On Thursday northern Link at noon was standing room only with half the aisles filled. And I regularly see a dozen or more people getting on each train and another dozen getting off at Capitol Hill in the afternoons. This made me think Link has quietly reached a European level of ridership in the northern half in the daytime at least.

ST has been testing the next-train displays the past few weeks . They’ve been accurate for me except in two cases. In the PM peak at Roosevelt Wednesday and Thursday, it said the next southbound train was over 20 minutes away, at a time when they’re supposed to be running every 8 minutes. On Thursday I checked the display, then went to Whole Foods and came back, and the display again said the next train was in 22 minutes. Sometimes when this happens a train shows up in a few minutes anyway, and other times it doesn’t. I didn’t wait to see whether it would; I took a bus instead. So I don’t know whether the display has an afternoon fever or there’s really a gap in the trains.

The Westlake station platforms have two new video screens showing the weather, Husky sports ads, and the baseball tournament schedule.

Seattle Subway has a commentary in the Stranger arguing not to move or delete CID, Midtown, or SLU stations.

Future-proofing a transit system. (RMTransit video) The UW station stub is featured at 4:07.

This is an open thread.

253 Replies to “Open Thread 10”

  1. Sound Transit has posted its monthly ridership statistics for May 2023.


    Note that the weekday ridership on Link has appeared to plateau when compared to April 2033 or April 2022. It can’t seem to reach 80K average weekday.

    I had expected a bump since more employers want to see faces in the office more frequently.

    I can’t point to factors but I wanted to call attention to this. It could vary because of sporting events, schedule changes (note the late night problems in the prior thread), ride quality, increased emphasis on enforcement, broken escalators or something else.

    When I looked at the station boardings, it looks more disappointing in the part of the line below Beacon Hill, and the Northgate Extension ridership looks pretty healthy,

    Any ideas as to why Link can’t grow its ridership, especially when it’s lower south of Downtown?

    1. Compared to north Seattle, southeast Seattle has a lower population, less density, fewer destinations that non-residents can go to, and barriers east and west that block four-direction travel. South King County has nothing comparable to the U-District, Northgate, Lynnwood, Capitol Hill, or Roosevelt on the line. The airport is a large draw but not as many have shifted from cars and taxis as could have or that other airports probably get. In the 39 minutes it takes to get from Westlake to SeaTac, going north you’d be already to Alderwood or Ash Way. Link won’t be a fast alternative for trips to Kent. So the south end has a lot of built-in factors that will keep ridership lower.

      1. The ST Board debated north v. south first in 1999-2001 after they learned that the North King County subarea funds were not sufficient to build the new alignment between NE 45th Street and the south city limits. Mayor Schell and Executive Sims suggested build north first, between NE 45th Street and Mt. Baker, with greatly improved bus service in South King and in the Rainier Valley. The Board rejected the proposal. After two more years, in 2001, the board approved south first; the initial segment opened in July 2009, 14 years ago. The NE 45th Street station opened in fall 2021, 25 years after Sound Move. The airport is surrounded by freeways; it is not a great anchor for Link. The ridership potential has always been much greater to the north. The I-5 reversible lane issue is key.

      2. As I see it, everything is lower than it would have been if we had it all in 2019. This is true across the country. Some cities have rebounded quickly — most have not. So while ridership to Roosevelt is impressive, it isn’t as high as it would have been had Link operated that far north before the pandemic.

        But then again, in 2019 a lot of the apartments around Roosevelt wouldn’t have been open. So maybe ridership wouldn’t have been that high. Interestingly enough, the 7 is very close to what it was before the pandemic. This is likely because Rainier Avenue is booming. This is helping to make up for the general loss of transit ridership. I’m guessing you would see the same thing in Roosevelt, had Link operated there before the pandemic. Growth has counteracted the overall loss in transit ridership, and that growth is not equally spread out. Rainier has seen more growth than MLK lately. Capitol Hill and Roosevelt keep opening new apartment buildings — Beacon Hill, not so much.

        As to Al’s original question, the economic and cultural effects of the pandemic are as stubborn as the disease itself — things just won’t quite get back to normal. It will take time. All the things that people complain about routinely here (driver shortages, mechanic shortages, supply chain issues) will eventually work themselves out. In the mean time, they hurt ridership. The ridership on most Metro buses is nowhere near what it was before — I see no reason why Link would be different. The two are tied together, while also being similar. Lack of commuting also hurts. Link is especially commute oriented, and with very few exceptions, commuting is down across the country. First Hill is more resilient, but it isn’t served very well by Link. Then you have the tech downturn, which doesn’t help things.

        It is also quite likely that Link ridership will pick up, after a brief pause. It would be unusual for ridership to just keep steadily increasing every month (year after year). Some routes do that, but others pause, then go up again. Hopefully that is what is happening with Link. (Metro keeps increasing, but that is an aggregate of many different routes).

    2. The ridership on Link reflects office occupancy rates in downtown Seattle. Even the opening of Northgate Link did not move the needle on ridership after the pandemic and closures ended. It also reflects when the UW is in session.

      80,000 total riders including Northgate Link is much lower than ST estimated pre-pandemic. It is really hard to estimate ridership from Lynnwood Link through Northgate. ST thinks ridership will be very high on Lynnwood Link and so greater frequency from Northgate to downtown Seattle and four car trains will be necessary, along with a second tunnel. Or that TOD in those cities will increase ridership, which means those folks need to go south for some reason. But that is what ST thought pre-pandemic, and so far ST has been hesitant to revisit its assumptions on population growth, and ridership growth. Just look at the parking garages in Sumner, Auburn and Kent. Or Everett Link. I am not sure ST would cancel Sounder S. if ridership went to zero.

      According to ST, East Link will open across the bridge sometime in 2025. IMO that will increase frequency on Link to and from Northgate Link to more than what is necessary, even with Lynnwood Link’s riders. Plus I think the number of riders coming from the eastside will be greatly reduced so there will be more capacity on the trains themselves. But others think that still will not be enough, and a second tunnel will be needed.

      2024 and 2025 will be very interesting for ST because Link will begin servicing the suburbs from FWLE to Lynnwood to Overlake or even Redmond, which is really based on the park and ride system. The $64 question is whether Link — simply as a mode — will increase today’s pretty anemic ridership on ST express buses and park and ride usage, and most suburban bus routes Link will replace or augment, or ST is praying for some kind of employer mandate to return workers to offices in downtown Seattle, like Harrell is praying for. I walk to and from work along N. Mercer Way and so see the 550 and 554 and other peak buses and they are usually less than half filled, sometimes really empty during non-peak hours, but that anecdotal evidence is just as speculative as Mike’s re: Northgate Link.

      I think an even more interesting question is whether Link when it reaches these suburbs will materially lower the cost of the local bus agencies due to truncation. I think the savings will be less than expected because riders will demand greater bus frequency — often the dreaded east-west-east routes when Link runs along I-5 N/S in these areas — because it now includes a transfer, which adds time and more importantly frustration to any trip. The suburbs are somewhat inoculated from stressed bus agency budgets because much of Link in their areas is park and ride based. Metro’s budgets really will impact Northgate and Central Link, and right now frequency looks like it could be less than ideal. I have never thought ST really understood first/last mile access, or that it has a stake in that too.

      The key point of ridership is farebox recovery. That is the problem with low ridership on MTA, and why NYC is looking at a congestion tax. ST has a very aggressive farebox recovery goal (40%) but unsecured stations and a perception among many riders there is no penalty if they don’t pay. This was Rogoff’s warning in his last presentation to the Board.

      ST is a fairly young transit system. Most transit systems like MTA take money for future O&M, especially capital replacement, to cover holes in farebox recovery (and for the MTA $15 billion in Covid relief that only kept the decrepit system barely alive). By the time Everett and Tacoma Link roll around my guess is ST will be looking for some kind of general tax subsidy to cover shortfalls in O&M costs, which wasn’t helped by ST’s recent announcement that future O&M costs increased $1.2 billion. Who would have thought ST would have underestimated future O&M costs, or its revaluing of those future costs is over.

      1. ST already has two forms of “general tax subsidy”, sales taxes and “tab fees”. Those are not going away, though they will decline as the construction bonds are amortized.

        Railcars are fairly inexpensive to maintain, since their propulsion systems are nearly immortal electric motors. Sure, they have to be cleaned daily and the seats replaced or re-upholstered every few years. But that’s way cheaper than buying new buses every decade or so.

        Tri-Met is still running the un-modified high-level “Type 1” cars in daily service on the Blue Line where their mostly-seated design is popular for the long rides between East Portland and Silicon Rainforest many riders make. They have been in service for thirty-seven years.

        The sky is not falling, Henny-Penny. ST is making stupid errors in station placement and removal within Seattle, and terminating TDLE one mile from the Tacoma CBD was always dumb. Going beyond Midway and Lynnwood before growth in those areas is ensured is likely to be folly, at least initially.

        But those heat domes down South seem to be annoyingly stubborn. Just as people in the North used to have winter homes in the South, it seems very likely that folks in the South will be needing Summer homes in the North, too. The Northwest doesn’t have the thousand miles of sandy beach that Florida does, so Washington summers won’t be as nice an alternative life-style as are Florida winters, but they will be at least survivable and, as we secretly know, are charmingly low-humidity.

      2. “it seems very likely that folks in the South will be needing Summer homes in the North,”

        As long as they’re multifamily. What we really don’t need is single-family houses that are occupied only three months a year. Although with the cost of housing here, I doubt many people will buy a second summer house in the metro area.

      3. the decline in office employment has caused ridership on Sounder and the family of one-way peak-only routes to bottom out; those services lost more ridership with Covid; those services recovered less. Link and frequent two-way all-day bus services lost less ridership and recovered better. Link is less dependent on office employment than those other two types of service. Link provides fast, frequent, and reliable service to urban centers with paid parking and slow surface service.

      4. Link is less dependent on office employment than those other two types of service.

        Yes, but it is still more dependent than a typical subway system, and many of our bus routes. Link is a hybrid system, like BART. As it expands, it becomes more like commuter rail, and less like a metro. The costs of maintaining the system go up as well. Even before the pandemic, it was common for suburban lines to operate infrequently, and even be suspended completely, because not enough people rode them. The more urban your system is, the more cost effective it is to operate.

        But as Tom pointed out, this isn’t likely to cripple ST, simply because of the tax structure. They can just shift the money from future projects to operations (or at least, I assume they can). So rather than run trains every half hour in the middle of the day to Federal Way (as they would in most parts of the country) they will keep running them every ten minutes, but not extend the line to Tacoma as soon as planned (if at all).

      5. Excellent point about the fungibility of tax revenues, Ross, though I expect that before ST stops pleasuring the concrete and grading monopolies, they’ll automate Line 2. I have been looking at Google Earth: there are no grade-crossings being built in the at-grade sections. The roadways are overpassing the trackway.

        So Line 2 is a no-brainer for immediate automation; it’s grade-separated throughout.

      6. The view on Google Earth might be misleading. I rode through there in a car last year and it looked like a level crossing. I brought that up in the East Link open house along with the Bel-Red parking lot. I said level crossing cause delays. The ST rep said it would be a low-volume street so there wouldn’t be much conflict. Maybe ST or the city decided later to build overpasses, but I hadn’t heard that.

      7. Mike, yes, I didn’t look any farther east than 130th. My error,, for sure.

        At 132nd a true tramway begins with roadway crossings there, at the transition to 136th Place NE, and at NE 20th. So, yes, that sadly probably puts the kibosh on automation, unless there is enough ridership some day to require Bellevue turnbacks.

      8. Clarification. Add “They could be automated, even if the trains running all the way to Redmond weren’t.”

      9. It’s easier to automate a few predictable train crossings where you can focus safety-mitigation resources than any random car trip anywhere.

    3. Well, let’s not forget the clock removal that punctured the station lid at Westlake that deducted frequency along the line. Disruptions like this impact ridership. I know I ended up taking the bus into my office until service was restored.

      1. Yes that was probably a big reason for the slight drop. Thanks for solving the mystery, Alonso!

    4. The Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill are mostly single family by area, which partially explains the lower ridership in those areas. Link should have gone down the denser Rainier Avenue. It’s been said that downtown and north Seattle urbanists didn’t want that because that alignment would have added a couple of extra minutes to their ride to the airport. That’s why Link goes down MLK, some say.

      1. “It’s been said that downtown and north Seattle urbanists didn’t want that because that alignment would have added a couple of extra minutes to their ride to the airport. That’s why Link goes down MLK, some say.”

        Who says that, only Sam? The original Link assumption was was on Rainier, but ST decided Rainier was too narrow and congested for a train, so it put on MLK instead.

        Urbanists wouldn’t object because it was their goal to to have train service fully serving Rainier Valley. Urbanists who live in southeast Seattle are just as much urbanists as those who live in North Seattle. It was the SUBurbanists in Des Moines and Federal Way and Snohomish County who wanted fewer or no non-downtown stations in Seattle.

    5. Just speculating here, but for several trips around South Seattle, Link is less advantageous than more direct bus routes that don’t detour through Beacon Hill, SODO, Downtown, or Tukwila. Going to Capitol Hill or the Central District? Take the 8, 14, or 48. International District? Take the 7, 36, or 106. Rainier Beach? Take the 7. Skyway or Renton? Yeah, you’re taking the bus, or more likely just driving. If you’re going anywhere that isn’t the Airport, UW, or directly on MLK, you’re probably better off taking the bus.

      Comparably, Link is much better at reaching neighborhood cores and traversing between them in North and Central Seattle (with the exception of Northgate, and probably Ballard), and better at connecting to east-west bus routes.

      1. I was mainly concerned about the ridership levels compared at different periods in time given a static route structure.

        The east-west frequent connectivity is an issue in SE Seattle. Business districts here are exclusively within a block of Rainier Ave for the most part except for a few hubs on MLK near Othello Station. The remaining business districts in SE Seattle are quite small.

        That makes it difficult to get strong ridership going east-west in SE Seattle. Route 50 just can’t get many riders because most destinations require a transfer, for example.

        I personally would not be surprised if the SODO area gets a major regional commercial hub near the station at some point — on Lander or 4th. It has great freeway connectivity as well as Link connectivity. I’m thinking that this is something that adjacent property owners are quietly waiting for the right opportunity to do when trends warrant it (although retail development looks like it’s severely declining these days).

      2. “for several trips around South Seattle, Link is less advantageous than more direct bus routes that don’t detour through Beacon Hill, SODO, Downtown, or Tukwila. Going to Capitol Hill or the Central District? Take the 8, 14, or 48. International District? Take the 7, 36, or 106. Rainier Beach? Take the 7. Skyway or Renton? Yeah, you’re taking the bus, or more likely just driving”

        I don’t understand where the other ends of these trips are. Yes, if you’re near 23rd going to Rainier Valley, you’d take the 8. That’s not a Link corridor. You probably wouldn’t take the 8 from Seattle Center or Capitol Hill Station to Rainier Valley because it would be slow. And Metro may still split the 8 at MLK & Madison if it pursues a Denny-Madison Park route, although it wasn’t in the proposal this spring. If you’re going from Beacon Hill to Jackson Street, it may be faster to take the 30 or 60 rather than taking Link and transferring to a bus east.

        “If you’re going anywhere that isn’t the Airport, UW, or directly on MLK, you’re probably better off taking the bus.”

        It depends on the distance. For short distances like from Mt Baker to central Seattle, you’re in the sweet spot for buses. But for longer distances like from north Seattle to Rainier Valley, you’re better off taking Link for part of the trip, and any extra walking or transferring will be a smaller part of the total trip. The 7 bogs down in daytime traffic. Maybe when it’s upgraded to RapidRide it will be more competitive for longer trips.

      3. Mt. Baker to central Seattle may be short in distance, but this is also the part of the 7 that’s slowest. Link is much faster. The 7 is more useful for trips along Rainier that don’t go downtown.

        That said, there are a surprisingly large number of people who are lazy and will opt for the route with fewer foot steps, even if it’s slower, which is a large reason why the 7 is so popular.

      4. Plenty of Franklin HS students use Link. Plenty of Skyway Route 106 riders transfer to Link. It is used for SE Seattle local trips.

      5. I ride Light Rail once a week around 7:30 in the morning from Northgate and what I notice is that the train is full when it leaves. When it gets to Roosevelt a number of people get off while a lot more get on. At U District a lot more get off and probable an equal number get on.

        At University of Washington a good number get off while a few get on. At Capitol Hill more get on with a few getting off. Once the train gets to downtown the train starts to empty out and some get on and it is the same at Stadium and Sodo. So it noticeable that the ridership is heavy from north Seattle but not necessarily to go to downtown.

        And during the school year at Beacon Hill Frankling students get on and ride to Mt. Baker.

    6. The effects of the pandemic linger, in part, because we have not yet put COVID-19 out of our misery. Indeed, the case count in the US&A is going up again.

      Meanwhile, the world case count is steadily going down. We Americans may be the outliers who pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

      The CDCP is living in a fantasy world in which somewhere close to 17% of the population will take the XBB vaccine. If they follow the advice from the growing body of epidemiologists to limit it to 50+, uptake will be tiny.

      As tired as some are of taking any precautions against COVID, the rest of the world will eventually tire of Enduring our Freedom.

      For my part, I still limit my transit trips to essential trips only. And I’m rarely the only rider on the bus wearing a mask. Link Light Rail remains a pig sty to be avoided if alternatives exist.

      1. It has nothing to do with the USA – the entire world has relaxed/eliminated/discontinued Covid restrictions. China dropped their “Zero Covid” policy after backlash from their citizens. Japan dropped restrictions. Europe. Etc., etc., etc.

        By the way, here is what Australia has posted on their website relating to travel to their country:

        “Australia’s borders are open, and there are no Australian Government requirements to:

        -give proof of a negative COVID-19 test on arrival to Australia
        -supply proof of COVID-19 vaccination
        -wear a mask, although this is encouraged.”


        Australia was one of the most restricted countries in the world at the outside of the pandemic. But not now.

        You’re trying to make this about Americans when it’s a worldwide thing. Yeah, the USA screwed up our Covid response due to political nonsense. But the USA is not alone in easing/eliminating restrictions.

        Additionally, the King County Dashboard is pretty clear on the current situation. While case counts are unreliable due to hardly anyone “officially” reporting Covid, the fact remains that hospitalizations and deaths are at their lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic. The data is right there if you want to see it.


        Obviously, you’re not comfortable due to the risks from Covid, and that’s absolutely you’re right to take whatever precautions you desire.

        But the days of government restrictions and requirements are gone as long as case counts, hospitalizations and deaths are where they are. And that’s not just an American thing – it’s worldwide.

      2. In the beginning only a couple national figures were against masks and vaccines. Even Trump was generally pro until he saw somebody on FOX News speaking against it, then he changed his tune. That prevented the possibility of nipping covid in the bud before it became a worldwide crisis. The US example encouraged pseudo-populists in Brazil and Mexico to downplay covid’s risks similarly. So the US had a role in making covid much more widespread and deadly and permanent than it would have if we’d acted like a responsible industrialized country that follows health experts’ advice. That’s all in the past now, but it’s how we got into this mess.

        I only put on a mask now when somebody next to me has one on, or if I’m unusually concerned about somebody nearby. I still spend most of my time outdoors where there’s a cross draft, and I haven’t yet found a movie/play/show I sufficiently want to see.

      3. Brent, or anyone, can you provide a link to a site that shows the covid case count in the US is increasing?

      4. @Sam,


        To see the trends, don’t just look at the 7-day average one time, but multiple times over a series of days, after 7 pm PDT. The data for the past couple weeks tends to be immature, and keeps on adding to past days for awhile.

        I should add that while the US reported case count is slipping upward, the death count is trending downward, and is a more precise number than the case count. It is quite possible infections are trending downward, but a higher percentage of them are being reported, especially with the cessation of free home test distribution.

        At any rate, getting the numbers down to flu territory is nice. Wiping COVID-19 out would be priceless.

      5. @Matt,

        I have more faith in the world case-count trend than the US’, simply because our distribution of free home tests, and subsequent ending thereof, is a pretty much unique disruptor.

        But I also have more faith in the US death count over the world one.

        Weeks I don’t hear about someone I know testing positive remain rare. Last week was disappointingly no exception.

  2. I have been riding the monorail all week, since my kid is in summer camp at Seattle Center, and it is *wonderful* – the best public transit experience I’ve ever had. What a tragic loss it was that the Seattle Monorail Project got cancelled. (So what if it would have cost $11 billion? We’ll spend that much on the second downtown light rail tunnel alone.)

    1. My understanding is that the monorail plan as originally designed was bound to fail. Too many technical hurdles that they never considered. That being said, if they could have kept going, and somehow built it, then yes, it would have been very nice. And yes, it is ironic that we will likely spend a lot more for a lot less with WSBLE.

      Not that I particularly like monorails. There is a reason why they are rare. One is that they are expensive unless you are elevated. In other words, if you have to run them on the ground or in a tunnel, they cost a lot more. The route to Ballard begs for surface running (although they won’t do that). So yeah, the could do a lot worse than running a monorail (they will) but they could do better.

    2. The monorail was even more severely budget-constrained than Link, and the MVET initiative eliminated its primary source of funding. It wouldn’t have accepted transfers from Metro or ST so you’d have to pay twice for a two-seat ride, meaning many people like me who really wanted to take the monorail would take the parallel bus instead. The maximum speed was 40 mph. It was single-tracked in some parts so that would limit frequency to 20 minutes. In other words, it wouldn’t have been nearly as useful as Link or the current monorail. Not all monorails or light rails or trains are the same.

      1. The “it wouldn’t have accepted transfers” is a really weak point because that could have easily been changed (just as the original monorail now accepts ORCA when before it did not). That’s not atom-splitting stuff we’re talking about.

        It’s all second guessing at this point, anyways. The monorail expansion was plagued with problems (and bad management), it wasn’t built, and we have Link. The past is past.

        On the other hand, I would agree that the current monorail is a great experience.

        As a Kraken season ticket holder, I use it every game when I go to the arena. Cars are clean, no one is sleeping or smoking on the train, the fare gates are easy to navigate. When two trains are operating on game days, the crowd moves pretty quickly through the station. The worst part of the experience is getting to Westlake and having escalators out or other issues. But, otherwise, the monorail is an excellent option.

  3. So, this is good news about the observed ridership. However, what it really shows is ST has nowhere near enough capacity in the 1 Line to handle expansion to the north. The number of riders that will want to access the system in Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood will overwhelm available capacity without some creative thinking about storing more trains to handle rush hour demand.

    1. I don’t the thinking has to be very creative. They just have to have enough train cars and places to put them to run them frequently; that is about it. The original plan was fine — the only issue is whether East Link being delayed will cause problems. I think they can muddle along just fine. Ridership is not very peak-oriented right now (trips to downtown are still well below 2019 levels, despite more stations to the north). People are treating Link more like a regular subway, not a commuter rail system. They are taking more midday trips to other destinations, like the UW, Capitol Hill, Roosevelt, etc. Of course there is a peak, it just isn’t as big of a peak.

