you have the stations themselves which you rightly point out. What’s the latest estimate for the 130th St infill station again?

      1. I was referring to the original decision to go with light rail in the 90’s, because one of the ways it’s usually more affordable is due to its ability to fit within existing ROW (e.g. the DSTT, the median of MLK, and freeway shoulders) instead of having to take all-new ROW for “normal” metro/subway system.

        I think East Link made fair use of existing ROW for a lot of its length. The freeway-focused alignments for Lynnwood and Federal Way are what they are – I have no constructive commentary there.

        The problem with total avoidance of at-grade crossings as the de facto plan is that it builds a light rail system that has all of the costs of a metro, and all of the limitations of a tram. There’s no reason to build a fully grade-separated rail line and still have it be limited to 55 mph. Let it hit 79 mph and run it every 5-10 mins, and people will want to use it!

      2. Having had ridden the bus five days a week for a nearly a decade to and through Everett, I can say with absolute certainty that the circumstances of the proposed station alternatives not at Everett Station proper will be definitively poor for all riders. You get so much more going to Everett Station itself than you do with the alternatives, you don’t waste prime TOD midrise/highrise zoning of Metro Everett in the process, and you don’t punish riders with awkward transfers that require hiking up or down a somewhat steep hill to do it or an extra infrequent bus connection. The only reason the alternatives are being proposed is because they might offer better game-day access to Angel of the Winds Arena and a proposed minor league baseball stadium near it (east of Broadway). This isn’t some gift to downtown and all-day ridership unfortunately. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the buses in the area, but you’re not going to meaningfully save time by trying to replicate transfers another location than Everett Station with what Sound Transit is planning. It is unfortunate that Link is being threaded via Broadway/I-5 rather than SR 99 to Everett because Downtown Everett could be much better served, but it would be foolish to waste this extension with a substandard downtown station that skips the city’s central station. To reiterate, the best approach given the bad alignment choices is Everett Station proper, making strategic choices to save money, and taking those savings to fund a proper extension to downtown Everett and beyond in this extension.

      3. @Stephen

        I’ll reply here (it has less going on anyway).

        You get so much more going to Everett Station itself than you do with the alternatives, you don’t waste prime TOD midrise/highrise zoning of Metro Everett in the process, and you don’t punish riders with awkward transfers that require hiking up or down a somewhat steep hill to do it or an extra infrequent bus connection.

        I disagree completely. It is Everett Station that is awkward, simply because it is not on a main street. It is a dead end, requiring a detour. Look at the 201/202, one of the few frequent buses in the area. It runs on Broadway the entire way, and then detours to go a thousand feet off to the side, then loops around, and then does the same thing in reverse. It literally passes by the location that we are suggestion would make a better station (Broadway & Pacific). The same thing is true for other buses. A station at Broadway & Pacific would be less awkward for the same reason that the current Roosevelt Station is less awkward than a station under the freeway (as originally proposed). Buses can go to the “transit center” (some do) but some just keep going on the main corridor. The park and ride really isn’t a transit center — just a place where buses (and drivers) can park. From a transit network standpoint, the current design is much better.

        This notion that out-of-the-way-transit centers are somehow a good thing because transfers are “easy” misses the fact that they aren’t easy for the buses, and riders spend extra time detouring to them. A station at Broadway & Pacific actually solves that problem. The agency can detour, or not detour. The buses that serve the Amtrak Station would serve the Link Station, since it is on the way. Or they could avoid the detour, because not all buses have to serve the Amtrak Station. Oh, and even the Amtrak riders wouldn’t have to walk much further with a station at Broadway & Pacific.

        As for prime TOD midrise/highrise, again, Pacific and Broadway is better. Areas right by the railroad track tend to be industrial. Sure, you can convert to housing (or offices) but cities are loathe to do that. Even if Everett Steel is pushed out, and they build apartments right next to the railroad tracks (lovely) riders will still have to go up and over to get there. In contrast, Pacific & Broadway is better simply because it is farther west (away from the tracks).

    2. There’s no reluctance to linking to The Urbanist; I just haven’t gotten into the habit of checking it regularly for new articles so I didn’t see this. Some of the recent Urbanist articles have gotten into areas outside our scope, but it’s still doing good research on transit and land-use issues. I link to those I see that are especially interesting. I don’t see the point in linking to every single article when you can read it there. (The same with some of the video authors.)

      1. I agree, and take some responsibility as well. The Urbanist often runs interesting and worthwhile articles about transit. But rarely are they more informative than what the Seattle Times writes, or what you can gather by just looking at the source. In this case though, Sound Transit released some information, and then pulled it back, which is why the Urbanist is claiming they have a scoop. I wouldn’t call this a leak, but instead a retraction by Sound Transit (I consider a leak when information is released outside official channels). In any event, the story by the Urbanist is the most thorough explanation of the thinking as of right now, even if it is still in the preliminary state.

      2. There was some sort of disagreement between some people at tU and some at STB way back in the Before Link Times. I believe everyone involved in that disagreement has moved on from both organizations.

      3. I came to STB from HugeAssCity and Orphan Road a little after STB started in the mid 2000s. There was no Urbanist then, or at least I didn’t see it mentioned on any of these sites until later, or I would have read it because I was looking for content like that. STB has gone through several staff changes as editors have come in and out one by one. I don’t recall any disagreement between STB and The Urbanist, just that it had a wider scope and topics as its name implies. There might have been a disagreement I didn’t know about.

        The Urbanist is doing the transit research and analysis that STB used to do before last year, when we lost those authorial resources as people got busy with family or jobs or got burned out. I’m glad The Urbanist is keeping this research up.

        HugeAssCity was Dan Bertolet’s site, an urbanist now apparently at Sightline. Orphan Road was Frank Chiachiere’s site, with a slogan something like “Building Seattle’s Next Infrastructure Improvement”,. Orphan Road was merged into STB; the oldest articles in the STB archive actually come from Orphan Road.

    3. The most important thing is whether the stations are in the right place for walk-up or bus-transfer use. That should drive how many properties are taken. The Times says the Everett and Alderwood locations are closer to current and future housing and destinations than the alternatives, so that sounds like a win. It says Mariner is undecided but one of the alternatives is closer to apartments. It may be that putting stations closer to housing requires taking more housing properties, but that’s better than putting the stations in locations that people can’t easily get to. So Lindblom and Fesler seem to see things differently. And Fesler’s choice for Everett Station (at the existing Everett Station location) seems wrong.

      1. Based on the tone of the article, I assume that Fesler is following an instinct to place the Everett Station as close to the other Everett Station as possible, which is the current hub of transit in Everett. However, if you look at the map (, the proposed EVT-A location is almost the exact same distance from the Everett Amtrak Station building as the EVT-C station. The problem with EVT-C and -D are that they both plan on knocking out half of every block east-adjacent to Broadway from I-5 to Hewitt, instead of just taking about half the stroad for guideway. Not a reasonable use of resources, frankly.

        I’ll note here that I’m equally appalled at ST’s avoidance of the Elliott Way/15th Avenue W ROW for BLE, but that ship has sailed.

      2. Fesler’s choice of ‘EVT-A’ seems odd to me as well. The article goes to great lengths in criticizing the taking of property (instead of taking a lane of roadway). I get that, and I completely agree. But then he picks a choice where decisions like that are moot. Option A doesn’t take much property, nor does it run on the street. It also isn’t very good. I’m sure Fesler sees that, and maybe his point is that is neither of the other two options are worth taking property. Or maybe he is focused on connecting to the Amtrak station. I might ask him.

        I don’t think there is an ideal station for Everett, which is part of the problem. I will share more, but I think it belongs at a higher thread.

      3. In all Mariner scenarios remaining, apartments and townhouses will be taken if the alignment is not adjusted to the street. We’re talking a lot of homes just in this segment.

        As for EVT-A, it’s basically Everett’s Union Station. It’s not just Amtrak. It’s also many bus routes from different transit agencies across the county and region as well as intercity bus routes. The existing facility offers a lot of good amenities to riders that won’t be replicated at a separate Link station. On top of this, ST plans to build another 1,000 parking stalls at the station. It’s a terrible idea, but if you’re going to do it, it may as well be at the principal transit center and Link may as well have access to those facilities.

        What the other “Everett Station” alternatives do is basically build a brand new Everett Station with all the accoutrements of bus bays, kiss-and-ride, and other operations space-wasters that already exist at the Everett Station now. It’s a lot of duplication for little benefit.

        EVT-A is what you do if you plan to ever expand Link to Downtown Everett proper, Providence, and ECC/WSU. The other station locations just split the baby. Everett should do better IMHO. And if Snohomish County doesn’t blow its golden opportunity for light rail with bad alignments and avoidable expenditures, they could be planning and funding that expansion now instead of in a future expansion phase.

        Not that it matters much, but when someone accidentally shares a document with detailed information never seen and known before and then tries to hide it, that’s the definition of a leak.

      4. “Summer malaise appeared to be in full force when the Sound Transit Board met on Thursday. The board barely had a quorum to complete its items of business, which forced Chair Dow Constantine to interrupt a staff presentation to press through several votes while they did cross that threshold. Among the absent boardmembers were Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, who missed his second straight board meeting.”

        “Given where we’re at today, and I don’t want to hold this up further, let’s regroup after this,” Balducci said. “I think we should move forward today. You know, authorize and empower you all to start your work and not hold things up. But I do want to have a more in-depth discussion with a map in front of us about where we can create, revive, refine, whatever verb you want to use, options that will be less impactful, quicker to deliver, cheaper to deliver, and not have as many takings.”

        “Sound Transit’s corridor planning heads said they would welcome that conversation. In a 9-0 vote, the 18-member board then proceeded to approve station preferences for Everett Link that will advance to environmental study and planning for the project — just barely over the threshold for a quorum for this hugely impactful decision for the future of Snohomish County and the regional transit network writ-large.”

        “The agency’s outside consultant, Dave Peters, also presented and told the agency it was in desperate need of reforming its culture, structure, and practices, echoing a similar set of recommendations from the agency’s Technical Advisory Group from earlier this year. By this point in the meeting, even the narrow quorum the board had mustered was gone and the sobering report fell on a small fraction of the board’s full strength. Those absent will hopefully go back and review the recording and materials.”

        To the layman this looks somewhat dysfunctional, unless something else is going on. Missing were “Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, who missed his second straight board meeting.”

        Harrell I can understand (anbd I am surprised Constantine could scrape up 9 members for a quorum, but after the last DEIS hearing on DSTT2 I am guessing Somers and Franklin see this as their call, especially after Constantine’s and Harrell’s decision on CID N/S.

        Balducci’s comments, although a glimmer of hope for urbanists, are really silly, especially without buy-in from the Board members from SnoCo and Pierce. The other Board members are not going to vote on changes to Everett Link over the objections of Franklin or Somers. How do you think Sumner, Auburn and Kent got $650 million worth of park and rides (which according to the consultant cost about twice what the private market would pay). Somers and Franklin held their noses and went along with DSTT2 and CID N/S.

        I don’t know what Balducci is playing at. Her history is to throw out ideas cold (“thinking out loud”) and then agree with staff or the consensus, and then go off on her merry way. Her district in King Co. could not be more different than Everett. Maybe with East Link delayed until 2025 (at least) and Stride another 18 months she figures she has nothing else to do. She has always been one to raise her hand to ask questions in public rather than build consensus first. Her questions are the sort of questions you ask Board members from Everett and SnoCo first, in private, like Harrell and Constantine did with DSTT2. You certainly don’t ask those questions without Franklin and Somers there, unless you want some kind of plausible deniability when the money runs out.

        So, Everett wants ST to build an alignment it can’t afford while Seattle wants to build WSBLE it can’t afford, but the stakeholders and Board members are not interested in the scaled down “urbanist” version when Everett is so unurban. As Ross has pointed out, Link makes no sense to and in Everett, and as I pointed out the only Everett station(s) that make sense are ones with huge park and rides. Like Lynnwood and East and SC and Pierce Co. Link.

        I really think it would help the Board’s and ST’s case if they began to cut WSBLE first. Right now it looks like Seattle is demanding an underground $15 billion WSBLE with a second tunnel funded by the other subareas while Balducci is asking if Everett can’t do with the Walmart version of Link, like S. Seattle, when how many residents from Everett use transit today? Bellevue proves that whenever that choice is given to the major city in a subarea Link gets shunted to the freeway (which at least cuts down on takings).

        “[O]ptions that will be less impactful, quicker to deliver, cheaper to deliver, and not have as many takings” means cheaper, as in there won’t be much money left over when Link actually gets to Everett through miles of nothingness. Too bad Balducci and ST staff don’t have any ideas to implement those, certainly ideas Everett is willing to accept. Typical Balducci: state the obvious (and how about for the rest of Link), without any solutions. I am sure coming from Balducci that did not go over well with SnoCo and Everett, except they both were not there, probably to make a point.

        2041 is a long way off. I likely will be dead. I don’t quite understand the rush when designs seem to get modified and changed when they get closer to construction. But ST promised Everett a certain design the major city in a subarea should have, and Everett wants that design. Just like the parking garages. It was the Board, with the realignment, that basically told the stakeholders money is limitless.

      5. “Balducci’s comments, although a glimmer of hope for urbanists, are really silly, especially without buy-in from the Board members from SnoCo and Pierce. The other Board members are not going to vote on changes to Everett Link over the objections of Franklin or Somers.”

        We don’t know that Franklin or Somers would object to this. We don’t know why they weren’t there, and since they weren’t there we don’t know what they would have said.

      6. Mike, I think if Balducci is going to tell ST staff to come up with “options that will be less impactful, quicker to deliver, cheaper to deliver, and not have as many takings” for Everett Link I think Somers and Franklin should have been involved, and she should have discussed that with them first. I would not be happy if Somers and Franklin told the Board to look at an alignment for East Link that was less impactful, quicker to deliver, cheaper to deliver, and not have as many takings, even if Balducci were not there. In fact, ESPECIALLY if she were not there.

      7. Your analysis is missing a step. The real work of Sound Transit Board/ staff interactions is at subarea meetings. The SnoCo board members get briefed extensively at their subarea meetings and give as much direction as they wish.

        Board members from other areas see a much more dumbed down version of everything (ever wonder why public board meetings are such an obvious going-through-the-motions exercise? It’s because they are).

        So Somers etc know all this stuff in depth and has no particular reason even to show up here. Balducci doesn’t go to Snohomish meetings, so this is her opportunity to weigh in (except for the Board norm that they defer to the subarea report reps).

      8. Thanks Dan, interesting. I guess that explains why Somers and Franklin didn’t show up for a Board meeting on Everett Link.

      9. It seems like to me the Balducci knows she is being steamrolled, and the process and the overall project is getting substantially degraded by folks getting together through backroom deals.

        But she isn’t willing to play the same game and grow a faction behind her, either through naiveté, or because she just doesn’t see the benefit of spending that political capital.

        She’s calling bullshit when she smells it, and that is something. But not nearly enough to counter the Dow-dog axis.

      10. “So Somers etc know all this stuff in depth and has no particular reason even to show up here. ”

        Setting aside the larger issue of the “dog-and-pony show” and rubberstamping of agenda items nature of board/council/commission meetings in general, it’s still a bad look for the SnoCo reps on the board to skip the meeting entirely.

      11. @Stephen — Thanks for getting on the blog and responding. I understand your thinking better now.

        I’m afraid I am still with Mike and Nathan on this one though. The buses do converge there, but just about every bus also runs by Broadway & Pacific. Those that don’t could go by there on the way to the Amtrak station. Or they could simply skip the Amtrak station, because it is essentially a detour if the bus is going along one of the main streets (like Broadway). If Everett ever gets big enough to justify light rail, then it will have buses running a lot more often, and the existing transit center could become out of date. You want buses that go through downtown, instead of looping around and ending in an awkward location. The latter costs a lot more, and delays riders. Either way, having the station close to a major intersection allows more flexibility with the buses. It also has a lot more potential in terms of walk-up riders. As Nathan mentioned, even if you are transferring from Amtrak, some of the other options aren’t much different.

        If we are to convince Everett that taking a lane is a good idea, we might as well point out that the existing transit center is nothing special.

      12. Daniel, I grant that your description of how the ST Board works is the most plausible explanation for the organization’s repeated and ever-mounting catastrophic mis-calculations. However I have to say that I am appalled that you seem to be “fine with it” or have concluded that it is inevitable.

        What a terrible waste of the taxpayers’ money they are building.

        That is not to say that they couldn’t spend every bit as much money and produce great transit. It’s doable, especially in a place with so many physical barriers. But for some reason they are fixated on solving 2005’s problems, instead of 2035’s. You’ve made it clear you agree with that general complaint, but I detect no moral indignation in your comments, just a touch of gloating for having “owned the stupid libs”.

      13. “However I have to say that I am appalled that you seem to be “fine with it” or have concluded that it is inevitable.

        “What a terrible waste of the taxpayers’ money they are building.

        “That is not to say that they couldn’t spend every bit as much money and produce great transit. It’s doable, especially in a place with so many physical barriers. But for some reason they are fixated on solving 2005’s problems, instead of 2035’s.”

        Tom, since I am not a transit fanatic it is easier for me to understand why cities or stakeholders make the decisions they do re: transit, even if it doesn’t create the best transit. I also understand standing, which means I really don’t have any say over any subarea except my own, even though Link is a “regional” light rail system, which ironically is its fundamental flaw.

        I don’t think I have been to Everett in 30 years. How could I comment on what is best for Everett when it comes to transit or Link in Everett. Just the combination of “Everett” and “Link” makes me laugh. On paper, when I look at the demographic, size, density, and travel patterns for Everett all I can think when folks talk about RUNNING Link to Everett let alone through Everett is WTF.

        It is hard for me to get past that initial WTF moment to consider where Link stations should go in Everett, or where future “urbanism” will sprout there when most of Seattle is suburban. Oh well.

        Stephen makes some valid points and lived there, or at least rode transit in Everett, but he approaches things as an urbanist/transit advocate, and around 2% of Everett is the same. My guess is readership of The Urbanist is about the same in Everett as STB. Somers and Franklin did not run for office on a transit/Link urbanism platform (of course neither did Harrell).

        “”What a terrible waste of the taxpayers’ money they are building.”

        Are you talking about all light rail outside Northgate to CID (although underground from U Dist. to Roosevelt was gold plated), or just Everett? It all began with false assumptions and dreams about future population growth estimates, future density, TOD, upzoning near stations so folks could live next to a freeway, folks giving up cars in suburbia, “urbanism”, housing becoming affordable for folks who have to take transit, no pandemic, safe streets and transit, false project cost estimates, false subarea ST tax revenue projections, false farebox recovery rates, false ridership estimates (even pre-pandemic).

        Now it has come down to every area getting what is theirs before the merry-go-round ends: parking garages in Sumner, Auburn and Kent when ridership on Sounder S. has plummeted, a suspension bridge in Federal Way, a starter line for East Link when ST expresses buses are empty, DSTT2 funded by the other subareas, Issaquah Link, tunnels and underground stations in WS and Ballard, and on and on and on.

        This 6500 sq mile three county area would need at least another 5 million residents to make Link pencil out, and even then it should have been mostly intra-Seattle if the entire region had not been so badly zoned, except Seattle imploded from the same politicians and ideology that gave us Link. The “mistake” made so long ago was platting all those 6500 sq miles and not figuring out a way to condense the population we have, and will have, surrounded by the “vale”, not making false assumptions that those new residents will move here.

        I am not surprised by a single decision that has been made when it comes to siting Link and its stations, and usually on this blog I state exactly what the stakeholders are going to demand whether CID, CID N/S, DSA, Midtown Station, SLU station, tunnels and underground stations in Ballard on 14th/15th, WS, garages in Sumner, Auburn and Kent, TDLE, East Link along 405 and 112th, Wilburton and The Spring Dist. (just the name for auto row makes me laugh), mainly because the majority of the folks who live in these areas think like I do.

      14. Daniel, if you have to ask that question about the extent of the waste, you haven’t been reading carefully.

        I don’t see any value in going beyond Lynnwood, Midway and Redmond, though most of the construction between Midway and Federal Way is well under way and the contracts are let, so the train will get to Federal Way 320th for sure. Unless that city changes its spots, though, it will have been money wasted.

        So far as Seattle proper, I think West Seattle Link is foolish as do most Blog contributors. The second tunnel as envisioned is stupidly redundant.

        The City would benefit from a diagonal subway from Smith Cove through Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union to a couple of stations on First Hill.

        It might be cheaper to have the transfer point at Capitol Hill, though it would require more tunneling on First Hill. However it might also be feasible to run elevated through South Lake Union, and that would save a bundle!

        Perhaps eventually such a line might be extended as a tram or elevated (depending on the technology used) through the north end of the Rainier Valley to a transfer connection to East Link at Judkins Park (tram) or a new station under the Twelfth Avenue Bridge (automated).

        Extending it to Ballard is less important, but if undertaken it should serve “Old Ballard” with a surface station and use tram technology.

        That’s it. No Everett Link Extension. No Tacoma Done Link Extension. No South Kirkland to Issaquah line. No “WSLE”.

        Such a change of direction would require that North and East King subareas pay back the funds used from Pierce with significant interest to compensate Pierce citizens for opportunity costs. It would require the Legislature to allow North King to retain extra capital taxing authority for longer than the other subareas, so it may not be politically practical, but it would be best for the region and State. The enabling legislation would also need tweaking to allow provision of “local” BRT service in Pierce and Snohomish from the base taxes allowed ST.

        I commented on Glenn’s idea for the Halladay Street treatment in case Everett Link is pursued. If a “train wreck” is inevitable, one can at least slam on the brakes to reduce the impact.

        You, who actually have the sort of connections that might bring some of the good ideas on this blog to the attention of the decision makers who should hear them, fail this fundamental test of good citizenship.

      15. Sounds good to me Tom. I have always thought the cities and subareas themselves would make better decisions with the ST tax revenue than the ST Board and ST have, with much better oversight of project costs. It is crazy that cities like Sumner, Auburn and Kent are given a binary choice: parking garages or nothing. Same with Everett which is having the same problem folks on this blog are having: where does Link make sense in Everett if Everett has to use the billions to fund Link to Everett and then someplace in Everett hoping it judges the future correctly (which will likely mean a 1000 car park and ride today in a more remote area).

        Re: subarea loans, interest is paid on those, usually based on what the going interest rate is for municipal bonds because a subarea like E KC could have easily issued municipal bonds. So yes the subareas with banked loans (mostly Pierce) would get their loans back, with interest. Based on subarea revenue it would take E KC one year to pay back its loans. Subareas with a surplus like Pierce could then vote on whether to spend the money or return it to the taxpayers. E KC would just terminate its ST tax, or vote to spend it someplace else or on something else more useful.

        Of course transit fans and regionalists and urbanists would never agree to that, or losing control over those tens of billions of dollars, no matter how unwisely it is spent.

        I understand that you think ST 2/3 projects that are nearly completed should be completed, like FWLE or Redmond Link. Personally I think the Link “spine” should have run from Northgate to CID, maybe the airport although only 8% of trips to the airport are by Link, and East Link — at least in 2008 — should have ended in downtown Bellevue (and probably is unnecessary post pandemic). Seattle could have then used its subarea revenue for more urban light rail/subways where it makes the most sense, and really got serious about condensing its urbanism.

      16. Thank you for clarifying that subarea loans carry interest. That has always seemed just to me.

        Plenty of people use Central Link. It is the one section of the system where the technology matches the application. It is fine that it was built, and once the line made it to Rainier and Henderson, it also made sense to run it onward through Tukwila to the airport or South center. There’s no “anchor” at Henderson. It should have gone on the surface through Tukwila, but they didn’t want to tear up Pacific Highway after recently having rebuilt it. That was extremely shortsighted.

