Why the US gets less transit for more money. (RMTransit)

(Link photo at 4:00.)

Just coincidentally, several Link and Metro decisions are being made:

Sound Transit’s 2024 service plan is published. Provide feedback by August 6th. Virtual information sessions are July 17 and 26. There are separate pages for North, East, and South. STB commentators have already started talking about it. Read the links for information on Lynnwood Link (Summer/Fall 2024 with Line 1 only), the East Link starter line (possibly Spring 2024 if the ST board decides to), and the full Line 2 (2025). The gap between Lynnwood opening and Line 2 opening could cause crowding between Northgate and downtown. ST proposes to restructure the 510/511/512/513 when the Lynnwood extension opens. Routes 522, 542, 545, 550, 554, 556 will remain as is until the full Line 2 opens. There are no changes in 2024 in South King County or Pierce County.

Metro’s Lynnwood Link restructure is in phase 3. There will be an article about it tomorrow. On Tuesday there will be an article on RapidRide J.

Sound Transit is reconsidering the SLU and Denny stations on Ballard Link. Provide feedback before July 27. Webinars will be on July 20 and 25. ST is considering moving Denny Station and deleting SLU Station. More information on Ballard and West Seattle EIS schedules.

The “South of CID” ($) station alternative has an article by Daniel Beekman in the Seattle Times. Developer Urban Visions owns 7 acres around the site and proposes a joint station/office/lab/apartment development. There’s a map of the platform location; it’s over a block south of the Uwajimaya parking lot. “There would be no direct transfers to other lines; riders would walk five to 10 minutes above ground to other stations, a Sound Transit memo said in January.” Needless to say, this is bad. Good train-to-train transfers should be the #1 factor in a multi-line subway network, because half or more of the destinations require a transfer.

This is an open thread.

108 Replies to “Getting Value in Transit”

  1. Route 545/550/554 restructures being delayed until Bellevue Link crosses Lake Washington makes sense, but lumping the 522 in that category is a bit of a head scratcher.

    Is there a deliberate operational reason for this, or is just bureaucratic laziness, lumping the 522 in with the Bellevue routes for no reason other than it being funded by the East King subarea? I would like to think it’s the former, but I suspect it’s actually the latter. On the bright side, it will be good to see direct service between Lake City and Roosevelt a little while longer.

    1. ST is anchoring the 522 restructure to the launch of Stride, not cross Lake Washington Link service?

    2. ST lists the 522 separately in the North section. I lumped them together for convenience. I was going to put this list in:

      * 2024 (Lynnwood extension): Route 522 remains unchanged to Roosevelt.
      * 2025 (Line 1): Route 522 moves to Shoreline South/148th Station.
      * 2027 (Stride 3, tentative): Stride 3 replaces the 522.

      This is clear on the North page. It hedges about Stride’s opening date, but the Stride 3 page says 2027. I assume the hedging means the date is not final. Still, it’s useful to know there will probably be a 3-year gap between Lynnwood Link and Stride 3.

      Other routes cite staffing shortages (less Starter Line service, no South King/Pierce changes), so that may be a factor in the 522 not moving yet. Or maybe there’s construction on 145th, or not wanting to make trips longer until Link’s frequency is higher, or to ease crowding until Line 2 opens. (Although the biggest crowding will be between U-District and dowtown.) But perhaps the biggest reason is that Ross found out the 77 may not start until Line 2 opens, so removing the 522 would leave no service south of 93rd (where the proposed 72 turns away to 25th).

      1. I think there would be service on Lake City Way, either way. Basically, Metro corrected their mistake. But with this decision by ST, it complicates things. What the Metro rep told me is that the 77 may be implemented in phases. I think the most likely approach is this:

        1) Lynnwood Link opens, the 522 continues on Lake City Way. No 77.
        2) East Link opens. The 522 shifts to 145th. The 77 runs from Lake City (Fred Meyer) to the UW.
        3) 130th Station opens. The 77 runs as shown on the map.

        Of course it is always possible that they reject the 77, and do something different. I hope they do. I think it makes more sense for the 65 to be paired with the route to Bitter Lake (as per last proposal). It is just a more natural fit, with a lot more one-seat rides, and a better frequency pairing. The 77 would be a separate route that simply goes from the UW to Lake City (Fred Meyer). It could take over the extension northward (although I’m not really sure that northern tail even needs to be there).

        I got the impression that there are certain aspects of the plan — like the 61 — that are very unlikely to change. But the 77 is the opposite.

    3. I think there are a lot of theories as to why ST is running the bus along Lake City Way until East Link:

      1) Doing Metro a favor. I doubt it. This really just complicates things, although I suppose as long as there is a rider shortage, keeping the current pathway helps.

      2) ST is planning on turning back trains at Northgate. Clever if that is the plan. But we haven’t heard any of that, so that seems unlikely.

      3) Reduces number of riders on Link. I would imagine a fair number of riders get off the train at Roosevelt and then take a bus to the U-District (instead of the train). This is even more likely if the train is crowded, and not running that often. So I could see this helping. However, ST is ending express service from Everett to downtown Seattle (that bypassed Lynnwood). It would be odd to focus on reducing the number of 522-Link riders a tiny bit, while forcing all of the 510 riders onto the train. Then again, keeping the 522 as is costs the agency very little, while running the 510 to downtown is expensive.

      4) Comfort. As I wrote below, this occurred to me with AJ’s comments. If the train is crowded as it moves north (past Capitol Hill, UW, etc.) then the sooner riders get off the train the better. It isn’t like they would be leaving people at the platform, you just make life easier for the folks on the train. 522 riders get to their bus quicker (where they might be a lot more room) while everyone else gets more elbow room.

      5) Construction. Maybe, since they will be replacing the traffic signals with roundabouts. Then again, Metro doesn’t seem too worried, as it is sending the 72 there. I’m not sure if the work on 145th matches the timing of East Link anyway.

      6) Something else we haven’t considered.

      I still think it is a bit odd, but several of these ideas sound reasonable.

      1. Not quite. IMC Trolleybuses allow for much more strategic placement of wire, as only some of the route needs wire. But as its stands, Metro could extend some of its routes to make better connections without new wire.

        Like the 48 could be electrified Right now if Metro was willing to drop wires on a section.

      2. The existing trolleybuses have enough battery capacity to operate about 20 miles off-wire. There’s a lot of interesting opportunities with that, especially if short sections of wire could be added at layover locations for charging,

        Eg: extend the 1 and 10 to somewhere that makes sense.

      3. > Seattle already has IMC? Can’t the trolleybuses run offwire for a few minutes?

        IMC involves a larger battery. More importantly (at least reading the pdf) it seems it can re-attach to the wire.

        Seattle’s trolleybusses while they can auto-detach, cannot re-attach without the bus driver manually doing it. Meaning the battery feature is mainly used at the end of a section or just for a dead wire (the bus still continues on the same wire just deactivated until past the section to be fixed).

    1. I agree, FDW, BEBs are necessary at the periphery of our network, but Metro should study whether Trolley buses with a bigger battery could be charged on the existing trolley wires and then serve neighborhoods which don’t have wires yet.
      BEBs need expensive charging infrastructure at the maintenance bays and often at the end of the lines and big batteries are expensive and most are sourced from China under questionable practices. Seattle already has a trolley wire infrastructure why not use it instead? The 48 is a great example, but I’m sure there are others.

    2. Oh wow this actually looks amazing. Especially reading about the automatic reconnection funnel https://cms.uitp.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Knowledge-Brief-IMC.pdf

      If Seattle could implement this, it could change the
      * rapidride J (Roosevelt) could potentially actually reach Roosevelt instead of ending at u district if you didn’t need to extend the wires up there

      And actually I wonder if we could switch the streetcar to use this instead. (Especially if the center city connector involves replacing the vehicles already) then there wouldn’t be the weird mess of streetcar vs trolley bus differing wires.

      1. Yeah, I’ve also mentioned that putting IMC’s on an upgraded D Line would be a good example of what they might recommend in a Seattle context. The 8, 11, and 60 too, though they’re going to be restructured at some point.

        I should mention some interesting bits about the route in this proposal, the 44 O’Shaughnessy. It runs over one of the few abandoned segments of San Francisco’s Trolleybus network, the bit 6th Avenue. This route was created in one phase of the legendary service realignment (from 1979-1988) that laid the groundwork for the modern MUNI network. It started in 1981 through the fusion of 4 different routes (from East to West): The 51 Silver (which operated from Glen Park BART East to Hunters Point), the 44 Diamond Heights (which operated the northern leg of the current 52 Excelsior, and only contributed its number), the 10 Monterey (the segment from the Richmond through Sunnyside being MUNI’s first bus route, the remaining bits cobbled together from a bunch of Ex Market St Railway Streetcar tails, including the bit that contributed the number), and the 21 Hayes (Which used to go farther west, and then north, with the 6th Ave segment being another Ex Market St Railway Streetcar tail).

    3. Theres a place for battery rapid charge buses… go see the City Line in Spokane. But why not expand the trolley system… how much does it cost to string a bit more wire? Like getting the missing segments on the 48 wired up? Extending the 44 wire to Children’s Hospital via UVillage, electrifying the 11, RR J wire to Roosevelt?

      1. @Poncho: IMC’S allow you to be strategic in the placement of new wire, you can avoid “difficult” areas, and it vastly simplifies the wire that you do lay, as you don’t need complicated junctions when you can drop and reattach wire. The 48 is a perfect test case, as it spends a majority of its route under wire, with the off-wire bits broken into 2 smaller segments.

  2. And, I just got through reading the latest Lynnwood Link restructure details. I encourage people to read carefully, as there are some major service reductions throughout northeast Seattle buried in the fine print.

    For example, the 65 sees a service reduction on evening and weekend hours from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes. The 75, from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes, the 77 (which replaces the 522 between Lake City and Roosevelt) from every 10-20 minutes to every 30 minutes.

    None of these “stealth” service reductions are visible on the map, because the color coding on the map is based only on how often buses run on weekdays during the daytime. Metro does not bother to publish a frequent network map for evenings or weekends; to figure it out, you have to click through to view the details of each individual route and put it together yourself.

    The treatment of weekend or evening service as an afterthought has always bugged me, since for anyone that has to work during the weekdays, it’s the quality of the evening and weekend network, not the weekday network that determines the level of freedom somebody without a car has to get around the city for purposes unrelated to work. Getting somewhere on a bus that comes every 15 minutes rather than 30 is not something that should require taking vacation time off work, or waiting months for one of those very rare holidays where your company is off, but Metro is still running a weekday schedule. I will also note that, since the pandemic, weekend ridership has recovered much faster than weekday ridership, so the actual ridership difference between weekday vs. weekend is much less today than it was 5 years ago.

    I haven’t done the full math, but it sure looks as though the service improvements in Shoreline are being funded by taking service from Northeast Seattle, rather than truncating buses to Link stations.

    1. I came to the conclusion that Metro is cutting Seattle routes to feed Shoreline improvements as well, and was also pretty frustrated that the maps hid that (really, Metro either should have different colors or different maps for the different classes of “frequent” route). Additionally, though, I think the new 77 probably saps quite a bit of service hours, and really ST should still be paying for that. After all, Seattle has been getting local bus service with the 522 and 554, and Bellevue with the 550 and soon to be 554, so there’s clearly precedent.

    2. I agree about the “stealth” loss of frequency. The maps are deceiving. To be fair, it is difficult to summarize a particular level of frequency; too many colors and it gets confusing. As it is, they introduced a different concept (reduced frequency on the tail of a bus) and that deserves a different color as well. The main thing is, you have to look at the individual routes. I might make a chart at some point, since I think it would be useful.