      If they are worried about crowding, there is a simple solution: just keep running express buses. CT could truncate the 871 at Mountlake Terrace, and truncate the other 800-series buses at Lynnwood. Other than that, keep the system the same. That means all the 800-series buses go to downtown. The rest of the planned restructure (which was somewhat dependent on the savings from truncating those buses) would simply be delayed until they are confident that ST can handle the load.

    2. What’s the right parameter to measure what you are talking about? I guess it would be percentage of crush loaded trains?

      1. Wait time might be another; not sure how often this happens but on frequent buses (like the 271 during peak hours) it was not uncommon for some riders to wait for a slightly less busy bus at times, even if the bus was not already crush loaded. So, from a user experience perspective, even “close to crush loading” might be a problem.

        Could probably approximate what I am talking about by just measuring percentage of (for example) 90% of the way to crush loading capacity.

    3. It seems to me that the there are four major rider groups — workers/ commuters, UW students, longer-distance travelers (tourists or residents leaving town) and everyone else.

      Of the four, it’s the workers and commuters that create the peak surges. Students have their first classes at different times and travelers and others make trips throughout the day.

      It looks like any ridership loss is from this workers/ commuters group. Consider that weekends have lost fewer riders when comparing stations opened before Covid.

      UW student riders appear to be fully back. Students are by definition not habitual users as the student body pretty much turns over every 4-5 years. That’s probably a big part of why the north segment is doing ok. If they come from Snohomish County on a bus they likely are already on Link. However students don’t surge like workers do.

      It needs to be mentioned that part of the anticipated Link ridership for Lynnwood Link is already on a Link train. When stations open north of Northgate, Northgate boardings will drop significantly. Even if there are 40K Link riders (20K boardings) added with Lynnwood Link, at least 10-15K are likely already on a Link train. Plus a certain percentage of that 40K would only ride Link if the Eastside 2 Line is fully open. I think that until East Link opens, those Lynnwood stations will have closer to 30K (15K boardings) with half of those already getting in Link at Northgate do the trains will have about 7.5K more boardings than at the Northgate Link stations that already have over 20K boardings at those three stations. So say it’s optimistically only 35 percent more riders on a train and easily could be less of an increase.

      ST does not report the crowding levels at the peak. However I am suspect that it’s not currently a major problem. Consider that a Link train carries about 600 riders, which is about 8-9 articulated buses. With the door counters, ST could be more specific about trainloads because they have the data. It may be that the staff is either too lazy to analyze the data or these data don’t match their “chicken little” overcrowding narrative. Mature rail systems home in on the peak of the peak to see if all that’s needed are a few special peak runs similar to the planning for a sporting event. I may have missed it but the recent OMF storage crisis presentations that I’ve seen haven’t discussed how crowded each train is currently through each of the commute peaks at all.

      So I speculate that overcrowding is not going to be a severe problem even with the East Link service not yet in place. It may be a minor one but an experienced rail ops dispatcher and supporting team should be able to figure out what to do. That’s perhaps too difficult for current ST staff who seem to relish in the inability to adapt in a strategic way. Some professionals look for problems to make themselves feel more important, and others look for solutions that can be as seem less as possible.

      1. A minor dissent on the “Students have their first classes at different times” bit and the implication that therefore they do not “create the peak surges”…

        The first part is true, yes. However there are still peak “trips”, even if the surges are shorter lived and therefore have less impact on the overall network. This was seen pretty easily on the 372, for example. Most UW classes start on the half hour marks, so the 372 runs that arrive on campus close to that time are crush load level busy, and the last few steps often people are left behind (students or otherwise). When I was riding the 372 regularly, there were extra runs added to take that extra load into account.

        For another example, some school along the old 71 route when I was taking it regularly did a school trip every Wednesday so that students can volunteer at one of the food banks in the U District. Having the extra 40-50 students on a 60 footer bus meant that the bus was crush-loaded and left people behind from around NE 55th onward, sometimes farther up depending on whether the 76 was also late or not.

        For a third example, during the summer on the 271 there were summer camp students making trips from Seattle to Bellevue, which caused the 271 to be crush loaded at the Campus Parkway stop and onward, instead of just at the last stop before getting on 520. This meant that a lot more people got left behind (people often got left behind at the Montlake & 520 stop anyway, but now they were being left behind at 2-3 stops before, too, which induced crush loading for the next 2 trips).

        These are just three examples I have personally experienced regularly over the last decade (daily, for the 372 one, while school was in session; weekly, for the 71 one; infrequently but on a regular cadence during the summer for the 271 one).

        Having said all this, I am perfectly willing to believe that Link has (at the moment) sufficient capacity to deal with the student-induced load. I’m just pointing out that it is possible that it will not always be the same, and that the cadence will not be the typical “rush hour” cadence.

      2. “It needs to be mentioned that part of the anticipated Link ridership for Lynnwood Link is already on a Link train.”

        That’s a good point, Al. I personally fall into that category, catching an STX bus from SnoCo to Northgate before hopping on Link today. I wonder what that actually amounts to in terms of the ridership that’s already being counted for the line. I suppose one could compile the rough ridership tallies from the STX ridership data, making some assumptions about the bus to train transfers.

        “It may be that the staff is either too lazy to analyze the data or these data don’t match their “chicken little” overcrowding narrative.”

        Or it might be both.

      3. It is hard to find CT data. I’ve done it before, but it is tedious, and even then you get a rough idea. The other problem is that was before the pandemic. As we’ve seen peak ridership has been the slowest to return. Folks here have run the numbers by looking at the number of trips taken by the buses, and come to the same rough estimate, which is that it really isn’t a huge number of people. Of course there is the possibility that a bunch of people who don’t take Link will start taking it. Definitely a possibility, but I don’t see them taking it during peak. If you are headed downtown, Link will take you longer (and in most cases, require a transfer). So that won’t lead to an increase in ridership. The rest of the destinations are not that peak-oriented, and things aren’t that different (you transfer somewhere north of Northgate, instead of at Northgate). There are really two big changes that could substantially increase ridership:

        1) Shorter drive for someone who wants to head into Seattle. Instead of driving all the way to Northgate (or all the way into their destination) they drive to Lynnwood Park and Ride (or one of the other parking lots).

        2) Better connecting bus service to Link, especially outside of peak.

        Both of these should be attractive to Snohomish County riders, but they should increase off-peak ridership more than peak. Basically, the folks that are riding the express buses to downtown and Northgate will make up just about all of the peak ridership from Snohomish County. I have no idea what those numbers are, but the CT folks do, which is why they are debating what to do once Link opens.

      4. “it’s the workers and commuters that create the peak surges.”

        It’s more complicated than that. The AM peak is mainly 9-5 commuters because people who don’t have to get up early are still asleep. The PM peak is a convergence of 9-5 commuters, evening shift workers, tourists, people coming home from midday activities, and people going to evening activities — all at once. Even if all 9-5 commuting stopped, there would still be a PM peak.

      5. I’m sure that certain buses do get lots of students, Anonymouse. However it’s different between an overcrowded bus that holds about 80 people anrriving every 15 minutes including standing riders and a train with 600 people every 8 or maybe every 6 minutes. That’s 480 hourly directional capacity for the bus and 4800 to 6000 hourly directional signs capacity for a Link train.. .

        Regardless, I would think that over half of UW students that will use Lynnwood Link stations are already on Link today. I may be wrong but there does not appear to be a bus then the CT service area that goes directly to UW. Many go to just Northgate and others go Downtown. All of those riders would likely take Link to get to UW.

        I’m sure the improved travel times and higher frequencies will entice more UW students to the train compared to today. I just don’t think it will be more than 10 or 20 percent more at the most crowded segment between Westlake and UW.

        Finally, the 35 percent I speculated is for daily trains. For the most crowded peak trains, I think a 20 to 25 rider growth is a more plausible outcome.

      6. I agree with you that students who were going to UW are likely to already be using Link now, because the 800 series buses were truncated to Northgate.

        I think that I detailed in a past post some of the history of the 800 series buses and their usage patterns, to the extent I remembered from when I used them regularly.

      7. I disagree with the idea that without 9-5 commuting, there would still be a PM peak. IMHO, without work commuting, weekday ridership patterns would be more like Saturdays: a later start, then steady ridership all day and a slow taper in the evening.

      8. We’ll all be wrong in our guesses about ridership after Lynnwood Link opens.

        The best we can do is to convince ST to stop making unforced errors, like variable train length.

    4. Have there been any updates on when they think the plinth problem will be fixed from CID to Judkins Park?

      If they can just get that section operating, it would significantly decrease the number of trains needed for increased service north.

  4. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/seattle-city-council-committee-to-discuss-rent-control-ordinance-friday/ar-AA1dfFtD?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=da3850fd6da74b51a5bc76363cca097b&ei=27

    Rent control may be coming to Seattle.

    “Seattle City Council committee is expected to discuss a new ordinance that would increase tenant protections and establish rent control provisions during a meeting Friday morning.

    “Council Bill 120606, sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, would regulate how much landlords can raise rent and expand tenant provisions. The bill would also establish a Rent Control Commission made up of tenants and landlords.”

    “According to the legislation, the Rent Control Commission would include 35 renters and seven landlords who would “make recommendations to the City Council and Mayor regarding rent control policies.” Commission members would serve two-year terms and be appointed by the City Council.”

    1. Just what Seattle needs… another unelected board of 42 people mucking stuff up…. ahhhh, no.

      I should be up front here and disclose that I am a small time landlord. I actually think some sort of rent control is a good idea, as long as we take some of the burden off of landlords, all the costs and burdens are public, and we get to vote on it.

      The first thing Seattle (and the State) need to unwind rental property taxes and introduce an “resident tax” Every time a renter signs a lease, they also sign an agreement to paying a year’s worth of “resident tax” on their apartment. Think of it as a property tax for renters. The building owner owes no “resident tax” unless they are living in the building or if a unit is not under lease. All school levees and bond issues raise this new “residency tax” to pay for services. Landlords are completely off the hook for any tax burden on leased property.

      Whenever we talk about issues like transit or homelessness, it’s important for everybody to understand they have to have skin in the game. Housing levy? If it passes, all the renters in Seattle need to pay $25-$50 per month to pay for it. Currently your landlord is paying for it in property taxes and passing the expense on to you. That’s an unfair, opaque system. Let’s get it all out in the open!

      Once we’ve shifted the tax burden to renters and not property owners, dialog about rent control could start. I also think we could use an “environmental impact fee” on private parking spaces and “user fees” for things like local parks could be talked about in the future as well.

      Kshama Sawant thinks this “rent control board” is a way for her to hold on to unelected power I’d guess. It’s a terrible idea. One thing I can tell you from watching years of local government is taking something to death is stupid. If Seattle wants rent control, put together 6 experts, hack out a system and put it on the ballot. A board of 42 people and endless public meetings? Yuck!

      1. https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/a-king-county-refugee-program-turned-2-hotels-into-communities-of-support/?utm_source=marketingcloud&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=TSA_063023210031+A+King+County+social+experiment+Opening+hotels+for+refugees_6_30_2023&utm_term=Registered%20User

        Here is an article about repurposing the hotels King Co. purchased with the 1/10th of one percent sales tax (that every eastside city opted out of except MI) to house the homeless for refugees. I previously posted about the hotel in Redmond being repurposed for Ukrainian refugees.

        Whether the homeless or the refugees the two main problems are: 1. the cost to refurbish the hotels has been so high King Co. has had to abandon or delay many of the hotels it purchased; and 2. housing prices in the region are so high it is very hard for refugees, let along the homeless, to move on from the hotels. Each hotel room on average costs King Co. $65,000/yr.

        “King County used a new sales tax to purchase hotels and apartment buildings during the pandemic to create housing for its homeless population (the third-largest in the country). It bought the 24-year-old Federal Way hotel in 2021 for $24 million.”

        “But the county’s plans, known as Health Through Housing, quickly slowed due to rising construction costs and a labor shortage in the region’s homelessness services sector — leaving the majority of county-owned hotels sitting vacant for months.”

        “When the program launched in October 2021, stays at the Federal Way hotel were relatively short. In the first month, people lived there an average of 20 days. In the second month, 30 days. After three full months, stays were pushing more than 40 days as King County’s rental market became increasingly saturated with refugee caseworkers trying to secure what little affordable housing existed, competing against homelessness caseworkers.”

        “After seven months operating the Federal Way property as a refugee shelter, King County moved all remaining guests to another hotel it had purchased, in Redmond, in May 2022, also originally purchased for homeless housing.”

        “The Federal Way and Redmond refugee hotel program lasted 15 months, closing in December 2022, with stays averaging around 60 days. It served 793 refugees, the vast majority Afghan. Most residents had permanent housing by the time the Redmond hotel closed; the remaining few were moved to temporary housing until they could sign their own leases. (King County still owns the hotels in Federal Way and Redmond, and is preparing them for housing for people who are chronically homeless.)”

        One benefit of housing the refugees is the surrounding community — that already has a disproportionate amount of subsidized housing — found them much better neighbors than the chronic homeless, and what the article leaves unsaid is King Co. picked the Redmond hotel for the refugees because of the complaints from the local neighbors when the homeless were there. I will be interested to see if King Co. does repopulate the Redmond hotel with chronic homeless.

      2. “Kshama Sawant thinks this “rent control board” is a way for her to hold on to unelected power I’d guess.”

        Isn’t Sawant moving out of state? She decided to not run for reelection to pursue a national activism project.

      3. Mike Orr,

        Kshama Sawant might be moving away, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to make some unelected rent control board and stock it was her homies. That women’s goal seems to be a never ending Leftwing circus.

        Rent control is a serious subject… Sawant’s answer to everything scream “stick it to the man!” over and over. She’s not been very effective as a councilperson. The last thing Seattle needs is Sawant flinging a whole lot of poo on her way out.

        Last Summer two of my renters got pissed off because I put a new roof on the triplex. They thought I shouldn’t make $35,000 of repairs to my building because I’d raise the rent. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think it’s my job to provide cheap bohemian housing in a funky old building….. to college graduates…. who all insist on living alone. One young woman, one of my favorite renters over the years, actually told me she’s only renting from me until House Our Neighbors ( I 1-35) provides a sliding scale apartment for her in Seattle. And she’s a public school teacher in Federal Way. I’m not sure how a person could graduate from college and have a career and yet be so clueless about the real world.

        Maybe rent control should be an issue the City (and region) works though, and if you really believe that… .kick dirt on Kshama Sawant, because she’ll mess it up.

    2. How is this planning to go around the Washington state ban on rent control ? Or at least legally it looks like it clearly violates it, though perhaps there is some legal loophole I’m not seeing.

  5. I urge you to look at this from another perspective. The value prop everyone bought into with ST was the regional investments in HCT would enable the local agencies to redeploy their resources to improve service at the local level while providing connex to rail. In the process, the one-seat bus commute would be replaced with a two-seat trip to downtown with better travel time, higher frequency and more reliability.

    Now fast forward to 2023, Snohomish County has done the work. They are ready to implement a frequent, all day network connecting every city in the county to each other, with a countywide BRT network at the core and express connex to Link. ST has pointedly not done the work, and they are going to open LLE anyway without enough train capacity to do the job, namely accommodating the loads CT will deliver to their doorstep.

    The solution you suggest is delaying that frequent network, with a mish mash of crowded trains and a two-seat bus commute stuck in I-5 traffic instead til the 2 Line opens. And riders having to make a choice each day which way to roll the dice. What a black eye for a Link opening. Seems like better approaches would be waiting til East Link is ready to cross the lake altogether, or pushing the envelope to bring more trains to the west side sooner to deliver the rider experience that’s been promised for the past 20 years. Every Link opening ST has had so far has been a success, a net positive for the community. The system has added ridership and improved options/connections each time. The path they’re for Lynnwood is looking pretty messy.

    1. Seems like better approaches would be waiting til East Link is ready to cross the lake altogether

      That is ridiculous. Hey, remember when Link first opened? The train went from Seattle to … wait for it … almost the airport. Should they have waited a few years before they could finally get to the airport, the logical southern terminus? Of course not. Thousands of other riders used Link. Same with UW Link. The obvious next step is the U-District, not Husky Stadium. This made the truncation of the buses very awkward, but again, Link opened, people endured the awkward transfers, and many benefited in various ways.

      Why should folks in north Seattle and north King County have to wait, just because there might be crowding a few times during the day? Sorry, that is silly. Community Transit has three obvious choices:

      1) Open with the new restructure, because chances are, the trains aren’t going to be that crowded.

      2) Play it safe and continue to run express buses to downtown. This is the best of both worlds for commuters, of course, as they get a fast one-seat ride to downtown (along with a fast trip to all the other places that Link goes to).

      3) Operate some sort of hybrid between the two. Use the new network, but continue to run some of the express buses to downtown. This would probably mean some of the buses run less often, but CT was pretty vague on scheduling anyway (every agency has to be vague on scheduling).

      Of course this looks bad for ST. Years of delay look bad (Lynnwood Link was supposed to open this year). It looks much worse for Federal Way. So what? You do as much as you can, as soon you can. Call it a soft opening, if you want. I also think that ST is well aware of the issue. If I remember right, they were debating whether to run more often with smaller train sets, or less often with bigger trains. This is interesting, but of all the things to worry about, having a line that is too crowded is way down the list. We should be so lucky.

      1. CT should go ahead as planned (option #1).

        “Should they have waited a few years before they could finally get to the airport, the logical southern terminus?”

        Wasn’t it just a matter of months?

      2. I detect a slight chill in hades… “Rossb, ST Defender”. Now we have seen it all. The difference between prior openings and this one is the associated bus restructures were implemented concurrently with ST, and based on the expected ST service levels. So the result for the customer was as advertised and the transitions were relatively smooth.

        In this case, we’ve got a KCM and CT restructure going into effect with HALF the expected Link service. Very different situation. The customer experiences is going to suffer as a result. Option #1 is appealing, provided it’s combined with supplemental ST Express service. But even that is replacing a one-seat bus ride struck in traffic with a two-seat bus ride stuck in traffic. The real issue for your north king county riders will be the full trains coming south in the morning. Why indeed should they wait… for the next train with room to board?

      3. I think you are right — it was months, not years before they got to SeaTac. Of course in this case it might be months, not years before they have enough trains to run as often as they first planned.

      4. another engineer, see my post below about short-turns between Northgate and Stadium or SoDo. Maybe to call them “Line 2” you kick everyone off at existing CID, but you can’t turn them there. Stadium’s pocket track is NOT set up for frequent reversals, unlike Northgate’s. The operator would have to “walk the train” on the gravel between the tracks, and I doubt the union would stand for that. It’s really just there to store a train waiting for the end of sports events out of the way of normal traffic. So I expect that they’d just use the outer loop at Forest Street to reverse.

        Northgate’s pocket is designed with “in-service” reversals in mind.

      5. In this case, we’ve got a KCM and CT restructure going into effect with HALF the expected Link service. Very different situation.

        Not really. It is just a NEW expectation, that’s all. This isn’t a sudden problem — we can see this from a mile away. The agencies have all the time in the world to plan accordingly. Keep in mind, when Metro decided to truncate the buses with UW Link, it was dramatic. A lot of transit nerds thought it was nuts. Not without the station at the U-District. Not with one of the most difficult-to-access stations in our system as your transfer point. Not with the relatively short distance and fast trip that the riders were used to. Not with the Link frequency we have now (the same frequency the folks in Lynnwood have) and the relatively high bus frequency of the previous routes. Yet Metro bit the bullet, and did it. I could easily see CT doing the same thing.

        The customer experiences is going to suffer as a result.

        Of course, but the same could be said now! Riders are suffering right now, because of the poor frequency across the system. It is pretty hard to argue that Lynnwood riders are supposed to have higher frequency than riders from Northgate and the UW. Higher frequency is just one of those bonuses that came from East Link. The CT restructure is certainly not dependent on it.

        Option #1 is appealing, provided it’s combined with supplemental ST Express service. But even that is replacing a one-seat bus ride struck in traffic with a two-seat bus ride stuck in traffic.

        Option #1 with supplemental express bus service is simply option 3. Keep running a few of the 400-series CT buses, as a way to deal with crowding. Even though the buses are sometimes stuck in traffic, they are still generally popular, since people prefer the one-seat ride, and the buses are often faster. It is clear that despite the traffic, the express buses are generally popular. If people really wanted to get to Link, they would be overwhelming the 800-series buses, and clearly that isn’t happening. Folks are using those buses to get to Northgate, Roosevelt and Capitol Hill — not downtown.

        The real issue for your north king county riders will be the full trains coming south in the morning. Why indeed should they wait… for the next train with room to board?

        I assume you mean heading south. I don’t think that is the real issue. The most likely place to have crowding is downtown (Westlake in particular) in the evening. Lots of people taking trips that are not work related, combined with lots of people heading home after work. As the train heads north, more people get off than get on. By the time the train hits Northgate (if not a lot sooner) folks get a seat. If not, riders stand the whole time — that’s life in the big city.

        Here is the thing though. People curse, complain, then adjust. As I write this, there is a very good chance that there are buses in Seattle that are skipping stops because the bus is full. Of course that sucks. If people have alternatives, they will use them. But in the case of the Metro buses, many don’t. If CT provides those express alternatives, they most certainly will use them. People adjust all the time. Maybe they take the train in the morning, but the bus in the evening, since that way they have a seat. Maybe they just take the bus each way, simply because it is faster most of the time (there are plenty of express buses overlaying subway lines). Likewise, they adjust back very quickly as well. Eventually there will be more trains. In probably less than a year this problem — if it even is one — will be fixed. No, of course it isn’t ideal — but on the long list of mistakes made by ST, it would not come close to cracking the top ten.

      6. “ I don’t see a big switch from cars to the train during peak. The new system is not that different than the old one.”

        There is something different that may increase demand with this category: The new parking garages. Shoreline South/ 145th and Shoreline North/ 185th are new (500 spaces each) and Lynnwood is adding 500 spaces. How much depends on how they are managed. Plus, some of those using the garages are already using CT or ST buses to get to Downtown or Northgate.

        I don’t think it will change overall demand that much (say less than 10 percent but maybe more at the most crowded times of day), but I do think it’s a systems change worth noting.

      7. @Al — The parking at Northgate is massive. There are 1,660 spots. You can probably get away with parking in parking lots that specifically say you can’t park there for transit — they don’t validate (so far as I know*). I don’t think people are driving to work because they can’t park at Northgate.