      17. “I have always thought the cities and subareas themselves would make better decisions with the ST tax revenue than the ST Board and ST have, with much better oversight of project costs.”

        They’re the ones who made the decisions. ST mostly defers to what cities, counties, and subarea representatives want. The reason Link is going to Everett, Redmond, Tacoma, and Issaquah, and is on 112th, and runs along freeways, is because that’s what the cities, counties, and subareas demanded. And they often chose a more expensive option.

      18. Mike, I meant give the cities the option to use the ST revenue for non-Link or even non-transit uses. Would Sumner, Auburn and Kent decide to use their $100 million each for a parking garage? I doubt it. I think they would say the existing garage is fine — since it is now their money — and find some other use. But ST gives them basically one option: the garages, or I guess some ill-defined feeder bus service. So they chose the garages.

        I know these garages are large but still I have some questions about the cost. For example, Mercer Island got $4.5 million as part of its settlement with ST for commuter parking to match $4.5 million from MI. Right before the pandemic the city was preparing to build a 100-stall underground parking garage for Islanders only for $9 million in the town center. The consultant at the recent Board meeting seemed to indicate ST is paying twice or more the private going rate for parking per stall. Why are the garages in Sumner, Auburn and Kent so astronomically expensive?

    4. I’m not sure why it claims to impact car travel so much to place the elevated link on Broadway? They could place the pylons in the center lane that are used for left turns. And then perhaps just for the station exit the middle temporarily to only replace one/two blocks there.

      Or are they trying to avoid moving utilities?

    5. Cue the repetitive, rambling comments about how grade-separated/fixed guideway transit makes no sense past Lynnwood …

      Oh, I’m on now? Ahem … OK, here goes:

      The angst over Everett Link is like paying way too much for a Yugo back in 1986, and then noticing the alignment is messed up a year later. Even if you fix that, you still have a really bad car.

      There are many flaws with Everett Link, and one of the big ones is how few stations there are. North of SR 526/Evergreen, there is only one station, 3.8 miles away. The Swift Blue express has extremely wide stop spacing (so wide that it needs additional buses to cover the very corridor it runs on) and yet it makes four stops in between there. The 512 — an intercity express bus service making only a handful of stops — still has five stops in Everett, all fairly close to the proposed Link terminus. The 201/202, another long-distance express bus that spends much of its time on the freeway (connecting far flung Smokey Point and Lynnwood) still manages to make several stops on Broadway in the middle of downtown Everett. Why? Because it is downtown Everett.

      But not Link. One station, and one station only, north of here: Apparently this particular area is worthy of a station, and yet we should have only one station north of there. Not nearby (to save money) but miles and miles away. Thus we have the issue of where to put that station. Next to the Amtrak Station, or somewhere closer to the center of downtown. It is a terrible choice to make, as neither is ideal. If you are going to bother to run all the way to downtown Everett, you should have multiple stations in downtown Everett, as well as stations along the way.

      Consider this particular location: It is not exactly Brooklyn, let alone Manhattan, but it is definitely urban, which is more than you can say about most of the stations in Everett Link. It is places like this that give rise to the idea that the area should have mass transit (even if the choice is inappropriate, given the distance to Seattle). But this is not close to the Amtrak Station: It is simply too far to walk. Downtown Everett is simply too big (geographically) to serve very well with one station.

      They shortchanged Everett when it comes to stations simply because they couldn’t afford anything more. It was so expensive just to run rail there, that they couldn’t actually provide enough stations to provide much of anything in value. It is tempting to think that buses will converge on the one station, and swiftly carry those riders south. Except even then, the buses could do a better job going directly to Lynnwood, given that route is considerably faster. The only added value is for connecting to the handful of destinations along the way, like Mariner and Ash Way. At best this will be a three-seat ride to Boeing or the airport. Good luck with that.

  2. What I really dislike is the lack of discussion about ridership. No one ever talks about station pairs. What produces the most riders? Are Everett riders going to Paine Field/ SE Everett, Alderwood, UW, Downtown Seattle, Downtown Bellevue or somewhere else like Seatac? Are the riders parking in an adjacent garage, transferring from a bus, walking or getting dropped off?

    How can station sites get selected without basic data to back them up? I hope someone at the Board starts to demand answers because no one seems to ask so far.

    It’s like the light rail line is being planned almost like a second grade coloring book exercise. When is the PTA meeting where all the posters with pretty lines go up on a wall?

    1. Look! ST knows the first five letters of the alphabet — A, B, C, D, E — Lol!

      Funny how all they ever show are where platforms go but not what property they need.

      1. Those pesky details….we’ll figure all that out later when the time comes.

        (Yes, this is snark.)

    2. How can station sites get selected without basic data to back them up? I hope someone at the Board starts to demand answers because no one seems to ask so far.

      Because it is the way that ST rolls. They are not a data driven organization. Otherwise, there would be no spine. There has never been any data supporting the idea of a spine — it just sounded good. Same with all of this.

      1. Why is ST the way it is? Because city and county governments have too much control and influence over it, and they often have parochial and shortsighted visions of what they want.

      2. Mike Orr,

        Jeeze! You’re upset because democracy holds a trump card over Sound Transit? If City and Country governments aren’t in charge of watching over this mess, who should be?

      3. They aren’t just watching over it; they’re distorting it with parochial, ineffective, shortsighted characteristics. Of course there should be a spine; it should just be a faster and less expensive mode than light rail. But the problems go far beyond that. The counties/cities are why Link misses the most productive potential walksheds on Highway 99.

      4. The “counties/cities” are not some alien entities who traveled down to the surface of the planet in their spaceships to subjugate the Earthlings. They are the people everyone, collectively, voted in to support their needs.

        In other words, voting matters, and these are the outcomes.

        I know you know this, of course; but it bears repeating. It’s not a matter of the governmental entities doing something wrong. They’re doing exactly what they were expected to do given the governance structure of ST. Your beef is with that governance structure, so why not advocate to change it? There are plenty of good reasons to mount that campaign, and it seems like there are plenty of transit advocates who would support it. Make a political advocacy group, organize, set up an initiative to put on the ballot, etc. That’s how this battle will go somewhere.

      5. While I understand and support representative democracy, I don’t recall voting for anyone to be elected to ST Board. I have no idea how those electeds are even chosen to sit on that board. Anyone?

        In any case, it’s a regional transit organization, it should be guided be regional, not petty, poorly informed parochial interests. Subarea is too small. Don’t get me started on Keel, representing University Place, which, as far as can see, isn’t served by Sound Transit at all, I likely never will be.

        It’s like asking a bunch of residential plumbers to team up and direct how to build the Hoover dam. Wrong group for the job.

      6. Cam, if there were direct elections to the ST Board from each subarea what are the odds a viable candidate from Pierce and SnoCo would run on a platform of withdrawing from ST and using their money for something different. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but ST is not super popular in suburbia, let alone in the more rural areas.

        I could easily see a candidate from the eastside running on a platform of truncating east-west buses on the eastside since Seattle does not contribute to them, and truncating East Link at MI to keep Seattle from coming to the eastside. I would vote for that candidate.

        The tragic irony is Seattle should have had a candidate for ST Board run on a platform of withdrawing from ST, rather than blow its wad on running Link to the county borders (and even to Judkins Park) for “regional rail”. I mean, are Seattleites really going to take Link to Lynnwood or Federal Way or Tacoma? I doubt many will take it to Bellevue or Redmond. Personally, I always thought Link should have ended at Northgate and maybe SeaTac, with a lot more intra-urban subways, like First Hill, Ballard-UW, and so on, with probably buses to WS.

        How would you vote for a candidate for ST Board from Pierce who wanted to take Pierce’s $1.2 billion in banked loans and future ST revenue and do something different than T-Link or TDLE or parking garages in Sumner and Auburn?

  3. How important is the unfunded Hwy 99/Airport Road station for transfers? Swift Blue will also have a transfer at 526/Evergreen Way. Swift Green won’t,. But if you’re coming from the south going to Bothell, you can take another bus east from Mountlake Terrace or Lynnwood stations. If you’re coming from the north to Bothell, that’s Community Transit’s responsibility to provide something, and there may be another alternative.

    If you do want to go from Link to the Green and there’s no 99/Airport station, what would be the best way to do it? Would it be a 3-seat ride?

    Would it make sense to extend the north end of Swift Green to 526/Evergreen Way station?

    1. Theoretically, very important. It is about 2.7 miles to the next station on Evergreen Way. Folks who live in between there don’t want to go north to go south (or vice versa). It also makes routes awkward, as they bend towards the handful of stations in the area. It is a difficult area to cover (Everett Transit’s routes are rather messy in the area) we should avoid making it more difficult.

      On the other hand, if you assume that Everett Link will carry very few riders and thus run infrequently, then I guess the transfer possibilities don’t matter that much. There will only be a handful of riders either way. The transit agencies can muddle along without it.

    2. You have a look at Google Maps, and the potential station area has the potential to be a major TOD development with a lot of affordable housing, in addition to integrating with the two BRT lines. If Everett gets serious about this (and that’s a big IF!), the ridership might just make the Paine Field diversion more worth it.

      1. Hasn’t Snohomish County been talking about building a 4-year university? Seems like the perfect spot

  4. There was this “little” bit of news that came out at Thursday’s ST board meeting as well….

    “At Thursday’s meeting, agency staff also daylighted a further 6- to 12-month delay to the entire Stride bus rapid transit program program, which was supposed to be an early deliverable of ST3, as Chair Constantine ruefully pointed out. This delay was on top of a similar delay already announced in April. It appears the three Stride lines will not be operational until 2028, despite their initial 2024 promise.”

    I would encourage the folks here to read the last couple of The Urbanist “ST pieces”, the one Nathan linked to up above as well as this one I’ve noted.

    “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

    1. It’s clear to me that the allure of Sound Transit is fading. It’s fun for anyone to look at pretty graphics and to dream — but it requires facing real challenges to make rail operate.

      The common thread that I see through the last few years is the glaring lack of interest about rider demand and rider experience. It’s as if the Board and staff are building for the sake of building and don’t care if the investment is productive or not.

      Consider at how several years ago the Board would debate tradeoffs based on ridership forecasts. Then ridership went to a mere descriptive bullet. In the latest material, it’s simply fully ignored — in both presentations and discussions.

      Or consider that station entrances never get discussed. Or station vertical circulation never gets discussed. And no one dare discuss maintenance and operations of so many large spaces.

      Everything discussed is about “public input” — a term which to me looks like mainly property owner input. The lack of having interest in serving riders has a down side: the only people who speak up are people who simply don’t want direct negative impacts.

      Meanwhile, ST gets constantly criticized by those that are transit proponents like here at STB, Seattle Subway, the Urbanist and other places — and ST doesn’t want to acknowledge their failure to listen to those that should be their biggest fans. The very people that should be loudly cheering the agency on are pretty much fully tuned out by the agency.

      I’m curious when the Board members will start getting election opponents that run against them because of their role in turning ST from a “win” into a “morass”. Reform better happen soon or their political careers may be over because of this.

      1. I should add this: I love being on Link when things are working well! On good days, I feel blessed to have it available! I feel like I’m spoiled when I get to use it!

        Having said that, the lack of satisfaction surveys of riders isn’t lost on me. Satisfaction surveys are common nowadays for everything — but ST. Are they afraid to ask?

      2. Al S.

        Anyone who understands local politics realized early on that Sound Transit would a failure by the end ST3. You can’t expect voters to approve something once and then have 30 years of wonks building a system without any real voter oversight. Sound Transit is such a turd the mayor of Seattle doesn’t even want to be in the same room with it. Sound Transit is covered with loser stink at this point.

        What you’re going to see now is pols trying to jack Sound Transit money into projects that aren’t transit. Like those parking garages in South King County. Like sound huge residential/retail project in downtown Seattle that happens to have light rail running though it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

        As far as transit service over the entire Puget Sound area….. it’s going to continue to get worse.

      3. I’m curious when the Board members will start getting election opponents that run against them because of their role in turning ST from a “win” into a “morass”. Reform better happen soon or their political careers may be over because of this.

        I don’t see that happening, because every member has a more important job. Mayor, city council member, county council head — this is what they are graded on. Very rarely does Sound Transit even come up. When it does, it is usually about “getting something”, as opposed to managing things right. This tends to favor the very politicking that is commonly criticized.

        Then there is the lag time. This is huge, and effects the way people view the project. ST3 plans are still very popular in Seattle, in part because so much of what we are arguing about seems so abstract. Some time, in the distant future, Link will run to Ballard. The most common complaint is that it is taking too long. People blame the mythical “Seattle Process” (which is nonsense, but an easy scapegoat). There is also a big oversimplification in the arguments. The simplest is just about transit spending in general (good or bad). This extends to various other projects. It is difficult for a lot of people to think that Northgate Link is a vital part of our transit system (despite the obvious flaws) and then turn around and say that Everett Link (or Issaquah , Tacoma Dome or West Seattle Link) are very bad, and definitely not worth the money. It seems inconsistent, in today’s polarized political environment. Either you believe in Link or you don’t. Then you have issues like whether we need a second tunnel, which seems like it is getting into the weeds way too much, even though it is arguably the most important question in ST3. On top of all of that you have relatively subtle issues, like where to put the Ballard Station (I vote Ballard).

        It is quite understandable that someone just assumes that the board knows what they are doing, and that it will all work out fine, like it did before. After all, there were dark times before — at various points it wasn’t clear if Link would be built in the first place. Yet here we are, having built the section that we absolutely needed to build (U-District to downtown) with extensions on both ends to boot.

        In this sort of environment, I don’t think there will be any political cost to any of this, which is part of the problem. The members of the board all have more important jobs — jobs that will determine their political future. They know very little about transit. They are all obsessed with rail — especially long distance rail. They all have provincial interests on the board. Pretty much the worst combination you can come up with.

      4. Abortion and guns will be bigger factors in Balducci’s election over ST even though the County has no jurisdiction over either. If I mention Link, transit or ST to my, wife, daughter or son who all now vote they wonder what the hell I am talking about. My wife’s number one concern — other than education — is Seattle does not come to the Eastside. (Another issue Balducci has little control over because so few Eastside voters are in unincorporated areas in her district and policing is at the city level).

        Land use and HB 1110 could have been tricky for Balducci, and some of the affordability mandates the County sought to impose under last year’s 1220, but Issaquah watered down 1110 to where it hardly matters and really is up to each city and the County bunted on the affordability mandates — which were unrealistic, and unaffordable by the cities — when Bellevue indicated it wouldn’t follow the mandates.

        Balducci is a little chagrined at the delays for East Link and has supported a starter line, but I don’t see the starter line, and either way it won’t affect her re-election in the most progressive district in E KC.

        Now if I were in Tacoma I would be pretty unhappy about Keel’s performance, but how many vote in Pierce Co., and how many of those vote based on transit or Link?

      5. “I don’t see that happening, because every member has a more important job. ”

        Unfortunately, politics has devolved to focus on irrelevant things. Who would have thought that some people get upset about guys doing drag after witnessing it for centuries without controversy? A challenger will make an issue out of anything these days.

      6. “I love being on Link when things are working well! On good days, I feel blessed to have it available!”

        I always feel blessed and grateful when I ride Link between Capitol Hill, the U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate, which are most of my trips. Seven minutes vs forty-five makes a huge difference. I spent forty years dealing with temperamental buses in the eastern half of the city while my counterparts in San Francisco, New York, DC, Chicago, Vancouver, and London were zipping around in metros. It makes such a difference to finally have a robust transit trunk. That’s why I’m bullish on Lynnwood, Bellevue/Redmond, and Federal Way, even if they won’t be as transformational.

      7. I always feel blessed and grateful when I ride Link between Capitol Hill, the U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate, which are most of my trips. Seven minutes vs forty-five makes a huge difference.

        I think that is the crux of the matter. For all its flaws, much of Link is great. It is transformational. The problem is that lots of people think it will be the same sort of improvement, no matter where it goes. It just doesn’t work that way. Transit is about finding the right tool for the job (and using that tool well).

        That is a tough thing for a lot of people to wrap their head around. People like to think that “you get what you pay for” even though there are plenty of counter examples. If you are hauling gravel or towing a boat, the Ford F-150 is a fine choice. If you are driving to the farmer’s market and have to find parking on the street, it is a terrible. You are much better off with a Kia Rio, even though it costs a lot less. The same thing is true of transit. Rail makes sense in some areas, not so much in others. Massive investments in right-of-way make sense in some areas; in others it is overkill, and what you need is just more service. If you ride Link in its busiest areas you realize that is saved you a huge amount of time, and you aren’t alone in enjoying those benefits. Unfortunately, as Link extends outward, much of the effort will be wasted providing very little additional value, despite the enormous cost.

        Perhaps the worst part is that we aren’t alone in making that mistake. There are plenty of U. S. cities that have done the same thing. By its very nature, each transit system is different. But what is striking about Link is that it is mimicking the pattern that has failed repeatedly, while we ignore our neighbors, who are basically lapping us by applying patterns that are far more effective.

      8. Keel doesn’t live in, or represent, Tacoma. Kristina Walker is who I get to be disappointed in. Though she is a pretty solid advocate for many other issues that are important to me, so she gets a pass on ST, in my book.

        I save my most of my ire for Dammeier.

      9. “Unfortunately, that makes for a very slow bus, as every time you exit the freeway and sit through stoplights to get to a close in stop and sit through more stoplights to get back on the freeway, you add 5-10 minutes to the running time. ”

        Just to be clear, this is NOT the operation that I described, asdf2. In fact, I even criticized the South Renton stop situation. Instead, I specifically proposed buses staying on 405 for a long distance before exiting at a tail.

        Also, if ST express buses are stuck going slow in 405 HOT traffic, how will Stride be much faster since they will also be in those same lanes?

      10. “if ST express buses are stuck going slow in 405 HOT traffic, how will Stride be much faster since they will also be in those same lanes?”

        WSDOT is supposed to manage the toll rate to keep the HOT lanes running at minimum 40 mph. There was widespread reporting in the early years that it hasn’t been doing this well. Also, the maximum toll was set assuming it would rarely reach that and hardly anyone would pay it, but it turned out that people were unexpectedly willing to pay the maximum toll to crowd into the HOT lanes. I haven’t heard about it since covid started so I don’t know what the current situation is.

    2. I can’t believe Stride is opening three years after the already-delayed Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way Link. You’d think the low-cost, easy-to-implement projects would open quickly.

      1. Yeah, it is very disappointing. I’m not sure exactly why. Money is one issue, but I don’t think it is the only one.

      2. How busy have the suburb to suburb buses been? Stuff like the 560?

        Link seems reasonably busy all the times I’ve taken it, but the past several years may have had a severe impact on those.

        Stuff like TriMet’s WES service is down to only about 1,000 per day this year. It went from 374,044 passengers in 2019 to 84,742 in 2021.

        If there has been a similar suburb to suburb collapse in transit demand in the Seattle area, they may no longer show sufficient ridership to justify stride investment.

        The one time in the past year I took the 560 from SeaTac to Bellevue, there were 2 other people on it, but one trip obviously doesn’t represent route performance.

      3. That is an interesting point Glenn. At least on the Eastside ST express bus ridership is way down, but those were primarily geared toward peak commuters to Seattle.

        I have never believed suburbanites take intra-suburban transit. Parking is almost always free, and their discretionary trips usually mean hauling something, like 8 bags of groceries. Or kids. They don’t take transit or drive someplace for the fun of it. Trips during non peak times have little congestion, and the SUV is in the garage.

        Despite the delays with East Link that most eastsiders don’t care about I had hoped Stride from Renton to Bellevue would open sooner rather than later. I don’t really know how many folks will take Stride from Renton to Bellevue based on work demographics but if Stride is going to be a hit post pandemic this is the Stride line to do it. Right route, right demographic, right destination.

        405 is an over subscribed highway. Bellevue is more vibrant than Seattle, and eastsiders now want to stay on the Eastside. Renton has some of the more affordable housing — especially a SFH — on the Eastside. Downtown Bellevue may have the only non free (work) parking. Everything that generates transit ridership.

        If Stride from Renton to Bellevue doesn’t work or get decent ridership then neither will the other Stride lines that are Seattle oriented and require a transfer to get anywhere.

        First/last mile access is an issue, and Stride doesn’t really go to Bellevue Way, but I always thought this Stride line could be better than East Link based on East Link’s station locations.

        I wish I understood the new delay. The delays for East Link are understandable if annoying. But what is holding up a bus route on an existing highway?

      4. “ If Stride from Renton to Bellevue doesn’t work or get decent ridership then neither will the other Stride lines…”

        On this I agree.

        Stride 2 to Lynnwood hits mainly interchange stations that are awkward for a rider to use, especially if a bus transfer is involved. There will be ample parking at the new garages and the Link travel time at 52 minutes from Lynnwood to Bellevue will be shorter that Route 535 travel time today at 60 minutes. Plus Link will directly go to Redmond and Bel-red/Spring District and I don’t see those riders getting on or off the train in Downtown Bellevue if they can just ride through to Lynnwood in their comfy Link seat. Finally, I’m not sure if ST will continue running Route 532 from Everett once Stride 2 is running from Lynnwood.

        And of course the Stride 3 line on 522 will end at a new big parking garage that won’t be that difficult to drive to — leaving most demand on Stride to those within walking distance. And today’s Route 522 ends at Roosevelt so Stride 3 ending at 145th will take longer for Seattle journeys than the trip does today.

        However, the Achilles heel with the Renton to Bellevue Stride 1 is the South Renton station being off the freeway. Plus it only stops once between Renton and Downtown Bellevue and no stops until the loud freeway stop on 518 at TIBS — skipping Factoria, Renton Landing, Tukwila Sounder, SouthCenter and SeaTac. It’d be a much more brilliant connection if Stride 1 buses didn’t have to cross over to exit at South Renton and if ST built freeway stops to touch some of those skipped destinations listed above. But East King wanted the South Kirkland station for Link 4 Line and South King wanted to build those Sounder garages that now look unnecessary. I’m not sure of the fate of Route 566 either after 2028, and if ST forces those riders to Stride 1 it will add to the ridership totals.

        In sum, I even wonder if the people who put Stride into ST3 fully understood what they were proposing. They certainly haven’t optimized Stride to succeed as a well ridden service. I think they just simply wanted a pretty map that showed that they featured the 405 and 522 corridors and wanted it done as cheaply as possible so the money could go to other things.

      5. “Stride 2 to Lynnwood hits mainly interchange stations that are awkward for a rider to use,”

        How else can you get there? I was at Bellevue TC one Sunday and a woman asked how to get to Bothell. The 535 doesn’t run Sundays so I said the only way I know is to take the 550 to downtown Seattle and the 522 to Bothell (back when it did that). She said she knew that way and that’s what she was thinking of doing. I knew the 250 went to Kirkland and there was another route from there to Bothell, but I didn’t know the frequency or number or where it went through, so I didn’t want to recommend it, and in any case it would have been slow. It may suck to go to Canyon Park P&R or Ash Way P&R or Mariner P&R, but if you live up there you don’t have a lot of choices; it’s either Stride/535 or nothing.

      6. “How else can you get there? I was at Bellevue TC one Sunday and a woman asked how to get to Bothell.”

        Google Maps is showing a plethora of options, all involving the 250, then a transfer to any of 230, 231, 239 or 255.

