East Link testing on 112th Ave SE, photo credit the author’s wife

The Sound Transit Board green-lighted the much-anticipated East Link Starter Line (ELSL) earlier today, approving a resolution that authorizes up to $43 million on implementing passenger revenue service in Spring 2024. Previously, the Board had approved $6 million to study the idea of a phased East Link opening, per the urging of King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci.

Earlier in the year, boardmembers representing Snohomish County had expressed concern that opening the ELSL in 2024 might detract from a timely opening for the Lynnwood Link Extension (LLE). However, Sound Transit staff determined no schedule impacts from the ELSL on the LLE, which is on track for a Fall 2024 opening. Nonetheless, Lynnwood Link is expected to operate at lower frequencies until the I-90 connection to the Eastside operations and maintenance facility (OMF) is complete.

With the ELSL’s approval, service levels will be formally laid out in the 2024 Service Plan, which is anticipated for a board vote later in October. In the meantime, initial readiness plans call for a 16 hour service span with constant 10 minute headways across the day using 2-car trains.

The ELSL will also only operate between Redmond Technology Station (serving the Microsoft campus) and South Bellevue Station. Since it does not directly duplicate any existing services, it remains to be seen whether or not Sound Transit will adjust service levels on the 550 or 556 when the starter line opens.

Ridership on the ELSL is forecasted at 6,000 daily boardings. Given the ubiquity of remote work and ample parking along the corridor, I expect ridership to be relatively muted until the I-90 connection is complete and Bel-Red is more fully built out.

Although East Link and the year 2023 have suffered an irreparable divorce, it’s encouraging to see the ELSL come to fruition, thanks to hard work from Sound Transit staff and championing from councilmember Balducci.

178 Replies to “Sound Transit Board approves Spring 2024 opening for East Link starter line”

  1. As someone living within easy walking distance of this starter line, I’m happy! But still, I don’t expect high ridership.

    Another potential truncation/realignment would be the Metro route 226, heading down Bel Red Road to Bellevue TC right next to East Link. Maybe it could go layover at Redmond Tech Station instead?

    1. The 226 serves in-between bus stops. Link doesn’t replace the A, 49, 67, or 106. It replaces the 550 because both are limited-stop services.

      1. Except the 550 was once the 226 which stopped at places like East and West Mercer Way. Those stops were simply dropped when the 550 took over the 226. Not every stop needs duplicative shadow service. MLK could probably do without a shadow bus if one infill Link station were added.

      2. The distances between stations on MLK make for some long walks if route 106 goes away. The route also happens to serve as a convenient bus bridge when the train is blocked or infrequent (which happens too frequently still).

        There is some pretty adamant community organizing to keep route 106.

      3. MLK could probably do without a shadow bus if one infill Link station were added.

        You would probably need more than one station, but yes, if the train is running on a major corridor, then it should stop often enough so that you don’t need a shadow. I’m not saying they should be as close together as Paris or New York (although those are clearly very successful) but they shouldn’t be really spread out either.

        In any event, East Link really doesn’t cover the corridor that way. It reminds me of the B Line. Sure, it hits up several of the stations, But it also takes a significantly different route to get there. Thus I expect the B Line to actually increase ridership as East Link is done. Two-seat rides (from as far away as Seattle) make a lot of sense, while longer trips on the B just don’t. The 226 is somewhat similar in that it has stops around Overlake Hospital, while Link doesn’t.

      4. This gets into the classic frequency vs. coverage tradeoff. Is it better to run routes like the 226, spreading half-hourly service (hourly on weekends) thinly across more areas, or is it better to concentrate service in a few areas with high-quality service and leave less-dense parts of the city with no service?

        I personally feel like service in Bellevue is, general, spread too thinly, although of course, others may have different opinions.

      5. Walking from Graham Street to Othello Station is around 12 minutes; walking from Graham to Columbia City station is 20 minutes. Walking from Columbia City Station to Mt Baker Station is probably 20 minutes. Even after Graham Station that’s still to far to go without a bus stop. 10 minutes is the maximum Americans will walk to transit on average. When you’re halfway between stations the maximum walk is 10 minutes, but if you’re a few blocks east or west then it’s even more. That creates a transit gap between the stations that prevents it from reaching its potential usefulness or ridership. Ideally you want a bus stop every 5 minutes so that adjacent stop’s walksheds slightly overlap. That’s how you ensure that areas perpendicular to the route have full access to transit. Otherwise you’re serving only one street with spikes sticking out rather than a rectangular area (an entire neighborhood).

        The 226 did drop two Mercer Island stops, but that’s a very low density coverage area. It can’t expect the main Bellevue-Seattle route to stop there every time. In contrast, Bellevue Way has apartments, a high school, and retail, and was one of the densest parts of the Eastside and is still up there.

      6. “Is it better to run routes like the 226, spreading half-hourly service (hourly on weekends) thinly across more areas, or is it better to concentrate service in a few areas with high-quality service and leave less-dense parts of the city with no service?”

        It’s better to recognize that Bel-Red Road is non-coverage and the 226 should be raised to 15 minutes without taking from other routes. The 226 is the closest there is to a Link shadow in the area. There are apartments just off Bel-Red Road if not on it, there are businesses along it, and the lots on it will probably be densified in the next few years.

      7. This gets into the classic frequency vs. coverage tradeoff. Is it better to run routes like the 226, spreading half-hourly service (hourly on weekends) thinly across more areas, or is it better to concentrate service in a few areas with high-quality service and leave less-dense parts of the city with no service?

        This implies that the 226 is a coverage route. I wouldn’t call it that — not by East Side standards. Prior to the pandemic, the 226 performed about average and above the 221. It serves a number of high ridership areas (BTC, Overlake Hospital, Bellevue College, lots of apartments, etc.). If we concentrated more on ridership than coverage, it is likely it would be one of those buses that runs more often, while a bus like the 221 (and a lot of other buses) go away.

        More to the point, I don’t see the East Link Starter Line changing its ridership much at all. It comes close to a couple stations, and some of those riders will switch to using Link, but my guess is very few. If you want to get to the hospital from downtown Bellevue, that’s your bus. If you want to get to Crossroads or Lake Hills from Bellevue College, again, that’s your bus. I don’t see Link making much difference.

      8. One thing is that the proposed 226 and 245 wouldn’t get close enough to Overlake Village for good transfers. That’s mainly because the station is up against the freeway in the far northwest corner of the neighborhood. So transferring from Link to the 245 you’ll probably have to go a little further to Redmond Tech, and transferring from Link to the 226 in eastern Bellevue may not be practical if it doesn’t serve either Overlake or Redmond Tech.

    2. I’m with Mike on this one. I see very little overlap, really, between the 226 and East Link. The 226 spends most of its time covering areas south of East Link, like Crossroads, Lake Hills and Bellevue College. At most you could have the bus truncated at a Link station (e. g. Spring) but that doesn’t get you much. There isn’t that much there, and there aren’t a lot of buses that run there (unlike Bellevue Transit Center). You’ve also skipped what is I assume is one of the strongest stops on 226: Overlake Hospital. You could walk there from Spring District Station, but that takes about ten minutes, and looks very unpleasant (https://goo.gl/maps/gHu5ivFZu9nv4F1P6). You save some money, but not a lot. It isn’t even clear if there is a turnaround or layover there, either. It just seems like too much bother for too little in the way of savings.

      That is true for most of the network. We discussed this before, and came up with very little in the way of restructure ideas. As Brent mentioned, we should truncate the 566. That is simple (the bus can certainly be terminated there). But other than that, there really isn’t much to do. We could use this as an excuse to restructure bus routes on the East Side, but it makes way more sense to just wait until East Link is finished, and implement the plan that Metro and ST have been working on (which has already received public feedback).

      1. The 226 is logically two different routes that have different needs: east-west from Bellevue Downtown to (almost Overlake Village), and north-south from Overlake Village to Eastgate. Nobody would go the long way around both those if they don’t have to. I’m one of those who has to, to get from the 550 to the adult family home in Lake Hills. Taking the B requires a 40-minute walk at the end, which has gotten hard with my arthritis. With the Starter Line or East Link I can potentially take Link to Redmond Tech and the more-frequent 245 to my destination. But anyway, the point is that the east-west part of the 226 is different from the north-south part., and is more non-coverage. I used to take the 226 to 124th to an apartment there.

        The north-south part of the 226 is more coverage. Part of it duplicates the 245. The restructure plans to delete the lowest-density detour east of 164th, which would make the north-south part more competitive in ridership. Having a north-south route from Overlake Station is a possibility. Right now the problem is there’s no regional transit at Overlake Village, but the Starter Line/East Link will solve that.

        The reason the 226 is a V-shaped route it to serve two corridors with less resources than two routes, and also because Lake Hills and the apartments north of Bellevue College need a one-seat ride to downtown Bellevue until a Link station opens up closer that it can go to.

      2. The fall 2011 Route 226 is a local route with several purposes. It replaced part of the east Bellevue coverage provided by former Route 230 East that was absorbed by the B Line. Routes 221, 226, and 245 are triad that connect Crossroads and the B Line with Eastgate.

        It seems odd that the ELC conceptual Route 266 misses the Bel-Red stations.

  2. Even if ridership is light, running the trains still has much better optics than the alternative of having a brand new line with trains ready to sitting mothballed for years while everyone drives by and sees the stations blocked by fences.

    Also, while building a light rail line is expensive, once it’s built, the marginal cost to operate each trip is not much different from running a bus. And even if the line underperforms it’s 6,000 riders/day estimate, it can still do very well relative to buses in Bellevue, in order words good enough to be worth running.

  3. Well that outcome was expected. ST is always more political than practical.

    I’m glad though. ST can start getting any kinks out of its operations of tracks and stations before going prime time. Keep in mind that something could still go wrong in testing — and if a delay happens at the last minute it won’t be a crisis.

    If all goes well, that will leave just 2 intermediate stations and the 2 on the Redmond end to open later when the full line is operating.

    I bet their graphics dept isn’t terribly thrilled by it though. They’ve got extra work to do. I suspect that 2 Line graphics will be installed only on that line.

  4. I think 6K may be overly optimistic. That number will be greatly affected by Downtown Bellevue parking rates.

    1. The trip pairs are not great. You have to go hunting for ones that really make sense. Spring district/Overlake apartments to downtown Bellevue is one. But many of the other trips are simply going to be faster and more direct by car. This completely changes when the bridges to Seattle open because Seattle has many pedestrian friendly important destinations where it’s hard to park and it will be the most pleasant and fastest means to get to Seattle.

      I think it’s good that this part of East Link is opening now because it will function better when integrated into the whole network and work out any issues. However, I don’t it expect to meet the predicted number of passengers. But I do think it will bring people a lot of joy.

      1. There are people who already take transit (public & private) to work in Bellevue & Redmond; it doesn’t matter how easy it is to drive, those people will find Link very convenient for a work meeting or to run an errand during the day. There are plenty of weekday trip generators – hospitals/doctor offices, post offices, libraries, etc. – within an easy walk of the Link stations.

        And it’s easy to drive into Bellevue downtown during a workday – but rather expensive to park if you don’t already have a monthly pass. There is free parking over by the mall – but Link was never going to be useful for Bellevue Mall centric trips; instead Link is good for someone trying to get to something closer to 405, or is arriving at Bellevue TC and wants to head over to Spring District or Overlake.

      2. George hits the nail on the head: there are few good trip PAIRS on the starter line.

        First mile access is almost exclusively park and ride. Eastsiders in their car out to run errands are not going to stop at a park and ride when their destination has free parking and there is little traffic congestion.

        AJ lists trip pairs like the post office that are within walking distance of maybe one or two stations, which means folks who can walk to a station can walk to the post office without Link.

        I think LLE will be much more important than EL, especially with good access from the Bothell area (beginning with a park and ride) that is booming. But if the LLE did not continue to UW or downtown Seattle I would expect it to get few riders. Great park and rides but no “destination” in an area like East Link that is very car oriented for a reason with stations along a freeway.

      3. We’re pretty excited for the Spring District, as the Bel-Red/130th station is only a couple blocks from the Bellevue Mox, which is much bigger and has better food than the Ballard Mox. Currently that’s either a long walk from the B Line or a potentially long wait for the hourly 226 but, once the starter line opens, we can either take the 550 to South Bellevue or the 542 to Overlake and then Link.

        I’m sure there’s other destinations that transit users in Seattle would love to get to but can’t because of the (mostly) infrequent bus network on the Eastside.

      4. The trip pairs are not great.

        Ironically, it is quite possible that the best trip pairs that exist entirely within the East Side won’t be available until a few years later. Downtown Redmond has plenty of apartments and retail. Thus I could definitely see Downtown Redmond to Downtown Bellevue as being the biggest trip pair within the East Side.

        It isn’t that there aren’t other trips that make sense, just not that many. For example, the trip from Microsoft on the 566 used to get around 150 riders a day. About 50 people took it just from Downtown Bellevue to Microsoft. In general that bus gets a lot fewer people, but I could see plenty of people riding the train, as it would be significantly more frequent outside of peak, and significantly faster than the B. In general, it looks like it will poach some, but not all of the B ridership (which sits at around 5,000). Again, it doesn’t have the really good anchor to the north, nor does it have nearly as many stops. There simply aren’t that many trip pairs, let alone really popular ones. Unlike the completely East Link, I don’t see that many B-Link combinations. If you are on the B and headed to Downtown Bellevue, do you get off to catch the train? I don’t see it.

        It will be interesting to see how many riders it gets. Maybe we should have a betting pool for the average number of riders East Link Starter Line gets (the month before the trains go over the bridge or to Downtown Redmond). My guess: 3,500. (No one wins anything if they are closest, other than the respect and admiration of their peers.)

  5. Lazarus mentioned “a temporary bus bridge from South Bellevue to Seattle” that was apparently part of the agreement. Is this real, and if so, what does it mean?

    The 550 approximates Link’s stops between Westlake and South Bellevue, then diverges to Bellevue Way and rejoins Link at Bellevue Downtown. The assumption has been that the 550 and 554 would continue as-is until the full East Link opens. There’s a mismatch between the Starter Line running every 10 minutes and the 550 running every 15-30 minutes. ST could address this by adding runs to the 550, or adding “short runs” to South Bellevue. ST intended to add 15-minute Sunday service in in 2022 but it was swallowed by the driver shortage. It could be following through with that. Either of these would be so similar to the 550 that I’d keep the number.