        Of course for some riders, parking at the other lots will be easier. But my point is that won’t alter peak ridership. Imagine you drive downtown because you don’t like parking at Northgate. You probably pay for parking downtown. You are willing to sit in traffic the whole way. Maybe you need the car in the evening. Maybe you just prefer driving. The fact that you can drive a shorter distance to a different parking lot isn’t likely to change your perspective.

        My guess is, most of the people driving are not headed downtown. They are headed to other neighborhoods, spread out across the city. Again, Link extending north doesn’t really change anything. The people who drive during peak will continue to drive.

        * I’ve parked at various parking lots for medical appointments, and never had to validate.

    2. @another engineer,

      Thanks for the informed post. I tend to agree with what you have said.

      Generally speaking, without an operational East Link ST, is caught in a bind. You are correct that current ST ridership data indicates that Lynnwood Link will be capacity constrained, but with the simultaneous constraint ST has on LRV storage, ST is only left with 3 basic options:

      1). Delay Lynnwood Link opening until about 6 months after the full opening of East Link. Clearly this is a non-starter.

      2). Just run Lynnwood Link at the LRV storage limit and accept the overcrowding, capacity, and safety problems. Also clearly a non-starter.

      3). Do something more creative to satisfy demand without exceeding the LRV storage limits.

      Other options that some have suggested, such as running parallel express buses to offload Link demand, are clearly non-functional and should be rejected without any further study.

      Buses simply can’t meet the demand of rail within any reasonable resource and economic constraints, and Metro (in particular) can’t even get enough operators to run their current service. Metro (and to a lesser extent CT) is never going to be able to hire enough temporary operators to run a parallel express bus service AND provide interconnection to Link like they have promised.

      Plus, it just wouldn’t work. Express buses just don’t, and never have, served places like the UW and Cap Hill well. And people ultimately vote with their feet. Nobody at a place like LTC is voluntarily going to board a slow bus stuck in traffic just so someone else can take a fast, reliable, direct Link ride to the same place.

      And there is the question of equity. Why should the lower income, more diverse transit users in Lynnwood be directed to avoid Link and take a slow bus instead, just so the higher income, less diverse transit users of North Seattle can be guaranteed a seat on an uncrowded Link train?

      The people of Lynnwood have been waiting for Link, suffering through its construction, and have paid for it. Now that Link is about to open, they should not be told they can’t use it just so the rich people of North Seattle can have guaranteed access instead.

      That brings us back to #3 above. Clearly a better, more creative, approach is required. My favorite is an overlay of the 2-Link between NGS and IDS (revenue service). This puts capacity where it is needed without wasting LRV hours at the far tails of the system. It will take some work on the part of Ops, but it is the best option on the table. And it could be implemented essentially “now”.

      1. The only point I would makes is buses are more than adequate today to meet both intra-Eastside travel and cross-lake travel. If a starter Eastside only East Link is opened buses will still handle the vast majority of the work on the Eastside and all the work across the lake. If buses are faster from Lynnwood than Link and one seat — like today — I am not sure that disadvantages the “poor” in Lynnwood. The rich generally don’t ride transit anyway.

        Plus according to ST we are talking 6 months based on speculative peak crowding at Northgate (when SnoCo residents will already be on the train when it reaches Northgate). And this will good practice if East Link can’t run full steam across the bridge or east-west ridership in Seattle and SnoCo is so low both feeder bus frequency and Link frequency need to be scaled back. A lot of folks ride Link because their bus was eliminated. I would be interesting to see the split if Lynnwood Link and buses ran at the same time for 6-12 months.

        I am not sure Metro and CT “promised” to provide frequent first/last mile access. I think both said they would do the best they can depending on east-west traffic, budgets, drivers and ridership.

        My guess is the infallible ST will do the best it can with the trains it has and see if peak crowding really is an issue and pray like hell East Link opens in 2025 and can cross the bridge. As some others have noted, crowding on Link would not be the worst PR for ST if it is only for a short window during the day and only for 6 months. I don’t think crowding will be an issue for East Link on the Eastside.

      2. “Why should the lower income, more diverse transit users in Lynnwood be directed to avoid Link”

        You don’t have to direct anybody. You just offer the express buses, and some people will take them. They’ll make a tradeoff depending on their particular trip pair, how much they want to stand on a packed train, how much the bus might get stuck in a traffic jam, and how much they dislike buses. Different people will come to different conclusions. It’s up to ST and Metro to choose the right locations for bus routes and make them fast enough that they’ll attract more than zero riders. Either Lynnwood-downtown or Northgate-downtown are possibilities. UDistrict-downtown might not be as feasible because of the distance between UW and I-5, I-5 congestion, and Eastlake Avenue congestion. Other alternatives might be more service on the 70 and 49 to draw off riders, restoring more of the 43, a UDistrict-Mt Baker express on 23rd, etc.

      3. I think lots depends on the time lags between testing and revenue service to Lynnwood compared to testing and revenue service across Lake Washington.

        For example, can a short segment between Judkins Park and CID be ready for pre-revenue testing at the same time as Lynnwood Link testing? Can the pre-revenue testing across Lake Washington be done with in-service trains running on the 2 Line from Lynnwood to CID? What are the requirements for pre-revenue testing in general?

        I don’t know the answers. Perhaps ST won’t know the answers until East Link corrective actions get further along.

        That said, 2 Line service seems possible and may even be necessary for pre-revenue testing with through trains before East Link stations open for revenue service.

      4. “You are correct that current ST ridership data indicates that Lynnwood Link will be capacity constrained, but with the simultaneous constraint ST has on LRV storage, ST is only left with 3 basic options:”

        I have seen no evidence that Lynnwood Link would create overcrowding. Are you preparing forecasts for ST that haven’t been shared with the Board and public, or are you merely speculating?

        Consider these factors when comparing opening day existing forecasts for Lynnwood Link:

        1. All of the prior forecasts assume that East Link would be open. The most crowded segments included those riders headed across Lake Washington. The percentage varies by segment, but certainly the most crowded segments Downtown will be 10-30 percent less because Eastside riders won’t be on those Downtown Seattle through trains. Even UW and Capitol Hill forecasts have a decent percentage of Eastside riders that won’t be on Link if they can’t ride across the LW bridge on Link.

        2. All indications are that Covid has reduced demand during the peak more than the non-peak. Weekend ridership isn’t off by as much as weekday ridership is. The long distance peak services (like Sounder) have had the biggest decreases in demand and these are peak hour trips. Any pre-Covid peak hour percentages appear to be wildly inflated.

        3. The ridership with trains every 8 minutes will be lower than trains every 4 minutes. The lower frequency may reduce the demand by another 5-10 percent.

        4. Just because there are more stations doesn’t necessarily mean that all those riders will be added to a train. Many will instead get on Link north of Northgate rather than at Northgate, as has been mentioned by several posts here.

        Even if there is crowding it will probably be limited to a handful of trains during each rush hour. There are passenger counters on every car in every train. ST staff can easily determine which trains are more crowded today — down to the actual train. They don’t ever present this information as far as I can tell.

        And if the solution is to have some three-car trains, then they can program each to immediately follow a four-car train. This is how systems around the world accommodate these things.

        I don’t buy the ST staff “chicken little” mentality about an overcrowded Lynnwood Link. If the staff would quit crying and start doing the jobs that they get paid to do like reevaluating opening day forecasts by train and deciding operational solutions if they are needed, they would have more credibility.

        I’ve ridden overcrowded light rail systems. If you can’t squeeze onto a train, you simply try a different door or a different car or wait for the next train (or maybe two). With only 8 minutes between trains it’s not the end of the world.

      5. yes, option three, with short turns between Lynnwood and SODO. But the LRV storage issue remains. ST may have to get off its fixation on four-car trains. Use more three-car trains. The integration will be easier with shorter waits.

      6. The LRV storage issue needs to be re-thought anyway.

        Are they planning to have a bunch of out of service moves from Stadium to Lynnwood at 3 am before the start of service each morning?

        If not, then they are better off using as much line and station storage as is practical, so the operator start their day at North Base and take a van over to the trains rather than have a bunch of hour long deadheading moves from Stadium north to Lynnwood before the start of each day.

        The south section of the line isn’t as much of an issue, because there’s at least some demand for early morning trips to the airport. Early morning demand from Downtown Seattle to Montlake Terrace Park and Ride seems considerably less substantial.

      7. @Mike Orr,

        “ You don’t have to direct anybody. You just offer the express buses, and some people will take them.”

        Ah, no the won’t. Nobody is going to voluntarily pick the slow, unreliable bus stuck in traffic over the fast, reliable, and comfortable Light Rail line parked right next door. People will vote with their feet, and they will pick LR.

        And your suggestion that they might pick the bus over LR because of crowding and being required to stand misses the point.

        The peak crowding on Link will occur between Northgate and Westlake stations, but the people you are suggesting should take the competing express buses will actually be boarding in Snohomish County. And in Snohomish County the Link cars won’t actually be full yet. Essentially the riders at LTC, Mountlake Terrace, and probably 148th will be able to board and get a seat.

        So good luck convincing the riders in SnoCo that they should use an inferior product so that Link can leave their station with empty seats just in case wealthier Seattleites need them latter for a short hop in the city.

        Ain’t going to happen. People in Lynnwood will take the open seat on Link. And who can blame them. As they say, quality sells.

      8. @Al.S,

        No, I do not generate ridership forecasts for the ST board! LOL. But I do know the pedigree of the information that I do have, and I fully trust it.

        Regarding your points:

        Per #1, of course ridership in the urban core will be down when East is delayed. That goes without saying, but you miss the big picture. Without East Link the delivered capacity in the urban core will be down 50%! Your presumed reduction in demand of 10 to 30% will not compensate for a 50% reduction in capacity. It’s just math.

        Per #2, regardless of what the more urban parts of the line are experiencing post COVID, ridership demand from SnoCo is still very commute oriented, Meaning it is still primarily peak demand.

        Per #3, frequency is not the magic driving factor behind ridership that some on this blog seem to believe. Yes, 15 min frequency will generate more ridership than 30 min frequency, but the effect gets smaller as frequency increases. Going from 8 to 4 just isn’t as powerful as going from 30 to 15. And again, a 5 to 10% change in ridership will never compensate for a 50% reduction in delivered capacity.

        Per #4, it doesn’t matter if the passengers got on at Lynnwood or Northgate, the problem will occur south of there. The problem occurs because the total ridership of the line will exceed current ridership and delivered capacity somewhere between Northgate and Westlake.

      9. Lazarus, you are conflating demand for 2040 with that of 2024. Sure the supply would be 50 percent lower without the 2 Line as opposed to the demand off between 10-30 percent depending on where, but are sny trains today routinely operating above 70 or 80 percent capacity or will they next year? Surely ST expects ridership growth between 2025 and 2040 and the capacity constraint is between Pioneer Square and CID.

        The sad truth is this: Here we are discussing demand without data about the 2024 Lynnwood + No East Link situation except what we can glean from ST. Meanwhile, the presentations I’ve seen from staff don’t describe what is the most crowded train or most crowded 30 minutes. They just say “we don’t have enough train cars” after saying here that they suddenly need 20 percent more storage supply than previously calculated. Not 2020 but 2023 do we find this out.

        And the number of train cars is not the same as the number of trains needed each hour to prevent overcrowding. ST staff presents it as one issue when it is two (total number of stored cars; total number of cars in service at peak hours).

        Nowhere in any of the staff presentations have they presented peak load requirements or where it is needed. All the presentations I’ve seen are all about wanting more spare trains available.

        Plus it’s not been explained when OMF-E trains can start becoming available. It may be that the Lynnwood Link opening day can have non-revenue trains get across the Lake Washington bridge. At worst, it may only be a few weeks between the Lynnwood Link opening and the East link train testing that would provide access to those trains.

        To me, all of this suggests that ST staff or management don’t know what they should be analyzing! Or at the very least they can’t communicate the facts and describe the two separate issues.

      10. Plus, it just wouldn’t work

        Hmm. I guess there aren’t any people on the 400’s and the 510 now? I say cut ’em then!! Oh, there are 2,000 riders you say!?!? How can that be?

        You seem to have declared Option 3 with parallel express buses, which Ross advocates, a “non starter” when that is exactly what’s happening now. Was that Pronouncement ex cathedra, your Holiness, or just an encyclical?

        Dude, LINK goes to UW and Capitol Hill now. Your objection is moot. [Daniel, that’s the right phrasing, right?]

        The folks heading there will transfer to Link at Lynnwood or MLT, where the expresses all stop. I expect that CT will take a “wait and see” attitude toward truncation. They’ll try it, but with plans to run some fraction of the 400’s on to Seattle should full trains be reached regularly north of Northgate. ST will certainly sunset the 510 in favor of a few more 512 runs.

        ST will have to run the Northgate-SoDo turnbacks to give Seattle riders a chance to board reliably. There will be two ten-minute headway subway lines running staggered on the same tracks at the peaks, one for Shoreline and SnoHoCo riders and one for Searrle. ST can run an additional four full length trains from its Forest Street fleet. That will also help sort people in the PM peak, though not as reliably.

        Extending to Federal Way, though, will not work without East Link and its Maintenance Facility. It’s too far.

      11. “Nobody is going to voluntarily pick the slow, unreliable bus stuck in traffic over the fast, reliable, and comfortable Light Rail line parked right next door.”

        Yet they take both Sounder and express buses at Tacoma Dome and Everett. They take so many buses at Tacoma Dome that the buses leave every 10 minutes, and in Everett every 15 minutes. Anyway, you’re failing to comprehend that they may not be able to get on a train or may have to stand on the train for half an hour. That alters whether they’re willing to take an express bus.

      12. Plus, it just wouldn’t work. Express buses just don’t, and never have, served places like the UW and Cap Hill well.

        You are confused. There are no express buses to UW and Capitol Hill. No one is suggesting we resurrect them. They are suggesting keeping the express buses to downtown — that’s all. In other words, keep the 400 series buses, but truncate the 800 series buses at the nearest Link station. For the 800 series buses, that has already happened! They no longer serve the UW, but connect to Northgate. This means the riders who will switch to using Link have already switched. They simply transfer at Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood instead of Northgate. This will have a tiny effect on *peak* Link ridership.

        The problem is with the 400 series buses (and the ST 510). These buses run directly downtown. Truncate them at a Link station — any Link station — and ridership on Link goes up. Keep them, and *peak* ridership on Link hardly changes. More to the point, crowding isn’t an issue. Even if people prefer the train over the express bus for trips downtown (which is highly unlikely) they will go back to using the bus if the train is full. Again, this is common across the world. Express buses complement trains (and local buses) as a means to provide better service for riders, and as a way to deal with temporary crowding.

        Metro (and to a lesser extent CT) is never going to be able to hire enough temporary operators to run a parallel express bus service AND provide interconnection to Link like they have promised.

        Of course not. I specifically mentioned that CT would reduce the expected frequency on some of the routes. This sort of things happens all the time for agencies. Service goes up and down. ST promised 15 minute service from Tacoma to Seattle — didn’t happen. It’s not really their fault (unlike this fiasco) it is just part of a worldwide driver shortage. So CT runs some of the other buses less often. This is unfortunate, but not the end of the world. Again, this is a temporary situation that will be rectified once ST runs more trains. It is also possible the situation sorts itself out almost immediately. Open Lynnwood Link and see how many people ride it. Run the buses at the same time, and see how many people ride those. Do the math. It is quite possible that they can cancel the express buses, shift the service, and everyone rides the train.

        Oh, and I understand that one of your hobbies is to attack Metro, but this has nothing to do with them. Metro only runs a handful of express buses to downtown anymore from the north end. For the most part these are being phased out, as they didn’t get great ridership. The issue is all those CT express buses. If you keep running them, there is plenty of room on the trains. If you don’t, the trains might get crowded.

      13. Exactly right, Mike. Express buses are popular because they are, well, expresses. The encounter traffic, but the lack of stops and one-seat convenience makes up for it. Even if they don’t, the numbers will balance out if there is crowding — the very issue of concern.

      14. There is also an expected addition of new Link riders who will use the new parking garages on Lynnwood Link. That boost could easily be more than the boost from moving the CT 400 series buses to Link.

        So another strategy of overcrowding happens could be to simply delay opening the garages partially or fully. Or open them after 10 am or only on weekends to discourage 9-5 commuters from parking there.

        Given how two of these are parking structures that aren’t replacing parking spots today at 145th and 185th, no existing rider will be inconvenienced by not opening those.

        And again once they can bring trains from OMF-E across the bridge a few months before opening day for East Link, the concern subsides.

      15. The peak crowding on Link will occur between Northgate and Westlake stations, but the people you are suggesting should take the competing express buses will actually be boarding in Snohomish County. And in Snohomish County the Link cars won’t actually be full yet.

        Again, the peak crowding does not occur in the morning. It occurs in the evening. You can look at the data, or just consider what people do when they are out and about.

        The crowding is most likely to occur at Westlake. Think about a northbound train. At every downtown station, you have more people boarding then alighting. Thus the train leaves Westlake pretty crowded. At Capitol Hill, things reverse themselves. It is definitely more balanced (plenty of people head north in the evening from Capitol Hill) but plenty of people are headed *to* Capitol Hill in the evening. Same with the UW. Lots of commuters and students leaving campus, but a ton of people live there. By the time the train leaves Northgate, my guess is everyone will have a seat, even if the train was “crush loaded” at Westlake. (To be clear, our trains are never really crush loaded. But they can be full enough to be uncomfortable.)

        Thus someone in Snohomish County could very easily choose the comfort of a surface stop and express bus that gets them closer to their home, then a crowded light rail train. Many of the other riders have similar choices. Buses run to Capitol Hill and the UW from downtown. The only folks that would be out of luck are those headed to Roosevelt and the rest of King County. Either way, it balances it out, as the only significant increase in peak ridership from Lynnwood Link will come from express buses from Snohomish County — the very buses that would continue to carry people.

      16. I have seen no evidence that Lynnwood Link would create overcrowding.

        I agree. That is why this may not be an issue. The folks who have the data aren’t sharing it. Backing up here, there are only a few things that can cause crowding (during peak):

        1) An increase due to people switching from the bus to the train.
        2) An increase due to people switching from driving to taking Link.
        3) An increase due to people taking trips they didn’t take before.

        I’ll address these in reverse order. Most of the trips that were never taken before will occur outside of peak, or be reverse-peak (e. g. visiting Capitol Hill in the evening, returning late at night). People will adjust as well, as it is pretty easy to remember when rush hour is (more or less). In contrast, I’ve been stuck in game day Link crowds (by accident) because I forgot there was a game.

        I don’t see a big switch from cars to the train during peak. The new system is not that different than the old one. Both Metro and CT still have a very peak oriented system. If an express bus downtown, or a bus/drive to Link just doesn’t work for you, then the extension of Link probably won’t either. To be clear, I’m not saying it won’t be better for those that take transit during peak — I’m saying it won’t be a big enough improvement to change the mind of those that drive.

        The third is where we are likely to see a significant increase in ridership. It will occur if CT, ST and Metro truncate their express buses to downtown. Metro runs only a handful, and they don’t carry many riders. ST runs the 510, and carries less than 500 riders each way. It is CT that is the big mystery. They have quite a few routes, with plenty of runs. But no one outside the agency knows how many riders are on each bus (let alone when). Given the overall peak ridership before the pandemic (which included buses that now feed Link) wasn’t especially high, and the fact that peak ridership is way down (with a very strong negative correlation with distance) I am not convinced that there are that many riders who would switch, even if they are forced to.

      17. I don’t see it as useful to run competing buses from Lynnwood to the Central Business District.

        Maybe, possibly, a Lynnwood to South Lake Union route might get enough riders to justify diverting a couple operators, if the 1 Line does get too crowded.

      18. @Mike Orr,

        “ Yet they take both Sounder and express buses at Tacoma Dome and Everett.”

        Link and Sounder are not the same thing, and you can’t compare the situation with Sounder South to Lynnwood Link.

        Sounder South only runs like 7 trains a day at 20 min spacing. And it serves the Kent Valley as opposed to the I-5 corridor the express buses serve.

        Lynnwood Link will be running every 8 or 10 mins (peak), run all day long, be bidirectional, and run exactly adjacent to any remaining express buses stuck in traffic in I-5. It is not a comparable situation to the commute out of Tacoma.

        I get that Ross loves buses, but most people don’t. Most people use transit because it is the best fit for their individual transportation needs. They don’t care what the mode is, they just want it to serve their needs. And they will pick the best transit option available.

        They will vote with their feet, and they won’t select the slow, unreliable “express” bus, stuck in traffic on I-5 with Link zipping by just a few hundred feet away.

      19. “they won’t select the slow, unreliable “express” bus, stuck in traffic on I-5 with Link zipping by just a few hundred feet away”

        Even if they have to wait for the second or third train, or stand on a packed train for half an hour? This is the scenario where we’re considering temporary express buses. If there isn’t that, we don’t need the buses.

      20. @Mike Orr,

        “ Even if they have to wait for the second or third train, or stand on a packed train for half an hour?”

        Yep, most people would wait for the next train, or try to force themselves on Tokyo style.

        But the main reason the idea of “express” buses won’t work is because of where the peak load occurs in the system – somewhere between Northgate and Westlake stations. Good luck convincing someone in Lynnwood or at NGS to take the slow, unreliable bus to Seattle when there is an empty seat on a faster train just feet away. That isn’t the way people work, they will just get on the train and screw anyone else trying to get onboard down the line.

        And why on earth would any rider at NGS be satisfied taking an “express” bus stuck in traffic when they have spent the last 3 years riding fast, frequent, and reliable Link? They will be super “annoyed” (not my first choice of words).

        And, on top of that, Metro can’t even staff the routes they currently have, Nobody should count on Metro to add a fleet of special express buses anytime soon.

        Nope. Express buses are a completely unworkable solution. It would be much better for ST to add a short, 2-Link overlay across the area of peak ridership demand.

      21. The point is to divert any riders so they’re not in the crowded Northgate-downtown segment. If you don’t like a Lynnwood-Seattle express, there may be other routes, including those that haven’t been tried before. Remember that the ridership between Northgate and downtown is a lot of different kinds of trips simultaneously. Some are door-to-door between Link stations; these are the least likely to be diverted. Some have a longer walk at the end, so there’s a tradeoff between Link and a bus that might go closer to their door. People will take Link in ordinary times, but if the train is overcrowded they might be willing to take a bus alternative. Others are going straight where Link bends; e.g., U-District to Mt Baker. All of these are possibilities. In some cases the routes already exist and can be increased, like the 70 and 48. We just need to identify what are the best endpoint pairs that would divert the most riders from overcrowded trains. That may be a Lynnwood-downtown express or a Northgate-downtown express, or it may be something else. Metro/ST may need help thinking out of the box; that’s where we come in.