        With the infrequent operation of the 560, I can see a fair number of people deciding that Link to Seattle and 550 to Bellevue would be a better solution over that.

        SoundTransit farebox recovery shows pretty dismal results of only 9% on the ST express buses. Link at least shows some recovery in that number.

      7. How busy have the suburb to suburb buses been? Stuff like the 560?

        It has been a mixed bag. Here are the numbers from the ST ridership tracker:

        532: 468 -76%
        535: 1,226 -42%
        560: 1,227 -32%
        566: 433 -67%

        This is for weekday ridership. Weekend ridership has not gone down as much. The suburb-to-suburb numbers follow the same general trends as the rest of transit:

        1) Peak has been hit the hardest.
        2) The farther the destination, the more it has been hurt.
        3) The more commuter based the destination, the harder it has been hurt.

        In the past, these routes got most of their ridership from trips to downtown Bellevue. My guess is the ridership is a lot more spread out right now. The 532 is still focused on getting riders to downtown Bellevue for work so it is no surprise that ridership is way down. Likewise, the 566 is peak-only. In contrast, the 535 got a fair amount of ridership from folks going to UW Bothell, and that has recovered. Likewise, the 560 serves the airport (where ridership has generally recovered) and acts as a regional connector for the south end. If I’m not mistaken, the Metro buses in the area have improved (and done well).

        Overall, I would say that the case for the Stride buses is as strong as ever. I’m not saying that there aren’t pieces I would change, but overall it looks pretty solid. Each line is different:

        S1 — A little weird because it removes some of what makes the 560 popular (it doesn’t go to West Seattle or the airport). It still provides the core functionality though, in connecting various suburbs. Its success depends a bit on how good the rest of the system is. There are potential transfers to Link or various buses serving the area. If people are OK with two and three seat rides, I see it being reasonably successful.

        S2 — Similar to S1, although it connects to UW Bothell, which gives it plenty of potential. Again, it is dependent on the rest of the network (e. g. service to Totem Lake).

        S3 — The most urban of the Stride buses. It should do well (like similar Metro buses).

      8. “How else can you get there?”

        The 405 transit service should work more like a busway — similar to an ST express route. It could use 405 lanes for a long distance with the tail exiting the freeway and serving nearby areas with close-by stops.

        Asking riders to walk near noisy freeway ramps just to transfer to another bus — rather than have one bus make the full trip — is a good way to lose riders.

        Stride 3 has been mentioned by many on this blog as a route that should have been extended to Aurora. That’s what I mean by optimizing Stride because ST never considered it.

      9. Glenn, about the dismal farebox recovery on ST Express, Mike takes transit more than most here, and just the other day he said he has seen no increase those appearing not to pay on the bus over the last three years. I said I am seeing way more people not pay than before covid, and he said he hasn’t seen any change. Do you have ST Express farebox recovery numbers for 2019 vs today?

      10. Wait a minute, farebox recovery ratio may have little to do with fare non-payment levels. Correct?

      11. If Stride from Renton to Bellevue doesn’t work or get decent ridership then neither will the other Stride lines…

        I disagree. Downtown Bellevue is mostly just a place to work. If you live nearby, then you might visit, but it isn’t a regionally attractive place. If I lived in Renton I might visit once in a while, but I would be far more likely to go to Seattle — there is just a lot more going on there. From Renton to Bellevue the bus skips over Bellevue College. Some will take the express and backtrack, but others will take the 240 (which will run every 15 minutes).

        In contrast, the S2 serves UW Bothell. The stop is more or less in the middle of the route, which means people from Bellevue and Lynnwood will take it to get there. It also connects to the S3 at that point.

        The S3 is most like a regular bus — the type of bus that has largely recovered. It serves the inner suburbs, north of the lake, and connects those riders to Link at the edge of Seattle. In fact, many of the stops are at the edge of Seattle. Link has more riders than ever.

        Thus I could see relatively few people going from Renton to Bellevue, while the rest of the line does fine, connecting riders regionally via Link. Ridership to the airport remains decent, as does ridership to Rainier Valley. I’m not saying this will happen. I think Renton to Bellevue is doing OK, and will continue to do OK, but I’m saying it is nothing special compared to the rest of the line, let alone the other lines.

        I don’t know if there is any particular segment that will represent an indicator of the success of these lines. I think to a large extent it depends on people’s tolerance in making transfers, and going on relatively long trips (Burien to Rainier Valley, Kenmore to Capitol Hill, etc). If folks are OK with that, then it will do OK. If not, I expect the airport, UW Bothell and downtown Bellevue to allow it to survive, even if ridership isn’t that great.

      12. Wait a minute, farebox recovery ratio may have little to do with fare non-payment levels. Correct?

        Typically, yes. Before the pandemic, most agencies had non-payment rates of around 10% or lower. When Muni went with proof-of-payment, non-compliance dropped from 10% to 7.9%. But some of the riders might not ride if they are asked to pay, so the impact on fare recovery is even lower. In short, non-payment has to be unusually high for it to make a big dent on farebox recovery. The biggest impact is simply the number of people riding (per service hour).

      13. “It could use 405 lanes for a long distance with the tail exiting the freeway and serving nearby areas with close-by stops.”

        Unfortunately, that makes for a very slow bus, as every time you exit the freeway and sit through stoplights to get to a close in stop and sit through more stoplights to get back on the freeway, you add 5-10 minutes to the running time. Repeat this every few miles, a trip from Lynnwood to Bellevue ends up taking over an hour.

        You can avoid some of this by running multiple overlapping routes that skip stops, but then each route can’t run as often, so instead of a bus every 15 minutes, you end up with a bus running once or twice per hour. There is no way to run frequent bus service on a freeway while keeping travel times reasonable and still serving intermediate stops without freeway stations. The noise can be managed with quieter pavement and headphones.

      14. The 405 transit service should work more like a busway — similar to an ST express route. It could use 405 lanes for a long distance with the tail exiting the freeway and serving nearby areas with close-by stops.

        Stride 3 has been mentioned by many on this blog as a route that should have been extended to Aurora. That’s what I mean by optimizing Stride because ST never considered it.

        Looking at Stride routes is a bit like looking at routes close to the county border. The routes just don’t make sense unless you consider the agencies involved.

        In the case of Sound Transit, they are focused on regional service. They also have not dedicated a huge amount of money on service itself, but more on capital projects. I don’t know how many hours are spent running the buses, but compared to Metro, it isn’t much, despite the fact that some routes are extremely long. So while the type of overlapping express routes would provide more benefit, ST just doesn’t have money for that. Or rather, they are putting that money into other things.

        Likewise, an extension of the S3 to Aurora probably has a lot to do with the fact that Shoreline is already getting other benefits (e. g. Link Stations) that Kenmore and Lake Forest Park isn’t. It doesn’t make sense from a bus network standpoint, but even going on 145th is questionable. There is a bit of a disconnect, really. If the goal is to have a premium bus service (something similar to RapidRide) then it would go through Lake City, since that is where it would get the bulk of the riders, while providing greater connectivity. It would continue all the way across, to Bitter Lake. But if the goal is to connect the north lake suburbs to Link, then going 145th saves you time and money. It shrinks the project considerably in terms of benefit, but also in cost.

        Getting back to S1 and S2, personally I don’t think it is that bad. It does leave the freeway in places (Renton, Downtown Bellevue, UW Bothell). There is also the possibility of future overlapping routes. For example Lake Washington Institute of Technology to the UW. Riders from the LW Tech and surrounding neighborhoods could ride the bus to the freeway station, and transfer to quickly get to Lynnwood, UW Bothell or downtown Bellevue.

      15. The east—west buses are empty, and even emptier during non-peak hours, so I don’t think Seattle is more attractive for eastsiders than downtown Bellevue.

        The comment by Ben repeats what I have often said:

        1. Safety is a deal breaker for discretionary transit riders. This means the transit, stops/stations, and most importantly streets like 3rd Ave.

        2. Lack of cleanliness and an atmosphere of lack of public decorum or public drug use is a lack of public safety for most.

        3. Eastside riders have a much lower tolerance for danger than folks on this blog.

        The main destination for Stride 1 and 2 is the same: downtown Bellevue, although the vast majority of non-peak trips will be by car.

        I would agree areas north of Bellevue are more similar to Bellevue and the typical Bellevue office worker than areas south, with better schools, but Renton is becoming more popular for younger workers and couples who can commute to work on transit looking for an affordable house and are willing to put up with the crime and schools in Renton.

        Not long ago MI’s Nextdoor was expanded to include Renton. Renton wants the same things MI wants, and if anything are less progressive than wealthier Eastside neighborhoods that can afford white. virtue signaling.

        By far the number one issue is public safety, with public schools a close second, and whether to send their kids to private school. Transit is never discussed in the posts from Renton. Renton is the Eastside, and doesn’t want to be Tukwilla. It wants to be Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah or Bothell. Quiet SFH neighborhood with safe streets and parks and good schools with a few areas of retail density/vibrancy with free parking.

        You may be correct that Stride 2 will have higher ridership than Stide 1, or Stride 2 can succeed even if Stride 1 fails, but it won’t be because Renton residents are choosing downtown Seattle over downtown Bellevue. There is no 3rd Ave. in Bellevue, and based on my recent experiences Bellevue is much more vibrant than downtown Seattle, although in a suburban way. But then eastsiders are suburbanites.

      16. Thanks, Ross. Btw, anecdotally, I once asked a Metro driver I know who sometimes drives the route 7, why do some riders, who are next to Mount Baker Link station, and who are headed to downtown, prefer to take the route 7 instead of Link. All he said was “Because it’s free.” I knew what he meant. He meant, on a pay-on-entry Metro bus, there is no risk to not paying. But, on proof-of-payment Link, there’s a small risk to not paying. In other words, a pay-on-entry bus is the worry-free choice for those wanting a free ride.

      17. “Downtown Bellevue is mostly just a place to work. If you live nearby, then you might visit, but it isn’t a regionally attractive place.”

        Bellevue Square, Bellevue park, Bellevue Arts Fair in the summer, Bellevue Jazz festival in the fall, ice skating in December, movie theater near a transit stop, regional library near a transit stop, events, that affluent safe atmosphere Daniel keeps talking about, a central location to meet for people coming from several directions….

      18. “The east—west buses are empty, and even emptier during non-peak hours,”

        Your definition of empty must be 25-50% full. My definition is more like 1-2%.

      19. “All he said was “Because it’s free.” ”

        There are thousands of Metro bus drivers and they all think different things, have different attitudes, and have different interpretations of the rules. What one bus driver says is not necessarily what most drivers say.

      20. Asdf2:

        “Unfortunately, that makes for a very slow bus, as every time you exit the freeway and sit through stoplights to get to a close in stop and sit through more stoplights to get back on the freeway, you add 5-10 minutes to the running time. ”

        This is NOT the operation I described. In fact, I specifically called for using 405 for long stretches and criticized South Renton because of this exact problem.

        If 405 got added infill Stride stations, I see them more like Mountlake Terrace.

      21. Me: ” Btw, anecdotally, I once asked a Metro driver …”

        Anecdotally definition: “not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.”

        But, thank you for your comment explaining that my comment was anecdotal, after I said my comment was anecdotal.

      22. I have to agree with Mike. It is very disappointing when bus projects take this long to implement, and despite being much cheaper than rail, they always seem to get pushed to the back of the line and watered down for cost savings. This really does contribute to rail bias, which is unfortunate because often a properly done BRT is the more appropriate solution. “If it won’t get done quickly anyway, and it won’t be much faster than the current busses anyway, just build rail instead.”

      23. This is NOT the operation I described. In fact, I specifically called for using 405 for long stretches and criticized South Renton because of this exact problem.

        I’m pretty sure the rest of that comment mentioned exactly what you proposed. As I see it, there are several options:

        1) A bus route that tries to pick up everything along the way, which means that it largely ignores the freeway.
        2) An express that largely sticks to the freeway to minimize the time it takes to go long distances.
        3) Some sort of hybrid, that goes along the freeway for sections, and serves neighborhoods in others.
        4) A series of overlapping routes, each of which starts and ends in a neighborhood, but travels along the freeway in between, perhaps serving freeway stations to enable easier transfers.

        S1 is type 3 (a hybrid) as it leaves the freeway in the middle, to serve Renton. As a result, riders from Burien or Tukwila are delayed in their trip to Bellevue.

        S2 is basically type 2, as it doesn’t deviate from the freeway envelope much at all. Travel times from Lynnwood to Bellevue will be fast (33-38 minutes). You could also consider it the fourth type (but with only one bus) as Bellevue and Lynnwood transit centers are off the freeway, and have destinations within walking distance. As luck would have it, UW Bothell is also a significant destination within walking distance, and the bus will be able to serve it without a significant detour.

        S3 is basically S1 (a normal bus).

        The fourth type is ideal, but it costs more (as asdf2 pointed out). The reason ST didn’t implement the fourth type is money. You can save money by running the buses less often, but then the thing just falls apart. Part of the problem is that these types of routes generally don’t get that many riders. Without a lot of riders, it is hard to justify a lot of extra overlapping service.

      24. Bellevue Square, Bellevue park, Bellevue Arts Fair in the summer, Bellevue Jazz festival in the fall, ice skating in December, movie theater near a transit stop, regional library near a transit stop, events

        All of which sounds pretty bush league compared to Seattle. Again, I pointed out that I could definitely see someone in Renton visiting Bellevue (for any of those reasons). But they are way more likely to visit Seattle. Downtown Bellevue just isn’t a major cultural center. Nor is it a major educational center. It is a major employment and population center.

        That is why I don’t think the segment between Renton and Downtown Bellevue is particularly important. Not too long ago, it would have been a good measure of how effective the bus is at getting the modal share of the all-important work-related trips to Downtown Bellevue. Now, it is tougher to measure, as many of those potential riders are staying home.

        I see S1 as being far more spread out in terms of the destinations. There are cultural events in Burien, Bellevue, Renton and Rainier Valley that attract riders. This should make travel between those much easier. It may make trips to the airport easier for some, harder for others. If Downtown Bellevue was like the Seattle Center (secondary to downtown Seattle, but with a hockey team, a constant stream of events, etc.) then it would be different.

      25. @Brandon

        “I have to agree with Mike. It is very disappointing when bus projects take this long to implement, and despite being much cheaper than Sound Transit’s plans in the I-405 Master Plan for the corridor for light rail, they always seem to get pushed to the back of the line and watered down for cost savings. “

        I added the highlighted portion to be sure we don’t forget how BRT was chosen for the I-405 corridor. Compared to the plans for Light Rail in the corridor, BRT was the better choice.
        (I must make sure history is remembered correctly)

        However, there was a rail option that did perform better than BRT (same ridership, and at the time approximately $100million cheaper), but was never compared directly with the BRT option.

        But then again….
        What The Hell Do I Know?

    3. “the allure of Sound Transit is fading.”

      The allure faded for me a few years ago when we started getting word of long transfers downtown and a Ballard 14th station, and Link frequency dropping to half-hourly for months during the pandemic, which made it unusable. Others lost their enthusiasm before that, or have been losing it more recently.

      The cities are getting what they made ST do.

      1. “…when we started getting word of long transfers downtown…”

        “The cities are getting what they made ST do.”

        and the funny thing is, Mike, that ST’s focus on ‘the Spine’ as the answer to regional mobility is being hindered by those really bad transfers.
        (remember, they do business as Sound Transit, but their official name is the “Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority”)

        To get back on track, they need to listen to the Transit USERS.
        Their downfall will be ignoring them as a Primary STAKEHOLDER.

      2. “To get back on track, they need to listen to the Transit USERS.
        Their downfall will be ignoring them as a Primary STAKEHOLDER.”

        Exactly. But how can we get from here to there?

      3. Mike,

        I think the core is getting organized. I remember a few weeks back you posted a news article that quoted some transit advocate about, I think, the Center City Connector. They were quoted, to my mind, because they had a name and an organization behind them.

        If more transit advocates could get organized in some way and express themselves, I think we would be given more attention.

    4. A follow-up to my own post above adding some supplementary information from the presentation given at Thursday’s lightly attended board meeting regarding the STRIDE lines…

      Project Completion Schedule Estimate-

      Realignment Q3 2021,
      April 2023 Trend,
      Now and proposed baselining

      S1 (I-405 South)
      ​Q4 2027,
      ​Q3 2028

      S2 (I-405 North)​
      ​Q4 2028,
      ​Q2 2029

      S3 (SR-522)
      ​Q4 2027​,
      Q3 2028

      It gets worse….

      Project(s) Cost Estimate-

      Spring 2023 Financial Plan, $2.065B (YOE$)
      Now (with 80% confidence level),
      $2.325B (YOE$)
      +$260M (+13%)

      Additionally, these were the narratives given in the April 2023 Agency Progress Report (for its capital program) pertaining to the schedules and schedule risks for the three planned STRIDE lines:

      “STRIDE I-405 Bus Rapid Transit Project Schedule

      “The Board of Directors announced its realignment decision in August 2021. The upcoming project milestone is Project Baselining, which is anticipated in mid-2023. The team is formulating a plan and evaluating the timeline to allow the project to baseline with a high level of confidence.

      “The current critical path for the I-405 BRT project is through Tukwila International Blvd Station Improvements in coordination with WSDOT, commissioning and testing, and project float contingency to service line activation.

      “I-405 S, Service Line S1 opening is trending toward 2028, which is 12+ months beyond the Sound Transit Board realignment target. The trend reflects the extended duration needed to finalize and execute the preliminary design agreement with WSDOT, which pushed out the design-build procurement timeline and eventual construction completion of the Tukwila International Blvd Station. The schedule graphic below has not been updated to reflect this development because additional studies and schedule risk assessments are being conducted to formulate a new plan and inform the upcoming baseline action. However, it is increasingly clear that the realignment target date may not be met without changing the operation plan, or substantially adding costs to the project. The realignment schedule is aggressive and staff informed the Board throughout 2022 that the current schedule is inconsistent with the target and affordable schedule.

      “I-405 N, Service Line S2 opening is also trending toward 2028 completion, which is behind the 2027 Board realignment target. Due to multiple simultaneous procurements of WSDOT’s construction projects, and the current state of the construction industry, WSDOT delayed the procurement of the I-405 North ETL. Additionally, the construction duration allowed for this project has been prolonged due to the size and complexity of the project. Similar to S1, the schedule graphic below has not yet been updated to reflect this development because additional studies and schedule risk assessments are still being conducted to formulate a new plan and inform the upcoming baseline action.”

      And finally…

      “STRIDE SR 522/NE 145th Street Bus Rapid Transit Project Schedule

      “The Board of Directors announced its realignment decision in August 2021. The upcoming project milestone is Project Baselining, which is anticipated in mid-2023. The team is formulating a plan and evaluating the timeline to allow the project to baseline with a high level of confidence.

      “There are two critical paths for the SR 522/NE 145th BRT project opening. The most critical path is through the completion of the Bus Base North and integrated systems testing of the SR 522 corridor. A near critical path is the completion of final design and ROW acquisitions for the SR 522/NE 145th Roadways in Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and Kenmore needed to start construction. Both paths are monitored closely along with permitting/agreements by the team.

      “The current forecast for completion is Q4 2027, including 180 days float, or a total of about 10 months past the Sound Transit Board realignment target. The realignment schedule is aggressive, and staff have routinely informed the Board that the current schedule is inconsistent with the target and affordable schedule. Sound Transit staff is working with the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) in the corridor on plans to streamline the permitting process for the project.”

  5. While at-grade running with only traffic light controls is not appropriate for segments of a regional light rail system near its high density central business districts, significant portions leading to termini in smaller peripheral cities and neigh orhoods ought to be surface.

    The general rule should be, “Is a significant proportion of riders “beyond” the at-grade segment likely to be adversely affected by the segment? If not, at-grade operations should be allowed.” “What does ‘significant’ mean?” is a political question to be answered by each region that adopts the technology.

    In the case of Sound Transit’s system, putting at-grade segments at the “tails” of all three lines makes a lot of sense. Apparently ST has opted not to use an at-grade station in Redmond, which was foolish unless there is a genuine plan to “double-back” to Totem Lake or swing north to Woodinville. Neither is likely, so no significant “delays” would be caused by running at tram speeds for a couple of blocks in the downtown segment in Redmond.
    Not having a hulking elevated station in the otherwise walkable city center would be better. Riders boarding at Redmond Downtown might suffer a minute’s longer ride, a small price to pay to avoid a forty-foot level change which would also cost them a minute. Riders from the bus intercept at Redmond Southeast would not be affected.

    The same is true in Ballard and West Seattle, where avoiding eighty foot deep stations on the peripheries of the long-established “streetcar suburb” activity centers is a huge gain in accessibility. People like surface stations in walkable places. It’s clear where transit is and they don’t have to deal with “vertical conveyances” to get to and from the trains. Eighty feet as is proposed for both termini is a long way up and down, even with escalators.

    It’s even true in the larger cities of Tacoma and Everett. The length of Link Trains is asserted to be a “killer” problem in both places, but it is not clear that it would be. Yes, the terminal stations would be two blocks long, necessitating the closure of at least one crossing street. That’s a pro b lem for pedestrian mobility. However, if the stations used center platforms, sub-street plazas like those at Montgomery and Powell for BART and Muni in San Francisco would knit the community back together, albeit with the requirement for level changes. They can be achieved with ramps in many cases.

    These sorts of sensible, low-cost stations at the termini ought to be required by the FTA for light rail systems.

    1. You raise a good point about FTA. Once the projects already being built are completed (note that Honolulu, Downtown LA, Green Line Boston, North San Diego and SF Central Subway opened in the past year), there are fewer upcoming projects nationwide that need a new grant agreement. Seattle/ST, LA, Bay Area and Austin appear to be the only ones that are multi-project systemic changes.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if US DOT pivots to make faster or new intercity rail its favored program. It benefits many more congressional districts.

    2. A basic conceptual problem is that there is only one station in Downtown Everett and the next station is almost 4 miles away! Unless Everett comes up with a plan to add infill stations, no one is going to be on it for local trips no matter where it goes — because no local trip can be made on it.

    3. The type of surface running is a huge factor as well.

      The situation Link has along ML King seems particularly bad, as the track is encased in the road surface, allowing vehicles to wander onto the tracks. MAX only does this in downtown Portland, on one-way streets with low speed traffic. Areas on higher speed streets with median running (E Burnside, SE Holgate) have much more substantial separation of road traffic and light rail tracks. It takes a couple more feet of real estate, but seems worth it.

      NE Holladay has the tracks next to a single lane one way street, with most traffic taking either Lloyd or Multnomah. With most auto traffic diverted to other streets, the chances for collisions are drastically reduced.

      Everett strikes me as a place that could very easily have a NE Halladay situation. There are a number of really wide streets running parallel, and only some of that capacity is really being used.

      Ballard is more challenging. There just aren’t that many wide streets, let alone unnecessary wide streets that could have two lanes removed and nobody would notice. Maybe something like the Yamhill / Morrison couplet could be built instead?

      1. Glenn, I also like the Halladay idea for Everett, and I think it could work in Ballard using Russell which is four narrow lanes wide between 20th and Market. A center platform it might work there.

        I’m suggest having the tracks on the west side of the street south of 20th with a one-way northbound for cars. They tracks would transition to the east sidein the long diagonal intersection at 20th, and north of there cars would have the west side one way southbound. All cars would have a mandatory right turn at 20th from Russell.

        The tracks could descend into a cut and cover tunnel using the parking lots on the south side of Russell between Ione and Dock. The tunnel would follow 17th down to Leary, then turn east to as shallow a station as possible under Leary between 15th and 14th for bus intercepts, re-development and TBM removal. It would then curve south and dive under the Ship Canal in the 14th Avenue right-of-way.