      I’m not sure if there is a shift from Seattle to Shoreline. It is complicated. The (3)72 will spend more time in Seattle (or at least at the border) and a lot less time north of it. The 77 is a brand new Seattle route. On the other side of the ledger, the 73 is gone and the 65 spends a bit less time in Seattle. That is about it, which would mean more service in general for Seattle. This may explain why they are making all of the “death by a thousand cuts” to service in Seattle on so many routes. It is worth noting that the plan assumes that Seattle has paid for extra service, which makes it different than the last proposal.

      I am more concerned about the overall quality and efficiency of the network. I think there are a lot of places in Shoreline where there is too much service (and ironically, not enough coverage) but I also think there are redundancies in Seattle (e. g. the 75). They added back the northern tail of the 75 (Lake City/Pinehurst/Northgate). If you are going to keep that — and I’m not sure you should — then you should definitely just send the 348 to the U-District (so you can bump up frequency elsewhere). Personally I would send the 348 to the U-District and eliminate that tail.

      You can’t have an inefficient network and really good frequency (unless you somehow have a ton of money to throw at the buses — and we don’t). I find it astonishing that what should really be the workhorse bus for the north end (the Bitter Lake/Ingraham/Link/Pinehurst/Lake City) has such bad weekend and evening frequency. If you just made a bus with that route (ending at the Fred Meyer) it would be the most cost effective route north of the 44 (except for the 5, E and Link of course). Yet this vital and highly efficient route (or at least section of a route) is saddled with half hour evening and weekend frequency. Imagine you live in Bitter Lake and you decide to go out to dinner in Roosevelt, Capitol Hill or the U-District. You ride the train back, and then are faced with the real possibility of waiting a very long time just to get home. That just doesn’t make any sense.

      The pain felt across the system is not limited to Seattle. The 348 serves North City, one of the major areas of density in Shoreline (a city that is mainly low-density housing). Yet the folks in those apartments are in the same boat. In the evening and weekends, they will see half hour frequency — basically begging them to get a car so they can park it about a mile away (at the station). There is too much frequency in some areas, and not enough in others (along with plenty of inefficiencies). I see this as being better in some ways than the last proposal, and worse in others.

    3. In the Before Times, ST Express 522 was packed in the peak direction, but half hourly off-peak and not that full.

      I have been on a few 522’s in the past couple years, and all were well below 0.5 load factor.

      I think half hourly will do fine off-peak for proposed route 77. The known unknown is how much peak service will be needed.

      1. The frequency issue isn’t with that part of the 77, it is with the other part (125th/130th). This is a huge corridor, with Link in the middle. In terms of ridership per hour, it is likely one of the largest in our system. Or at least it will be, if given good frequency.

      2. It is also rare for any bus to packed off peak. Crowding isn’t the issue. It is the number of people hurt by infrequency. You could probably run the 62 every half hour, and find that it doesn’t have that many riders. But in doing so, things are much worse for those riders (and many just avoid the bus altogether). In contrast, running the 28 every half hour doesn’t hurt that many riders.

        It is tough to determine the ridership numbers for the 522 because they measure things differently. They don’t have ridership per hour (unlike Metro). The good part is, they openly publish ridership per stop (although not ridership per stop by time period) and that particular section does quite well. You could certainly justify better evening and weekend frequency, but you could probably say that about a lot of routes.

      3. 125th is getting both the proposed 77 and the fully-restored-to-it’s-current-path 75. Is that not enough?

      4. 125th is getting both the proposed 77 and the fully-restored-to-it’s-current-path 75. Is that not enough?

        It is both too much, and not enough. The 75 does not keep going to the nearest station (130th). It turns and heads towards Northgate. Thus it is redundant (since it overlaps part of the corridor) while the main corridor (125th/Roosevelt/130th) doesn’t have enough frequency.

        If you are at Bitter Lake, the 75 is useless. If you are at Ingraham, the 75 is useless. If you are at Pinehurst, it is nice for getting to Northgate, but way too slow for getting to Link. It is actually redundant. It only makes sense if you are headed to Northgate, and the 348 also goes to Northgate. But they serve different stops. The same is true for Lake City. The fastest way — by far — to get to Link is 125th/Roosevelt/130th. The 75 is good for getting to Northgate, but there is another bus that goes to Northgate — the 61. Again, the buses don’t share stops. At most these help if you are going the other way (Northgate to Pinehurst or Lake City) in that you have two buses you can use. That seems like overkill, while the bulk of the riders along those corridors — those headed to Link — have poor frequency.

  3. Charging battery powered buses is tricky since buses need to be charged at the route terminals and many don’t have charging capabilities. It isn’t like you run a 110v extension cord out to the street.

    For example, MI is the terminus for several intercept routes when East Link opens. But it has no charging infrastructure, layover times are limited to 20 minutes per the agreement, and there isn’t the space anyway. And yet the agreement states all buses will be battery powered within a few years.

    These cities have spent a lot of money to bury any utility lines in their town centers. They are not going to allow a tangle of trolley lines like 3rd and Yesler that looks like a nest.

    Somehow transit agencies are going to have to come up with a battery bus that can run all day on a charge or somehow locate terminals near maintenance facilities unless charging facilities can be placed in park and rides and fully charge a bus within the driver’s break which is 20 minutes, and the local city agrees. Or swap out buses throughout the day although Metro is down something like 40% of buses so that is out.

    1. It’s the county politicians that are pushing for electrification and set Metro’s policy. King County includes Mercer Island, so your county is doing it. They won’t necessarily let parochial city policies get in the way of an important county policy like carbon reduction. We’d never be able to solve our problems then.

      However, I think it’s mostly likely they haven’t thought through the logistics of where buses are when they need chargers, just like they don’t think about what passengers’ needs for a transfer and frequency are. So it will end up with a collision of not enough chargers in the right places, and at that point county politicians may not want to impose extensive overhead wires on cities for the same reason Mercer Island doesn’t want them. Also, they couldn’t build them all in one year. They would then have to do something else, like phase in electrification more slowly.

      I think current buses should be run until their end of life, and then replace them with electric buses gradually. The biggest carbon reduction comes if people take transit and leave their cars at home, not if a bus is converted to electric. Buses need something like 13 passengers per hour to surpass the carbon footprint of 13 SUVs, and most buses get at least that. So let the relatively efficient diesel buses continue until their end of life rather than scrapping them early. That would save money too. We could do other things to reduce carbon for those bus expenditures we’re not making immediately.

      1. I agree with what you write Mike. The biggest problem is logistics.

        First the buses accessing places like MI travel at least 20 miles on I-90. You can’t put wires on I-90, and they are on MI on average 3 minutes.

        When it comes to charging the issues are not unlike a car: it takes a long time even with rapid charging to fully charge a bus that then has to take I-90 back to Issaquah which expends the charge and needs another charging station. Metro or ST don’t want to pay drivers to sit around for hours while their bus is charging.

        From a city’s perspective installing overhead wires is out of the question. It isn’t an objection to a charging station but having the buses wait there while charging, and somehow getting those buses that are charging out of the road or traffic. Siting an OMF or bus barn is very contentious, and normally they are sited in the less desirable parts of cities or the county.

        I agree with you that electrification should have waited, but carbon emissions became the political issue du jour, and transit had validated itself in large part on carbon savings but got nervous with EV cars on the cusp. I pointed out in the past using global warming was tricky for validating transit because EV’s undercut that argument (and WFH obliterated it) when transit is a good in itself, even if carbon emissions were not an issue.

        Transit saves some carbon over a gas-powered car but not an EV depending on how full each are, and nothing saves carbon like WFH. Metro with its other issues (that are reflected sub rosa I think in some of the cuts Skylar raises) should use the buses it has until they need replacement and hope for improvements in battery and charging technology from EV’s overall.

    2. Most Sound Transit park and rides don’t even have charging for commuters’ cars, let alone the agency’s buses. Including the brand new South Bellevue station garage.

    3. Washington State Ferries has figured out how to charge its largest new ferries while docked. I think Metro and ST can figure out how to do it for buses.

      One thing that will probably need to change is layover sites. As in, more and more routes will have to terminate at stations. Another is possibly having to bargain over operators performing the plugging/unplugging.

      Keep in mind the evolutionary steps from diesel to hybrid, and then to all-electric. Hopefully, all new orders are at least hybrids.

      I don’t expect much new trolley wire coming in the future, especially given their vulnerability to 115-degree+ heat domes.

      1. “Washington State Ferries has figured out how to charge its largest new ferries while docked. I think Metro and ST can figure out how to do it for buses.”

        That is an interesting point Brent, but I think there are some differences.

        First I think the ferries are actually hybrid. https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/major-projects/ferry-system-electrification

        “This conversion will reduce emissions from these vessels initially by more than 20% and by nearly 95% when terminals are electrified in 2026.”

        Second ferries have only two stops (except the San Juan Islands) so massive rapid charging stations can be built next to each terminal, which is what is planned.

        Third a ferry has a wait time of at least 20 minutes for each stop while it unloads and loads during which it can charge.

        Fourth, most routes are one hour or less.

        Fifth ferries being on water can carry a very heavy battery load without a huge impact on efficiency.

        I guess one question is whether buses can be hybrid and use their fossil fuel system to recharge their batteries, and then recharge during driver breaks or lunch.

  4. Seattle considers rezoning options for industrial areas. ($) The framework they’re considering would split the industrial areas into three kinds of zones. “Maritime, Manufacture, Logistics” would be heavy industry only. “Urban Industrial” districts would allow housing next to remaining industrial areas, as long as half the units were dedicated to 80% of the median income or below, which is considered affordable for workers. “Industry and Innovation” districts would be around light rail stations inside industrial areas, and might include offices on top of industry, akin to the “store below, home above” houses of the early 20th century.

    “Industry and Innovation” districts and “Urban Industrial” districts would allow some residential and commercial development. Housing would have to dedicate half the units for 80% median income or below, which is considered affordable for workers.

    1. Industrial jobs are some of the few remaining jobs in Seattle that provide a livable wage for non-college educated workers. Longshore workers and clerks can earn over $100,000 with full benefits. It seems odd to me to destroy the few jobs that allow a non-college educated worker to afford an 80% AMI unit ($92,000/year, or $2300/mo. at 30% of gross wages) to create 80% AMI housing. I have written before about how I think the 80% AMI threshold is phony if it is designed to create affordable housing. 60% AMI is the correct rate.

      Before opening up any industrial lands to different uses we should first wait a few years to determine future population growth, determine whether new office space is necessary when the CBD has a 44% occupancy rate, and see if there is a housing glut because rezoning industrial land for housing is all about views since it is usually near the water without tall structures along the waterfront (except cranes) based on the false myth that housing creation has not kept up with population growth in Seattle over the last decade. According to the article I linked to recently, according to the 2020 census there are 22,000+ rental units vacant in Seattle and a 10% vacancy rate, with thousands of more new units scheduled to come on the market in the next two years. Even then only a small percentage of Seattle’s UGA zones have been developed to their zoning capacity.

      1. They are currently debating fighting over just 1000 housing units worth of zoning which has already been fought over for a couple years now.

        > Even then only a small percentage of Seattle’s UGA zones have been developed to their zoning capacity.

        I’m not sure why you keep saying this. You already know that many of those are not economically viable unless actually zoned higher.

      2. > Even then only a small percentage of Seattle’s UGA zones have been developed to their zoning capacity.

        I’m not sure why you keep saying this. You already know that many of those are not economically viable unless actually zoned higher.

        I don’t know why he keeps saying it as well. It is a bizarre argument that ignores basic economic theory, or even just logic. Some people just don’t want to sell. Some will only sell if they can get a huge amount of money for their lot. That will only happen if housing prices continue to increase. Building anywhere close to our zoning capacity will only happen if prices are extremely high. That should not be our goal.