      22. The reason to consider Lynnwood-downtown first even though much of it isn’t in the most-congested area, is because it would seem to the the largest single trip pair with the most riders, since everybody in Snohomish County has to go to Lynnwood or MT for express-level service to Seattle. That’s a larger cachement area than; e.g., Roosevelt, that basically gets trips from Roosevelt, Greenlake, Greenwood, and NE 65th, but it wouldn’t get people from Northgate or Shoreline or the U-District since they’d go to closer stations.

        UW-downtown is another large trip pair, but it’s harder for express buses to serve.

      23. @Mike Orr,

        The point is that you are attempting to divert riders BEFORE Link becomes overcrowded.

        How are you going to do that? How are you going to force riders to take a bus instead of Link when there is actually still room for them on Link? How are you going to prevent riders from taking the mode that they prefer? Especially given the fact that they have actually paid taxes to build Link? And now they can’t use it? Even though there is room for them to get on? Good luck with that!

        No, I get that people on this blog love buses and love Metro. I get that every little problem at ST is perceived as an opportunity for more buses. But at some point we have to be realistic.

        Express buses just aren’t the solution to Link overcrowding.

      24. So what is the solution? Allow people to have delays in their trips and a substandard Link experience? Have people angry that they spent so much money on Link and it looks undersized?

        I don’t love buses. I just don’t want to see people get to the situation I was in in 2013-2016 when the 71/72/73X were severely overcrowded. I never knew which bus I could get on, or how early to go to ensure I could make my transfer to a half-hourly route.

      25. Rather than merely speculate, I decided to see what ridership forecasts have already been published by ST.


        This document shows in Section 2.2 that opening Lynnwood Link takes the peak three hour demand in 2035 (12 years from now) from 14,700 to 22,200 — or an increase of 51 percent. This is just south of Northgate so that segments further south would have a less pronounced increase.

        However this document assumes that East Link is open. It also assumes a pre-Covid peak demand pattern and clearly that heavier peaking is less than 12 years ago.

        So, being very conservative, we should expect 40 to 45 percent more riders on Link just north of Roosevelt, right? That percentage would drop at Capitol Hill pretty notably to something like 20-25 percent even being conservative, right (because the further south it goes the more intra-Seattle or Eastside riders the forecasts produce)?

        So are train loads at 70 percent crush load today (which would allow for 43 percent more riders)? Even though some people stand, it doesn’t appear to be at that level on every single train during the peak. That would mean about 30 people standing in each and every train car today on average (some with 10 and some with 50 for example) with every seat taken.

        And merely going from 8 trains an hour ( the train frequency in this report), to 10 trains an hour would add 25 percent more capacity. Even 9 trains an hour would put a big dent in possible overcrowding. 12 trains an hour would be more than enough.

        That seems to point to having a Northgate to SODO or Stadium short train only every 15 minutes to get from 8 to 12. Maybe it’s only needed for 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the evoking — or just 6 extra trains. And that results in lower overcrowding than today! They could even be three car trains as there would be two four car trains for one three car train!

        And this whole bit about confusing riders by having only an occasional three car train is silly. Systems around the world report this routinely with BART having announced train car lengths for 50 years! The fact that ST doesn’t tell riders how long every train is is ST bureaucracy being lazy and not thinking it is important to tell riders.

        Of course, ST doesn’t tell us how crowded the peak train is or how many are close. No one is asking either.

        As I’ve said before, ST staff should be doing a load factor analysis and presenting it. It’s not about finding room for spare train cars; it’s about what needs to be in service. The fact that we are even having this debate without data rather than reviewing an already published staff report on load factors just proves my point about staff not either doing their jobs or management not wanting to tell the public and Board what is expected to happen with train loads.

        I did find in the Lynnwood DEIS that the 2040 load factors are at LOS C — meaning the every rider gets a seat in their presented methodology. Unfortunately, they only report load factors from Northgate northward. It’s too late to challenge the DEIS but it looks like it ignored the load factors between UW and Westlake. Who is responsible for that oversight? That’s right. ST! Welcome to another example of bureaucracy not looking at the real impacts.

      26. @Mike Orr,

        My preferred solution is to put the delivered capacity where the ridership demand is and to not waste LRV hours at the tails.

        Basically create a short 2-Link overlay with revenue service between NGS and IDS. This would require ST Ops to develop a more realistic spares plan, and to develop the turnback procedures. But it is not that technically challenging, and it could be implemented well before Lynnwood Link opens.

        Implementing the overlay “soon” would allow ST Ops to work out the kinks well before Lynnwood Link actually opens, and it smooths out the hiring wave a bit. And it would be well received by the traveling public.

        What is clear is that more express buses is not the solution.

      27. I agrée with you on the solution, Lazarus.

        I’ll even point out that ST will need to prove that four minute trains need to be operable for a full peak period with their train control system anyway. Plus, there will occasionally come a time when a line is blocked and trains can’t run through.

        In other words, it looks to me like getting four minute trains running before East Link opens not only would help with overcrowding but it would also provide assurances that there won’t be a problem with frequency when East Link finally opens.

        It’s “insurance” to the riders.

      28. “BART having announced train car lengths for 50 years!”

        I’ve always found it useless verbiage. I couldn’t care less how many cars the train has; I just want to know where it goes and in how many minutes. And somehow, with me not understanding what the train length means re where not to stand, I’ve never had a BART train not stop in front of me, or had to run for a train to reach a door before it departed.

      29. The point is that you are attempting to divert riders BEFORE Link becomes overcrowded. How are you going to do that? How are you going to force riders to take a bus instead of Link when there is actually still room for them on Link? How are you going to prevent riders from taking the mode that they prefer?

        You aren’t forcing anyone to do anything. You are simply giving them an alternative that most prefer. You seem to think that no one will ride the buses once they are given the choice of the train, and yet we’ve seen evidence of the opposite for years. Ridership was much lower than expected in Rainier Valley because Metro did not truncate the buses. Ridership on the 7 and 106 are solid, and very few people actually transfer between the 106 and Link (they simply ride the 106 into downtown). In contrast, ridership for UW Link greatly exceeded expectations, because Metro did truncate the express buses. The 49 — a bus that serves the U-District, Capitol Hill and downtown — became more popular. People weren’t that interested in the transfer, even though Metro (and SDOT) did what they could to encourage it (running buses very frequently from the U-District to the stadium). There is a strong preference for avoiding a transfer.

        There is also a strong preference for express service. Link has been operating out of Northgate for quite some time. Yet the popularity of the 400-series buses greatly exceeds those of the 800. The same goes for the north end of Seattle. Prior to the pandemic, buses like the peak-only 64 or 76 were quite popular. Riders could take a bus to Link and transfer, but they preferred the one-seat ride to downtown. I’m not saying these buses are a good value. They cost a lot to operate, and it makes more sense to shuttle people to Link. But plenty of people rode them.

        More to the point, the folks who prefer Link are already on it. For example, let’s say you are close to Mariner or Ash Way. You can take the 410 or the 810 to downtown. They both follow the exact same path and get on the freeway at the same spot. The 410 goes directly to downtown, while the 810 goes to Northgate. If you prefer the train, you take the 810. As Link gets to Northgate, nothing fundamentally changes, as long as they keep the 410. The 410 stops at Mountlake Terrace. All the riders that used to ride the 810 get off there. Instead of transferring at Northgate, they transfer at Mountlake Terrace. Everyone else just keeps riding the bus to downtown, as they did before.

        But just assume I’m wrong. Assume that people suddenly hate express buses, and love Link. So what? The point is, you offer everyone an alternative. Go back to that first scenario. This time it is the evening (when crowding occurs). Instead of catching the 410 at 4th & Pine, you use the Westlake Station. You go down into the station, and wait for your train. When it arrives, it is full. Everyone else has the same idea. You try to squeeze on, but you got there too late. You wait for the next train, and now you are on. It is quite uncomfortable until you get past the U-District. Even then you don’t get a seat until around Northgate. By then you are getting ready to get off the train anyway. A few minutes later you get off at the freeway stop, and make your way to the train station. The next day you try riding the bus, and find that not only is it a lot more pleasant, but you get home faster.

        Unless CT truncates those express buses, the increase in Link crowding will be minimal.

      30. @Ross,

        “ You seem to think that no one will ride the buses once they are given the choice of the train,”

        Exactly! That is exactly correct. That is the history of Link so far. Add Link to any pre-existing corridor and Link not only absorbs existing ridership on the routes it replaces, but Link generates additional ridership over and above pre-existing conditions.

        Why? Because people prefer fast, reliable, high-frequency transit over the other alternatives. That is why people switch to Link. And that is why ridership goes up on these corridors after Link arrives.

        And it is not that the buses support Link and are the cause of Link’s success, it is actually the opposite. The increased ridership that Link generates trickles down to the supporting buses too, and they also see an increase in ridership, as long as they are connecting to Link and not competing with it.

        The agencies all know this, which is why none of them are actually supporting running these express buses after Link opens. At least on their budget.

        Express buses are amongst the most expensive and least economical types of bus routes to operate. Operating them with reduced ridership because they run parallel to superior service will only make them even less economical..

        CT understands this, and also understands that their future route structure will consist of a lot more Link feeder buses and a lot less long range express buses.

        This is why CT plans on cutting their Seattle bound express buses as soon as LLE opens. Because CT gets it.

      31. Lazarus, for Deus’ sake, pull the cob out of your butt. Ross is saying “run the expresses” ONLY if ST can’t solve the train car limitation and / or a bunch of new riders DO show up. He has said many times exactly what you say about them: they’re extremely expensive to operate and often skip desirable intermediate inactivity centers in the name of “trip time”.

        ST and CT both rack up wins if only Link and Swift runs across the County Line, so they’re not going to run other expresses across the line unless doing so is unavoidable.

      32. @Tom Terrific,

        The point is that people don’t want yet more buses and won’t use them. What’s a transit agency to do? Use armed guards to force “certain” people onto the buses?

        And none of the transit agencies want to run them either, and have only suggested “some other agency” run them as sort of an inter-agency equivalent of poking each other in the eye.

        Current low ridership estimates for NB PM peak put passenger loads above the planning standard leaving CHS and Roosevelt Station. High estimates for same are above crush loads leaving CHS, UWS, and Roosevelt Station. And this does not account for Revive I-5, which WSDOT has only agreed to slide by 6 months.

        Clearly a problem exists and a better solution is needed than just “more buses”. That is what this region is trying to get away from.

        This is not the time to backslide. We need to build on the progress we have made with Link, not go backwards yet again as a region..

      33. Lazarus, I would give a qualified “Yes” to your paean to “rail preference”. It’s real, but it isn’t absolute, nor is it very strong.

        But the point is that if ST can’t provide and store enough cars on the west side of Lake Washington to run trains sufgivient to meet demand during the (we can hope brief) interim between opening Lynnwood and having a functional trackway across the lake, some fraction the existing CT express runs can continue. As Ross has elaborated frequently and clearly, some Snohomish County riders will almost certainly prefer the guaranteed seat on a 400 to squeezing onto a crowded Link train through North Seattle, especially in the evening when they won’t already be ensconced in a seat when the crowding begins. No “new buses” are under consideration, and East Link doesn’t have to be “in service”, just able to forward out-of-service trains.

        Why is this so hard to understand?

        It has little effect on Metro. It will go ahead with its Shoreline reconfiguration, because 147th and 185th stations will be online and it can save a bundle by avoiding the mess getting to NGS from the north. The riders on the realigned buses will all already have been transferring at Northgate and so will not add to the misery of riders boarding there and at points south. The same can’t be said for folks who do switch from the 400’s. They will be “new riders” to Link.

        So you ought to give the “holdouts” on the DoubleTalls a tip of your hat for making what will be a hard time for Link a little easier.

      34. “ You seem to think that no one will ride the buses once they are given the choice of the train,”

        Exactly! That is exactly correct. That is the history of Link so far. Add Link to any pre-existing corridor and Link not only absorbs existing ridership on the routes it replaces, but Link generates additional ridership over and above pre-existing conditions.

        That is simply not true. You are completely wrong when it comes to the history of Link and the bus restructures. Go look at the ridership data. For trips along the same corridor, things didn’t change. The 71/72/73 had huge number of riders before Link, shuttling them to downtown. Metro eliminated the express buses from the U-District. Riders were forced to transfer. Ridership increases came from increasing frequency, often to the UW — itself a major destination. Many riders just switched to different express buses (the 77 saw an increase in ridership). Same thing happened to the 41. Ridership from Northgate to downtown is way down, but ridership from Northgate to other destinations (UW, Capitol Hill, etc.) are way up. This is because Link serves these areas way faster (and more frequently) than the buses ever did.

        You are also ignoring the current system! Look at the number of buses that CT runs into Seattle. If people really preferred the train, the 800-series buses would be full, and they would run more of them. But it is the opposite. They run way more 400-series buses. Hell, even ST runs the 510 to downtown Seattle (not Link). Why? Because riders prefer the one-seat express.

        Express buses are amongst the most expensive and least economical types of bus routes to operate.

        YES! Absolutely! This is key. This explains why Metro truncated those very popular routes. It isn’t that the buses can’t compete, or wouldn’t remain popular, it is that they are expensive to operate. That is what folks have been saying for a very long time.

        The same is true now. CT could very easily truncate all of their 400 series buses at Northgate. They would save quite a bit of money. Why didn’t they? It would be unpopular.

        Every agency struggles with this balancing act. I applaud Metro for asking 41 riders to sacrifice their commute to downtown so that service could be improved elsewhere. Likewise, I applaud CT for making plans to finally — finally! — truncating the express buses after Lynnwood Link. Doing so will save money and allow them to use that money elsewhere.

        But if the various failures of ST force CT to delay those truncations, so be it. Downtown commuters will actually be better off, while other improvements (in frequency) get delayed. Either the crowding is important enough to delay those other improvements, or it doesn’t matter.

        But again, assume that folks on CT actually do prefer making the transfer (despite all the contrary evidence). So what? Again, the point is, you provide people with alternative, and crowding goes away. Imagine you have two buses headed from Seattle to Tacoma. They only run every hour. One is really nice, with cushy seats that recline. The other has hard plastic seats. Now imagine they run every hour. Clearly everyone prefers the first bus. But now assume that the first bus is full (they don’t allow standing). Do you wait a full hour for the another cushy bus, or do you take the one with plastic seats. The vast majority of people won’t wait. They will take the uncomfortable bus.

        You really don’t have to make the option for mitigating crowding be better, you simply have to offer it. As it turns out, most riders will prefer taking their one-seat bus to downtown, just as they prefer it now. The other riders are already on the bus.

      35. @Tom T,

        Rail bias is a real thing, but it doesn’t seem to be taken very seriously on this blog. Because, hey, a seat is a seat, right? What would a passenger care if it is steel-on-steel, or rubber-on-concrete, right?

        Wrong. It is the attributes of the system that lead to the large ridership gains of Link. Fast, reliable, high ride quality, and reasonably frequent. These are the qualities that the customers care about.

        Reliability is particularly key. Metro has a very hard time maintaining schedule reliability, but Link excels at it, and ridership has increased well beyond pre-existing bus ridership because of it.

        And don’t be fooled by Ross’s assertion that increased frequency is also increased reliability. This is an overly simplistic interpretation of Jarrett Walker’s comments.

        What Walker is really taking about is redundancy, which can be very important in cases dominated by mechanical failures. But in situations involving crowded urban settings (like Seattle), reliability tends to be dominated by systemic problems like congestion. Essentially, if one bus gets stuck in traffic, then all the buses get stuck in traffic. Increasing frequency just means more buses stuck in traffic.

        Link doesn’t have this problem. And it sees ridership gains as a result.

        But getting back to the express buses. I’ve witnessed enough projects in various levels of distress in my career to recognize “magical thinking” when I see it, and believing that continuing the express buses will solve the Link capacity problem is magical thinking.

        Look at the math. Link is predicted to be 25 passengers over crush load per car (high estimate) for NB evening peak starting at CHS. That is 100 passengers per train, or 750 passengers per hour.

        How many buses is that? Easily 12 to 15 per hour just going north. That is a lot of buses just going one direction. It’s essentially nonfunctional.

        And that is the thing about magical thinking. It is tempting in moments of crisis to believe in magical thinking, but at the end of the day magical thinking is just like any other type of magic – it’s an illusion.

        We can’t be counting on illusions to get us past this problem. We need real solutions.

      36. Lazarus, I think you mistyped. Each Link car can hold 149 riders SRO, or 596/per 4 car train. You stated 750 per HOUR. A four car train every six minutes can carry almost 6000 riders/hour.

        No doubt Link is superior if capacity and grade separated transit are key, and worth the cost. The downside is the route is fixed which means first/last mile access and cost, so first/last mile feeder access must equal nearly 6000 riders per hour if Link is to meet that ridership.

        The question when it comes to Lynnwood Link is what to do to meet capacity — for 6 months — if capacity will be an issue.

        If I had to guess ST will wait to see if capacity is an issue when Lynnwood opens. If not then either continue express buses or some of the ideas you have proposed. Either way I don’t think it will be the end of the world, IF East Link opens on time.

      37. @DT,

        Ah, no. You are looking at the “planning standard”, not the capacity limit.

        The capacity limit is set by the crush load, which is 196 passengers per LRV.

        ST has no plans to operate at 6 min frequency, and they couldn’t anyhow due to LRV storage limitations. They use 8 min headways.

        NB PM peak ridership demand at CHS is estimated to be 221 pax, or 25 pax more than LRV capacity.

        25*4*60/8 = 750. That is the hourly deficient in capacity at CHS (high estimate).

        And ST can’t just wait to see what happens after Lynnwood Link opens. That would be amateurish and unprofessional. They need to be ready,

      38. The capacity limit is set by the crush load, which is 196 passengers per LRV.

        No. The “Crush Load” as defined by Sound Transit is 252 passengers. It isn’t really crush load as the term is generally understood (people aren’t pushing or being pushed to get on) but it is definitely full. It has rarely happened (as that chart shows). “Target Max Load” is 194 passengers, and “Planning Load” is 148 passengers.

        Of course you could get more people on the train with different train cars (something that has been discussed quite a bit over the years). Even with the existing train cars they could have different layouts, increasing standing space, and reducing seating space. None of this is realistic given the timetable though.

        And ST can’t just wait to see what happens after Lynnwood Link opens. That would be amateurish and unprofessional. They need to be ready

        Oh please. Look, ST is muddling along as best they can. Many of their decisions look amateurish and unprofessional. From skipping First Hill to bad plinths to inadequate escalators. Consider that last one. They got cheap with the design of UW Station. They didn’t expect many riders, and the escalators were not up to the task. The biggest flaw was the lack of regular staircases. Of course this looked very amateurish and unprofessional. But guess what? ST eventually fixed the problem and people got over it. The idea that some crowding on a new extension would be disastrous is absurd. If you don’t like the crowded train, you just don’t take it. You take the bus (as long as it is offered.)

        It really has little to do with ST. We know they will get to Lynnwood. It will be delivered later than expected, have less frequency than expected and not include a station that it should. The trains won’t be as spacious as they could be, as that isn’t a priority (and never has been). But it will still operate just fine. If they somehow find some way to increase capacity, then great — kudos to all involved. If not, then everyone will know months in advance, and be able to deal with it.

        It is really CT that has the tough decision to make. If they are worried about crowding, they simply keep running the express buses. In all likelihood, this would eliminate any potential crowding. But even if there is crowding, this provides those same riders with an alternative. They don’t have to deal with the political push-back that comes from truncation. Or at least, they delay any complaints about crowding. Some push back is inevitable. Read the comments of any public forum when they extend Link. It always includes someone complaining about losing their express bus to downtown. But if the comment also includes someone complaining about crowding, it makes things much worse. You get emails and comments that look like this:

        You got ride of my beloved 412, and now I’m forced to crowd onto a train that takes longer to get me home. Shame on you, Community Transit.

        It is CT (not ST) that has the potential to look bad.

      39. But getting back to the express buses. I’ve witnessed enough projects in various levels of distress in my career to recognize “magical thinking” when I see it, and believing that continuing the express buses will solve the Link capacity problem is magical thinking.

        Look at the math.

        OK. We’ll do the math again. It doesn’t require arithmetic, just logic. We just have to back up here, and look at what the problem could be: the increase in demand exceeds the capacity of the transit system. Now consider demand and capacity. The increase in demand will come from two sources:

        1) Riders switching from driving to Link. This is tiny. Link already serves the north end. There are no major destinations north of Lynnwood. Someone who drives to say, downtown Seattle already drives right by the gigantic *free* parking lots at Northgate. Very few rush hour drivers will switch just because the drive to Link is a bit shorter.

        2) Drivers switching from taking the bus. This could definitely be significant.

        Now what is the capacity:

        1) Link capacity. Assuming they run the same number of trains, it is unchanged.

        2) Bus capacity. Assuming they run the same buses, it is unchanged.

        There is excess capacity on both right now. Thus the only way you run into *capacity* problems is if the number of people switching from driving to taking the train exceeds the existing excess capacity of the trains and buses. I find that idea absurd. Of course there will be some drivers who switch, but only a handful.

        Thus from a total capacity standpoint, you are fine. Theoretically, you could have a crowding problem on Link. But if people decide they want a crowded train ride instead of an express bus trip, so be it. As long as people have an alternative (which, I might add, many people prefer) you are fine. If, on the other hand, you truncate those buses (which is a very reasonable thing to do) you run the risk of having capacity problems. People would be forced to switch to taking Link, and Link wouldn’t be able to handle the load.

        Would they blame Link? Probably not. They would blame CT for not offering them an alternative — one that exists now.

      40. Daniel, regardless of crowding, ST is going to truncate the 510 at Lynnwood. No ST express in the I-5 corridor will cross the King-Snohomish County Line after Link reaches Lynnwood.

        It is CT’s 400’s which will bear any burden of Link overflow, should it occur. So the decision will be CT’s to make. They’ll be hoping to sunset them.

  6. @ross I urge you to look at this from another perspective. The value prop everyone bought into with ST was the regional investments in HCT would enable the local agencies to redeploy their resources to improve service at the local level while providing connex to rail. In the process, the one-seat bus commute would be replaced with a two-seat trip to downtown with better travel time, higher frequency and more reliability.

    Now fast forward to 2023, Snohomish County has done the work. They are ready to implement a frequent, all day network connecting every city in the county to each other, with a countywide BRT network at the core and express connex to Link. ST has pointedly not done the work, and they are going to open LLE anyway without enough train capacity to do the job, namely accommodating the loads CT will deliver to their doorstep.

    The solution you suggest is delaying that frequent network, with a mish mash of crowded trains and a two-seat bus commute stuck in I-5 traffic instead til the 2 Line opens. And riders having to make a choice each day which way to roll the dice. What a black eye for a Link opening. Seems like better approaches would be waiting til East Link is ready to cross the lake altogether, or pushing the envelope to bring more trains to the west side sooner to deliver the rider experience that’s been promised for the past 20 years. Every Link opening ST has had so far has been a success, a net positive for the community. The system has added ridership and improved options/connections each time. The path they’re for Lynnwood is looking pretty messy.