        There is a question whether four-car trains would fit between 20th Avenue and Market. It looks to be four hundred feet, but I haven’t measured it. Of course, most of us would like shorter, more frequent automated trains, but that would not be compatible with surface operation in a high-pedestrian environment.

      2. Tom, does your route save any real money if it tunnels under the ship canal?

        I know ST neglected to reach out to the CID until shortly before the hearing on the DEIS. Do you know if ST has reached out to the stakeholders and businesses along 20th, and whether they will tolerate the disruption from your plan (or even a tunnel under 20th?). I thought the DEIS only includes a station on 14th or 15th, with the station on 15th costing Ballard (or the subarea) several hundred million dollars extra. Will Harrell pledge city money for a station on 15th? I doubt it.

      3. Daniel, I would be super-happy with an opening bridge maybe ten feet higher than the Fifteenth Avenue span. However it seems that ST has scuttled any consideration for a non-fixed crossing.

        So far as the rest of it, I don’t have any idea if the ST planning team, who appeart to travel in Rolls-Royce Phantom luxury, would go for a cut and cover tunnel, even one four blocks long.

        I’m not someone they would listen to, so I’m content to suggest solid value-engineered solutions for specific problems,like the proposed station locations and construction methods.

        A refinement to this proposal would move the station and tunnel to the south half of the block between Leary and 51st east of 15th NW. ST would certainly like thatvtegineemen:g

      1. That is a very good article Troy. I enjoyed reading it. I don’t think the Pierce Co. subarea will have the funding to complete TDLE, so don’t know where Pierce — or really Tacoma — will get the funding to complete Link to downtown Tacoma, although I agree truncating at Tacoma Dome is not ideal, but that is where the ST 3 money ran out, and T-Link serves.

        I don’t see a ST 4 passing, so this would be Pierce Co. voting to create some kind of transportation improvement district to complete Link to Tacoma, or a SB5528 kind of levy, but if all of Pierce, or just most, are in the district the vote will fail, so the entire cost will fall on Tacoma which makes sense since Tacoma reaps all the benefits.

        Do you have any statistics on what an average property owner or taxpayer in Tacoma would pay to complete Link to downtown Tacoma if the rest of Pierce Co. were not part of the taxing district? That would be helpful information to determine whether even Tacoma residents would vote for such a large multi-billion-dollar tax. I am guessing Tacomee would be a no vote.

      2. On that regional rail system map, it looks like every light rail line shadows every regional freeway.

  6. The comment section says Old Ballard is the heart of Ballard, so that’s where the station should be. Why am I not seeing anyone say where the heart of downtown Everett is?

    1. At around 110,000 residents Everett is half as populous as Tacoma, almost 3X as populous as Ballard and Lynnwood, and 1.5 times more populous as West Seattle. So I would assume there is a center, or could be one in the future. Whether Link can create a center I don’t know. Build it and they will come, except most cities in ST 2 and 3 have said build the stations away from the city center.

      Population doesn’t correlate to density, and Everett, like Tacoma, is a distance away from any kind of secondary population center like WS and Ballard. So where are those Everett riders going on Link?

      There is also Everett’s demographic. How transit oriented are these folks? I don’t know enough about to SnoCo to comment on that.

      Al points out something I think goes to whether Link was intended as primarily intra-subarea transit or regional commuter transit. The stop spacing in Everett doesn’t appear to work for intra-Everett Link, and how many residents of Everett will take Link to Lynnwood or Shoreline? It’s almost like arguing Sounder S is intra-subarea rail because it stops in Sumner, Auburn and Kent, except that riders don’t use it for those intra-subarea trips.

      I think Lynnwood Link is more like Sounder S. including Everett. I just think that if ST 2 and 3 were about intra-subarea travel they would have more stations where residents work and live now, and not so many large park and rides.

      So my suggestion for a Link station in central or “old” Everett is I would think about land for a very large park and ride like the rest of the stations in Lynnwood Link.

      Which is what Sam is getting at in many fewer works. There is no center in Everett, and Link isn’t designed for intra-Everett travel anyway.

      1. Yeah, there’s less reason for light rail in Everett than Tacoma…. the Tacoma doesn’t need light rail whatsoever. Community Transit and Pierce Transit have both lost millions in revenue to Sound Transit for decades and both cities have barely functioning bus systems. But that doesn’t stop the “rail heads” from promoting even more worthless light rail.

      2. “how many residents of Everett will take Link to Lynnwood or Shoreline?”

        Whether they go to Lynnwood depends on the variety of destinations Lynnwood has downtown or on its nearby Swift lines. Or more precisely, what Lynnwood will have by then. Shoreline I’ll skip because it’s a small residential city on the way, so not a major target for Everett riders. A larger draw will be trips from Everett/Lynnwood to North Seattle. And even if Everettites per se won’t make a lot of trips to North Seattle, their ridership overlaps with people going between Lynnwood and North Seattle, Lynnwood and Everett, etc. That’s what a subway with stations in many neighborhoods can do that an express bus can’t: combine all those overlapping trips into one vehicle, that can also run more frequently because all those overlapping trips.

      3. “Al points out something I think goes to whether Link was intended as primarily intra-subarea transit or regional commuter transit. The stop spacing in Everett doesn’t appear to work for intra-Everett Link, and how many residents of Everett will take Link to Lynnwood or Shoreline?”

        What matters is the totality of the transit network, not just one mode or line. Link complements the existing and planned Swift network, Stride network, incrementally-improving Community Transit network, and whatever happens with intra-Everett transit.

        The City of Everett is in talks with its residents and Community Transit are in talks about possibly opting into CT someday, the way Renton joined the King County Library System and stopped running its own libraries. This would amount to a net tax increase for Everett residents, more bus service, and routes better integrated with the rest of Snohomish County. It’s still just a future possibility, but it might happen in the 18+ years before Everett Link opens.

      4. there’s less reason for light rail in Everett than Tacoma…. Tacoma doesn’t need light rail whatsoever.

        Yeah, I agree. It is unfortunate, and why I feel a bit silly arguing with Stephen about where we should put the station in Everett. Maybe its just because I don’t like transit centers :)

        Seriously though, I don’t think there is any way to make Everett Link work. It is just too small, too spread out, and too far away from Seattle. Boeing is a significant employment center, which only confuses things. The problem is that Boeing (and the surrounding plants) are spread out — you can’t walk from a potential station to most of the jobs. So you are running buses anyway — might as well run them from Lynnwood and Everett. In general there just aren’t enough stations between Lynnwood and Everett to possibly work, and yet for someone going between bigger destinations (downtown Everett and Seattle) it takes a long time. It has the same basic flaw as Tacoma-Dome Link: It doesn’t work for getting to Seattle, nor does is serve the city very well at all.

        Like most of Link, the problem is lack of stops. But even if they added a bunch of stops, you’ve basically replicated Swift Blue, which isn’t saying much. Swift Blue peaked at about 6,000 riders a weekday — very good for Community Transit, but nowhere near the point where transitioning to rail makes sense. Not when you consider the very large distance it travels. Everett Link won’t be that good, either (as it will have a lot fewer stops, avoiding many of the best destinations of Swift Blue). But again, even if you spent a bunch more money (with a lot more stops) I don’t think you can build a system where rail makes sense. There just aren’t enough people making trips along the way, and buses make way more sense for long distance trips.

        There is a reason why what we are building is basically unheard of outside the United States. They don’t send the metro so far outside the city. If they do run trains, they leverage tracks that have been there for decades (instead of building very expensive new lines next to the freeway). If the U. S. is the only place doing something transit related (and it hasn’t been especially successful) then chances are, we are doing it wrong.

    2. “Why am I not seeing anyone say where the heart of downtown Everett is?”

      I did:

      “This puts it right in the middle of Everett’s most walkable streets like Broadway, Hewitt Avenue, and Colby Avenue.”

      That’s the heart of Everett as far as I can tell, even if I didn’t use that exact wording. Caveat: I’ve only been to Everett a few times, such as my North Everett Walk between Everett Station, the arena area, and north Colby Ave (a residential area north of downtown). And I’ve been on Swift there a few times, and ridden up in a car for events.

      Downtown Everett looks to me like maybe Ballard did during the 90s, with short walkable blocks, a variety of one-story buildings, and buildings right up to the sidewalk. The difference is that downtown Everett also has a couple department stores, an arena, and government institutions, as befits its role as the primary city in its county. So it has good bones to start from. Even though it has hugely underused them in the past half-century.

      1. Yeah, I would agree. While looking for historical buildings, I ran across some walking tours. There is a short one, and a long one. On each page they have maps, and largely confirm what you can see from walking around the area, or Google Maps. I think the long tour is especially interesting, as you can see buildings by era. It doesn’t list the more modern buildings, but there has been a fair amount of new additions in these areas. Stephen Fesler has a really nice write-up about future plans (with more cool maps):

    3. “How transit oriented are these folks?”

      How transit-oriented can they be when there’s so little transit? Most Everett Transit routes run every 45-60 minutes and end around 8pm. Everett opted out of Community Transit so it has only limited access to county-wide routes with a slightly greater frequency and span. The routes that exist are circuitous and probably don’t take you to your job or Fred Meyer or such.

      Improving transit and increasing ridership are a two-way interaction. One affects the other and vice-versa.

  7. With subarea equity, uniform tax rates, the cost of Link, and the distances involved between anything these issues were always going to arise as Link moved north and south of N KC. Look at TDLE: it terminates at Tacoma Dome, and still I am not sure Pierce can afford to complete TDLE (especially if it doesn’t cut capital and operations costs for Sounder S).

    Nathan’s solution to run surface rail and take two lanes of roads is one attempt to make Everett Link more useful with the money left after link gets to Everett. The point Ross made yesterday is we have spent a fortune running Link through nowhere to get somewhere.

    The two problems I see with Nathan’s solution are:

    1. Logistics. Not only is road capacity severely restricted for cars/trucks/freight/buses/emergency vehicles in a non-transit demographic it affects the entire grid and crossing streets. So like S Seattle it will be subject to traffic lights which makes it slow and frustrating when Everett is large and not very dense. That is a lot of lights and crossings in Everett between stops.

    2. Politics. This has two parts:

    First is the impossible fight to get cities — even more urban cities — to give up lanes for Link when no one in Everett thinks Link will be transformational, or worth two lanes. I don’t know how many Everett residents follow STB but my guess is not a lot. MAYBE 5% of trips in Everett will be on Link. Everett won’t give up two lanes for 5% (and doesn’t do it for buses).

    Two, Seattle Link is mostly underground, 100% north of CID to Northgate. Plus SnoCo has to pay $275 million for DSTT2 Everett will NEVER use. Putting surface Link in Everett like in S Seattle would be like putting up a huge banner at the Link station that says LOSER, when these smaller cities already have an inferiority complex with Seattle, and always suspected ST was all about Seattle (which is true).

    It is hard enough to convince cities — including Seattle — to put underground Link near the commercial core or most vibrant area. Put it on the surface and cities will shunt it to 405 or I-5 (or 14th) or nowhere and build large park and rides.

    Finally, Nathan’s concept is actually realistic given the money there is left over when Link actually gets to Everett, but ST will never give up on the plans and dreams it sold of underground Link and fancy stations, until the money truly runs out, and “realignments” don’t work in reality if project costs rise faster than ST tax revenue during any “extension”. Look at the station at 130th, WSBLE, or Stride.

    What I am waiting for is a revolt by 3 of the subareas over their contribution to DSTT2, which in many ways is more wasteful than TDLE and Everett Link
    (and won’t cost $2.2 billion). What will those Pierce, S KC and SnoCo Board members do when told DSTT2 will actually cost $4.2 billion and their projects may be delayed because of the debt ceiling like park and rides in E KC?

    1. “still I am not sure Pierce can afford to complete TDLE”

      You’re the only one. The most financially-uncertain parts of Link are Ballard-DSTT2 and Everett-Lynnwood. Tacoma Dome is not one of them. The biggest risk in TD/Federal Way is the viaduct span that has to be added in South King to compensate for unstable soil, but that’s also a relatively small thing.

      1. Mike, why do you think there is financial insecurity for DSTT2 if — as you still believe — it will cost $2.2 billion and the four other subareas will pay 1/2 (plus $168 million for CID N from “capturing” development revenue from replacing the city’s and county’s vacant and obsolete buildings)?

        My concern about TDLE comes from the subarea financial reports. Despite collecting ST tax revenue for many years Pierce has around $1.2 billion in banked subarea loans (for comparison E KC generates around $600 million/year in ST tax revenue).

        TDLE was estimated to cost $3.2 billion. It has been extended to 2035 but ST never changes project cost estimates based on project delay, even in a high inflation market. Based on other projects (WSBLE/130th station) and the delay I think actual cost will be much higher.

        Then Pierce still has to complete T-Link, over $1 billion in station and platform upgrades for Sounder S which has a 12% farebox recovery rate that must be subsidized, and around $350 million for parking garages in Sumner and Auburn.

        So I just don’t see the subarea revenue for Pierce to complete all those projects. Maybe if the garages and platform upgrades for Sounder S were scrapped Pierce might have $3.2 billion but I don’t see it based on past yearly ST tax revenue, and I think TDLE will end costing more than $3.2 billion.

        I never believed DSTT2 would cost $2.2 billion although I was relying on the opinions of others, or WSBLE would cost $6, $9, $12, $14, or even $15 billion (although ironically I thought the 130th station would cost the estimated cost after the outside consultant’s damning report, that the last estimate was so recent (2021), and ST had built several similar stations). Go figure.

        When I voiced my skepticism over the project cost estimates for WSBLE you stated I was the only one who thought that, although many thought it before me.

        I guess we won’t know until 2035. If Pierce’s banked loans rise to $3 billion over the next decade and project costs don’t rise then maybe I will believe like you do that Pierce will have the subarea revenue to complete all its projects.

        I admire the endless optimism you have for ST and Link and the future for transit. I think just by nature I am more skeptical than you are. Hopefully one day ST proves my skepticism wrong.

      2. TDLE will likely be fine because is that Pierce have been saving a lot of their money for said project and doesn’t have as many land expensive or costly land acquisitions as other projects. The one major challenge that can cause wrinkles in the project is finding indigenous artifacts and burial grounds during construction, but is only really for one small section that crosses near the Puyallup tribal lands. Alongside what Mike said about soil issues.

  8. Ben Schiendelman, cofounder of this blog and Seattle Subway, has publicly admitted on Reddit that he’s no longer willing to use public transit:

    A few weeks ago, I gave up. It’s too gross – open drug use, beer all over the floor, unhoused people sleeping – and it’s too unreliable, with the recent mess at Westlake, last year’s ridiculous service disruptions to replace platform tiles, and the perennial lack of accurate arrival information.

    I no longer use transit in the region. It’s not worth it to inconvenience myself for a goal of safe, reliable, fast options to get around that our local leaders clearly don’t share.

    1. I admire Ben’s honesty. It’s refreshing. Too often people aren’t honest about why they don’t take transit, or why they don’t take it more often.

      1. Actually transit advocates and supporters are much, much more dishonest. Does anybody on this blog really care about light rail in Everett on 2041? I mean really? Do any of us even live in Everett? And this project is 18 years away.

        Look around you Sam. The current bus system is awful. Homeless drug addicts fill public spaces like parks and libraries. There’s a real shortage of affordable housing. You think that getting our panties in wad over a rail project in a City we don’t live in that’s 18 years down the road solves any of today’s problems?

        Ben Schiendelman had a big time rail fetish (I think he’s over it now and moved on to obsessing about something else… and honestly who cares what Ben is wacko over now). Seattle Subway is a perfect example of delusions of grandeur…… so much internet wrangling, so little real life impact.

        If you really want to try to change the place where you live… I suggest projects that don’t take 30 years to have an impact. Fixing Metro, PT and CT would help people right now. Worrying about Everrett light rail? Not so much.

        Here’s a link for you.

      2. @tacomee

        I kind of get your point, but on the other hand that kind of angle also leads no one to care about transit projects besides making them car oriented which is how we’ve ended up with such bad transit projects in the first place.

        > You think that getting our panties in wad over a rail project in a City we don’t live in that’s 18 years down the road solves any of today’s problems?

        Just because we can’t solve a larger societal problem doesn’t mean we give up on working with what we have.

        I do agree there could be a bit more bus focus, but also currently this is when the most important rail decisions are being made so of course this is when to discuss it. We can’t go and talk about the SLU or say Everett station decisions a decade later when they’re already laying down the foundations

      3. It’s not that we don’t care about those other issues, it’s just that there’s already Nextdoor for ranting about all the other stuff nobody wants to address.

      4. Actually transit advocates and supporters are much, much more dishonest. Does anybody on this blog really care about light rail in Everett on 2041? I mean really?

        Yes, absolutely. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t waste time writing about it.

        Do any of us even live in Everett? And this project is 18 years away.

        So what? We are only supposed to care about places we live in? That is absurd? Why would even read the newspaper?

        The same thing goes for the fact that it will take 18 years. Again, so what. Future plans effect current thinking. It is my belief that Everett Link is delaying progress on transit that would be made if everyone just assumed that the trains wouldn’t go north of Lynnwood. If history has taught us anything, it is that we should be aware of future threats, and deal with them as soon as possible. People have been talking about Global Warming since the late 1980s. Now they are finally taking it seriously. The sooner we talk about the issues, the easier it is to change course.

      5. “Do any of us even live in Everett?”

        I may live in Everett one day if I get priced out of Seattle, as may any of the renters on this blog.

      6. 405 S between SE 8th and I-5 is not complete. This is by far the most congested part of the Eastside.

        In 2019 the WSDOT rep testified before the MI city council and said the improvements to this section of 405 (that would convert the dedicated HOV lane onto I-90 westbound into a general purpose lane southbound and add other lanes would end congestion on 405, even during peak times. I have my doubts, especially with the housing and population growth on 167 S.

        Even the pandemic didn’t alleviate congestion on 405 S. Improvements to the interchange with 167 helped some but there is just too much traffic for the number of lanes. At least 2 new lanes in each direction are needed.

        Ross doesn’t think Stride on this route will be as popular as north to Ballard. He may be right. This demographic — certainly south on 167 — needs trucks and tools. Which I guess only validates WSDOT’s plan to add as many lanes as possible and let the transit riders from Renton go to Seattle if that is where they are going.

        I do know from personal experience downtown Bellevue is many times more vibrant than downtown Seattle, which according to Talton has 44% of the foot traffic compared to April 2019. There just are not many good retail stores downtown. The only place in Seattle my wife and daughter will shop is U Village which does have retail density and vibrancy.

        You know things are not going well for downtown Seattle when Nike announces it is moving its flagship store to FACTORIA. Ouch. But folks from Renton tended to prefer the mall in Factoria over Bell Square. It sounds like the new mall in Factoria will higher end than the current mall, so that may result in more Renton residents going to downtown Seattle to shop, although that is a long bus ride for little retail density when Bell Square and Factoria — and every other place on the Eastside — have free parking.

      7. Oh YES! Now I remember the vote for expanding the lanes on I-405…

        Connecting Washington.

        When was that?

      8. WSDOT is funded by the Legislature, elected every two years. Sound Transit is a special-purpose agency, not elected by anybody. That’s why the Legislature has the power to appropriate funds and why Sound Transit must have a ballot measure.

      9. “And the legislature raised my taxes (including the gas tax in 2015/2016) …
        without allowing me to vote on it.”
        As someone who lives in Colorado currently, I can tell you really don’t want TABOR in WA as a system for tax implementation. Colorado has worse funding or severely underfunded for education, social services, etc than WA. It also hampers funding for things that should get funded in the end or shouls be dealt with by the state legislature than being done by a vote that may or may not go through.

  9. Several recent rail openings!

    Skyline in Honolulu is opening. It’s the first US automated rail line as traditional public transit and it has platform screen doors.

    Potomac Yard opened in Northern Virginia. It looks like a long walk out of the station. The new tech in the station is cool.

    1. Note that Honolulu opens June 30. Its opening date at groundbreaking was October 2020.

      Note that Potomac Yard opened in May 2023. It’s opening date at groundbreaking was April 2022.

      1. Regional Connector is a great project, reducing some trips from 2 transfers to 0. A lot of bang for the buck because it’s just a 1.7-mile tunnel that makes a big difference to the whole network. It’s the kind of downtown light rail tunnel that other American cities, like Portland and Dallas, desperately need.

      2. One feature of the LA Metro Regional Connector that I find interesting is the new level wye switch in the tunnel. It’s not ideal for operations (and the other wye is in the middle of an arterial intersection!) but that is a notable cost saving measure.

        Applying that to ST makes me wonder whether it is an option that should be considered for SODO, 4 Line on the East side or any future lines that tie into existing tracks for branching.

  10. I visited downtown Everett a couple of times, and the whole area feels really decaying. Much more so than downtown Seattle.

    1. If downtown Everett has more homelessness, people passed-out on sidewalks, open drug selling and drug use, permanently closed businesses, and private security guards on every block than downtown Seattle, that’s really saying something.

      1. When I was there last, there were no private security guards, but it was difficult to get around due to the number of blocked trails and sidewalks. As a general rule, the homeless seemed genuinely dangerous there too (wandering around punching walls, yelling death threats at others, etc) as opposed to just panhandling.

      2. My friend in north Lynnwood says downtown Everett is as bad or worse as downtown Seattle. I’ll make a trip up there soon to confirm how the Link station area is doing. It won’t be until next month due to other commitments.

        My sleep nurse got transferred from Swedish Cherry Hill to Swedish Edmonds, so I do zoom calls with her now. She says a lot of the in-person Edmonds clients are homeless or in similar situations.

        The thing to understand about Everett and Snohomish County is, there aren’t many high-paying jobs like there are in Seattle and Bellevue, just Boeing. 70% of Snohomans work in King County. Snohomish County is trying to bring that into balance by attracting jobs, so that residents can work in their own county, and secondary to increase the reverse-commute rate. That’s a lot of the motivation behind Everett Link, Stride 2, the Swift expansion, etc.

        In the 1970s most US inner cities were decaying due to suburban flight. Downtown Seattle in the 90s turned that around in a major way and became boutiquey. Everett tried to invest in its downtown multiple times but it never succeeded much. So it was lucky to have one or two department stores and kind of 1960s architecture. In the 2000s/2010s it had somewhat better luck with the arena and mixed-use density (e.g., a couple blocks around Hewitt & Colby). But at the same time a lot of downtown Everett still had a deteriorating feel. Everett has a larger share of what are sometimes called rednecks and white trash, people trying to make ends meet on working-class and modest service jobs. Then the pandemic threw more people on the street, and cheap fentanyl swooped in and decimated the vulnerable. So those are all factors in the Everett situation.

        By the way, my friend also says that during heat waves, downtown Everett is a good place to cool off because it’s on top of a hill with sea breezes all around. I’ll try that in the next heat wave.

      3. I haven’t been to downtown Everett in years, but in the past, it never felt like it was decaying, it just always felt like it was stuck in a different era. The downtown is like a time capsule for maybe the early to mid 1900’s? (Btw, Charles Colby, developer of the town along with Henry Hewitt, named the city after his teenage son, Everett Colby).

      4. “By the way, my friend also says that during heat waves, downtown Everett is a good place to cool off because it’s on top of a hill with sea breezes all around”

        The area up towards American Legion park may be better for that. The real downtown part of downtown Everett seems hot to me due to all the concrete and not much shade.