    As a use case, I might take the 550 to South Bellevue, the Starter Line to Redmond Tech, and the 245 south.

    In the last proposal for the full East Link, the 550 will be deleted, and a new 15-minute 554 will backfill 554 and 556 service on Bellevue Way. Maybe ST intends to do that now, and backfill the western part of the 550 with the bridge route. I don’t think ST can raise the 554 to 15 minutes without deleting the 550, because it would require a lot of service hours to double the runs to Issaquah.

    Or ST could have a 10-15 minute bridge route, and reroute the 554 without increasing its frequency, but that would lead to lowering frequency on Bellevue Way.

    1. Assuming the 554 doesn’t yet change, I would keep the 550 as-is, and then if there is strong demand for it, a 550X (551?) that runs solely between Seattle and S Bellevue station (skipping MI to stay in the express lanes) during peak hours could be better than simply adding more 550 platform hours if most of the demand is cross-lake.

      But initially I would keep the 550 as-is and see how bus ridership reacts to Link. I haven’t seen anything outside of this blog on a ‘bus bridge.’

    2. I didn’t see anything resembling a bus bridge in the resolution or letters. Lazarus may have heard something informal or a concept being explored.

      1. Where would a “bus bridge” go where the 550 doesn’t? It isn’t like capacity on the 550 is an issue, and even if it were, just increase frequency on the 550 for the hours it is needed.

        My guess is Lazarus would like the 550 to truncate at S. Bellevue to hopefully goose ridership on the starter line. But that would be really inconvenient for riders from the west because the transfer and walk — two stops from the main station — from 110th to Bellevue way could add 20-30 minutes to the trip each way, and same going back west, which would probably lead more Seattleites to drive to S. Bellevue Park and Ride, or just to their destination. I think both Bellevue and Seattle would object like Issaquah and Bellevue objected to truncating the 554 at S. Bellevue (or running it to MI).

        In the end, a “bus bridge” is just a bus that goes where Link does not or cannot go. There is a point at which truncation just to goose ridership on Link becomes abusive to the riders, who after all are the point of transit, and abused riders (at least on the eastside) make a very loud stink. Hence the 554 continuing to Bellevue Way, and the 550 continuing to Bellevue Way until East Link opens across the bridge. Lazarus knows the vast majority of riders on the 550 will stay on the 550 past S. Bellevue to Bellevue Way, because it is faster and more convenient, but you can’t blame transit riders for that, or make their trip worse because of it.

      2. The bus bridge would go to less places than the 550, notably truncate at S Bellevue and skip Mercer Island. It would also truncate at ID and not run the length of 3rd.

      3. “The bus bridge would go to less places than the 550, notably truncate at S Bellevue and skip Mercer Island. It would also truncate at ID and not run the length of 3rd.”

        That makes no sense, and I don’t know where this proposal is coming from.
        Did the Board or ST suggest this?

        First MI has to have transit access east to Bellevue. There is no other transit from MI to Bellevue (or S. Bellevue).

        Truncation at S. Bellevue or at CID is very inconvenient for riders two stops from Bellevue Way or downtown Seattle, and as I noted transferring from the 550 to East Link at S. Bellevue would add 20-30 minutes to the trip when you count the walk from main station to Bellevue Way.

        I suppose the 550 could truncate at CID but why, and that is a pretty sketch area. I thought the big concern was capacity on the ride from CID to Northgate until East Link opens across the bridge. Until East Link fully opens (which will include a one seat ride to Westlake) the 550 should maintain its current route and/or mimic the route East Link will take when fully open. ST might not listen to MI but it will listen to Bellevue and I doubt Bellevue riders to downtown Seattle will be keen at transferring at CID for the last 2-3 stops (although Bellevue does want to make it as inconvenient as possible for eastside workers to get to Seattle so who knows).

        I don’t think it is a good idea, or will help Balducci, to open a starter line and have that make everyone’s transit trip much worse. It is hard enough these days to get eastsiders to use transit. A bus bridge should not reduce transit service.

        It is ironic though. For years, and through years of litigation, MI and ST battled over the intensity of buses truncating or stopping on MI. Now Metro is cutting peak service to MI (and who rides transit off peak on the eastside, especially to Seattle), the 554 has been rerouted from MI to Bellevue Way when East Link fully opens, and now AJ is talking about not having the 550 stop on MI. Some intercept.

      4. “vast majority of riders on the 550 will stay on the 550 past S. Bellevue to Bellevue Way, because it is faster and more convenient”

        If you’re going to Bellevue Way. If you’re going to Bellevue TC and transferring there or taking Link further, Link is faster on travel time, although there’s also the transfer overhead.

      5. @AJ,

        Everyone is resource constrained right now, and bus bridges to cover the delivered capacity of LR will take a lot of buses and a lot of operator hours.

        The easiest way to find those operator hours is simply to redeploy them. Start by truncating both ends of the 550 and just run it SBS to IDS. What ST saves by deleting the long slow tails they can redeploy as frequency/capacity improvements on the new bus bridge.

        After that look for other opportunities for deletion and redeployment.

      6. “Let’s just say I keep my ear to the ground and I hear things.”

        Well, like me you were pretty adamant ST would never open a starter line. If you are putting your ear to the ground over a “bus bridge” other than the 550 I would suggest you go over to the chambers for Bellevue’s City Council and put your ear up against the door. The rerouting of the 554 from MI to Bellevue Way should tell you who makes the decisions on the eastside, and it ain’t ST.

        I was wrong on the starter line — because I foolishly thought the decision would be transit based — but right on the 554 and intensity of the bus intercept on MI (which is getting close to zero) and I feel pretty sure Bellevue (and Seattle) are not going to have riders truncate at CID and S. Bellevue because Balducci thought a starter line would help her reelection.

        Although if East Link cannot run across the bridge at the frequency and capacity ST has claimed then what to do with a bus bridge becomes a little more relevant. Again like the 554 I would think any bus bridge should be the 550 in its current route, and let the better mode win.

      7. “First MI has to have transit access east to Bellevue. There is no other transit from MI to Bellevue (or S. Bellevue).”

        The 550 would continue serving that. This is for the theoretical extra runs or second route that might make fewer stops.

        The reason for the extra runs not to stop at Mercer Island is faster travel time, and getting more runs for the same cost. This is all just an unofficial concept: ST has said nothing about a route that might bypass the Mercer Island stop.

      8. Thanks Mike. I don’t know how much faster the run would be because how many eastsiders would start their trip east from the CID anyway. Very few. So you add a transfer from Link to the 551 for every eastsider. And the additional capacity is certainly not needed today. The frequency on the 550 is overkill. I would hope that N. KC would pay 1/2 of any bus bridge bus.

        Skipping MI would save very little time. But I agree with those who argue the 550 should not stop between CID and MI anyway.

        It could be MI doesn’t want a second bus bridge bus stopping on MI because the trip from MI to S. Bellevue would have so few riders and be so pointless. Just wait for the 550 and go to Bellevue Way. Of course, MI might be lonely for some buses the way things are going.

      9. “Everyone is resource constrained right now, and bus bridges to cover the delivered capacity of LR will take a lot of buses and a lot of operator hours.”

        ST is dipping into the East Link money, so it doesn’t have to be revenue neutral. It has already asked Metro for the 116 train drivers for the Starter Line, and Metro has filled 82% of them so far according to the Times article today. The number of extra bus drivers that would be needed for a bus bridge depends on its length/span/frequency, but a bus between every 550 run might need, what, ten or twenty drivers? It’s not inconceivable that Metro could recruit 20 drivers for this in the next five months.

        “The easiest way to find those operator hours is simply to redeploy them. Start by truncating both ends of the 550 and just run it SBS to IDS”

        You have to keep serving large enough activity centers to make the route viable. That would be a route from the middle of nowhere to a downtown-adjacent neighborhood, and the only other thing small Mercer Island. (Is there even a supermarket within walking distance of the Mercer Island station?)

      10. ” I don’t know how much faster the run would be”

        The time it takes to get off the freeway, stop at the Mercer Island P&R, and get on the freeway again.

      11. “The easiest way to find those operator hours is simply to redeploy them. Start by truncating both ends of the 550 and just run it SBS to IDS”

        “You have to keep serving large enough activity centers to make the route viable.”

        The 106 terminates at Intl Dist so there’s a precedent. But the 106 is a secondary route to the 7, while the 550 is the primary route connecting the Eastside and Seattle.

      12. I don’t think any special bus bridge is needed beyond the existing route 550. Although I do wish the 550 ran more often. 30 minute service on Sundays is not good.

      13. Everyone is resource constrained right now, and bus bridges to cover the delivered capacity of LR will take a lot of buses and a lot of operator hours.

        The easiest way to find those operator hours is simply to redeploy them. Start by truncating both ends of the 550 and just run it SBS to IDS.

        Except there is no capacity problem with the 550, and there hasn’t been for quite some time. The buses only run every ten minutes at best. There have been some rush-hour cancellations as well (presumably because the buses aren’t that full). Are you suggesting that the East Link Starter Line will suddenly result in the buses filling up? That seems overly optimistic.

        If that were to happen, then yes, it would make sense to have some sort of capacity-driven express. Metro has done this for years. When the base service is very crowded, and you are running buses every couple minutes, you run an express bus on top of it. For example, the 301 complemented the RapidRide E. But that simply isn’t the case (anymore) with the 550. It is not that frequent, and not that crowded.

        If it did get that crowded, then an express would be nice. You could simply run a bus from Downtown Bellevue to Downtown Seattle. This wouldn’t replace the 550, but complement it.

        But if you tried to replace the 550 with an express then you would probably lose ridership. At some point, riders decide they just won’t bother. It gets worse if you start in the middle of nowhere (South Bellevue). Force riders from Downtown Bellevue to make a transfer (after some have already made one) and you lose riders. Skip Bellevue Way and you lose riders. That seems like a desperation move — the type of thing that you do as a last result, when you are forced to only run the most efficient and cost effective routes and services. I’m pretty sure we are nowhere near that level, even though things are clearly not good.

        There is also simply no reason to do any of that. If, in the unlikely event that the 550 gets more crowded, they should just run it more often.

      14. The easiest way to find those service hours is to not open a stupid EL starter line.

        The 550 is a better route than the starter line, and for around 90% of future riders a better route the East Link when fully open. Ross is correct: if capacity were an issue the solution would be more frequency, not a starter line.

        Balducci did not insist on opening an EL starter line in order to piss off her voters who still ride transit by adding a couple unnecessary transfers and a slog uphill from 110th to Bellevue Way.

        Lazarus just has to accept the starter line will have very few riders, as will EL when/if it fully opens.

        Think about it. The 550 runs from several stops in downtown Seattle to along Bellevue Way, the two main commercial by far in the region, across a bridge with very little congestion today, and it has very few riders.

  6. I find the whole Lynnwood Link capacity discussion kind of odd. Staff admits that they are still assessing things but the response letter has some elements that are worth noting.

    First of all, ST is staying here that the capacity is 3900 passengers per hour. That’s 550 on each of seven trains. That’s 137.5 per train car. I thought 150 was the full load and 200 was the crush load. Where does this come from? I haven’t counted the number of riders on a train after a sporting event, and it would be helpful if ST would actually demonstrate the actuel capacity with a recent crush load event rather than leave it for speculation.

    Second, ST is not clear if Eastside riders will be on Link or not. Without a through ride across Lake Washington won’t there be fewer riders? Unless ST shows what the ridership loss is with the lack of a 2 Line crossing the lake, it appears as though their assumptions still include Snohomish- Eastside riders. Keep in mind that the Eastside Starter line is forecasted at very low demand so this bus shuttle isn’t expected to produce ridership demand like a fully operating 2 Line would.

    Third, the letter is deliberately vague about when trains can cross from the OMF-East to 1 Line with this additional comment about danger to construction workers. This strikes me as odd considering that testing on East Link across the Link begins 60 days after Lynnwood Link opening. Shouldn’t all the construction be completed before testing begins? Isn’t everything else but the plinth replacements effectively done by now? There are monthly progress reports with schedules for all of these projects so are the progress reports valid or not?

    Fourth, why doesn’t ST tell the public how crowded each train is today? How close to crush load is it? Solutions can’t be determined without numbers — and the summary numbers are devoid of backup. If the boardings today at all the stations are tabulated in June 2023, it’s about 34K on a weekday. (Keep in mind UW is also a destination so this is not the train car loads north of Westlake.) It’s about 22K for the three Northgate Link stations alone (only about 2/3 of the segment) — and Northgate boardings already include Snohomish buses today. So overcrowding looks more likely south of the U District yet ST is saying it starts at 145th? There should be a train load graph! The passenger count software can make such a graph. Why doesn’t ST staff show the public?

    I was expecting a clearer quantitative analysis based on 2023 rider loads and demand. It’s just not here. For me, this raises more questions than answers.

    I’m disappointed at the lack of explanation — but not surprised.

    1. Al, I wouldn’t be surprised to see peak riders do a three-seat ride between places in SnoHoCo (that aren’t near I-405) and Bellevue via CT feeders to Lynnwood, Link to HSS then Metro or STEX to Bellevue Downtown or Overlake. Avoiding the mess on 405 between 520 and Bellevue Sixth will be welcome.

    2. @Al.S,

      Don’t get me going on the use of terminology between Ops and Design, but needless to say, handling the ridership on LLE will be a problem without ELE.

      The last data I saw for a standalone LLE had ridership exceeding the operational crush load for PM Peak NB starting at CHS and extending past NGS. This is for 4 car trains at 10 mins and uses an operational crush load of 195.

      This is for the “high” estimate of ridership. No 80% confidence value was provided. And I can’t vouch for the chain of custody on the data.

      Obviously the loading gets better if you go to 4 car trains at 8 mins, or even a mix of 3 and 4 car trains at 8 mins, but then the storage problem gets worse. ST is working on that, but it is still going to be a mess.