    1. Riders boarding from Lynnwood Link will already be on Link when it reaches Northgate, so any capacity issues won’t affect them. They will be sitting down. The folks who will be impacted — before East Link opens across the bridge — will be riders boarding from Northgate and Roosevelt stations, because enough riders will disembark at U. Dist. station to relieve any congestion for those boarding at U Dist. and continuing downtown,

      1. It is more likely you will have crowding in the evening, not the morning. In that case, the folks in Lynnwood will be effected, just like the folks heading to Northgate, Capitol Hill, etc. They will eventually get a seat though, as more people get off than get on at every stop north of Capitol Hill.

    2. The clear answer to this is to run short-turns between Northgate and SoDo or Stadium at the peaks. It’s feasible with double seating during the reversal to turn a train at Northgate within five minutes. At SoDo the train can just run around the outer loop at Forest Street, essentially without stopping. There is a “flying junction” to accommodate northbounds entering the main track so there would be essentially zero impact on existing schedules.

      As has been pointed out by many people, all — or nearly all — of the people who will be boarding Link north of Northgate off peak are already doing so. The 400’s and the 510 don’t run off-peak. So while there may indeed be a surge in overall daily ridership to and from north of Northgate — we can certainly hope there will — it will all be at the peaks. ST can easily afford to run “Line 2” trains from Northgate to SoDo or Stadium and has enough vehicles to do so.

      Service north of Northgate of course will not be as frequent as it will when full Line 2 service is established, and then, when trains run every five minutes all day long, new ridership may be attracted by that greater frequency.

      So the current 400 and 510 riders will be inconvenienced by the requirement to transfer at Lynnwood. CT can help that by adjusting the schedules of its 400’s to arrive at Lynnwood half way between Link departures, minimizing the usual time to transfer. It won’t work all the time, of course. That’s inevitable because of freeway congestion. But that five minutes will almost certainly be gained back by not being on buses having to thread their way through all the HOV cheaters between 46th West and the express lane gate.

      1. I have a slightly different take. When it comes to people from Snohomish County going to Seattle, a couple things will happen. I believe that any increase in overall transit ridership will occur in the middle of the day. During peak, you will roughly have the same ridership, but people will switch from using the bus to the train (assuming they are forced to).

        This means that Metro, CT and ST can look at their data and make a good estimate of peak ridership (the only thing that matters when it comes to crowding). You might be off by a little bit, but not by much. Metro runs a handful of peak express buses, but they don’t carry many riders. The buses that used to carry lots of people (like the 41) have long been truncated. Thus I could see an increase in peak ridership from north King County, but not a huge one. Again, the big improvement is in midday service.

        So it should be relatively easy to calculate the expected crowding, because there won’t be a huge increase in peak transit riders. They will simply switch from the existing (express) buses to Link. Or if they keep the existing express buses, there won’t be much (peak) increase at all.

    3. I also think the task for CT is much easier than the task for Metro. CT can implement the restructure, but keep the existing express buses (for the time being). At worst you run the other buses a bit less often.

      In contrast, Metro has to deal with the fact that the 130th Station won’t open with the rest of Lynnwood Link. If they implement a restructure based on the station being there, it means that a lot of riders lose their connection to Link. If they keep the existing system, it less than ideal, and in some cases rather awkward. For example, the 330 runs infrequently, and gets riders about a half mile from the future Link station. With a little bit of work it could be modified to connect a significant number of riders from Aurora to Link. Likewise you have several of those express buses that make less sense than ever (the 301 just seems silly once Lynnwood Link opens). At a minimum I see Metro making some sort of restructure, even if it is relatively minor, and designed as a stopgap before 130th. In other words, I see them making a restructure before the main restructure.

    1. No problem. The site has been slow in responding to posts the last couple weeks as well. I’m not sure what is going on.

  7. Someone regularly makes a flyover drone video of Lynwood Link’s progress. Someone else regularly make a drone video of Federal Way Link from Angle Lake to Federal Way. But, no one has ever made a drone video of East Link. Not even a section of it.

    1. That’s because, as Daniel reminds us every day, East Link doesn’t matter, will carry no riders, and will probably not work across the bridge for longer than a couple of weeks. So nobody cares how its coming along.

      1. Tom, does anyone on the Eastside really care how East Link is “coming along”? I don’t see it although it was suppose to fully open in 2021.

        It seems to me the only concern on this blog is the loss of East Link trains and OMF-E for Lynnwood to CID. I hate to break it to you, but eastsiders are not broken up about that. Lynnwood just is not a huge destination, and we have something called 405.

        If some method is found to increase capacity/frequency from Northgate to CID when Lynnwood Link opens, and to maintain those trains, without having to open East Link across the bridge no one on this blog would care about delays to East Link on the Eastside. Which is how we feel.

        Personally I don’t think opening East Link across the bridge will be necessary to meet capacity when Lynnwood Link opens. I think ST’s ridership estimates are inflated, and Al has explained well that most folks from SnoCo already truncate at Northgate

        I think you and others will find everything is just fine when Lynnwood Link opens without Link across the bridge. There will be plenty of capacity. You will be ok. If necessary eastsider can take one of the many express buses to CID to catch Link to Lynnwood. After all, transfers are good for you.

        Or drive up 405. It isn’t like Lynnwood doesn’t have endless free parking.

      2. Daniel, again you’re not reading carefully or you wouldn’t be lecturing me.

        I said almost EXACTLY the same thing in my post above that you said in reply: ST has enough capacity to handle the ridership. In the unlikely event that the Snohomish reconfiguration attracts many new riders, ST has enough trains on the westside to run SoDo-Northgate turnbacks during the peaks [you didn’t say that, because you don’t give a rat’s ass about transit operations; I said it because I do].

        The rest of the time ten minute service will be adequate because, as we agree, almost everyone who will be on Link north of Northgate then except at the peaks is already on Link south of Northgate now because no Snohomish County buses run south of Northgate except from 6-9 AM and 4-6:30 PM. The 400’s and the 510 are still running all the way to downtown Seattle, and the people who ride them will provide whatever increase Lynnwood Link carries after the opening. Folks have said it’s about 2000 per day total, though I don’t know if that’s boardings or round-trips.

        Just as an aside, do you lecture the Court when you’re arguing a case? Do you lecture the opposing Counsel? Do you lecture the bailiffs? Do you lecture your client? Do you lecture the court-watchers?

        Inquiring minds want to know.

      3. Sorry Tom, I know you have outlined some ideas for turning back trains at Sodo if there isn’t capacity when Lynnwood Link opens. No lecture intended.

        Since you started out with calling me out with a statement that is untrue I thought I would respond.

        What I have noted in the past is East Link’s delay ON THE EASTSIDE has been well tolerated by the eastside, and that based on current office occupancy in Seatttle, and current ridership on east—west buses by eastsiders that is much less than originally estimated by ST which will increase the capacity (number of available seats) on East Link trains between CID and Northgate where some worry capacity will be an issue when Lynnwood Link opens, there should be enough capacity when Lynnwood Link opens even though East Link won’t be open across the bridge.

        Re: the ability to run 4 car trains at 50 mph every 8 minutes across a floating bridge span and deck that were never tensioned for light rail I have been involved in ST’s efforts to solve that nut since 2014 when ST first discovered the nut. . Only time will tell (the project is delayed 4 years so far), but even if capacity is much less it should meet current east—west ridership needs and still provide extra trains from CID to Lynnwood. This is one instance in which ST’s inflated ridership estimates may actually benefit ST.

        Hope that clarifies things.

      4. “the ability to run 4 car trains at 50 mph every 8 minutes across a floating bridge span and deck that were never tensioned for light rail”

        The bridge was built with the intention of converting the center lanes to future rail. There was already a kind of “Forward Thrust 2” vision in the 80s when the Hadley bridge and DSTT were built, even though there was no Sound Transit and no plans to go beyond King County. Are you saying the engineers forgot about the weight of trains they knew would run on it? Or that light rail is heavier than heavy rail?

        The biggest concern I’ve seen about the bridge is the joints where the fixed land-based track connects to the floating water-based track. That’s the part I think is most likely to fail if anything does.

      5. Mike, the bridge was designed for light rail or BRT but the concrete was not tensioned for that kind of light rail load and vibration, issues that were not discovered until around 2015. ST’s earlier engineers missed these issues, and since this is the first floating concrete bridge to ever have light rail there is no template.

        ST states that a special “hinge” between the fixed decks and floating span will reduce the force of the weight of a four car train dropping onto the span, along with better guy wires to hold the span and deck together.

        Then ST decided to “post tension” the concrete by tightening the rebar, which is not the preferred practice.

        Finally ST raised the rails off the span and deck onto plinths to reduce vibrations reaching the rebar and micro fracturing the concrete. Originally the center roadway was design to host both light rail and buses in case buses were needed. That is no longer possible.

        The key is light rail does not compromise the bridge or accelerate its replacement. Light rail is not worth than when buses work so well. The good news is actual ridership could be handled by smaller trains going slower. ST’s original east-west ridership estimates during peak hours required four car trains every 8 minutes.

        Whether an agency that crashed its maiden voyage to Portland and can’t seem to keep escalators running or build plinths will be the first agency in history to successfully run trains over a floating concrete bridge won’t be known until East Link opens.

      6. In fairness and full disclosure, I agree with Daniel’s concerns about the effect of Link trains on the wide floating bridge.

        I’m not particularly worried about the weight increase issue, because it will occur gradually. Well, maybe something that occurs over twenty or thirty seconds can’t truly be called “gradual” but think about this: as a train approaches the bridge over the intervening trestle, the weight will be transferred as an integral function to the bridge structure. Each foot of the train that moves onto the trestle will add a bit to the load on the bridge end of the trestle but it’s initially very small because of the low angle of the trestle to the bridge deck. It’s the sine of a small angle times the weight of that foot of the train divided by some differential function I do not know that depends on the length of the trestle. As that foot then moves down the trestle, the portion of its weight supported initially almost completely by the landward tend he will transfer smoothly to the bridge end of the trestle by that function. The result is that the train won’t “whomp down” suddenly onto the bridge.

        [Actually, of course, it’s each pico-meter of the train, but folks get the idea more readily with “foot” increments.]

        However, the highly periodic vibration of rail wheelsets on the track may find some amplifying harmonic within the bridge structure at any point on it. That can probably be ameliorated by changing the speed of the trains, but other harmonics might then arise at the same or a different point. The caissons are not perfectly identical, so each will have unique harmonics.

        The nightmare would be that the problems are not noticeable until cracks become apparent like on the West Seattle bridge.

        It’s going to be an interesting test period.

      7. Thinking about it some more, because of the wheelsets, the initial assumption of load by the trestle will be non-linear. But the rest is true.

    1. Interesting article. Very well written in my opinion, in that it covers economics without a lot of jargon. The last couple sentences are interesting:

      Perhaps the brightest spot will be the much-needed aid to still-high inflation, given the home-price decline underway. We’ll take disinflationary forces anywhere we can get them.

      Whatever role those new homes play in reducing housing costs will be most welcome, indeed.

    2. New SFH sales have remained surprisingly strong because of the low supply of existing SFH’s for sale. That is because a large portion of home owners refinanced at historically low interest rates — most fixed term — and so are reluctant to sell and then have to borrow at interest rates much higher to buy another home. A house that cost the same as what they sold their existing home for would cost them considerably more if they sold and bought a new house just due to higher interest rates.

      This has especially hit the lower end or starter home because owners are not selling to move up so those existing houses simply are not on the market as Millennials are marrying and wanting a SFH. As a result a lot of the new SFH construction is at the starter level with inexpensive finishings.

      Never before have we had a Fed go from 1% interest rates to over 5% in less than a year.

      I personally think we are moving toward a multi-family housing glut at the high end due to all the new construction while continuing to have a severe shortage of affordable multi-family housing because those units are being developed out of existence or gentrified. At least in cities with a stable and growing population and a high and/or rising AMI.

      A lot of folks have already forgotten 2008 — 2015 when housing prices plummeted because no one could qualify for a loan and there was a jobs recession which was the start of the pressure on the rental market.

      I get the Schwab newsletter. Smart folks have been predicting a recession for a year but so far no recession. Some think the Fed and Congress poured so much money into the economy it will take years of higher interest rates and quantitative tightening to finally cool inflation which is the most regressive tax of all, which is why some call the current situation the “richession” because only the lower income folks are getting squeezed while the stock market and luxury market is surprisingly strong.

      If food, housing, gas and utilities are rising faster than wages eventually something has to give.

      1. There’s also a fair amount of VRBO, AirBnB, etc going on. I get about 10 high pressure buying calls a month telling me “Portland is dying so you better sell you house to us right now! Fast!”

        Multnomah County population may have gone down, but it sure doesn’t seem to have eased the housing shortage. Indeed, supposedly one of the primary reasons people give for leaving is housing costs too much.

      2. “New SFH sales have remained surprisingly strong because of the low supply of existing SFH’s for sale.”

        Finally you recognize what’s going on. In Pugetopolis at least, supply has been tight since 2008. At first owners were underwater, then they didn’t want to move in a recession when jobs were harder to find, then they didn’t want to move because prices were rising so fast they couldn’t get a home as good as their existing one for a comparable price. And now there’s high interest rates, and people are uncertain where the economy is headed so they don’t want to move again.

      3. Actually Mike, there was a surplus of houses for sale from 2008 until around 2014.—15. The big issue then was foreclosures and VERY strict lending standards. When we bought our house in 2009 we had to put 35% down. It wasn’t until 2016 the assessed value caught up to what I paid for it.

        The current shortage of starter SFH is again an artificial shortage due to financial conditions, not so much a shortage of supply based on lack of construction. It is a shortage of financing, not housing, just like 2008. If you have a 30 year mortgage at under 3% when inflation is running at 8% you would be foolish to sell (better to rent), and if you sold and bought another house your interest rate went from 2 7/8 to 7%. That makes a huge difference in the monthly mortgage payment.

        SFH ownership really is not a big part of the housing affordability crisis. But it is an emotional issue because millennial couples are reaching the age and marrying when a SFH is the American dream. They are not looking to make a profit but a home.

        Any SFH in Seattle will cost more than $700k. There isn’t a shortage of 100% AMI housing either, especially for a couple.

        Rising AMI, gentrification, and the destruction of older more affordable housing for new less affordable housing is squeezing those with 60%AMO and below AMI out, especially if they live alone.

        Publicly subsidized housing is one solution although expensive because few move on. Rent control is another but like any artificial restraint on housing it has side effects. More shared housing is a solution. What isn’t a solution for affordability is more market rate housing

        Really I am not sure there is any solution except move to a more affordable city. The cities that are trying the hardest to preserve affordable housing and cure homelessness like LA, NY, San Francisco, Seattle, Tacoma, are doing the worst.

      4. “Actually Mike, there was a surplus of houses for sale from 2008 until around 2014.—15.”

        No there wasn’t. I was monitoring it in the newspaper. Before 2008 the average time on market was six months; after 2008 it shrunk to six weeks. Because sellers weren’t selling like they used to, so the market was very tight for buyers. In the recession there were few buyers, but those that did found few houses available so prices remained high, even if they fell 20% from their peak. Even that was significantly higher than they had been in 2003 or 1998, so the high prices were very recent, and disproportionate with inflation. Since then the time on market has fluctuated between two and six weeks, maybe a bit more, but not back to the three or six months that would keep prices stable. When there’s only three or four weeks of inventory, you get multiple bidders for every property, and they do insane things like bidding above the asking price, foregoing inspections, and buying sight unseen in order to get the unit they want. Others have to look months to find a house, and lose bids several times before they can get one, and raise their budget and take on more debt in order to get one.

        That’s all in Seattle and King County, not the rest of the country.

      5. I must have missed that Mike. I had a SFH on MI I listed in 2009. Every day for 3 years I followed the market and begged my agent to find a buyer. It finally sold in 2012 for 30% less than what I originally listed it for. In 2018 it sold for twice what I sold it for. It was recently listed for 30% over the 2018 sale price but hasn’t sold, and the price reduced because the market has cooled.

      6. I personally think we are moving toward a multi-family housing glut at the high end due to all the new construction

        Then the people who built the overly posh units and the banks and REITS who funded them will take a haircut as rents for them fall. That’s not good for investors in banks and REIT’s and it’s an inefficient way to create affordable housing, but the housing does get built.

        It’s a slick way to part some complacent Richie Rich’s from some of their money for a good cause.

    3. I assume this is national, so most of it reflects conditions outside Pugetopolis. The US population is also the highest it has ever been, and 35% higher than it was 50 years ago. So even if only a small percent of people are forming new households, that’s still a lot of people. The restrictions on multifamily housing are gradually easing, so that’s allowing it to rise closer to its natural level.

      1. The increase in multifamily construction is following increased consumer demand and increased profitability for multifamily developers. Restrictions being eased is never mentioned as the driving force behind the nationwide increase in multifamily construction.

      2. Sam, it also follows near zero interest rates so banks were desperate to lend to realize yields and REIT’s ballooned with investments that by their charter must invest those investments in real estate. Along with record low unemployment and rising prices to buy.

        Whether the multi-family boom continues depends on demand, but also whether the risk/return for banks is worth it with interest rates at over 5% and The Fed raising capital requirements, record redemptions from REIT’s, and the number of existing, completed multi-family developments for sale that all determine whether a developer can make a profit.

        My guess based on the current permit stage is multi-family construction will cool significantly except for very high end projects is hot cities like Miami.

        A question often not asked is whether multi-family housing is the first choice for those living in it. If conditions to buy a SFH improve that could also reduce demand. On the other hand office development is dead for the same reasons above so large developers may have no option other than multi-family housing development, although I think borrowing rates will need to improve.

        I think something like $2.4 TRILLION in commercial and multi-family debt must be refinanced in 2024-25 (no fixed 30 year loans for these projects) and that should clarify things.

      3. What part, if any, do age demographics play in housing being freed-up? The peak birth year for baby boomers was 1957. After that year, total US births went on a steady decline. People born in 1957 are now 65 years old. In 10+ years, that group will move to retirement housing, presumably freeing-up the housing they once lived int to a less populous generation. On the surface, it seems like that would mean a net housing gain. Am I off base with this admittedly simplistic line of thinking?

      4. As the population increases and cities become larger, multifamily construction makes more sense and single-family construction makes less sense. Single-family construction gobbles huge amounts of land. It’s one thing if a thousand people want new houses but another thing if millions of people want them and they don’t care about their environmental impact. And single-family infrastructure doesn’t pay for itself because it’s so much infrastructure per capita.

        Older cities like New York and Chicago realized this all along, and allowed the cities to densify proportional to the population increase. Later cities and regions are in a fantasyland thinking they can keep growing without density, or that they can have a token number of midrises in a small area and that’s all. That position is increasingly becoming untenable, and one by one cities and their residents are gradually accepting more density and walkability than they would have imagined ten years earlier. That trend will continue, even if it runs at different rates in different cities, and even if cities and nimbys come kicking and screaming that they want to live in a 1950s TV show forever.

      5. What part, if any, do age demographics play in housing being freed-up?

        Quite a bit, but mainly in cities that are less popular (like the industrial Midwest). Florida and other sunbelt places have grown considerably over the years, as retirees move south, to warmer climates. It gets complicated though. It is common for retirees to move to rural areas, because they don’t have to worry about working anymore, and it is cheaper. But then they find that health care isn’t that good. Sometimes you can find areas where the health care is decent, and these areas become especially popular. Even when the health care is not particularly great, you can easily end up with places that are popular for retirees. As a result, property values can increase considerably. For example, as Sequim became well known as a place to retire, property values soared.

      6. “…as retirees move south, to warmer climates.”
        and things are getting warmer as in, the ‘snowbird’ is now looking to avoid the 110℉ + temps of the south for the mere 100℉ + temps of say, eastern Washington.
        Availability of healthcare specialists in particular keep some of the fellow old farts I know from giving up that local paid-for home, even though there is a strong desire to move to rural areas. If that particular demographic were going to have an effect, I imagine it would already have done so.

      7. Sam,

        The Boomers and Gen X folks are never moving out of their houses until they’re really close to death. I was born on the Boomer/Gen X divide and most of my friends love their houses and plan to pass them on to family when they die. Real estate is the absolute best way to build generational wealth. With real estate what it is now…. only fools sell.

        I think it really comes down to values and what you want out of life. I think Seattle has become well stocked with educated, higher income people who want to live alone. That’s certainly a lifestyle choice and Seattle is a great place to be single with money. This also means that lower income people, people who value marriage and children and even non-White people can’t thrive in Seattle, or even the greater Seattle, as the Yuppies spread out.

        There’s not billions of dollars to somehow rewire the housing system in Seattle. It is what it is. Unless you’re a tech worker who needs to be close to the action, young people need to weigh leaving Seattle for greener pastures with more opportunity.

        There’s a huge housing shortage all over the USA, and the first step in fixing it is moving people out of impossibly expensive places (NYC, S.F., Seattle) and into affordable places where it’s politically possible to build more housing.

        Right now Seattle and King county are spending $65,000 a year on motel rooms. Permanent low income housing in greater Puget Sound costs over $350,000 per unit.. A starter home costs over 700K with at least 5 bidders. There’s no easy fix to any of this. Social housing, changing the zoning? These are not solutions. There’s no solutions expect people moving away.

        On the transit side of things, our underfunded bus system and lack of drivers are the only subjects that matter. If the bus system doesn’t work, transit doesn’t work for 90% go the region. Unless you live in Seattle, north of downtown. Then you have a subway system! and the best Metro buses. Otherwise you’re screwed.

      8. The Boomers and Gen X folks are never moving out of their houses until they’re really close to death.

        I know several people who retired and moved. According to this study:

        How many people might be using the retire-and-relocate strategy? The 7% annual mobility figure from Figure 1 implies that about 52% of all U.S. retirees migrate over a ten-year period (each year, 93% of eligible retirees stay put).

        Here is an interesting story as well: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/20/your-money/selling-the-family-home-is-liberating-for-many-retirees.html

      9. I have seen a few articles noting Millenials feel Boomers are living too long and living in their SFH too long, so there is a lack of SFH for sale. Based on demographics, there should be a lot of Boomer deaths or transitioning to assisted care over the next 20 years so the supply of SFH for sale should increase and my guess is prices decrease because of the increase in supply and hopefully drop in mortgage rates.

        I know a lot of older people whose kids are grown who are tired of the upkeep on a SFH and the yard but just have a hard time with the idea of shared wall living, or a tiny deck. The obvious solution MI has looked at is smaller lot/house/town homes but the new, smaller houses are more expensive than one would think, small lots mean tall narrow houses which the elderly don’t want, and builders prefer the full size/lot house in a city like MI. Plus they want the town house in the town center and not a remote residential neighborhood so they can walk to more things.

