British Columbia has adopted robust zoning minimums around transit stations, as presented by Reece Martin of RMTransit. Currently Skytrain stations have a few highrises surrounded immediately by single-family houses. The new provincial law allows:

  • 20 story buildings within 200 meters of stations (657 feet)
  • 12 story buildings within 400 meters (1313 feet, or a quarter mile)
  • 8 story buildings within 800 meters (2624 feet, or a half mile)

Bus exchanges (transit centers) will allow 6-12 stories within 200 meters, and 4-8 within 400 meters, depending on the size of the exchange. There will be no parking minimums within these train or bus walksheds.

“Over time in metro Vancouver, not only will a lot of people be living near stations, but a lot of their destinations will also be relocated to stations where a lot of people are. All this is going to funnel way more people onto TransLink services, especially buses, thanks to the lack of parking minimums and the fact that bus exchanges are included.”

Let’s play “Apply it in Washington”. Come on, Kirkland, it will be fun! Each entry names a potential rail/BRT station, and describes the maximum 20 stories for 2-3 blocks around it, 12 stories for 5 blocks, and 8 stories for 10 blocks. Or for bus-only transit centers, 12 stories within 5 blocks, and 8 stories within 10 blocks. No parking minimum in that area. FAR can be whatever you think is best.

This is an open thread.

230 Replies to “Open Thread 25: Vancouver Upzones”

  1. You can view a map here:

    (Assuming the map is correct) there’s only a handful of bus exchanges that qualify so it’s still mainly a skytrain upzoning.

    Also I am kind of surprised how low the floor area ratios are.

    The proposed legislation has it at
    * 8 stories has 3 FAR
    * 12 stories has 4 FAR
    * 20 stories has only 5 FAR

    For comparison selecting a random Seattle’s station overlays has
    * 8 stories at 5.75/6.25
    * 12 stories around 7 FAR

    Far limits of 3 are just at 30 feet and 4 is at 40 feet aka a 3 or 4 story building. While FAR of 5 is for 55 feet or just 4/5 stories. I don’t quite understanding having 20 stories with just 5 FAR.

    Granted I am comparing two different laws across differing cities not in the same country so perhaps I’m overcounting Seattle’s FAR with setbacks or undercounting Vancouver’s.

    1. Anyways regardless would hope Seattle follows Vancouver and upzones the existing and future Link stations more. I guess we’ll see how the council fares with the new zoning plan

    2. “I don’t quite understanding having 20 stories with just 5 FAR.”

      It may have to do with Vancouver’s tradition of skinny tall buildings. That has been praised with bringing sunlight to the ground. It has also been criticized for having few units per floor after subtracting out space for the elevator and stairs. A common model is a wide base for the first few stories, then narrow above that.

      1. Yes, I think that’s right, Mike. Vancouverites want a view and the “skinny buildings” give everyone above the third floor or thereabouts one. They don’t want to be Manhattan.

      2. For midrise this is still very limiting, and wood construction is both more cost effective and lower embedded carbon. I’d much rather have 5+1 or 5+2 buildings that use nearly all the full lot (i.e FAR of 5~6) and feel like a Cap Hill or the new construction in LQA than a bunch of 8~12 story steel & concrete buildings that leave half of each lot as open space (aka parking).

        This Vancouver vision looks more like the Hotel Interurban in Southcenter and less like the Insignia in Belltown. Remove the two residential towers and Insignia probably right at 5 FAR. With the towers I’d guess more than 10 FAR?

      3. AJ,

        If costs were equal, to maximize sunlight I’d love to have 100% lot coverage on the 1st level and then a skinny tower above that, also steel/concrete has better sound insulation which sucks in woodframe. But costs aren’t equal and a woodframe is always cheaper, so that is often what pencils, and that’s OK. Obviously, even better would be a higher FAR so there could be a high lot coverage podium+tower, like the Denny Triangle towers.

      4. I agree. Immediately adjacent to most stations I’d like podium+tower, or FAR of 8~12, and then Midrise blocks within the 10 minute walkshed (5~6 FAR) to deliver cost effective woodframe development, and then lowrise blocks everywhere else (3~4 FAR) to deliver missing middle.

        Lowrise missing middle is the most cost effective when scaled across a large urban area (see Chicago, Montreal, etc.), but the higher density of midrise development is better at supporting high quality transit.

      5. John Smith, what you advocate is exactly what the Vancouver buildings do. The pedestal is a bit higher at three or four stories because views are impossible at that height anyway, and some people are willing to live without one for less money. It’s also useful for street-level retail and parking.

    3. They’re shooting themselves in the foot by building with such low FAR’s near SkyTrain Stations. It might seem dense but the lack of density will hurt SkyTrain stations in the long run. It’s weird to go so far as to allow highrises near all SkyTrain stations but not make the FAR high enough to actually build the necessary amount of housing. As you said if Seattle did this it might mean a downzone. FAR should always be unlimited and if regulations are necessary, regulate through other ways than literal density limits

      1. I’m guessing these rules are minimums, so if a city already allows greater density there is no impact?

    4. The law is intended to produce density like the existing highrises and midrises, so if FAR is out of date, maybe the province will adjust it. Or the skinny towers may make up for it, or there’s something else we don’t understand. BC has been so pro-active with transit and density and middle housing and ADUs everywhere over the decades, that I don’t think they’d let a technicality like FAR slash their vision in half.

    5. Yeah the low FAR is notable. I think Vancouver is still chasing the Ville Radieuse concepts of Le Corbusier. Of course the concept is more attractive in colder climates (which is something Canada contemplates culturally more than the US does) as living in a tall building with a distant view is more acceptable.

      Once an apartment dweller is above floor 3, would they prefer to rent in a 7 story building with a 140 foot view or in a 20 story building with a 400 foot view?

      1. To be fair looking more closely it seems it’s just the minimum far that the city must allow, so it could maybe go higher though still 5 far for 20 stories seems like a laughable minimum (assuming the comparison to usa far holds)

      2. “would they prefer to rent in a 7 story building with a 140 foot view or in a 20 story building with a 400 foot view?”

        A lot of people just want something. They may prefer a 7-story or 20-story building but aren’t particular about the floor; they’ll take whatever’s available, and they don’t need a fancy view.

      3. Most people want something affordable, which means lowrise. Outside of NYC level rental markets, towers with a view are either luxury apartments or highly subsizied social housing.

      4. Most people want something affordable, which means lowrise. Outside of NYC level rental markets, towers with a view are either luxury apartments or highly subsidized social housing.

        Agreed. That is why the key is to build lots and lots of low-rises. Montreal, not Vancouver.

    6. I find the 8 stories @ 3 FAR for ~1/2 mile most interesting. As commented elsewhere, the Le Corbusier-ian 12 stories @ 4 FAR and 20 stories @ 5 FAR isn’t good urbanism, but at a 10~15 minute away from a rail station, a lowrise built form is more acceptable. An FAR of 3 allows for most missing-middling housing types, and the 8 story height allows for developers to provide yards and parking and still maximize the FAR. A 4 story, 8 unit apartment building would need to leave 1/4 of the lot open, which seems reasonable for a yard and some surface parking in a lowrise neighborhood where the mode-share is probably still 30~50% driving if the closest rail station is >400 meters away, but it still a clear set-up in density from what are likely neighborhoods full of 2~3 story detached SF homes (i.e. FARs of ~1)

    7. Thanks for the map, WL. That was my first question. I get why Reece thinks this is a big deal, but I disagree. It is still the same model. This has been called “The Grand Bargain”(interestingly enough, specifically about Vancouver), “The Trickle or the Fire Hose”, or “Urban Villages” (for Seattle). In all cases, the plan is basically the same — have little islands of growth, while the vast majority of the city stays the same. At least in terms of population density.

      Of course they don’t stay the same. Anyone who lives in Seattle knows that many houses have been destroyed in Seattle, most in neighborhoods zoned exclusively for houses. It is just that the old houses have been replaced by new houses (not apartments).

      I understand why Reece is excited, but calling it a model for Canada, let alone North America is absurd. Minnesota, Portland (and more recently Spokane) are much closer to models other cities should adapt. Reece also ignores the fact that while SkyTrain is a very successful system, the buses carry way more riders. I don’t think zoning should be based on transit, but if it were, I would base it on *all* transit. If there is a bus stop in the area, allow zoning similar to what dominates Montreal: high-density, low-rise apartments. Even arguing that it should be “frequent transit” misses the point. The reason it is infrequent is because there aren’t enough people. Allow more growth and there will be.

      Throw in the concerns about FAR, and you have basically doubled down on the same approach, but with a bit more density in those tiny islands, and maybe a nicer aesthetic. More of a rounded skyline. I suppose that is better, but it certainly doesn’t address the main problem that folks have complained about for years now (in Vancouver as well as other cities).

      1. Posters here kick around the “urban village” a lot but these happen not only because of zoning, but mostly because of the market forces. The market points to jamming lots and lots of people into big apartment buildings on Capitol Hill because people will pay top dollar to live there. That same big apartment building is worth way, way less in Northgate. Development happens because of profit… not zoning, not urban planning or transit spending. It’s a free market after all. There’s a lot of wealthy folks who love Capitol Hill. White Center (a.k.a Rat City)…. not so much.

        This is why housing in Seattle (or Vancouver) is unlikely to be more affordable in the near future. As long as builders stay slightly behind demand, they maximize profit. Why on earth would anybody build 12 units for the same profit as 8 units? Developers will never lower return on investment.

        Right now the entire USA has a “housing shortage”. How could anyone look at that “problem” and not believe that investors, developers, construction companies, REITs and lenders didn’t just plan this “emergency” to make money? The “housing shortage” is only a problem for renters and would be home buyers after all. Everybody else gets paid handsomely.

        Using zoning to change the housing market is a bit like play chess against a Grand Master. So far the greater U.S. housing industry has proven way better players than the urban planners. In the end, it’s all about money.

      2. “Posters here kick around the “urban village” a lot but these happen not only because of zoning, but mostly because of the market forces. The market points to jamming lots and lots of people into big apartment buildings on Capitol Hill because people will pay top dollar to live there. That same big apartment building is worth way, way less in Northgate. Development happens because of profit… not zoning, not urban planning or transit spending. It’s a free market after all. There’s a lot of wealthy folks who love Capitol Hill. White Center (a.k.a Rat City)…. not so much.”

        People pay top dollar for scarcity. Seattle has a lot fewer options for walkable areas with a good variety of retail and services than Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, or DC. Chicago’s North Side has an entire 2×2 mile walkable area like southwest Capitol Hill, so you can live anywhere in that to get the advantages. San Francisco and Vancouver have streets that keep going a long way with lots of retail and multifamily/rowhouse housing opportunities. DC AND ITS SUBURBS have embraced substantial TOD at a lot of metro stations, not just a couple buildings.

        Seattle in contrast has small urban villages that go a short distance and end, so it’s a lot harder for somebody to find a place in one. And developers are very limited in where they’re allowed to build multifamily or mixed use. Small developer/buildings can’t compete with large developers for those limited parcels, so small developers get squeezed out.

        Many more people want to live in walkable neighborhoods than there are units for them. We can either extend the villages up or out or plant more of them. Several commentators have suggested doubling the size of villages and allowing 8 stories in that space, or allowing it in the entire city. Either of those would be better than the current situation, and would be more like Chicago or Toronto, which are hardly the pit of hell and have lower housing prices than we do.

        Some people want only a top-three prestigious neighborhood, or want to live near a unique thing like the Space Needle or UW or Pike Place Market. Those are the ones who crowd specifically into those neighborhoods. People who want a spectacular view are similar. Then there are people who just want a convenient life: walkable, variety of destinations, good transit service. They’re equally content with Capitol Hill as anything similar. Just as I can go outside to look at the Space Needle, they can take a bus to Capitol Hill when they want those unique things — but they still want a supermarket, library, gym, park, medical clinic, bookstore, etc in their own neighborhood.

        “Why on earth would anybody build 12 units for the same profit as 8 units?”

        Because they get 50% more profit. Those additional units don’t rent/sell for zero, and they don’t substantially reduce the price of the other units. It would take a gigantic wave of additional units and a couple decades to substantially change the cost curve. That’s why we shouldn’t have allowed the price imbalance to get so bad in the first place. It took twenty years to dig the hole; it may take twenty years to get out of it. But we must start.

        And we have started. Seattle is more yimby than it was in 2000. But we’re still far behind what a normal city our size would be. That’s what’s contributing to high housing prices, low convenience for residents, high vehicle miles traveled, and a mediocre environmental record.

        “Right now the entire USA has a “housing shortage”. How could anyone look at that “problem” and not believe that investors, developers, construction companies, REITs and lenders didn’t just plan this “emergency” to make money? The “housing shortage” is only a problem for renters and would be home buyers after all.”

        Renters and would-be home buyers are citizens too. Government policies should support them as much as existing homeowners, if not more. This “emergency” is far bigger than anything developers along could conspire to. It’s eighty years of zoning, making cities better for cars than for people, greenfield subsidies, redlining, deferring to people who want to cut the rug out behind them, etc.

  2. Added a game in the article to apply BC’s heights to Washington.

    I spy with my little eye something that begins with C… Capitol Hill Station.

    Broadway & John would be raised from 7 to 20 stories to Harrison Street, Denny Way, Boyleston Ave, and 12th. Seattle Central would remain as is pending assessing its future education needs, but bye bye its garage. Cal Anderson Park would remain as is. Sorry, mansions east of the park; maybe we can keep one or two of you.

    The second tier would rise from a mixture of 1-7 story to 12 stories, going north to Roy Street, east to 15th, south to Union Street, and west to Bellevue Avenue.

    The third tier would rise from single-family in some areas to 8 stories, north to Galer Street (St Mark’s), east to 20th, south to Columbia Street (Swedish), and west to 9th & Stewart. Hospitals and schools would remain as is, and the St Mark’s cathedral/bishophric/academy buildings may deserve historic preservation. I-5 is unbuildable. We can imagine a future lid, but building heights above the lid would be short because of the gap below.

    1. The potential upzone from applying these BC provincial rules is a lot less significant from an Floor Area Ratio (FAR) perspective than a height one, though. And FAR is ultimately the clearest expression of the overall building bulk & density.

      The Neighborhood Commercial 75 zoning along Broadway, Olive, Pike/Pine and 12th Ave has an FAR of 5.5–above the minimum 5 FAR for the 20 story zones in the BC rules. Midrise zoning comprises the rest of Capitol Hill west of Broadway & south of Mercer St, plus the areas close (~400-600 meters) to light rail east of Broadway, and it has an FAR of 4.5. These FARs are similar to the tier 1 (200 m) and tier 2 (400 m) levels.

      It’s really only Lowrise 3 zones, which includes the residential multifamily areas east of 12th Ave, northeast of roughly Broadway Hill Park, and north of Mercer St, that would see a major upzone with the BC rules. LR 3 has an FAR of 1.8 and 40 ft height limit, and most of those zones in Capitol Hill would be raised to an FAR of 3 and 80 ft height limit.

      Also not sure how you’re measuring distances. 800 meters from Capitol Hill station extends north to the south edge of Volunteer Park and east to 16th Ave, roughly encompassing the extent of the Capitol Hill Urban Center boundaries.

      It’s arguable if having higher heights with the same FAR would be better. It’s certainly better for renters in the new buildings who get better views and light, though towers are more expensive to construct than midrises. But from a pure housing density near transit perspective, it’s the FAR that matters.

      1. FAR seems like complicated trickery; I don’t think we should base our estimates on that. What I understand is stories and windows, and multiplying to get the number of units. We have our buildings, and we have Vancouver’s skinnier buildings, and it seems reasonable to assume our FARs can be ours scaled up, or maybe between ours and Vancouvers. This is all imaginary anyway, since our governments are far from approving it. What’s worthwhile is seeing what we’re giving up by not having it, in walkable housing, the ability to support a larger population, and a better economy.

      2. FAR still translates well to stories and windows. FAR of 4 is a 4 story building that fills up the full lot, 6 story building using 3/4 of the lot, or an 8 story building that uses half the lot.

        In a neighborhood like Cap Hill, there are minimal set backs, so the FAR effectively is the height – a typical building probably is 1 story higher than the FAR, as some lot space will be left open for entry plaza, access to loading docks,, etc. In a more suburban neighborhood, buildings will be higher for a given FAR as there is more value is setting aside space for surface parking or semi-public space.

    2. Not sure how long it’s been since you last walked down 11th, but there are certainly no mansions east of Cal Anderson anymore – it’s all apartments and townhouses now, plus a couple of churches.