        In contrast, if you look at the city you can see that there is a huge number of places being developed. People are buying and selling constantly. There is also a ton of construction going on. The problem is, the vast majority of this does not add units. Or it it does, it adds a relatively small number (a house gets converted to a house+ADU+DADU). This is all because of regulations. The triplex market (house+ADU+DADU) simply didn’t exist not too long ago, and now it is the dominant construction form in the city. Simply put, people keep building as many places as the regulations allow. This is further evidence that the problem is the regulations, not the overall market.

      3. Out of curiosity, has anyone seen any stats as to how often the “family unit triplex” (aka Main + ADU + DADU) results in three distinct families living on the property? I’m asking because it seems like some posters make an implicit assumption that building such configurations results in additional cheaper housing being available on the market. My guess (and I fully admit that it is just that, nothing more) is that a lot of people who build this configuration end up not renting out both the ADU and the DADU – at best maybe the latter would be used, more likely neither will (the “ADU” just gets used as part of the main household, and the “DADU” gets used for a home office or guests etc.) To the extent people use the DADU, it’ll be as an Airbnb unit, not long-term rentals.

        Anyway, that’s my intuition. I would love to be proven wrong, so if anyone has stats on this, I’d love to see them. But if the stats show that I’m right, then this would give a lot of weight to the argument that the zoning change that happened this year was actually necessary to build the type of housing units that actually do result in more households being set up on the property.

      4. “They are currently debating fighting over just 1000 housing units worth of zoning which has already been fought over for a couple years now.

        “> Even then only a small percentage of Seattle’s UGA zones have been developed to their zoning capacity.

        “I’m not sure why you keep saying this. You already know that many of those are not economically viable unless actually zoned higher.”

        First, I want to make sure we are crystal clear on one issue. There is no market rate housing shortage in Seattle. Unsophisticated urbanists have bought this farce from the builders hook, line and sinker. Housing construction has kept pace with population growth over the last decade. The 2020 census found over 22,000 vacant units in Seattle, and thousands more are planned to come on market. The GMPC found just last year that every single regional city except perhaps Sammamish already has zoning in place to meet 2044 population levels, even with an additional 1 million new residents, but instead people on this blog or on The Urbanist keep spouting Seattle and the region has a housing and ZONING shortage, when they have neither.

        The only “housing shortages” are: 1. the myth that 1 million new residents will move to this area (50,000/mo. from 2019 to 2039) when King Co. has lost 43,000 residents over the last two years. Today we are 250,000 residents short of that prediction; and 2. affordable housing, in large part because all the new market rate housing replaced older, more affordable housing, called gentrification in a city with a rapidly rising AMI.

        Second, what height limits are you talking about to make development pencil out. Here are some links to Seattle’s zoning: https://seattleslandusecode.wordpress.com/test-page/

        Here is an older but easy to understand article. https://theevergrey.com/zoning-is-the-key-to-understanding-seattle-housing-here-are-the-basics/

        Which of these zones isn’t economical to develop due to height today?

        In 2017 Seattle allowed three dwelling units per SFH lot. HB 1110 will allow four, even on very small lots. Housing capacity is usually measured in terms of bedrooms, so whether replacing a four-bedroom SFH with four separate smaller units each with their own kitchen and bathroom and living room depends on the number of people living in the SFH. But certainly on average (Seattle on average has around 2 persons per unit) this upzone increased housing capacity.

        At the same time, Seattle has dramatically increased multi-family heights in many zones. The only restrictions I am aware of is neighborhood objections to overly tall multi-family buildings that they claim will change the character of the neighborhood, like Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Fremont, and Ballard.

        Probably 75% of this zoning has not reached its zoning capacity in a city like Seattle that is 142.5 sq. miles

        There is one area in which height can influence profitability, and that is the gap between wood framed buildings that max out at 7 stories and steel framed buildings that according to developers require around 22 stories to begin to pencil out, especially if there is onsite underground parking (often a requirement of the lender). One area is the CID with I beleive 14 story height limit, although the CID argues 22+ steel and glass buildings in the CID will fundamentally change its character and make it much more like Belltown or Bellevue. A big part of zoning is to preserve a neighborhood’s character. But in a city that embraces gentrification as much as Seattle does the CID will soon not exist.

        All these upzoning demands are addressing an issue that does not exist — a shortage of housing — and exacerbating an issue that does exist: a shortage of affordable housing. Even then, I haven’t seen any claims or proof that any zone in Seattle needs additional height to make development pencil out, except maybe by developers, when in fact the main objection is from local neighborhoods that want a cap on the height of multi-family housing despite being part of or very close to the urban core. Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Fremont, and Ballard should have no height limits on multi-family housing, except they think that kind of scale will destroy the character of their neighborhood (and no doubt can see just how unattractive so much multi-family housing in Seattle is).

        What I see behind these claims of a market rate housing shortage and demands for upzoning SFH zones is class warfare, and a feeling SFH zones are privileged, and a bizarre hope that more market rate housing geared toward a city with a high and rising AMI will make their rent more affordable. None of those are true, even though folks on this blog desperately want to believe they are true, and so you can’t convince them otherwise.

      5. “Housing capacity is usually measured in terms of bedrooms”

        But separate households want separate units. Household size has been shrinking all over the country, and all over King County, even if it’s most acute in Seattle. Some households are one person, some two adults, some an adult and child, and some two adults and child(ren). They want to live in these units, not sharing a unit with people they have less ties to. That can often be awkward, stressful, dangerous, or you can’t find a shared unit or one you’re comfortable with. I lived with roomates, then alone, and now with a roommate. I like having roommates, but I don’t think it’s something we should force on everybody all the time.

      6. Out of curiosity, has anyone seen any stats as to how often the “family unit triplex” (aka Main + ADU + DADU) results in three distinct families living on the property?

        I don’t have an stats. Anecdotally, it is common for someone to sell all three. The main house, and the other two as condos. My main argument is that it is bizarre construction type that really only makes sense because of the regulations. Converting a basement to an ADA makes sense. Adding a backyard cottage (a DADU) makes sense. But tearing down a house and then putting up a house/ADU/DADU is really bizarre. If you see what they are actually building, it is especially weird. This is not like a lot of housing, which goes up fairly quickly, with a lot of parts built in the factory and shipped in. The style is especially awkward, and clearly the result of the zoning. It is as if they said “You can build an extra apartment, as long as you add a giant turtle statue out back”. Suddenly you see giant turtle statues everywhere.

        Often the “attached” part of the ADU is clearly symbolic. It is attached via a small set of wood between the two largely-independent structures. It really only makes sense as a completely separate unit. In other words, they aren’t building bigger by pretending to build places for more people to live, they are building more places for people to live by pretending that is part of the main house. It doesn’t doesn’t make sense to build it the way they are building it otherwise.

        Yes, the aim could eventually be Airbnb, but you could say that about any apartment complex. Maybe they are building a new apartment building with the intent of renting out half the units for short term rentals. I don’t think it changes the fundamental issue, which is that there aren’t enough units, and the numbers are artificially low because of the silly regulations.

      7. “I lived with roommates, then alone, and now with a roommate. I like having roommates, but I don’t think it’s something we should force on everybody all the time.”

        Nobody is forcing anyone to live with someone else, if you can afford to live alone. HB 1110 will allow four LEGALLY SEPERATE units per each SFH lot, and Seattle’s multi-family housing is required to have a mixture of unit sizes.

        The biggest shortage today is family sized housing. Three-bedroom units for a family with two kids in multi-family units are very expensive and pretty rare, and older more affordable SFH are being either renovated or replaced with new construction. King Co.’s affordability housing subcommittee under HB 1220 from last year noted the lack of affordable family sized rental housing is the most acute shortage. Now that Millennials are aging and marrying a shortage of SFH is also a problem, but that is to purchase and should ease as Boomers die off or move from their SFH to assisted care because right now they don’t want shared wall multi-family housing unless very exclusive like downtown Kirkland.

        The one benefit of a roommate (whether spouse, partner, relative, or friend) is it makes housing more affordable. At least that is why I always had roommates when young. If money is no issue then living alone makes sense to me, although it could be lonely although in 64 years I have never lived alone so don’t know.

      8. The ADU/DADU’s history can be traced to its original name: “mother-in-law” unit. Not “mother”, but “mother-in-law”. It was designed to house a relative, often a disfavored relative whose economic circumstances sometimes due to widowhood had declined, in a way that preserved the autonomy of both the main house and ADU.

        When it became something else its usefulness changed, and really diminished.

        Yes, it can be ok for an Airbnb, if you like short term transient guests on vacation living next to you (most cities require the owner of the property to occupy one of the units if one is rented). It can help afford a SFH home, but once that revenue is not needed the ADU tends to go vacant or used for a kid. In suburban areas (including Seattle neighborhoods) with larger lots an ADU makes little sense because of the cost, licensing, and the fact the nanny or mother-in-law can live in a separate part of the main house and have access to a full-size kitchen.

        As a way to increase housing, two or three or four separate units on a SFH lot makes almost no sense. First, the regulatory limits restrict the amount of lot that can be used for housing so the units are quite small. Second, SFH lots tend to be more remote without walkable transit or retail. Better to live in an apartment near an urban area. Third, since they are on the street level many women find them less safe than a secured building. Fourth, a SFH with the same regulatory limits is often more profitable for the builder.

        Seattle allowed three units per SFH lot in 2017 but not many have been converted to three separate units, and I doubt even fewer will be converted to 4 units after HB 1110. Most of the new housing and population growth in Seattle has been in Dist. 3 and 7, exactly where I would want to live if I wanted an urban experience without a car, in a secured building above street level.

      9. Thanks Ross. Interesting that your observations are different from mine. That’s actually a bit more encouraging, to me – if people are building these weird setups with the purpose of selling all three units, that means there’s more housing being created right now than I feared. My experience (from when we were looking at buying our place a while ago) was that all the “ADU” units were just basements with a separate door to the outside, and a stairwell connecting to the main house. Technically a separate unit but the laundry was often downstairs. Admittedly these were more remodeled versions of older homes, not new construction, it’s great that new construction is (a little bit) more sensible, despite the old limitations.

        Also, sorry to say, but I’m all for the “giant turtle statue” rule. I love turtles, if that’s what it takes to get people to build triplexes I’m an enthusiastic ‘yes’ :)

      10. Let’s leave the zoning part out of this for a minute. I believe that the market actually controls zoning, not the other way around. Here’s some insight on why.

        Let’s say zoning will allow me to buy and tear down a single family home and build separate 4 units on it. In Seattle, that puts the lot, permits and utilities work at over 250k per unit before construction starts. As a developer that a million dollars out of my pocket. I’ve got to build and sell those units at something higher than 650k each to make any money. That’s never going to be affordable housing, zoning be damned.

        I’ve been part of big “for profit” residential builds where the numbers are really tight and it’s tough to make the project come in on budget. I’ve also been part of rich people waisting thousands and thousands of dollars on construction projects that make themselves happy, but make little financial sense. Working for rich people is always preferred. It’s less stressful, with more money involved.

        I work for the pleasure of rich people…. I didn’t always, I did drywall on starter homes 25-30 years ago… but now if you’re not well heeled, I have no interest in working for you. Unless you’re Habitat for Humanity in Pierce County– I love those people. Being semi-retired, I turn down people who I think will be difficult to work with, regaurdless of money. It’s pretty much repeat customers only… and only the ones I like. I turn down a lot of work and people are truly pissed off I won’t even bid at remodeling their bathroom. I’ve dealt with upperclass White privilege my whole career. It hasn’t been easy.

        Take a deep breath and think about if these things are related. Seattle can’t hire enough police, bus drivers, or front-line workers to help the homeless. The Seattle construction industry has less capacity than 5-10 years ago– the work force has just moved on.