      5. I saw my friend today and she said there’s no tents in Everett, but it still has a big drug problem.

      6. When I was there many of the tents were hiding in the bushes just west of the hospital along the bluff. Most people probably don’t see them.

    2. Another thing about downtown Everett, the Everett Transit buses over there are a mess, with nearly every route zigging and zagging left a block, right a block, through Everett downtown, rather than simply passing through it in a straight line.

      1. As far as I can tell, there is exactly one spot where the zigging and zagging happens, with the 3 and 18 hopping over one block from Colby to Wetmore, and the 6 (I think) jotting over from Pacific to Wall.

        Of course, a cursory inspection of the area reveals that this is likely so there are more buses riding right past the Snohomish County Seat buildings, which include the court houses, the sheriff’s building, the Everett Municipal Court itself, etc. This is by far one of the biggest, if not the biggest, destination for the locals, and likely to be where there are stricter ADA support needs, etc. too.

        To be fair, the 6 does a weird loop to hit Pacific & Nassau, which might seem weird until one realizes that it does so in order to make it easier for people to reach the Providence Medical Center – Pacific campus. And the 18 does a loop all the way East before returning West to hit Everett Station – a cursory inspection of the map reveals that it does so in order to hit the Kaiser Permanente medical center.

        Ross, to your point about why non-locals should be circumspect about commenting, in some other thread: of course everyone is welcome to comment on issues outside their own location. I do it all the time, too. However, it is important to understand one’s limitations when doing so. If one looks at the downtown Everett transit map I posted above, it’s easy to think “man, what were they thinking, this is so much nonsense”. But transit isn’t about drawing pretty lines on a map. Transit is about serving the community’s needs. Everett, for better or worse, made the choice to serve its residents in very specific ways. It has decided that it not join the rest of SnoCo in being part of CT, and instead it runs the routes believed to benefit its residents. All of these, to me, feel like coverage routes which also hit specific locations (mostly medical and county seat buildings), which are likely the users of transit in Everett. Yes, this doesn’t serve Kirkland and Seattle visitors very well, but that’s the choice Everett made. So when those who don’t live there criticize without understanding the logic behind the decision, there’s a fair bit of unjustified arrogance coming through. This is what some of us here tend to object to. By all means, suggestions to improve are welcome, but not when they are not grounded in anything more than “the lines on the map ain’t straight boss”.

        asdf2, please do suggest a better way of structuring downtown Everett transit lines which preserve access to Kaiser, Providence-Pacific, and SnoCo County Seat buildings (or, better yet, increase it!) while also simplifying the routes and hitting other destinations which you think are not well served, and which take into account geography restrictions, such as having to work around the rail lines and I-5.

      2. A bus doesn’t have to pass right in front of a destination to serve it. We’re talking about a distance of 1-2 blocks in an area that is relatively flat and with good sidewalks.

        Enumerating specific destinations where officials imagine people wanting to go and bending and twisting bus routes accordingly is not the way to run a bus system. If you could survey a group of 1000 random households and get a log of all trips taken, medical facilities and government buildings are but a tiny fraction of all trips.

        The only reason systems like this gain traction is because they are not designed by people who actually need to ride them, but by people with cars imagining where other people want to go, and acting as though people with cars and people without have radically different transportation needs and visit radically different places.

        Granted this is hardly Everett Transit’s biggest problem – that would be the terrible frequency of its bus routes – but it’s a problem that is entirely preventable and fixable without a huge influx of new money.

      3. You are speaking in generalities, just as I am. You are assuming you know where people want to go, just as I am. We are just disagreeing in the details. I am, however, pointing out specific reasons why the system may be designed as it is – e.g. for people with disabilities or illness which makes that extra 2 blocks walk a serious inconvenience, which for you and me, as able-bodied people, it is not.

        The next step would be to get someone from ET speak on the topic. As the one who is against their approach, I think the task of contacting them for a statement should fall on you :)

      4. “If one looks at the downtown Everett transit map I posted above, it’s easy to think “man, what were they thinking, this is so much nonsense””

        Also: Everett Transit is supposed to serve Everett. Community Transit is supposed to be the one that zips through in straight lines going longer distances.

        Those straight lines is probably why ET exists.

      5. Community Transit was set up in the 1980s as a transit benefit district. Everett opted not to participate. It said it was because CT’s taxes are higher. In recent years it has also pointed to CT’s fares, saying Everett is lower-income and the higher fares would be a burden. But with the financial shocks since the 2008 recession, it’s finding it harder to keep the network running. And its rising population and density and public expectations are making a CT level of service more important. So Everett is considering joining CT now, but hasn’t committed yet.

        Because Everett doesn’t pay CT taxes, the 201/202 run express through Everett and only make a few stops to benefit Lynnwood/Marysville taxpayers. Swift Blue is a joint venture between Community Transit and Everett Transit, so ET pays CT for the part inside Everett.

    3. I usually get up to downtown Everett a few times a year. I very much recommend the Children’s Museum. Like all cities, Everett got hit hard by the pandemic, but seems to be doing fine. There is a mix of development, with some blocks transitioning rapidly to be more urban, while others remain in the past that Sam mentioned. But that is common around the country. It wasn’t too long ago that the Denny Regrade area (let alone South Lake Union) looked very much like Sam’s description. Cities transition in irregular ways and Everett is slowly transitioning for the better.

  11. The Legislature had an independent consultant go over the ‘business case’ for high-speed rail.

    They think the ridership numbers are a bit over-stated (and they were already too low to make sense).

    They think the capital costs will be much higher. Probably $70 billion vs the $24-$42 billion WSDOT had estimated.

    It’s improbable the Legislature would ever fund this even at the lower number. This makes the decision easier.

    1. The only way I see it being viable is the cost being split amongst BC, WA, OR, and probably the federal governments of the US & Canada providing supplemental funding to the project tho I would also like to see both governments do a similar thing for a Chicago to Montreal HSR via Detroit/Windsor – Toronto – Ottawa. At the end of the day, the PNW would greatly benefit from having faster and high quality rail corridor from Vancouver to Eugene.

    2. Not surprised at all, but there are some cheap improvements they can make to make bus service between Seattle and Portland more viable.

      For instance, around Lakewood/JBLM, the HOV lane suddenly turns into a regular unrestricted lane, leaving carpools and buses stuck slogging it out with the general traffic, which can get quite bad. This stretch should be restriped to provide a continuous HOV lane all the way from Seattle to Olympia.

      1. What would the estimated cost per rider trip be? Could fares cover the cost of construction and operations for HSR?

      2. If you believe WSDOT, fares would break even on HSR operations after 10-15 years. They would never make a meaningful dent on capital cost.

      3. Cart/Horse
        20 years before Germany developed its high speed rail system plan, they got a decent network of 125 mph trains on the existing network. These still act as feeders to the high speed network, and without them HSR wouldn’t pencil out there either.

        The TGV started between Paris and Lyon. Lyon is not some massive metropolis that demands it be the terminus of a high speed rail line. It’s a significant junction between conventional lines, so from there TGVs could drop onto conventional lines to a number of other cities. Paris-Lyon just drastically reduced the overall travel time. And it’s not like those conventional lines were slow. In the 1950s France demonstrated a conventional locomotive and coaches could safely operate at 205 mph on properly maintained track.

        The Shinkansen is well supported by a great network of local trains, and also has frequent stations. Some Shinkansen are through trains while others stop at intermediate stations. This results in far more ridership for the line than could be achieved by just endpoint stations, so though the line is quite expensive it moves enough people to be worth the price.

        What they are proposing would be like proposing Interstate 5 with exits only in Vancouver, Bellevue, Everett and Seattle, (so only major cities could use it) while the rest of the state still has mostly unpaved roads.

        As far as paying for itself goes, the airports and highways don’t do that so I’m not sure why any other modes should be expected to pay for themselves with everyone else getting a tax subsidy. The measure of being worthwhile should depend on total economic benefit.

      4. I mean we are stuck with a chicken and egg problem. As we never really invested in rail for decades, its either build out a regional trains network first that may take a long time to do or the HSR first and build momentum off of that and still take a long time to do the other part. Either way it’s going to be an expensive undertaking to do for WSDOT and ODOT regardless of which method you go with first.

    3. I see the most important trigger to build HSR is whether or not new large airports are needed — and whether HSR takes away enough demand to help. It won’t garner widespread support until faced with this tradeoff of spending transportation project money.

      The ideal HSR distance is usually listed as 100-500 miles but the best is probably between 200-400 miles. The three places where HSR looks most likely are Orlando to Miami, Houston to Dallas, and Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga — all between 230 and 280 miles apart.

      From Downtown Seattle, Downtown Portland is 175 miles and Downtown Vancouver BC is 140 miles. With the shorter distances in mind, if the tracks can be upgraded to prevent freight train interruptions (double tracking) and allow for faster trains (say 125 mph) that’s probably the best cost/ benefit strategy for service. Bonus points for a SeaTac Airport station. I don’t think it’s that important to get between Seattle and Salem or Eugene.

      Battery propulsion would probably be fine too.

      1. AI S
        I think the thing is that it’s both replacing airplane traffic but also replacing car traffic as well. I had as an example family down in Eugene/Springfield who’d we visit multiple tines a year. The drive would take about 5 to 6 hours with rest stops and my mom hated Portland rush hour traffic through Happy Valley and Oregon City when she did it. If they had the option to take a fast train to Eugene it’d cut the travel time in half or more but also would be a more comfortable experience as they wouldn’t need to bring everything but the kitchen sink when travelling, don’t need to focus on driving, able to stretch legs without a rest stop, etc. There is also the fact that a fast train line with an hourly frequency from Eugene to Vancouver, BC for example would mean people could make many different trip pairs for different reasons. Ranging from pleasure travel for the weekend, day trips to visit family or go to an event like a concert or festival, and same day or overnight business trips. That is often something I saw with many folks when traveling around Italy on the Frecciarossa.

      2. Zach, I would agree that HSR is great for reducing car trips. However, I don’t think that building HSR would generate the obvious investment tradeoff that avoiding building three new airports would. I’m talking about generating the political force to fund the project.

        I guess that if traffic ever got bad enough on the entire journey that it led to significant delays it would be impactful enough to generate a political case for funding HSR — but there are still long stretches of I-5 that move at the speed limit.

      3. I don’t see HSR having a meaningful impact in air travel demand, as most flights are to places too far away for HSR to serve. Flights from Seattle to Portland and Vancouver combined amount to around one flight per hour. All departures from SeaTac together adds up to about one flight every minute or two. And HSR wouldn’t be able to replace all flights between these cities anyway; a lot of the short haul air travel demand is people making connections to another plane to fly a longer distance.

        Similarly, from the perspective of car travel, even if the HSR itself is well ridden, whatever highway space the train fills up will simply get filled up by induced demand.

        What HSR will do, however – if it is well ridden – is induce people to travel back and forth between Seattle and Portland more often than they would otherwise. This applies to both vacation trips and work trips. For example, imagine you live in Portland and get a job offer in downtown Seattle that requires commuting in once a week. Maybe today, you either move to Seattle or simply decline the job if you don’t want to move. But, if HSR existed, taking the job, staying put, and riding the train an hour and a half each way once a week starts to look like a viable option.

        So, in the aggregate, HSR does indeed have a positive impact on the region, but the impact takes the form of economic development, boosting the tourism industry and making it easier for businesses to hire workers on a semi-remote basis. But, it will not meaningfully reduce the numbers of cars on the road not the number of planes in the air, and, consequently, won’t help in reducing carbon emissions to prevent climate change. If anything, building the line will result in increased carbon emissions, both due to the construction itself and loss of forest to make room for it, even if the operation of the line is ultimately powered by renewably generated electricity (although, in the 40 years or so it would take before an HSR line planned today to actually open, the cars it competes will likely also be powered by electricity, and maybe even the short haul airplanes).

        So, the benefit of HSR, which is strictly economic development – not the environment or climate change, needs to be weighed against the economic costs to construct it. For instance, a project that adds $1 billion/year to the region’s economy but costs $1 billion is probably worth it, but if the same benefit costs $100 billion to build, it’s probably not worth it. I don’t know what the estimates are for the economic value that HSR would actually add to the Seattle region, but back of the envelope guesses say a cost of $100 billion would be too high.

        It is better to focus on cheap improvements to the highway system to allow *buses* going back and forth between the cities to not get stuck in traffic, as well as carpools. Just restripe the inner lane on I-5 near the JBLM as HOV or HOT and call it good.

      4. Al, those pairs are good, but I think you’re missing a huge opportunity in the Midwest Cluster. If higher speed trains on currently surplus lines from Cincinatti/Dayton and Louisville merging at Indianapolis, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Carbondale through Champaign, and the “Lincoln Service” ran through Union Station out the Milwaukee West line to Bensenville Yard where a stub into O’Hare was created, a large number of short hops could be diverted. There is already a branch of the O’Hare train which ends at the west side of a parking lot that the UP passes directly to the east. It would be very easy to extend the AirTrain a few hundred meters. The Milwaukee West is devoid of freight trains east of the UP/CP junction just east of Bensenville and it’s owned by Metra,and it’s triple-tracked throughout. There’s plenty of capacity for higher-speed trains with some signal improvements. A flyover would be necessary at the crossing of the UP West tracks.

        It’s probably also possible to run trains from Green Bay and Milwaukee direct to O’Hare using the CP’s connection to Bensenville. Another possibility would be Madison, Janesville, Beloit, Rockford, Elgin to O’Hare and on to Chicago. If the CP is upgraded to the junction south of Beloit, it makes sense to continue west to Sabula and south to Davenport. Access to O’Hare then becomes quick, easy and relatively cheap for people around the compass.

      5. There are some good higher speed projects too, like Acela and Chicago to St Louis (in development), Tom. I guess I could have referenced those too but I listed the three in the news lately along with California HSR.

        I am more bullish on the Chicago hub projects than I am the Cascadia corridor. The Midwest is just set up better for HSR (or less fast passenger rail) projects. Illinois is the second flattest state in the Union after Florida, for example. Plus the property lines tend to be straight lines, and the ag land value has kept lots of farmland from being carved up. Chicago has a very large number of corridors with multiple tracks all the arrive into the central area. There is a ring of large metro areas all with at least about 1M per city like Chicago to Indianapolis to Cincinnati to Dayton to Columbus to Cleveland to Pittsburgh or Buffalo — along with smaller metros (of over 100K) in between. That enables many city travel pairs.

      6. The problem is that the costs are high with so many mountains require extraordinary amounts of tunneling while the benefits are just moderate given the million pop size of these 3 cities.

        If they really want intercity rail I think only a slower speed allowing for more curvy tracks and possibly less tunneling would make it feasible. Though I don’t really know if there is some sweet spot of less tunneling versus speed

  12. My friend said the 512 was full this morning at Ash Way and she couldn’t get on, so she had to wait for the next one. So the bus had filled up in Everett. Then at Northgate the Link platform was so full that she took the 20 to the U-District instead. So a lot of people in Snohomish County and North Seattle took transit to the Pride march today.

  13. In regard to the percentage of Snohomish County residents that work within the county as discussed above, the numbers cited are not supported by 2020 Census Bureau data. The bureau has a tool on their website to analyze this sort of thing that some of you may be familiar with. It’s very useful and can be utilized in a number of ways. The following data was pulled using said tool to give a general idea of the inflow and outflow of the labor force in the county…

    Selection Area: Snohomish County, WA
    Inflow/Outflow Job Counts (All Jobs)
    Count (Share)

    Employed in the Selection Area- 279,264 (100.0%)
    Employed in the Selection Area but Living Outside-
    108,713 (38.9%)
    Employed and Living in the Selection Area-
    170,551 (61.1%)*

    *This is the “In-Area Employment Efficiency” ratio.

    Living in the Selection Area-
    379,827 (100.0%)
    Living in the Selection Area but Employed Outside-
    209,276 (55.1%)
    Living and Employed in the Selection Area-
    170,551 (44.9%)**

    **This is the “In-Area Labor Force Efficiency” ratio.

    Breaking this data down further….

    Selection Area Labor Market Size (All Jobs)
    Count (Share)

    Employed in the Selection Area- 279,264 (100.0%)
    Living in the Selection Area-
    379,827 (136.0%)
    Net Job Inflow (+) or Outflow (-) -100,563

    A. Outflow Job Characteristics (All Jobs)
    Count (Share)

    External Jobs Filled by Residents- 209,276 (100.0%)
    Workers Aged 29 or younger-
    39,920 (19.1%)
    Workers Aged 30 to 54-
    122,883 (58.7%)
    Workers Aged 55 or older-
    46,473 (22.2%)
    Workers Earning $1,250 per month or less-
    34,789 (16.6%)
    Workers Earning $1,251 to $3,333 per month-
    42,557 (20.3%)
    Workers Earning More than $3,333 per month-
    131,930 (63.0%)
    Workers in the “Goods Producing” Industry Class-
    33,051 (15.8%)
    Workers in the “Trade, Transportation, and Utilities” Industry Class-
    45,050 (21.5%)
    Workers in the “All Other Services” Industry Class-
    131,175 (62.7%)

    B. Inflow Job Characteristics (All Jobs)
    Count (Share)

    Internal Jobs Filled by Outside Workers- 108,713 (100.0%)
    Workers Aged 29 or younger-
    23,401 (21.5%)
    Workers Aged 30 to 54-
    57,662 (53.0%)
    Workers Aged 55 or older-
    27,650 (25.4%)
    Workers Earning $1,250 per month or less-
    21,459 (19.7%)
    Workers Earning $1,251 to $3,333 per month-
    25,563 (23.5%)
    Workers Earning More than $3,333 per month-
    61,691 (56.7%)
    Workers in the “Goods Producing” Industry Class-
    30,309 (27.9%)
    Workers in the “Trade, Transportation, and Utilities” Industry Class-
    24,346 (22.4%)
    Workers in the “All Other Services” Industry Class-
    54,058 (49.7%)

    C. Interior Flow Job Characteristics (All Jobs)
    Count (Share)

    Internal Jobs Filled by Residents- 170,551 (100.0%)
    Workers Aged 29 or younger-
    34,615 (20.3%)
    Workers Aged 30 to 54-
    92,743 (54.4%)
    Workers Aged 55 or older-
    43,193 (25.3%)
    Workers Earning $1,250 per month or less-
    33,909 (19.9%)
    Workers Earning $1,251 to $3,333 per month-
    44,706 (26.2%)
    Workers Earning More than $3,333 per month-
    91,936 (53.9%)
    Workers in the “Goods Producing” Industry Class-
    53,698 (31.5%)
    Workers in the “Trade, Transportation, and Utilities” Industry Class-
    26,654 (15.6%)
    Workers in the “All Other Services” Industry Class-
    90,199 (52.9%)

    Hopefully the data presented here formatted correctly so it can be read easily enough. Additionally, here’s a link to the bureau’s site should you wish to run an analysis of some sort for another area.

      1. Snohomish County’s workforce looks like this as far as where folks travel to for their jobs:

        All Counties-
        379,827 (100.0%)

        King County, WA-
        171,733 (45.2%)

        Snohomish County, WA-
        170,551 (44.9%)

        Other counties account for the remaining ~10% of the SnoCo workforce.

        (Just for comparison to what we see for Pierce County.)

      2. As you get more granular you can see how distance plays a big part. 35% of the Everett residents commute to King County. In contrast, 56% of Lynnwood residents commute to King County. Similarly, 34% of Tacoma residents work in King County, while 50% of the people in Fife do.

    1. Yeah it’s a pretty nifty little tool. :)

      For example, I had no idea that so many workers from Pierce County have jobs located way up here in Snohomish County….

      Jobs Counts by Counties Where Workers are Employed – All Jobs
      Count (Share)

      All Counties-
      374,245 (100.0%)
      Pierce County, WA-
      188,936 (50.5%)
      King County, WA-
      133,604 (35.7%)
      Thurston County, WA-
      12,786 (3.4%)
      Snohomish County, WA-
      12,691 (3.4%)
      Kitsap County, WA-
      5,540 (1.5%)
      Clark County, WA-
      2,796 (0.7%)
      Spokane County, WA-
      2,591 (0.7%)
      Yakima County, WA-
      1,321 (0.4%)
      Lewis County, WA-
      1,231 (0.3%)
      Whatcom County, WA-
      1,141 (0.3%)
      All Other Locations-
      11,608 (3.1%)

    2. Yes, it is a great tool — I’ve used it for a while now. The only thing I wish it had was a way to link to the data. I find myself giving people instructions instead of linking, or trying to copy data that is much more interesting to look at on the site. There are a bunch of different ways to look at the data. You can select particular areas by name, or by drawing a polygon. You can then see which cities/towns they work in (you aren’t limited to just counties). There are a ton of different options.

      1. I agree. I too have been tinkering around with this tool for a while now, doing some analysis here locally as well as some other metro areas around the country. Yeah, it’s too bad that you can’t actually link to the output for an analysis that you run. Perhaps that will become an improvement we see in the future (and some IT/contract folks for the bureau are already addressing the issue as we speak).

        I kept the two analyses I addressed here fairly simple for the purpose of responding to some earlier claims which I knew were inaccurate at first glance (based on my previous knowledge). But yes, you are absolutely correct; one can certainly get very granular output using the tool if so desired. I’m glad to hear that you, and perhaps some others here, have played around with this very useful feature of the site.

    1. The residents who live there are angry at how ugly and disjointed the development in Redmond is. I got an earful in a Redmond bar recently. I have to agree.

      The retail is awful for a fairly affluent city of 80,000. The council has zero taste. The development in Redmond would be tacky in Auburn. The residents think the development — not so much the density — makes Redmond look crass and low brow among Eastside cities, like many of the UGA’s in Seattle.

      So many on this blog and housing progressives/urbanists believe architecture, style and design are irrelevant if density is increased, no matter how cheap and tacky the development. That might make sense in many of the lower income multi-family neighborhoods in Seattle but Residents of Redmond think the city could have done so much better.

      I agree. Redmond is a very beautiful natural area with some nice SFH neighborhoods, although very remote, but the commercial and multi-family development is cheap and tacky which is why there is so little retail density or vibrancy. For comparison Kirkland has the same population and Issaquah has 35,000 citizens. Factoria has more retail vibrancy.

      The old time Residents of Redmond remember when Redmond was a remote, quirky, natural city. Really rural. Like Sam says, this is progress and time for them to move on. No one on the Eastside thinks of Redmond as a destination city. Crummy retail with low brow development.

      Too bad Redmond didn’t hire the planners for Totem Lake. Housing density never creates retail vibrancy, and I don’t see Redmond ever being a destination city. East Link won’t do anything for Redmond because who would choose Redmond for a night out on the Eastside, and eastsiders don’t take transit for discretionary retail trips.

      Hopefully the council’s developer friends make a killing.

      1. “So many on this blog and housing progressives/urbanists believe architecture, style and design are irrelevant if density is increased, no matter how cheap and tacky the development. ”

        Funny but I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone here giving blanket endorsements to unattractive buildings. I’ve advocated several times for more appealing architecture and against brutalism as recent a several days ago. Maybe you’re confusing STB with another blog? Or maybe you don’t see us as individuals?

      2. A history lesson on the “why we don’t build “beautiful” buildings anymore” from Adam Something, an Hungarian youtuber who talks about urbanism topics
        tl;dr of the video
        1. Changing tastes in architecture by architects and general public
        2. Cost to build housing makes it harder to spend on ornamental aspects of a building. Especially in public housing projects.
        3. Move from the idea that housing is a place to live to a commodity doesn’t really incentivize developers to build “beautiful” buildings.
        4. Car centered areas sabatoge architectural beauty compared to one that is pedestrian focused

        I’ll also add that housing architecture goes through cycles of criticism and appreciation, the NYC brownstones or Vancouver Special were derided in their day for being “ugly” pieces of architecture by contemporaries. Whereas now they are considered part of the fabric of the city’s architectural history. Some modern designs will be probably generally disliked forever like the McMansion architecture. Other modern architectural designs will not.