      1. Within the last two years, but I’ll look again. These are fancy 1905-era mansions so I doubt they’d be torn down. Somewhere around 10th or 11th or Federal. The first time I saw some particularly beautiful ones, then I went to see them again but couldn’t find the particular ones, but they were still mansions. It’s a pocket of low density, not the entire streets.

    3. And when the dust settles, nothing much has changed (other than the aesthetics). You’ve added only a tiny bit of new housing. As a result, housing in the city (or even in Capitol Hill) is still really expensive. Transit ridership hasn’t increased much, simply because very few additional units were added. The vast majority of people who take transit still take the bus. The buses aren’t more frequent, because ridership hasn’t increased much, and the overall population hasn’t increased much either.

      It is the wrong model. We know that ( What we need is to change things on a more widespread basis. The problem isn’t that our tiny islands of density are too short, it is that there are tiny islands in the first place. Change the whole city to low-rise and everything changes. Density increases everywhere — West Seattle, Magnolia, you name it. Housing costs go down, and with it, homelessness. Transit ridership increases simply because there are more people (not because we’ve tried to cram them all in one place). With an increase in the number of people in the city, and higher transit ridership, the buses (and maybe even the trains) run more often.

      This is what we need.

      1. Well, since 1990, the population of Seattle grew from around 520,000 people to a current population of 750,000 people. Seattle has had one of the biggest construction booms in the USA since the 1960s in the last 30 years. All of this building did absolutely nothing to help affordability. More construction, more density is going to help either.

        As long as the demand of housing is sky high in Seattle…. as long as the population is growing 1% — 2% a year…. as long as Seattle is the overflow city for rich people escaping California… housing prices continue to rise. It’s a free market after all!

      2. ” All of this building did absolutely nothing to help affordability”

        So if Seattle had been aggressively anti-housing in prior decades and blocked new development, you think rents and prices would be the same as they are today?

      3. @AJ,

        “ So if Seattle had been aggressively anti-housing in prior decades and blocked new development, you think rents and prices would be the same as they are today?”

        Exactly. People may whine that all this construction didn’t result in “cheap” housing, but it would certainly be even less “cheap” if this construction hadn’t occurred at all.

        But to see the transformative power of LR on housing, just take a stroll around the U-Dist, Roosevelt, or even North City neighborhoods. There is a lot more housing coming on-line in the next few years.

        North City is particularly impressive. There is a massive apartment building under construction immediately adjacent to the 185th St Station, another about to start construction across the street, and another massive apartment under construction in NC proper on 15th.

        Additionally there is a townhouse development starting soon that will replace 7 SFHs with 47 new townhouses. And these townhouses will be affordable priced in the $700,000 to $900,000 range. That is pretty good for new construction.

        Now if the state would only change the condo laws so that market could takeoff too…..

      4. People may whine that all this construction didn’t result in “cheap” housing, but it would certainly be even less “cheap” if this construction hadn’t occurred at all.

        Exactly. It is supply and demand. Demand increased by a huge amount. Supply simply couldn’t keep up. A lot of places were added, but because of zoning (and other regulations) there was not enough supply to keep pace with demand. It would be even worse if they didn’t allow the housing they did. Hopefully they will make changes (similar to ones being made in other parts of the country, including Spokane) that will allow supply to keep up with demand.

        But to see the transformative power of LR on housing, just take a stroll around the U-Dist, Roosevelt, or even North City neighborhoods.

        It is hard to say how much impact Link has on development. U-District and Roosevelt are no different than Greenwood, Fremont, Ballard, South Lake Union or any of the neighborhoods that have seen tremendous growth over the last decade or two. It is all about the zoning (and high city-wide demand). They drew little circles, and said “add housing here”, and sure enough, that is where they added housing. In some cases (like Roosevelt) the best you can say is that without light rail, they wouldn’t have changed the zoning. Then again, they didn’t change the zoning nearly enough, given demand. There are places that are an easy walk to Link ( and not that far of a walk to the UW that are zoned single-family. Like so many places, the zoning tends to put the growth close to busy streets (like the freeway in this case).

        Hard to say if North City is really an exception. Various parts of Aurora have seen similar growth. You could also credit transit for that, but again, I’m skeptical. Look at Totem Lake. It is not particularly good when it comes to transit, and yet they added a bunch of apartments there anyway. Mostly it is just one of the few places they allow apartments (on the East Side).

        Back to Seattle, Ballard has grown as much as any neighborhood in the state. Lake City is one of those exceptions — areas that haven’t grown that much, despite being zoned for growth. I think the transit is better in Lake City than Ballard. But Ballard just has a lot more charm.

        I’m sure transit effects demand to some degree (just like other civic improvements) but my guess around here, the effect is tiny. The only thing it does is change the way the politicians view the zoning for that neighborhood.

  3. Reece didn’t mention TransLink’s big BRT plans, starting with a north-south line in Surrey.

    “Moreover, in order to meet TransLink’s BRT standard of providing fully physically separated bus-only lanes, City staff are proposing to blow off the dust of some of the plans of the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT project.” The sketches I’ve seen in the past few years have center transit lanes and limited stops in a boulevard like Aurora or Pacific Highway.

    1. Reading the related article, it seems pretty pertinent how important city boundaries are for getting transit projects off the ground

      > In a report to City Council, City staff painted a picture that King George Boulevard BRT is the easiest route for TransLink to implement and holds the highest ridership potential.

      > Firstly, TransLink would only have to coordinate with the City of Surrey to achieve BRT on King George Boulevard, as this is the **only proposed BRT corridor within a single municipal jurisdiction**. One other BRT corridor goes through two municipal jurisdictions, while seven other corridors run through three to five jurisdictions.


      It’d be center transit lanes. Most like mlk way with link, but with a busway instead aka Current configuration has 5 travel lanes and 1 turning lane for 6 total, will be changed to 4 travel lanes ( 2 in each direction) and 2 bus lanes (assumed the stations will need street expansion).

      1. Has any place looked at doing low cost center running BRT, by that I mean not relocating utilities, not repaving the street… just placing those rubber bus stop islands, applying street markings and tweaking traffic lights? I fail to see why real BRT needs to cost $200M when it’s all really basic stuff.

      2. Great question. Part of the problem is that there is little incentive to do so. Consider the Van Ness project. In theory it is just as simple as you suggest. But the road probably does need to be hardened, so now you are doing extra paving. Meanwhile, the utilities run in the middle of the street. Every time you need to do work there, that would mean disrupting the buses. So they decide to move the utilities (which benefits the city, since moving means upgrading). The feds chip in, and that’s that.

        I’m not sure why they couldn’t have just left the utilities alone. Sure, the buses would have to move when they needed to do underground work, but that was the case before. If anything, having center lanes is way more flexible, in that if you need to work in the middle, you just use the outside lanes (and make them BAT lanes) until the work is done.

        It goes back to the fact that people like new projects. New bike lanes, bus lanes, sidewalks, you name it. The government will often pitch in. Meanwhile, maintenance on things like sewers is not especially popular. There is no ribbon cutting to just tear up the street and replace the aging infrastructure. Quite the opposite — people complain. So they combine the two. New sidewalks everyone! (and we’ll fix the old storm drains). Bike Lanes! (ditto).

  4. I spy… Northgate Station. The recent upzone allows 25 stories only on the mall lot. The mall plans to use only three or four of them, or maybe seven in the residential towers. South of the mall are a few 1970s office buidings, maybe 8-12 stories. Everything else is lower than that. So, we wave our magic wand at 102nd & 1st Ave NE, and…

    Simon Malls decides to build up to the existing 25-story limit, which is five higher than Vancouver’s. The surrounding 20-story blocks extends to just Thornton Place and the office buildings. The west side is blocked by I-5 and the college.

    The 12-story zone wraps around the south side of the mall, south to 92nd, east to 5th Ave NE, west to College Way. Not much change here because the office buildings are close to that and the college is a college. Some opportunity on 5th Ave NE.

    The 8-story zone extends north to 112th (the Northgate North complex), east to Roosevelt, south to 92nd (the street crossing I-5, and west to Stone Avenue N (three blocks east of Aurora). Why not extend it to Aurora.

  5. I spy… Lynnwood Station. It’s currently one-story big-box stores. Lynnwood has some kind of big downtown upzone in place, but probably not as much as Vancouver. The Link station is just west of I-5 at 201st & 46th; we’ll call it 200th St SW.

    The 20-story zone is north to 199th, south to 203rd, west to 48th, east to 48nd. That’s pretty much just the transit center and the superblock west of it.

    The 12-story zone is north to 196th, east to 41st, south to 205th, and west to 50th. 196th is the big east-west street. The southern and western walksheds are Scriber Lake Park; the eastern walkshed is I-5.

    The 8-story zone is north to 191st, south to 211th, east to 36th (a block west of Poplar Way), west to 56th. This is what I’d call downtown Lynnwood west of I-5, and inaccessible sprawl east of I-5. Inaccessible because the only pedestrian crossings seem to be at 44th and 196th, and east of I-5 appears to be a greenbelt. The growing Alderwood Mall area is just northeast of there; it’s slated to get another Link station in Everett Link.

    So a lot of the walkshed is taken up by I-5, slip roads, and parks. Most of downtown Lynnwood is in the second or third tier.

    1. “ I spy… Lynnwood Station. It’s currently one-story big-box stores. ”

      I see Federal Way Station as anither sleeping giant of a TOD. It’s just too bad that ST did not plan a pedestrian connection over 320th St so that the south side of it could get to Link easily.

      Note that Federal Way is over 6 miles south of SeaTac runways (only a mile less than the Downtown Seattle distance from SeaTac and at least two miles more than from a Boeing Field runway) so that 20 stories is no problem. It’s pretty much only restricted by what Federal Way will allow.

    2. I was out at Lynnwood a month ago. Most of the nearby businesses do not seem to have survived the pandemic. It is acres and acres of roped off former parking and shuttered buildings.

  6. I spy… Mercer Island’s worst nightmare. The station is in the middle of I-90 at Island Crest Way, so 81st & 25th. Southwest of I-5 is downtown, a small 4-story village. Northeast of I-5 is Luther Burbank Park.

    The 20-story zone is blocked by I-90. Diagonal freeways take up twice the walkshed of parallel freeways; see Pine & Boren.

    The 12-story walkshed is 76th to 86th, and 20th to 30th. The southwest is all of downtown. East of Island Crest Way is a row of apartments and cul-de-sac houses. North of I-5 is houses and the park. This extends to the northern shore of the island.

    The 8-story walkshed is 71st to 91st, and 15th to 35th. The northern part is entirely in Lake Washington. The eastern part is Luther Burbank Park and Lake Washington. The southwestern part is the single-family area west of downtown.

    1. I want this one more than anything else. It would be so funny

      In order to meet our housing goals we need 1 million more Mercer islanders!!

  7. “I find the 8 stories @ 3 FAR for ~1/2 mile most interesting.”

    I actually prefer that too, in spite of the praise I put above about highrises. I’ve become convinced that The Netherlands has it right: all their new neighborhoods and buildings and workplaces are at that middle level. The biggest problem is the ultra-low density and gratuitous long walking distances. Robust 2-dimensional lowrise neighborhoods can meet our population needs without taking up too much space. The impediment is getting those outer rings around villages to allow 7-story apartments and/or 4-8 unit courtyard apartments like used to be allowed.

  8. A couple of clarifying points about land use matters in Vancouver, BC proper:

    1. The city is a charter city and is thus not bound by provincial laws in a number of areas.
    2. The terminology the city uses is Floor Space Ratio, or FSR. It’s the same thing as FAR but the city’s codes (bylaws in the Canadian system) only refer to and define FSR.

    As most folks here know, Vancouver has a serious housing affordability problem shared by many jurisdictions across the western region. The Vancouver Sun has has been covering the topic pretty extensively for several years now and has been very informative for this reader, particular for following the politics surrounding housing and land use matters. The reporting is solid imho, though the editorial side does clearly lean center-right. I’d recommend checking out some of their past pieces for anyone wanting to get a better understanding of what’s been going on up there on the housing front.

    Finally, I think it can be difficult, understandably so, for some folks to picture what these massing or bulk regulations mean in the real world. The blog site cityhallwatch had a piece a couple of years ago that attempted to help readers visualize some of this stuff by including some real world examples. I think it serves as a pretty good jumping- off point for those who may not be all that familiar with this particular subject.

    1. Thanks for the links. I often find it confusing. Wikipedia has an entry for it, and that helps: As I see it, FAR is way more important than height. It is basically about volume. A FAR (or FSR) of 1.0 means you have as much volume as if you had a one-story building covering the entire lot. A two-story building that takes up half the lot has the same FAR. Likewise with a four-story building that takes up 1/4 of the lot.

      I like to think of it as giant chunks of tofu* that you can slice and dice, with each round number being one story high, and the entire length and width of the lot. The bigger the FAR, the more slabs of tofu. How they are sliced and diced (i. e. how tall they are) is really not that important. Not if your goal is more tofu (or in this case, more housing space).

      These FARs are just too tiny. A six-story (or storey) building that takes up the entire lot would have a FAR of 6.0, which is more space than the tallest building allowed under these new rules.

      * I can tell it is getting close to dinner time. Sheet cake would work too, or maybe Rice Crispy Treats. My mom once made me a castle out of Rice Crispy Treats for my birthday (I have no idea the FAR, but it was good).

  9. One weird thing about Vancouver – while housing is expensive for people that live there, short term accomodations for people visiting the city are actually quite cheap. In 2018, for example, I was able to get a room off AirBnb in a good, close-in neighborhood near the SkyTrain, for just over $50/night. Last year, I paid around $200/night to stay there, but that was for an entire apartment, and over Memorial Day weekend.

    Definitely a disconnect.

    1. I can only speculate that it’s wealth-stashing of foreigners that has at least some impact on ownership prices. Rentals and short-term accommodations wouldn’t serve that role.

    2. Really? Every time I look for a hotel in Vancouver in the Spring, Summer or Fall its minimum $250 USD/night for the cheapest thing… a motel on some stroad in Surrey or Burnaby with downtown hotels at least another $100/night.

      1. There used to be fairly economical hotels fairly close to downtown, but most have been repurposed into homeless transitional housing.

    3. Poncho, that’s the great thing about Airbnb vs a hotel. You can still get a room in someone’s apartment/condo near a Skytrain station for a little over $50 USD per night. I’ve done that a couple of times after Covid traveling solo. Once was right next to the Stadium-Chinatown Station and the other time was a couple of blocks from the Burquitlam Station. Both Airbnb’s had epic views, and unlike booking with a hotel you know exactly what you’re going to get.

  10. Link’s rumored January reduction is announced.

    From January 13 to February 4 on WEEKDAYS, Link will run every 26 minutes. Additional short runs Northgate-UW and Stadium-Angle Lake will create combined 13 minute service in those segments. That’s 13 minutes north of UW and south of Stadium.

    On WEEKENDS Link will run Northgate-Capitol Hill every 15 minutes, a bus shuttle Capitol Hill-SODO every 10-15 minutes, and Link SODO-Angle Lake every 15 minutes.

    “We will replace 500 feet of northbound track [at the 3rd & Pine turn]…. We will replace 58 ‘bond boxes’, which provide signal connections to the tracks. All of these are located between the rails. These bond boxes were progressively damaged by buses between 2007 and 2019, leading to occasional signal failures and train delays. Replacing the bond boxes requires that no trains run through those sections until replacement is complete…. We’re also tackling five other minor tunnel maintenance projects during this time.”

    The next-train displays came on again yesterday afternoon, and were accurate for me. HOPEFULLY THEY’LL BE ON WHEN LINK IS 26 MINUTES.

    1. Does there really need to be level concrete in the tunnel anymore?
      Rail systems are serviced using hi-rail equipment, and Link is mostly all accessed that way only now.

      I would think that this type, or any major type of rail work in the tunnel would be a good reason to set rails on plinths to make rail replacement much quicker. No need to re-pour.

      Worn rail? Set new between the tracks, unclip, swap in new, re-clip, check gauge…
      Away you go (and take that worn-out stuff with you) !

      1. @Jim Cusick,

        “ Does there really need to be level concrete in the tunnel anymore?”

        Depends on what you mean by “need”.

        ST doesn’t actually “need” level concrete in the tunnel anymore. The buses are gone, and they aren’t ever coming back (thank gawd).

        But practically? Ya, level concrete is the way to go. Mainly because it is quicker and therefore less disruptive to the ridership base.

        Think if it this way. To go with your approach would require ST to cut out the existing rails (same), then remove and lower the existing invert, then repour or at least resurface a new invert, then pour new plinths, then install new attachment hardware, and only then replace the rails.