      Obviously my previous concept of an overlay IDS to NGS doesn’t solve the problem if the trains are over operational targets leaving NGS NB. The overlay would have to be expanded to IDS to LTC, which reduces the concept’s utility per addressing the storage issue. There might still be a sweet spot however.

      Also, I have not seen anything for PM Peak SB out of IDS, and obviously that needs to be considered too.

      Supposedly new ridership numbers are being developed, so stay tuned.

      And why LLE will supposedly be ready in Q3 of 2024, but Timm keeps committing only to “fall of 2024” is beyond me. Sounds a little like Balducci just delayed LLE by a few months.

      1. LLE has already slipped by a few months. It’s “post-realignment” revenue service date had been July 2024. Thus CEO Timm’s “careful language” doesn’t surprise me.

        Transparency just isn’t ST’s thing.

    3. @Al.S,

      Oh, and just to clarify a bit, the Ops guys will say crush load is 195, but the design guys will say crush load is 255. The two departments have different objectives so they use different definitions. However, generally speaking the Ops values are approx 75% of the Design Dept values.

      That said, in real operation Link has exceeded the operational crush load of 195 on many occasions, and exceeded it by a large amount. Again, this is possible because of the knockdown the Ops guys apply to the Design values.

      I saw a scatter plot of operational loading a few months back that showed this quite well, and showed that Link has operated well above operational crush loads, but I’m sure I don’t have the data now.

      1. This is from before the pandemic, but it reflects the same idea: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019-sip-final_compressed.pdf#page=88. Notice that there are three levels: “Crush Load” (252), “Target Max Load” (194), and “Planning Load” (148). So yeah, just somewhat arbitrary terms used to reflect a level of crowding. That was a while ago, but we never got beyond “Target Max Load” (and close to “Crush Load”). Again, this was before the pandemic. My guess is people often throw around the term “crush load”, because it sounds so ominous.

        My guess is there have been a few times more recently when we have reached “Target Max Load” and may have even exceeded it. Big events can do that. But on a regular basis, my guess is we hardly ever go over “Planning Mode” anymore. When it does happen, it is likely do to some sort of glitch (a train running without four cars, etc.). As it is, we aren’t running four car trains every six minutes, nor do we need to. Nor will we when Link gets to Lynnwood. Doing so wouldn’t help anyway — we just don’t have the trains (or places to put them).

        Speaking of crowding, I noticed that Snohomish County officials are already considering doing exactly what I suggested. To quote Lindbloom’s article from this morning:

        Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin pointed out that Lynnwood line ridership is eight times as high as the initial Eastside segment. The board passed her amendment that commits to supplying extra buses, in the event trains in Snohomish County and North Seattle become overcrowded.

        So basically CT doesn’t have to come up with those express buses, in the unlikely event that they are needed. I’m sure this is a relief for a lot of Community Transit officials. They knew this was the obvious backup (as I pointed out several times on this blog) but now they won’t have to scramble to come up with those buses (if they ever actually need them).

      2. @Mike Orr,

        “ The de facto limit Seattlites will crowd onto trains is lower than the design limit.”

        Ah, maybe, but not by very much. Link has been routinely operating above the 200 pax/LRV level and, on occasion, has actually approached the design limit.

        Seattleites just aren’t that different. We don’t like to wait for the next train either.

      3. @Ross,

        “ They knew this was the obvious backup (as I pointed out several times on this blog)”

        LOL, don’t you recognize CYA when you see it?

        The parallel shuttle concept is just as non-functional as ever, but by paying lip service to it the board can move forward with a standalone LLE and hope for the best. If capacity becomes an issue later then the finger pointing will begin.

        In the meantime ST will continue to refine their ridership model and look at other options. They *might* get lucky and find that perfect sweet spot between capacity requirements and storage limits.

        As they say, “hope isn’t a plan, but sometimes it is all you have”.

      4. LOL, don’t you recognize CYA when you see it?

        I recognize a perfectly reasonable backup plan. That is what folks on here (not just me) have been saying for a very long time. It is really quite simple:

        1) Chances are, there will be no capacity problem.
        2) If there is, they will simply run more buses.

        This is a standard plan, implemented around the world. It is what you do in situations like this. It is more costly, but it works. It doesn’t make sense as a long range plan — usually you build your trains so they have enough capacity — but in this case, they didn’t. But that doesn’t mean you delay an opening for fear that you will get too many riders. You just add more buses (until they can run the run more trains).

        My guess is, Community Transit got together with Sound Transit and did the calculations based on current CT express ridership as well as the capacity of Link. Then they did the math, and found that there was a chance that the trains would be crowded. Then Community Transit talked to the Snohomish County reps, and made sure they wouldn’t be on the hook for the extra bus service. Keep in mind, Snohomish County knows how many people ride the express buses, but we don’t. That information is not easily accessible.

        This was a smart move. Community Transit didn’t want to have one foot in each world. They didn’t want to have this grand opening, but turnaround and say that the buses wouldn’t run as often, because they still need to run a few express buses (because the trains don’t have enough capacity). In other words, they wanted to avoid what Metro is going through with the Northgate restructure. Metro is ready make significant changes based on Lynnwood Link, but it will have to implemented in in three phases:

        1) Most of Lynnwood Link, but no 130th Station. 522 continues on Lake City Way.
        2) Most of Lynnwood Link, but no 130th Station. 522 goes to 145th Station.
        3) All of Lynnwood Link. 522 goes to 145th Station.

        This is all due to delays by Sound Transit. The Metro restructure will be very messy and confusing as a result. It is quite likely it will be a mess afterwards, as long range planning (after phase 3) has been modified to prevent too much churn along the way. Community Transit wanted to avoid all that, and they will. This will be the network when Lynnwood Link (Phase 1) opens: https://www.communitytransit.org/transitchanges. At most they will have a few express buses on top of all that, which is fairly easily to implement and understand.

        Oh, and of course most if not all of these problems could have been avoided if ST would just use trains with higher capacity, as folks on this blog suggested quite some time ago: https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/12/20/will-link-waste-its-capacity-for-the-sake-of-operational-convenience/

      5. @Ross,

        Ha, obviously you haven’t seen any of the ridership projections. Because, if you had, you’d have a better understanding of the gravity of this problem.

        Ridership leaving CHS with a stand-alone LLE is predicted to be 242 per LRV in the NB PM peak. That is almost exactly 50 pax above the targeted value (which they still insist on calling crush load).

        That is per LRV for 4 car trains at 10 mins. Meaning a 200 pax shortfall in capacity per train, or 1200 pax per hour (high estimate, no 80% value available ATT)

        To match that capacity with buses would take 20 buses per hour. Bad enough, but Oh! It gets worse.

        Capacity is not throughput, and those 20 buses will spend a lot of their time stuck in the same traffic that most Link riders will be trying to avoid by taking transit. Buses stuck in traffic just don’t move a lot of riders per hour.

        So if the average speed of one of your shuttle buses stuck in traffic is half the speed of Link in it’s dedicate ROW, then you’ll need 40 buses. 40 buses stuck in traffic is not a good transportation solution.

        And there are other issues too with your proposal, but I won’t detail them here.

        What other solutions might ST implement? They are looking hard at a mix of 3 & 4 car trains at 8 mins, and t they should take a hard look at their spares and gap train requirements. And they should also probably take a look at a 1 car overlay IDS to LCT at 10 mins as it almost perfectly matches the required capacity and would require a small fraction of the operator hours that buses require.

        And open gangway trains wouldn’t solve the problem. Not even close. That would represent a tiny increase in capacity at a huge loss in operational flexibility. It ain’t going to happen.

      6. 40 buses stuck in traffic is not a good transportation solution.

        You keep missing the main point. Where will all these new riders come from? The buses! The existing buses. That’s it. Just because there is a train doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be a bunch of new commuters coming from Snohomish County. Oh, there will be a handful who get out of their car and take the train but only a few. The train can definitely handle that load — it is a train!

        The only way there will be crowding is if we don’t run enough buses. Thus the problem can easily be solved by simply continuing to run a subset of the express buses they run currently.

        Keep in mind, folks have already voted with their feet. CT runs 400-series buses and 800-series buses. The 400 series go downtown, the 800 series connect to Link. Way more buses run downtown than to Link. The 800-series buses aren’t stuffed, and the 400-series buses aren’t empty. Hell, even ST runs express buses downtown — the 510 just ignores Link and runs from Everett to downtown. Again, those riders haven’t all switched to the 512. Clearly a majority of existing riders prefer the one-seat ride downtown over the transfer. This doesn’t change as Link goes further north. Not at all.

        Of course it would be nice if Sound Transit manages to increase capacity on the trains. Capacity problems are best solved by trains, instead of more buses. But if they don’t, you just run a subset of the buses you are running right now. It is really not a problem.

      7. @Ross,

        Ah, so I sort of get where you are coming from.

        You view transit ridership as some sort of giant, zero sum game where every Link rider is either poached directly from an existing bus, or at the very least represents an existing bus rider that is now doing a two seat ride utilizing Link for one of the legs. But….

        You are fundamentally wrong. Transit is not a zero sum game, and Link does in fact attract new transit riders and does increase the total transit ridership base. This is quite clear from the ridership numbers, and it is also part of the reason we decided to build Link – to have both better transit AND improved transit usage.

        Why does Link increase transit usage?

        Because quality sells, and Link is quality transit. It is faster, more reliable, more frequent, and does not get bogged down in the very same traffic that the riders are trying to avoid in the first place.

        Some people will definitely switch from non-transit modes to Link when LLE opens. I’ve actually done it my self. And that increase in ridership is problematic for “bus shuttles”. Because they can’t easily handle the increased load.

        The other problem with bus shuttles has to do with human nature and logistics. If riders are switching to Link because they are attracted by the quality of the service, then it is going to be exceedingly difficult to convince someone in the DSRT to switch to a bus. They will tend to crowd onto the train first, and Link trains leaving downtown full will also be arriving at CHS full. That is a huge problem for CHS riders since it means they won’t be able to board.

        But hey, ridership modeling is hard, and maybe ST gets it wrong this time. Maybe it all just happens to work out. Maybe ST gets lucky, and maybe there really is magic in this world, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

        ST simply needs a better, more functional, more economical plan, than “more buses”.

      8. The one-seat riders had their say in the multiple rounds of route restructures. The CT Board approved a plan that ends all the 400- and 800-series routes, and creates seven of 900-series “express” routes, most of them terminating at Link stations.

        Sans Sound Transit asking CT to keep some downtown route(s), I don’t see the CT Board changing its mind on investing in more frequent Snohomish County service.

      9. @Lazarus

        > ST simply needs a better, more functional, more economical plan, than “more buses”.

        You’re kind of missing Ross’ point. It is very expensive to handle the last few additional peak capacity. One needs to enlarge train stations, hire additional train drivers , and trainsets that are only used once in a day. It’s why the Sounder expansion costs so much for such a few benefit running only at peak time.

        At that point, one can just run as small fleet of express busses rather than spending all the capital expense if its only for say one additional train’s worth of capacity.

        If we were concerned about all-day capacity issues, of course we should be focusing on increasing train capacity, but that’s not the issue here.

      10. “ You are fundamentally wrong. Transit is not a zero sum game, and Link does in fact attract new transit riders and does increase the total transit ridership base.”

        I agrée with Lazarus that it’s not a zero sum game in the long run. However, the additional riders are mostly in identifiable markets rather than trips that magically happen and most new rail ridership more gradually grows over the first few years after opening and not in the first week.

        So Ross is right too. Riders won’t change behavior that quickly. Sure some will shift on day one but the question at hand is about the first few months only. That is a much lower likelihood of inducing new transit riders..

        The capacity issue here is strictly only for a few months of opening unless ST really screwed up with East Link more than they already have.

        Lynnwood Link adds a huge amount of parking spaces and there are about 2.1-2.2 trips for every filled space (driver is 2.0 trips and some vehicles have riding passengers). That is however not really induced demand. It’s a systems capacity change. I think this is where the majority of year 1 nee transit ridership will come from.

        So a good capacity solution appears to be to limit opening the parking garages fully until the train capacity is available. ST can rope off the new parking decks if they want. That’s how I would throttle demand if I was concerned

        That to me is a much cleaner and fairer way to throttle the capacity issue — rather than to change bus schedules frequently . Bus riders should get put on trains first and the new parking riders can get added as space allows.

      11. You view transit ridership as some sort of giant, zero sum game where every Link rider is either poached directly from an existing bus, or at the very least represents an existing bus rider that is now doing a two seat ride utilizing Link for one of the legs.

        NO! That is not what I wrote. We already had a complaint from Stephen Fesler about that sort of thing, and now you do exactly the same thing, only more blatantly. Stop with the bullshit. There is no reason to make up a stupid argument and then claim that I made it. My argument is right there, in black and white. I even addressed your concern explicitly:

        Oh, there will be a handful who get out of their car and take the train but only a few. The train can definitely handle that load — it is a train!

        See! I made it very clear that adding Link adds ridership. So you can just stop with the bullshit.

        My point in even bringing this up is that clearly, Snohomish County reps understand the situation. Of course there will be an increase in Link ridership because of the increased speed and frequency of Lynnwood Link. A few people will get out of their cars; a few more will take trips that they wouldn’t take otherwise. But for peak service, the only way you will get crowding is if they truncate the buses, making the solution obvious: don’t truncate that many.

      12. It does depend a bit on the type of rail line built.

        Eg, Mt Baker to Northgate is vastly faster than the previous bus service.

        Northgate to West Seattle + Ballard to Mt Baker with 9 floors of escalators in between the two lines makes things worse for a lot of riders.

        Lynnwood Link has a chance to make some good improvements. Among other things, it helps get transit riders out of the congestion on I-5 where the HOV lanes end and the express lanes start. This also converts a bunch of 3 seat rides to 2 seat rides, so there’s an advantage there.

      13. @Ross,

        “ Where will all these new riders come from? The buses! The existing buses. That’s it. Just because there is a train doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be a bunch of new commuters coming from Snohomish County”

        I’ll leave it at that.

      14. @WL,

        “It very expensive to handle the last few additional peak capacity.”