      3. The existing development has car ports and surface parking. The new development will move the parking underground and have public space.

        From the map provided, it appears there isn’t a single plant of any type in the existing space, except for what is growing between pavement cracks.

        So many suburbanites/sprawl advocates believe public space, pedestrian access and urban plant life are irrelevant so long as vast acres of unappealing parking pavement are maintained they deem any attempt to replace such vast acres of concrete with something else as “ugly” or “tacky” while completely ignoring the unappealing nature of the existing structures.

      4. I don’t get out to Redmond much, but when I have, it looked fine. Looking at the street view, it looks pretty good. It is rare that a newer development will look as nice as an old one (for the reasons Zach mentioned). As I see it, there are two keys to new development:

        1) Make it pedestrian friendly.
        2) Retain some of the old buildings.

        From what I can tell, Redmond did a good job. It is definitely moving in the right direction. I don’t think the lack of interesting buildings matters much at all.

        Consider South Lake Union. I think most of the architecture is boring. In contrast, the Cascade neighborhood seems to have all of the interesting buildings. Does it matter? Not really. South Lake Union remains bustling, and the big issues have nothing to do with the aesthetic quality of the buildings. It is more about the freeway and Mercer, which divide the neighborhood from other neighborhoods (and the lake itself). It is the ease with which people can get around without a car (on foot or on a bike). Like Redmond, there is progress in various fronts, but obstacles remain.

      5. Redmond is almost 18 square miles. Having 1 or even 2 square miles devoted to something besides single family detached homes or one story flat non-residential buildings with big parking lots does not ruin the town. It merely gives lots of choice to the kind of neighborhood someone can live in or shop in. Isn’t offering choice supposed to be a good thing to libertarian free-market supporters?

        A true libertarian conservative would even allow for Mercer Island to be ringed by shoreline condo towers similar to Alki!!

      6. I was not complaining about multi-family housing or density in Redmond. My complaint is the lack of planning and design review has failed to create an urban, walkable retail center, the whole point of density.

        Yes, Redmond is very large at 18 miles, but so are most eastside cities, all of which have multi-family housing. Redmond has the population to plan for and create a Totem Lake but instead has made the catastrophic mistake of thinking leaving it up to the developers will create density which will create any kind of retail density, by far the hardest thing to create. Totem Lake without the retail density is worthless. It never does. Redmond definitely had the bones for a Totem Lake or a real vibrant urban center out of the 18 miles but it failed, and to boot the designs are cheap looking, and spread throughout the city as each developer found a deal on a piece of property and then worked to get it upzoned.

        It was A Joy who pointed out the golden rule: density begins at the center and works its way out, if you want true density and retail density. You don’t start at the perimeter hoping to infill the gaps back to the center because it never happens.

        To Zach’s point, a McMansion is not objectionable because of the design. It is objectionable because the gross floor area of the house is too much for the lot (GFAR), called “massing”. In my experience massing and out of scale McMansions begin at around 50% GFAR (Seattle is 50% as a “compromise” in the 2017 upzone that allows three dwellings per each SFH lot but now allows McMansions too), Bellevue 45%, and MI 40%, reduced from 45% in the 2017 code rewrite). Still, this is a SFH house with yard setbacks and a height limit usually between 30′ and 35′.

        By contrast the proposed project in Sam’s Link is 8 stories, with zero yard setbacks really. So depending on interior green spaces we are looking at a GFAR between 700% and 800%. Now that is massing.

        Granted this kind of massing or scale is required for many multi-family buildings in very urban areas, which is why design becomes so critical to break up the massing. This can include facade modulation, daylight planing in which the facade is farther back the higher it goes, vegetation requirements, and many other tricks to try and reduce massing, which is usually helped by an attractive design, not one that screams out the developer was only in it for the buck. Usually the best tool to ameliorate massing is reducing height and requiring some kind of setbacks.

        The issue for Redmond is its whole raison d’etre is Microsoft. It was always a remote rural area. It struggles retail wise because it is at the end of a very long line, whether East Link or 520. Eastsiders don’t go there if they don’t live there because why? They do go to Totem Lake even if they don’t live there, and it is very hard to create retail density simply by walk up customers. Look at U Village: probably more than 1/2 of the customers don’t live nearby but support the retail density and vibrancy for those who do live by.

        More than ever it is important to PLAN for any kind of walkable density or urbanism when you start with a large and rural area or city because developers will want to develop the cheaper outer property, but that disperses density, it doesn’t create it. The main reason there is any retail density or walkable multi-family housing on the HUGE and undense eastside is because the restrictions in the SFH zones condensed that retail and multi-family into an area that made it walkable (or at least drivable like Issaquah).

        Redmond’s council was just a bunch of small-town amateurs who thought they would make a buck off of development, which is fine if the development is planned and well thought out. It wasn’t like they were required to invent fire: there are plenty of existing areas from Totem Lake to downtown Kirkland to Old Front Street to Old Main Street they could have emulated. Instead it looks like they emulated Oak Harbor, which is why no eastsider takes a discretionary trip to Redmond even though it has 80,000 fairly affluent residents, and why even ST’s estimates 1300 daily riders (pre-pandemic), 1/3 of MI (exclusive of the bus intercept.).

      7. Even Disney changes its Disneyworld plans over time, and it’s owned by a single company with effectively carte blanche to build anything they want with an eye to micro-managing everything to keep tourists interested.

        Cities evolve with layers as does technology, job expectations, pastimes, causes of accidents and crime. Complaining about Redmond having a “lack” of planning is kind of an odd statement to me because any city has to routinely decide how much to regulate and not stifle investment or creativity over time. Sure they could have more specifically defined architectural styles (like no red bricks or flat roofs or awnings) but they chose not to.

        There are some people who complain that new residents simply don’t look like them or don’t have the same lifestyle, and will call a city ruined for those bigoted reasons. Could this be going on with your Redmond pals?

      8. Al, [liberal race-related statement]. Sometimes it is better to address the issue intellectually. Especially if we are TALKING ABOUT REDMOND. Jesus Christ. Only on this nutty blog is someone who complains about the planning and architecture in REDMOND a bigot.

        The point is folks WHO ACTUALLY LIVE IN REDMOND. and eastsiders WHO MIGHT ACTUALLY VISIT REDMOND AND SPEND MONEY THERE find it disappointing. This is a real problem if the city is at the very end of the line.

        My wife and I don’t go running around tearing our hair out because Redmond failed to create a vibrant retail core or the architecture is disappointing. Like you we don’t live there. We simply go to one of the better — and closer — Eastside cities to shop or dine.

        We don’t go to downtown Seattle anymore either, because your definition of change has meant crime and filth, but the Seattle Times did have a front page article about the plan Harrell will release tomorrow apparently to end public drug use and crime and revitalize downtown retail.

        Do my wife and I run around pulling our hair out because downtown Seattle is too unattractive to visit when we live in a city that is less white than Seattle and 3 miles away? Of course not. We move our business to the Eastside and shop and dine on the Eastside but not in Redmond because it’s disappointing and tacky development isn’t worth the extra drive. We wish Redmond and downtown Seattle were more attractive to visit, but I am sure the other cities love it.

        Is Harrell a bigot because he wants to change downtown Seattle? I don’t think so, but like Redmond I think it is too late because the competition is too tough, and it is as easy to drive to one city over another (especially when all Eastside cities have free parking).

      9. Ross and Mike, would you please care to comment on the sexism (in any direction) and whether it is appropriate or not for the blog?

        [Ed: No it is not. Moderating comments.]

      10. I hope I’m offensive.

        I work in customer service, I see it every day.
        I worked in an essential service during the pandemic.

        Was treated to the ‘raw underbelly’ of societal interaction.

        Oh, and if the phrase “Men are Pigs” causes a problem,
        It was a Tim Allen standup routine poking fun at that exact behavior.

        Feel free to ban me for my color commentary.

      11. @Daniel T

        “The residents who live there are angry at how ugly and disjointed the development in Redmond is. I got an earful in a Redmond bar recently. I have to agree.”

        But then….

        “We move our business to the Eastside and shop and dine on the Eastside but not in Redmond because it’s disappointing and tacky development isn’t worth the extra drive.”

        Hmmmm. I guess you went to said Redmond tavern begrudgingly then?

        As far as new residential, multifamily and mixed use construction is concerned, jurisdictions typically have codified their regulations to require developers’ compliance with various design standards in addition to the specified zone bulk regs, i.e., the “massing” to which you have referred elsewhere in this discussion. You may not agree with those standards for aesthetic (or other reasons) but I’m pretty sure these developments have gone through a proper review by the relevant planning departments. With that said, personally I find a lot of the new MF and mixed use construction I see around my area in SW SnoCo not to be terribly aesthetically pleasing as well. Still, I’d rather see this sort of building going on rather than more tents and encampments popping up throughout the area.

      12. My complaint is the lack of planning and design review has failed to create an urban, walkable retail center, the whole point of density.

        You could say the same thing about Paris, Venice or London. I mean the roads are ridiculous. No grid, narrow streets — many of which don’t go through. Shops are spread out everywhere — you can’t even find the mall. No design review, obviously. Napoleon tried to clean up Paris, now they are reversing much of what he did. What a hell-hole.

        Yeah, sorry, I don’t buy it. The idea that you need central planning to make a nice looking city is ridiculous. The idea that Redmond has no planning is also ridiculous. The city of Redmond preserved some of the remaining old buildings, while allowing growth around them. The zoning is very restrictive. They created various walking and biking paths though downtown. Of course there is a balancing act, since a lot of people like to drive there (which means there is plenty of parking, and many of the roads are wide). But you could say the same thing about the Champs-Élysées, which has 8 lanes of traffic (and is thus one of the most polluted parts of Paris). Fortunately, the mayor will transform the street into an “extraordinary garden” with a lot more trees, and half the cars. Eventually that sort of thing could (and hopefully will) happen in Redmond. Until then, things are evolving in a positive direction overall in Redmond, even if folks don’t like the loss of some older apartments (a reasonable complaint).

        Speaking of which, your comments on this development make no sense. You want to concentrate growth. You want strict zoning, so that the area develops “from the inside out”. OK, fine. Except that is *exactly* where this project is! This is the center of downtown Redmond. The project is the result, in part, of zoning that doesn’t allow this sort of growth in much of the city (or region). As the article clearly states, the project is also going under design review. Basically, this is exactly what you have been calling for! Furthermore, this will look remarkably like Totem Lake, an area that you feel is the pinnacle of urban form.

        When the dust settles, Redmond will be very similar to many modern suburban “town centers”. It will be reasonably walkable, although there will also be a ton of parking. It will be a mix, with a handful of old buildings, and otherwise a modern mall-like feel. Lots of chains (some upscale, some middle-class) with a handful of local, independent businesses. It will look remarkably like parts of Downtown Bellevue, South Lake Union, Downtown Kirkland, Totem Lake and Factoria (if they are so lucky). It won’t look like Downtown Tacoma, Pike Place or Pioneer Square simply because it doesn’t have the history of those places. The buildings just aren’t that old. But for a suburban downtown, it will be fine, and not very different than every other downtown center I mentioned.

      13. The point is folks WHO ACTUALLY LIVE IN REDMOND. and eastsiders WHO MIGHT ACTUALLY VISIT REDMOND AND SPEND MONEY THERE find it disappointing.

        Except you don’t live in Redmond. You have no source for this idea of yours. Can you cite a poll that shows that folks in Redmond are unhappy with the new downtown? No! We only have baseless claims from someone who doesn’t even live there.

        It isn’t the only claim you are making. You wrote that there is no design review. THIS IS FALSE. Holy cow, it says write on the article that Sam cited that the new building is going through design review. You claim that there is no planning, when clearly there is ( You claim that there are no walking or biking paths, and again, clearly there are ( You suggest that no one will use the Redmond Station, ignoring the fact that clearly there has been a lot of growth recently, and there is definitely more to come: You haven’t made the slightest effort to fact-check yourself, which is why many of your claims are false, and the rest have no evidence to support them.

        Basically your rambling comments on this matter consist of snobby criticism about a city’s development plan without any reasoning or evidence to support your negativity.

      14. Jim,

        It was the last line that triggered me, I guess: “That doesn’t let the Karens off the hook, but while shrill, they don’t display the same simian bluster, so they can be reasoned with more intellectually.”

        Calling women (or even some women) “shrill” seems very sexist to me, and has a particular history in perpetuating stereotypes against women, in particular women in positions of power, or trying to achieve such positions; YMMV, of course. Further, while I know that the term “Karen” is pretty popular in certain communities, I also find it unnecessary. Finally, “simian bluster” has its own bad connotations which are not just sexist but worse yet.

        I know that you meant well, and I think your broader point is reasonable.

      15. Tisgwm,

        “Hmmmm. I guess you went to said Redmond tavern begrudgingly then?”

        My wife and I had not been to Redmond in over 20 years. But she wanted to see a movie titled, “The Lost King”, about the search for the lost grave of Richard III and the removal of “Usurper” from his title. It was an excellent film, but not a block buster, and so the only theater still showing it was in Redmond.

        My wife and I figured there would be a cute area of shops and restaurants like Old Front St. or Old Main St. or downtown Kirkland or Totem Lakse or even Factoria where we usually go to see a movie (including Lincoln Sq N/S which I find too “vibrant”, and ideally a good Indian restaurant like in Issaquah or Bellevue.

        The reason we were in the bar is because we budgeted one hour to get from our house on the north end of MI to Redmond Mall because the movie started at 6 on Friday evening, so that meant I-90 east, 405 north, and 520 east, and the dreaded Redmond exit. It actually took 20 minutes, so we had 40 minutes to spare. We had planned to eat afterwards.

        The Mall is beyond disappointing. Old style with a huge surface parking lot surrounded by a few disparate shops, grotesque multi-family buildings my wife thought look like dog cages stacked seven high in yellow as though that was design, rather than the modern mall concept you find in CA or AZ or U Village (or future Northgate) with the parking surrounding the interior retail density. There was only one restaurant/bar, and we ended up having to order half baked potatoes covered in cheese. When I mentioned the lack of businesses in the mall and the surrounding multi-family buildings the folks in the bar got worked up.

        Afterwards we drove around looking for the area with the cute retail shops and restaurants. There isn’t one, even though Redmond has 80,000 residents (Issaquah has 35,000 and has a zillion restaurants). So my wife and I likely will never return to Redmond, which was the moral of my post. Will Redmond fail? No, but I doubt it will ever be a destination either with such bad design and retail, especially being so remote.

        “As far as new residential, multifamily and mixed-use construction is concerned, jurisdictions typically have codified their regulations to require developers’ compliance with various design standards in addition to the specified zone bulk regs, i.e., the “massing” to which you have referred elsewhere in this discussion. You may not agree with those standards for aesthetic (or other reasons) but I’m pretty sure these developments have gone through a proper review by the relevant planning departments”.

        That comment is axiomatic. Of course, Redmond has zoning codes, and a design process (which many on this blog want to prohibit by local cities or neighborhoods). And yes, I find Redmond’s zoning and design lacking, as do many if not most of the residents who actually live there.

        Probably my biggest complaint with Redmond is when starting with a mostly rural city with little multi-family or retail the best process is a master plan, like Totem Lake. Condense the retail, figure out parking, figure out transit, figure out scale, and condense, condense, condense. Otherwise you get Seattle, probably the worst urbanism I have ever seen. My wife and I prefer other eastside restaurants and movie theaters over Redmond, but she absolutely will not go into Seattle.

        “With that said, personally I find a lot of the new MF and mixed use construction I see around my area in SW SnoCo not to be terribly aesthetically pleasing as well. Still, I’d rather see this sort of building going on rather than more tents and encampments popping up throughout the area.”

        The question is why do you and I see so much disappointing design? I suppose in an area as poor as SnoCo I can maybe understand, but not Redmond. The taller and larger a building becomes the more massing it creates just form its scale, so the more important the design.

        The reason for the cheap design is developers want to do it on the cheap, and local councils and cities want the development revenue. But in the long run, with so much competition on the eastside, it works to a city’s detrmiment.

        The development in Sam’s link, and pretty much any new multi-family housing on the eastside, is not going to house the homeless. There may be affordability set asides, between 60% and 80% when the household AMI for Redmond is $107,341, so rents between $2146/mo (80% AMI) and $1610/mo. Not bad for new eastside construction, but not designed for the homeless living in tents, although developers sell a lot of this crap on the notion this development will remove folks from the street because there are a lot of naive folks who want to believe that.

      16. Ross, your comment is filled with misstatements.

        I never said I lived in Redmond. I said I was relying on comments I heard when in Redmond, and the comments Sam linked to, and my recent tour of Redmond.

        I never said there is no design review in Redmond. What a foolish statement (although you have posted before you support eliminating or restricting the local design process). I said I was disappointed in the zoning and design process compared to other cities like Totem Lake, and ideally I think Redmond should have started with a master plan for its town center. I also find it disappointing a relatively wealthy city like Seattle has probably some of the ugliest, utilitarian architecture in the U.S., but we can’t change that now, which is the point: these buildings will last 40 years. Get use to them.

        Where did I say there are no walking or biking paths in Redmond? Redmond is well known on the eastside for walking and bike paths. Pay attention to what others write before you respond: we are talking about regulated development like commercial, multi-family and retail in Redmond.

        I never said, “that no one will use the Redmond Station”. What a foolish straw man. The ridership estimates I gave for Redmond station ARE FROM ST. Pre-pandemic, which included Microsoft employees taking Link to its campus. 1300 estimated boardings/day, pre-pandemic, when MI was estimated at 3000 Island residents/day when Redmond has 3X the population. Both estimates post-pandemic are likely too high, certainly with Microsoft WFH and actually laying off employees.

        BTW when was the last time you were actually in Redmond? You make some crazy claims, like:

        “My complaint is the lack of planning and design review has failed to create an urban, walkable retail center, the whole point of density.

        “You could say the same thing about Paris, Venice or London. I mean the roads are ridiculous. No grid, narrow streets — many of which don’t go through. Shops are spread out everywhere — you can’t even find the mall. No design review, obviously. Napoleon tried to clean up Paris, now they are reversing much of what he did. What a hell-hole.”

        What in the world are you talking about? Anyone familiar with land use knows Paris is probably the world’s most regulated city when it comes to zoning and design. You can’t replace anything, which is why it looks like it did 100 years ago. Venice may be number two when it comes to restrictive zoning and design, which is why it looks like it did 100 years ago.

        London, in which I lived for a few years in the 1980’s, is a good comparison, because the development and design has not been as regulated, and IMO (having spent quite a bit of time in each city) much of the charm of London has been lost with the steel and glass development which you won’t find in Paris proper. You should actually visit both cities, and Venice too, and ask yourself why cities like Paris and Venice look pretty much like they did 100 years ago.

      17. On June 27, 2023 at 11:04 am, Daniel Thompson wrote:

        My complaint is the lack of planning and design review has failed to create an urban, walkable retail center, the whole point of density.

        On June 28, 2023 at 11:23 am, Daniel Thompson wrote:

        I never said there is no design review in Redmond.

        You say it isn’t walkable, but now admit there are a lot of walking paths. You claim that hardly anyone will use the station, then turn around and say that plenty will. You say that folks from Redmond dislike the projects, and yet no one from Redmond has actually said that. We only have hearsay from someone who contradicts himself regularly — in writing. When pressed, you admit that you aren’t from Redmond. In fact, you hadn’t been there in 20 years, and spent much of the time driving around (instead of actually walking through it). So why on earth should we care about your opinions on the area, given how little time you have spent there?

        You are basically all over the map with this. The one thing that has been consistent is your snobbery:

        The development in Redmond would be tacky in Auburn. The residents think the development — not so much the density — makes Redmond look crass and low brow among Eastside cities, like many of the UGA’s in Seattle.

        That is a direct quote, but feel free to say you never wrote it. Feel free to write that you never meant to denigrate Auburn, or Redmond, or low-income people.

      18. Ross, you are clutching at straws.

        A lack of planning does not mean an absence of planning. One only has to review Sam’s link to see the project is subject to a design review. SEPA requires a design review for this project. It is the underlying zoning and design process I felt was lacking. You should have known that. Did you even visit the link?

        I didn’t walk around Redmond because that is the point: there is nothing to walk around. We drove around looking for an area (other than the mall) to walk around. It isn’t like Issaquah’s town center that is quite large with huge parking lots and lots of retail but is not very walkable (except Old Front St). In Redmond there just is nothing retail wise to walk around in a city of 80,000 residents. My wife and I weren’t driving around at 8 pm looking for a hiking trail in Redmond.

        What do you mean “when pressed” I admitted I don’t live in Redmond. Here is the line from my original comment to Al’s comment: “Like you we don’t live there”. Is this statement difficult for you to understand? Is there a single member of this blog who doesn’t know I live on MI?

        No one was talking about nature walks when talking about “walkability”. Issaquah has more park acres per 1000 residents of any eastside city but that does not make the RETAIL in Issaquah walkable, which it isn’t except along Old Front Street. Surely you understand we were talking about walkable retail, right? Mount Si is walkable, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about regulated development which means zoning and usually a design process if not a SFH which is exempt from SEPA.

        I definitely meant to denigrate a lot of the new development in Redmond. That was the whole thesis of my post. And in Seattle. And anyone who has actually visited Auburn, or many areas in Pierce, or SnoCo, knows, the areas have a much lower AMI (you can actually look this up) and the development correspondingly is more utilitarian. You don’t need to tell folks in Auburn they make less money than folks in Redmond.

        I have also been involved in amending the zoning and design codes for town center development on MI, and have been critical of past construction under the old codes we amended (kind of). Many of the buildings were out of scale, had inadequate parking, inadequate retail, inadequate common or green spaces, inadequate affordable housing, failed to include facade modulation as height increased, and yet we are stuck with them for 50 years. I understand the developers are doing it for the money, which is why the city and council have the obligation to ensure the development is holistic, there is a PLAN, and the buildings are attractive, which is a requirement under SEPA, although SEPA leaves the design up to cities. Whether Paris or Redmond or MI.

        As I noted to Tisgwm, I can understand areas with a low AMI building lower cost and less attractive buildings. That is quite common. Same in the SFH zones. Houses in Median are not the same as on the same sized lot in Auburn (although generally built by folks who live in Auburn). But cities like Seattle, Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Totem Lake, and Redmond are not low AMI cities, and if some can zone and design an attractive multi-family mixed use project on the eastside like Totem Lake so can others, if they want.

        I wish folks on this blog would stop using terms like snobbery or bigot when discussing zoning and design, especially in wealthy eastside cities. IMO a city that has an AMI as high as Redmond (which is about median for the eastside) should demand more from development, first when it comes to planning so it is walkable and retail dense, and second attractive. It isn’t that hard to do. A lot of cities require very pretty designs and use a master plan so the development fits together. Only fools rely on developers to build a pretty and well-designed city. That isn’t their job. It is why cities have planning departments. It is why there is SEPA.

        If there is one point you make that is close to accurate it is you shouldn’t care what I think about Redmond. My option is to go to another city next time. I think the Redmond city council should care about what the residents of Redmond think.