        Such a process would easily take many times as long as ST’s approach, and would yield no tangible benefits.

      2. My question was more along the lines of places where ST had to do major tear-up (as opposed to one grand project) but what you’re saying is that even then, they need to dig deep enough to not make that cost-effective.

        Not having level track area does make it less inviting to pedestrians in the ROW.

        I’ve seen that a few times.

      3. @Jim Cusick.

        Level concrete is a design decision Metro had to make to accommodate buses. They had no other choice.

        But if ST had built and designed the tunnel for 100% rail it would look exactly like ST’s other tunnels – plinth type rail mounts as you suggest.

        But ST inherited the tunnel from Metro, so ST now has level concrete. Removing all that and installing plinths would be much more disruptive than just sticking with the tech that is already in place. So ST will reinstall level concrete.

        Unfortunately ST has to deal with the ghosts of Metro past. But they are making the best of it. Even the escalators are mainly working now.

      4. TriMet has in fact replaced encased track with easier to maintain types in places. The east end of the Steel Bridge even has a unique mixture of wood plinths with concrete (to avoid the plinth mess ST went through with the I-90 section of East Link?).

        So, it’s possible to do this, if deemed desirable.

    2. It sounds like the geniuses at Sound Transit are going to operate every 26 minutes and without a schedule. That demonstrates lack of care and concern for the customer experience.

      It would be much more usable to operate every 30 minutes with a published schedule. You would know at what time you will get a through train. The two external sections could operate every 15 or every 10 minutes.

      This would be such a better customer experience.

      1. When has ST ever cared about customer service? And they sure as hll don’t care about their customers in the design of transit lines and stations. Build for the sake of building something and only listen to worthless stakeholder groups that have nothing to do with transit riders.

    3. I get how ST wants this done before Lynnwood and East Link arrive in the DSTT. However I would think that after several of these disruptions in recent years, they would look towards a more strategic operational fix by dropping in emergency scissor crossover tracks inside the University Street Station during this project.

      Do they ever think ahead? I guess not — unless a developer could make money off of it.

      I’ll add to that the failure of ST to plan seamless track or platform switching in SODO after DSTT2 opens (if it ever does). It’s just one more potential side benefit of having a level cross platform transfer in SODO.

      1. I’m in total agreement. The repeated shutdowns and service reductions are unacceptable on the core trunk of the system. It’s time to invest necessary capital and engineering to come up with physical and operating improvements that allow the system to keep running at good frequencies when work has to be done. The rationale to shut the system overnight was to provide maintenance windows. But we are getting repeated maintenance and construction work requiring reductions and shutdowns. Whether it’s different operating procedures or additional infrastructure like crossovers and additional electrical circuits to be able to isolate smaller segments, it’s clear that the system needs more redundancy and resiliency.

      2. Part of the problem is every time there is a service disruption, ST acts as though it will be the last, even though we all know it won’t be.

      3. Al, please stop advocating for a “level cross-platform transfer at SoDo”. That would take the entire busway, which is going to be needed for Burien and Renton service regardless of what happens in West Seattle.

        Yes, both ST options, the elevated and at-grade trackways and station, take the busway, so I guess they don’t mind sticking their thumb in Metro’s eye, but we don’t have to.

        Please look at this image:,-122.3273366,3a,60y,146.09h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sIk5URH3oaNOw6HXTeOtLvw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu There is plenty of room on the SoDo Trail for a track between the Western Safety Products building and the northbound Rainier Valley track. The brand new Orca Bay Seafoods building sticks up above Western Safety high enough to show that its back wall is about eight to ten feet farther east than the back wall of Western Safety. So there is plenty of room all the way to Austin Mac. Way down the trail where the guy is, the trail bends to the east to stay clear of the rising Rainier Valley trackway berm.

        Here is the view from the end of Forest Street just adjacent to the Busway:,-122.3272217,3a,60y,329.92h,82.75t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sbXF-q5P9b2U9rFwhuHsdtg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu Notice the red building sticking into the image. That is one of the three “rainbow” buildings belonging to Austin Mac shown in this overhead view:,-122.3269789,155m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x5490402827d0a29f:0x940bcfbf1f91789e!8m2!3d47.5811733!4d-122.3273321!16s%2Fm%2F0404mr7?entry=ttu The building with the pink ring on the roof just north of the rainbow trio is the Orca Bay Seafoods building.

        Yes, I believe that Austin Mac would have to sacrifice the southernmost of the three rainbow buildings, and perhaps all three, forcing them to relocate. But how much would that cost? Millions, perhaps, but not tens of millions and certainly not the couple of hundred million required to replicate. Also it’s likely that a trench a few feet deep would have to be dug to pass under the Rainier Valley elevated structure adding a couple of million dollars, probably.

        Here’s the view looking south from the same place at the end of Forest Street:,-122.3272217,3a,75y,205.26h,94.16t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sbXF-q5P9b2U9rFwhuHsdtg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu Notice that there are three derelict railroad tracks to the south. Here’s how they are laid out:,-122.3267128,739a,35y,180h/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x5490402827d0a29f:0x940bcfbf1f91789e!8m2!3d47.5811733!4d-122.3273321!16s%2Fm%2F0404mr7?entry=ttu The aerial view shows all three lines in use as storage but I expect that two would suffice, given that there are a total of nine cars on three tracks in the image, and the “tails” north (below) the spotted cars are two and a half times as long as the three-car cuts stored there.

        ST is planning to reclaim the Horton Street right of way for use as a two-track connection to the Forest Street MF, so let’s assume that at Horton Street there will be an elevated trackway as in the published ST plans. Since they want to nuke the busway, we can assume that it will be between the switching lead to the west of the busway and the track on the east that leads to the storage tracks at Franz Bakery and branches to the track that crosses Forest and Lander between Sixth and Seventh and continues past Holgate.

        Both the “Second Use Building Materials” and the “A-One Ornamental Iron Works” buildings are going to be removed to accommodate this wye, regardless its exact east-west location as it crosses the Horton Street right-of-way. So I would like to note that it is possible for ST to build an elevated trackway south of Forest Street which is supported by inverted “U” supports which straddle the switching leads on both the east and west sides of the busway and uses the northern half of the third storage track behind Franz to transition from elevated to grade for the underpass of the RV trackway.

        Here is a detail view of the bikeway crossing Lander:,-122.3272911,3a,75y,152.94h,62.13t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s5_lI4wyV9AbtQiNZs-_raw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu Please notice that it crosses at an angle. That’s because, to the north of Lander the walkway to and from the northbound Link platform (and a bit farther north, the platform itself) are between the trackway and the bikeway. How very convenient. As Glenn pointed out a couple of week ago, Tri-Met built two westbound platforms at Gateway so that trains from the Red and Blue lines could both stop at the station simulteneously. Now it’s Red, Blue and Green too, so it’s even busier than ever. Soon, however, the westbound Red Line trains will stop at a new platform a couple of hundred yards to the north.

        Regardless of the Tri-Met change, his point is very well made. Having two platforms at a “merge” station allows trains arriving nearly simultaneously both to enter and the station and complete their boarding and deboarding operations at the same time, instead of the later arrival waiting for the earlier to even begin its stop. True, one or the other is going to wait longer for the departing track than an an non-conflicted arrival would require, but it’s almost always going to be quicker for whichever train goes second.

        So, the busway right of way would be occupied by the northbound West Seattle track all the way to the platform. North of there the West Seattle track would join with the existing RV track in a trailing point “merge” turnout. [“Trailing point” means that the “points” — the parts of the rail that move left and right to select the direction the train can pass through — is after (“trails”) the “frog”. A frog is that fully “X”-looking thing that has gaps in the rails and extra rails inside to keep the wheels from wandering as they pass through the gaps. There is also a “platform” on which the edges of the wheels roll at the proper height.

        OK, this means that the SoDo Trail bikeway has to be diverted to Sixth South several dozen yards to the north of the SoDo Station northbound platform. There is a derelict warehouse building between the trackway and Sixth South at Stacy Street about the right “latitude”, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

        Sixth South north of Lander is generously wide enough to add a PBL on the west side of the street to replace the lost portion of the SoDo Trail. No, that’s not as well protected from traffic as is the SoDo Trail, but I have never seen more than a couple of people using the trail the entire distance of a ride between SoDo and Stadium stations. It essentially ends nowhere at the end of Forest Street next to the busway.

        Finally, the diversion of the southbound trackways can take place on the existing elevated structure, even though the turnout would not be perfectly level at the frog. I don’t know what the actual gradient is, but it can’t be more than a degree or degree and a half. If ST refused to countenance a turnout on a grade, then the diversion could be made just south of Lander in the thirty or forty yards to the south before the hill begins. This would necessitate moving the next two utility poles to the south across the busway, but the utility poles are going to be a problem with any elevated trackway along the busway.

        The point of all this is to say “two tracks are plenty” through SoDo. It is criminally wasteful to destroy the busway for only twelve total trains per hour. So use the same tracks for both lines from SoDo station on north.

        Final thought. This would produce enouth trains that the crossing of Lower Royal Brougham Way should be closed to all traffic on the east side of the trackway.

      4. Tom, I get the huge cost savings of a single SODO platform.

        Cross platform transfers do have some advantages over single platforms. It allows for longer time sitting at a station so people can change trains, for example. Unloading an entire train’s riders at a single platform and then loading them into a subsequent train takes at least a few minutes. It could result into the biggest cause of system delays for this reason. Unlike today where station activity is low, a major transfer would ramp up the number of riders on the platform (and add time to manage them) — particularly if there is some sort of service disruption that makes riders change trains.

        The mole mazes at Westlake and IDC or Pioneer Square will be very inconvenient and take several minutes to use. Riders will figure out to transfer at SODO because it’s faster and easier. Making all of those transferring riders use two escalators is really bad station design, and it seems much cheaper to fix transfer hassle there.

        It does not require closing the busway as you say. For example, a two level station with an aerial platform could be built (Lander stays open on the surface and only northbound trains cross Lander St. If they are timed correctly. The two northbound trains would arrive at about the same time, meaning no more blockages than what happens today. Southbound trains could be up on the next level.)

        Even if all for boarding platforms are on the same level, the station entrance from a Lander overpass could have the busway meet it, and the busway could be aerial through the station and land south of Lander.

        The bigger point is simply that ST refuses to present an answer to the question “What would a better transfer fir riders at SODO look like, and how much would it add to the cost?” To me, the slightly higher cost seems much more effective than the ridiculous and expensive and disruptive station designs further north — but ST won’t even let the question be answered.

      5. So you are assuming the ST will build a straddle support system, like what I described above. But that’s NOT what the documents show. They show standard supports like those on King Boulevard after it rises up for the elevated section. Those will occupy the busway. Now maybe the track on the west side of the roadway is ready to be abandoned, and if so it’s possible to put the supports in a “median” a lane wide and move the southbound lane over. That would work. But ST intends to splatter the busway as I understand the documents.

    4. The “blame Metro” language in there is laughable in my opinion. How long did ST close the tunnel for after the buses were kicked out? They couldn’t have found this issue then? The lack of concern for the passenger experience is just unreal from an agency with this much money.

    5. @Mike Orr,

      This is very good news. That stretch of NB track has obviously been in need of some sort of repair for awhile now. I’m glad ST is finally getting it done.

      And it is only 26 minutes from UWS to IDS. Everywhere else will have 13 min frequencies, which isn’t that much different than what we have now.

      So I’m not too worried, and it is only for 2 weeks anyhow.

      That said, it is curious that to achieve those 13 min frequencies ST is essentially committing to run 2 simultaneous turnback (overlay) lines – one north of DT and one south of DT. This is similar to what some people have suggested as a solution to the standalone LLE overcrowding problem.

      I find it curious that ST Ops says they can’t run a single overlay to solve the LLE overcrowding problem, but now somehow it is suddenly possible to run two overlays simultaneously. Very strange.

      Also, ST is obviously using the double crossovers to facilitate their overlays and archive 13 min frequencies. But there is also a set of double crossovers just north of WLS. So why can’t the north overlay extend all the way to WLS to further minimize the impact of the core frequency reduction? Construction staging maybe? I don’t know.

      As for the bond boxes, I have no idea how the Metro buses damaged them. But hopefully this won’t be a problem in the future.

      1. And it is only 26 minutes from UWS to IDS. Everywhere else will have 13 min frequencies, which isn’t that much different than what we have now.

        It sucks now, but in the future it will suck only a little bit more. In what world is 13 minutes no big deal? That is crazy. It is quite possible that regular riders have this timed. They have a rough idea of how long it takes them to get to the platform, and how long after the hour the train arrives. Now it will not only mean a lot of waiting for a random rider, but basically no chance of timing it.

        Oh, and 26 minutes “only” on the core of our system? Do you not remember that when U-Link was constructed — adding only two stations — ridership doubled? This is really a big deal. Of course there are some trips that don’t involve going through there, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of them do.

        Sure, it is only for two weeks, but this sort of thing has happened a lot. Why are they doing this now? Why not when they made the other fixes? Why not years earlier? If things had gone as planned, East Link would be operating now. That means that this would not only mess up the main line, but the East Link line as well.

        Speaking of which, why does ST insist on saying this is a “1 Line disruption” as if everything else is OK. There is only one light rail line in Seattle! Just say Link, or if you really have to, “Seattle Link”. Someone reading this thing might think “does that really effect me?” only to have to read further and realize of course it does. It effects everyone who takes light rail in Seattle. Is the goal to teach people about the line numbers by having various disruptions?

      2. I don’t know how you come up with 2 weeks. The disruption is Jan 13 – Feb 4 which is three full weeks and four weekends.

        And to say “it’s only 26 minutes UWS to IDS” while everyone else has 13 minutes. It’s to Stadium, not IDS. And it’s by far the highest ridership segment from UW to Stadium. Good luck getting on a train south at UWS.

      3. @Ross,

        Current 1-Link headways are 12 minutes. During this period ST will go to 13 min headways outside the urban core.

        The difference between 12 min and 13 min headways just isn’t that big.

        At least not in the real world.

      4. The difference between 12 min and 13 min headways just isn’t that big.

        Agreed, but my point is that 12 or 13 minutes is terrible! it is like telling your employees “Sorry, we are going to have to reduce salaries. Most of you are underpaid anyway, so it won’t be that big of a hit”.

        You have it completely backwards. Imagine SkyTrain decides to run the Expo Line every six minutes in the middle of the day. Is this terrible, because trains are running twice as often? What a disaster, right? Wrong. Six minutes is great, and as close to an international standard as there is. Even if they slipped to eight — a major degradation, a full five minutes worse than now — it is still OK, and better than what we have. Making the case that 13 minute headways is OK, as the are almost that bad now is a bizarre way of defending Sound Transit.

        Speaking of which, why do you think we have 12 minute frequency? According to the schedule, trains run every 10 minutes. That still isn’t great. 13 is much worse.

      5. Link is currently every 10 minutes until 10pm every day, then every 15 minutes until close. It has been 12 minutes only during maintenance. It makes a significant difference for passengers whether they’re waiting a quarter hour or a fifth of an hour. That’s the difference between a mediocre vs a good metro network. It’s especially critical when you’re transferring. A 15-minute wait can turn a 30-minute trip into a 45-minute trip. If you have two of them, it turns a 30-minute trip into a 60-minute trip and you’re waiting as long as you’re moving.

      6. @Mike Orr,

        I wouldn’t worry too much about the current Link frequencies. It’s well understood that the current situation is temporary, and that Link will go to a base frequency of 8 mins (4 mins interlined) once the current turmoil is over.

        As per the current frequencies, what you are seeing is the superior adaptability of Link as opposed to buses.

        Basically all the transit agencies are having staffing issues right now, but only Link has achieved 100% ridership recovery (with the addition of 3 new stations). How does ST support 100% ridership recovery while still dealing with staffing issues?

        Easy. Temporarily run longer trains at lower frequencies. Only Link has this ability to have one operator move 200, 400, 600, or 800 riders just by adding cars to each train and adjusting frequency.

        This is in direct contrast to what Metro has (finally) done, which is reduce frequency and eliminate routes (reduced total capacity) while not increasing the number of riders each operator can move.

        Personally I prefer the Link approach. Let demand be what it is, but satisfy demand by adjusting train length and frequency to match.

        As per bus/rail transfers, with the inability of buses to maintain reliable schedules, the transfer from Link to bus will always be a problem. But that problem is a result of the infrequent and unreliable bus, not a function of Link frequencies.

        And again, the current frequencies are temporary. Link will be moving to a base frequency of 8 mins, 4 mins interlined.