        Operational cost is dominated by the cost of manhours. It is much cheaper to pay one operator to run one train than it is to pay scores of operators to run a fleet of shuttle buses.

        “At that point, one can just run as small fleet of express busses rather than spending all the capital expense if its only for say one additional train’s worth of capacity”

        There is no additional capital expense to running more trains on LLE. The original baseline on that line was to have both the 1 and the 2-Link run interlined at a frequency of one train every 4 minutes. A stand-alone LLE will be running at a frequency of one train every 10 minutes. Essentially operating at less than half capacity.

        Economics, and practicality, both favor finding a way to solve this problem with rail and to leave the buses parked in the barn.

      15. @Al.S,

        You are correct. When the first segment of Link opened the uptake in ridership was slower than people expected.

        It’s hard to know why this was, but that segment of line represented the first bit of in-city rail that this region had access to since the 1940’s. Rail was a new thing regionally, and the neighborhoods that got it were also a bit lower income and had a higher percentage of non-native speakers. So maybe ST should have anticipated a slower ramp up than they expected.

        But that slow uptake is pretty much a thing of the past. More recent Link extensions have had much faster uptake, and ST would be wise to at least plan for a quicker ramp up in ridership. Partly because a much higher percentage of the populace now has experience with the system and is looking forward to its arrival.

        As per roping off the garages, it’s an interesting idea, and it probably would throttle ridership somewhat, but I have a hard time seeing it happen. People would get really upset at not being able to park in that brand new parking garage that their taxes just paid for, and the hide-and-ride folks would really impact the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses.

        I think the combination of direct complaints by drivers, and indirect complaints from the neighborhood, would have the politicians calling for ST’s head. I don’t think ST would try it. If anything ST probably will open the garages early (like at South Bellevue).

        Far better to figure out a way to make the system work as designed.

        But good comments.

      16. I agree with Lazarus. If LLE opened but the park and rides were closed there would be a furor. The reasons those park and rides are there are because: 1. The subarea (voters) demanded them: 2. They are the best first/last mile access in suburbia; and 3. They eliminate the cost and delay and fare splitting of a feeder bus.

        Folks on this blog disdain suburbia but fundamentally misunderstand it (of course suburbia doesn’t even know or care if you exist). Kudos to ST for ignoring foolish urbanist anti-car ideology and building so many large park and rides in suburbia, because that is what buses have been using for decades.

        Until the park and rides fill feeder buses are unnecessary in suburbia. That is why Metro is cutting peak express and feeder buses on the Eastside. I don’t know enough about LLE but I doubt the park and rides will ever fill again on the Eastside, and obviously Metro thinks the same with its cuts to feeder bus service on the Eastside.

      17. @DT,

        Hey, something we agree on. Sort of.

        I think once the full East Link gets open all the way into Seattle those PAR’s along the LR line will fill up pretty easily. Link will attract new riders, and many of those riders will access it via driving to the PAR’s along the line. They will fill up.

        You see this today at Northgate where there are drivers circling the parking lot at all sorts of odd times during the day. And, if it happens at Northgate, it will certainly happen on the Eastside.

        But those Metro only PAR’s that support just the Metro bus system? I think they will have a harder time filling up. They are having a hard time now, and some of those users will just abandon Metro PAR’s and drive directly to a more Link adjacent PAR instead.

        But we will see.

        As a side note, I haven’t yet decided when, or even if, I will come visit the ELSL when it opens. But, if I ever do, I will probably park in the South Bellevue PAR.

        We will see.

      18. “More recent Link extensions have had much faster uptake, and ST would be wise to at least plan for a quicker ramp up in ridership. “

        The last two extension openings served UW. College students are obviously much quicker to adapt — mainly because every semester is a whole new schedule and routine.

        As far as roping off garages go, BART set up a program to not fully open garages until 10 am to get midday riders after the peak morning loads. It’s a common practice to reserve midday spaces in many places.

        I do think that telling PAR riders “yes” but bus riders “no” is playing favorites to the wrong message. Bus riders also paid for the system and will be the loyal core market. I still say put the loyal transit riders ahead of induced PAR demand.

        Not fully opening is also a well known technique in building “buzz” as is having crowded trains. Heck even Muni Metro ran the Central Subway for several weeks last year before having their grand opening. There are ways to spin the idea of holding back on making garage spaces available several weeks without making ST look bad. Consider that eating at a crowded restaurant builds more hype than an empty one. We are only taking several weeks here.

        I remain mystified why ST doesn’t plan to run a handful of trains as short trains between SODO and Lynnwood. Several posters have suggested this. ST could run these more frequently than every 6 minutes because there is no need to deal with MLK traffic (although the three SODO crossings would be affected).

      19. I spent a week on CT buses, plus an occasional ET bus. I saw a total of 4 people get on at park and ride lots.

        So, among the many issues with closing the park and ride garages: doing so would probably not accomplish that much in terms of limiting crowding. It just doesn’t represent that many people currently using transit in Snohomish County.

        Evergreen Fairgrounds Park and Ride? Two cars in the lot.

        Snohomish park and ride beside highway 9 north of downtown? Maybe 10 cars.

        Everett Station parking lot across the street from the station was maybe 3/4 full, but most of them seemed to be Amtrak or Sounder passengers. The lot just north of the station had maybe 5 cars in it.

        South Everett Park and Ride? Maybe what? 50-70 cars?

        Ash Way, Lynnwood and Montlake Terrace combined are only about 3,600 cars. Scattered among several trains per hour over the course of several hours, it’s not enough to really be that large.

      20. When the first segment of Link opened the uptake in ridership was slower than people expected.

        Yes, and one of the big reasons given was that Metro didn’t try and funnel people to Link. In fact, ST officials complained about it. They said their predictions were based on it, and Metro didn’t deliver. Even now, it is clear that the 106 poaches a significant number of riders from Link. Very few people use it as a shuttle (they don’t get off at Rainier Beach Station, but keep going). In contrast, more riders use the 106 as an alternative to Link for getting downtown or just traveling in Rainier Valley.

        In contrast, the UW restructure was the opposite. ST no longer bases their predictions on the bus network (which explains why 130th Station had such low predicted ridership). Given past restructures, ST had no idea what to expect from Metro. A lot of people assumed that Metro would just keep running the express buses to downtown (71, 72, 73). These buses carried tens of thousands of riders, and provided a vital and very popular connection from the U-District to downtown. But despite the awkward transfer, Metro focused on increasing frequency, and truncated all of them. The result was what you would expect — ridership on the buses went down, but ridership on the train went up. People switched modes.

        Net ridership did go up, but not by that much. Keep in mind, Link is still a tiny portion of overall transit ridership. Before the pandemic, Link would get somewhere around 80,000 riders, while Metro got over half a million. Link has a bigger portion of overall ridership now, but is still nowhere near what Metro had before the pandemic. Plus a lot of Link ridership has come from people being forced to switch.

        Consider the Roosevelt Station. Before the pandemic, the 522 and 312 used to ferry 3,000 people a day downtown. The 76 and 77 carried about a thousand there as well. Those buses are all gone, and the buses funnel people to Roosevelt Station instead. Based on those numbers alone, Roosevelt would have about 4,000 boardings a day. The pandemic has definitely suppressed ridership, since the station only gets a bit over 4,000 riders now. Still, it is obvious that Roosevelt Station gets a lot of riders from people who used to just take the bus downtown.

        Of course Roosevelt gets a lot of walk-up riders. It is one of the most urban places served by Link. It epitomizes what a real subway should offer: the ability to take short (often spontaneous) trips to other urban neighborhoods. These types of trips tend to occur *outside* of peak. This is one of the key elements that has occurred as Link has expanded. Ridership during peak is down; ridership midday is up. Ridership downtown is down; ridership to Capitol Hill is up. Obviously the pandemic had a lot to do with this, but the Link expansion does as well. Northgate Link was not downtown-commuter oriented; quite the opposite. As I’ve pointed out before, a peak oriented trip from the Northgate or Lake City area to downtown didn’t get much better — I would argue it got worse. But trips in the middle of the day to a lot more places (like Capitol Hill) got a lot better. This was the nature of Link expansion — peak-oriented commutes to downtown got a little bit worse, but trips at other times and to other places got a lot better. Of course there are still people who use Link to commute downtown — many of them can no longer take the bus. But that isn’t where the main value is added or where most of Link’s ridership is coming from.

        Then there are the park and ride users. Northgate gets a lot of riders from people using the park and ride because it is the northern terminus. If you don’t want to bother with taking a shuttle bus, then you drive to Northgate, and take the train.

        What does this mean for Snohomish County and the north end of King County? I see the following:

        People will switch park and rides. If you are driving in from Shoreline or Lynnwood to Northgate, you find a different parking space. Thus I expect the garages at Northgate (which are huge) to have fewer cars, as folks spread out a bit more.

        If CT and ST no longer send buses downtown, those riders will switch to Link. Some will switch even if they do.

        Some riders from the north will switch from driving to taking transit. People will take trips they wouldn’t normally take (using transit) in the same way that people in Roosevelt visit Capitol Hill more often because it is a lot more convenient.

        But ridership won’t be spread evenly among the uses. Not even close. The biggest chunk of ridership will come from people switching park and ride lots, or being forced to take the train instead of the bus. This is why crowding (especially during peak) will be largely dependent on how many express buses are run (if any).

        Even if CT (or ST) runs express buses, some may prefer to drive to a station and take Link. This should be a relatively small number. The buses are quite popular, and can cover a lot bigger area. It is like the 41. Sure, you could always drive to the main park and ride lot at Northgate, and catch the bus there, but most people didn’t. They walked to a bus stop, or they drove to a closer parking space.

        There will be riders who take advantage of the main value added — better urban transit. But I don’t see the kind of increase that Northgate Link had. Most of the stations are not very urban (they all are surrounded by large parking lots). It is also farther to the urban destinations. Very few people take transit trips to places like Mountlake Terrace. They could go to Northgate, but if you have a car (and are say, headed to the hockey rink) it is very easy to drive. The UW and Capitol Hill are significant transit destinations (with difficult parking) but those trips take longer. To be fair, it still isn’t a really long trip (especially from Shoreline) but I don’t expect ridership to Capitol Hill to soar after Lynnwood Link, the way it did with Northgate Link. There will definitely be an uptick — just not a huge one.

        Some people will get out of their car during rush hour, and take the train. Talk to your average (ignorant) man on the street, and they will tell you that is why they built the damn thing. But again, only a handful. The vast majority of folks who are OK with taking transit during peak take it already. They either take the bus, or drive to the Northgate Park and Ride. Again, the big improvement is not in peak-only commuting. It is in midday trips to places like UW and Capitol Hill. That is the huge improvement for folks everywhere along the line, including the northern suburbs.

      21. Lynnwood Link will attract new riders as it penetrates dense pedestrian-oriented centers where bus service is slow and unreliable (e.g., Roosevelt, U District, Capitol Hill). It will offer minutes to riders. The network will be more efficient, as the family of one-way peak-only routes has to spend much time deadheading on the congested general-purpose lanes of I-5 (e.g., routes 400s, 510, 64, 302, 303, 320, 322).

        I hope ST provides shorter headways at both peak and off-peak times to reduce waiting and make the network more attractive. They plan eight-minute headway and four-car trains; they could provide the same capacity with shorter waits and be more attractive with six-minute headway and three-car trains. I hope the solve the LRV storage issue for the period before full East Link; I expect they can.

      22. Lynnwood Link will attract new riders as it penetrates dense pedestrian-oriented centers where bus service is slow and unreliable (e.g., Roosevelt, U District, Capitol Hill).

        Yes, absolutely. But:

        1) Those riders will tend to take transit outside of peak.
        2) Those riders will be tiny compared to those who switch modes or stations. People who used to drive to the Northgate Park and Ride will use a different one. People who used to take a bus downtown, or a bus to Northgate Link will take a different bus to Link. That is where most of the change will come from.

        As for time savings, it depends on where you are coming from and when you are traveling. The biggest improvement will be for folks coming from the west. But with 130th coming later, that improvement will be muted. Initially, the 522 won’t even serve that station, which leaves the 333 as the main feeder. A few riders in the Bitter Lake area will take that bus, but otherwise, this will mainly be about folks going back and forth to Shoreline Community College. There will likely be a significant increase from people choosing that park and ride lot over Northgate (which won’t cause much of an increase in overall ridership). There will be people who walk to the station, but even with the new development in the area, not a lot.

        185th is probably where most of the new riders will come from. It will be fed by Swift Blue as well as the 348 from both directions. Some of those riders will switch from the 301/302/303, but unlike those routes, the buses connecting to 185th will run all day long (and relatively frequently). The change for a lot of rush-hour commuters is minor compared to the change for midday riders.

        The same is true for Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood as well. Most of the improvement will occur in the middle of the day, as the CT restructure improves midday service to the station. But it won’t be as big an improvement as the King County stations, simply because ST already runs express service to both transit centers. Riders will avoid a transfer (which is great) but that is nowhere near the improvement compared to someone in say, North City, who goes from 30 minute service to Northgate, to 15 minute service to the (much closer) 185th Station.

        Of course it could be better. The new network looks to skip various places on Aurora, even when it is fully implemented. You’ve got the Aurora Village Transit Center (which isn’t actually on Aurora), 185th, 145th, and 130th. That is about it. 155th gets infrequent service. 175th connects to Link, but only after a really long detour to Shoreline Community College. You’ve only got three stops on Aurora where riders can make an easy connection to Link. As a result, a lot of riders will keep taking the E (and transferring as necessary if they are headed to the UW, etc.). Unlike a lot of Link expansions, Lynnwood Link is heavily dependent on the bus network, and many of the changes are not obvious (and don’t look that good — at least in King County).

        Regardless, it will be interesting. I would love to get more detailed data to see how people use Link, once the dust settles. How many people drive to the station, as opposed to walking, or taking a feeder bus. Do they then take another bus at the other end, or walk to their destination.

    4. A point on eastside-Snohomish riders:

      The 535 is a milk run. The 532 will continue to bypass Lynnwood.

      I was hoping the 532 could be re-routed to Lynnwood Station, which might seriously improve ridership on the route, and reduce the number of eastside riders transferring into the span and hour of maximum constraint every weekday afternoon at UWS.