        Maybe living alone in a Seattle apartment with a white collar job is what you want, but it’s certainly not what everybody wants. Blue collar workers aren’t little elves who’s goal in life is fixing crap for the “upper classes”

      11. Tacomee, I know quite a few folks a little older than I am who had rental SFH’s in Seattle, usually between 2 and 10. Virtually everyone sold their rental SFH during the pandemic because prices were high with low interest rates, and they could see where landlord/tenant regulations were going in Seattle (many were afraid of both rent control and a local capital gains type tax on housing sales). Nearly every rental house had a main house and separate ADU/DADU that were rented out (Seattle does not require the property owner to live in one of the units like most eastside cities).

        Surprisingly many of the SFH were bought by young couples (Millennials) who now wanted a SFH. Those couples that could eliminated the ADU (Seattle requires annual certification which is a hassle and a fee), while others kept the ADU until they wouldn’t need it anymore. Not surprisingly that was when the market for residential remodels exploded.

        The major gap in the rental market today is a semi-affordable SFH for families. The move by Millennials post pandemic for a SFH is making that shortage even worse, along with gentrification of S. Seattle, and once mortgage rates drop my guess is more rental SFH’s will be bought by couples looking to live in the SFH and not rent it out.

      12. I believe that the market actually controls zoning, not the other way around.

        Sorry, but that is ridiculous. You can see the zoning borders clearly. One side of the street townhouses, the other side single family houses. One side of the street townhouses, the other side apartments. Again, it makes no sense for people to tear down an existing house and build one with an extra ADU and DADU, if it wasn’t for the zoning. They weren’t building those five years ago. What changed? The zoning.

        Here is an example, right down the street from me. This lot used to have a church. It is 84,000 square feet. They are building 9 houses, on 9 lots. Why not 15 houses on 15 lots? Why not row houses, just like this one up the street? Why not a small apartment building, like the ones that are so common in the area? Why not a big apartment building, like the one they are adding fairly close to that site?

        Zoning! None of those other uses are permitted (including 15 houses). There is no rational explanation for the differences. Clearly “the market” is trying desperately to build as many units as possible. This would make sense, given the enormous demand for units. The market is taking whatever the regulations give them. Only allow houses? Fine, we’ll tear down the old house and build a triplex house with an ADU and DADU. Actually allow a normal multiplex? We’ll build that. Only allow row houses? We’ll build row houses. Allow a small apartment, then a small apartment it will be. Allow a big apartment, then you can bet your ass a big apartment is going to be built there. No one is under-building. No is looking at a lot and saying “Oh, isn’t that interesting. I can build a big apartment building here. No matter, I’ll just add a few houses.”

        Because it doesn’t make financial sense. Not with so much demand for places to live. Holy cow, one of the apartment owners of a perfectly good small apartment complex with three story apartments is trying to get it rezoned to six stories! From an economic standpoint, that is bizarre. You don’t add that many places to live. Not with lots nearby worth way less than that. But the market is so desperate for units, that developers are trying anything to add more units.

        At some point, things would reach a balance, if we had more liberal zoning. At some point, we would rebuild the city the way most cities in the world were built in the first place. They based it on the cost to build and the market for the various types of housing. You would see new apartments and new houses side by side. For now, it is all about the regulations.

        (To be clear, it isn’t *just* zoning, but the whole suite of regulations that make building apartments difficult in Seattle.)

      13. “I believe that the market actually controls zoning, not the other way around.

        “Sorry, but that is ridiculous.”

        It really isn’t that ridiculous when one considers that what actually gets built in a zone (construction) — if anything at all — has a lot to do with the market. A zone prescribes maximums, but does not require building to those maximums.

        For Seattle the key is there is an apartment glut today, at least market rate apartments. Builders know this. 22,000+ vacant units is a huge number.
        There are several thousand still to come on the market that were started long ago, but unless another 1 million residents show up Seattle will have a glut for a long time. Even if a fraction of the office buildings can be converted to housing that will be extra glut.

        The other reality is Seattle’s multi-family zoning only has a very small percentage that has been developed to its zoning capacity in a city that is 142.5 sq miles. As I have pointed out a hundred times, the GMPC determined one year ago every regional city has zoning in place to accommodate not just current housing needs, but another 1 million residents who are not coming. Based on 2035 and 2050 PSRC Vision statements cities have allocated most of this new housing growth in town centers, near … drum roll … walkable retail and walkable transit. Unless you want to build a four-plex with 8 onsite parking spots on a SFH lot that is limited to 50% GFAR (40% on MI). The reason most of this housing growth has occurred in Districts 3 and 7 is …. drum roll… because this is the most desirable urban place to live in the city, and new housing in these two districts cater to the highest AMI.

        Current interest rates will depress any kind of multi-family housing construction because developers have to hold the loan over the life of the building. In a few years my guess is population growth will be flat, and we will have a market rate apartment glut even though interest rates will have declined but not to zero or one percent like in the past. With the huge demand for SFH I just don’t see a lot of builders taking the risk trying to make more of a profit from 2, 3 or four-plexes on the same SFH lot in which they have to hold the loan, even though the zoning will allow it.

        So are why are we upzoning SFH zones to allow apartments or micro dwellings when the lots are small, the regulatory limits limit housing to 50% of lot area, and the units are not near walkable retail or transit which is why HB 1110 allows a city to mandate TWO parking stalls per unit no matter how large, or EIGHT per four-plex?

        I could be wrong but very few SFH lots in Seattle were converted to 3 plexes after 2017 in a very strong market for builders with low interest rates.

        Look at this blog. STB has a huge ratio of urbanists living in multi-family rental housing compared to the region overall. How many are living in an ADU or DADU in a residential SFH zone? Builders know this. The builder in Pinehurst building 9 large houses on an 84,000-sf lot certainly knew he/she could have built 27 smaller units under Seattle’s zoning, but it was more hassle, the financing would be more expensive, and the regulation more intensive just under the state’s international building code, the cost to build 27 kitchens, and the profit smaller. So despite the zoning the market dictated what they builder built.

      14. “It really isn’t that ridiculous when one considers that what actually gets built in a zone (construction) — if anything at all — has a lot to do with the market. A zone prescribes maximums, but does not require building to those maximums.”

        RossB says they’re building to the maximums. They’d build more or a wider variety or in adjacent zones if the zoning allowed it. He gave several examples in his own Pinehurst neighborhood, one of the many buffer areas that are in between a multifamily/commercial zone and a sleepy single-family zone. Areas that are close-in enough that people will be reasonably close to transit and amenities. He has given even more examples in his neighborhood in the past.

        There’s a reluctance to tear down an existing building if it meets the owner’s needs or if the unused zoning capacity isn’t substantial (e.g., if the owner could only add an ADU or one or two more stories). But when they do decide to build, they’re building to the zoning limit. If the limit were larger or on more nearby lots, there would be more building to the limit there too.

      15. “Current interest rates will depress any kind of multi-family housing construction”

        Interest rates may go down in three or six months. They aren’t frozen for twenty years, which is more of the build-out scale for these zoning decisions. The city council hasn’t even started considering RossB’s suggestion, so it would be at least a year or longer before it was rezoned. By that time we’ll be in a different interest rate environment. And the council is not going to consider spot changes while it’s in the middle of designing a comprehensive plan update. So we’re not talking about rezoning today for the short-term environment. We’re talking about getting the political discussion started so that the city might be more open to it in the comprehensive plan or in a few years.

      16. “RossB says they’re building to the maximums. They’d build more or a wider variety or in adjacent zones if the zoning allowed it. He gave several examples in his own Pinehurst neighborhood, one of the many buffer areas that are in between a multifamily/commercial zone and a sleepy single-family zone.”

        Mike, there are no “sleepy single-family zones” in Seattle. Every SFH lot can have three separate dwelling units for the same GFAR.

        “By that time we’ll be in a different interest rate environment. And the council is not going to consider spot changes while it’s in the middle of designing a comprehensive plan update. So we’re not talking about rezoning today for the short-term environment. We’re talking about getting the political discussion started so that the city might be more open to it in the comprehensive plan or in a few years.”

        Yes, interest rates will likely decline in the future, but not to zero or one percent like in the past, and for a developer holding a multi-family project over several decades a few percentage points is critical.

        But no one on this blog can tell me WHY Seattle is rezoning, or upzoning. The 2020 census proves construction kept up with population growth over the last decade despite claims to the contrary on this blog, and the GMPC found Seattle (and the region) has current zoning that can accommodate another 1 million residents if they do come. You don’t upzone for the hell of it because then you disperse any growth or new construction that does occur and lose any urbanism, which is the problem in Seattle today: there is no urban there there. It is like 142.5 sq. miles of suburbia because the small population for such a large city was never condensed (and most don’t want to be condensed).

        At the end of the day no advocate for upzoning Seattle on this blog can give me a good reason why. Seattle does not need the new market rate housing, and upzoning usually gentrifies an area and displaces existing and more affordable housing. Plans to disperse new construction from the urban core (eg Dist. 3 and 7) as the PSRC has advocated for over the last 25 years to remote SFH zones in a city with no urban core makes no sense, which is why those new units will have 2 parking stalls per unit on a lot with a 50% GFAR limit.

      17. But no one on this blog can tell me WHY Seattle is rezoning, or upzoning.

        Nonsense. We keep telling you, and you keep denying reality. One more time:

        We want to change the zoning to add more places to live. If we add more places to live, prices will drop.

        The idea that zoning has no influence on the number of places that are built is absurd. Again, I can point to just my neighborhood, and the ridiculous nature of the building construction going on. Everyone, everywhere is building as many places as they can. No one is building a new single-family house if the lot allows rowhouses, let alone apartments. People who own houses on big lots always subdivide the lot. Think about that for a second, and what that means. It is pretty simple: If they change the zoning, there will be a lot more apartments, a lot more rowhouses, and a lot more houses on small lots. What does that mean? A lot more places to live. With a lot more places to live, housing would be cheaper. It really isn’t that complicated.

        This is all just basic logic. Of course economists have studied it, proved it, and then moved on. Economists love to prove the obvious. The only rational explanation for the really high housing costs is zoning. Well that, and onerous regulations surrounding large apartment buildings.

      18. “I believe that the market actually controls zoning, not the other way around.

        “Sorry, but that is ridiculous.”

        It really isn’t that ridiculous when one considers that what actually gets built in a zone (construction) — if anything at all — has a lot to do with the market. A zone prescribes maximums, but does not require building to those maximums.

        Exactly! And yet they always build to those maximums! That is what I’ve been saying!

        Look, no one is building a single-family home in land zoned for rowhouses. No one is building rowhouses in land zoned for three-story apartments. No one is building three-story apartments in land zoned for six-story apartments. They can. It is perfectly legal. They don’t, because the demand for units is so damn high. This is precisely how you can tell it is zoning that is driving development. They build to the maximum, because the maximum is too damn restrictive.

        Here is a thought experiment. Imagine they allowed any type of housing to be built in the city. Fairly quickly, you would see towers everywhere (similar to the ones at Madison Park). You would see six story apartments following in their wake (as wood construction is cheap). You would still see plenty of new houses being built, especially in places that have views. When the dust settled, it would look a lot like the places around the world that never had zoning, including much of Seattle before we instituted it. The end result would be a huge number of new units — maybe a million or more. The cost of owning or renting a place would plummet. At some point, the price of housing would actually match what you find in other parts of the country; it would be equal to the cost to build new housing. Again, every reputable economist would agree with that assessment.

        The problem is, we are nowhere near that. The cost of housing here is much higher than the cost of housing in Japan is because of the zoning. I’m not saying I want to allow skyscrapers in every neighborhood. I’m saying that the more we liberalize zoning, the cheaper housing becomes. I don’t believe it is necessary to allow towers, or even six-story buildings in every neighborhood. There simply isn’t that much demand to live in Seattle. You can get almost as much density from three-story buildings, which are exactly the same height they allow for single-family houses. We just need to legalize inexpensive housing.