        It’s going to be a brave new world, eventually. But we will get there.

      7. So many inaccuracies in one comment.

        “It’s well understood that the current situation is temporary, and that Link will go to a base frequency of 8 mins (4 mins interlined) once the current turmoil is over.”

        That’s peak only. Off-peak it will be 10/5 minutes, same as now.

        “all the transit agencies are having staffing issues right now”

        Link needs less than 1% of staff that all the buses do. It’s easier to recruit a few drivers than to recruit hundreds.

        “Temporarily run longer trains at lower frequencies.”

        That lowers the quality of the transit network for riders, and makes Link more like buses. The advantage of one Link line is it can replace several bus routes, and bring express-level service to neighborhoods that didn’t have it, and allow frequent one-seat rides across what would be multiple uncoordinated bus routes.

      8. @Mike Orr,

        All the transit agencies run a reduced schedule off-peak hours. You name it, ST, Metro, TriMet, NYC TA, automated, manual, etc. It’s pretty much SOP to run reduced capacity off-peak to reduce costs and match capacity to demand. So I wouldn’t ding ST for doing the right thing off-peak.

        And you should be thankful you don’t live on Skytrain’s Canada Line. That line drops to 20 min service at night – 33% less frequent than Link!

        And the transfer from Link to bus is always the problematic transfer direction when mixing modes. The bus is invariably less frequent than Link, and it is also the less reliable mode. The combination of low bus frequency and high unreliability makes for a very bad transfer experience when transferring to the bus.

        How bad can it get? My sister-in-law is now mainly using Uber for the last 4 miles of her commute home to her place near the 185th St LR Station. If she gets off Link at NGS and if her bus isn’t there already and ready to go she just gives up on it. Calls an Uber.

        When LLE opens she will be fully dropping the bus/Uber leg of her commute and going 100% Link with a one seat ride.

        And of course Link is more efficient at moving passengers per operator hour, but that doesn’t mean that the operator shortage hasn’t affected ST. It’s just that ST has more options to meet demand without cutting service or increasing staffing levels. That is sort of the point of being able to adjust train lengths.

      9. And you should be thankful you don’t live on Skytrain’s Canada Line. That line drops to 20 min service at night – 33% less frequent than Link!

        Wrong! Trains run from Bridgeport to Waterfront every 10 minutes late at night. In contrast, Link runs 15 minutes across the entire line during that time. Not just to the outskirts (places like Angle Lake) but in the core of the system. In contrast, if you are in Vancouver proper, your train is just a lot more frequent. Even in Bridgeport Station (which is clearly suburban: the train doesn’t start running every ten minutes until 11:00 PM. Just let that sink in a second. All day long, the train runs every 6 minutes. Then, around 10:00 PM, things start getting bad. You might have to wait 7 or 8 minutes for a train. At 11:00 PM, it is as bad as it gets: 10 minutes. What is clearly a deterioration in service — the type that gets people thinking about calling a cab — is standard for Link. On a good day. (An outage, like the one yesterday, could keep riders standing around for a half hour.)

        And this is the weakest of the SkyTrain lines. Columbia Station — again, quite a ways from the heart of the city ( — has trains running every 4 to 5 minutes until 1:30 AM. The really distant stations have service every 10 minutes — at worst — until then. The Millennium Line is even simpler (because it doesn’t branch). Up until about 9:30 PM, the train runs every 6 minutes (or better). Then it transitions slowly to running every 10 minutes until the last train (after 1:00 AM).

        Keep in mind, this is all fairly standard. Yeah, SkyTrain benefits from having automated trains, but this is the sort of thing they do all over Europe and Asia. Six minutes all-day headways is as close as you get to an international standard. Some lines run every five minutes, usually because they branch to more distant (low-density, low-ridership) stations, and it is handy to run every 10 minutes instead of 12. Some run more frequently simply because they have a huge daytime load, and the line just isn’t that long (Toronto is a good example). Link is really the outlier, not SkyTrain.

        Link will go to a base frequency of 8 mins (4 mins interlined) once the current turmoil is over.

        Really? That is exciting news. Not as good as 6, obviously, but 8 is pretty good. I’m sure the folks in Rainier Valley will be excited, since they have been putting up with 10 minute headways for a really long time. (I assume you are referencing midday times — I would expect late night headways to be worse).

      10. All the transit agencies run a reduced schedule off-peak hours.

        You are conflating “off-peak” with late night. The “peak” period is a tiny portion of the day. Your wording is accurate, but misleading. It implies that “peak” is the standard, when it is the opposite. The standard is midday. During peak, agencies run an enhanced schedule. This is true for buses as well as train. Not too long ago, buses used to run on Lake City Way every couple minutes during peak. This was not standard. This was not designed to give riders a good experience, it was to deal with crowding (during peak).

        In contrast, even more recently, the 7 ran every 7.5 minutes all day long. Pretty soon, the RapidRide G will run every 6 minutes all day long. I have no idea how often the buses run during peak, as peak is only a tiny portion of the day, and most riders take trips outside of peak.

        Late night is also a small portion of the day. Of course I would like it if Link ran every 10 minutes late at night. But that isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that midday (and evenings) when the bulk of Link ridership occurs, the train only runs every 10 minutes. In other words, the standard frequency of Link is 10 minutes (but once in a while the train will come more often). Prior to the driver shortage, the standard frequency of the 7 (which isn’t even RapidRide) was 7.5 minutes. The standard frequency of the RapidRide G (which isn’t even a subway) will be 6 minutes. It is Link — the only subway system we have — that is lagging. I get that the RapidRide G will be the closest thing to BRT in this state, but Link should run just as often. Link should be running 6 minutes during the day. If it goes to 10 (or even 15) at night, so be it. But 6 minutes headways most of the day is nothing special, and many would consider an international standard*.

        Just to tie it back to the original comment (about service disruptions) it goes to a basic philosophical problem with Sound Transit and Link. They aren’t focused on maintenance. They aren’t focused on frequency. They are focused on building the next line. It is quantity over quality, and it permeates every decision made. Look at how many issues we have with the system now, and yet no one is pointing out that if you expand it, there will be way more issues (and fewer riders per mile). Things will get worse, not better.

        Consider that last point. When U-Link was added, it basically doubled the ridership of Link. Two stations, twice as many riders (even without the First Hill station). The ridership per mile skyrocketed. This is what you want. It benefits an agency quite a bit if you have high ridership per mile. Maintenance is (roughly) based on how much track you have. Likewise, the shorter the line, the more often you can run it. Ridership helps with the bottom line, but it is also a reflection of how many people you are helping. Simply put, the more riders you have per mile, the better your system.

        Then came the pandemic, and in the middle of it, Northgate Link. Based on limited data, my estimate is that Northgate Link increased ridership by 50%. If not for the pandemic, ridership would probably be around 120,000 right now. But Link — like all of transit around here — has not recovered. The only reason the numbers look similar is because of the big expansion (similar to U-Link) that was Northgate Link. The good news is again, ridership per mile went up. This is normal. This is what most transit systems do as they expand. The Broadway extension in Vancouver will increase ridership per mile by quite a bit.

        But now consider some of the expansion plans. Ridership per mile will go down system wide, while costs go up. If the agency can’t afford to run the trains every six minutes now, how will they afford to do so in the future, when running those trains becomes a lot more expensive, and they only have a relatively small increase in ridership? The answer is, they won’t. What we are dealing with now will likely become normal. Infrequent trains and frequent service disruptions. This is what happens when you focus on quantity over quality.

        * Six minutes on an independent line in midday is fairly standard. For branched lines it is more complicated. If the train goes to a distant suburb and branches, then five minutes in the core is common, so that you have ten minutes on each branch. You can see that with S-Bahn systems. In the case of SkyTrain, the Millennium Line (which doesn’t branch) runs every six minutes midday. It is basically following the international norm. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that both the Expo and Canada line branch quite a ways from downtown, each branch runs every six minutes. This means that midday riders in Vancouver get service every three minutes. Even folks in New Westminster get three minute service. This is a case where service exceeds the standard, largely to please suburban riders (by giving them the same sort of standard headways you would find in the city).

      11. Also to add to this discussion: frequent service on critical routes isn’t just for big transit cities. The Houston light rail runs its Red Line trains every 6 minutes all day, at least Monday-Friday. There is no excuse for Seattle Link, which gets much higher ridership, not being able to match this.

      12. @asdf2,

        Houston Red Line actually runs at 6, 12, and 18 min headways, depending on the time of day. So it isn’t that much different than what ST has planned for the 1-Link.

        And when the full ELE opens Link will have an interlined frequency of 4 mins in the urban core (peak). This is far superior in both capacity and frequency to the Houston Red Line.

    6. So…ST is able to operate trains every 6 minutes when turning at UW, but had to drop to 13 minutes when including a half-hourly bridge train on a single track?

      Seems to me this needs a different plan.

      When TriMet rebuilt the track on NE Holladay, they had stuff like an express bus from the airport across the north end to the Expo center, providing a two seat ride replacement for one seat trips that had become 3 seat trips.

      They also gave everyone holding a HOP card and had used MAX during that period a free systemwide day pass at the end of the project to thank them for their patience.

      I doubt this last item will ever happen at SoundTransit, but it would be good to have something like a Tukwila-Capitol Hill express or or Mt Baker to Capitol Hill or some such to make a meaningful reduction in the increase in travel time during those two weeks.

    7. I’ve seen other systems group two or even three trains together in each direction when forced to single track. While there may be a slightly longer gap (say 30 minutes), the trains that come can be run one right after the other so that the later train picks up those left on the platform.

      Of course, ST doesn’t look at what other rail systems do. So we get stuck with one train every 26 minutes rather than 2 at 30 minutes for example. They want every train at crush load!!

      Does anyone else sense that ST remains managed by inept, arrogant people?

      1. A variation of this is for the leading train to have limited stops. That way, the leading train isn’t at crush load while the trailing train can be a local with less of a crush load.

    8. It would be really nice to have additional elevators installed at Mt Baker, TIBS, and the Airport kiss ‘n ride during these types of lengthy closures.

  11. Route 40 design has been finalized.

    Key highlights:

    * 3 miles of BAT/FAB lanes
    * 6000 feet of upgraded sidewalks
    * 5~10% transit reduction time

    **Westlake Ave**
    Most notably Westlake Ave N will have Freight and Bus lanes, almost the entire northbound direction from Mercer to the bridge. While the southbound direction will only have it for ~half that length. This is also (as far as I know) the first instance of freight and bus lanes being used. So it’ll be very interesting to see if this is the future approach for the other freight corridors such as 15th for rapidride D or Lake City Way.

    The design is generally the same as discussed before. With it being: [SB Bus lane, SB travel lane, NB travel lane, NB travel lane, NB protected bike lane]. Slightly controversially moving forward with the bike lane over a bus lane for the northbound direction. N 36th ST will have a southbound bus lane.

    **NW Leary Way**
    For Leary Way the original plan (2021) was changed from bus lanes to channelization and bus bulbs. I was most curious to see what the final outcome would be when combined with Dan Strass’ ask for placing the burke gilman missing link there.

    Basically they just kept it mainly the same as before. It’s still a channelization from 4 travel lanes (2 in each direction) to a 3 lanes where 1 travel lane in each direction and one center lane. As well as a 1 block northbound bus lane. They are upgrading some of the existing pedestrian bulbs to concrete. and also a very short bike lane on 20th Ave NW. Slight change I noticed is the 2020 plan had it at parking 9 feet, travel lane 11.5 feet, turning lane 13 feet, travel lane 11.5 feet and parking 9 feet. Now the travel lane is 12 feet, turning lane 12 feet, and travel lane 12 feet.

    For the missing link I guess they could still take away that 9 feet of parking (south bound) over and turn it into a two way bike corridor. The remaining problem would then be that 2 block section on NW market ST (blog post) (Details the finalized plan and has a friendly map) (2020 plan, honestly most of it is the same so wouldn’t bother reading this one, just go read the link above)

    1. Thanks for the update. That second link (the project overview) is a nice description. It has more detail than I initially thought (you just have to select “Next” a few times). While initially confusing (to me, anyway) it make for easy referencing (e. g. here is the page for the Westlake changes:

      The materials section of the main page has four PDFs labeled “Final Design Documents” which give street level details of the changes. This is nice if you want get into the nitty-gritty.

      Anyway, back to the actually changes. The freight/bus lane is essentially an experiment at this point, being monitored by a third party. I think this is a good approach. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

      The left-turn from the right-lane is back! A southbound bus on Westlake can use a bus lane on the right, then make a left turn onto 9th (with its own bus signal). This was in the initial plans, but then they removed it. They thought it was too confusing for drivers. I pointed out in the comments that we have the exact same thing close to Husky Stadium (and I probably wasn’t the only one). A bus can go north on Montlake Boulevard (in the bus lanes) and then take a left onto Pacific (once they get a green arrow). Anyway, this seems like a little thing, but it can make a big difference in avoiding traffic.

      As you noted, southbound Westlake won’t have as much in the way of southbound bus/BAT lanes. My guess is this is to accommodate businesses close to the water. Now drivers won’t stop traffic if they make a left. Fair enough. But it seems a bit sloppy to make that sort of change at this moment. There was no discussion earlier. There are other ways to fix that (which admittedly would likely cost more money, as it might involve widening the street in places). It also isn’t clear where the southbound bus lanes start. The community page is vague, and the slides are a bit hard to read. I believe the slide for Westlake is meant to be read on its side (with up as north). From what I can tell, there will be southbound bus lanes from roughly this bus stop until Highland Drive. Then they disappear again until Ward. It is quite likely it will be just fine, and the traffic patterns explain the “on again, off again” nature of the changes. My guess is southbound traffic doesn’t start building up until past the point that they start adding the bus lanes.

      Fremont looks about the same as previous proposals, although I haven’t dug into the bus stop issue. As you mentioned, the plans for Leary aren’t as good as the initial proposal, but the same as the 30% design (so far as I can tell). There are still some nice additions though (especially northbound).

      It looks like a very good set of changes, but I find myself wanting even more. This should be a considerable help for the 40, and to a lesser extent the 31/32 and 62, but only southbound. The Fremont Bridge area should go through a major overhaul, with bus lanes approaching it from every lane. If for political reasons these are used by freight as well, it would still likely be an improvement.

      1. > As you noted, southbound Westlake won’t have as much in the way of southbound bus/BAT lanes. My guess is this is to accommodate businesses close to the water. Now drivers won’t stop traffic if they make a left. Fair enough. But it seems a bit sloppy to make that sort of change at this moment. There was no discussion earlier.

        It was probably more for the cars heading southbound from Fremont Bridge to clear the intersection onto Westlake Ave. Honestly I think it’s fine, the bus lane southbound to the Fremont bridge itself is more important than past it.

      2. It was probably more for the cars heading southbound from Fremont Bridge to clear the intersection onto Westlake Ave.

        I don’t think so. I’m not positive (as again, it is tough to read the slides) but from what I can tell, southbound is either:

        A) One general purpose lane and a turn lane.
        B) One general purpose lane and a bus lane.

        Based on the slides (and the rest of the documents) I don’t see any place where there are two general purpose lanes heading south. But at the same time, I also don’t see how this connects with 4th Avenue North (which is the road that goes over the bridge). So maybe there are two lanes going south, then the inner lane becomes a turn lane. (Only to have that turn lane go away, while a BAT lane is added as you go farther south.)

        It does look like that approach happens northbound. As the cars turn from Westlake (onto Westlake) at ninth there are two lanes. But pretty soon after that, the right lane is a BAT lane.

        I agree, I think it is fine. You might end up with some congestion, as two lanes of cars converge into one (with the bus not quite at the point where the BAT lanes have been added) but maybe not, as there are few stops for a good stretch (allowing the traffic to spread out, and not be backed up). It isn’t obviously good, but I trust the folks in charge.

        This shows how difficult it is to only change one little piece. If you have a two lane road and want to add a BAT lane, it has to be added early, otherwise you get congestion. Sometimes the little piece is basically independent, and the backup does not effect buses. For example, consider Denny. If you don’t care about the 17, 24 or 33, then you can just start the eastbound bus lanes there. That means southbound Western would have a clean split. The left lane goes to Denny, the right continues on Western. Once you consider the 17, 24 and 33, things get more complicated.

      3. Only people who take transit consider it as a factor in housing decisions. Everyone else bases it on only other factors. That could lead them to either a transit or a non-transit neighborhood. Since only a minority take transit, only a minority consider it a factor. Most of the growth in Ballard is not related to transit, because it happened in spite of the lack of good transit in Ballard, and the 30-45 minute overhead to get from Ballard to a major transfer point (downtown or U-District). Some of it was promoted by an expectation of the Monorail, but if there hadn’t been a monorail project and that developer didn’t build in Ballard, another developer would have taken their place.