  7. Regarding Lynnwood the initial service levels seem fine “20 hours/day, 8- to 9-minute peak headways with 10- and 15-minute off-peak headways, 50/50 combination of 3- and 4-car train sets (analysis still underway to confirm)”

    Also slightly tangential saw an interesting presentation on the fares strategy. https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/ActiveDocuments/Presentation%20-%20Fares%20Strategy%20Status%20Report%2008-24-23.pdf

    It seems with the new lines Sound Transit is deciding whether to stick with the distance based fares or move to flat fare (probably $3/$3.5)

    1. I could see them switching to a flat fare for simplicity sake and leads to less confusion about what kind of ticket they need. Though if they go to a flat fare, I hope fare capping is considered as well.

      1. A flat fare will make it possible, perhaps automatic, to buy a Link paper day pass covering the whole length of the line, which allows ST to capture the whole fare rather than share it via an ORCA split. Of course, there really isn’t much reason not to offer the option right now at non-terminal station vending machines. ST could also push the website for the mobile ticket app (which does not feature inter-agency portability).

      2. A $3 flat fare would be 25 cents higher than Metro. That would make Link less competitive for shorter trips like Capitol Hill to the U-District or Capitol Hill to Roosevelt. Currently Link’s fare is at or below Metro’s fare for trips up to Westlake-Rainier Beach, Northgate-Beacon Hill, and I assume Westlake-Bellevue Downtown. Those are the most-urban, highest-ridership, most-successful parts of Link. I would rather go to a higher base fare than have a high flat fare. You can get a Metro pass for all of Seattle and King County and the most common Link trips, but having a high flat fare would make Link look like a premium service like ST Express or Sounder, when it’s meant to be the baseline trunk for everybody.

    2. I see two interest groups backing distance-based fares:

      (1) engineering nerds who think it will raise more revenue from suburbanites and/or think it will actually impact people’s’ choices of where to live;

      (2) a portion of ST staff and leadership, for similar reasons.

      I see the group that will most like flat fares as occasional riders, who just want to pay their fare and ride. Suburban riders will get tired of being dinged for the largest fare when they forget to or don’t know to tap off.

      At any rate, I will offer my prediction that ST will move to a $3 flat fare on Link when the full 2 Line opens, and that Metro will move to a $3 fare by then.

      1. > I see two interest groups backing distance-based fares:

        There’s at least one other major category of people who would support distance-based fares:

        (3) Shorter-distance riders who benefit greatly from a lower distance-based fare

      2. We’ve been paying high transit fares on MI for two of the shortest trips: MI to downtown Seattle, and MI to downtown Bellevue. Transit riders on MI don’t take transit to many other areas. (It is why some of us supported tolling I-90: MI’s toll would be one of the lowest if based on distance, and it would — pre-pandemic — reduce congestion on I-90 for Islanders because 520 is tolled).

        Let’s not forget that a huge motivation for Link was to get workers to downtown Seattle and all those office buildings, where 2/3 of Seattle’s tax revenue was generated pre-pandemic. Another benefit for Seattle and transit was employers subsidized many of those peak fares, which benefitted downtown Seattle and transit because fare payment was nearly 100%.

        For 20 years the PSRC has advocated in its Vision Statements for dispersing those jobs (and housing) throughout the region and the county to avoid this kind of commuting, but really what the very urban PSRC was really advocating for was TOD to take all those suburban workers with their employer subsidized fare and tax revenue to downtown Seattle on Link. No one including the GMPC really ever thought the jobs would disperse from downtown Seattle to suburban offices, although no one saw them dispersing to suburban homes.

        The PSRC got its wish it never really wanted with WFH, and the least of Seattle’s problems today are urban transit riders subsidizing suburban transit riders because the suburban riders going to downtown Seattle have disappeared, along with their employer subsidized fares and 100% payment percentage. Now, the riders on urban routes in Seattle are almost 100% urban residents taking short trips, although around half are paying a full fare.

    3. A flat fare would essentially be short-distance riders subsidizing long-distance riders. It would be like setting the Sounder fare at $1. Sure, commuters would love it, but the money has to come from somewhere.

      Link is a hybrid system, part commuter rail, part metro. But the essential part is the metro. Without it, the whole thing falls apart. This is one of the few sections that can operate OK without going to Seattle, and even then, it is clearly a “starter” line. It just wouldn’t make sense to build this without connecting to Seattle. In contrast, a Seattle-only system could operate just fine. Since they designed the system with “subarea equity”, it has been Seattle residents who have largely paid for the essential pieces, while suburban riders pay for things that few Seattle riders will ever need or use. Flat fares would be just another way for Seattle residents to subsidize suburban riders.

      1. No rider is subsidizing any other rider, except through the payment of sales tax, property tax, and vehicle license fees. All rides are subsidized.

      2. OK, fair enough. Flat fares would be just another way for Seattle residents to subsidize suburban riders. Oh wait, I already wrote that.

        Put it another way: With flat fares, long distance riders would get a much bigger subsidy than short-distance riders. If we had built a conventional metro, then it would be reasonable to just charge the same for every trip. But for a system like ours (which again, is a commuter rail and rapid transit hybrid) this is rare, if not unheard. Even systems that have a lot more stops in the main part of the city (e. g. Berlin S-Bahn) have fares based on distance (typically using zones).

        There is also the issue of practicality. With fare gates, paying it gets more complicated. You have to keep your stub, and then use it when exiting. In our case though, that doesn’t matter. From a practical standpoint, it is all the same.

      3. I’m still a little salty about needing to pay $3.25 each way to ride ST 522 just one stop to Roosevelt Station. If this were a Link trip it would only be $2.25, and if it were a Metro trip, it would be only $2.75.

        I don’t mind ST raising Link fares by a bit. However, if a shortest-distance Link trip were to cost more than a King County Metro bus, it would start to feel like urban users are being overcharged to subsidize suburbanites’ rides, similar to the current situation on ST 522.

        I suppose it’s all a little bit moot considering riders paying any amount are also subsidizing all the freeloading riders (including many who appear housed). So what’s the harm in charging us suckers, the paying riders, even more?

      4. @Btent White,

        “ No rider is subsidizing any other rider…….. All rides are subsidized.”

        Bunk. Just because all rides are subsidized does not mean that all rides are subsidized equally. Clearly a rider traveling from DT Redmond to Lynnwood TC is getting a bigger subsidy than a rider going from CHS to U Dist, no matter the fare policy.

        But going to a flat fare structure is not good urban planning. It increases the subsidy for living on the periphery of the urban area while penalizing those residents who choose to live in the denser, more central parts of the city. It is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing.

        And your comments about distance based fares encouraging long distance driving aren’t borne out by math. It costs between 60 and 75 cents per mile to operate a car today. Anyone doing a long distance commute via car is going to spend more than the Link fare after traveling just 5 or 6 miles, which isn’t a very great distance. Anything longer than that and Link is much cheaper even at the higher fare rate.

        But higher flat fares could encourage short distance driving. If all you are doing is traveling a mile or two then the cost of driving is low, and the added cost of the flat fare might encourage a person to drive instead of take transit.

        So, ya, flat fares are a horrible idea.

      5. Lazarus, I thought fare revenue for Link O&M costs are allocated to each subarea based on the length of travel in that subarea or some other distance-based formula (less any cut paid to a feeder bus). So a higher fare for a longer run would likely allocate more revenue to non-urban parts of the Link trip.

        To use your example of a trip on Link from Redmond to Lynnwood (which in some ways highlights the length of this trip): E KC would get a share of the trip based on Redmond to Judkins Park, N KC from Judkins Park to SnoCo, and SnoCo from SnoCo to Lynnwood. If there were a feeder bus for any length in Redmond the share Link would get is 53% split among the three subareas, or somewhere around 50 cents each. Talk about subsidized.

      6. Lazarus, it doesn’t cost 60 to 75 cents per mile for actual the driving part. It’s at most half that; for most people who have newer cars, most of the cost is paying off the car loan and buying insurance. Once a car is paid off, if it gets 30 miles per gallon and gas is $5/gallon it costs 16 cents for the gasoline. If a person has a good driving record so the insurance isn’t too much but drives only a short distance it might be perhaps another quarter for the insurance, depending on the value of the car. If the car is really old and the trip really long, the insurance might be a nickel per mile.

        The IRS is ridiculously generous with that deduction. If Congress were smart it would make everyone deduct actual expenses. But of course Congress exists to stroke small business owners.

      7. > it doesn’t cost 60 to 75 cents per mile for actual the driving part.

        It isn’t that far off from the actual expense. Sure one can drive a very cheap car — but you’ll make up for that with semi constant high repair bills.

        > The IRS is ridiculously generous with that deduction. If Congress were smart it would make everyone deduct actual expenses. But of course Congress exists to stroke small business owners.

        Plenty of other organizations have done calculations and all find around the same number. https://newsroom.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/2022-YourDrivingCosts-FactSheet-7-1.pdf

        Also generally people buy even more expensive cars than the base model.

        > If a person has a good driving record so the insurance isn’t too much but drives only a short distance it

        If one only drives a short distance, you are actually paying even higher per mile because now you have the same capital costs divided by fewer miles.

      8. WL, um I said that if one drives a short distance every day the insurance might be a quarter (per mile), but if the daily trip is long, the insurance, which is a fixed cost for a year, might be a nickel. That sounds like what you said: driving more lowers the per mile cost of insurance.

        This whole thing of counting the sunk costs as some sort of impediment to deciding to drive in the moment is completely against proven human psychology. The only thing that counts in that decision is the cost of the gas consumed. Not the repairs to the car. Not the insurance. Not the loan. All that is “fixed cost” — well, repairs obviously aren’t fixed, but they aren’t front-of-mind unless one happened last week.

        They are treated just as are the truly fixed costs of ownership: they’re ignored. The actual logic is “I’ve already got this thing and it only costs me twenty cents more per mile to drive it than leave it parked in the garage. I can get there faster and do an errand on the way home. I’m driving!”

      9. @Tom T,

        I always use the cost estimate of 50 cents/mile when deciding whether or not to drive or take transit. I find 50 cents/mile does an excellent job of estimating the non-fixed costs of a car trip, and the math is really simple.

        Then I add other potential costs to that. Such as the cost of parking. Parking can be exceedingly expensive in certain situations.

        For example, today’s main event with the wife is a relatively short trip, but the cost of parking moves the trip squarely into the transit column. We will be taking transit, because of the direct cost of driving.

      10. Fifty cents for the non-fixed costs? Wow, you have a serious gas hog, ten mpg. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to drive a Hummer. Got any tips?

        Or does the old buggy really burn the oil?

      11. “This whole thing of counting the sunk costs as some sort of impediment to deciding to drive in the moment is completely against proven human psychology”

        That’s true, but then again drivers can’t cope with navigating simple roundabouts, so calculating real incremental costs don’t factor into the equation.

        I have this discussion all the time with customers, and being the gearhead I am, it’s a bit easier to explain to them what goes into the ‘cost of driving’, even if you don’t like AAA’s numbers.

        Incremental costs of driving are somewhere around 35 cents a mile.
        (you can’t exclude depreciation and maintenance, especially for those of us that don’t buy new every 5 years depreciation is replaced by major repairs, since the more you drive, the higher that cost will end up being)

      12. TT: regarding insurance, most insurances will raise/reduce rates based on estimated mileage, so insurance is not necessarily a fixed cost. There are some insurance companies out there which actually charge by the mile! Also, the actual value of a car primarily depreciates not with time, but with mileage. The IRS assumes a car’s initial value is completely spent after ~250k miles; having purchased (and later junked) a known-reliable brand of car with that many miles on it and had to maintain it, I’m inclined to agree. Frankly, the only fundamentally “fixed” costs of car ownership are annual registration fees.

        Regarding the rest of this discussion (questionably on-topic as it is): It’s ridiculous to think that any significant number of people are pulling out a calculator and doing math before driving or biking or bussing for groceries or for a commute. Maybe a savvy dad does the math to budget for a road trip.

        The only “math” anyone (who has access to a car) is doing when deciding on a trip is the comparing the cost of parking and annoyance of driving in traffic to the extra time it takes to walk to the transit stop, wait for transit, ride transit, then walk from that stop to their destination, then repeat in reverse. Gas is expensive, so going anywhere in a car is expensive but fast. Transit is free if you get off before fare enforcement gets you, but it’s (relatively) slow and you might have to stand the whole time. Faster than walking though, but walking is actually free (unless you start counting the cost-per-step in shoe wear, or the cost in medical expenses after huffing decades of air pollution).

      13. @TT,

        I drive a hybrid, but I don’t think the 50 cents/ mile is too far off.

        National average for direct per mile operating costs is considered to be around 35 cents/mile. But that is a national average.

        I buy my fuel in Seattle (more expensive!), have an older car (more maintenance!), do my maintenance in Seattle (more expensive maintenance!), and we have hills (lower mileage!).

        Additionally, I maintain a small pad for cosmetics, because if you run to the insurance company for every dent and ding you will never clear the deductible, but you will drive up your rates.

        And the idea that hybrids get high gas mileage is overly simplistic. For very short trips (the bulk of my trips) the mileage isn’t actually that good. The worst I ever did was 15 mpg, but that was for a very short trip, was from a dead cold start, and involved a few hills.

        So, ya, the 50 cents per mile might be a bit conservative, but not by much. And it is easy math.

      14. I tend to agree with Nathan’s analysis.

        It is very, very difficult to live without a car in this region, so folks treat owning a car like a necessity just like owning a cell phone (which isn’t cheap either). Unless transit wants to rely upon only those who just can’t afford a car, who generally need free or subsidized fares.

        Transit has to stop focusing on trying to force people to not own a car and start focusing on what transit can offer better. Transit serves just too small an area. I live in a fairly affluent city 3 miles from downtown Seattle and 3 miles from downtown Bellevue and we effectively have no intra-city transit, like most of the Eastside.

        WFH and Uber have made transit offering something better much more difficult, as has the decline of downtown Seattle as a destination. Transit needs lots of riders, limited or expensive parking, and traffic congestion (ideally not manufactured because then shoppers just go someplace else). Hence we see transit ridership down 50% on buses, and around 33% lower on Link compared to pre-pandemic when one factors in Northgate Link.