      19. Since everyone is talking in generalities, I took the liberty of poking around Redfin a little. Here are about a dozen listings of sold homes in the Pinehurst neighborhood, all built after 2018 (which is when the DADU+ADU change went in effect, I believe). All but one property appear to be just large SFH with no ADU/DADU. These are not all the entries in Pinehurst (and maybe someone who lives there wouldn’t even call all of them as Pinehurst, I apologize if the neighborhood boundary is different).

        With DADU/ADU:


        (note the “unit-3” and “unit-2” in this).

        Without DADU/ADU:


        Note that most of these (for example, the last three) __are__ splits of larger lots, but I don’t see the ADU/DADU setup people claim to be always used. Is there any reason why none of these listings had ADUs or DADUs built? Is it because the lots were too small? Or is it something else? Looking at Ross in particular to comment since he mentioned that builders always build to the maximum number of units, and he knows the area well – I have no doubt that I am probably overlooking something.

      20. @Daniel Thompson

        This has been discussed over and over already. Market rate housing is not some special form of housing different from low income housing. It is merely from the lack of it compared to the demand of jobs that makes it more expensive. Mainly building single family housing/zoning along with freeways has already been enforced/tried for 50 years from the 1970s maybe it’s not quite working now.

        Secondly for the zoning capacity you already talking about it is maybe aren’t an empty lot. It must be worthwhile to demolish the existing building and then build new capacity on top. If one is just building one additional home on the lot of an existing house it won’t pencil out. For apartments they in many cases still having parking requirements. If it’s too high then unless it’s a large surface lot for parking again it doesn’t work financially to buy and rebuild it until the height limits are high enough.

        Also I find it a bit odd, you used to lament that increased density would bring in unwanted poor people now you’ve switched tracks saying how it’s only for rich people. At least try to make your argument against upzoning consistent

      21. Ross Bleakney,

        “We want to change the zoning to add more places to live. If we add more places to live, prices will drop.”

        So you really believe the “powers that be” in housing…. the banks, REITs, contractors, subcontractors, the rich fat guys with huge wallets down to the Mexican laborers…. would build lots and lots of new housing….work their asses off…. so housing prices would drop…. and everybody on the construction food chain would take a pay cut? All because zoning changed?

        Good luck with that.

      22. So you really believe the “powers that be” in housing…. the banks, REITs, contractors, subcontractors, the rich fat guys with huge wallets down to the Mexican laborers…. would build lots and lots of new housing….work their asses off…. so housing prices would drop…. and everybody on the construction food chain would take a pay cut? All because zoning changed?

        Who said anything about anyone taking a pay cut. I merely said that they would build a lot more units. Banks will finance lower priced housing for the same reason they finance it in other areas — they still make money.

      23. Ross Bleakney,

        Who’s this “they” that is going to build this massive amount of housing once zoning laws are changed? Just because you double the number of building sites, that doesn’t double the amount of capital, labor or even the gumption to build anything. The construction industry has run so hard and so long in greater Seattle that there’s just nothing left to boost production.

        Tacoma is on the verge of passing rent control because building 10,000 apartments in a City of 200,000 residents didn’t do squat for affordability. You can’t expect the construction industry and the finance industry to make housing affordable… or even available.

        Do a little research… just what is a REIT? and what do they mean to the cost of rent in Seattle?

      24. Who’s this “they” that is going to build this massive amount of housing once zoning laws are changed? Just because you double the number of building sites, that doesn’t double the amount of capital, labor or even the gumption to build anything.

        You still aren’t getting it. People are building. It is just that they are building in very odd ways, in response to the very odd regulations. You must have seen the house/ADU/DADU construction going on in Seattle by now, right? It is very labor intensive. It requires plenty of concrete and lumber. The regulations aren’t simple, either. Now compare it to townhouses. They bring much of it by truck. They do it in stages, the way they do large apartments. Frame one way, plumbing the next, etc. It is way cheaper, just because it is way more efficient.

        At worst this will push up the cost of constructing a new single family house, as the workers switch jobs. I can live with that.

        But hey, assume that I’m wrong. Assume that all of the economists are wrong. Assume that the local building industry is wrong too. We change the zoning, and nothing happens. Same number of units that would have been before. So what? What is the harm?

        The reason folks oppose the opposing zoning changes is fairly simple: they don’t want more apartments or rowhouses. It isn’t that they think nothing will happen, it is that they are worried it will. They are worried every neighborhood will suddenly have a lot more density, and they are right.

        Because there will be a lot more places where people can live, prices will inevitably go down. It happens all across the world. It happens in every industry. More competition, prices go down. Zoning basically operates like a monopoly, or rather, a cartel. It artificially lowers the supply, which is why costs are so high.

      25. “it is common for someone to sell all three.”

        Do you mean selling the entire lot with house+ADU+DADU, or selling each house separately? Is it possible to sell each house separately? I thought it was all still a one-ownership structure.

      26. “Nobody is forcing anyone to live with someone else, if you can afford to live alone.”

        You’re forcing people to live with others by trying to prevent a sufficient number of housing units. That “can’t afford to live alone” is being driven by you doing that.

      27. “there are no “sleepy single-family zones” in Seattle. Every SFH lot can have three separate dwelling units for the same GFAR.”

        I meant the area south of 145th, which is mostly houses and nothing else. Pinehurst has a commercial pocket that extends to 145th, but the area west of it is houses.

        When I say “single-family” I’m including the relaxed form with ADUs/4-plexes. Is it necessary to change my long-accustomed wording? That would be difficult and take time. The distinction I see is between areas that don’t allow small apartments and corner stores, vs those that do. I call the former “single-family”. You may call them middle housing, but middle housing also includes small apartments, like the 4-8 unit courtyard apartments dotted around the older parts of Seattle. It’s a step toward middle housing, not the complete thing.

        And even if the area is zoned to allow ADUs and 4-plexes, there aren’t many of them. You can’t live in what doesn’t exist. So they’re de facto SINGLE family even if the zoning allows more. The 4-plex rule was just passed this year: there hasn’t been time for anyone to build one yet. Many owners will decline to; others will wait several years; others will sell in several years and the new owners will build them. All that takes a decade or two for any substantial change to accumulate on the ground.

    2. Tacomee, you are wasting your breath. It is like telling Trump supporters he lost the 2020 election.

      For over a year I have cited the GMPC’s — a VERY progressive council — finding that anyone can access that found every regional city ALREADY has zoning that will not only accommodate current population but AN EXTRA 1 MILLION NEW RESIDENTS THAT ARE NOT COMING.

      Facts don’t matter.

      I cite a scholarly article that uses 2020 Census data to show construction has kept pace with population growth — the biggest lie of builders — over the last decade and Seattle alone has over 22,000 vacant rental units and thousands more coming on the market and that is ignored. The truth doesn’t matter when you are angry.

      You provide boots on the ground perspective about how financial incentives influence what is built in a zone and that is ignored by folks who don’t own a hammer.

      This blog is very sophisticated when it comes to transit because they use it (and the massive subsidies) and understand (some) of the influences re transit but this blog really should not include housing or zoning because the same folks don’t understand zoning, financing, or the market forces for builders and labor.

      I can understand this unwillingness to understand this issue, and builder groups have taken advantage of this unsophisticated vulnerable group of renters, from STB to The Urbanist, because let’s face it you are the only person on either blog with a hand callus. Doug Trumm still believes upzoning will allow an editor of The Urbanist to buy in Wallingford without a trust fund.

      People with an AMI below $115,000 in Seattle are desperate to find housing that is north of Yesler, especially if no one will live with them. They are easily manipulated with the ruse that new market rate housing that replaces existing, older more affordable housing will somehow lower their rent in a very high AMI city in which every single urbanist dreams of living alone in a new apartment in Distrcit 3 or 7 among other white callous free urbanists. That is where I would want to live if my wife didn’t insist on suburbia.

      There is no point in killing dreams if some think those dreams are existential. Rental housing in Seattle — and everywhere else — reflects AMI. Seattle has a rental housing glut and … drum roll….apartment and housing prices have increased commensurate with increases in AMI and new construction replacing older housing.

      Some like Ross and Mike dream that upzoning and transit will equalize society — a worthy goal — only achievable from public education which is the main factor for income inequality — or tax reform.

      To think wealth equity will ever come from zoning is very naive. After all, in Seattle housing construction has kept pace with population growth, but what WL misses is the AMi for that job growth exploded, and builders — the folks with the calluses — build to AMI.

      In the end if you own who cares. Except the sad reality is rising AMI and new construction fundamentally transforms a city. I remember when Belltown was where the artists lived, then Georgetown, then Columbia City, and now White Center. Upzoning won’t change that because it hasn’t already. Seattle is no longer a city for artists, and SF hasn’t been for 40 years.

      1. Daniel even if you’re original premise was correct — why exactly would it apply to Mercer islands single family zoning that you are always protecting? You claims up-zoning will demolish poorer houses then uses that defense to protect richer neighborhoods.

        Or even when you talk about how upzonings end up poorer neighborhoods — but then you oddly don’t see how your statements to stop upzonings in rich neighborhoods as perpetuating that. The articles that upzoning doesn’t work just “feel good” as it means one doesn’t need to accept any change in one’s neighborhood

      2. “Daniel even if you’re original premise was correct — why exactly would it apply to Mercer islands single family zoning that you are always protecting? You claims up-zoning will demolish poorer houses then uses that defense to protect richer neighborhoods.

        “Or even when you talk about how upzonings end up poorer neighborhoods — but then you oddly don’t see how your statements to stop upzonings in rich neighborhoods as perpetuating that. The articles that upzoning doesn’t work just “feel good” as it means one doesn’t need to accept any change in one’s neighborhood.”

        WL, I believe that for the most part cities should have local control over their zoning. Seattle can do what it wants, but state bills like HB 1110 affect my city, and also run in the opposite direction of the PSRC’s recommendations for the last 25 years that I think are correct: condense future housing growth in town centers near walkable transit and walkable retail. The absurdity of HB 1110 that upzones the SFH zones is the legislature had to allow a city to require 2 parking stalls PER UNIT because there is no transit in these neighborhoods, and then claimed HB 1110 was somehow “green”.

        It also bothers me that the builders make claims — lack of current housing, lack of zoning capacity, and future population growth estimates — that clearly are not true to push upzoning bills that have nothing to do with affordable housing, and they know that. New market rate housing will never create affordable housing in a city with an AMI of $115,000.

        Gentrification is a significant increase in the value of property and housing in a neighborhood that then displaces the poorer residents who lived there. The Central Dist. and Columbia City are two good examples. It is difficult to “gentrify” communities like Laurelhurst and Medina because there are few old low value houses, and the land is already so valuable. So a new expensive house replacing an older house does not move the needle much, or displace any existing residents.

        More and more I have come to accept what some on this blog have posted: you can’t stop gentrification in a city like Seattle with rising population (albeit slower now), rising AMI, and lots of new construction replacing older housing. When I look at U.S. cities that have gone through this same thing gentrification either forces those below the AMI out or condenses them more and more into a smaller and smaller marginalized zone, usually because the area is marginalized due to high crime and poor schools.

        The legislature in HB 1220 in 2021 mandated that counties conduct planning committees to address gentrification and the lack of housing for racial minorities, mostly Black residents. King Co. formed its affordable housing subcommittee chaired by Balducci, which started with some extreme ideas (like all new multi-family housing had to be 60% AMI), but in the end basically decided nothing could stop gentrification and displacement of Black and poor residents in a neighborhood that is gentrifying, Columbia City being the poster child since it is in S. Seattle that like the Central Dist. in the past has been historically Black with lower housing prices and is now white with high housing prices.