      4. Ballard is popular because it’s the least expensive part of the City close to Puget Sound. It’s always been popular for that reason, but until the last twenty years, being close to Puget Sound was a No-No for a lot of Seattleites. Having a couple of hills between you and that cold pond was a good thing.

        Climate change has been a major plus for Ballard.

      5. @Mike Orr,

        “ Since only a minority take transit, only a minority consider it a factor”

        Depends on what you mean by “transit”.

        Traditionally, at least in this region, most people haven’t considered transit in their housing decisions. But that is because traditionally, at least in Seattle, “transit” meant “buses”.

        Buses by their very nature are ephemeral. A bus stop or even an entire bus line can be moved at any moment. Nobody makes a long term decision based on something that might not be there for the “long” term, or at least no wise person does.

        The other problem with housing and rubber tired transit is that many people consider a bus stop to be a public nuisance. These people actively seek NOT to be too near a bus stop, which is why you don’t see bus stops driving development or increasing property values.

        This is not the case with LR. Most people view being near a LR stop as a good thing, and property values do go up near LR stations. As does development.

    2. Will the 40 still use the same bus stops at 34th & Fremont to keep same-stop transfers to the 31, 32, and 62?

      1. SDOT is still planning to delete the stop on northbound Fremont Ave between 34th and 35th. Northbound 40 will stop on Fremont Place just north of 35th, and routes 31/32 will stop just after turning east onto 35th. Northbound transfers will have to cross the intersection of Fremont Ave/Place and 35th.

        Southbound, the stop on Fremont Ave at 34th will continue to serve routes 31, 32, 40, and 62.

  12. From the Urbanist:

    “Sound Transit is queuing up a major fare hike for most of its light rail riders, hitting those taking shorter trips particularly hard. Staff are recommending that flat fares replace distance-based fares on Link, even though budget-neutral versions of this would reduce ridership and discourage shorter trips compared with retaining distance-based fares….”

    Let the commenting commence.

    1. This will only drive people off Link, defeating part of the purpose of having Link in the first place. I’ll have to choose between my current $99 pass and not using Link, or getting a $119 pass just for Link. Well, we’ll have Seattle riders paying for Tacoma’s and Everett’s trips. But at least we’ll be able to take Link to Paine Field.

      1. “we’ll have Seattle riders paying for Tacoma’s and Everett’s trips.” Since Seattle is the wealthiest city in the region, is this not the more progressive approach?

      2. Since Seattle is the wealthiest city in the region, is this not the more progressive approach?


      3. “Since Seattle is the wealthiest city in the region, is this not the more progressive approach?”

        Reducing total ridership to subsidize some ridership is now progressive?

    2. This will only drive people off Link, defeating part of the purpose of having Link in the first place. I’ll have to choose between my current $99 pass and not using Link, or getting a $119 pass just for my Link trips.

    3. I hope this doesn’t lead to people clogging up buses like the 70 and 49, when they could be taking Link, just to save money on fares.

    4. Why did Sound Transit bother to do public outreach if they clearly already knew the outcome? I guess it’ll be good news for Metro ridership…

      1. They probably did the public outreach only because of some legal requirement to do it. They were simply going through motions, while the actual outcome was preordained.

    5. Last night I dreamed about testifying at the hearing and saying, “It feels like you gave us Link, and then you take it away.” This is on top of creating ultra-long transfers between Rainier Valley and the U-District.

    6. Such a joke for ST to do this – but the suburban board members will make it happen because their constituents will benefit at the expense of Seattle riders.

      Once Lynnwood opens I’ll likely be standing both ways to work on Link. Or I could get a guaranteed seat on a bus and save money, not have to deal with escalator outages, and save a couple blocks of walking to boot.

    7. I found the Urbanist’s article to be poorly argued. They say that the majority of the public is in favor of distance-based fares. And while that might be technically correct, it misses the forest for the trees.

      From ST’s survey, the public voted for distance-based fares by an “overwhelming” 50.1% – 49.9% margin. And even if you just include people who pay full fare, it’s only 52%-48% in favor of distance based fares. Well within the survey’s margin of error.

      Now I’m not denying arguments in favor of distance based fares. But any articles that are arguing that there’s a major public outcry in favor of keeping distance based fares are being disingenuous.

      1. Flat fares are projected to reduce ridership more than distance-based fares. Seems pretty straightforward that is very counterproductive, but you’re only citing one piece of data that’s showing most riders don’t support flat fares. When you look at survey responses, there’s nothing close for a mandate for flat fares, but there is for distance-based fares.

      2. Guys, the ‘survey’ is a self-selected group of online respondents to a survey almost nobody outside of Urbanist readers had heard of. In other words, it’s useless garbage that exists because Sound Transit is required to go through the motions of gathering public comment on subjects the public knows nothing of. It measures nothing.

    8. What percentage riders who can afford to live in inner neighborhoods and own or pay those kinds or rents are going to even notice this increase associated with the flat flee? Some, for sure (like Mike), but more than 10%?

      Do we really think it will actually change behavior and have people riding transit less, or switching to buses?

      Or are you just feeling like it is a slap in the face?

      1. It’s not just inner city neighborhoods. People riding short distances in outer neighborhoods would have to pay more also.

      2. What percentage riders who can afford to live in inner neighborhoods and own or pay those kinds or rents are going to even notice this increase associated with the flat flee?

        Why do people think Seattle only has rich people (and the suburbs only have poor people). Seattle has about 10% that qualify as “low-income”. That is 70,000 people, or more people (total) than all but a handful of cities in Washington State. Seattle isn’t Aspen.

        If anything, you have it backwards. Who takes Link a relatively short distance? Lots of people. It might involve a transfer (or two) but it makes sense for trips to school, medical appointments or a low-income or middle-class job. Work at the 7-11 in another neighborhood — you take Link.

        In contrast, who takes Link from say, Lynnwood to downtown? Largely white-collar commuters. There are exceptions, of course, but consider that Community Transit — which runs about two-dozen buses into Seattle — only runs those buses during rush hour (peak direction). Until recently, they only ran those buses to the UW and downtown. Do you think those people were commuting to their job at the coffee shop or local deli? Get real. They were (and still are) commuting to their high paying job. Otherwise, why commute so far?

        Of course there are exceptions, but if we are talking generalities, my guess is the short distance rider is more likely to have less money than the long distance rider.

      3. The last several times I’ve taken Link, a fair number of passengers got on or off at Beacon Hill, and transferred to buses there.

        Just because someone is taking Link for a short distance inside Seattle means they live near it or are from a wealthy area, or even from Seattle.

      4. Some people are already choosing the 271 or 255 to avoid the 550’s fare, or driving on I-90 to avoid 520’s toll. The reason is sometimes poverty, economizing on principle, or a feeling that the service is not better enough to deserve the higher fare. The fact that the fare difference exists means many people will think about the issue and at least be resentful about the fare for year after year forever. In Rainier Valley there were similar controversies: I don’t remember if Link’s fare was ever higher than Metro’s, but it required a $5 ORCA card or Link ticket, and the transfer time was shorter than a Metro paper transfer was, so both of those were barriers for some people in being willing to use Link. Not just those who flat-out couldn’t afford it, but also those who thought it was uneconomical or unfair or a waste of money.

        We shouldn’t be putting metro rail in that position. It makes sense to charge more for an ultra-long distance, but not just for using Link at all. The point of Link is that it’s the most efficient transportation method, so we should be maximizing use of it and encouraging everybody to view it as the first choice for the trips it serves, not minimizing use of it by putting up artificial barriers to its use. The fact that people even think about not using it for short trips is a problem.

        However, some passengers aren’t even aware of the fare difference, so it won’t affect their decision. Visitors and people who only take transit to ballgames may not know the bus fare because they’ve never ridden a Metro bus or looked at the fare at a bus stop.

      5. I definitely remember people on buses in 2009 talking about not taking Link because they would have to pay an additional fare, while their Metro transfer worked fine on Metro.

      6. That makes sense, and for the record, I did respond recommending a distance based fare. I personally think it should be free, and see any fare as a barrier to use.

        I see just needing an orca card at all stopping people from using T-Link. Or at least paying for it. I observe lots of riders not tapping, because very few even have an Orca down here in our transit desert.

        All that said, I think you are over-estimating how much non transit geeks will notice, and of those who do, few will modify their behavior.

      7. You didn’t answer my question.

        Which one — you asked four. Let me try:

        What percentage riders who can afford to live in inner neighborhoods and own or pay those kinds or rents are going to even notice this increase associated with the flat flee?

        87. Am I right?

        Some, for sure (like Mike), but more than 10%?

        Oh, I guess not 87 then.

        Do we really think it will actually change behavior and have people riding transit less, or switching to buses?

        Yes. How much is difficult to estimate. You could say the same thing about any fare increase. Double the fares and behavior changes. Increase it 1% and it doesn’t. At what point do people switch? Who knows? It likely takes a fair amount of research to predict these things.

        Or are you just feeling like it is a slap in the face?

        A lot of us feel like it is just bad policy. It is like raising the cost of anything — some people notice, some don’t. Some change their behavior, some just endure. But having short-distance riders subsidize long-distance riders is neither ethical nor sensible.

        Consider some long-distance trips. Folks on various transit blogs across the country have called for better long-distance transit. Everything from bullet trains to consistent bus service. All of this requires a subsidy. But I don’t think anyone thinks we should simply charge as much to ride a bus from Seattle to Yakima as we do to ride a bus from the Central Area to downtown. Yet this is essentially what they are calling for.

        Closer to home, consider ST express buss. Prior to the pandemic, the 592 was the second most heavily subsidized route operated by ST. Maybe it should be eliminated. But what if you really like that bus? Maybe you should simply be charged more. I realize this adds complexity, but my point is that I’m sure the vast majority of riders would simply pay more to ride that bus, simply because for them, it is a huge time saver. ST Express by its vary nature operates this way. They make no effort to charge the going rate (in any county). It is designed as a long-distance supplemental bus service, and as such, they charge more.

        Now back to Link. At some point, the trains will go really far. At some point, someone will point out that it costs a huge amount of money to go that far, and that much of the time, it picks up very few riders. With everyone paying the same, it becomes even harder to justify running trains every ten minutes to Federal Way, let alone Tacoma. Maybe we should turn back at SeaTac, or Federal Way, while letting the places that are farther away deal with twenty minute service. We can even ask the same type of questions: If you drop the frequency to 20 minutes, do we really think it will actually change behavior? Folks who take those long trips should be careful what they wish for.

      8. Cam Solomon,

        You’re asking the right questions here. My take is public transit is for the public– regardless of where they live. Public transit should be for the here and now as well. The idea that more people will ride “as soon as the light rail is finished” or “as soon as we build density” is self defeating. I’m a “transit now!” believer. More buses right now. Low or free fares. A public campaign to get people riding now! The Urbanist crowd just hates suburbia and really doesn’t support transit for everyone.

        Let me ask the group a question here…. how many of us grew up in an apartment? High density neighborhood? How many of you are raising families in this sort of environment? I’m not saying it’s bad, or it can’t be done…. but America is built on marriage, kids and home mortgages. That’s worked for a really long time. It’s the gold standard, the American Dream. The entire US tax code is written to support it.

        So how does transit work with this? Because the American family life isn’t going to change drastically in a short time. One thing I’ve observed in Tacoma is that immigrants move to the USA for this marriage-kids-home mortgage trifecta. There are other lifestyles…to each their own…. but even in alternative Seattle, the marriage–kids–mortgage life is strong. In places like Utah or Iowa… it’s all there is. Transit needs to support this.

        I’m going to call bullshit on a whole bunch of posts here because they have nothing to do with transit… and everything with using transit, land use, zoning, billions in public money…. back door social engineering really… to kick dirt on the American Dream. This isn’t a way forward. If you’re a young person reading this, you deserve the same life as your parents or better. SRO hotel? Micro apartment? Maybe that works for skid row drunks, but not the middle class. I’m not about to let my tax money go to support any sort of development is isn’t kid and family friendly.

        Once upon a time Seattle had a great public transit system… street cars…. and lots and lots of houses. That worked right?

      9. Sarcasm does not become you, Ross.

        My point was you were making all sorts of assumptions about my intent, and trying to answer those. And your assumptions were mostly incorrect. So you ended up building and knocking down strawmen.

      10. tacomee – I grew up in a typical American Dream-style single-family house out in a car-dependent suburb, and putting my child through that experience is not something I would willingly choose. My vision of the better life is right here in the heart of the city; my wife and I are raising our kid in a townhouse, walking and riding transit every day. As maturity develops, independence can follow, with no need to wait for a driver’s license.

        My kid sister loved the micro apartment she lived in when she first moved to Seattle. It was plenty of space for her needs at the time, and its low price allowed her to live right in the heart of things. The apodment backlash was a real shame.

    9. Didn’t we already cover this here:

      I don’t know if anything has changed. It basically means costs go up for the short trips, and down for long trips. Short trips cost the agency less to run. Most people take short rips. Thus people who take short trips would be subsidizing those who take long trips.

      It would be like charging a flat fare to ride Amtrak. Sure, a trip across the country would be much cheaper, but that trip to Portland would cost a lot more.

      It is a fundamentally bad idea, especially when they are now in the midst of a big expansion. By expansion I don’t mean more lines in the city (First Hill isn’t getting any stations, nor is Belltown, the C. D., Fremont or Greenwood). I mean an expansion that will make this one of the longest subway lines in the world (extending farther out than the New York Subway, the Paris Metro or the London Underground). To have such a long, long, long system and then charge the same amount is basically a slap in the face to the majority of riders who only take Link a short distance.

    10. “Since Seattle is the wealthiest city in the region, is this not the more progressive approach?”

      That and the suburbanization of poverty is an overgeneralization. At most it’s a tendency, not most people’s situation. All cities and districts have both rich and poor people, except a few microburbs that can be fully exclusive because they’re tiny. Bellevue is 20-25% lower-income, and Seattle is around that.

      How can they afford to live there? Subsidized housing, bought their house before 2000, a long-time tenant in a decaying 1960s garden apartment, a room in a house, an extended family that helped them get/keep their housing, etc.

      Rainier Valley still has a lot of lower-income people in spite of the $600K houses; you see them on the 7. And others shop or attend church or activities in the valley, even if they can’t afford to live there, and are on the 7 and 106 and Link. Far north Seattle has several equity-emphasis areas, as does West Seattle. It’s not all just entitled people in owned houses driving to work because they can.

      Many people own a house in Snohomish or Pierce County or South King County because they refuse to rent an apartment in inner King County for the same price or less. If they own a house and are building equity, they’re hardly “poor” and deserving of an extra subsidy.

      1. Absolutely correct Mike. Seattle has added a lot of wealthy people, but still has a ton of poor and middle class people. Likewise, the suburbs have added a lot of low-income people, but still has a lot of wealthy people.

        Check out apartments on Zillow. Filter by apartments under $1,000. Almost all of the listings are in Seattle, Tacoma and south of Tacoma (especially Lakewood). There is almost nothing in the Seattle suburbs, while Seattle itself has most of the places, from what I can tell. As you start moving up in price, you get a lot more places for rent, but the dynamic doesn’t change. It is mostly Seattle, Tacoma and greater Lakewood.

        That doesn’t mean you can get the same quality of housing in Seattle as you have in other places (for the same amount of money) but that is largely irrelevant. If you want a nice yard with three bathrooms you are better off living the suburbs (unless you are loaded). But a lot of people make do without it (and yes, that includes families).

        I think folks focus on ratio, and not total number. Same goes with averages. It may be that the average apartment is cheaper in Shoreline than Seattle, but there are way more cheap apartments in Seattle than anywhere else. The only place that comes close is the South Sound (or to be more specific — south of the Sound). I would bet that there is a higher concentration of low-income and middle-class people living in Seattle than any other area, simply because there is a much higher concentration of people overall.

    11. Any chance of doing both distance based fare *and* a fixed price fare?

      If you only use Link once in a while and don’t like the distance fare, then have a high priced single ticket fare.

      If you are a regular user and have an ORCA card, continue tapping out to get the distance based fare.

      The modern ORCA readers should be intelligent enough to tell where they got tapped (TriMet’s HOP cards are), so also stop the distance based fare at the location where they get on some other thing (ferry, bus, monorail, streetcar).