        What I think is going on is many on this blog think any kind of increase in density is a benefit, no matter how ugly or how poorly it fits into the design of a city, and that basically describes Seattle’s zoning and recent development, which is mostly shlock. Or God forbid a SFH zone.

        But this project is replacing an existing commercial/housing development with new more expensive housing, which is gentrification which cities like Redmond like. I just think if a city like Redmond is going to increase the zoning it should have a master plan, and should require the developer to build an attractive design. If other cities can do it so can Redmond, and Seattle. If a city adds a tremendous amount of housing units but still have no retail core it failed to plan. I wish more Seattle progressives like you would demand the same of your city. Seattle has a very high AMI, Harrell is desperate to revitalize the city, and yet the city allows some of the ugliest designs in the region.

        So like Redmond, shoppers, diners and workers go someplace else, and then cities have to come up with one 7 goal revitalization design after another, and it is the residents of those cities, or downtown residents, who lose out because they live in dense housing with bad retail surrounding them, the definition of terrible planning and urbanism, IF one is willing to be honest with themselves about their city.

      19. The only thing I want to contribute to this downtown Redmond discussion that it doesn’t matter what downtown Redmond is like today. It’s an area that is experiencing so much growth and change that in ten years it will be a different place. If someone is skeptical about that, it’s a sign they may not know how much development is yet to come.

      20. All the more reason to PLAN Sam. However, I am a little skeptical Redmond’s future growth will be anywhere near its past growth, especially with employment at Microsoft actually declining and the ability to WFH. Redmond is all about its SFH zones. There are many better areas to live in multi-family housing than Redmond, especially if you don’t have to work at the Microsoft Campus. So much of this area’s planning is based on future population estimates that so far are not turning out to be accurate.

      21. Here’s Redmond’s comprehensive plan for inquiring minds. I’ve done a handful of commercial projects in Redmond (plus some high-rise work in DT Bellevue). Redmond does have very specific plans and in fact has very strict land-use regulations. I’ve ran into attempting to getting variances through on projects with limited success. They are by the book there.'s%20Comprehensive%20Plan%20provides%20a,our%20quality%20of%20life%20tomorrow.

      22. I think a lot of people when looking for an apartment in the future will consider downtown Redmond. Why? Apartments will be plentiful. Lower crime rate. Good schools. Near a Link station. Near a very large park, many trails, and a nearby lake. More restaurants, cafes, bars, etc., will follow the rise in the downtown area’s population, and will be within walking distance. It’s hard to think of another Link station area outside of Seattle that can match downtown Redmond in all those categories.

      23. “They are by the book there.”

        That’s my general understanding as well. (My spouse works for a residential/mixed use developer who has done several projects in Redmond over the years.)

        The suggestion that the city has no master plan framework is simply baseless.

        As far as design standards, those also seem to be quite established and defined in the city’s code:

      24. The only thing I want to contribute to this downtown Redmond discussion that it doesn’t matter what downtown Redmond is like today. It’s an area that is experiencing so much growth and change that in ten years it will be a different place. If someone is skeptical about that, it’s a sign they may not know how much development is yet to come.

        I agree. You can see that with the link I referenced earlier. There are a lot of projects in the pipeline.

        This includes the one you referenced, Sam. This is an interesting one that deserves a little more thought. They are tearing down a perfectly good apartment complex, and putting up a bigger apartment complex with more units and ground floor retail. There are definitely negative ramifications (displacement due to gentrification) but what is clear is that there is a huge demand for new housing and retail in the area. Otherwise it just wouldn’t make financial sense. Even old apartments are worth quite a bit, simply because they have plenty of units. It is generally the last to go. Retail collapsed with the pandemic; parking becomes worthless without retail; but people still have to live somewhere. To tear them down so that you can build even more apartments means that business is booming. It is simply a matter of time before that happens with pretty much all the property (that isn’t protected because it is historical).

    2. “East Link won’t do anything for Redmond”

      People will live in those apartments and will want to go outside downtown Redmond sometimes.

      1. “East Link won’t do anything for Redmond”

        “People will live in those apartments and will want to go outside downtown Redmond sometimes.”

        Pre-pandemic ST estimated 1300 daily boardings at the Redmond station in a city of 80,000. This included folks going to the Microsoft campus.

        Ideally a town center or retail mall like U Village or Bell Sq. or even downtown Seattle, or Issaquah, needs folks who don’t live there to visit and shop to vitalize the area and create retail density. This benefits the residents who do live there — like the 2300 new units near U Village — by providing them a much more vibrant retail experience than they would have if only they supported the local retail. This is even more critical if the overall area like East KC is pretty undense, and at its very best downtown Redmond is never going to have that great of housing density.

        Redmond has always struggled because it is at the end of the line, whether East Link or 520. Shoppers and diners have to pass more vibrant areas to get to Redmond (and to be fair Redmond’s prime purpose is a SFH zone). So Redmond’s retail already has a heavy burden in attracting folks to shop and dine there but who don’t live there.

        Redmond 20 years ago had a cute little town center. Not really walkable. I don’t know what happened to it. The mall is dead. Huge population gains when retail is dying at the same time suggests something is wrong with the planning and zoning. Anyone can see that so much of the multi-family housing has a cheap and utilitarian design, which doesn’t bother some like Ross but obviously does bother the residents of Redmond.

        Mike may be right, unfortunately: “People will live in those apartments and will want to go outside downtown Redmond sometimes.” Or all the time if there is anemic retail and restaurants where they live despite the housing density.

        The beauty of a Totem Lake if you want to live in multi-family on the eastside is you really don’t have to leave for good retail and restaurants, whether in a car or on a train. You can walk. My guess however is those trips from Redmond will be discretionary, which means folks will likely drive because parking on the eastside is free. Probably why, even pre-pandemic when factoring in Microsoft employees taking Link to the campus, ST only estimated 1300 daily boardings from the Redmond station (ST estimated 3000 daily Mercer Islanders sans the bus intercept boarding Link on MI which was fantastical) so my guess is Redmond will see around 600 actual boardings when Redmond and East Link open. That makes Everett Link look like a good deal, although to be fair in 2008 and 2016 it was the work commuter to Microsoft that validated Redmond Link. Redmond itself was just an afterthought, as it always has been for eastside shoppers and diners.

      2. “…needs folks who don’t live there to visit and shop to vitalize the area and create retail density.”

        Quite the opposite has been proven in many cases. Witness the collapse of downtown Seattle, because it’s mostly office space. The waterfront? Sure, it’s tourist money that keeps it going. Ballard? Fremont? People go there from all over but they’d look like downtown Seattle if not for the prosperity brought by those living close by.

        One of the reasons so many shopping malls have died is because far fewer people are willing to travel long distances to buy stuff.

        The same is happening here. Places with few residents are struggling.
        Rose Quarter has struggled for years to keep restaurants going because, without a game, nobody goes there. There’s no nearby residents to supply their customer base to keep the lights on for those who would go there from far away. Much of Downtown Vancouver, Washington is doing very well thanks to the large number of residential buildings close by. The dead areas are where office buildings dominate.

        If it were true that these areas primarily depended on people traveling long distances to them, they wouldn’t have died off when the offices went away.


    For those who are interested or not in denial here is Mayor Harrell’s most recent “blueprint” to “activate Downtown Seattle”.

    Harrell’s plan has 7 different “goal areas”. This might be a good subject for a new thread, in part because I think Link and transit depend on the success of this new plan. The biggest issue I see for Harrell’s plan is every other regional city is competing with Seattle for the same workers and customers and tourists, and they don’t need 7 goal plans to just make their city safe and clean to visit, let alone create retail vibrancy.

    Some of the goals are obvious: Number one is “Public safety”. Then in order:

    2. Downtown living

    3. Retail

    4. Downtown work (forcing commuters back to the office which is actually goal number one, or should be).

    5. Arts, culture and events

    6. Tourism and visitors

    7. Environmental improvements

    8. ‘Space Needle thinking’:

    “Finally, the reactivation plan includes several bigger-picture ideas for improving Downtown that the city is committed to exploring, but not necessarily implementing.

    “They include constructing the First Avenue streetcar to connect the existing streetcar lines and creating an arts and entertainment district along the route; building a year-round indoor/outdoor sports facility downtown; renovating Westlake Plaza with interactive art installations and year-round programming; building a new market dedicated to businesses run by Black, Indigenous and other people of color; and more.”

    I don’t quite understand what “that the city is committed to exploring, but not necessarily implementing” means, but it sounds a lot like Harrell.

    To say numbers 2-7 depend entirely on number 1 is saying the obvious.

    1. With return to the office, Harrell should be leading by example. The last I heard, when Harrell floated the idea of asking City of Seattle workers to come in at least two days a week, the unions and city workers balked. Has he made any progress on this front? If he won’t or can’t bring his workers back, he forfeits the right to encourage private businesses to bring theirs back.

      1. Sam, I am not sure Harrell has the building space for a return to work. Many of Seattle’s downtown buildings were old before the pandemic and near the end of their life cycle, with ancient systems. Shutting those buildings down for several years basically makes them obsolete and too difficult or expensive to restart. Imagine leaving your home vacant for 2-3 years. King Co. for example is giving its county employees the option of WFH or work at the Kent courthouse because its downtown Seattle buildings are permanently closed.

        However, when DSTT2 is built, with a station at CID N, the plan is that station will “capture” the development revenue in those city and county buildings that today are vacant and worthless except for the land less the demolition costs. I think the DEIS assumes $168 million will be recaptured from DSTT2 and CID N., which is the additional cost of the CID N station over just the CID station.

        2024 will be a critical year because many of the commercial loans for office buildings in cities across the U.S. — several trillion-dollars worth — must be refinanced at new interest rates, which of course will be higher, but also account for occupancy in the interest rate. So for Seattle or San Francisco, which is already seeing developers walking away from malls and high-end hotels, they have one year to turn 44% occupancy into 94% occupancy, when leases will continue to roll off.

        The main question I have for Harrell’s plan is even if he can restore public safety, and more importantly a perception of public safety across the region, can he return shoppers and diners and folks living downtown because I don’t see him returning the office worker/commuter. If he can’t then he can’t revitalize downtown retail, which means no one will go there, not unlike Redmond (which is a very nice place to live in a SFH zone, its main purpose, and those folks can always drive someplace else on the eastside to shop or dine).

      2. I haven’t been in Pacific Place Mall in a few years. A YouTuber made a walking video tour of the mall two weeks ago. I was a little shocked. I couldn’t believe how many businesses were permanently closed, and how empty the place was. He titled his video A Sad Abandoned Mall in Downtown Seattle. I wonder what the biggest reason is? Is it part of the dying mall trend? Does it have to do with the lack of office workers in Seattle over the last three years? Does it have to do with less people from surrounding areas wanting to travel to, and shop downtown? Some combination of those reasons? Something else?

      3. “I haven’t been in Pacific Place Mall in a few years. A YouTuber made a walking video tour of the mall two weeks ago. I was a little shocked. I couldn’t believe how many businesses were permanently closed, and how empty the place was.”

        I reported in January on what’s open in Pacific Place, Westlake Center, Pine Street, and a few blocks on 3rd. Pacific Place was half closed, mostly all on one side. I’m less sure about why.

      4. Yes, you did cover that. I guess I didn’t read the part in your post just how many Pacific Place shops were closed.

        Whatever happened to Westlake Center’s food court? I know it’s been gone for some years now, but I seem to remember back in the day that even if the rest of the mall wasn’t very busy, the food court always seemed like it did a good business.

      5. “Whatever happened to Westlake Center’s food court?”

        The owner closed it to replace it with Saks Fifth Avenue and the expanded monorail station. The first floor has a new Asean Streatery with 9 restaurants. The second floor has 5 restaurants.

    1. The city of London has had a congestion tax for some time. Fantastic for the rich and those who can write it off. Like HOT lanes. Or Uber. I fully support any program that allows the wealthy to avoid congestion from the poor. I wish I-90 were tolled. The good news is congestion is not a problem for downtown Seattle.

      The basis for the tax is to refund the MTA whose ridership is way down. Why is ridership down so far. Because riders are terrified of being killed or robbed or raped. If anyone thinks a congestion tax will cure that good luck.

      1. The city of London has had a congestion tax for some time. … The good news is congestion is not a problem for downtown Seattle.

        A lot of cities have implemented congestion taxes ( According to the studies, the effects have been largely positive (fewer asthma attacks, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced traffic accidents, and increased tax revenues).

        As far as Seattle goes, congestion is definitely a problem. You can see that with various buses, especially the 8. Performance is way down, below what it was in 2019 (before the pandemic). The “L8” is living up to its nickname. Folks on Twitter have commented about it as well. Remember, this is after the city added bus lanes to deal with the worst part of it. There are simply a lot more cars on the road in that part of downtown.

        One reason it would be difficult for Seattle to implement such a plan is that there is no natural border. To a certain extent Manhattan has the same problem, but only to the north. In every other direction, they simply apply the tax at the bridge (as we do with 520). But taxing cars as they cross Mercer? Denny? That is pretty messy. I suppose the ship canal is a natural place, as is the Duwamish. That simply leaves the southern end. I could see it working, but it would be messy. Durkan considered it; I have no idea what the study concluded. I don’t see Harrell doing it.

        I think they will just keep doing what they are doing, which is to keep adding bus lanes. This doesn’t really help freight, although now there is talk of allowing some freight in the BAT/Bus lanes. Ultimately, more bus lanes and better pedestrian/bike infrastructure will lead to a lot fewer automobile trips, but the transition can take a while.

      2. The London tolling also helped those who were not rich; bus flow improved significantly; bus riders were helped.

      3. RossB is correct about Seattle; congestion is a problem on arterials that feed I-5 interchanges: Mercer Street, Denny Way (Route 8) approaching the Yale Avenue southbound on ramp, the Seneca interchange congests Madison Street, James Street is congested. The SDOT PBL took lanes from 2nd and 4th avenues and Pike and Pine streets. Buses are stuck in congestion on those streets.

      4. I-5 is a very poorly designed interstate. Certain changes could improve capacity 20%-25% without increasing the number of lanes, which is not possible due to the insane decision to build the convention center over I-5, not only restricting lanes but creating a bottleneck and a dark tunnel area. Of course that traffic backs up into Seattle, even if the traffic in downtown Seattle today is mild.

        The other main issue is having entrances into the left-hand lanes or exits from the left-hand lanes. Cars should not be able to enter I-5 south at 45th and get over to 520, but the Roosevelt area and Montlake don’t want those cars rerouted through their neighborhoods. Same with the entrance from Mercer going N being able to merge four lanes to exit on 520 eastbound.

        405 south of SE 8th is very congested, but that is because it feeds 167 and has too few lanes, and Hwy 18 is worse. Converting I-90 to four lanes in each direction, pre-pandemic, eliminated a big bottleneck on MI and improved traffic flow considerably. Today with the reduced traffic across the lake I-90 is a breeze.

        WSDOT claims it is fixing 405. I wish it would fix I-5. It makes no sense to not fully realize the capacity of an interstate using the same amount of width.

      5. “The London tolling also helped those who were not rich; bus flow improved significantly; bus riders were helped.”

        Traffic congestion tolling generally improves mobility for the wealthy in cars, while forcing poorer citizens onto transit. The City of London is a bit unique because the percentage of wealth is quite high. Traffic congestion tolling gets the poor and middle class out of their cars, no doubt. Or like I-90 they choose a route that avoids the toll.

        The difference with buses in London and the MTA are:

        1. Buses in London are safe and generally clean. It isn’t just WFH that is driving down ridership on MTA; it is crime and safety, and those are deal breakers no matter how clean and pleasant the transit is. Every week it seems like we read a national story — because anything in NY goes national — about someone being killed, robbed or raped on the MTA.

        2. The MTA like many legacy transit systems spent the funds for future (now present) O&M on other things. Now the trains are old, dirty, covered in graffiti, smelly, and generally unpleasant, right when ridership plummeted. Hopefully the infrastructure bill allows the MTA to upgrade its train cars, although it looks like even then the MTA is looking at around a $3 billion deficit.

        In the end, whether it is Bart or Muni or the MTA, the only way to save these systems is for riders to return, not more and more general tax subsidies. If a city like NY or San Francisco pursues policies that make transit too unsafe or too dirty to use folks won’t use it. Period. People will pay a tax if their life depends upon it.

      6. “Today with the reduced traffic across the lake I-90 is a breeze.”

        As I type this reply at 1:55 on a Thursday afternoon, Google reports I-90 westbound solid across the entire bridge, and no, it’s not caused by an accident. Doesn’t sound like a breeze to me.

        The myth that the pandemic has permanently ended traffic congestion is simply not true.

      7. And also, to reply to this:

        “The basis for the tax is to refund the MTA whose ridership is way down. Why is ridership down so far. Because riders are terrified of being killed or robbed or raped. If anyone thinks a congestion tax will cure that good luck.”

        The crime factor is greatly exaggerated by the mainstream media because stories about out of control crime help sell subscriptions. But, in any case, putting more police officers in the subway costs money. Without new revenue, how is the MTA supposed to pay for it, other than by cutting bus and subway service?

        As to the real culprit for ridership drops, it’s not fear of crime, but remote work. And transit ridership is trending upward since the low point a couple years ago and has not stabilized yet.


        Here is a link to the WSDOT website and the real time cameras for I-90 between Seattle and Mercer Island. I don’t see any traffic congestion. There wasn’t traffic congestion across the I-90 bridge on any Thursday at 2 pm pre-pandemic unless there was a sporting event. The only congestion I see is the entrance onto I-5 southbound, but that is I-5, not I-90. Are you sure you are using Google correctly?

      9. “The myth that the pandemic has permanently ended traffic congestion is simply not true.”

        I should add no one is saying this, at least not me. In fact, I explained the reasons for the congestion on I-5 and 405. I-90 has more lanes, better design, serves fewer drivers than 405, and more of the users pre-pandemic can WFH. Even pre-pandemic traffic congestion was mostly a peak hour thing.

        The issue was a traffic congestion toll. Those are in place on 405 (HOT lanes) and 520 (toll for cost of construction). For a congestion toll to work you need lots of traffic, and few if any alternatives. I don’t think many roads or areas around here meet that today, certainly not downtown Seattle, and downtown Seattle is not The City of London when it comes to alternatives. 66% of pre-pandemic Seattle workers have found alternatives to driving to downtown Seattle. Which is good. Commuting to work has no benefit whatsoever.

        I posted a link to a good article examining The City of London’s congestion tax. One huge problem is the $700 million grant has expired, and the City got used to the revenue and the grant. Plus Uber and taxis are now skewing the results. The article discusses an alternative congestion tax Stockholm uses.

        Without a doubt the best thing for traffic congestion is WFH. The side effects are a loss of transit ridership and farebox recovery, and a reallocation of tax revenue from the urban job centers to where the workers live. MTA blew through $15 billion in Covid stimulus and still did not upgrade its systems or train cars.

        WFH is a huge systemic disruptor, and it will take many years for it to sort itself out. So is/was Uber, door dash, etc. Either the transit riders return, or levels of service are changed to reflect ridership and farebox recovery. A real problem in some cities to getting transit riders back is transit safety, or perceptions of safety which is just as valid for the potential rider, which makes it harder for employers to return workers to the office.

        There are a lot of headwinds for both transit and urban centers like downtown Seattle today. Adding a lack of safety doesn’t make solving the problems from WFH any easier. Harrell’s new 7 goal design to revitalize downtown Seattle recognizes tourists and returning work commuter are critical, which is why public safety is the number one goal. The cities that can do this sooner will do better in the long run because work and travel patterns can become entrenched and hard to change.


        Just thought I would give an update at 5:30 on traffic on I-90 from Seattle to MI and back. Zilch. At the same time, I am sure I could pull up 405 S. and find lots of congestion.

        Moral of the story: live along I-90, not 405, and light a fire under ST to complete Stride along 405 from Renton to Bothell because …. drum roll… that is where all the eastside congestion is, not along the 550 (East Link), and the cost was supposed to be reasonable, at least compared to Link, a fact Tisgwm pointed out well.

        Here we have a section of suburbia (405) that is ripe for transit, has extensive use of HOT lanes due to congestion, serves areas that have a lot of workers who can commute to work (Bellevue), existing roadways, WSDOT building dedicated transit lanes, and ST can’t even complete BRT.

        Whether Stride 1 or 2 will have the better ridership, can anyone think of a better use of transit dollars in suburbia than Stride 1 and 2, when ST is building $350 million of parking garages in Sumner, Auburn and Kent (which I understand although it makes no sense), in a subarea that can afford whatever it costs to get Stride up and running. Other subareas — according to ST — have funding issues. Not E KC. What can the excuse possibly be that Stride 1 and 2 are not open NOW.

      11. “Moral of the story: live along I-90, not 405, and light a fire under ST to complete Stride along 405 from Renton to Bothell because …. drum roll… that is where all the eastside congestion is”

        Transportation doesn’t work that way.

        The congestion on that section of 405 is caused by people from a wide assortment of destinations. Only a small amount of that congestion can be solved by a bus route parallel to the congestion, because the origin points are as far away as Tacoma and Bellingham.

        The service has to go well past the congestion points to even begin solving it.

  15. This is a bit old, but still relevant: Basically malls have been dying (or died) left and right. Many of the retailers have gone under. The only malls that survived reinvented themselves (like Northgate, U-Village, etc.). Pacific Place tried to basically give up and switch to offices, but then that fell through, as office space is dirt cheap now. It is basically a national phenomenon, and some are better suited than others to deal with it. Cities that are tech heavy (like Seattle and San Fransisco) are especially hard hit, as way fewer tech workers are commuting downtown anymore. (

    Like the pandemic itself, it has been a slow recovery. Is the pandemic over? Depends on who you ask. I don’t know if there is a way to jump-start the recovery, any more than there is a (feasible) way to end the pandemic completely. These things take time. It is quite possible that office work will never fully recover, which means that retail businesses surrounding offices will never recover. I don’t think that will mean the end of business districts, or in-person retail. It simply means they will be more diverse. Seattle is not as stratified as it used to be, as way more people live downtown. Trying to accelerate that transition is laudable, but difficult.

    Personally, I would focus on education. Seattle Public Schools has been begging for a downtown school for quite some time. Now is the time to build one. Build three, for that matter. Make it an all-city draw if you don’t have enough students nearby (although I think you do). But look to higher education as well. Pacific Tower (the old Marine Hospital) is a good model. Get the state involved. Downtown Seattle is pretty much the ideal location for a community college, simply because it is so convenient to so many people. Not only does this lead to more foot traffic in the area, but it leads to more businesses opening downtown.

    Crime as an issue is overrated, but perception matters. The only thing to fear is fear itself, and all that. Harrell is doing a good job in that regard. Expect more seemingly meaningless projects, followed by positive pronouncements. Downtown will recover either way, but it will recover faster when folks assume it is recovering quickly. The waterfront project helps — lucky timing, really. Harrell is talking a lot about downtown, and will take credit for its recovery regardless of what role he plays in it. Even if he is nothing more than a cheerleader, he deserves some credit.

    1. It may be worth noting:

      Pike Place Market is essentially a mall, but it’s a mall with unique items from local vendors. Nobody is driving from Everett to get something they can get from the JC Penny’s web site. They might for a one of a kind item from a local vendor.

      Unfortunately most malls push local vendors away, focusing on national chains.

      If you want to revitalize downtown Seattle, concentrate on companies that actually have an interest in Seattle. Trammell Crow And the like have 0 long term interest in the cities where they have development, and if short term profits means a bunch of hulking, unusable buildings after they’ve taken their profits, they will do so.