        Kirkland seems ideal but it’s downtown has become too dense for a lot of eastsiders and prices are high and they are shared wall units.

      10. Daniel Thompson,

        The biggest reason first time home owners can’t afford a home is retiring boomers want the same 1200 sq ft home (and have cash to burn).

        I’ve been a part of some many high dollar remodels of cracker box ramblers over the last 20 years…. rich people call it “downsizing”.

        Looking at local and national markets for homes, there are likely more rich Californian seniors looking to “downsize” in Washington State than local first time buyers. There’s nothing any local government can do about this.

        The same market forces will sink any “social housing” built in Seattle. There’s no part of I-135 that prevents out-of-State people from showing up and enrolling for social housing benefits.

      11. I live in a SFH, but it’s not exactly my first choice. It was $149,000 in 2005 and there were no alternatives available. Condominiums were available in Troutdale somewhat less, but that’s half an hour further out. Several apartment buildings exist in the area, but aren’t well maintained and rent is throwing money away. Condos closer in we’re going for $500,000, and over $1,000/month in HOA fees – far more than my entire mortgage.

        I’m sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to live in denser housing if doing so didn’t mean flushing large sums of money down the toilet.

        How do the housing above retail buildings work in Europe? It’s difficult to imagine such dense housing being so popular there if it required wasting someone’s entire life savings.

      12. > On the surface, it seems like that would mean a net housing gain. Am I off base with this admittedly simplistic line of thinking?

        The other thing you are missing which has been happening longer and faster is household size decline. As people marry later, get divorced, and have fewer kids, we need more houses to hold the same amount of people.

        In 2000 the average household size was 2.6. Now it’s 2.5, which doesn’t sound like a big decrease, but that movement alone would require housing units to increase by 4%.

        Seattle’s growth, anecdotally, also trends towards people likelier to be at a younger stage in life where they are childless.

      13. Increasing the number of dwelling units doesn’t necessarily increase housing capacity which is usually measured by number of bedrooms. . For example, replacing a four bedroom SFH with 4 smaller units that now all need their own kitchen and bathroom does not increase the number of bedrooms or housing CAPACITY.

        Seattle has one of the highest percentages of people living alone. I am not sure why. My guess is the high AMI means more can afford to live alone. At the same time MI averages 3.1 household residents for married couples.

        Single people live together too. I married in my 30’s. Until then I always had a roommate(s) because it was cheaper. Today the most affordable housing for one is to rent a room in a SFH except you often can’t control who you are living with.

        Living alone is great if you can afford it, are single, and prefer to live alone. Sometimes the trade off due to the higher cost is a very small unit. Seattle is also a leader in micro apartments.

        When my wife and I married we were able to turn rent for two apartments into one, and with our combined incomes were able to save up to buy our first house and begin to build equity. Neither one of us could have afforded to buy our first house alone, and there are probably not many folks in Seattle who can afford to buy a house or condo on their income alone, which is why a roommate or ADU is popular for young single buyers although many might prefer to not have a roommate or ADU.

        I don’t think this has to do with affordability though. New construction is the least affordable per sf, generally is built for the 100%+ AMI crowd, and often replaces older more affordable housing plus adds the cost of new kitchens and appliances and bathrooms for each unit that are studios or one bedroom max because of the limits on gross floor area to lot area ratio that restricted the size of the four bedroom SFH.

        Where one does see a material increase in housing capacity (number of. bedrooms) is UGA’s and areas with large parcels with regulatory limits for height and yard setbacks that allow very large structures with lots of units, especially when that new development replaces low density like a parking lot or single story building. The new constructions is not cheap — the 2300 new units near U Village rent for $2k to $6k/mo. Generally that scale of development needs to be near urban cores with walkable retail and transit, and spirals more to single folks.

        Married couples are often lured to a SFH and the suburbs when they have kids. They need the space, and want public safety for a vulnerable kid and the best public schools they can afford.

        A lot of folks thought more of these couples would move back to the city when the kids were grown. Some did. Belltown was very popular but then Seattle got dangerous and an eight month pregnant women can get shot in the head at 4th and Lenora just sitting in her car. Kirkland is popular with older folks downsizing, but after 20-30 years in a SFH you get used to the benefits and privacy although the house and yard upkeep get harder as you get older, and property taxes are so high today for seniors on fixed incomes. Seattle is also a national leader in senior households that are house rich but cash poor. At the same time as noted above by Glenn HOA fees can be punishing in higher end condo buildings.

  8. Does Seattle not have things like transit station easements in zoning?

    The brouhaha over the SLU station doesn’t make much sense to me, because right now the northwest corner of Denny and Westlake is a park and a visitor’s center no one uses, and it’s already approved for a tall tower. In other places I’ve lived, you’d just work out something so that the developer builds a large, station sized hole at the same time that can be fitted relatively inexpensively later.

  9. As we know Metro is short of drivers and has had to cancel numerous trips on many routes but it is now affecting their night owl service.

    On Saturday morning several night owl trips on the 7 and 49 are not operating and with those routes interlined at that time of the night both routes are affected. Also a night owl on the 124 to the airport is not operating.

    It is probable very hard to find drivers at that of the night but for anyone who depends on the night owl service cancellations like this makes commuting hard with very few other options available.

    1. I know that Metro is trying to hire back drivers who were let go because of the vaccine mandate – do we know how that work is going? I think there was ~100 drivers that might be eligible, and if all of them came back, it would go a long ways towards alleviating the shortage.

  10. After being fixed there are now 2 broken escalators again at wwestlake, per the dashboard. The dashboard also shows zero elevators out of service which seems unlikely.

  11. Happened to walk past the 130th Ave East Link station the other day. It’s pretty dire. Most of 130th between Bel-Red and 20th does not have a sidewalk. And they put a parking lot right next to the station.

    Looking at the zoning, it seems like (as of 2009) you can build 5- or 6-story apartment buildings there, but hardly anything has been built yet. The Link stations in Redmond seem to see a lot more development than the ones in Bellevue. I wonder why that is?

    1. What an odd observation. It’s not dire at all. What you saw is exactly what someone should expect if they visit the 130th station area. You’re looking at the very beginning of a residential neighborhood. There are some multi-families currently being built, and more in the pipeline, but it will take many years for the area to fill in. Here’s a list of some of what’s to come.


      1. Great link, Sam. Is there an equivalent of “Seattle in Progress” for the East Side (or various East Side cities)? I find that website handy to see development in Seattle.

      2. A lot of the development along the East Link stations in Bellevue has been permitted or is in the permitting stage. When Bellevue increased its maximum height by 14 stories IIRC a number of permitted projects ready to break ground were redesigned and resubmitted with the new height limit.

        Most of the square footage for planned projects in Bellevue at East Link stations was new office space. Funding is very difficult today for new office space, especially in these B/C class zones which is why East Link stops there (Amazon alone will have massive amounts of excess office space in the one true A zone in Bellevue). So the projects are on hold as folks wait to see how the demand for office space shakes out, and whether banks or REIT’s want to lend.

        Multi-family is not as profitable as office space, but the designs may have to shift to housing, which is ironic because many felt the developments were heavy on office space and light on multi-family, and both basically had very little retail.

      3. An urban village should have a balance of jobs and housing so that the workers can theoretically live there. There have been reports that the Spring District has too many offices and too little housing, which means more workers will have to commute from Woodinville and Lynnwood instead of in the area. So if economic conditions force some of the offices to be converted to housing before they’re built, that’s a good thing.

    2. The Link stations in Redmond seem to see a lot more development than the ones in Bellevue. I wonder why that is?

      Hard to say. It looks there is one apartment going in, northeast of the station. Other than that, it looks fairly industrial. There may be a better term for it, but I call this type of the lack of development “business inertia”. For example, Cadman owns the concrete plant. The value of that property has soared recently (according to the county tax assessor). The value is almost entirely in the land (not the plant). Thus the owner could sell it for around 50 million, and move somewhere else. But that requires finding new land, and dealing with all of those issues. There is little hurry to move. The value keeps going up, but that is a good thing. The taxes are high, but not that high, because the property tax is based on the combined value of the land/improvements, not just the land itself. This encourages those with similar land (e. g. parking lots) to hold onto the land. They are still making money, and the value of their asset (the land) keeps going up. My guess is it eventually gets sold, but it might be a while.

      Hard to say why Redmond is developing much faster. I think it has “better bones”, in that there are some old, interesting buildings in the area (making it more attractive for development). It is also possible it was mainly houses back in the day. Folks who own houses sometimes hang on to them, but often they just cash out, and move a little ways away (or a long ways away). This is what happened to Roosevelt. A lot of single family homes were converted to apartments. But a lot of low-slung, relatively cheap property was converted as well. These were not owner-operated (unlike Cadman) but leased out by landlords. Once the lease was up, they sold the property, and cashed out. The new owners built apartments, with ground floor retail.

      I’m just speculating here, but that is my guess.

    3. The parking lot is a temporary use. When the decision was made 130th was in the middle of nowhere and it was expected to take several years for Spring District growth to reach the area, and the parking lot would be converted to housing then. But growth came sooner than expected, and East Link is two years late going on four, so the station may end up being surrounded by towers when it opens, and the parking lot may stick out like a sore thumb.

    4. It’s curious to me what the best timing of station area redevelopment should be. If it happens earlier then light rail construction gets expensive and complicated (like South Lake Union). If it happens much later than opening it gets perceived as being a wasteful investment as a station.

      Property ownership opportunities, development approvals and funding, and market demand aren’t perfect straight lines as larger economic factors tend to play into these things. I think it’s normal that market forces end up having some areas redevelop before others. It’s also healthy that redevelopment happens gradually rather than all at once, as this creates affordability variations in the housing stock as “new units” get priced higher than “old units” and internal amenities can vary (newer units tend to have less parking and better laundry arrangements and roomier closets, for example).

      My rough theory on optimum redevelopment : A quarter of a station walkshed should be already be finished and occupied near rail transit groundbreaking day. A second quarter should be ready for occupancy on the opening day of service. A third quarter should be ready for occupancy within 5 years of opening day. The final quarter should be finished and ready for occupancy in something like 15-20 years after opening day. Sure some station areas will happen sooner and others will happen later, and that’s not a bad thing.

      I will also mention that when walkshed redevelopment is not possible to a large extent due to things like a public golf course or freeway corridor permanently removing large chunks of land from potential denser development it can make the station less justified. It’s also easier for development if land parcels are bigger to redevelop, like what we see near Federal Way or Lynnwood.

      It’s kind of why I’m expecting Judkins Park or Belred or East Main in Bellevue or Lynnwood to do well as productive stations while I have strong skepticism that 130th/ Pinehurst or 272nd or Avalon ever will be great at being more productive in the long run..

      1. One thirtieth will certainly ly never be a big “walk-up station, but it might be successful if Metro carries the ball well, getting folks there quickly and frequently from Lake City and Bitter Lake.

      2. One thirtieth will certainly never be a big “walk-up station, but it might be successful if Metro carries the ball well, getting folks there quickly and frequently from Lake City and Bitter Lake.

      3. A lot of the stations are limited by the freeway, which is why most of the stations won’t have a lot of walk-up riders, but be dependent on bus service for most of their ridership. That doesn’t mean they won’t have some development nearby. That is bound to happen. So if the goal is really to build new development, then I expect every single station to be deemed a success. If the goal is high walk-up ridership, it is a different matter.

        As far as the stations you mentioned, every one is limited by the freeway. The individual transit dynamics will play a bigger part than anything else. Lynnwood is the northern terminus, which is why it will do well. Every bus to the north will serve it, and it will all add up. 130th will do well because of the crosstown feeder bus to dense areas, and the proximity to destinations. Judkins Park will do well for the same reason. It will be especially handy as a way to get to the East Side, but it will work for going north. I think it will be similar to the other Rainier Valley stations — pretty good, but has trouble competing with the 7. East Main looks pretty bad. I don’t see much in the way of feeder service, and it is hemmed in by the freeway. BelRed seems OK, as it at least doesn’t abut the freeway (like so many others). I could be wrong, but it doesn’t look very good in terms of feeder service. Avalon will presumably be fed by the 21 (and perhaps other buses) so it will do OK. 272nd won’t be great, simply because it is a long ways into town from there (distance matters). I suppose you could say the same thing about Lynnwood, but again, being the place where all the northern buses converge will add up.

      4. I imagine Lynnwood to eventually be a lot like the Vienna station in the DC Metro system. You can see the surroundings of that station on Google Street View here: https://goo.gl/maps/zcDuKNctsqEbRPw36

        There is a big bus terminal, a large parking lot, and decent amount of housing about half a mile away. We already have the first two, just need the third.

        Incidentally, that whole line of the DC Metro runs along a freeway, and there is still plenty of ridership on it (I have taken that line in the past when visiting DC for work).

      5. The population of Washington D.C. is 750,000. The population of Lynnwood. Is 40,000. The surrounding SnoCo is even less dense.

      6. I imagine Lynnwood to eventually be a lot like the Vienna station in the DC Metro system.

        There certainly are similarities.

        Incidentally, that whole line of the DC Metro runs along a freeway …

        Not exactly. The last bit of the line runs next to the freeway, but the rest of it doesn’t. Most of it is underground (through Arlington and DC proper). At the other end it runs close to the freeway, but not in the median. There are 17 underground stations, and 9 surface stations (4 of which are in the freeway median, the rest are nearby).

        All the stations west of Arlington are median stations. Again, there are similarities with Link heading north, in that the train is not that close to the freeway until about 6 miles out, then each station is by the freeway (Northgate and East Falls Church are about 6 miles from downtown).

        As expected, ridership is way down because of the pandemic. Here are the before and after numbers:

        East Falls Church: 3,200 — 1,700
        West Falls Church: 2,000 — 715
        Dunn Loring: 3,100 — 1,200
        Vienna: 7,100 — 3,000

        DC Metro ridership overall went from about 500,000 a day to 270,000. Like just about every transit system in the country, it is slowly recovering, year after year. At over a quarter million, that is still way more than we have (and probably will ever have). It is just a much bigger city (and the subway covers a lot more of the city). It had major reliability problems before the pandemic as well (the peak was much higher than 500,000).

        The numbers for those suburban cities look a little depressing, but will likely continue to climb, even if they don’t reach their previous levels. I think ST would be pleased if Lynnwood Link got 3,000 riders, given we are a much smaller city (and our trains don’t go to as many places).

      7. Right, sorry, I misspoke when I said “the whole line”. I generally rode it West of Arlington, hence my sweeping generalization.

        It definitely has a similar “vibe” though, as you noted as well.

        FWIW, my few times in DC proper or Arlington, I never really experienced the reliability problems people complain about. The wait time was generally under 10 minutes (I rarely traveled late at night or very early morning, to be fair) and the arrival times displayed on the electronic billboards or whatever seemed pretty accurate. The trains were very busy at rush hour, especially out of Arlington and into the city itself. Perhaps the problems were on branches other than the ones I used the most, though. To me it seemed eminently usable.

        Another similarity is that the Roslyn station is really, really deep – much deeper than UW is, as I recall. And I remember one time the down escalators were broken :) Fortunately not the up one, so it was still not terrible to get around.

  12. I dawned on me that if FTA requires the WSBLE be divided as is now proposed, that West Seattle may need to have a new impact analyzed — West Seattle Link as a stand alone option.

    That means new ridership forecasts. That could then mean an alternative with three lines in the DSTT too as ST surely would want to attract more riders to West Seattle Link or risk enough benefit to qualify for New Starts funding, right? Forcing a SODO transfer will really diminish ridership on this line. Maybe we will finally see what happens with three lines in the DSTT! In particular, we can finally hopefully see how the issues around train capacity can be assessed. Many of us have often speculated about what this option requires or limits.

    That also may mean that an option of a Ballard stub could also end up being analyzed. That seems like a bit more of a reach. Perhaps it will emerge since that DEIS is being expanded to study this terrible preferred alternative of transfers at the County buildings.

    1. It’s not the FTA requiring it to be divided, it’s ST dividing it because it wants to pursue them on different timelines. It’s conceptually four projects (Ballard-Westlake, Westlake-CID, CID-SODO, and SODO-WSJ), and it would be most straightforward to have four EISes. Early studies considered Ballard-Westlake and DSTT2 separately. But in the EIS all of WSBLE was combined into one, we speculate because West Seattle has too low ridership to win a grant on its own. The construction schedule was alwys going to be WSJ-SODO first, Ballard-SODO second, but the EIS doesn’t have to be divided that way.

      Regarding your possibilities, there are too many unknowns to say. I don’t think the FTA cares how many EISes there are; it will evaluate whatever is submitted. ST presumably knows what would qualify and be competitive, and the FTA isn’t always as strict as we would be on world-class transit factors. Maybe the FTA will evaluate West Seattle as part of a larger whole even if its EIS is separate.

      ST split the EIS so that it could finish West Seattle while considering more alternatives for Denny/SLU and continue studying the CID options. I don’t know if it will have to come up with new ridership estimates. I doubt it, and ST can spin those, so even if it comes up with new numbers we’d probably still have the same questions about them. As for studying three lines in DSTT1, that would be nice, but I don’t see any sign of that yet.

      At the same time, I don’t take ST’s rejection of three lines as permanent. When it came up in a board meeting, a staff member said the board had rejected it in 2016, so the board decided to follow precedent without looking at it further. But the reason he gave was different than I remember. I think he was addressing an unexpected question by trying to remember off the top of his head, and he couldn’t necessarily remember all of it. The board should really review the situation in 2016 rather than just following an off-the-top-of-the-head response. What I remember is concerns about train bunching if there were more than 20 trains per hour (3-minute frequency) without capital improvements. But now some are saying it’s really about platform overcrowding. Whatever it is, ST should review it and reevaluate the 2016 assumptions.

      ST said the DSTT1 is capable of 45 trains per hour (1.5-minute frequency) with capital improvements. It’s actually running that now after ballgames, so we can see its performance on the ground. I’ve been at Roosevelt when northbound trains were coming every 1.5 minutes. Southbound trains were naturally reduced to compensate. Some trains came north to Roosevelt, then turned around to go south, going down the wrong track to UW then switching to the right track. I get off at Capitol Hill so I haven’t seen DSTT1 firsthand when this happens. But that would answer the question of how the current DSTT1 handles this situation, especially since it sometimes happens during the PM peak or just after it.

      1. I don’t disagree with your assessment. Perhaps I am just being optimistic. However, I could see FTA asking for a West Seattle only analysis just because the alternative must be fully funded to get a FFGA and a full WSBLE is nowhere near fully funded.

        “Early studies considered Ballard-Westlake and DSTT2 separately.” I think it’s true that Ballard-Westlake was studied separately from DSTT2. However I don’t think DSTT2 south of Westlake was ever studied in any pre-ST3 studies. The original West Seattle studies I reviewed assumed that the line would go into the DSTT and the original Ballard study stopped at Westlake. Kubly and Murray drew it out one day and it landed in ST3. It’s not dissimilar to what happened a few months ago with the shift to a preferred alternative without a transfer at CID.

      2. Yes, it will be interesting to see how ST justifies the WSLE stub line as a separate EIS as ST promised that Metro will continue to run RR C and H and the DEIS clearly says that ridership will not reach expected level until the stub gets connect to DSTT2. If they would run WSLE through DSTT1 Sound Transit would have a much better case with the FTA.

      3. Correct, Mike, sorry. To be precise WSLE is planned to be a stub for now with a station parallel to the current SODO station until DSTT2 is finished and a parallel line is built by the Stadium. Then the WSLE can get connected to the DSTT1 while the Rainier line gets redirected through the DSTT2.
        If Sound Transit however would stick with a single line through SODO, they could use DSTT1 immediately (and potentially branch the Rainier line into DSTT2 later).

    2. If WSLE were a two-mile level stub with three solid at-grade stations, it would make a great turnback loop for the Everett trains.

      But it’s not. It has to cross an industrially navigable river, descend into a sea-level valley, and then ascend 150 feet to a pair of charming but smallish neighborhood business districts that want subway stations.

      The “value proposition” is terrible, and The Magic Eight Ball says, “Outlook Doubtful”. I expect a Republican FTA will say “Hell, No!” in 2025.

    3. As long as the transfers are synchronized with the 1-line it should be a non issue. I assume they will hold the 1-line trains so that people can transfer without having to wait for the next train. Otherwise nobody is going to ride WSLE.

      1. That should be how ST should operate the WS stub, Joe Z.

        However there is one huge problem with that: ST will not design the SODO station for cross platform transfers going in the same direction. Every rider would have to make two level changes at SIDO rather than simply walk 20 feet across a level platform. Plus, ST hates down escalators so there could even be 40+ steps going downwards as part of that transfer in addition to an escalator ride upwards — if it’s working.

        So a train would have to wait at least two to three minutes to make sure all the riders walk down to platform to an escalator, ride up that escalator (if running), walk to the stairs, walk down 40+ steps and then get to a train car door.

        With a hassle like that, the better option would seem to be to have both northbound or southbound trains stop at the same platform, with the West Seattle trains arriving northbound first (by 2-3 minutes) and arriving southbound last (by 2-4 minutes). That would require thinking about how to reverse the trains north of SODO by adding long tail tracks — something that has yet to be proposed in the WS planning documents that I have seen.

        It’s truly astonishing how ST refuses to think through and design for how people transfer. The future rider transfer effort seemingly gets worse with every iteration of Link alternatives rather than better.

      2. “ST hates down escalators”

        It’s not that ST hates them, it’s that they cost money.

      3. Al, reversing at Stadium might work with a revamped pocket track environment. Right now it’s graded gravel at ground level. If they put in a short platform and a long, canopied walkway perhaps the Union would agree, with some “hazardous duty” bonus.

        Or, the silly thing could be double-seated for the reversal.

        The best choice? Don’t build WSLE…….

      4. That’s a reasonable solution, Tom. That doesn’t mean that ST will look into it though.

        The hardest thing about the West Seattle track merge is building the wye with tracks coming out of the Beacon Hill tunnel. The rise starts just before the track curves to/from the East. ST’s current solution is to not have the tracks ever connect — at least not connect south of Lander.

        They could route West Seattle trains through the OMF and merge the trains at existing elevated switches. That would mean doing some rebuilding of the OMF tracks but it appears possible.

        Perhaps the West Seattle crowd will increasingly realize how awful the transfers at SODO are designed, and will light a fire under ST to rethink the SODO transfer circulation. Perhaps FTA staff will review the transfer effort and make ST either make transfers easier or increase the transfer penalty in their forecasts reducing ridership even further. I’ve never been able to get anyone with influence able to see the rider hassle and why it’s an important feature to build well.