      1. Isn’t that what the Day Pass is? I have never bought one, but I believe it just allows you to ride around all day. I can see how that might appeal to someone who doesn’t want to buy an ORCA card. It may save money, if you only ride that particular day, and do a fair amount of traveling. I don’t know much about the day pass, though. What are they, eight bucks?

        Can you buy one on a bus? Seems like you should be able to. The cash reader on the bus should be able to accept 5 and 10 dollar bills, which means as long as you have a bunch of ones (or don’t mind tipping the local transit agency) you should be able to buy an all-day ticket for you and your honey. This would be a big improvement for those who take the bus first, then Link (and don’t have an ORCA card). With inflation, it would get rounded to $10 fairly soon. This seems like a lot, but again, this is round-trip, and all day. Kids are free. $20 to see the city with the whole family and not deal with a car is not bad at all.

    12. I finally read the (brief bullet-point) staff presentation and Fesler’s far-more-verbose but less-informative tantrum.

      I followed the political game theory and told y’all this was coming, years ago.

      What I did not foresee was that ST would seriously consider inter-agency fare capping, mostly because I have no idea how that would work with Sounder fares.

      What I also did not foresee was a quickly-approaching period(s) of maximum constraint on the 1 Line. I see the benefit during this period of incentivizing longer trips to be on Link and shorter trips to be on Metro buses, including SLU and Pill Hill expresses.

      I know that goes against some of the ideology here, including mine regarding the expresses, but the universe does not owe us all fairness, or the power to impose our own personal definitions of fairness on anyone else. Indeed, we are all exceedingly lucky to be born as Homo sapiens. Cats could be luckier, I suppose, since they domesticated humans, But I digress.

      I’m sanguine with the possibility that $3.50 Link fares may be what the ST Board chooses. The ridership drop is only a model, and inflation has happened since the last increase. Those who can’t afford it have ORCA LIFT and the Subsidized Annual Pass available. Youth Fare Freedom has also changed the elasticity math.

      But I don’t see the Board going for $3.50. Doing so would likely force a review of ST Express fares, which could lead to a hard choice of increasing long-distance ST Express fares, or going with harsher truncation options when Federal Way Station opens. South King County and Pierce County board members will not relish forcing riders between Federal Way and downtown to switch to the 1 Line. But that could be the price the rest of the Board insists on in exchange for the switch to flat Link fares.

      But if the improved cash flow accelerates the opening of Tacoma Dome Link, south end board members might just go for it, knowing that ST Express ridership between Federal Way and Seattle will drop significantly regardless.

    13. I was kind of surprised actually at the percentage of people traveling in the shorter sections

      * Fare Rate, Percentage
      * $2.25 – 25.7%
      * $2.50 – 41.0%
      * $2.75 – 19.8%
      * $3.00 – 9.9%
      * $3.25 – 2.3%
      * $3.50 – 1.3%

      Given the same financial constraint’s it seems like it’d either be a 50 cent base increase to distance based or a flat fare of $3.25 (around same remaining debt capacity of 13.8%) Additionally there is the expectation of a further 25 cent increase every 4 years*.

      It seems the main idea behind it is to not tap off from the agency?

      Also interesting to see that “Potential near-term fare changes are under consideration at Community Transit and King County Metro.” Given that they are currently, King County Metro Bus $2.75 and Community Transit $2.50/$4.25. I wonder if this is a push to have all three consolidate around the same price of $3.25?

      Also a bit confused on “Simplified fare structure allows for easier potential transition to fare capping. ” Why would the fare structure depend on fare capping? It’s not as if london underground doesn’t have fare capping and it has distance based pricing. Or is this an issue with it being inter agency?

      * (though doing some napkin math of 3.25 * 1.03 of inflation rate^ 4 this actually falls behind the inflation rate. I expect they might try to increase fares a bit more next time).

      1. The data points out how immensely important the lowest (regular) fare is for revenue, and how relatively unimportant the top fare is. Even Fesler now agrees that raising the bottom fare to $2.75 is justifiable.

        The other elephant in the living room is how crucial the ORCA Passport program is. Whatever the fares end up being, they should get buy-in from the major business partners.

        If Metro is considering raising its fare to $3, I wish they would signal that intent, so the Link bottom fare can be raised to $3, with minimal whining, before ST has to decide on the original signage for the 2 Line.

        I still think it is bad policy to have Link fares higher than competing ST Express fares. That ought to set the ceiling on Link fares.

        But then, if the floor is $3 and the ceiling is $3.25, is having that small differential more trouble than it is worth?

    1. I had to choose a suburb, and southeast Kirkland’s McMansions are a pet peeve of mine, and making Totem Lake an urban center to push growth to the edge of town. I could have chosen Renton or Mercer Island or Issaquah just as well. I didn’t choose Mercer Island because of historical reasons in the blog, although I featured it later when it was one of many.

  13. What’s the deal with 1-Link frequencies today? Both the RTA Information and the online schedule are showing 8 min headways.


      1. @Ross,

        Never trust a PDF unless you are confident in its provenance. PDF’s are static and are obsolete the instant they are created.

        But your link (you double posted the same link) actually does show 8 min headways at peak. You just need to read it in its entirety. Thanks for confirming.

        And the 8 mins in your link agrees with the 8 mins the RTAIS was publishing this morning.

        I see no reason to doubt any of this data. 8 mins it is!

      2. Never trust a PDF unless you are confident in its provenance.

        The PDF says exactly the same thing as the dynamic schedule. There are two ways to gather the schedule as well. The frequency is listed as ten minutes in every case.

        But your link (you double posted the same link) actually does show 8 min headways at peak.

        Sure, at peak. Holy cow, dude, you didn’t specify that! The default is not peak. The default is midday. Most of the day, the frequency is 10 minutes (or worse). It would be like me writing:

        “What is up with Link? It is running every 15 minutes now.”

        Yeah, because it is midnight! That is not the default. I really don’t know what you are trying to say. I thought you were implying that we suddenly got better headways (which would be great) but from what I can tell, they haven’t changed in the least.

        Or are you actually excited that the train is coming every 8 minutes during peak? That sounds like something a stoner would say (“These McMuffins are great, dude!”). Yeah, they aren’t bad, but they are still just McMuffins — an average taco truck has tastier food.

        [Corrected the link. Thanks for pointing it out.]

      3. I focus on midday/evening/weekend service because that covers most of the week, and because transit agencies and politicians tend to make sure peak hours have sufficient service but neglect off-peak. So the times we should focus on are weekdays 9am-3pm, 7pm-10pm, and weekends 8am-10pm. Link is 10 minutes during that period, 8 minutes peak, and 15 minutes after 10pm. Ideally Link would be 6 minutes peak and off-peak, and 15 minutes after 10pm.

      4. @Ross,

        “ The default is midday.”

        Ah, no it isn’t. This is a false statement.

        Nobody, or at least no professionals, characterize system design by referring to how it operates when demand is low and the system is operating at partial capacity. And for good reason, because doing so would be nonsensical and meaningless.

        But hey, here is another thing about the internet. It typically has these things called “time stamps”. My eyewitness report had a time stamp of 8:21. If you check the published data near 8:22 you will see that my observation totally agrees with all the published data for that time of day.

        And does it really matter that much that ST reduces frequency from 8 to 10 minutes off peak when ridership demand is low? All transit agencies worldwide reduce frequency off peak. It’s SOP, even at Metro. But ST’s reduction is comparatively small. Much smaller than for most other transit agencies.

        Isn’t that a good thing?

        But at least we can agree now that Link is a system with 8 min headways. Progress. Progress.

      5. Midday isn’t necessarily lower demand. On Metro’s latest annual report, several routes have higher ridership midday compared to “peak”. I believe most UW routes are in that category. I was riding the 372 to UW at 1pm on a weekday last week. It filled up and skipped the U Village stop. At 1pm.

      6. @Larry,

        “I was riding the 372 to UW at 1pm on a weekday last week. It filled up and skipped the U Village stop. At 1pm.”

        Ah, that is because Metro reduces frequency on the 372 mid-day. Metro does this precisely because they expect lower mid-day demand on the 372.

        Did Metro cut frequency too much? Or was there a special circumstance affecting demand on that specific day? Who knows. But with all Metro’s other current problems right now, I doubt this will get much attention.

      7. “Nobody, or at least no professionals, characterize system design by referring to how it operates when demand is low and the system is operating at partial capacity.”

        They do when they’re looking at passenger experience rather station/track design. There’s always a minimum frequency regardless of ridership to make the system usable. Then additional frequency above that to deal with crowding at certain times. ST has set the minimum daytime frequency at 10 minutes. RossB and I argue for 6 minutes.

        “And does it really matter that much that ST reduces frequency from 8 to 10 minutes off peak when ridership demand is low?”

        Yes! It makes people wait! It makes multi-seat rides longer! It makes some trips non-viable on transit! It makes people start to think about driving or taking Uber instead!

        And ridership is not as low as you allege. Trains don’t have to be standing room only to justify themselves. Weekend and midday ridership is heading toward equalization with peak ridership.

      8. I mean the downtown transit tunnel was much more useful between westlake station to chinatown with busses with the higher frequency than the link during off peak times.

      9. WL brings up a very good argument for “three-lining” in the existing tunnel: three lines running at ten minute headways mean a train comes every three or four minutes. That makes the greater time to and from the platforms more palatable for short trips downtown.

        Of course, there’s much less “lunch hopping” these days than in the heyday of bus operations.

      10. @Mike Orr,

        Of course ST Ops looks at the full day and tries to deliver the best combination of capacity and frequency throughout. That is their job.

        But this idea that when discussing systems you should “default” to just quoting the mid-day frequency is totally false and needed to be called out. There is no such standard.

        But hey, I was out for a walk earlier and passed some ST staff near Link. So, just for grins, I asked them a simple question with no qualifiers or leading terms: “At what frequency does Link operate?”

        Their answer? “Eight minute frequency.” And this was at about 10:40 when Link was actually operating at its mid-day frequency. So apparently the professionals at ST didn’t get the memo about “defaults”. LOL.

        In regards to the added 2 minutes, I wish I could say that if I had to wait an additional 2 minutes on any given commute the world financial system would collapse or the country would descend into anarchy, but that just isn’t true. And I don’t think it is true of any of us.

        And, if it was true, for gawd’s sake don’t risk it and just take an Uber!

        But, if you want better frequency you will need to come up with a better argument than just, “I don’t like to wait”. ST has finite resources and they have multiple constituencies to serve. That invariably means that some of us might find ourselves waiting an extra minute or two, for the communal good.

        As per being tempted to take an Uber, my sister-in-law is exactly one of those people. Her commute is reverse direction at peak, but she finds the transfer from Link to bus to be problematic due to the infrequent and unreliable bus. So she often grabs an Uber for the last 4 miles and does Link/Uber instead of Link/bus.

        But the important thing about her decision to take Uber instead of the bus has nothing to do with Link at 8 min frequency. The problem is the infrequent and unreliable bus. That is what is driving her decision to take an Uber.

      11. “ST has finite resources and they have multiple constituencies to serve.”

        You’re trying to solve a nonexistent problem. ST hasn’t said it has to reduce frequency because it can’t afford the current. It can tell those other constituencies that it’s following international standards for good transit service, especially metros.

      12. Once at 10 minutes, I feel that frequency has been met unless there is overcrowding. I would much rather wait two or three minutes half the time than endure going up or down escalators inside deep stations for over three minutes every time. The more profound advantage of the DSTT that I see is that it’s dry and without chilly winds.

        To that end, I will be curious how the soon-to-open open air stations feel throughout the year.

        I must note too that automated screen doors and trains through the DSTT would make it feel like the shuttle trains in SeaTac. Riders there expect high frequencies and the Port delivers!

      13. @Mike Orr,

        My point is that everything is a compromise. We might each think that ST should drop everything and lavish resources on our individual commute, but at the end of the day that often isn’t justified.

        I personally would rather have ST spend money on maintenance and reliability, as opposed to saving me two minutes (one minute average) on my Link trip.

        Reliability is just as important, or more important, than frequency.

      14. @Al.S,

        Thanks. I to think that the current frequencies of 8 min peak, 10 min off-peak is adequate for now. It makes the system convenient enough at most times of day.

        And people on this blog seem to gloss over the fact that interlining will occur as soon as the full ELE comes on-line. That will drop frequencies in the urban core to 4 min peak. That is awesome.

      15. But this idea that when discussing systems you should “default” to just quoting the mid-day frequency is totally false and needed to be called out. There is no such standard.

        If there is no standard time period, then why the hell didn’t you specify one?!!

        Just a review here. You wrote:

        What’s the deal with 1-Link frequencies today? Both the RTA Information and the online schedule are showing 8 min headways.

        Word for word, that is what you wrote. So by “today” you meant either:

        A) Midday (or most of the day) where running every 8 minutes would be a significant improvement.
        B) During peak, a period that has had 8-minute headways for years.

        It is worth noting that you are not new to the blog. It isn’t like you have been away for years, only to come back and wonder why the train isn’t running every six minutes (like it used to) during peak.

        Somehow we are supposed to guess that peak is the default (even though you claim there is no default) and you were surprised that the schedule hasn’t changed.

        WTF? Are you trolling?

        But at least we can agree now that Link is a system with 8 min headways.

        For only a tiny part of the day! Fact: Link only runs every 8 minutes at peak. Holy cow, on the same comment in which you claim there is no default time period, you imply that the default is peak!

        Look, everyone knows you are a major ST apologist. My guess is you work for them. This isn’t the first time you have specified peak headway as the default, as if nothing else matters. Doing so is very misleading, since it represents a tiny portion of the day. It allows you to say things like “8 minutes isn’t so bad”, when the trains don’t run that often most of the day (and 8 minutes is substandard). It is like the cable company saying “We will be there in ten minutes” and then have them show up a half-hour later with the excuse that “Sometimes we are there in ten minutes.”

        Imagine if Metro did that. The E runs every six minutes. Amazing! That is like real BRT! The 312 used to run every 3 minutes — no need for a schedule. Yeah, in our dreams. Our buses don’t run that often. Peak is a rare time when buses (and trains) run more often than they would otherwise, simply because of capacity issues. Which gets back to another statement you made:

        All transit agencies worldwide reduce frequency off peak.

        No, they increase frequency during peak! It seems like the same thing, but it isn’t. Do you really think the default for the Canada Line is two-minute headways? Seriously? Of course not — they only run that often because the trains are crowded during peak.

        Which brings us back to Link. Why doesn’t Link run every six minutes, like it used to? Simple answer: they bought more trains. If peak really is the default (and has nothing to do with capacity) then why suddenly run less often?

      16. @Ross,

        I’ll keep this simple, and polite.

        I stand by everything I wrote. Because it is the truth.

      17. I [like] to think that the current frequencies of 8 min peak, 10 min off-peak is adequate for now. It makes the system convenient enough at most times of day.

        I disagree, and I think most transit experts would disagree. I get why cash-strapped agencies would do that, but it is clearly not standard. The closest thing to a worldwide standard is running trains every six minutes*, throughout the day. Late at night they typically run them less often. They also run them more often during peak — but only because of crowding, not because the user experience is much better.

        SkyTrain is a great example. All three lines run every 6 minutes midday. This is what I mean by default. If there was no crowding, this is how they would run them all day long. But there is crowding. But the crowding is not the same across every line, which explains why frequencies are not the same during peak. The Canada Line has the most crowding. It peaks out at 2 minutes. The Millennium Line runs every 3 minutes (it isn’t as crowded).

        Running every ten minutes is basically the sign of an agency that simply doesn’t care. They think it is adequate. Keep in mind, this is an agency all to eager to expand (to Fife, Ash Way and South Kirkland Park & Ride) but not that eager to actually improve the existing user experience. It is quantity over quality.

        And people on this blog seem to gloss over the fact that interlining will occur as soon as the full ELE comes on-line. That will drop frequencies in the urban core to 4 min peak. That is awesome.

        So which is it? Four minutes is awesome, or ten minutes is good enough? You can’t have it both ways, but you seem to be trying very hard to.

        I think most people would say four minutes is awesome. We want an awesome system. Hell, we would take very good, like our neighbors to the north. Four minutes is great, but I would be thrilled with running the trains every six minutes.

        But here is the thing: A lot of people in Seattle will not get that four minute peak frequency (or five minute midday frequency). Again, a comparison with SkyTrain is helpful. SkyTrain has branches on two of their lines. In both cases, the trains run every six minutes midday on both branches. This means the train runs every three minutes midday for almost the entire line. This is awesome. I would even argue it is overkill. Don’t get me wrong, it is great — the more frequent the better. But you reach a point where it really doesn’t help much. The only reason they run those trains that often is to benefit those branches. This explains why the Millennium Line (which does not branch) runs every six minutes midday.