        Obviously progressives don’t want this, and neither do politicians although they love the development revenue, but as Tacomee has pointed out it is very difficult to counter the market, especially with zoning.

  5. I now see why Metro would restructure route 322 to serve Northgate Station. Route 303 is also being spared, serving Northgate, and going to First Hill. Together, they can double the frequency (which is to say maintain current frequency between 302 and 303) going from Northgate to First Hill.

    This should relieve some of the PM peak-of-peak pressure ST is worried about between the next Link extensions.

    Where ST Express 522 ends up terminating during this period is mostly orthogonal to 1 Line crowding, as it will be picking up outside the zone of maximum constraint regardless. However, proposed route 77 might help reduce the maximum crowding if the segment of maximum constraint turns out to be U-District to Roosevelt.

    1. I would imagine that for a northbound rush-hour train, way more people get off at Roosevelt than get on. So yeah, in that sense it doesn’t make much difference. It does bring up yet another theory as to why ST is delaying the move of the 522 to 145th until frequency increases on the main line (with the addition of East Link): Comfort. It is quite likely the trains will be crowded from Downtown to Roosevelt. The sooner the rider gets off, the better it is for the rider, and the better it is for everyone else. Riders heading to Lynnwood get a seat sooner (or at the very least, a bit more elbow room).

      I still find it odd that they are doing this with the 522, while not running the 510 express to downtown (as it runs now). It seems like delaying the conversion of the 510 until later would have a bigger impact on any crowding. To be fair, it would also cost more.

    2. The “gap” between having Lynnwood Link opening and the East link tracks having electrification is only 60 days according to the latest ST progress report. Maybe not on day 1, but ST will have to start running empty 2 Line trains across Lake Washington as part of the simulated scheduling required shortly thereafter — and those trains should be in service between Lynnwood and CID.

      Plus the “overcrowding” is not only speculative but the staff hasn’t presented an analysis to explain if only one or two trains will be overcrowded or if all the trains for 2-3 hours will be — or if any trains at all will be overcrowded during this very short time period. Consider that Connect 2020 was much more disruptive and it lasted for 6 weeks (almost as long).

      This potential problem gets too much attention and not enough analysis.

      1. Simulated service on L2 will certainly not be in service between Lynnwood and CID. It wouldn’t be simulated if it was in service.

      2. This potential problem gets too much attention and not enough analysis.


        Simulated service on L2 will certainly not be in service between Lynnwood and CID. It wouldn’t be simulated if it was in service.

        I think what Al is suggesting is that the trains run simulated service from Redmond to CID, and real service north of there. Starting from the north, a southbound train basically just empties everyone out at CID. Starting from the east, the train is empty until CID. Of course I don’t know much about simulated service (e. g. whether they add weight to simulate people, or any of that) but it sounds reasonable.

        It also suggests that at least during peak hours — the only time this could potentially be a problem they simply run the trains from the East Side. The simulated analysis takes place the rest of the day. It also means access to the East Link yard, which means no train car shortage.

        But here I am, speculating without doing real professional analysis.

      3. AJ, they ran simulated service to Northgate before that extension opened in 2021. Those trains were operated in service to UW Station and “simulated” only north of there.

        This would be almost the same thing. The major difference is that it’s a branch rather than a mere extension. Still, it’s important to run 2 Line trains all the way to Lynnwood to test the various systems like signals, switches, passenger info and other things — so those trains will be on the tracks north of CID.

      4. “It also suggests that at least during peak hours — the only time this could potentially be a problem they simply run the trains from the East Side. The simulated analysis takes place the rest of the day. It also means access to the East Link yard, which means no train car shortage.”

        If by “run the trains” you mean carrying passengers from the Eastside, that can’t happen until the minimum number of hours of testing is completed. But ST can run empty trains to the Eastside base, which would alleviate the base-shortage problem. And if the starter line is running, ST could potentially run the starter line from Redmond, kick passengers off at South Bellevue, run empty to CID, and start picking up passengers again. That would be tricky if the frequencies are different. Although nobody would complain about extra trains in between the regular ones.

        During U-Link testing, trains came north with passengers, kicked them off at Westlake, and continued north.

      5. Mike, Redmond Link is ST 3 and I don’t think it will be finished until 2025 at the earliest. So the starter line is S. Bellevue to Overlake.

        The issue with a starter line is whether the current eastside buses keep their current routes. I think they will until East Link opens across the bridge because buses will be the only transit across the bridge. So the starter line would be served mostly by its park and rides (notable S. Bellevue) because why would riders on a bus get off to transfer to an East Link starter line that doesn’t go to Bellevue Way. Maybe if you were going from Issaquah to Microsoft you might drive to S. Bellevue and transfer to East Link but Microsoft is WFH mostly, and if it ever isn’t it will run dedicated shuttles along these routes that allow workers to work on the shuttles.

        I would also hope that the testing across the bridge does not begin at 4 car trains every 8 minutes at 50 mph. Much smaller trains at slower speeds and less frequency so the vibrations to the bridge concrete can be studied carefully, and then gradually over the six months increase speeds, frequencies and size of trains. The testing across the bridge has less to do with passenger safety and more to do with bridge stability.

      6. @Mike — I’m speculating when it comes to what the testing process involves. But let’s say part of it means running the trains at full speed, using weights to simulate passengers. This would not occur during peak. At peak, the only thing that needs to happen is that a sufficient number of trains have to make their way over the bridge, and be queued up anywhere along the route. In the morning, these trains would be empty until CID. In the evening, everyone on the train is kicked out at CID. In both cases, the trains can move slowly across the bridge (if for some reason there were issues with going fast) and wouldn’t have to simulate the weight of a full train. The rest of the day, the crew doing the simulation can do what they want (although they still have to deal with CID traffic).

      7. DT, I too am concerned about the bridge. I even wonder if ST should even start pushing trains over the bridge before the wires are live as soon as the tracks settle.

        That said, let’s look at an unlikely worst case scenario: Link cannot use the bridge. Less worse is that the bridge testing takes an extra year.

        The big question is getting trains to and from the East OMF. If it can’t handle regular service, can ST bring over one or two train cars at a time on the tracks? It is even technically possible to disassemble a train car and bring it over to the Central OMF in segments using flatbed trucks.

        There is lots of track between CID and the east end of the Mt Baker Link tunnel. If Link is somehow banned from the bridge, they track can still be used for storage. It’s just a matter of what to do with the cars.

        If a long bridge delay emerges, ST can thus still operate Line 2 from Judkins Park or CID northward shortly after Lynnwood Link opens. In fact, the simulation/ testing period may even be faster. They likely can start running 2 Line west regardless of the bridge status.

      8. “an unlikely worst case scenario: Link cannot use the bridge.”

        We’ll, now we have a picture of that. The Starter Line would become permanent, and Line 1 would get some additional runs or short runs. Mercer Island wouldn’t have Link, but Daniel says Islanders wouldn’t care. Judkins Park would be a significant loss, but maybe ST could modify the land track into a terminus. Then ST would have to add a line number, because Judkins Park – Lynnwood would be neither Line 1 nor Line 2 (the Starter Line).

        It would throw a wrench in cross-lake trips and pent-up expectations for easy Eastside-Seattle access. I mean the entire Eastside where Line 2 runs, not just the part the 550 also serves. But unless ST makes the 550 more frequent and faster, its service would always be worse than the full East Link would provide. And without the cross-lake extension, the Starter Line’s ridership would be severely stunted.

      9. Yeah it would be a complete nightmare Mike. I hope it doesn’t happen!

        I only put that here to demonstrate that 2 Line Westside service is viable for testing and opening soon after Lynnwood Link opens — even with an unforeseen bridge problem.

      10. The issue with a starter line is whether the current eastside buses keep their current routes.

        That is actually a completely different issue than the one we are discussing. We are discussing the frequency between Lynnwood and downtown, which is dependent on trains from the East Side. I agree with what you said about the bus routes on the East Side, but that should go on its own thread.

      11. This is an open thread Ross. Mike has added links to industrial zoning in Seattle, several have discussed electrification of buses, and several have compared the 522 to the 554 and 550, along with an Eastside starter line.

      12. “AJ, they ran simulated service to Northgate before that extension opened in 2021. Those trains were operated in service to UW Station and “simulated” only north of there.” Cool, I didn’t realize they could do that. Then yes, that may be able to help alleviate Lynwood-ID crowding before cross-lake service is in-service.

      13. MI probably would get Link eastbound if there were issues with the bridge. The East Channel bridge is not floating.

        S. Bellevue would serve as a bus bridge. The other bus bridge would probably be CID or just run Eastside buses to Westlake like today for a one seat ride. Some buses could even run directly to DSTT2 for those taking Link south. Just stay on the bus for one more stop to CID N.

        The number of transfers would be the same or less. The 550 would keep its current route to Bellevue Way with a stop at S Bellevue to intercept with the starter line. The 554 would likely stop at S Bellevue and continue to Seattle, or run a separate bus from an Issaquah park and ride to S Bellevue and then onto Bellevue Way. Someone could transfer to Link at CID or S Bellevue. Or stay on the bus.

        The other scenario is shorter trains cross the bridge, or at slower speeds. Both would still meet east to west capacity and give Lynnwood any additional capacity it needs.

        It wouldn’t be the end of the world. The subarea has the money for a starter line especially since Issaquah Link might get cut, and buses to and from Seattle just like today work well, and just like today cross lake capacity on buses would be way more than current ridership needs.

        It isn’t as if Eastsiders are running around complaining about bus transit on the Eastside today even though many are empty and service is being “suspended”. The difference between buses today in HOV lanes and East Link will be so marginal as to be irrelevant.

        Too many folks on this blog get too worked up over mode, and forget the entire point of Link is necessary capacity and grade separation. East/west buses are grade separated and even bus capacity today is over kill, and buses could maintain one seat rides.

      14. “East/west buses are grade separated”

        They aren’t grade-separated when they get off the freeway to go the Mercer Island P&R, or when they go down to the entrance at 4th & Brougham, or when they travel on surface streets in downtown Seattle, Belleuve Way. or at the Bellevue Transit Center. Or when they get stuck in freeway congestion because they’re not in the express lanes. These are all things that slow a bus down, and why Link will be faster than the 550 or 545.

      15. Mike, total time of trip depends on where you are going and transfers.

        For example, off peak buses from MI to North Bend are 90 minutes, and 30 to a specific park and ride in Issaquah. That is a long time to stand on N Mercer Way twiddling your thumbs or going to the bathroom in your pants. No transfers on the 554, 216/18. East Link serves a tiny sliver of East KC.

        There very easily could be an I-90 HOV exit eastbound onto MI. The old westbound entrance from 77th is still there but closed. It hasn’t been repurposed because ST plans to eliminate buses cross lake when East Link opens.

        IF East Link can’t run across the bridge I imagine ST would remove the raised rail beds and use the grade separated center roadway for buses, which was the original plan — along with East Link. Eastside buses could also use 3rd which supposedly will have fewer buses with DSTT2/WSBLE and is grade separated mostly and has more stops so less walking than Link.

        For 90.% of eastsiders current buses will be faster overall with fewer transfers than East Link. Unless you are the dozen folks taking transit to East Main, Wilburton, The Spring Dist., and so on.

        I hope East Link can run across the bridge although its route is badly compromised. But whether it can or can’t the effect on the Eastside will be minuscule considering maybe 5% of eastsiders use transit to begin with.

      16. This is an open thread Ross. Mike has added links to industrial zoning in Seattle, several have discussed electrification of buses, and several have compared the 522 to the 554 and 550, along with an Eastside starter line.

        You are confused. The term “open thread” means that we can discuss just about anything that is transit related on this post. It should probably be called “open post”, but for whatever reason, it is called “open thread”.