      5. Al, yes, I agree that using the Maintenance Facility access for the northbound merge would be no-cost; they have to have the connection on Horton anyway. It would be perhaps three minutes from the diverging switch (assuming a stub is included) or the curve to the MF connection around the loop and back up to the northbound track.

        But I do truly believe that there is room for a track on the surface between Forest and Lander in the bikeway right of way. It would require that Lander be overpassed because the merging switch to the northbound main would be in the Lander right of way. Overpassing Lander is a LOT cheaper than another ST Air Palace, and that one block of the bikeway gets almost no use. Simply paint bike lanes on Lander the half block to Sixth and then on Sixth the block to the south. I don’t know where the bikeway goes after Sixth and Forest.

        I continue to think that the geometry of the southbound diversion at the top of the hill is doable. Your objection to a four-frog diamond for a northbound merge there is probably correct, but a simple diversion with a single frog for the southbound WSLE trains should be pretty easy. Yes, it would be on a bit of a grade, because the trackway hasn’t achieved its full height in the curve, but not much of one.

  13. Does anyone know, is the worker shortage affecting other transit agencies, so cancelled trips isn’t just a King County Metro thing, other agencies also have to cancel trips because they don’t have enough drivers?

    1. Pantograph also looks at other transit systems besides KC Metro, so I decided to check out “trips seen” percentage in a few other local transit systems. I looked at the last five weekdays in June.

      KC Metro trips seen each weekday June 26-30: 95%, 95%, 91%, 94%, 93%.
      Community Transit: 99%, 98%, 98%, 99%, 99%.
      Spokane Transit: 99%, 99%, 99%, 99%, 99%.
      Pierce Transit: 99%, 99%, 99%, 99%, 99%.
      TriMet: 99%, 99%, 99%, 99%, 98%.
      Intercity Transit: 100%, 100%, 100%, 100%, 100%.

      1. Good work Sam!

        So it is not just an impression, the data backs it up. Metro is having more trouble than the other agencies.

        Maybe Metro should hire some managers out of Intercory Transit to turn this bus ateound!

      2. Pierce Transit was quick to cut their routes to barely-usable frequency (the 1 went from 15 minute frequency to every 30 minutes, and an hourly after 6:30) . So, that helps the metrics, but destroys rider usability.

        I’ll take crappy metrics, a few ghost buses, and 15 minutes service, thanks.

    2. It is an international problem (which makes sense — the pandemic spread across the globe) but there are national policies that likely make it worse (e. g. our immigration policy). Lots of people have written about it from a national standpoint (https://humantransit.org/2021/12/the-bus-driver-shortage-is-an-emergency.html) but there is an international driver shortage (https://www.iru.org/news-resources/newsroom/global-driver-shortages-2022-year-review).

      Pandemics have profound effects on the economy and history (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/pandemics-plagues-history/610558/). I think this is a great article — definitely worth reading. Here is a small excerpt:

      With the supply of European workers suddenly reduced and the demand for labor relatively unchanged, medieval landowners found themselves in a pickle: They could leave their grain to rot in the fields, or they could abandon all sense of right and wrong and raise wages enough to attract scarce workers. In northern Italy, landlords tended to raise wages, which fostered the development of a middle class. In southern Italy, the nobility enacted decrees to prevent peasants from leaving to take better offers. Some historians date the separation in fortunes of the two halves of Italy—the rich north, the poor south—to these decisions.

      1. Ross, I think you are right to point out that there are some problems that aren’t unique to Metro. The problems are national and international in nature. Obviously, you aren’t saying that every transit agency is suffering equally from all the same problems for all the same reasons. You are simply pointing out larger trends that are hitting the industry as a whole. But, I think you would agree, there are probably some large US transit agencies that are doing better than others in terms of staffing, etc.

      2. But, I think you would agree, there are probably some large US transit agencies that are doing better than others in terms of staffing, etc.

        Absolutely. I wasn’t clear on that. I think on another thread I mentioned that (or maybe I wrote it and deleted it). Either way, you are absolutely correct. Some of it is timing. It is easy to imagine that you have a fairly steady system, where you buy a certain number of new buses every year. My guess is this is rare. Most agencies buy in spurts. So now imagine you replaced a bunch of buses in 2019. You are sitting pretty. Imagine, on the other hand, you planned on replacing the buses in 2022. The mechanic (and part) shortage hits you in the face. Hard.

        I think for Metro a few things happened. First, they were one of the most successful transit agencies before the pandemic. The county (and especially the city) were committed to a fairly good level of funding. That, combined with increasing fare revenue, put them in good shape. During the pandemic, Northgate Link opened. This was great for both ST and Metro. This allowed Metro to shuffle around the buses while retaining a relatively high level of service, given that we were in a pandemic. But it became hard to maintain. Other agencies may have cut back sooner, figuring that funding would be cut back eventually as well. Metro was likely a lot more confident (for good reason). There was hope for a quick recovery in terms of staffing and parts, which as we’ve seen, simply hasn’t happened.

        As Cam pointed out in a different thread (https://seattletransitblog.com/2023/06/30/open-thread-10/#comment-914024) you can have really good metrics by simply having very bad service. Basically, just give up. It is common for small agencies to do that. Metro could have done the same. If Metro wanted to run the buses infrequently, they would have plenty of mechanics and drivers. But the system would suck, and you would not get many riders, even now. I’m not saying Metro made all the right moves, but they did what a lot of large agencies did, which is to push the envelope. The opposite would have been much worse.

    1. This is getting ridiculous. Why is the situation at Metro so much worse than at other agencies?

      It’s not. Read the article again:

      “Metro is far from the only transit agency struggling with keeping its coaches on the road. “

      1. @Ross,

        LOL. That is some mighty creative reading of the article.

        The article says other agencies are “struggling”, but it does not say that other agencies are doing as bad as Metro. And the only example they actually site is Pittsburg, which is reducing service to match their ability to staff (something Metro seems reticent to do).

        And Pittsburgh is over 2000 miles away in a completely different labor market with different factors in play. Sam’s data is local, and indicates that other local agencies, operating in this labor market, are doing much better than Metro.

        Having 42% of your buses out of service is not acceptable. Metro needs to get on top of this or things will get much, much worse.

      2. The other agencies aren’t doing better. They simply cut more, sooner. As was explained quite clearly any agency could do that, but the end result is a terrible system.

        Imagine if Metro was running buses every half hour at best, with most routes running every hour. Would there be a driver shortage? No. Would the buses be in great shape? Yes. Would we have over 350,000 riders a day, an increase of over 50,000 from last year? NO! Of course not. Ridership would be going down!

        Just look at ST Express. ST cuts service while delaying other improvements. The result? Ridership is half of what it was before the pandemic.

        This is striking, given Northgate Link. Northgate Link replaced several Metro buses, including the very popular 41. It didn’t replace any ST Express buses. The ST buses actually got better. The 510 remains an express from Tacoma to downtown, while other riders get a very good connection to Northgate, Roosevelt, UW and Capitol Hill. And yet it is ST that has seen ridership plummet, while Metro is rapidly recovering and approaching pre-pandemic transit levels — ridership that was the highest ever for Metro, and the fastest growing in the country.

        Your complaints completely ignore the stellar record that Metro had prior to the pandemic. It was literally voted the number one transit agency in the country. Your attacks are reminiscent of local right-wing radio complaining about crime in Seattle (and blaming it all on the city council) ignoring the fact that crime rose everywhere because of the pandemic. The same thing is true here. A well respected reporter from a well respected newspaper writes that

        Metro is far from the only transit agency struggling with keeping its coaches on the road.

        and yet you dismiss the claim because he only cited two examples (Denver and Pittsburgh). He doesn’t have to list every city struggling with the driver/mechanic shortage! He is a local reporter — do you think he is lying? Let me guess — you don’t trust “mainstream media” now.

      3. It is well established that this is a national problem. I get why you want to be skeptical. But if you doubt what well-respected reporters or transit experts are claiming, doesn’t it make sense to double check it yourself, instead of just assuming they have it wrong? It took me all of 30 seconds to find this: https://www.apta.com/wp-content/uploads/APTA-SURVEY-BRIEF-Workforce-Shortages-March-2022.pdf, along with dozens of articles about cities across the country struggling with the exact same problems that have hit Metro.

      4. @Ross,

        No one is claiming that there isn’t a national labor shortage right now, but what they are saying is that other agencies are doing a much better job dealing with that shortage than is Metro.

        58% bus availability isn’t “success”. If Metro needs to cut service until they get this under control (like some other agencies have already done), then Metro should start cutting now.

        Announcing service reductions for November, then announcing they are temporarily moving them up, then still not delivering a reliable network, isn’t exactly confidence building.

    2. I’m hardly an optimist, but the fact that Metro on occasion has 40% of their fleet side-lined but is still delivering 95% service seems amazing to me.

      I wasn’t aware that the mechanic shortage was as big or bigger of a problem than the driver shortage, though. I know car mechanic is starting to become a dying profession with near-maintenance-free electric cars, so hopefully Metro is actively recruiting former car mechanics.

      1. @Slylar,

        Ya, delivering 95% of service with only 58% of your fleet available is a bit of a feat. It sort of makes me wonder how much “truth” there is in that 95% number.

        Something seems a bit fishy.

  14. Lynnwood Link’s opening will mean the end of 28 bus service to Broadview, which as a Broadview resident I’m annoyed by.

    I currently take the 28 with a handful of neighbors every day. The bus runs on a 45-minute headway and was quite unreliable during the pandemic, although recently it’s been better.

    Lynnwood Link Connections proposes not only to cut the 28, but to insultingly run a 65 crosstown bus all the way to Greenwood Ave and turn around there, leaving Broadview with zero service. (Even if I drive to Link, there’s no connection to South Lake Union.)

    It would be trivial to extend the bus to 3rd Ave (or further) to serve Broadview via the existing route, and much cheaper than the 28 since the mileage required is significantly less. Instead, Metro seems determined to turn Broadview into a transit desert and force me and my neighbors to drive to work. Or perhaps drive to Fremont and park in front of someone’s house to get on a bus.

    I get (based on posts from 2011, lol) that Broadview hasn’t been much of a transit center, but to me it’s absurd to build a light rail station at 130th and take away our transit service at the same time. Greenwood Ave is really, really far away, not all the streets connect through, and there’s no sidewalk on 125th most of the way either, so the long walk is quite dangerous in winter in the dark.

  15. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/so-many-king-county-metro-buses-are-out-of-service-routes-will-be-cut-for-months/

    I always thought Metro’s plan to cut routes for a week or two and then restore service until Sept.when they would be cut again sounded odd and predicted the service cuts would be permanent.

    I also think Metro and the Board should begin a process this fall of reviewing all routes and levels of service as other systems are doing.

    With a driver and mechanic shortage and ridership down 41% and it now the middle of 2023 a more permanent restructure is necessary IMO.

  16. Interested that the wrticle did not mention the coaches that were purchased but ended up having steering defects and had to be pulled and repaired. I’m sure metro would prefer we all forget about that episode.

    1. @Good grief,

      Ya, that story sort of just disappeared.

      But my understanding was that the problem was related to some sort of special, Metro specific steering wheel that Metro had installed when the ordered the coaches.

      My question was, why couldn’t Metro just use the standard steering wheel that comes standard with the coach? Why a special steering wheel?

      There must be a reason….

      1. Why couldn’t Metro use standard right-side door trolleybuses on Madison and run the center lanes contraflow?

    1. I found it. It was part of the March 2023 selection of preferred alternatives, the same point at which North/South CID was chosen.

      1. Yeah I think the DEIS determined that tunneling wasn’t significantly more expensive. The CID mess was also so big that the other changes weren’t in the stream of discussion.

        I was going to point to the Board motion.

        I remember reading somewhere that FTA is making ST redo the DEIS because the changes in the CID are so major that they consider it outside of the published DEIS. I can’t find that reference though.

        And let’s not get into the discussion of a viable funding program. “Realignment” funding still appears to be way short. The June 2023 FTA dashboard still lists the combined WSBLE as $12.2B. I think it’s way higher than $14B now. Note too that FTA has not yet rated the project.


      2. The story there IIRC is that the Coast Guard is insisting on any bridge being absurdly high, even higher than the Aurora Bridge is today, and there is no way to build such a bridge cheaply, since you’d have to start an ascent pretty far out.

    1. Blaming housing scarcity on boomers staying in their houses too long is like blaming it on Californians or immigrants. The problem is the supply not keeping up with the population increase. And focusing on demand for single-family houses as opposed to housing in general. Everyone should have access to a unit if they want one, but if they specifically demand a detached single-family house, they’re on their own and their whining shouldn’t affect policy.

      1. Mike, this isn’t China. You and your TOD loving crew absolutely cannot shove America into cracker box “pack and stack” apartments with ever increasing rent. There’s never been a future in America for people who pay the “rent monster”. Home ownership is the easiest and for many families, the only, way to build generational wealth. You’re free to pay the mortgage on somebody else’s investment for 75 years if you like. I’ll keep my house, thank you.

        It’s nothing personal against Mike Orr, but there are young people who need to hear this. Buy a damn house! I know it’s not easy, it’s never been easy and it’s harder now that it used to be. But the world is place of the haves and have-nots. In 20 years, you’ll remember, and be thankful for, the house you bought.

        Yeah, I know people say single family homes are for the bourgeois and destroy the environment. Maybe so, but so is air travel and countless other things “environmentalists” buy every day. I’ve lived hippie style my whole life, riding bikes, growing my own food in my yard, taking the bus when it was possible. I’ve never lived alone…. is 3-6 people living in one of your hated SFH really that much more harmful to the environment than a 4 apartments with one person each on the same lot? What’s the difference in density? parking? Transit use?

        Haters gonna hate I guess.

      2. Tacomee – regardless whether your advice is good, or only good for a particular location and snapshot in time (nationally, over the last hundred years, return investment on a real property is around 1%), you are thinking of things in terms of individual advice.

        Mike is discussing things at a societal, cohort level that you need to consider when you consider housing policy.

        Yes, if you were lucky enough to buy before the housing squeeze in super-star cities like Seattle, you were one of the many that became wealthy from the tripling or quadrupling of the value of your house of the last 30 years.

        But for you to suggest that this wealth creation is not just a spatial and temporal anomaly and continue to happen for the next generation of homeowners, as well as suggest that this is a route that 100% of our population should, and is capable of replicating, is extremely risky advice and unsound logic.

      3. Cam Solomon,

        I’m not sure where you got your numbers from in the 100 years of home ownership, (please share if you have link). In the beginning of this Country, you actually had to own land to vote. Things have changed (for the better) but America is still a nations of two halves…. homeowners and lower class. I don’t make the rules, it’s just the way it is. I often tell high school kids that you’re really not truly a citizen of the USA unless you own your own home. Immigrant kids, non-White kids, they seem to get it. White middle class kids… well, let’s just say their privilege sometimes get in the way.

        The #1 goal in the USA has been to own your own home. Why on earth would that change?

        Mike Orr has a vision of Seattle and the USA that can’t possibly come true. Right now greater Seattle can’t seem to fund a working mass transit system and it’s thousands of units of affordable housing behind. These are the facts. There’s simply not billions of dollars available to fund Mike’s vision and I’m guessing there never will be.

        Everything in America runs on one single thing. Personal credit. Home ownership is the only way forward because it runs on the magic power of personal credit. If you have a product people actually want, you can raise billions with their credit. This is a big difference between the USA and most of the rest of the world.

        Is it possible to build a community that’s more environmentally friendly with better transit and still hold on to the one thing that has made America great? Let’s hope so, because a vast majority of America finds TOD unacceptable . There’s no fucking way I’m living in some 400 sq ft apartment on top of a pot shop and have the rent go up every year.

      4. tacomee, ask someone whose great-grandparents bought a house a hundred years ago in Hattiesburg, Mississippi whether it was a good investment?

        Your “sample” is extremely biased by “Location, Location, Location”! Puget Sound is one of the world’s premier sites, certainly one of the United States’ three or four tops. But the weather used to suck so people stayed away. No longer.

        No, we’ll probably never raise orange trees here (though some lemons and limes somehow make it), but our summer is essentially the summer I remember in coastal Northern California just fifty years ago. Maybe a bit warmer even, certainly in the evening when the fog used to roll in reliably at 3:47.

        Bear in mind Mark Twain’s famous quotation.

        The only people who don’t want to live on the West Coast these days are agoraphobes, reactionaries and those who’ve never visited. That’s what made you rich on your bungalow. If you had lived those forty years in Springfield, Missouri, your “equity enhancement” would just about exactly equal inflation.

        You’d own an $85,000 house to give your kids, instead of a $450K.

        It matters.

    2. I’m towards the tail end of boomer status.

      I do think that our public policy has favored boomers at every turn.

      1. Boomers got new schools as student populations grew.
      2. Boomers got new college dorms and classrooms as well as low tuition as enrollments grew.
      3. Boomers got great deals on their first home purchase price. Interest rates were higher but by 1999 they were unusually low until this past year and many boomers chose to refinance their homes.
      4. Boomers got new interstate highways increasing how far away they could life.
      5. Sterting in the 1980’s, the tax hits that boomers cared about — capital gains tax and inheritance taxes were reduced or eliminated.
      6. Boomers got to jump into IRAs and 401ks.
      7. Boomers expected bigger houses than the preceding generation that grew up with the Depression and WWII.
      8. ADA was passed as the 1946 boomers were reaching their late 40’s and started having mobility problems.

      It generally isn’t the boomers fault. It’s just that public policy gave them the better circumstances through their lives. Unfortunately, having a lifetime of always getting their needs prioritized has made many of us unintentionally spoiled and naively under-appreciating. Boomers see some things as normal or fair when prior generations thought of the same things as luxuries..

      1. It generally isn’t the boomers fault.

        Correct. What happened was the Reagan Revolution. The Republican Party shifted strongly to the right. That lead to the rise of Gingrich (Contract with America), Grover Norquist, the Tea Party and Fox News. The country abandoned the post-war policies that lead to the greatest middle-class in the history of the world. Union membership plummeted, as did the social safety net. People of all ages were hurt by the shift to the right, but the economic effects of the shift were gradual, and those who had already built up wealth could retain it. Some actually profited from it. A country that becomes more polarized (as ours has) has winners and losers. The winners were generally older, whiter and wealthier to begin with.

        The shredding of the social safety net was not entirely consistent. Colleges and universities shifted towards loans instead of low tuition. Social Security and Medicare are still around.

        But the boomers didn’t vote for Reagan. They were young then, and leaned left. The idea that the Boomers pushed for this, and ignored the needs of the less fortunate is absurd. Even now, the biggest divide is based on race, not age. The only reason that young people lean so much to the left is because there are a lot more young people of color.

  17. I’ve heard contradictory things about boomers, that they’re the sandwich generation supporting both their children and parents simultaneously, or that they’re the me generation not supporting either. American society since the mid 1970s has turned more against investing in citizens and infrastructure compared to the post-WWII years, but that’s not one generation’s fault: decision-makers from Reagan (WWII) to Trump (Boomer) participated in it.

    My family skipped the Boomer generation so I don’t have direct experience with it. My parents were Silents and I’m GenX. I used to think my generation was the first to have less than my parents, but then I realized that my parents also have less than they had. It has more to do with the time (pre-1980 vs post-1980) than the generation. It’s been OK for me because I learned during high school that small is beautiful, and I was able to catch the tail end of inexpensive college and inexpensive housing to start my career on. But it’s been harder for my mom, who grew up in the 1950s believing everybody would have a house or a large apartment and would be able to drive everywhere for ever, and then to find she can’t.

    1. That’s only renting single-family houses, so it’s not the typical renter.

      Seattle multifamily rents have been up-again, down-again every few months since the pandemic moratorium on increases was lifted. So it’s been hard to tell which direction they’re going. But they seem to be flat in the neighborhoods that increased the most in the past decade. They’re probably increasing more in neighborhoods that didn’t. My own Capitol Hill rent was going to go up 9%, but the landlord offered to negotiate it down to 1% for a long-term tenant, citing weak demand.

      The period from 2012 to 2018 was extraordinary, with Seattle getting an unprecedented number of new jobs and only building 9 housing units for every 12 jobs. That rate of growth was never going to continue forever. Seattle had the opportunity to zone for another Amazon-sized company in Northgate but declined to. Now job growth has come back down to earth, and some ex-urbanists have moved to the burbs, so that gives a breather for housing to catch up.

    1. Apartments For Rent shows 12,662 apartments for rent in Seattle today. The typical apartment is on the market for one month. That is not a housing shortage even though so many Seattleites insist on living alone.

      There is a bottleneck of renters wanting to buy but high mortgage rates are making that difficult and constraining the number of houses for sale. Seattle is one of the few cities with over 50% of the population renting, but then also insisting on living alone.

      The key is not housing supply to rent. Certainly not today, and thousands of new units are expected to come on market over the next few years that we’re begun pre-pandemic.

      The key is housing prices, more specifically the split between 100% AMI and those below. Seattle has been gentrifying rapidly over the last two years and so new construction has replaced old, older units have been fixed up, multi-bedroom units have been converted to live alone, and some poorer neighborhoods with historically low housing prices have gentrified. It is why despite Seattle’s population growth it has remained so white: folks of color have been driven out.

      I think the pandemic has changed work and living patterns forever and that will become more apparent as more young people enter the job market. I have two of them and they are just different from Boomers and Millennials and even Gen X. They also are not nearly as idealistic or as progressive. More pragmatic. The pandemic closures really scarred them.

      The great sadness is all this wealth and population growth created such bad urbanism, from retail density to housing density to urban transit. In 2012 it looked like it would turn out differently. AMI and population soared and the one true urban area — downtown — died.

      If San Francisco can die so can Seattle. In 2023 post-pandemic what we see is what the future will be. Generally the good future arrives slowly, while the bad future (war or pandemic) arrives suddenly. Another Amazon is not moving to Seattle, and in fact the risk is thousands of Seattle workers are moved to Bellevue. The same for Bellevue: all the fantasies of TOD in class B and C areas along East Link are unlikely because money won’t be free again for a very long time.

      The SFH cities and zones will stay the same, which is what they want. They are simple to run without a huge cost structure like Seattle. Plus they all got a boost in tax revenue from WFH. The lament for Millennials is they now want a SFH when supply is low and cost high. That will sort out. Boomers will start dying or moving to assisted care.

      Municipal budgeting (and Metro) begin in the second half of 2023. That is when they will learn how much money they have when costs have been soaring due to inflation. Some cities and agencies will need to make cuts to meet revenue but the last ten years have been a Goldilocks period for them. I also think the enormous federal debt, changing parties, and the crushing cost of entitlements as more Boomers retire will reduce federal funds to states and cities.