        Now look at the branches. They aren’t in Vancouver proper, and are quite a away from downtown. They are basically the type of places where you would expect low frequency with a branch. You get less ridership the farther out you go, and frequency matters less (since the trips tend to be longer).

        Now look at our (future) branch. It is literally downtown! The two branches do not split in the distant suburbs, but are major, largely independent lines that happen to merge downtown. Beacon Hill is two miles from downtown, and it isn’t even the closest station on that branch. Judkins Park is even closer. Even Bellevue is closer to downtown Vancouver than New Westminster is to downtown Seattle.

        I agree, running the trains through the north end of Seattle every 5 minutes in the middle of the day will be a huge improvement. But it still leaves out much of the city, as well as by far the most densely populated inner suburb (Bellevue).

        * I know it sounds arbitrary, but there is a reason why “Six Minute Service” is a movement in New York City ( Not five, not eight, but six. This also explains why the Rapid Ride H will run every six minutes all day long. It won’t run more often than that, because they aren’t worried about capacity. Nor will it run every ten, because they are focused on user experience. We want Sound Transit to do the same.

      18. “ST has finite resources”

        You don’t know how much it would cost to run Link every 8 minutes or 6 minutes off-peak, or conversely how much it would save running it every 15 or 30 minutes. Or how much effect that would have on the overall budget. That’s something ST would have to study and tell us. It hasn’t done so. It just tells us it won’t run 6-minute peaks again or 6-minute middays and it won’t tell us why.

        “But this idea that when discussing systems you should “default” to just quoting the mid-day frequency is totally false and needed to be called out.”

        WE are passengers and transit advocates, and midday/evening/weekend are what affect non 9-5 commute transit trips the most. One, because it’s such a long span. Two, because that’s when people go to appointments, shop, do activities, visit people, and be tourists. Three, because transit agencies/politicians make sure peak hours have enough service but they often neglect midday, so we have to remind them. So midday is the best default for US, and I think when we talk to agency officials and say 10-minute service, they know we mean midday, regardless of whether they think of it as the default or not.

        “passed some ST staff near Link… Eight minute frequency.”

        That’s not an engineer or planner or boardmember. Since you asked them a surprise question, they probably just said the first thing off the top of their head, and that might not be what they say if the think about it thoroughly.

        It’s not just one 10-minute trip. It’s potentially hundreds per person. That adds up. And if a 10-minute train doesn’t show, it’s another 10-minute wait on average. Whereas if a 6-minute train doesn’t show, it’s only a 6-minute wait. See the difference?

        Passengers in general hate waiting for trains/buses even more than they hate long slow trips. It translates to satisfaction with the transit service and willingness to pay taxes for it. And more frequency generates more ridership, so it’s not like we double the frequency and dilute the passengers in half. Every level of service has people making a yes/no decision at the margin, where a little nudge makes them go one way or another. That 2-minute or 4-minute difference in frequency is the nudge.

      19. Another factor to consider. A lot of trips are not just Link, but combinations of Link and buses. In order to support lots of different transfer combinations to and from buses that run at all sorts of difference schedules, without excessive wait time it is crucial that Link run very frequently (and be very reliable). Even more so than buses, as no transit route intersects as many other routes that are potential transfer sources as Link does.

      20. This. To quote Tom Petty (RIP), the waiting is hardest part.

        Whenever I try to talk anyone into using transit in Pierce County, they invariably say they are will not, and they reason is just the thought, the thought, of standing at a bus stop waiting.

        Now in Pierce County, the reality could easily be 30 or 60 minutes. And once you experience one of those waits, you just don’t ride transit again. For many of my friends a coworkers, ever. Only an idiot like me is willing to set themselves up like that, but I almost always have an escape plan (a bike). Otherwise I would never use transit in Pierce either. I’m getting old, and that escape plan will no longer be viable, and unless frequency drastically improves before then, I will join the million other car clowns in Pierce County who understandable will not wait for a very infrequent, often unreliable, bus.

        King and Link is the same, ot is just a matter of degree.

      21. @asdf2,

        The problematic transfer is the transfer from Link to the bus. Link is reasonably frequent, but the bus a person is transferring to is invariably less frequent and less reliable. It does almost nothing for the rider to shave 2 minutes off their Link arrival time if the bus they are transferring to arrives every 30 mins, or sometimes not at all.

        This is exactly why my sister-in-law often uses Uber for her final leg home. Link gets her to the station on time and at 8 min frequency, but if the bus transfer isn’t ready she just calls an Uber.

        It’s also why they bought a house near a future LLE station. Because the ultimate plan is to completely cut the bus out of her commute. No bus transfer, no problem.

        It’s going to be a brave new world when LLE opens. Absolutely transformative.

      22. “The problematic transfer is the transfer from Link to the bus. Link is reasonably frequent, but the bus a person is transferring to is invariably less frequent and less reliable.”

        Even transferring to Link a 10-minute wait can turn a 20-minute trip into a 30-minute trip.

        “This is exactly why my sister-in-law often uses Uber for her final leg home.”

        That’s the problem we’re trying to solve. Make transit good enough that people don’t call Uber. There’s no reason buses can’t run every 10 minutes or 5 minutes. Metro has specific temporary constraints with the driver shortage and funding limitations, but that doesn’t mean they’re forever or set in stone.

        Link gets her to the station on time and at 8 min frequency, but if the bus transfer isn’t ready she just calls an Uber.

        “It’s also why they bought a house near a future LLE station.”

        Do you know what percent of houses are within walking distance of a current/planned Link station? It’s so tiny it’s almost zero. The percent of apartments is larger but still small. So this solution that cannot work for most of the population.

        If you spent as much energy trying to improve the entire transit network rather than putting artificial hinderances in place so it can’t get beyond its “American sucky” rut, then you’d be glad of the result.

      23. “It does almost nothing for the rider to shave 2 minutes off their Link arrival time if the bus they are transferring to arrives every 30 mins, or sometimes not at all.”

        It does matter. When a train runs every 10 minutes and a bus runs every 15, you have a phasing effect where you have an alternating pattern of short waits and long waits depending on which specific trip you take. When the train becomes very frequent, this phasing effect goes away and all connections become short waits, even if the bus is infrequent, so long as you are able to work backwards and know when to catch the train.

      24. @asdf2,

        “ When a train runs every 10 minutes and a bus runs every 15, you have a phasing effect where you have an alternating pattern of short waits and long waits”

        Yes, but the solution to this problem isn’t to run the train more often, the solution is to run the bus more often.

        Think of it, if my train arrives at the station at 6:01, but my bus doesn’t leave until 6:15, then I have to wait 14 minutes. It doesn’t really matter if another train arrives at 6:07/6:13, or 6:09, or 6:11. I still have to wait 14 minutes for the bus.

        And, yes, I could delay the start of my commute in an attempt to pick a train that arrives closer to my bus departure time, but all that does is replace wait time during my commute with wait time before my commute. I still have to wait the 14 minutes somewhere.

        And a savvy commuter would never attempt to time a Link-to-bus transfer that tightly anyhow. Anyone who has used the bus system around here knows how unreliable it can be. Attempting to tightly time bus transfers is a fools errand. It’s why people in this region are so adverse to transfers – because they have lived that experience and they know how bad it can be.

        No, it is better to arrive for your transfer to bus early.

        And if a technical solution is warranted, then it is far better to increase the frequency of the infrequent bus as opposed to increasing the frequency of the already frequent train.

      25. Making the train more frequent improves the quality of the connections between the train and numerous bus routes it intersects. Making a bus route more frequent improves the connection for that one bus route, but not other bus routes. Of course, you can do a lot of good by improving the frequency of all 20’ish bus routes the train might intersect. But the cumulative cost of all that is more than running the train more often.

        As for tight connections…buses can be get off schedule once they’ve been moving for awhile, but the point where buses intersect the train is quite often the bus’s very first stop on the route, so they should arrive at the stop right on schedule. Which means a tight connection will actually work more reliably than one would think. Also, in the event that the train does show up a minute or two late, you can make that time up by hustling out of the station faster. Or, if the train is early or the bus is late, you can dawdle your way out and just stand on the escalators as you slowly ascend.

    1. What’s the deal with 1-Link frequencies today? Both the RTA Information and the online schedule are showing 8 min headways.

      I stand by everything I wrote. Because it is the truth.

      So you were surprised that the schedule didn’t change? Really?

    1. I’ve gotten three emails a few weeks apart about a passenger survey. They all say it just started, but isn’t this all the same survey? I can’t believe ST would conduct three different surveys on the same topic in two months, with all of them offering a raffle prize.

      1. This one seemed different than the previous passenger surveys, but maybe my memory is just terrible.

      2. Ok, I went back through the emails and confirmed this is the same one; it October 16 and is closing on November 22.

        Maybe saying it just opened is a way to drive engagement. Well, they got me to go through it at least twice. Maybe this time felt different because I had different responses than before, so they prompted me with different follow-up questions.

      3. Hah. Yeah. After I realized I had already completed it, I took it as an opportunity to comment on S Sounder, when the first time I said I used T-Link most. I guess they don’t gatekeep by IP.

  14. Mike Lindblom: “Where should South Lake Union light rail go? Compare these 2 locations” ($)

    In this article, Lindblom implies there was some sort of presentation by Vulcan of “Vulcan’s own technical review involving local construction firms”. Lindblom makes a lot of references to information provided by Vulcan, but I can’t find any of it myself.

    Does anyone know about this “feasibility study” completed by Vulcan, or have a link to it?

    1. “Activists say politicians are mollifying motorists and big business, while putting future train riders in the back seat.”

      As if that isn’t what ST is doing on an even bigger scale with the CID/N and CID/S station proposals.

  15. I guess there is talk now of implementation of fare gates in some form according to the Urbanist.

    I’m personally ambivalent towards fare gates, but somewhat annoyed seeing some people online lose their collective minds over this proposal despite this being common around the world and a reasonable debate to have in light of recent issues on the system.

      1. @Jim Cusick,

        I was in LA recently and took the opportunity to check out their rail based transit system.

        Their subway system has faregates, but of course the bypass doors were propped open and people just walked through. Nobody was paying and the security staff was just saying “hi” to everyone.

        Their Light Rail system does not have fare gates and is Proof of Payment just like Link. And it was very well used.

        The difference? In LA the penalty for fare evasion is “up to $1000 fine/one year in jail”.

        I assume the max would only apply to repeat offenders, but that is the kind of enforcement we need here.

      1. The Urbanist has the fare gates study here:

        They discuss the cost estimation process, but it seems the Urbanist didn’t get the “cost estimation workbook” mentioned a couple times in the report. Across the scenarios, their estimates (with 35% contingency) average out to about $5M per station, but they note that the stations vary in layout, so costs to install effective gates would vary widely. They also note that all the vendors were cagey about giving out pricing and that installation tended to be the majority of the cost.

        I found the study rather well-written and worth reading for general reference if you have the time, but Stephen Fesler got the highlights in his article.

      2. Thanks Nathan.

        I see the assumption problem I was having. When ST says “Link only” they assume Tacoma Link too (T Line). That’s why they say 50 stations in the report.

        I don’t understand why there is no Link 1+2 Lines Only scenario. It looks to me that the study was deliberately avoiding this scenario and instead proposing only the Big 5 scenario, which is frankly nonsensical to me.

        A 1+2 Lines scenario would appear to be about $40M to $50M cheaper and that would show a better financial result.

      3. It’s notable that ST accepts a 35% contingency here while in 2016 a much more vague and costly ST3 had a 10% contingency.

      4. Thanks, Stephen!

        Al, I also think it’s notable that ST’s contingency rates range from 30-50% for the EIS cost calculations. Although, based on ST’s experience with the ST2 projects, it seems that their contractors end up consuming most, if not all, of the contingency budget baselined for projects.

        I guess it could be worse – ST could be sending projects out for bid like WSDOT and having proposals come in 70% over estimates, like the Portage Bay Bridge project.

      5. I don’t see how T-Link would even be possible. It’s surface running and accessible from 360 degrees. You’d have to build a house on the platform.

    1. What I object to is the ignorance surrounding the issue. One of the most common is that fare gates will somehow increase security or the feeling of security. There is no reason to assume that. New York City has fare gates, and it is probably the most insecure transit system in the U. S., if not the world. All those complaints (drug use, vomit, people with mental issues) have been a part of the New York Subway system for years. The gates didn’t stop them.

      Second is the idea that gates means 100% fare compliance. Prior to the pandemic, Seattle had a 2.4% non-compliance rate, while NYC had a 5-7% non-compliance rate.

      Another is that this is somehow cheaper in the long run. If your only goal is fare enforcement, then it may be, as you can focus all of your efforts on the stations. But you still need to address security on the trains themselves, which (so far as I know) has been the biggest concern. If anything, it will hurt, as you will have spent a lot of capital on the gates themselves.

      The pandemic disrupted the social order of the U. S. as well as other countries. Crime sky-rocketed across the country. In the midst of this was the George Floyd murder, and the aftermath. White America finally understood the whole Black Lives Matter thing (“So that was why Kaepernick was kneeling?”). America took a good look at the police, and was not too pleased. Sound Transit basically stopped enforcing the fares. This was a reasonable thing to do, given the relatively low ridership, and the aftermath of the Floyd murder.

      But as time went on, more and more people returned to the trains. Sound Transit was very conservative when it came to reinstating fare enforcement. As a result, there was widespread cheating. A lot of people who would otherwise not cheat, felt like “everyone was doing it” and cheated.

      The new enforcement policy is sound and from what I can tell, addresses many of the concerns that existed before. The social fabric of America (such as it is) is beginning to get sewn back together. Time will tell whether we get the type of compliance numbers we had before, but my guess is we will. If we do, the idea of adding gates would be ridiculous.

      1. Ross, “the gates don’t stop them” because NYCTA has largely replaced the floor-to-ceiling turnstiles with eGates that flap open upon a tap. Those are way too easy to jump over, which is what the cheaters do.

      2. My point is, it never stopped them. There was never a time when everyone paid, or the trains were completely free of “riff-raff”, as you put it. Never.

      3. “ What I object to is the ignorance surrounding the issue. One of the most common is that fare gates will somehow increase security or the feeling of security. ”

        A rider doesn’t necessarily think rationally. If it increases a feeling of security it’s effective.

        Keep in mind that fare gates also create a clearer situation when fare evasion happens. It becomes lots more obvious to surrounding riders and to any nearby security personnel if a rider struggles to get around a fare gate. Even if no one is around, a cam can pick up and record a fare evader much more easily. Repeat evaders will be more universally identified.

      4. Ross, I don’t think you know about the old New York and Boston gates. They were floor-to-ceiling with many bars filling the space and the turnstiles themselves had just as many bars minus one to pass between the static “fingers”. They can not be defeated.

        That doesn’t mean that someone who is a tweaker or stinker with some money is excluded; you’re right about that. But it defintely reduces the frequency.

        That BART design with tall door panels around the flipper gates and a frame on the top would work just as well as the finger turnstiles and is considerably less ugly. The pigeon spikes on the top are a nice touch.

      5. I think the point on free youth transit is an excellent one – how do you make a transit system inviting if there are gates in the way? If someone’s already paid fare for the month (or year!), why make them check-in with the system every time they board?

        Pre-pandemic (and just over four years ago) Alon Levy concluded their blog post on fare evasion (

        Transit agencies should aim at a fare system, including enforcement, that allows passengers to get on and off trains quickly, with minimum friction. Turnstiles do not belong in any city smaller than about 10 million people. The fare structure should then encourage long-term season passes, including annual passes, so that nearly all residents who take public transport have already paid. Random inspections with moderate fines are the layer of enforcement, but the point is to make enforcement largely unneeded.

        And tear down the faregates.

        Despite purporting to be about enforcing fares, gates are far more about generating a false sense of exclusivity and/or security. While it’s a potential response to a moral panic about fare evasion, transit agencies have better things to do than install more barriers.

    2. I like fare gates. As a matter of fact, in areas with high jumping, I like the old-fashioned floor to ceiling turnstiles with dozens of fingers. They’re ugly, but they keep the riff-raff out like nothing else.

      And yes, there are “riff-raff”; suck it up, cupcakes. Punks who intimidate or even shake down other riders, stinkers who are a biological disaster zone and tweakers who foul the air with their selfish stupidity should not be on the trains and buses. They’re hard to keep them off the buses without disabling the schedule, but the trains can be protected by exclusion.