        Harrell’s seven goal plan to return workers, shoppers and tourists to downtown is really transit’s seven goal plan to return ridership. Both have some real headwinds with WFH and public safety.

        The percentage of folks who own a car likely won’t change. The question for transit is whether transit can get those folks to take more trips on transit in a time of WFH, Uber, free parking, low congestion, and a perception of a lack of urban public safety.

        The East Link starter line will prove that even when public safety is not a concern (at least during the day; public safety is ALWAYS a concern for women at night) transit has to offer something better to get an eastsider to park their car at a park and ride, or the very few who can walk to Link which means they already probably live in an area they can do their errands on foot. The EL starter line will really prove whether Link is about intra subarea trips, because ridership on Sounder and ST express buses has plummeted despite intra subarea trips.

      15. Sorry, guys, if you consistently have repairs that essentially mimic the cost of an amortized car loan, you aren’t driving Japanese cars. Maybe that “rule” should include Korean ones now.

        My wife and I have been Honda-Acura folks since 1984 when we met and have had only five cars (counting the one she already had) since then. We have had two since 1991 because we lived in Houston and after the first two years, I no longer had a contract a mile away.

        Grant, two of the cars had major engine catastrophes just beyond 300K miles, but I was able to sell them to Acura gearheads for more than nothing for rebuilds. I got two grand for a B18-engined Integra that had a bad cylinder from a mechanic at the Acura dealer. Except for a 1990 Integra that we still have for boodocking and the one she had when we met, a Civic, they were all bought used.

        OK, everyone thinks that it’s 50 cents a mile for the driving-related costs. But you’re ALSO arguing that the total is 75 cents, so the insurance and nose-bleed capital cost for the purchase (or “lease”) has to squeeze into that quarter. Jeebus, a Corolla or Civic costs over $20 grand now, and as WL pointed out, most people don’t buy little cars and get a “trim package” on the bigger ones they do get. Net result: from north of $30 K to the sky’s-the-limit on the capital cost.

        And I DID say that insurance varies according to the mileage estimated, but ONLY YEARLY. That is, if you say “I’m going to drive 15,000 miles this year” and take a 13,000 mile trip sometime in the middle, your insurance doesn’t go up or down. And they don’t ask for the odometer reading at the end, so most people will just say “15,000” again next year by not changing the value.

        The math just does not add up. The variable part HAS to be lower or cars are really crappily made, and we know that’s not true since Japan cleaned Detroit’s clock in the 80’s and 90’s.

      16. @TT,

        I do drive Japanese. Have for almost 40 years now.

        And if you’ve had two major engine catastrophes in your life, then you aren’t maintaining your vehicles properly.

        Maybe that is why you think cars are so cheap? E side you don’t maintain them?

        But to get back on topic, road Link today. Awesome service. Great value. And totally packed!

      17. Nathan, and isn’t what you said that essentially what I said?

        The actual logic is “I’ve already got this thing and it only costs me twenty cents more per mile to drive it than leave it parked in the garage. I can get there faster and do an errand on the way home. I’m driving!”

        Nobody considers the “fixed” costs, they just compare the gas (and, yes, parking) costs versus the time saved. They SURE don’t worry that taking daughter to soccer and stopping at the post office is going to break the car to the tune of $3K.

      18. DT: I don’t know where you get this idea of transit “forcing” anyone out of their cars.

        The car-brained tend to consider any new inconvenience an attempt to get them out of their cars. Reduced free street parking, or increased parking prices? Bus-only lanes and HOV lanes? Increased registration fees or increased gas taxes? All have been pegged as attempts to “force” folks out of the driver’s seat.

        But you’ve stated that you don’t have a bias towards or against any form of transportation, so you can see the purpose of these policies without gasoline-tinted glasses?

      19. Lazarus, I said they happened “just beyond 300K miles“. That’s a “K” for “thousand”. And yes, those four got their oil changed every 3,000 miles and all the “book” maintenances. We still have the 1990 and it fortunately has made it past the 300K mark (309 right now) and acts like it will keep on keepin’ on.

        The main one we have now has synthetic oil so the car tells us when to change it. It also tells us when to go for other things too; even the brakes FFS. Weird. I don’t know how they do that! Maybe it’s just a mileage thing that the computer tracks.

      20. My brother i in n law is a big fan of a service that connects folks who leased a car but who no longer can or want to make the payments with someone else to assume the lease. This way the sales tax and down payment is already made. He recently assumed a three year lease on a Mercedes with 100% warranty for $400/mo. and nothing down. He doesn’t even pay for oil changes. (My cell phone bill for 4 is around $275/mo.). Only caveat is he can’t drive more than 15,000 miles/year which as a pilot he doesn’t.

        Re: tax deductions there are two methods. The business buys the car and expenses 100%. But use is suppose to be business only. Or per mile for business use on a private car which is up to around .65 mile. If you drive 10,000 miles for work in a year you can deduct $6500 which isn’t bad.

      21. TT: My point was that people don’t calculate incremental costs of driving – mostly time, and maybe parking.

        But also, your rejection of the IRS mileage rate is pretty immature. Sure, you might have a more reliable-than-average or efficient-than-average car, which would reduce your cost of O&M. But in 2023, $0.655/mile is the national average, and it’s relatively easy to find the annual report in which the IRS calculates the rate.

      22. Nathan, what I said is I trust folks to make the right decision for them when it comes to mode of transportation. I don’t believe I have the right to change their decision. Nor do I want to. Nor can I.

        HOV lanes are not anti car. They are anti SOV. Or really pro multi passenger cars. They make sense if there is traffic congestion although the shift tends to be towards HOT lanes for the revenue.

        Street parking is just a consequence of foolishly getting rid of onsite parking minimums that might force folks to get rid of cars. I have probably read a thousand posts on this blog arguing that eliminating onsite parking minimums would force folks to get rid of cars, and then those same folks are shocked that potential bike or bus lanes are filled with parked cars, and politicians don’t get rid of that street parking because they don’t want to voted out of office. It doesn’t help that Seattle is so damn dangerous that waking around at night or taking transit is too scary for so many.

        Of course urbanists and transit advocates like you want to disadvantage cars and make people ride transit, just to fund it. Why else would you tax cars to fund transit? You have railed against cars for years. That is your right, but the reality is you will have about as much success as anyone trying to change someone else’s decision. It isn’t like my wife is going to take a bus because you think that is a better mode.

        Transit has to offer something better to make up for first/last mile access, slower time of trip, transfers, perceptions of danger, inability to carry things, just mixing with the general public, etc. That is just about impossible in the suburbs unless you have huge park and rides with an urban destination with expensive parking someone simply has to go to. Except anti car folks like you just can’t stomach the idea of someone using a park and ride to use transit because transit was suppose to kill the car.

        The three advantages I see for transit are cost, traffic congestion and parking availability/cost. Parking is an issue in a very small area of the region, and fewer and fewer want to or have to go to downtown Seattle, which ironically has more (underground) perking per sf of lot area than any other area in the region. It isn’t as if there isn’t plenty of parking in Ballard, which is Pluto even in a car.

        Most treat cars as a necessity. It is like telling them rent costs too much. WFH remedied congestion and parking costs for many, and Uber solves parking issues in urban trips with all the advantages of driving PLUS it is a HOV. I have two college age kids and they grew up with Uber, Uber X, Uber Black, Lyft…when all of these are just another form of transit.

        It is no secret public transit is in an uncertain period when the world is transitioning. Declining ridership and funding is reducing frequency and coverage, especially in non equity areas as it should be despite Fesler’s complaints, transit’s two main Achilles heels. I get it. It is a downward spiral when things were looking up (at least in this region) pre-pandemic.

        Although it is difficult for transit advocates to accept, the reality today is the U.S. needs less transit based on ridership. Systems like MTA and Bart have two years to figure out if they can even survive. So agencies like Metro have to figure out who deserves that limited service, and rightfully that is the poor who can’t afford a car.

        At the same time we probably don’t need many new roads except in some high congestion areas like 405 south of Bellevue. People just are not making as many trips with Amazon and WFH, cars and transit which is a good thing, although you still need to own a car in this region although you might not have to drive it as much.

        For over a decades new urbanists and planners have been dreaming of the day folks lived within walking distance of their work. They just thought it would be in urban areas, not living rooms in suburbia, which IMO is the greatest thing to happen to workers for a long time. Look at me. I walk to work now, and mostly walk to the MI town center for dinner or cocktails, like last night and tonight. I am more of an urbanists than most on this blog.

        Now transit just has to learn to attract more discretionary riders, something transit has never had to do and so far is not very good at.

      23. Won’t Move Seattle 2024 just be finishing the 50% of projects left over from Move Seattle 1.0?

        I hope in 2024 Seattle voters are a little more skeptical about project cost estimates. If we have learned anything it is don’t believe project cost estimates in a levy.

      24. DT: what you literally said was:

        Transit has to stop focusing on trying to force people to not own a car and start focusing on what transit can offer better.

        I question the your oft-repeated idea that “transit” is “forc[ing] people to not own a car”, and you write several hundred words with no actual response to the inquiry, which I’ll reiterate: what policies are “Transit” using to force drivers out of their cars?

        I’ll concede that there actually is at least one good example of a policy specifically meant to reduce butts in drivers’ seats; I’ll leave identifying it is an exercise for the reader.

      25. The argument of transit somehow “forcing” people to not own cars is ridiculous. Transit doesn’t “force” anybody to do anything (beyond pay a few hundred dollars per year in taxes to fund it). Not having transit indeed forces people to own cars, but having transit does not force the opposite. It just gives people options.

      26. “I hope in 2024 Seattle voters are a little more skeptical about project cost estimates.”

        So, what are Seattle residents supposed to do? Vote against it because they don’t trust the cost estimates, guaranteeing that nothing gets done? Even if the cost estimates are optimistic, getting half of the projects done is still much better than just giving up and doing nothing.

      27. “Look at me. I walk to work now, and mostly walk to the MI town center for dinner or cocktails, like last night and tonight.”

        Only 5% of suburbanites can do that. Even fewer can do it from a single-family house like yourself. Most Mercer Islanders can’t. It’s essentially a rounding error of single-family residents who can.

      28. @Tom Terrific
        “Grant, two of the cars had major engine catastrophes just beyond 300K miles, but I was able to sell them to Acura gearheads for more than nothing for rebuilds. I got two grand for a B18-engined Integra that had a bad cylinder from a mechanic at the Acura dealer. Except for a 1990 Integra that we still have for boodocking and the one she had when we met, a Civic, they were all bought used”

        Ah, the 300,000 mile beater. I sold a lot of parts to people with cars like that back in that career. Heck, even the detailing supplies would equal a good part of a car payment, let alone the major repair costs, which brings up the next thought:
        “Sorry, guys, if you consistently have repairs that essentially mimic the cost of an amortized car loan, you aren’t driving Japanese cars. Maybe that “rule” should include Korean ones now.”
        Just imagine if Washington State had yearly safety inspections like most of the rest of the country. There’s a lot of crap driving around on the road out there. They became ‘counter trophies’ at almost every parts store I worked at. If people did the proper maintenance, I’d probably wouldn’t have switched careers.

        All this BS about how to justify cars over transit is always based on the ‘How Cheap My Car Is” (related to the “How Great I Deal I Got From The Car Dealership”) argument which is more of an exercise in psychology than actual analysis.

        It’s the same as the arguments that Daniel and the King of the Eastside (and who knows what other closet automobile-sexuals hang out at the Rainier Club (or whatever the venue for cigar/pipe smoking wheeler-dealers of the upper-class is) make when always questioning the cost of transit to the taxpayers, when never addressing the cost of roads to those same taxpayers.

        All sorts of tax money flows to ‘improving’ the environment for the taxpaying driver from non-gas-tax sources to at least the tune of 40% of the cost of said improvements.
        Nothing gets voted on. It’s all automatic. The table is tilted towards fighting the LOS devil of the driving public.

        If you read between the lines of Daniel’s posts, it reveals a lot of faulty logic in transportation analysis as understood by the general public. It’s very useful for refining the argument for a truly balanced transportation system.

      29. Jim, putting aside the AH attack on me personally, you miss the entire point.

        No one decides whether they want a car or want to drive for their trip based on what I think or post. Folks on the Eastside don’t sit around discussing this issue. They buy the car their monthly payments can afford. Stop focusing on me individually and focus on the aggregate data.

        I don’t understand why you harbor so much anger towards these folks for making a decision they think is best for them. You are free to make the decision you think is best for you.

        If you want to make transit better for those who must use transit, or want to, then focus your rage on that, and maybe it will encourage more car owners to use transit for trips. In this post pandemic WFH/Uber world many transit trips that were mandatory and now discretionary, and those riders are the ones who have abandoned transit. Focus your energy on finding out why and fixing that.

      30. “Jim, putting aside the AH attack on me personally, you miss the entire point.”
        You’re kidding about the AH attack part.

        I’m supporting your right to post your opinion on this blog.

        No rage, that’s your projection.
        I’ve watched the politics happen on transportation decisions, so I’m only stating the obvious.

        What I’m doing is calling you and the ‘powers that be’ out.

        Put your argument in a Tax Package to Support Road Building.
        Explain it to the unwashed masses.
        If it’s a good argument, they’ll vote YES.

    4. Flat fares per ride are good for systems that make you pay when you get in a vehicle. That’s not Link.

      Between Orca cards and payment by debit/ credit cards, flat fares don’t seem to have any time advantage over distance based fares. I bet most of these kinds of fare payers wouldn’t notice a difference unless they are scraping by, and that’s when the low income subsidy programs should kick in anyway.

      My beef with it is not for charging long distance riders more (and I think they should), but instead with penalizing short distance riders. The issue to me is not the “primary” or mostly work trip, but the use of Link for intermediate trips (like taking Link several times in the middle of the day). Why should someone pay the same fare if they are at Westlake to go to lunch on Capitol Hill or CID than they would pay to go all the way to Lynnwood or Federal Way? It are these intermediate trips that are a big factor why someone would choose to live without owning a car.

      I’m also curious about how long the fare will last. It’s 90 minutes now, right?