        This is different than a “comment thread”. A comment thread is a discussion about the same subject. It is simple courtesy to have a “Reply” to a comment be about that particular comment. It is OK to see a little drift, but if folks are actively engaging in a particular topic (in this case Lynnwood Link capacity when it opens) it is annoying to suddenly change the subject (to your thoughts on a starter line on the East Side). It is totally irrelevant to what we are discussing, and should go somewhere else, like a brand new comment at the bottom of the page. Otherwise the comments become a muddled mess and the whole value of having nested threads goes away.

        Maybe you meant to do that, and just put it here by accident. That happens all the time, and is understandable. But the comment should be copied to a different thread (i. e. a brand new comment — not a “reply”).

      17. Yeah it would be a complete nightmare Mike. I hope it doesn’t happen!

        I only put that here to demonstrate that 2 Line Westside service is viable for testing and opening soon after Lynnwood Link opens — even with an unforeseen bridge problem.

        Yeah, exactly. They may find that the trains can only go over the bridge at 20 MPH. Or that the trains are OK as long as they aren’t full of people. It opens up the possibility that they can still send trains across the lake in the morning (and back across the lake in the evening) to deal with rush hour crowding on the main line, while they fix the problem.

  6. I wish the restructure maps showed bus stop locations. They are geo-located and can easily be placed on a map.

    What I see as a undiscussed problem with Metro’s proposal are the terrible transfers required to use RapidRide E. Since RapidRide E itself does not connect to Link, they will have to transfer twice to get to Link. It may be that some Aurora destinations are within a reasonable walking distance of an east-west route but others are not. Regardless, Aurora is not friendly to crossing pedestrians.

    That’s a stark contrast to Greenwood Ave and Route 5. Those stops are pretty great for transferring to or from a route headed to Link.


    1. Routes could be zig-zagged onto Aurora for a stretch to allow for use of the same bus stop, but getting buses from a right handed step to a left turn lane is a risky traffic maneuver. However even if just one route did this, it would provide a much cleaner transfer. The route that looks likes like a good candidate to me for this is Route 345 if it was moved from Meridian to Aurora between 115th and 130th — with perhaps higher frequency.

    2. Some sort of pedestrian crossing could be built but that’s expensive — and at the end of the day a rider won’t want to change levels anyway. It seems like a waste of money.

    3. RapidRide E could be changed to swing over to Link somewhere in the area and then return, but that would be disruptive for regular RapidRide E riders and bus schedules, especially for left turns.

    4. RapidRide E could have two “reverse” branches — one to Downtown and one to Link. Which Link station I couldn’t say. I don’t know the demand on the route well enough to gauge how active the route is south of the Ship Canal but if the route was halved so that half of the buses went to Roosevelt and maybe end as far as UW that could be a new transformative RapidRide route.

    I get how trying to solve this may be a zero-sum game and may add travel time or wait time for riders. Still, I see that this transfer challenge is ignored in the restructure and I think that’s unwise. After all, making transfers add up to four minutes of travel time when a rider must cross twice at a busy and dangerous Aurora intersection — a problem not nearly as severe anywhere else in the study area.

    1. Re #1, right-lane left-turns have a solution, with a separate bus-only signal. It might be only doable if the right lanes were bus-only, but honestly Aurora has needed that since the 358 days.

      Re #3/#4, the E gets a steady stream of riders at every bus stop boarding and deboarding along the route basically all day, including weekends. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Link stations close enough for a detour not to add substantial time for the people that want to stay on Aurora, and making a branch would reduce the frequency of the route past the branch unless Metro can get substantially more resources. As much as I would love the E to connect better to Link, it seems like a very tricky problem. Maybe things will be different after Lynnwood Link opens but the E is very frequent, direct, and not that slow for a bus so I still see a lot of ridership on it even post-Lynnwood Link. If anything needs to be improved, it would be making the BAT lanes 24×7 bus-only and aggressively enforced.

      1. There is always the Swift Blue Line extension option — but that may be too bureaucratic to resolve. It’s been debated to leave Swift on Aurora to 185th providing some overlap and several collocated stops. It could go further south to 145th and turn to meet Shoreline South Link and Stride. It’s just that the rules may need to be changed to allow for trips inside King County on the route to make that option fully beneficial.

    2. Since RapidRide E itself does not connect to Link, they will have to transfer twice to get to Link.

      Yes, but neither Link nor the E are destinations in themselves. We have to consider particular trip pairs. For example, let’s say I’m at 45th & Aurora, and want to get to Northgate. I’m taking the 44 and then Link. If I’m in Licton Springs and want to get to Edmonds Community College, I’m taking the E, then Swift Blue. Of course there are combinations that require two transfers, but mainly because there aren’t enough east-west buses, because there aren’t enough east-west streets. Green Lake is in the way; the freeway is in the way; there is only so many places where you can cut over. It is really not about the E, exactly, but getting from various locations on Aurora to Link.

      You really want to do two things:

      1) Cover as much of Aurora as possible with one-seat connections to Link.
      2) Make that two-seat ride as nice as possible.

      I’ll start by addressing that second issue. Crossing Aurora can be a pain, and even if it wasn’t, it would be time consuming. This is one reason why I liked the old pattern for the bus from 145th to Shoreline Community College. By following the 330 route, which doglegs on Aurora, you can make a same-stop, same-direction transfer (https://goo.gl/maps/2wxGnygrCx1d5RRE8). This is ideal. It also means the connection from the RapidRide E to Shoreline Community College (likely the biggest destination in Shoreline) is ideal as well. This is a huge improvement over the current system, where riders making that (very common) trip have to deal with the infrequent 345, or the very infrequent 330. The lack of such a transfer in the current plan is a big flaw, in my opinion.

      This is just one section though. This wouldn’t work if you are trying to get from say, 95th & Aurora to Capitol Hill. You have to take the 44 (at 45th) to the U-District, or just ride the E all the way downtown and then backtrack. But this gets to the other issue. Ideally every stop along Aurora has a nice east-west bus connecting it to Link.

      I don’t think Aurora warrants that. Aurora is a long street with lots of medium-density housing and low to medium destinations. It gets a lot of riders because it is blazing fast, frequent, and very long. The ridership per mile is actually not that impressive, although to be fair, it is basically an express, with only five stops (inclusively) between Green Lake and South Lake Union (a stretch along a high-speed expressway). I’m not sure it warrants any more consideration than Greenwood Avenue or 15th NW (similar streets with buses that run parallel to Link). It gets back to what you wrote:

      I get how trying to solve this may be a zero-sum game and may add travel time or wait time for riders.

      Precisely. How to balance this becomes tricky. I think we have to look for the biggest bang for the buck. What is the easiest, cheapest way to make those connections. I would start by looking at sections of Aurora based on the RapidRide E stops , from north to south:

      200th — Should be served by Swift Blue.
      192nd — Should be served by Swift Blue.
      185th — Plan is to serve with the 348. Should be served by Swift Blue.
      180th — ?
      175th — Plan is to serve with frequent bus.
      170th — ?
      165th — ?
      160th — Should be served by frequent bus (which connects to SCC).
      155th — Should be served by the same frequent bus.
      153rd — ?
      145th — Plan is to serve with frequent bus. Plan is to have another frequent bus close to it.
      135th — ?
      130th — Plan is to serve with frequent bus.

      South of there, no crossing service except for 105th, 85th and 45th. Worth noting: south of 130th, it takes a while to get to the nearest station. So if the goal is to connect the RapidRide E stops south of 130th to Link, the bus is probably best off cutting over at 130th.

      Overall, I would say that we should do the following:

      1) Have Swift cover the stops north of 185th. This is important for various reasons, not the least of which is that the farther north you are, the more the speed advantage of Link makes a difference.

      2) Run a frequent bus following the 330 route from the college to Link.

      3) Maybe run another bus that doglegs on Aurora, between 185th and 160th.

      4) Maybe run a bus that follows the 125th/130th pathway and then goes south on Aurora. I hesitate to suggest that, simply because Greenwood is just as worthy a corridor for that (and doing both really adds up).

      5) Increase frequency on the 44, and to a lesser extent the 45, and to an even lesser extent the 40. These are the buses that connect to stations to the east. A three-seat ride (for not only RapidRide E riders, but those on the 5) should not involve a big delay. I take three-seat rides all the time. The frequency of Link (which will only get better) makes those trips quite palatable. In contrast, I don’t take any bus that runs every 30 minutes, unless I have a backup (in the form of a bus that runs more often).

      6) Combine the southern part of 40 with the 61, and extend the D to Northgate via the northern part of the 40. Should also convert the 40 to RapidRide, and add bus lanes on 85th to eliminate congestion (for both this bus and the 45).

      7) Improve the network so that folks aren’t taking a four-seat ride that involves Link.

      I will continue to push for the first and second one. I’m not sure if the 3rd and 4th one make sense unless Aurora really builds up. I think the 5th item makes a lot of sense, for various reasons. Item 6 is a worthy and achievable goal, but it will take a while. Item 7 requires a lot more consideration than this already very long comment.

      1. Some trips to Aurora Avenue destinations will inevitably be three-seat rides. The only way to make those bearable is to ensure the east-west routes are ultra-frequent. The E is a major RapidRide line so Metro automatically prioritizes its frequency.

        I used to know someone who lived at Aurora & 92nd, and worked at the Burgermaster at 98th. I visited him both places. I went to a BJJ school at 95th, and Gold’s Gym at 97th. I went to the movie theater and the huge Vietnamese supermarket at 100th. The nearest east-west buses are the 40 at 105th and the 45 at 85th. I visited another person who must have lived on 95th.

        Sometimes I go to Beth’s Cafe at 73rd. The nearest east-west buses are the 45 at 85th and the 44 at 46th. I knew someone who worked there graveyard shift. I might theoretically go to the PCC at 75th if it were my closest natural foods co-op.

        There are only a few places to get to Aurora from Link because Link is limited-stop, so there will inevitably be three-seat rides to in-between Aurora locations.

      2. I will add that I would make sure the bus from Shoreline Community College to Link (via 160th/155th) should be especially frequent. The college is a big destination, and this is the best way to transfer from Aurora to it. Likewise, if you are trying to get from the north end of Aurora to Link (and don’t have crossing bus service) this is the best two-seat ride to Link. Coming from the south, it makes sense to transfer at 130th or 185th. 130th does have a pedestrian overpass (as well as a walk signal for those who don’t want to go up and over).

      3. Some trips to Aurora Avenue destinations will inevitably be three-seat rides.

        Yes, definitely. Also worth noting is that if the crossing bus is infrequent, people may ignore it. For example, let’s say I’m at 145th & Aurora, and their is a bus that can take me from there to Link, but it only runs every half hour. Meanwhile, the bus that runs across 130th runs every fifteen minutes. Now the E Line comes along (heading south). I’m taking it, and I think most people would take it. The only exception is if One Bus Away says the other bus will be here soon. Even if the two crossing buses have the same frequency I’ll take the E. This is just human nature — people take the bus that is heading their direction (gets them closer). We are better off with a few very frequent crossing buses than a bunch of infrequent ones, even if the latter cover more of Aurora.

  7. Minor rant: Why are the bus lanes and stops on Rainier under I-90 (Judkins Park) still blocked? There is even a southbound queue jump signal for buses ready to use once opened.

    I get that East Link isn’t open, but it doesn’t appear to affect this issue physically. This looks to be merely opening a completed bus lane and waiting area finished quite awhile ago..

  8. I’m a rider of the 216/218/219 buses from downtown to Issaquah Highlands. Pre-pandemic, these were amongst the busiest commuter routes in the Metro system. While ridership has taken a long time to recover from the pandemic, it has really ramped up in the past couple of months. Many mid-week buses have a large number of standing riders.

    Recently, Metro announced that the 216 would be one of the suspended routes starting in September . Still, the 216/218 continued to run with seemingly good ridership and a couple of daily cancellations that appear on the schedule.