      1. Glenn, there is nothing unique in the goods Pike Place Market sells. They mostly come from the ground or sea hundreds or thousands of miles away. Certainly compared to the outlying counties where the “goods” were actually grown.

        What makes the PPM unique is it is an upscale faux farmers markets in a very urban area with a view of Puget Sound. . The salmon is “thrown” to you. MI has the same during the summer although it is incredibly lame as an actual farmer’s market. My wife is a foodie and would never shop at PPM even if it were safe. Every foody knows that.

        The reality is the key to the market, as a tourist attraction, is its collection of expensive and high end restaurants. Because it is a tourist attraction. There are at least half a dozen places to buy seafood in Seattle that are way better.

        The problem for Harrell is when hotel concierges above third tell customers to take Uber to PPM and don’t walk around outside the market. I have lived or worked in Seattle since 1959 and that is what the concierge told my wife and me last year.

        We like the market for an expensive dinner (pretty hard to get out with less than $150 each with wine and tip) because it had valet, or we take Uber. No sane eastsider takes transit to 3rd and Pike when the reality is today the restaurants on the Eastside are better. The tragedy is Norm Rice once saw a pedestrian mall from the Convention Center to PPM.

        Even the most naive tourist — especially from rural America on a cruise — thinks any of the food is grown or harvested anywhere near PPM. The seafood all comes from Alaska, and the majority of produce from good old right wing eastern Washington or rural western WA.

        What Harrell and his 7 goal revitalization plan is getting at is tourists like to walk around. They don’t like to feel like they are in a prison in PPM or their hotel, or N or S of 3rd. Only unsophisticated people buy their produce or seafood at the PPM. It is a tourist gem. That means complete safety. Not the best seafood or produce, none of which was grown or harvested anywhere near the PPM and is pretty much overpriced, unless you factor in the view and atmosphere. They can take Uber, but what a shame if they HAVE to take Uber because it is too dangerous to walk around.

        PPM is Disneyland. What is the number one selling point of Disneyland because folks have kids? Total safety. The seafood and produce at PPM are like a ride at Disneyland. Not real, but who cares if it is safe and exciting and urban. But without safety forget the rest.

      2. Glenn, there is nothing unique in the goods Pike Place Market sells.

        You are completely wrong, and if you even did a little bit of research, you would realize that. Please, for the love of God, do some research before writing. It is annoying to constantly correct you.


        220+ independently owned shops & restaurants, 160+ craftspeople, 70+ farmers

        One of the key things about the market is that not only does it have unique shops, but it is unusual in having so many different independent small shops all in one place. This is one of the key goals of the organization that runs it, the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA).

        Its founding law—the Market Charter—requires it to preserve, rehabilitate and protect the Market’s buildings; increase opportunities for farm and food retailing in the Market; incubate and support small and marginal businesses; and provide services for low-income people.

        Does that sound like a typical mall? Of course not. That was exactly the point Glenn made. It is worthwhile to have more places downtown where we can “incubate and support small and marginal businesses”, instead of a typical mall, which has nothing but large, multinational chain stores.

      3. I lived in Florence a couple years ago and one of our main public markets was Mercato Centrale. It was touristy for sure, but many of the shops were small independent businesses and many of them have local customers who come to them as they have a long standing relationship from being multi generational customers to locals who choose them for their better quality than the supermarket or sell unique or niche items. Like one of their vendors sells the real deal biscotti in multiple flavors and it was wonderful to have as it was the first time I had biscotti that wasn’t rock hard but still had a bit of crunch and bite. You also had a food hall upstairs with many little food vendors and famous local restaurants selling their dishes up to the locals, business people, and tourists alike.

        For many locals there also Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, which is much smaller than centrale but is very popular with locals for its fresh pasta and meats along with an open vintage and artisan goods market outside. It’s also a lot more laid back in that italian way compared to Centrale, alongside has a couple nice lunch spots inside.

        Pike Place Market for as touristy as it is still wouldn’t be here today with locals contributing to shopping there. I know many friends who go to Pike Place for Beecher’s because they’re the only cheesemonger that has cheese curds available without having to buy them from a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Which is something my Canadian friends in Seattle crave as they do miss their poutine from time to time.

        I think this thumbing of the nose at a public market for being touristy and not worth a foodies time is really silly when there’s many local or independent businesses within that sell many unique products or items. Am I going there intentionally for produce, fish, or meat, not really. I’m going for the other stuff inside instead that I can’t really find at chain stores or the supermarket. Being able to buy meat and produce there as well is honestly just a bonus.

  16. I think my experience on Link from SeaTac on Tuesday night needs to be mentioned because there are some terrible things that is going on with Link that needs to be mentioned.

    My plane was delayed and I got to the Link platform at 12:30 am to go northbound. I was going to get off the train at Columbia City.

    The electronic signage at the platform only said “Stadium 25” (minutes). Later on, the electronic signage announced arriving trains at “2,23” minutes.

    The published web schedules said that a Link train to Northgate until about 1 am. Note that ST now says that the last SeaTac train to Northgate leaves at 11:48 pm! Also note that there are 9 trains (!) after that at 15 minute intervals that head northbound but they all end at Stadium Station.

    Nowhere did the station visually advertise that the last train now leaves before midnight. No station announcements indicated that trains only went as far as Stadium either. The train driver did not announce that Stadium was the last stop until the train got to Rainier Beach.

    Luckily for me I still got to where I wanted. However there was an older couple wanting to go to Northgate and a female employee wanting to go home to near Capitol Hill. So here are tourists and employees that were misled by ST. No apologies in the announcements. No announcements that the schedule was reduced. And all of this happening late at night (keep in mind that as a major airport hub, SeaTac flights often end their day there and flights routinely arrive late like mine). 11:48 pm is also just too early for a “last train”.

    Clearly, this is horrible for riders. It shows negligence/ arrogance that ST staff can change hours of service and feels free to not inform or advise riders. It is particularly bad to do this at SeaTac, where this is where tourists first arrive and aren’t sure what to do.

    It’s pretty stunning and shameful on ST’s part. They could have easily handled this better. Suggestions include:

    1. They could have changed the electronic sign at beginning of the walk to the station to say that northbound trains just went to Stadium only.

    2. They could have broadcast the the service was not going further than Stadium.

    3. They could have planned a later train or two. That train could run on a single track (they did single track through TIBS and there was not explanation as to why made) as fewer trains would be on the tracks.

    4. They could have created a bus route that begins and heads north to meet Link trains at Stadium.

    I can’t blame riders here. ST changed the schedule and didn’t tell people using the system. Even if it was a permanent schedule change, they could have let riders know every night that they can’t use Link to get to Northgate until the next morning.

    Something this negligent/ arrogant deserves some discussion here. This is no way to operate urban rail! It’s a sure fire way to ruin an operator’s image among people actually riding the system. It even can permanently shift a regular rider to not wanting to get on a Link train ever again.

    1. Well, ST is too busy fixing Metro’s broken escalators to worry about things like updating their signs, it seems ;)

      That sounds pretty terrible, yeah. Glad that you were able to safely make it to where you needed to go, and hopefully so did the others you mentioned.

    2. Are there shuttle buses waiting for the trains that end at Stadium station after midnight to take riders further north, or do they have to wait for regular bus service?

      1. ST doesn’t appear to offer replacement service. It appears that Link riders just get kicked off at Stadium Station at any of the trains between 12:15 and 1:45 am and are left to figure it out.

      2. There appears to be overnight Metro buses on Routes 7/49 and Route 48 that could be available from Mt Baker Link. I can’t find a bus route that connects Northgate with Link though — but it’s not a bus trip I make.

        However, the bigger issue is just informing the riders. Somewhere someone needs to tell riders that they can’t get to their Link ststion on the 1 Line. I didn’t ride through Mt Baker so i don’t know if riders were told.

        I should mention that there were both a maintenance employee and a security employee on the SeaTac platform Tuesday night that offered no help or didn’t know what to tell hopeful riders.

      3. Informing riders seems like such a simple thing to do. I wonder why it often doesn’t get done?

    3. ST provides a footnote on the on line Link schedule:
      “King County Metro RapidRide E Line serves Stadium Station late nights at 12:38 a.m., 1:08 a.m., 2:08 a.m. and 2:54 a.m. for continuing northbound service to Downtown

      That implies some waiting, as the E Line provides fewer trips than Link.

      1. I think you are reading the schedule wrong, Al. The 3:45 AM time is for buses headed to downtown. Scroll down and it looks like every northbound bus starting at 12:41 makes a good connection. I asked Google maps to direct me from the station to Northgate, and it started by sending me on the E (with a transfer to the 40). Not great, obviously. For Capitol Hill and the U-District, the 49 appears to be the best bet, although sometimes the E followed by the 44 works.

        I think the biggest weakness is what eddie mentioned: Very low frequency on these core routes starting relatively early. I get why buses at 3:00 AM aren’t going to run often (if at all), but midnight seems a bit early to see such major reductions in frequency. Then again, with a driver shortage, it is not too surprising.

        Of course Link could also extend service a bit longer. Maintaining a rail system is costly though, which is why few agencies run all night long. I think the best solution is better information, as well as improved early night-owl service (if and when they can find the drivers). This would be nice for folks who work late hours, as well as the folks out and about then.

      2. Ah now I see, Ross. I read the southbound schedule and you read the northbound schedule.

        And why does it go to Stadium on Sunday but not Saturday? Is the schedule a misprint?

        And how do people going to Northgate or UW or Cap Hill use RapidRide E from Stadium? I’d think that using Mt Baker would be better since it’s direct to UW and Capitol shill but it still seems to leave Northgate without a direct bus connection..

        One thing that would help us for St to hand out brochures after 11 pm at SeaTac explaining how these bus connections work. ST just expects riders to figure it out — even if they are tourists or incidental users.

    4. I’m confused why Stadium is the northern terminus for these short-run trains. I can get Beacon Hill since the O&M facility is just past it, but if they’re already at Stadium, why not keep going?

      1. Just a guess, but it’s probably tunnel related. Tunnel staff probably don’t work the overnight hours. Station access gates are probably closed and locked. So trains can’t go through the tunnel.

      2. I think that ST wants to close the DSTT stations as well as the ones north of it early. That’s my hunch. Of course, these are also the busiest stations in the system!

        I could get closing some of them early — but leaving others open a bit longer seems more than reasonable. If late night trains only stopped at Westlake, U District, Northgate and maybe Cap Hill it would be great! Even just having Westlake as the only station opened a bit later would be a huge improvement.

        Alternatively, ST could just have a bus meet every train at Stadium and run limited stop to most or all of the stations north of there. Traffic is quite light late at night.

        Still, that’s only half of the issue. The other half is not telling riders what is going on. That’s truly the most shameful part that could be addressed literally tomorrow. It points to a transit agency not serving its riders well and instead focused on its own internal staff dynamics.

      3. Knowing ST, that probably is the case (this was the agency that thought it should cut Link to 30 minute headways during COVID, while Metro ran buses with only minimal cuts), but even if it cost $10,000 per night to keep the stations open an extra 2 hours—which seems inconceivably high—it still adds up to about $100m over 30 years. There’s far worse things to spend that money on that apparently are sacrosanct, like parking garages.

      4. I noticed that the last train northbound arrives at Westlake at 12:22 am while the last train southbound arrives at 12:44 am. So it looks like if the next train just went as far as Westlake it would arrive at 12:37 am or 7 minutes before the last southbound train.

        Granted it would not have helped the riders on the train I rode, but it seems to me that a few more trains could at least get to Westlake without significantly changing the station closing time.

      5. My guess is has something to do with with the rail infrastructure. Late at night, the trains from the north go all the way to Angle Lake, while the trains from the south end after Stadium. Maybe there is a turnback between Stadium and CID (for trains heading north). The driver lets everyone off, pulls ahead, reverses direction, then “parks” it for the night. I’m not sure if that can be done in the tunnel.

        You could simply keep running the trains longer into the evening, but that give ST less time to work on the tracks. Our system is long. It is almost 40 kilometers. It is longer than the Copenhagen and Budapest Metros (which carry a lot more people). Thus we are maintaining an expensive system that doesn’t get that many riders. The longer you run into the night, the more expensive it is to do the maintenance work, as you squeeze more work into a tiny amount of time. You also increase the odds of having to do work in the daytime, with outages, or partial outages, as we’ve experienced recently (which are much worse than ending a bit after midnight).

        It would be nice to run later, but it may not be realistic. I see two things they could improve upon though:

        1) Better information. The schedule is pretty clear, but it isn’t clear if you are just taking a train (as Al found out). They should have announcements, as well as clear information on the reader boards (and I realize they are still trying to get the kinks out of the system with the reader boards). Stadium Station should have really easy to read, clear information (with reader boards telling folks when buses will be arriving). I realize a lot of people just use their phones, but this sort of thing can make life a lot more pleasant.

        2) Better late night bus network. It is somewhat of an awkward time, as 12:30 in the morning (when the train from SeaTac arrives at Stadium) is not really “owl” service as far as Metro is concerned. But it is a time when Metro dramatically cuts back frequency. At noon, Link runs every 10 minutes, while the E runs every 7.5 minutes. This reverses itself late at night. Link runs every 15 minute right until it closes. At about the same time, the E starts running every half hour. There are other buses, but they do the same sort of thing. Obviously the driver shortage makes dealing with this problem difficult if not impossible (for now).

        These two go together. Ideally it would be obvious to a late night rider what to do. Complicating matters is that the bus network is not well suited for this task. Different buses serve the various stations, and they don’t all go to Stadium. The earlier suggestion of simply having an ST bus mimic Link may be the best bet. Or some sort of mix. Have the local buses serve downtown, Capitol Hill and the UW, but have ST connect to Roosevelt, Northgate (and future stations to the north). These are close to the freeway, which make them relatively easy to serve.

        There are a number of different options. One thing that is clear though, is that there simply isn’t much service late at night. Never mind the handful of people who ride the train at that hour — there are a lot of people out and about who have very infrequent service. This could certainly be improved (and would definitely make sense as part of Harrell’s desire to improve downtown) but doing so takes drivers (we don’t have). Link ending at Stadium only complicates things.

      6. “12:30 in the morning (when the train from SeaTac arrives at Stadium) is not really “owl” service as far as Metro is concerned.”

        It is now. Metro redefined night owl from 2am to midnight or maybe earlier. That way it can list several routes as night owl without adding service. Although there is more night owl service than there used to be; e.g., on the A, E, H, 65, 67, 160, and 161.

      7. Or, could trains be secured at the Northgate tail track and service would run through?

    5. Link has been single-tracking after late evenings for several days this month for maintenance; so that could be related. Normally single-tracking means less-frequent trains, but the net result could be shutting down early.

  17. Hopefully this becomes a separate thread…

    Seattle Subway’s editorial in the Stranger this morning:

    While I certainly agree with their outrage, the editorial completely ignores the financial and engineering realities that ST faces — along with the fact that these decisions are coming about with a remarkable lack of data (as described in the Urbanist about Everett Link here:

    I like how the Urbanist describes the decisions are based primarily on”vibes” due to a lack of data.

    Anyway, I appreciate the criticism of Seattle Subway but the solution they propose appears to be unrealistic to me. The only thing worse that bad planning is actually starting construction in things without a solid and affordable design in place. Keep in mind that FTA funds will require guarantees of full project funding from all sources as well as justifiable data on ridership/ benefit and costs that will be expected.

    1. I thought Ben Broesamle had stopped using transit.

      Al is right in his assessment.

      I felt SS’s “article” was juvenile and simplistic for a publication. If you get one shot in an actual publication write like the serious folks write. Don’t play to your base if your major complaint is your base has no political clout. Sound serious and sober, cite facts, be realistic, understand WHY ST is making these decisions.

      “What’s driving these proposed changes? As far as we can tell, it comes from a deep desire to get your name written on buildings, keep consultant pals employed, help out developer friends in need, and to defer to Amazon whenever possible. The crazy thing is that our own city leadership is quietly standing by as our transit expansion is gutted and delayed within the city, harming generations of future transit riders throughout the region.”

      That is just such a naive and politically unsophisticated comment in a publication I don’t know what to say. Does SS think comments like this will sway the board or Harrell, or will cause transit riders to take up arms to storm board meetings. Does SS (whom I assume all live in Seattle) actually think Harrell cares about ST or transit? What in the world would make them think this if Harrell does not even attend Board meetings?

      So what is “the better way”.

      “It’s time for the Sound Transit board to choose from the existing options created from nearly seven years of process and community engagement. More self-inflicted delays are unacceptable on their own, but these are costly, self-inflicted delays with an end goal of justifying bad decisions.”

      What does this mean? What “existing” options? Which subarea are they talking about? Everett? The suspension bridge for FWLE? Sounder S? The plinths for East Link? ST 3 was written on a napkin in 2016. CID N is part of the DEIS. Midtown I don’t think is. Is SS suggesting going back to surface rail in Ballard? Or building the station on 14th? Or what in Everett?

      When SS writes:

      ” Don’t let the current Sound Transit board permanently destroy our transit system out of short-sighted priorities. Join us in demanding they stop wasting time and money on endless process, choose from existing options, and stop the new EIS before it starts.”

      doesn’t it realize “options” means what is affordable, even if the stakeholders are on board? What “transit system” do they mean?

      Allowing SS to take the one shot at this is a huge disservice to all transit advocates. I can think of a dozen folks on this blog who could have written a much better article. Instead now folks like Harrell and Constantine lump in some serious voices on this blog with this silly article.

      These ARE the existing options. Huge stakeholders like Amazon are not going to lie down for SS, and Harrell does not read the Stranger or even attend Board meetings. (My God, SS released a regional subway system pla including under Lake Washington that would cost at least $1 TRILLION, of other people’s money of course). Harrell is trying to get Ben back on transit by making the city safe and clean.

      I’ve said this a thousand times: this day was always coming. The pandemic accelerated it and exacerbated it. ST promised projects and tunnels and underground stations through huge undense areas it could never afford to deliver, let alone afford to operate.

      The “options” in 2016 were not real, both because of money, and stakeholder objections when Harrell is so compromised because he is desperate to revitalize downtown which generated 2/3 of Seattle’s tax revenue.

      The real option is the one TT offers: for ST to put down its tools and finish what can be finished, and that does not include WSBLE. The 2008 and 2016 assumptions were fantastical, and the pandemic has created a new normal. So stop and wait to see if anything changes. I wonder what SS will write when they find out there isn’t the money to even get to Ballard among the “options”, or DSTT2 will cost twice the 2016 estimated cost of $2.2 billion. Then what will they demand? A light rail tunnel from Seattle to Woodinville?

      1. Different Ben, DT.

        While the mayor may not give a rats behind about transit advocates, he should fear the Ballad Alliance, some of whose members brought you the never ending Missing Link litigation. They also literally and figuratively bullied Mike O:Brien out of a city council seat. They aren’t afraid to litigate and throw some hands .

      2. “Different Ben, DT.

        “While the mayor may not give a rats behind about transit advocates, he should fear the Ballad Alliance, some of whose members brought you the never ending Missing Link litigation. They also literally and figuratively bullied Mike O:Brien out of a city council seat. They aren’t afraid to litigate and throw some hands .”

        My mistake. I thought I read one of the Ben’s founded STB and SS and thought this was the same Ben. I take neighborhood activists with lawyers a lot more seriously. Queen Anne has also shown a willingness to litigate — over zoning changes — for a very long time.,in%20the%20Washington%20Division%20I%20Court%20of%20Appeals. I take it the missing link litigation went to the court of appeals. How did it end?

        What I find interesting but not surprising is the Ballard Coalition was opposed to the bike trail.

        I probably shouldn’t say Harrell doesn’t “care” about transit. Spotts is transit oriented. Harrell has such big issues on his plate he is just focused on his biggest customers (DSA, Amazon, etc.). A lot of progressives don’t understand how expensive Seattle is to run, and downtown generated 2/3 of that tax revenue. Tourists and work commuters are cash cows with no social costs.

        What does the Ballard Alliance want out of ST Link? A station on 14th, a station on 15th that ST claims will cost over $100 million extra, or a station on 20th which will include the business owners as stakeholders? My guess is Ballard always wanted Link underground, especially if Roosevelt got Link underground. Lots of times a neighborhood organization burns itself out with years of litigation against the city. Of course, sometimes a city is extra wary of starting a fight again.

        I think ST will come to Ballard — if it can afford to get there, it is kind of like Ross’s point: ST is spending so much getting Link to Everett through nothingness that when it gets there it is out of cash for Everett — and say we wish we could give you the moon. If this is like the missing link and you just want us to go away and leave you alone great. If you want an underground station on 15th let alone 20th we all have problems: money.

        It is much easier to sue to stop a city or agency from doing SOMETHING (the porcupine defense). Much harder to sue to make them DO something. Especially if their defense is they don’t have the money to do that something.

      3. “Huge stakeholders like Amazon are not going to lie down for SS”

        This comment just about sums everything up.

        Basically –
        little stakeholders, “Know Your Place

    2. Anyway, I appreciate the criticism of Seattle Subway but the solution they propose appears to be unrealistic to me. The only thing worse that bad planning is actually starting construction in things without a solid and affordable design in place.

      I agree. The “just build it” mentality is what got us into this mess in the first place. Seattle Subway believes that the new board somehow created a mess out of a really good plan, when it is more or less the same board, and the old plan was terrible. It is as if Seattle Subway is saying that it is OK to make lots of little negative changes (to a plan that was very poor to begin with) but Good God, man, don’t call for a new EIS!

      Seattle Subway really has it backwards. They really should start over. Not with a new (or modified) set of plans based on the old one, but start from scratch. Do we really need West Seattle Link, or would improvements to the bridge (and buses) be better? Do we really need a second tunnel so close to the first one (adding nothing in terms of coverage)? Should we go back to the drawing board with Ballard, since it appears the original option — chosen primarily because it was cheap — really isn’t that cheap? If you are going to end up tunneling anyway, then why in the hell are you tunneling to 14th and 15th, instead of 20th?

      Those are all plans in the city, while plans outside the city are obviously a mess. Tacoma Dome Link is turning out to be way more expensive than planned, while a BRT Line that would provide a lot more benefit to Tacoma riders is being watered down because of lack of funds. Everett Link just looks terrible, and now (perhaps) destructive. They haven’t even started the planning for Issaquah Link, but it sure looks like a huge waste. There is just so much that is wrong with ST3, and they are really struggling with the one piece that looked pretty good (Ballard Link). Finish the construction that has started, add the infill stations, and go back to the drawing board.

    3. What a terrible piece. The first paragraph is fundamentally a lie. The second is a series of Stranger-friendly ad hominems. (Cue the cliched Amazon-hating !) There is no particular interest in analyzing the deficiencies in early planning and cost management that contributed much of the current dysfunction.

  18. Ballard Alliance wants a tunnel and don’t support the 14th st. Stop bot the original proposal of 15th. IIRC. I am unsure if they supporta 20th street option, but given their experience of EIS and the like, my guess is they want something faster (and don’t f##$ with Shilshole.)

  19. For the past two days in the PM peak at Roosevelt, the next-arrival display has said the next southbound train wouldn’t come for over twenty minutes, when it’s supposed to run every 8 minutes. When it happened yesterday I took a bus instead (73+49). Today it said 22 minutes, so I went to Whole Foods for a salad, and when I came back it still said 22 minutes, so I took a bus again (67+49). I don’t know whether the sign was accurate but there’s nothing to check it against, and I didn’t want to wait twenty minutes or risk waiting longer than that.

    1. Couldn’t you check One Bus Away or Pantograph to see when the next train is coming if you doubt the accuracy of the station’s next train display sign?

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