      If exit turnstiles in the “1+2” segment (which is 100.0% grade separated) required a top-off to get out, the stations in the at-grade portions of the system in the RV and east Bellevue can be less-rigorously fenced. Sure, some fare avoidance would still continue, but the cheaters of necessity will have to be off the train by Stadium or Judkins Park.

      I don’t think that one can safely exclude people from the at-grade stations. There can’t be gates across the tracks, so cheaters would just enter the station by walking on the trackway, even if the station is entirely fenced and gated.

      I’d even put turnstiles in the the East Link stations that are grade separated. You can’t keep people off at South Main and 132nd which are RV-style canopied platforms, but if folks can’t exit at the popular destinations without at top-off, they’ll use other means to get there.

      The same is true of the RV. Everywhere south of there, at least to Federal Way, is grade separated, so, again, if folks can’t get off at their destination without a tap-off, they won’t ride Link.

      1. It is not about what you like, it is about what is cost effective. Spending huge sums of money when we have a fare non-compliance rate of under 3% is just bad policy. There is also little evidence this would fix the “riff-raff” problem, as you put it.

      2. But it’s not just three percent and it never was. The cheaters just jump off the train when they see the fare inspectors board. People aren’t stupid.

      3. Also worth noting — young people are allowed to ride transit for free. They can get a youth ORCA card, but an I. D. is sufficient. This can be a high school or middle school I. D. or a state issued I. D. or driver’s license.

        So what would happen with the change? Maybe you have someone at each and every station waving the young people in. Maybe every young person has to get a youth ORCA card, which means there would be a boatload of unlimited-use ORCA cards floating around (great for parents — just borrow your kids ORCA card when you go to work, since he walks to school). Same with cousins and older friends (“Hey, can I borrow your ORCA card”). You don’t have to “pass” for being 18, you just have to have the card — tap it and go through the gates.

        Meanwhile, many of those young people are riff-raff! Of course they are. There is a very high correspondence with youth and crime. Both victims and perpetrators. You’ve spent a fortune on gates, fare compliance probably got worse, and have done nothing to address security on the trains themselves. Huzzah!

      4. So maybe letting kids ride for free isn’t that good an idea? Give kids a reduced fare? Sure. Offer a really cheap monthly pass? Absolutely. But “free” generally means shoddy and second-choice.

      5. I disagree, but it is beside the point. Free transit for youth isn’t going away. Nor will free National Park passes for seniors. Last time I checked, none of the old folks thought the parks were shoddy and second-choice.

      6. We get many high-quality services with no cost at point-of-use, aka “free”. Maybe we ought to install fare gates at libraries.

      7. @Ross,

        “ Free transit for youth isn’t going away. Nor will free National Park passes for seniors.”

        I hate to beak the news to you, but I will anyhow – free National Park passes for seniors have gone away (if they ever were truly ”free”).

        They now cost $20/yr, or $80 for a lifetime.

        Thank #45.

      8. I hate to beak the news to you, but I will anyhow – free National Park passes for seniors have gone away (if they ever were truly ”free”).

        Ah man, I’m almost there, too. If you are old enough to not remember how much it costs, shouldn’t you automatically qualify?

        I should have used the veterans example (they get a free lifetime pass).

        Yeah, the library example is a good one. I really don’t think there is much of a bias against anything free. The software world is full of high quality free software.

      9. But it’s not just three percent and it never was.

        Wait, what? You are saying the data is wrong? Does that go for ridership data as well?

        Come on. Anyone studying the issue knows how people could evade payment. At some point you gotta trust the researchers.

    3. A bit ambivalent on the fare gate issue. Adding it to the high traffic areas is probably fine.

      Though honestly a bit confused, I thought they (Sound Transit agency not board members) wanted to move to flat fare so people didn’t need to tap off. But now they want to add in fare gates? If one is going to tap off anyways then where is that original rationale for not tapping off.

      Or I guess perhaps these fare gates will only block on the incoming direction?

      1. You have to have gates to exit or people will just walk through to enter. Exit gates can be activated by someone on the fare-paid side just walking up, but they have to be there.

      2. The old turnstyles were usually one-direction. At the entrance they would lock until you paid. At the exit they always turned. You couldn’t go backward through them because they were locked in the reverse direction.

        This brings up the fact that ST would have to have both entrance and exit gates. With one-way gates only one person can go through every couple seconds. With two-way gates there would be even a larger gap for one person to clear it and another to enter in the opposite direction. Or several people may go through in one direction and block anyone from going the other direction. At the Rainier Valley surface stations a short line-up to pass through a single two-way gate may be tolerable, but at other stations the line would become intolerably long.

    4. The original reason ST opposed fare gates was that fare evasion remained 3% of passengers for many years, and gates would cost more than that. But if evasion since 2020 has gotten significantly higher, that could change the financial case for gates.

      But remember that the revenue lost from non-payment or non-tapping is a complicated issue. A large chunk of people now ride free, those under 19. For people with monthly passes, tapping just changes the ratio of ST trips vs other trips from a fixed monthly pie. If several taps don’t change the ratio much, then ST will still get the same amount. People who can’t afford to pay don’t have money you can extract. Then there are readers that don’t work, TVMs that don’t work, and many people who don’t understand the readers’ messages or beeps or don’t realize there is a message, etc. I’ve seen countless times where people tap but don’t understand the message, or don’t look at the screen to see that there’s an error message, they just listen for a beep. There’s intentional evasion vs forgetting to tap. It’s unclear how much all of this is lumped under the “evasion” stat. Some of it is real intentional evasion and some of it isn’t. And even if ST gets 100% of people to tap, that doesn’t mean it will get additional revenue from every one, contrary to what some of ST’s marketing or news/politicians imply.

      1. If I had to harbor a guess as to why they’re proposing doing this is a multitude of reasons.
        1. Wanting a more efficient security outfit who doesn’t have to deal with as much fare evasion issues and focus solely on safety.
        2. Few recent high profile incidents on Link where safety was compromised and wanting to address the PR nightmare that arose afterwards.
        3. Improving perception of safety on Link system. Having faregates implies a perception of a hardened system that is more difficult to enter into.
        4. Fixing fare payment confusion for tourists, frequent pass riders, and occasional riders.
        Etc etc etc
        Are some more pronounced reasons here, probably. I think 2 and 3 are probably of concern for the suburban board members, 1 is general board issue, and 4 is a backend operations concern.

        As to whether this is a good reason to do this is probably something that depends in the eye of the beholder as to whether this is a good idea or not.

      2. To be clear, there aren’t any real proposals here – this is just a study of the business case for installing gates. It turns out, if ST can get fare evasion to less than 15% (when it was less than 5% before 2020), it doesn’t make fiscal sense to install gates except at the highest-ridership stations.

        I appreciate ST gathering this information – now they have a defensible response when Board members ask “what about fare gates?”

        If I were in Julie Timm’s shoes, I’d wait to see if the increased fare enforcement (kicked off last week) puts fare evasion on a toward trend over the next year.

      3. Agreed. The fare evasion rate was extremely low before the pandemic. I see no reason why it wouldn’t get close to that level again.

        When it comes to fare enforcement, there are really two concerns:

        1) Are so many people failing to pay that it becomes a social problem, with ever increasing fare noncompliance. If 20% of the people don’t pay, then another 20% may see them, and do the same thing. I think it is highly likely this was happening during the pandemic.

        2) Is it costing the agency a significant amount of money. In some cases, those same people wouldn’t pay anyway. At 3% (or anywhere near) the numbers are so low it isn’t worth bothering with.

    5. I’ve seen a number of reports saying that listing the fines goes a long way to encouraging compliance of HOV lanes. It would seem to suggest that if riders are made more aware of fines for fare nonpayment, compliance would grow.

      Adding signs letting riders know of the maximum fine could be done cheaply and administratively!

  16. I’m sorry, but America is quickly becoming a “shithole country”, and I take my share of the blame. We were wrong in the ’60’s; it turns out that Peace, Love and Rock’N’Roll only works for a minority of society that has internalized being conscious of others’ rights and feelings. There are actually a significant number of sociopaths out there that used to be kept more or less on task by The Village (as in “It Take A”). But as social cohesion has cratered and the isolation of face-in-screen living has metastasized [a word chosen carefully] the guardrails that used to limit anti-social behavior have collapsed. Donald Trump has greatly exacerbated the trend toward narcissistic nihilism, but it’s always been a strong undercurrent of American culture.

    So cultured systems like Proof of Payment, which work amazingly well in the Nordic and northwestern European countries — and used to work passably well here in the US — have become the butt of jokes among the “Kool Kidz”. Of all ages.

    All this is a tragic shame, because the America of the 1950’s, with its sky-high rates of community engagement, was an admirable thing at least on that score. Of course, serious problems of inequity were ignored and papered over, but people actually looked out for one another. Today, it’s considered “smart” just to walk over people in one’s way rather than enrolling them in a joint effort. Everybody wants to be Elon Musk.

    Yes, an “old man rant”.

    1. You forgot the poor social safety net. The reason we have drug-smoking and homeless and mentally-disturbed people on trains is that they don’t have homes to do it in, or mental-health services to improve their condition. Just surviving the US while being low-income creates stresses that exacerbate mental conditions. That applies to the working poor with homes as well as the non-working poor without homes. And when people can’t get a good night’s sleep every night, that escalates the problems. It would cost less to just provide the housing/food/health services than to keep band-aiding the results of not having it. Because the results impact both the disadvantaged people themselves, and the people around them, and businesses and the economy and tax revenue and society’s coehsion.

      1. I agree with everything you wrote, Mike. All those difficulties are present for poor and disabled people and make life Hell for them. But there is a “gestalt”, a “zeitgeist”, of selfishness in America today that is chilling in its coldness. I think the computer age is a big part of it.

        We get a facsimile of “interaction” with our devices and the people on the other end of them, but it doesn’t have the same intimacy and strength of the old face-to-face relationships.

      2. Tom, that is the David Brooks bowling-together concept. I don’t buy it. Social scientists have shown that there is a very strong correspondence between economic progress and social progress. Get another raise at work, and suddenly you aren’t worried about them-there blacks and their civil rights. Have the best economic period in twenty years, and the idea of dudes marrying dudes doesn’t sound so bad.

        Brooks basically has it backwards. The reason that Scandinavia kicks everyone’s ass in day-to-day living (the way that American women kick ass in the Olympics) is because they got the public policy right. This lead to greater economic success, which leads to greater social cohesion. These are countries known for being aloof, and yet somehow they manage to be ahead of everyone, while all the other counties make excuses why “it couldn’t work here”. Yes, it could. To a large extent it did! The New Deal changed this country dramatically. Poverty for the elderly was basically eliminated. This lead to the “bowling together” phenomenon, not the other way around.

      3. “But there is a “gestalt”, a “zeitgeist”, of selfishness in America today that is chilling in its coldness.”

        It’s a continuation of the attitudes of slavery, Jim Crow, the Anti-New Dealers, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, etc. First create inequality, then blame the poor for the structural problems against them. The fact that other Western industrialized capitalist countries manage to have less inequality and more cohesion and freedom shows it’s possible.

      4. “We get a facsimile of “interaction” with our devices and the people on the other end of them, but it doesn’t have the same intimacy and strength of the old face-to-face relationships.”

        That’s a somewhat different problem and less severe. The urge to support inequality to get factional benefits goes back centuries. The loss of face-to-face interaction goes back to television and two-income households, a few decades before social media. Society either needs to adjust to less interaction to neutralize its negative impacts, or recreate more interaction. It’s easier to create more interaction so that’s what some people are doing. Nobody really knows how to adjust to less interaction. But if the theory that once people adjust to processed food the spike in health problems it causes goes back down is correct, then maybe the same can be true for virtual interaction.

        To Ross’s point, the Scandinavian countries show that if you put the people first, you get the best results. Anu Partanen’s book “The Nodic Theory of Everything” makes a good case for that in Finland.

        And I don’t buy that it works in Finland because it’s ethnically homogenious and small. It works in Finland because of people’s attitudes. And because corrupt tycoons can’t subvert the government to extract advantages for themselves, or intentionally harm fellow citizens they have a grudge against.

      5. I agree with both of you that good public policy begets a better society, rather than the reverse, though a “better society” does probably sustain the policy. Your examples, Ross, are spot on.

        But I think, though, that the atomization of society behind screens and the facsimile of “togetherness” that social media of all kinds — including right here, right now — is pulling people apart and encouraging rampant selfishness and impatience. Over and over, especially since the Millenium began, it has been demonstrated that the people who cut corners, self-deal, and generally sneer at the good order of society “win” and suffer no consequences for their churlish behavior.

        Instead of “trickle-down economics”, we have trickle-down corruption and jealous envy.

        And I do not believe for an instance that fare-evasion on Link was ever 3%. Perhaps on buses where folks have to file past the driver it was. But it’s simply too easy to cheat on Link, and so people will cheat.

      6. And I don’t buy that it works in Finland because it’s ethnically homogeneous and small.

        Agreed. If anything, it is the opposite. They moved steadily to the left because they had relative cohesion. They just kept looking at systems that worked or didn’t work and landed to the left because the policies worked. It is much harder for fascism to gain strength if there is no “us” or “them”. The U. S. was actually fairly close under LBJ, but then the turmoil over Vietnam blew it up. Nixon was hugely successful with the fascist attacks against the left because it was easier. Divide and conquer has been a successful tactic by despots for thousands of years. It was simply harder in Scandinavia during that same period because of the relative homogeneity.

        Now, as Scandinavian countries are far more diverse, there is more ethnic tension, but they aren’t going to roll back their social safety net and become as far right as the U. S. under Obama, let alone Trump.

      7. But I think, though, that the atomization of society behind screens and the facsimile of “togetherness” that social media of all kinds — including right here, right now — is pulling people apart and encouraging rampant selfishness and impatience.

        To a certain degree, sure. But we were more divided (and a lot more violent) in the late 60s and early 70s. As Mike pointed out, you can’t ignore the old media either (for good and bad). The Civil Rights struggle was made much easier when white people in the north saw what was happening in the south on the TV (instead of reading about it in the paper).

        More recently, Fox News (and its ilk) has had a profound effect on the right. I don’t see the rise of Trump without it. I realize that Fox News initially rejected Trump (for fear he was a bad candidate) but Fox News is Frankenstein and Trump is their monster. The effect of social media (especially Facebook) has been very bad, but I don’t see the political effects without the rise of Fox News, as well as the religious right (which also had major media outlets).

        One of key changes is the idea that there is no objective truth. Walter Cronkite could state that he “We Are Mired in Stalemate” in Vietnam, and it would change minds. Maybe some would disagree, but it was well respected. Now, you have large numbers of people who believe the election was stolen, despite no evidence to support that idea. This is striking. A reporter’s opinion on something as fluid as war is one thing. But an election? That is just absurd, and yet about a third of Americans believe the election was stolen.

        This just wouldn’t happen without Fox News. From the very beginning, their very tilted coverage was designed to suggest that everyone else was wrong. They were the ones that were “fair and balanced”, while mainstream media was far to the left. More importantly, it suggested that there was no objective truth. This was a major contributor to the rise of fascism in the first place (

      1. Thomas Picketty has an interesting observation on that. It was never expected that people would actually pay the 95% rate. It was to encourage them to keep their salaries below the ceiling, to keep the gap between the CEO’s pay and the lowest workers’ pay narrow. That’s the same thing as keeping inequality low.

      2. Or, find ways to get the company to compensate you that’s not officially income, or at least taxed at lower rates. For example, carries interest, borrowing against shares rather than selling them, private flights on the corporate jet, etc.

        The universe where rich people will simply accept a cap on their income simply does not exist.

      3. Well, employer-based medical insurance started in the 1940s to attract workers, because wartime price controls prevented companies from raising salaries. My dad was an insurance broker and told me this. I think Picketty might have mentioned something similar, that companies gave non-cash benefits to avoid the 90% ceiling. It’s in his book “Capital in the 21st Century”.

    2. So cultured systems like Proof of Payment, which work amazingly well in the Nordic and northwestern European countries — and used to work passably well here in the US — have become the butt of jokes among the “Kool Kidz”. Of all ages.

      Right. The “it would never work here” argument.

      Except, wait a second, it did work here. Quite well, actually: 97.6% compliance, less than five years ago. So that leaves two possibilities:

      1) Somehow we reached a tipping point in terms of nihilism and whatnot, and reversed a trend of very high fair compliance or…

      2) The pandemic hit, and screwed up everything.

      Call me crazy, but I’m betting on the second one.

      There are definitely trends that the pandemic accelerated, like working from home. But fare compliance is the opposite. There is no fundamental reason why our compliance rate shouldn’t reach those of the ancient period, known as 2019.

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