Watch the Seattle Subway/STB mayoral forum tonight

We’re proud to co-sponsor a mayoral forum with a focus on transit and land use issues with Seattle Subway, tonight at 7pm. The seven candidates are Andrew Grant Houston, Jessyn Farrell, Lorena González, Lance Randall, Colleen Echohawk, Casey Sixkiller, and Bruce Harrell.

It will stream online on Facebook (Seattle Subway page), Twitter (@SeattleSubway), and here at the blog. You can also register in order to view it on Zoom and potentially get a question in.

You can join as early as 6pm.

Many thanks to Erica Barnett of Publicola for moderating.

News roundup: coming back

1173 (118X) and 3713 (119X) onboard the MV Cathlamet

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First youth ORCA now free

4 ORCA cards

Starting June 1st, the first youth ORCA a child gets is free with proof of age. Subsequent cards (to replace ones lost or stolen) still cost $5. This now matches the policy for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit.

Youth cards are available at customer service offices, or more conveniently via mail.

This continues the gradual ratchet of reducing and eliminating fares without threatening the core of revenue provided by employer passes. Through low income fares, ultra-low-income fares, free passes for Seattle Public Schools students, and periodic ORCA giveaways, there are many ways to chip away at what for most is already a modest fare bill.

Charter Amendment contains good surprises

Homelessness is a complicated problem for which STB, with its narrow transit-and-land-use focus, would not claim to propose a full solution. [1] The proposal in Seattle Charter Amendment 29 (“Compassion Seattle“), which may be on the ballot later this year, attracts the usual complaints from those who insist on zero tolerance or zero coercion. Money for housing is good, though unfunded spending mandates aren’t so good.

But, like any worthwhile op-ed, this anti-amendment argument ($) by three former Councilmembers gives us enough information to learn there is at least one piece that I feel qualified to say is very good:

· CA 29 waives the land use code to site housing projects. Zoning, height limits, setbacks, greenbelt designations, notice and “due process” will not apply. This means new housing units or multifamily projects could be added in all zones, including single family.

and indeed, right there in the fifth bullet of Section 1:

Continue reading “Charter Amendment contains good surprises”

The future is condos

Seattle - big new Eastlake view condo building

Heidi Groover takes a break from the scary ” home” price beat to point out that it isn’t all that hard to buy a condo in Seattle ($).

There is a lot of media directed at people shopping for single family homes, but the number of possible houses within a certain distance of Seattle is finite. It’s natural for a growing metropolitan area to have a center city where single family homes become rarer, and the only way out is to allow denser forms of housing. Despite shortcomings,, Groover’s reporting suggests policy is basically working to provide ownership opportunities.

More reporting like this, please. Single-family homes will be a less important part of the market, and statistics that reflect that will be critical to understanding how our policy mix is working.

News roundup: do better

Metro South Base

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News roundup: part 2 of 2

A @SoundTransit Link Train  Stretching Under Intl District Station Skylight

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News roundup: part 1 of 2

816

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Public input on ST3 realignment this week

April 30th is the deadline for the public to comment on Sound Transit’s various options to make up for the current mismatch in projected costs and revenues for ST3. Here’s where we stand:

There is no effect on the Sound Transit 2 projects (Link to Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way) and these are expected to arrive in accordance with current schedules, and roughly 1-2 years after the timeline voters were given in 2008.

Updates to the economic model have reduced the funding gap from $11.5 billion to “only” $7.9 billion. $527m from the first Biden stimulus, plus $4.6 billion more in projected tax revenue is partially offset by $595m more in cost inflation. The NE 130th St Station alone has increased $64m as engineering went from 30 to 60%.

This handy graph shows how other considerations have more than made up for lower tax receipts, and it’s exploding capital costs that have put the project in doubt:

Continue reading “Public input on ST3 realignment this week”

News roundup: limited edition

Pioneer Square

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Northgate Link opens Oct. 2nd

Airport Link Opening Ceremony (4198862959)

On Friday, Sound Transit announced that Northgate, Roosevelt, and U-District stations will open for service on Saturday, October 2nd. There is no word about any celebration for what, with luck, will be a nice symbol of our emergence from the pandemic. We might not get one, with ST having endured bad-faith critiques about marketing expenses for the U-Link opening, and potential public health restrictions lingering.

It is a cause for celebration. The U-District is an obvious place to put a subway station. Roosevelt is the rare fashionable neighborhood where some growth is legal. Northgate is simultaneously a transportation hub, a blank slate for major redevelopment, and a logical interim terminus for buses coming from further north. Link will provide an alternative to the very worst bit of I-5 congestion, 5 minutes to the U-District and 13 to Westlake.

Better yet, this is the first major Link deliverable from the Sound Transit 2 vote in 2008. It arrives only one year after the proposed date at election time (2020). Combined with East Link 1-2 years late (with City of Bellevue dithering) in 2022 or 2023, and Lynnwood and Federal Way also a year late in 2024, ST2 is going to have an excellent delivery record after weathering an unprecedented recession, far better than Sound Transit 1 and a testament to the abilities of former CEO Joni Earl (2001-2015).

ST3, in year 5, is already in quite a bit of trouble on these terms. Thanks to poor cost estimation, the most likely outcome is some major projects suffering a couple of years delay, and either a large new infusion of cash or the other projects sliding over a decade.

News roundup: fresher air

KCM 4602 (Proterra) at Eastgate P&R

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Delay ST3 parking to save the rest?

Projected years of delay to ST3 projects if parking is the lowest priority (NP = No Parking)

As Sound Transit grapples with escalating costs for ST3, one emerging option focuses on delaying parking construction to prioritize transit. In the past month and a half, we have:

Delaying parking has a number of advantages. It allows ST to complete the “lines on the map” that captivated most voters with the least delay. Parking is an expensive way to acquire riders, averaging $128,000 per net new space in ST3. By comparison, upzoning and selling the land to a market-rate developer adds riders and is revenue positive.

Continue reading “Delay ST3 parking to save the rest?”

News roundup: return on investment

Sounder at Lakewood Station

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News roundup: access

Technicolor of a Skagit Transit Bus

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News roundup: vaccine-eligible

Sounder Station - Tukwila

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News roundup: to the scrap heap

King County Metro #3756

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Join the East Link Connections Mobility Board

East Link map with stations

East Link might open in as little as 18 months. Like any rail opening of that magnitude, there are many opportunities to reorganize bus service to reduce redundancy, improve access, and serve new priorities.

Metro and Sound Transit are creating a citizen sounding board for these changes, and they’re paying $50 per hour:

“Are you someone who:

  • Lives, works, and/or travels within Eastside communities? These communities include but are not limited to areas east and south of Kenmore, east of the I-90 and SR 520 bridges, north of east Renton (such as Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond), and west of Sammamish and Issaquah? Or do you live, work, or travel in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District and/or Judkins Park?
  • Is a transit rider or a potential transit rider?
  • Are able to bring your perspective as an individual, not representing the interests of an organization?
  • Are willing and interested in drawing connections between racial equity, transportation issues, and access to opportunities?”

Apply by the end of this month to participate from April to November 2021. It’d be helpful for some board members to have an appreciation for transit planning principles.