      I’m even wondering if ST should default a daily fare instead. One consequence of using Orca is that a rider cannot choose between a one-time ride fare and a daily fare. It would eliminate the time limit stress and reduce the number of transactions if fare payment using Orca was good for a full day of ce it was first used.

      1. A single-ride fare using ORCA is good for two hours. The only way a ride lasts longer than that is a long blockage, but the fare ambassadors will hopefully have gotten the word.

        As someone who lives happily without a car, I don’t see why raising the fare to ride Link one stop from $2.25 to $3 would make me reconsider my freedom from cars. Indeed, I’d actually save money by getting the $108 monthly pass instead of the $126 pass (or the $162 pass once this wave of openings is done). If anything, the distanced-based fares would encourage suburbanites living next to stations to stick to driving. I suppose the small differences might be enough to get an urbanite to get a bike, which I wouldn’t consider a bad outcome.

      2. As someone pointed out, many card systems have a daily and / or monthly limit. Portland does that, and it’s the best of all possible worlds; months when one uses transit heavily automatically turn into a monthly pass. Ditto days when it happens. Fares become much less of an impediment to use of transit.

    1. ST Board chose N/S CID as the preferred alignment on March 23.

      The Board meeting yesterday approved extra funding for further studies (basically, redo of the BLE EIS) for the new Denny alternatives, and refinements on the various CID alternatives.

  8. Should ST consider truncating ST Express 566 to terminate at Downtown Bellevue Station, and ceasing to serve Redmond Technology Center, when the 2 starter line opens?

    Also, where will the new Link operators come from? They’ll need to be operating at a full schedule for a period of time before the line opens to the public.

    1. Should ST consider truncating ST Express 566 to terminate at Downtown Bellevue Station, and ceasing to serve Redmond Technology Center, when the 2 starter line opens?

      Definitely. If I’m not mistaken, that was the only change folks on the blog could come up with (when they first started talking about a starter line). The savings wouldn’t be huge, but they still add up. The bus does about a dozen round trips, and this section takes about ten minutes. Some riders will have to transfer, but likely not a huge number. Prior to the pandemic, about 100 riders stayed on the bus as it went through Bellevue, while another 50 took the bus between Bellevue and Redmond. Overall ridership is way down — to about a third of that — so even if the proportion is the same, we aren’t talking about that many riders who would be inconvenienced.

      There have been cutbacks on this route (because of the driver shortage) so this might be enough in savings to restore those trips.

      1. Truncating the 566 at Bellevue would also be a huge benefit for riders boarding the bus at Bellevue to go south. It would make the bus always on time, rather than late by unpredictable amounts, depending on traffic on 520. I believe downtown Bellevue is a much bigger ridership draw that Microsoft, which should make the truncation a no brainier.

        Those headed to Microsoft will probably get their faster on a Microsoft shuttle bus than the 566 anyway, with or without the truncation.

  9. Since this will be a separate brand new line, should it be free for the first weekend?

  10. Well kudos to Balducci and the rest of the board. I was very skeptical at first, especially since they initially thought this was going to delay Lynnwood Link. But they kept looking for a solution, and apparently found one. Even if this doesn’t get huge ridership, it is still going to save those riders a significant amount of time. It is quite possible that fares alone will pay for operations making this a big “win-win” all around.

    1. It seems like there is some delay (even if only a few months) to Lynnwood Link, unless Sound Transit’s Agency Progress Reports are inaccurate. As of the most recent report (published at the beginning of August, but dated June 2023), Lynnwood Link has a target opening date of July 17, 2023 with ~50 days of positive float, indicating that it could open June 2023 if this is to be believed. Testing is expected to wrap up at the end of May. https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/agency-progress-report-capital-program-june-2023.pdf (page 88)

      I’ve noticed that ST communication regarding the LLE opening has shifted from Summer-Fall 2023 earlier this year to Fall 2023 more recently. Maybe there have been schedule slippages in the last month or two that’s not yet reflected in their Agency Progress Reports, but with positive float remaining at ~50-55 days for the last couple months, it seems that the other logical assumption is that ELSL resourcing is limiting LLE from opening on target for July.

      1. @TN,

        Ya, I noticed that too. LLE has been on target to open in Q3 2024, but now Timm has changed her statements to reflect LLE opening in “fall 2024”.

        To me that seems like maybe Balducci’s ELSL actually is delaying LLE by a few months. Because previously the commitment was to open LLE as soon as it was ready.

        This needs to be cleared up by Timm. What is her actual commitment here? And are the SnoCo electeds fully aware of this?

      2. Fall starts on September 22 in 2024. Q3 is (by most calendars) July through September.

        So, it sounds to me like ST is just pulling some CYA by conflating “Fall” and “Q3”, when they only have 9 days of overlap. If they deliver the July opening, then they’ve hit Q3. If they’re delayed 3 months and deliver in October, they’re still opening in Fall.

      3. Float isn’t the only issue in scheduling openings. ST also has to staff up and dedicate resources to the opening itself and shifting to operations. It says it needs six months between openings for this.

      4. @Mike

        Yes, I agree – given that LLE construction + pre-revenue testing (and presumably operators are on hand for that) is anticipated to complete in July (or earlier) and that ST requires 6 months between project openings, it seems likely that LLE is / will be delayed to Fall 2024 because of ELSL opening in Spring 2024.

      5. @Mike Orr,

        LLE has been trending towards a late July opening with over a month of float left in its construction schedule. Meaning it is very possible LLE could be ready to open in June.

        If it it true that there needs to be 6 months between openings, then a March opening of an ELSL will indeed delay LLE until at least late September of 2024, and potentially longer.

        LLE need to open when ready. Not be delayed by a low ridership ELSL. That needs to be the commitment from Timm.

      6. I agree Lazarus, opening LLE six months after a starter East Link line is unwise.

        I can live with Balducci thinking she needs a starter line to maintain credibility in a subarea that can certainly afford such a folly. But LLE should open before or at the same time as the starter line. If I represented SnoCo (and sometimes I wonder if anyone on the Board does, or Pierce) I would have never voted for an East Link starter line that is a toy opening 6 months before LLE. At least with LLE the concern is capacity. I don’t think anyone has that concern about the starter line (or East Link when it fully opens).

        The key was the starter line did not cost any other subarea money, and it would not delay any other ST project, nearly all of which are behind schedule already. If openings must be staggered 6 months then LLE should open first, then the starter line.

      7. All the agencies have converged on September as the primary service change each year, and March as a secondary one if needed. ST will try to stick with that as much as it can.

      8. I don’t think that 6 month window is a real constraint, just a preference among staff to make their jobs a little bit easier.

        When push comes to shove, I don’t think east Link will delay Lynnwood Link. The staff will find a way to make it work.

      9. On the Lynnwood Link Extension, what if the stations and tracks below 185th need extra time, but the stations and tracks above 185th are ready sooner, what about a Lynnwood Link Starter Line running just between Lynnwood City Center Station and Shoreline North/185th Station?

      10. @Sam — Very funny. Of course they wouldn’t. Downtown Bellevue is unusual, in that it is a “Tier 2” destination. It basically goes like this:

        Tier 1: Downtown Seattle
        Tier 2: UW and Downtown Bellevue
        Tier 3: Capitol Hill, Ballard, Uptown, Lynnwood, Federal Way, SeaTac, etc.

        Remember, ST is planning on building a new light rail line that exclusively stays on the East Side. Issaquah Link will have weaker stations than this “starter line”, and yet not continue across the water, ever. To deny the fact that Downtown Bellevue is at least a moderately important destination while simultaneously building something centered around Downtown Bellevue just doesn’t make any sense. I’m afraid it would have caused an existential crisis on the board.

  11. 6,000 daily riders?? I ‘ll be surprised if it breaks 2,000… The line is pretty useless without crossing the Lake and will only serve an isolated, minute group of people who live near downtown Bellevue (rich people) and work at Microsoft Main campus.

    I’m pretty sure the B-line will have higher ridership than the East Link Starter..

    1. EDIT: LA Metro’s Crenshaw line is barely breaking 2,000 daily riders because it also is not yet serving a major destination: LAX. Until the LAX Multimodal station is complete, the brand new line is useless. That should provide as an indicator to what the East Link Starter will be like.

      1. East Link Starter will serve two major destinations – Bellevue TC and Overlake TC – but is not yet connected to the rest of the network. Crenshaw is connected to the broader LA Metro rail network but does not yet serve to a major destination.

      2. Crenshaw doesn’t serve a district like Downtown Bellevue with many tall buildings and high daily parking garage rates.

        The “new” market for the starter line is that it will be cheaper to park at the huge South Bellevue garage and ride back and forth to Downtown Bellevue than park Downtown there. That’s on top of the traffic hassles to get to Downtown from the south.

        I suspect that this market will be 1,000-2,000 of the starter line riders since every space adds two trips per day.

    2. It may initially under preform the B-line because it is new and the B is well established, but once discovered it should out preform: they serve more-or-less the same corridor, but Link it be consistently faster & more reliable than the B. Link’s reliability should induce spontaneous midday trips in ways the B never could.

      Crossroads is a solid trip generator but it isn’t dramatically different than Redmond Overlake or downtown Bellevue (there is more than just office towners in both of those neighborhoods). Bellevue TC is the largest transfer node on the eastside; this line will be useful for people passing through Bellevue who neither work nor live downtown.

    1. I noticed that too.
      Frank et al, thank you so much for getting the issue resolved.
      I actually virtually stopped posting reply comments because of the issue. I have been lurking however. ;)

  12. ST could truncate Route 566 at BTC; it will duplicate the starter line between BTC and RTS; Stride1 is several years off.

    Metro could serve the stations in Bel-Red; in ELC, Route 226 misses the stations. Routes 226, 249, and 250 could be revised to serve Link stations. In ELC, the 130th Avenue NE station has no bus routes.

    1. I agree about 566. It is really a no-brainer, as it is very simple, easy to understand and easy to implement.

      In contrast, I don’t think it is worth changing the 226. The 226 still serves Bellevue Transit Center. So if you are coming from that direction, it doesn’t matter. If you are coming from farther east, then you could just transfer at Crossroads using the B-Line. I don’t think a connection with East Link Starter Line adds that much, while it would create some churn. You would be closing off bus stops, and moving a route that will change again in a few years (when everything gets restructured for the main East Link). It just doesn’t seem worth it.

  13. Well, I was wrong about the starter line. I figured that since it didn’t make much transit sense (to me), ST staff were opposed, Microsoft is WFH and it doesn’t go to Redmond, East Link is scheduled to fully open in 2025, and so much of the development along East Link stations is on pause, the starter line was not going to get approval.

    One thing I have learned is the Board basically defers to the member representing the subarea, especially if the subarea has the money (well even if the subarea does not have the money like WSBLE), it won’t cost any other subarea anything, and it won’t delay other projects. It means a board member has tremendous power over their subarea, like Harrell or Balducci, and there isn’t a lot of oversight by the rest of the Board on any of these decisions. It also means a lot of these decisions are political specifically related to the board member for the subarea. I think the starter line is opening at over $40 million because Balducci thinks it will help her reelection.

    One thing a starter line might do is accelerate Bellevue’s last mile access from the main station to Bellevue Way. I still think a simple shuttle straight up from the station to Bellevue Way would simplest, dropping folks off on 4th and Bellevue Way which is close enough, although 6th — 8th is the heart. (At some point a shuttle from NE 10th to Main will be necessary, especially after Freeman develops his property at NE 4th). The current Bel-Hop shuttle is too slow and serves too wide an area when much of that area today isn’t where anyone wants to take a shuttle to (and you can take East Link to Wilburton or The Spring Dist.).

    I would simply continue the 550 as the “bus bridge”. Everyone knows the route.
    I don’t think frequency needs to be improved based on current ridership, certainly across the lake. It would be too expensive for the subarea to add a separate 550(1) to the same route, and some areas might not want the additional buses. ST could consider truncating the 550 at S. Bellevue, but just like Issaquah objected to the 554 being truncated at S. Bellevue I think Bellevue would object, and maybe even Seattle since its riders would be required to get off the 550 to board East Link for two stops to the main station which is then a long hike from Bellevue Way. That could add 20 to 30 minutes to the trip if they have to hoof it up to Bellevue Way.

    There are not a lot of destinations along the starter line. Two large park and rides on each end, but not much in between. Folks could park at S. Bellevue to avoid parking fees (mostly only for work hours), and they did that pre-pandemic with the 550 and can do that today with the 550, but the number is very low today with WFH. I just don’t know why anyone would transfer from the 550 to East Link at S. Bellevue, unless I guess they are going to Wilburton or The Spring Dist. or maybe Overlake, but today those trips are mostly by car because of the free parking, and those are not very walkable areas. At the same time folks taking a bus from the Issaquah area park and rides to anywhere on the eastside won’t want a transfer.

    The reality is even when the full line opens ridership won’t increase that much. Redmond was estimated pre-pandemic to have 1300 boardings/day (I don’t know what boardings are for buses serving that area today). Microsoft so far shows little interest in-office work and WFH certainly has not hurt its stock price or revenue/profits, and pre-pandemic used its own shuttles since workers can work on those. Cross lake ridership on all buses is very weak, and the 554 will switch to Bellevue Way which will result in few transfers to East Link if folks on the 554 are going to Bellevue. Why would someone on the 554 add a transfer to East Link when the stop is farther away from your destination?

    East Link was always predicated on a huge cross lake ridership. MI alone was supposed to have up to 14,000 boardings from off-Island, but now those buses are being cut. Even if in-office work returns or recovers a bit I think a lot of it will go to Bellevue, not Seattle, for eastsiders, and at some point Amazon has to start moving SLU workers to its massive towers in Bellevue, and those will likely be eastsiders. So I see most ridership on East Link either coming from the west (which is not what Harrell wants) or intra-eastside with an extra transfer.

    1. Cross lake ridership is the primary justification for spending the billions to build the line in the first place, but operating a train line that’s already built is much cheaper than building it, so the ridership bar for such should be lower, accordingly.

      If however many riders the starter line would get would be enough justification to run a bus (which it is), it’s enough justification to run the train. Maybe it should be a one car train every 15 minutes rather than a two car train every 10 minutes, but it definitely should run.