    Today, I discover that two more 216 afternoon buses have been cancelled. The cancellations didn’t appear on the schedule, but after two no-shows I found the alert through a Metro RSS feed. This means an afternoon gap from 3:07 to 4:47 on one of Metro’s historically busiest commuter routes.

    When a bus finally did come, it wasn’t even an articulated bus. The result was a small bus packed absolutely to the gills.

    I acknowledge that Metro has staffing and maintenance challenges, but the lack of schedule updates and huge gaps in service is no way to run a transit agency.

    1. That’s been an ongoing problem: cancellations with no notice, or with the notice in some of the route-information places but not others.

      Metro’s September reduction will supposedly resize its commitments to its available drivers/maintenance staff to eliminate most last-minute cancellations. I have my doubts it will fully succeed, but we’ll see. Here’s our previous coverage on this:



      Since you’re familiar with the Issaquah Highlands transit needs, I wonder if you have any thoughts on longer-term issues. Metro’s last East Link restructure proposal recommended redirecting the 554 to Bellevue Way and Bellevue Transit Center instead of downtown Seattle, to replace the 550 and 556. The peak-express routes will be consolidated into fewer ones and truncated at South Bellevue (or Mercer Island), so you’d transfer to Link to get to Seattle. There would be new all-day routes from Mercer Island to the Issaquah Highlands. I’m sorry I don’t remember all the exact routes. Have you been following this, and what do you think of these proposals? Will they meet Issaquah’s needs?

      1. I am very familiar with the upcoming September service changes as well as the planned changes when East Link opens. I’m actually a long-time STB reader but an infrequent commenter.

        I’m generally in favor of the East Link restructure. The bulk of traffic issues occur in downtown Seattle and across the floating bridge, so having grade separated transit for that portion may well save enough time to offset the transfer penalty. I don’t have great confidence that the East Link restructure will be implemented as planned given all of the societal and Metro changes since the plan was released, but as written, it strikes me as pretty good for meeting Issaquah and Sammamish transit needs for accessing Bellevue and Seattle.

        Redirecting the 554 to Bellevue instead of Seattle really won’t be a loss. It’s too slow and meandering to be anything other than lifeline service between Seattle and Issaquah (particularly Issaquah Highlands). I think the average 554 runtime is about 20 minutes longer between the same endpoints when compared to the commuter routes (216/218/219).

      2. “I think the average 554 runtime is about 20 minutes longer between the same endpoints when compared to the commuter routes (216/218/219).”

        I thought Seattle-Issaquah was 20 minutes but when I’ve timed it recently in the daytime it’s been 45. The 218 makes big difference. Before I rode it I assumed the 21x were almost empty, but when I rode the 218 it was full, and when I’ve seen it since then it’s been pretty full. Still, I’m more concerned about frequent and faster all-day service than peak service, because Metro and the cities pay attention to peak service but tend to neglect off-peak.

  9. This is a fairly old article/blog post by Metro but I was perusing their archives and thought some people might find the history of disability access on Metro interesting.


    It’s interesting to see Metro as one of the first transit providers in the US to provide wheelchair access to transit for disabled passangers long before the ADA became federal law across the country. Alongside the evolution of Metro’s transit fleet. Going from high floor to low floor and retiring the last high floor around 2020.

  10. Westlake next-arrival report. I just missed a northbound train. The display said the next trains are in “40, 42 minutes”. They’re supposed to be every 10 minutes, and this is the first time I’ve seen 2 trains instead of 3. I tried One Bus Away but didn’t have the Link stops. I waited a few minutes to see if a train would come or I’d have to abandon my trip. Taking buses to Roosevelt wasn’t an option since it would have taken most of the 40 minutes or longer. Around 5 minutes later an unlisted train came. The display now said “40 minutes”, one train. It’s frustrating not to know whether a train will be coming on less than 40 minutes. But the displays have been right for the next train the last 5 times before this.

    1. Interesting.

      Fwiw. We took the train from SeaTac (to Beacon Hill) late Monday night when we got in around 10:30pm. It was probably around 11:00pm or so by the time we deboarded (N gates) and made the long walk over to the station. The arrival signs read 25 min, 40 min and something else (I should’ve taken a pic). The train was a 3-car train and it actually came in under 15 minutes, as opposed to the stated arrival time of 25 minutes. There were probably a couple dozen folks on the platform waiting to board at this late hour. For whatever reason, the airport overall was still pretty busy at this time of the night.

      Oh, and the south platform down escalator was all torn apart. I believe this is the same one that was not operating a few weeks ago when we came through this station. It apparently is undergoing a major repair job.

  11. An update on the building of the Ontario Line in the Toronto Star (sub. req., some free articles available)


    Key quote from the article:

    “With the recent introduction of the Building Transit Faster Act, the provincial government made it easier for agencies like Metrolinx to expropriate land for major transit projects, including the Ontario Line, [expropriation lawyer] Goldstein said.”

    Runner up:

    “So-called “transit-oriented communities” with mixed-use buildings have been slated for Ontario Line stations, but there’s a lot of unknowns about what they will look like.

    “For the parts where Metrolinx has expropriated, they will be able to make the decision with no community input whatsoever,” [local resident] Hamel said.”

    I am including these two quotes to show a few things.

    First, ST is not the only one making potentially poor decisions about when to take over properties, especially low income rental properties. This is not uncommon in construction projects like this. It is important to note that the exceptionalism unjustly awarded to local (to WA etc.) decisions goes both ways – good as well as bad. Everyone makes bad decisions, just most of us don’t bother to read media from other jurisdictions to get the details. From the outside, the Ontario Line looks like a great project, reality’s a little messier.

    Second, some here were proposing that ST would be more effective as a state-level agency. However, the state would make decisions like the one mentioned in my top quote – where they would care more about the developers and projects and less about the well being of the people on the ground. This is exactly the sort of thing that IMHO should be avoided.

    1. I for one never endorsed making ST a state agency. I’ve instead advocated for a separate oversight agency to review their financial decisions.

      Unfortunately, ST is more interested in keeping engineering and construction companies under contract to overbuild and overdesign a system with little consideration when indicators show that spending on some projects is not beneficial enough for the rider experience, rider demand or opening date. As long as the rules are what they are, ST is just going to keep pushing out the completion date rather than study the reasonableness of the ST3 shopping list. We could be looking at 2080 eventually.

      It’s done backwards here. The State set the rules to put ST3 on the ballot and ST was off and running — rushing to create the package without regard to benefit. Items like DSTT2 were even thrown in quickly without cost estimates or stakeholder discussion. Even so, the state did not put into a place a way to question the decisions once ST3 was approved.

    2. My overall experience the past several weeks since the next-arrival displays were turned on for testing is, the first line with the next train is usually right. The following lines often have implausible gaps, but I haven’t waited to see if they’re right. This was an unusual occasion when the first line was implausible. And as I’ve said all along with Link and RapidRide, when the first line is implausible, sometimes a train/bus comes in a few minutes anyway, but other times it doesn’t.

      RapidRide B’s display was really bad the first year, but the past couple years it has been pretty accurate in my experience. It still displays implausible times (20 or 40 minutes) more than I’d expect westbound, but unfortunately the times are have usually been accurate.

      All of this is my own experience for my trips, so others’ experience may be different.

  12. https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/07/19/sound-transit-cant-deliver-planned-st3-link-service-levels-without-major-changes/

    This was in The Urbanist’s daily email feed today.

    “Sound Transit service planners have detailed Link fleet constraints over the next 30 years, and their models show that the Link light rail system is slated to be gravely short of the requisite number of vehicles and vehicle storage spaces to reliably operate the full system by the early 2040s, but shortages are projected to be an issue even in the short- and mid-term.”

    1. Wow. It’s amazing how the 322 and 303 changed overnight from being a deplorable waste of service hours to being a necessary tactic to avoid Link overcrowding. We expected the situation to last only a year until Line 2, but if it’s going to last twenty years, that changes the picture.

      If we have to prioritize Link’s capacity, I want to focus on the urban areas, where it’s the most successful and can do the most to encourage car-free living. There should be some capacity to Snohomish and Pierce, and I wouldn’t turn anybody away who wants to use it. But the focus should be getting the most would-be riders in Northgate to downtown onto it, and second to Rainier Beach. That means focusing express buses in the areas beyond that to keep under the capacity ceiling. The net result is keeping more of the express runs we already have. That applies more to Shoreline/Snohomish and South King/Pierce than to the Eastside. East Link should be able to accommodate demand, and Issaquahites will just have to transfer.

      ST could shift more money to operations and current-fleet needs (=buying trains), and take it out of the larger ST3 projects. There’s no hurry with a bad WSBLE alignment or questionable Tacoma Dome, Everett, and Issaquah extensions/lines.

      “To solve these problems long-term, Sheldon told boardmembers that a blunt strategy could be to purchase more LRVs. But that would also require increasing the size of OMFs or building additional ones to accommodate trains. ”

      OPEN-GANGWAY TRAINS! That’s 20% more capacity for free. Glenn, what’s the cost of open-gangway trains vs the current type?

    2. “A standalone West Seattle and Ballard Link line, for instance, could have a lot of upsides. That could open up the possibility of it being constructed as an automated light metro system — like SkyTrain in Vancouver — with much smaller station footprints, shorter trainsets, and a much smaller OMF.”

      That’s the “getting more value per transit dollar” that Reece is advocating in the video. There are more ways to do it than that: not everything has to be Skytrain-like. There are also models with MLK-like trams, BRT, DMU/EMU heavy rail, and just painting red likes to separate transit/freight from congestion, and increasing local-bus frequency. But the point is we need to take a step in that direction, and more steps, and more steps….

    3. If the cost to expand O&M base capacity is estimated at $4 billion, how does that compare with expanding S Line operating hours and frequency? Particularly south of Federal Way, it seems like Link is inferior in every way beyond the fact that it has dedicated trackage, and was assumed to have sufficient base capacity.

      1. This gets into the big elephant in the room about ST: Link is not productive at the frequencies and long distances that they promise in ST3. It’s buried in all of the details but ST3 takes service from 8 minutes to 6 minutes with four car trains on every line during peak times for the entirety of every line — including Issaquah to Kirkland (although I can’t quickly verify that).

        Using your Federal Way to Tacoma Dome example, it’s an extra 20 minutes in each direction or 40 minutes total. At 10 minutes service that’s 4 trains or 40 cars. At 6 minute service that’s 7 trains or 28 cars. However the demand is so low that 15 minute service (3 trains or 12 cars) would be more than enough.

        And keep in mind that all the transfers Downtown and deep stations Downtown will add several minutes to making a transit trip.

        Of course, the expense of operating a train goes down if the trains are operated automatically or remotely (“driverless”).

        But ST refuses to consider the possibility that:

        1. Battery EMU would go faster south of Federal away and North of Mariner. Both extensions mostly have stops about every 3-4 miles so the trains could operate at 79 mph between stations. Battery EMU would also enable those vehicles to use regular tracks, so they could do things like run a line further to JBLM since ST owns those tracks. It would save money because the substations would not be needed to power the trains.
        2. The frequencies aren’t balanced with loads. The same train empty in Fife will be overcrowded at Beacon Hill.
        3. The planning should be at 10 minutes as a base with 5 minute overlay service when needed. That makes it easier to operate peak services closer in during crowded times — like between Northgate and Rainier Beach.
        4. And the biggest one: Refusal to consider cross platform transfers like most major multi-line systems in the world.

        But rather than do what most agencies do and put the analysis work in on how to balance service to expected rider loads, the staff blindly and simply follows the headways promised in ST3 and then declares this miscalculation mistake made by earlier staff — leaving the implication that they are wisely thinking ahead even though they aren’t.

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