      Cam is correct that owning a SFH is usually not a great investment. But it is steady, great tax breaks, and your housing payment goes down as you age and your earning capacity erodes. Suddenly you are 60 and have no monthly housing costs except maintenance. Then in the end when you need money for a decent retirement you can sell your SFH because it FORCED you to save. If you look at the retirement savings (not including a house) for most Boomers and Millennials they are going to have a miserable end of life. One thing about aging is you never think you are going to get sick until you do and are vulnerable. The old saying is after age 2 no one changes a diaper for free except a loving spouse or children. You better be bulletproof or die young if you plan to age alone.

      1. I wouldn’t call buying a house an investment… it’s more of a hedge against hard times. I’ve seen hard times and I’d rather ride it out in house. My mom died in her modest doublewide… surrounded by friends and family.

        As long as you own a house, you have family. If you have a cute little apartment in the basement, even better. I don’t worry about who’s going to look after me when I’m old. They can have this “empire of dirt” when I’m gone. I got people.

        I have a lot of great memories in my house with friends and family. Where do all the live alone apartment dwellers go for Thanksgiving? Christmas? Don’t tell me to your parents house!

        To think many of you on this board want to change the zoning so the houses that nurtured and built us can be torn down so some crap 4 plex can replace it. Really? Does that really change the density? 4 people living alone in four little apartments? And I bet they all have a car. I don’t think that vision helps the environment and I know it just kills the future of America.

      2. “4 people living alone in four little apartments?”

        When I was growing up in the 1970s most of the neighbors had two or more children, so 4-5 people in the house. My next-door neighbor had five children. But nowadays it’s unusual to have more than one child, and many houses are occupied by a couple of DINKS (double income, no kids) or just one person. So household sizes have shrunk even in single-family houses too.

        And some of those apartments have a couple of DINKS, two roommates, a parent and child, or a couple and a child.

      3. tacomee, when we rented, we were lucky enough to have a friend with no family in the area who hosted a “Friendsgiving” at his house. Unfortunately COVID disrupted that tradition, but we plan on paying his generosity forward by hosting Friendsgiving now that we own a place, albeit on a smaller scale.

        The house doesn’t make a community, rather the people do.

      4. Indeed. Some of my most memorable Thanksgivings were inviting a dozen people to my apartment in Fremont, where frw knew eachother. A magnificent mix.

    2. “The typical apartment is on the market for one month.”

      Good, that’s closer to a normal market. 4-6 weeks is what I’d expect.

      “That is not a housing shortage even though so many Seattleites insist on living alone.”

      I’d be glad to declare an end to the housing shortage if this lasts more than a year or two. We can’t make long-term policy changes based on short-term trends;’ we need to know the vacancy rate will remain stablely at 5-10% and not drop down to 2-3% again. People have thought the shortage was over before, but then it comes roaring back up.

      “If San Francisco can die so can Seattle.”

      San Francisco hasn’t died. It’s just in a recession. Much of the loss is in companies that only came to San Francisco ten or twenty years ago. So the city was dead the entire time before that. San Francisco lost maybe 150K people since the pandemic, but it still had 808,437 people as of July 2022. This chart shows the population decline in 2021 compared to previous gains. So 800K people are still living in San Francisco, still shopping in the shops. Tourists are probably back at some rate. So that’s not a dead city or a ghost town. It’s just a city that’s in a somewhat worse recession than it had in 2000. That’s probably temporary; we won’t know until several years have passed. I don’t think over a century of people leaving their heart in San Francisco can be erased just like that.

      “The SFH cities and zones will stay the same, which is what they want. They are simple to run without a huge cost structure like Seattle. ”

      They can’t afford to maintain all that single-family infrastructure, especially with a residential tax base. This will become an increasing problem in the US.

      1. Mike, the SFH cities have funded their cities including police and fire for decades, and many like Redmond, Sammamish or MI have little sales tax revenue apart from construction.

        The key is these cities have low social costs. Property taxes are 50% local levies and so the citizens determine the level of their taxes. Large urban areas like downtown Seattle heavily subsidized cities like Seattle through property taxes on office towers and B&O tax due to work commuters. Those also subsidized King Co.

        Covid stimulus, and business based taxes reallocated from urban centers due to WFH, have given these small but efficiently run cities a fiscal boost. Many like MI are using that fiscal boost to upgrade parks and infrastructure which they have had to ignore since the 2008 recession which is nice, although they are careful to not extend themselves. They definitely don’t need multi-family housing to balance budgets. Just the opposite: the costs to the city from Multi-family exceeds the tax revenue once the sugar high of constructional sales tax is gone.

        One of the great ironies is that as cities grow in population and density the tax burden per capita goes up. In the past this was offset by tax revenue from the commercial core. In this area I think we are moving toward a pure subarea tax system although to really do that King Co. would need to be spilt east/west or the County Executive located and oriented to the Eastside.

        Seattle is the one regional city looking at a large hole in its operation budget (which is why it is exploring a capital gains tax), plus a huge backlog of infrastructure projects it has ignored since 2008 that are in the billions. This is the reality — not transit — Harrell is really focused on because it is existential for Seattle although I think a lot of progressives are in denial (despite a loss of 300 police officers) and a council that is fleeing but caused so many of the problems.

      2. “the SFH cities have funded their cities including police and fire for decades”

        I’m talking about physical infrastructure: all those wide streets, streetlights, utility lines, etc.

        “many like Redmond, Sammamish or MI have little sales tax revenue apart from construction.”

        That’s the ponzi scheme: they can only fund existing infrastructure via construction, which puts them in a deeper hole.

        “The key is these cities have low social costs.”

        They shunt their poor people to Seattle, so that Seattle has to pick up the costs.

        “as cities grow in population and density the tax burden per capita goes up.”

        That’s probably related to government structures than an inevitable law of density. Cities are subsidizing suburbs; all that highway infrastructure and such. You can’t look at residential burbs in a vacuum: they wouldn’t exist or be as prosperous as they are without Seattle and downtown Bellevue.

      3. Daniel,

        I’d recommend taking a look at comparisons of taxable value per acre across the Puget Sound region. A very strong trend you’ll see is that density correlates to a higher tax base, particularly in an expensive city like Seattle. While I don’t discount city revenue deficits over the next years, when we look at health of the tax base over the long term, a place like Seattle has built-in resilience. It’s also important to remember that with a city budget of 7.4 billion per year, a deficit of hundreds of millions is still a deficit in the single digits from a percentage standpoint. Nobody likes budget cuts, but a healthy tax base where we cut 3% in spending can right the ship. Seattlelites tend to also be generous from a taxation standpoint so there you go… two financial levers for government to flex to address deficits.


      4. Mike, I agree chasing sales tax on construction to deal with the 1% cap/year on raising the property levy led to some poor development projects (for MI and citizens; the developers made a fortune).

        One key change was when States and cities were allowed to force online sellers to collect sales tax and then allocated the sales tax to the place the order was placed. This of course boomed during Covid because there is so much cheating with sales tax. Construction sales tax went from number 1 to not even in the top 5 on MI (especially after we amended our codes) and online sales tax went to number 1 because Islanders buy a lot of stuff online, including WFH.

        RE: roads and streets the state allows a city to implement a car tab fee of $40 without a vote. MI does $20/car that raises almost $400,000/year (Seattle does $40 IIRC but has a much higher street cost). The beauty of this tax is 100% goes to the city.

        What are expensive are bridges. Fortunately MI’s two bridges are federal. Seattle — for good and bad — is built over water and fill (and so is FW Link). Seattle like every city ignored putting aside the money during the bridges’ life span for replacement because there were other shinier things the council wanted to buy (Link bring the most obvious example of profligacy). Now they are bailing with a 6% approval rating.

        2/3 of Seattle’s tax revenue was generated in the CBD. Somehow Harrell has to maintain as much of that tax revenue as possible when prior mayors assumed it would never stop going up, and federal funding looks like it will drop pretty significantly going forward.

        The mistake Seattle made was not building a rainy day fund during the good times (or anticipating a pandemic) or addressing its infrastructure replacement.

        This is really hurting the city because crime — and perceptions of crime which are the same thing for prospective visitors when the local paper has stories every day of shootings, stabbings and property crime —is soaring when the city is down 300 police officers.

        There is little Harrell can do when the police force is down nearly 30% so criminals don’t fear getting caught, although the Times has criticized him for moving slowly to use the money the council has authorized to hire more officers. I guess those community counselors instead of police officers didn’t work out.

        It was only two years ago a candidate for city attorney promised to not prosecute misdemeanors (the city attorney has no jurisdiction over felonies) and over 40% of Seattleites were actually stupid enough to vote for her. I could understand someone voting for Gonzales thinking it was still the past but voting for Thomas was municipal suicide, and SF voters had to recall their DA who promised the same, and delivered, and helped kill SF. SF is not in a “recession” limited to it. Idiots killed one of the most vibrant, sophisticated and wealthy cities. A true tragedy.

      5. One of the great ironies is that as cities grow in population and density the tax burden per capita goes up.

        Not really. As cities age, the tax burden per capita goes up. Basically there is a giant ‘U’ shaped curve. Initially the tax burden is high, as you build things. Then it drops quickly, as you maintain the (relatively new) infrastructure. Then the costs go way up, as it falls apart.

        Density helps keep prices down. That’s because there is an economy of scale when it comes to infrastructure. Consider fire hydrants. The number is based more on the physical distance, not the number of people who live there. Thus the more dense the area, the cheaper it is to build and maintain the infrastructure (all other things being equal). The same goes for everything. Roads, schools, even police. Patrolling a smaller area is much harder than patrolling a big one.

        Part of the problem is that all other things aren’t equal. It is common in this country for the wealthy to live in suburbs, instead of the heart of the city. There are a number of reasons for this, but race policies had a lot to do with it. Racial ghettos often existed in the city. When these were outlawed (in the 1960s) the economic situation didn’t change overnight. People with money often fled the city. They often created wealthy enclaves. Areas that are made up of almost exclusively wealthy people have less crime. Students from wealthier families are easier to teach. Thus you often did have a situation where wealthy suburban SFH neighborhoods had some taxes that were cheaper (because of the added wealth) while other taxes were fundamentally more expensive. But even then those costs don’t get felt until later — as the suburban SFH tracts are fairly new (towards the left side of that ‘U’ shape).

        This is a very counter-intuitive idea (especially if you were raised in the 1960s or 1970s). It is easy to just assume that the poor folks in the city are being subsidized by the rich folks in the suburbs. In actuality, it is the opposite. One of the best sources for this idea comes from Charles Marohn (author of Strong Towns, along with a few other books). The science behind this notion is solid. You can find various graphs showing how urban areas are taxed at a higher rate. There really is no controversy there — it is just a fact. Whether you think the approach Marohn (or the many writers in his organization) want to take is the right one is a different matter. You can get some of this information on the website (strongtowns.org) or by reading the books. This is a good intro more or less focused on this idea: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/5/7/the-more-we-build-the-poorer-we-get. I’m not generally a fan of Ted talks, but I think this one is good, and another nice intro: https://youtu.be/JPbfdcvv0to.

      6. I wasn’t stating the suburbs subsidize the urban area. I was saying the urban CBD subsidized the rest of the city it sits in, and in the past much of the CBD tax revenue was based on work commuters.

        For example look at the enormous tax revenue that NYC realizes from the financial sector in Manhattan, and how many of those employers commute from other cities. That tax revenue offsets other tax sources, those workers have low social costs for the city they work in, and yet NYC still has one of the highest tax rates per capita in the U.S. One concern for NYC is the migration of some of these companies to FL and the fewer work commuters.

        I agree with Alonso the necessary budget cuts (or new taxes) won’t ruin these cities. In fact some cities would benefit with some more efficiency. The problem is an 8%/year inflationary environment over the last two years plus a 10% reduction in expenditures when many progressives think any spending increases below inflation are cuts gets closer to 20% to 25% in real budget cuts.

        I also don’t disagree large cities get most of the social costs. In the past revenue from the CBD helped offset that. At the same time some large cities are not doing themselves any favors post pandemic with policies that make them unattractive for discretionary visitors. Fair or not, I think this region is moving more toward a subarea form of tax revenue and spending. I guess ST was the model.

        Ross raises a good point about older cities (applicable to ST too). When things are new they cost less to maintain or replace, and almost universally these large cities and agencies skimp on putting aside the money for future replacement or repair (and some cities like Chicago and Milwaukee now have pension/retiree healthcare costs that consume 100% of their property tax revenue which STILL is inadequate to fund future legacy costs).

        The second half of 2023 is suppose to be the new normal for municipal and agency budgets, although Milwaukee has already reached that crisis. The real test will be Chicago and Illinois.

      7. Regarding downtown Seattle’s commercial market, Colliers just released their 2023 Q2 report. The big takeaway is that somehow commercial lease rates have not cratered and have held steady. Trophy and Class A+ properties are greatly outperforming the rest of the market and are keeping the market afloat. Lake Union (I believe this refers to SLU) rental rates are the highest they’ve ever been while Pioneer Square rents are unsurprisingly depressed from their peak. I assume there will be uneven recovery across downtown for not so unsurprising reasons. Also an interesting note, class C real estate rates look pretty healthy so there seems to be a demand for affordable office spaces across all markets. Who knew….


  18. I meant to write Seattle has been gentrifying for the last ten years, not two.

  19. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/1-in-3-seattle-residents-is-considering-leaving-costs-crime-are-to-blame/?utm_source=marketingcloud&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=TSA_070623145737+1+in+3+Seattle+residents+is+considering+leaving_7_6_2023&utm_term=Registered%20User

    “About 33% of Seattle residents surveyed said they were seriously considering moving out of the city. Sixty-seven percent said they were not. The poll of 500 residents was conducted by phone from June 12-16 and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.”

    “Among the residents who say they are considering leaving, 37% blamed rising housing costs, and 34% cited public safety as their primary reason for moving.

    “Reasons for moving were also closely tied to income levels and homeownership.

    “Overall, renters (44%) were more likely than homeowners (27%) to consider moving out. Respondents with lower incomes, especially those earning less than $20,000, were more likely to blame soaring Seattle home prices for motivating them to move. Poll data shows this group also reported experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity at the highest rates.”

    1. We don’t know what the background level is; i.e., how many people would have said yes in 2021 or 2019.

      Somebody making less than $20K is not leaving for a lifestyle choice; they’re being forced out because there are no units at $550 available. That’s what my studio rent was in 2007, or a room in a house I don’t remember when.

      1. Exactly. Or 2003 for that matter, when this commenter left Seattle to move to the Edmonds area so we could purchase a home for a better value.

        People relocate all the time for a wide variety of reasons. The poll cited doesn’t carry much water imho.

    1. Since the article is paywalled and I’ve run out of free articles, can you share how they define “come from” in this context? It’s not a facetious question – I believe that there are differences in such surveys’ results depending on whether they consider a local someone who has lived in the county for a year, vs. five years, vs. “from birth”, so it’s worth understanding how they define it.

    2. The way I read the chart around 50% of the homeless surveyed have lived in King Co. either less than one year, or 1-4 years, which could mean 50% have lived in this area a little over one year or less.

      The statistics are skewed by using 1-4 years (which also does not break down how long the person has been homeless; for example, if someone has been homeless in Seattle for 2 years right after moving here the article states they are from King Co.). The questions should have been less than 1 year, 1-2 years, 2-3 years, and 3-4 years, which would have not been difficult to ask, and then how long they have been homeless. The statistics also use 5-9 years which is a huge gap, and after that “forever”. Based on the answers nearly 70% of homeless could have lived in the region 5 years or less. Of course, as the article itself notes, information from this demographic has accuracy issues.

      The other statistic is 68% became homeless in King Co. What the article doesn’t get at is if they moved here and had “stable” housing (which isn’t defined) how did they lose that stable housing in a very strong jobs market? If this were the 2008 jobs recession that would make sense, but not today. Unemployment is at historic lows, especially in this area. It wasn’t the pandemic because evictions were stayed during the pandemic.

      Does it seem reasonable that of all the persons surveyed 77% to 84% were last “stably” housed in King Co.? Only 4-5% of the homeless surveyed were last stably housed in Pierce or Snohomish Co. even those areas have the more affordable housing? I wish one of the questions had been how long the person had been homeless, and whether the last “stable” housing was government subsidized or funded. I think that is critical information.

      According to the article, the major reason given for becoming homeless is the loss of a job, not housing costs. What wasn’t asked was where was that last job located? A lot of folks work in Seattle but live in lower cost areas not in Seattle, which skews the information about where they were last “stably” housed before becoming homeless. I think the key missing information is what kind of job was the homeless person doing before becoming homeless, and why did they move here for that job. Are we talking about laid off tech workers suddenly on the street?

      The persons quoted in the article believe there is a migration of homeless from smaller cities to larger cities within a region, but not between cities out of region or state. The persons in the article don’t believe the homeless are migrating to cities with huge homeless populations like LA. Seattle and San Francisco because of perceived better benefits, but because that is where they became homeless. Based on that, and this region’s concentration of homeless, the vast majority of homeless became homeless in Seattle (or their work was in Seattle), and the issue is more Seattle focused than regionally focused, if as the article implies the homeless became homeless where they are today.

      What is not disputed is the region’s housing and homeless agencies are in disarray and have misspent literally billions of dollars with very poor results over the last decade. We can argue about where the homeless came from, or why they became homeless, or why the vast majority are now in Seattle (apparently not because of the disparity of benefits in Seattle although virtue signalers like to think that and regularly post that on this blog) but there is no argument that despite a fortune being spent few have been housed, and at tremendous cost per person housed, with way too little rehabilitation.

      Harrell was elected to get the homeless of the streets of Seattle and out of parks and so far he has done a pretty good job, although it isn’t a very difficult job if a major and council want to do that (and there is no pandemic or housing advocates won’t use congregate shelters). Housing all those folks will be another issue, because as fast as they are housed they are replaced with new homeless. Anyone who thinks market rate new construction that replaces older housing will solve this problem is mistaken, and in fact gentrification is probably a cause of the homelessness. If as the article suggests the loss of a job is the main cause of homelessness, and we are at historic lows for unemployment, I don’t see this problem getting easier in the future, especially if there is a recession.

    3. The point is that they didn’t come intending to be homeless. They came and then later lost their housing. Whether it’s 1 year, 5 years, or 20 years, who cares?

      1. Mike, no one is saying anyone “intended” to become homeless, although lifestyle decisions could have influenced that. Obviously, they lost their housing, according to the article because they lost their job and apparently could not find another, even in this market.

        The “survey” is trying to address the concerns that Seattle and its homeless industrial complex, wide availability of drugs, generous homeless benefits, and lax law enforcement are drawing out of state or region homeless to Seattle, because the vast majority of the region’s homeless are in Seattle.

        But the survey was set up to basically not reveal this info. Based on the parameters of the survey up to 70% of the homeless surveyed could have been in Seattle 1 year or less, if one believes the answers they gave.

        The survey — or its analysis — found the loss of a job was the number one factor for becoming homeless, not housing costs. But then why didn’t the survey delve into the job, how it was lost, why it couldn’t be replaced, how long the homeless person got unemployment benefits, the homeless persons job skills, how long the person did the job, how much it paid, where the person lived when employed, and so on? If the survey really wanted to get at data, it should have obtained social security earning histories which would show year, income earned, true identity, and where that income was earned. Why would the surveyors think the responses they got were in any way accurate, unless they validated their position?

        If the central issue with homelessness is the lack of employment (which I think it is, although there are many reasons someone can’t hold a job), then why is our approach to homelessness so lacking on vocational rehabilitation and a return to work? Instead, this region has gone to a housing first policy, hoping housing alone will return the person to gainful employment to hopefully pay for some if not all of their housing costs so publicly subsidized housing frees up for others. Thus low barrier housing.

        All I got from the survey, which I thought like so many homeless surveys was self-serving at a time the homeless agencies are under fierce scrutiny for poor results, is the homeless were not attracted to Seattle due to more generous benefits for the homeless, and for some reason they could not replace the job they lost that led to homelessness. What I know from my own observation is the vast majority of this area’s homeless choose to reside in Seattle, so Seattle needs to be the most skeptical about these homeless agencies (especially with a new $970 million housing levy on the ballot) and these surveys.

        It is Seattle’s problem for good or bad no matter how hard Constantine tries to relocate the homeless to regional hotels, which at least on the eastside have not been popular with neighborhoods, or even the homeless because of the lack of the kind of drugs they are looking for. Based on Harrell’s election they are not popular in Seattle either.

        The Afghanistan and Ukrainian refugees, although often not speaking English, were much easier to house and find work for than the homeless assigned to these same hotels. The difference between the two is important to understand when it comes to how we solve this homeless problem.

      2. “lifestyle decisions could have influenced that.”

        But they usually don’t. This is one of those myths like welfare queens. Most people become homeless because their rent is raised, they get a big medical bill, they lose their job, the owner converts the building to condos, they get caught in a situation that leads to eviction, or an illegal eviction, or something like that. Not because they’re addicted to drugs or have a mental problem or have a child out of wedlock. Saying it’s mostly bad moral decisions and we just need tough love or mental health services or to berate them into getting a job, is not addressing the problem.

    4. It would be interesting to see if there is a pattern to that 10% out of state flow.
      (i.e. Red > Blue > Red (-etc) states)

      Only have anecdotal evidence, along with some history passed down to me by my late brother whose life in Social Services in the NY Metropolitan area revealed the front line perspective. This was back in the 70-80-90’s.
      In the NY area, it’s a bit easier to tell if someone isn’t local. Especially if your client has a distinctive accent from warmer climates. Y’all know what I’m talking about.

      “So, you’re not from this area, are you? How did you get here?”

      “I took the bus.”

      “Where did you get the money for the ticket?”

      “Oh, my caseworker got me the ticket.”

      As my brother rose through the ranks, he told me his bosses wouldn’t let him talk to the press.

      What he said to me was “If you don’t want to have a bigger homeless problem than everyone else, then don’t have better benefits than everyone else.”

      ‘Nice’ places that could take care of their own find ways to get others to do so.

      The 10% from other places is way too high.

      1. Jim, good article in today’s Wall St. Journal noting how uncontrolled immigration at the border and New York City’s guaranteed housing policy is swamping NYC. A lot of focus is placed on governors sending buses of immigrants from border states to NYC, but in reality that is a tiny percentage of illegal immigrants who are migrating to NYC voluntarily.

        NYC will spend at least $4 billion on housing immigrants this year, which of course has overwhelmed housing for its own more local homeless. The mayor has asked local residents to open up their homes to house these immigrants, but so far the response has not been overwhelming. The Biden administration is refusing to send additional aid to NYC because it refuses aid to the states along the border to deal with the tens of thousands of immigrants coming into the U.S.

        Of course, if you believed the survey in the Seattle Times, all those Spanish speaking immigrants landing in NYC are from NYC, and NY’s guaranteed housing policy is not a draw, although ironically Eric Adams is pushing to repeal NYC’s guaranteed housing policy.

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