    1. I-405 is getting the BRT Stride S-1 line.

      Light rail is often not the best solution to providing service along highway corridors. The highway itself wipes out much of the walkshed, so unless ridership is so high that buses are overcrowded there isn’t much benefit to rail. BRT, on the other hand, is much more cost effective since most of the infrastucture is already built. You just need to build the stations and paint a lane red.

    2. “A line running along I-405 is a no brainer but ST is corrupt!”

      Howdy! You must be new around these here parts.

      A line as you describe wasn’t what the eastside ‘powers that be’ wanted.
      There was a rail option, cheaper than BRT Stride S-1 line, with the same ridership projections. (save for the Totem Lake-Bothell segment)
      ST wasn’t the entity making that decision, though, so ST ‘corruption’ doesn’t quite work in this argument.

    3. It’s been studied before, i-405 from Lynnwood to Bellevue or Bellevue to Renton. However it isn’t really what people want. After Lynnwood has it’s rail connection to Seattle, honestly it’s good enough for most people. Same with Renton, they’d rather have a rail extension over to TIBS so they can reach Seattle and the Airport.

      Page 13 shows the potential i-405 rail plans.

      @Jim Cusick
      There were light rail analysis and commuter rail for Woodinville to Bellevue or Tukwila using the Eastside Rail Corridor.

      I don’t think there was ever serious consideration of building a trail track to Lynnwood given the lack of rights of way.

      1. What eastsiders want is a wider 405. The population growth, especially south along 167, and the lack of capacity on 18, simply oversubscribes 405 S (and the exits from I-90 east and west onto 405 N/S need to be redone). This demographic often needs to drive to work and can’t WFH or take transit to work. 405 N. has been expanded with HOT lanes and those have helped (as has the pandemic). There will be Stride 1 and 2 for those who can use it and it is along 405. There is just little interest for light rail on the eastside today, even for East Link that will go to downtown Seattle. Especially from Renton to Bellevue. Even Issaquah Link got priority over that route.

      2. The analysis in the link was post I-405 FEIS.
        Light Rail in the corridor wasn’t cost effective, because ridership numbers didn’t give a positive C/B result.

        However, there was a rail option in the study that didn’t make it to the Cost/Benefit stage.


        ST studied what it had left to study.
        (and yes, the missing ‘rail-link’ was the Totem Lake to Lynnwood segment)

      3. “What eastsiders want is a wider 405.”
        using Other Peoples Money.

        My reply is to bob mcG, since he seemed to feel that somehow ST was corrupt for not planning a rail line in the corridor. One of the options was taken off the table early in the process.

      4. ““What eastsiders want is a wider 405.”
        using Other Peoples Money.”

        Jim, I think you will find the eastside pays a fortune in taxes to the state, county, ST, Metro, local cities, you name it. I have stated many times I would have no problem with 100% subarea tax equity in which all tax revenue raised in E KC is spent in E KC, and we are responsible for the costs of our projects and other subareas around the state are responsible for their’s. As you know, I have long advocated for bifurcating King Co. for this reason. Then we could have even more Issaquah Links.

        Over 90% of all trips on the eastside are by car or truck, so it is hardly surprising eastsiders want priority for roads and freeways. 405 is our main N/S artery. It isn’t like we will be lining up for the East Link starter line, and we don’t even ride the 554 or 550 or 216-18 today.

        It IS our money.

      5. I would have no problem with widening I-405, and paying the taxes associated,..
        If I could have voted on that tax plan.

      6. A vote on widening 405 on the eastside (assuming you live on the eastside) would pass overwhelmingly. I wish we could revote over ST 2 and 3 now that we know the false assumptions in the past levies. But with subarea equity it just means E KC has too much ST revenue and so has some stupid ways to spend it. Or we on the eastside could vote on Metro taxes and levels of service. Do you think widening 405 or Metro would get a higher vote? We don’t score very high in Metro’s equity index (although for some strange reason Metro is testing micro-transit in Sammamish).

        Every city has a road improvement plan (program, or TIP) since they pay for their own roads. https://mrsc.org/explore-topics/public-works/finance/local-improvement-districts. Including MI. (Unincorporated King Co. is its own program). Zero citizen objections to road overlays and maintenance (not many new roads needed on MI today but they do need to be maintained, and sometimes reconfigured). Plus most eastside cities like Seattle take advantage of a state law that allows up to $40 per vehicle in annual fees for local roads without a vote. We like it because it is one of the few taxes in which 100% goes to MI. We do $20/vehicle/year, which raises $375,000/yr. compared to the obscene amounts spend on Link.

        WSDOT does the highways. With our money. And we pay for highways across the state. And schools under McCleary.

        Look, I rarely drive anymore. I try as best I can to avoid 405 S. Widening 405 won’t personally benefit me, but it is necessary for the region. This idea that limiting highway lanes gets folks out of their cars and trucks and onto transit is just stupid. Transit ridership on the eastside is down 50%. It has nothing to do with road capacity.

        We need buses too, but a lot less of them today. If driving on the eastside was down 50% I would probably be arguing widening 405 is not necessary. But it isn’t down, and widening 405 S. has been a goal for over a decade while population has boomed in that area.

      7. “A vote on widening 405 on the eastside (assuming you live on the eastside) would pass overwhelmingly. “
        I applaud your positive attitude.
        I can’t vote on it, and you wouldn’t want me to, I would vote NO.

        That was the conundrum of the Roads and Transit measure in 2007. It was hard to discern why it failed. Roads? Transit? Who was the culprit?
        I wished they would have put a Roads ballot measure out there.

      8. People for I-405 widening “Just one more lane bro, that’ll fix the problem. Wait why is the road still congested after spending billions to widen it.”

        And said people wonder there’s apathy towards highway widening projects.

      9. “People for I-405 widening “Just one more lane bro, that’ll fix the problem. Wait why is the road still congested after spending billions to widen it.”

        “And said people wonder there’s apathy towards highway widening projects”.

        Zach, who said there is apathy toward widening 405? It has been the major transportation project (after rebuilding 520) on the eastside for nearly 20 years. Not surprisingly it began from Bellevue to Bothell, then through downtown Bellevue, and now finally is moving south where the lanes sometimes narrow to two and finally the interchanges with I-90 will be addressed.

        If there is apathy on the eastside it is toward East Link, and really all transit, because so many no longer have to commute to work.

        Yes, additional lanes create additional capacity. It is called population growth, and a demographic that works with tools. That is the point. It is why sometimes we need to build additional capacity for transit too, although I think the “induced demand” arguments for both are bunk if transit ridership is down 50% after massive spending on transit and transit priority. We widened I-90 to four lanes and removed some bottlenecks and capacity increased dramatically, and then the pandemic reduced use.
        Unfortunately, 405 serves a greater population south of 167 than I-90 through its congestion point until Factoria, and that demographic can’t WFH as easily.

        Transit advocates have to give up this dream that restricting parking and lanes will shift folks from driving to transit so transit can be crummy and still compete. Make transit great again.

        If 90%+ trips are by car you can rest assured making sure those trips have as little congestion as possible does not create apathy among eastsiders. East Link announces a starter line and there is barely a mention on the eastside except some derision; 405 or 520 are closed for repairs and the eastside goes ballistic but understands, much more reasonable than the complaints by Link riders about waiting a few more minutes for Link in Seattle for repairs. Transit riders are very demanding for someone getting a 60% to 80% subsidy on their ride, if they pay a fare at all.

  14. I think it’s important to note that testing is not completed on either the Eastside starter line nor Lynnwood Link. The opening dates can easily slide.

    Hilltop T-Link was well over a year in delays. How many opening days have been proposed?

    Northgate Link opened a month late — and that happened within a few months of the scheduled opening date.

    Other systems — BART, Muni, WMATA — have had recent delays with opening dates later than promised when they were nearing completion.

    It’s just one more reason why having savvy operations management is so essential to running a rail transit systems. They often need to make adjustments very quickly.

    1. Al, East Link was supposed to open in 2021, then 2023. Surely the non-bridge parts of East Link are ready.

      1. I would think so too, DT. However the bus stop on Rainier is still closed off and there is still a fence on the sidewalk. Unless it’s sort of a liability insurance thing, I don’t know why. Opening that stop would benefit riders of Routes 7 and 106. The southbound stop will even have a queue jump to get ahead of traffic once it’s finally opened.

      2. East Link to Bellevue was originally scheduled to be in revenue service in 2020 actually. Service to Overlake was 2021.

      3. What I recall is one phase to Overlake TC (now called Redmond Technology Center), and a second phase to downtown Redmond, the same as now. Where it says “to Bellevue and on to Overlake TC” I think that’s one phase, not two. It doesn’t give different years in them, unlike with the northward expansion.

      4. Sorry, Mike, and not to beat a dead horse here, but that’s not correct. The original plan as submitted for the 2008 measure included two projects for East Link, E1 and E2. The target dates were 2020 and 2021 respectively. (The Link extension to DT Redmond is a whole separate deal.)

        E1: “Construct an East Link project from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue and Overlake Hospital via I-90. East Link would connect to Central Link at the International District Station in Seattle and provide stations on I-90 at Rainier Avenue and Mercer Island. In Bellevue, this segment of East Link would have three to four stations which would serve a regional park-and-ride, downtown Bellevue, and Overlake Hospital.”

        E2: “Continue the East Link project from east of downtown Bellevue to the Overlake Transit Center with a connection to a light rail vehicle maintenance facility. This segment of East Link would have three stations which would serve the Bellevue-Redmond Road corridor, the Overlake Station neighborhood, and the Overlake Transit Center.”

        If you look at Martin’s piece from the STB archive, this is clearly indicated on the map he included in that post.

  15. Can anyone think of any potential problems the East Link Starter Line might encounter? I don’t mean ridership-wise, I mean operationally. Potential hotspots for Link/car or pedestrian accidents? Something else? I think the section near Bellefield is vulnerable to a windstorm. Lot’s of tall, old trees near the catenary. I’d also like to know if they have done tests simulating fully-loaded trains? Didn’t the failure to conduct that kind of test lead to the Apple Cup fiasco? (And yes, I know that no ELSL train will ever be overloaded).

    1. Yes, I believe they load the train with weight (using a bunch of water judges, IIRC) to simulate a fully loaded train. Though the initial operation will be 2-car trains, they will test 4-car fully loaded.

      The Bel-Red segment may have teething issues with the at-grade crossings, if drivers/pedestrians are surprised by the appearance of trains and the signage/sight lines are not adequate.

    2. I see that the NE 20th Street grade crossing as the riskiest crossing by far. The other grade crossings are in places where people or drivers can see trains in time, but that one is a faster stroad and I can see how distracted drivers can get hit or even slam into a train.

      My other concern is some of the crossings that riders must do to get to platforms. When riders see trains approaching their instinct is to hurry and they may run in front of a train in the haste. ST has built crossing gates to minimize this but it still may happen.

      1. I expect that Sound Transit and Bellevue will regret making the NE 20th crossing at grade. The track already starts elevating shortly after the crossing and the relatively small amount of money that was saved by making the cross at grade will easily be nullified by a small number of collisions.

      2. A follow-up: After walking the area two years ago, I must say I don’t get why 130th station is placed where it is. It’s very close to 120th. Having closer to 20th St would have made more sense to me. I’m thinking this was a political decision rather than one for the riders.

      3. That’s basically the plan for the Spring District https://www.agmrealestate.com/thespringreport

        > In December 2007, Seattle-based real estate developer Wright Runstad unveiled plans for a transit-oriented urban village named the “Spring District” to be located in the Bel-Red industrial area.
        > A master plan for the Spring District was unveiled by NBBJ in 2008,] taking inspiration from the Pearl District in Portland Oregon, and was approved by the City of Bellevue in 2012.

        I guess in their defense, they did actually execute on building it, which is more than what I can say about Seattle’s basically nonexistent upzoning around 130th St.

        Also yeah it’s close, but still ~3000 feet away or around same distance from Westlake to Pioneer Square. Maybe one day when Eastside is denser perhaps they can add an infill station around east of 140th Ave

      4. @Al S., Re. 130th location, think back to 2008, maybe even look at the East Link DEIS and the ST2 Plan. The Spring District station was not included in the voter approved plan. The political decision was adding it at the behest of developers. (See: Wright Runstad). 130th is where it was always supposed to be: between Wilburton and Overlake.

  16. I’m looking forward to never taking the slow, unreliable B to Downtown Bellevue ever again.

    If only Link went to Crossroads…

  17. “It was seriously hard work to assess and then remove the barriers to accelerate opening of light rail on the Eastside by spring 2024, and there were many moments where it looked like this would be an impossible task in the time available to us.”

    Note “accelerate”. How does Julie Timm get away with makin that statement unchallenged? East Link was supposed to open next month, September, 2023.

    1. Actually, as Tisgwm pointed out, East Link was supposed to open to downtown Bellevue in 2020 and Overlake in 2021. Some delay was due to Bellevue rerouting East Link, and a little for the short tunnel, but all the rest of the delays were due to the bridge, from special hinges to post tensioning to guy wires and so on, and today to plinths which have nothing to do with the route the starter line is taking.

      My guess is ST just figured it would open all at once when the last piece was done so why rush the other parts, not expecting the plinth issue, except that the Board knew about the plinth issue SINCE 2019. ST just finished the roundabout on MI. ST staff objected to opening the starter line when Balducci first raised it in her editorial in The Seattle Times, and probably figured that was the end of it so why hurry if the plinth issue won’t be resolved until 2025 or later.

      At the same time, during and after the pandemic, eastsiders have not been demanding East Link open, and ridership on the 550 which mirrors the most important part of East Link is way down and the park and rides empty. On the news the other day it was noted ST received 30 letters or emails asking that the starter line open early, and my guess is most are developers or transit organizations. The one woman from Redmond Connects talked about how important it is that the starter line connect Redmond and downtown Bellevue, except the starter line does not connect downtown Redmond to anything as that is part of ST 3.

    2. and in other news:

      I-405 widening was scheduled (according to the FEIS cost/benefit analysis) to be finished in … oh,… around 2012.

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