Community Transit considering microtransit in Lynnwood

Community Transit has put out a set of options for its upcoming Lynnwood Pilot, with the aim of improving mobility around popular destinations in Lynnwood. The options include two microtransit routes, and a community van program. Community Transit is seeking feedback on the options with a survey, open until June 18th.

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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:

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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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Prioritize Stride BRT in realignment

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Stride station rendering (image: Sound Transit)

With the Sound Transit 3 program realignment continuing to evolve and adjust to new revenue projections, Sound Transit is evolving its realignment scenarios. Now is the time to get serious about prioritizing projects. I believe that Sound Transit’s Stride BRT lines are strong candidates for prioritization, and should be completed as soon as possible.

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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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Smith cove ferry service?

The Port of Seattle:

The Port of Seattle Commission approved funds for a Pier 86 Public Fishing Pier restoration study, in partnership with Expedia Group and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Cost and Feasibility study will allow the Port and its partners to determine the technical requirements and potential costs of construction of rebuilding the public fishing pier at Pier 86 with a “ferry float” to support commuter service to the Expedia Campus and surrounding area.

No routes are proposed, so it’s hard to say what the value would be here, especially once the Link station opens at Smith Cove (express to Alki?) But it’s impressive that they found a possible ferry location that was ignored by the 2008 passenger ferry study, the 2015 passenger ferry study, and the 2020 passenger ferry study.

Legislature passes a carbon cap

Joe O’Sullivan, at The Seattle Times, on the state’s first carbon cap-and-trade system:

SB 5126 creates a system to cap carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and sets specific limits for individual businesses, according to a news statement. Those businesses would have to then purchase credits for allowed emissions.

Businesses emitting fewer greenhouse gases than the credits allotted them could then sell their credits to businesses that aren’t reducing emissions as quickly, according to the statement. The overall pool of carbon credits are to be gradually reduced by 2050, in order to hit a goal of net-zero emissions.

The money collected by the state would go toward, among other things, projects intended to reduce emissions from transportation and increase resiliency to climate change.

That can presumably include transit projects, though the word “transit” doesn’t appear in the legislative analysis. The Senate’s cap-and-trade proposal beat out the House’s proposed carbon tax.

MASS statement on the Seattle VLF

From our partners at Move All Seattle Sustainably:

The Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition urges the Seattle City Council to follow the outreach process it mandated when passing a $20 vehicle license fee (VLF) in November 2020. The Seattle Department of Transportation engaged stakeholders and struck a careful balance in its spending proposal that incorporated the City’s stated priorities of safety, climate action, mobility justice, and equity. SDOT’s proposal would invest 73% of the VLF on walking, rolling, and biking, while spending 24% on bridge maintenance.

The SDOT proposal is very reasonable and balanced. Council ought to propose bridge maintenance as part of the next capital levy in 2024. Doug Trumm at The Urbanist has some good suggestions on what such a plan might look like.

ST board members want more time for realignment

Letter from Claudia Balducci, Dow Constantine and Jenny Durkan to the Sound Transit board:

One year ago, in 2020, the problem the Board was tasked to address stemmed from a massive revenue shortfall due to a pandemic-induced recession; now, the overwhelming problem is unforeseen cost increases. With this change, we may need to reevaluate our approach. Are the assumptions that led to cost increases in the evaluated projects likely to lead to increases in the remaining realignment portfolio? What has been the average cost increase in recent projects? How should the agency approach a cost-related gap differently than a revenue-related gap?

The concern is that projects will get unnecessarily delayed while the tax revenue shortfalls end up being less severe than expected. I see where they’re coming from, but it’s hard to see how more delay gets projects delivered more quickly.

Reading between the lines, and judging by the signatories, the letter seems like an effort to keep the board from prematurely punting Ballard and West Seattle too far out into the future. Especially since the second downtown tunnel – another priority shared by this trio – fares well in most phasing scenarios.

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:

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News roundup: limited edition

Pioneer Square

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Metro service change moves to October 2nd, STBD changes unveiled

Northgate Link Extension Construction
The future Northgate Link Station under construction, adjacent to the existing Northgate Transit Center (Atomic Taco)

Since Sound Transit has announced that Northgate Link will open on October 2nd, which is a few weeks behind a widely anticipated September 2021 opening, King County Metro has also changed the Northgate bus service restructure to occur on October 2nd as well. When we reported on Metro’s scaled back plans for restructuring service for Northgate Link, there were a lot of disappointments in how the plan was scaled back to match COVID-19 adjusted revenue expectations. But Metro’s plan assumed no contribution from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), to establish a baseline for the STBD to build on. Now we have details on how the city will spend its STBD money on bus service.

The plan is broken down into three broad categories: West Seattle, Northgate, and service reductions. West Seattle is getting special attention due to the effects of the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge last year, increasing travel time for buses on the lower Spokane Street bridge. The closure of the low bridge to general traffic also increases demand for bus service in the corridor. The Northgate area is going to be transformed by the opening of Northgate Link, so much of the service funded by the STBD is going to be adjusted. Finally, there are reductions to the STBD program that are necessary because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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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.