This Weekend's Nightmare Traffic: Why Won't Our Leaders Build Light Rail Faster?







@1: not relevant to this discussion

Article: Agree 100%. Why the fuck most people aren't clamoring for this is beyond my ability to understand.
@2 parrots the typical Stranger pap: "Why the fuck most people aren't clamoring for this is beyond my ability to understand."

Because no wants to sit in a smelly subway car with criminals.

For god's fucking sake don't you people understand that we LIKE cars. Even in a traffic jam. We've got air conditioning and music and we can smoke pot in peace. Can you smoke pot in one of those subway vehicles? NO way. Some old lady will complain and hit you over the head with her umbrella.

And on a Saturday afternoon we are not all going to the same spot so light rail (or whatever you want to call it) wouldn't work.

You want taxpayers to support something big? They'll pay for a new freeway driving across Capitol Hill...maybe 8 lanes in each direction...right down Broadway...and a law to prohibit bicycles...don't even allow them to be sold...people who don't have a car should SF or Portland or Paris (in Europe) or some other communist country.

Well you asked so there's the answer, from The People.

Where was the Stranger devoting space regarding the Ballard to UW options?
@3 you suck at trolling.
@3 is a fat slob — I guarantee it.
@3: You're dumb, and bad at comments.

But I am enjoying myself and have nothing to say.

Anyway, there is a lot of truth in @3 but you don't have the brains to get it.
Where light rail systems fall short is suburb-to-suburb. Suburb-to-core (except to Ballard) is mostly in the works. We need a Ballard-to-Northgate-to-Kenmore-to-Bellevue line and that would alleviate a lot of traffic on I-5 and on the bridges.
Oh, was traffic bad this weekend? I rode my bike as usual and didn't even notice.
Want the burbs to get on board with transit? Then do exactly what this article advocates. Build a kick ass city only system. Then watch the burbs clamor for the same.
A grade-separated transit system is something that EVERY MAJOR CITY MUST BUILD.

This is such a frustrating belief in Seattle. Is it that people in Seattle just never visit other cities except NYC? Literally dozens or hundreds of cities on every continent have solved this problem by not using grade separation. They take car lanes and dedicate them to light rail on the surface.

Surface transit is more accessible because it's right on the road, and if done right it's just as fast as grade separation, because all the tram space on the surface is dedicated only for trams with little or no traffic intersection. The surface is safer and more pleasant for pedestrians and bikers because there are reliable, quiet, clean trams instead of loud, polluting, dangerous cars zipping around. And they go exactly where you want to go, as opposed to Portland's light rail that goes to the middle of nowhere or Seattle's light rail that goes where we can afford to build a deep bore tunnel.

Globally, grade separation is for rapid transit (which nobody here is talking about) or intercity rail. It's so bizarre that Seattle seems to be just about the only place on the planet that thinks light rail should be grade separated, for the sake of keeping 100% of space on the surface for cars.

Plus, we could probably build 15 tram lines carrying hundreds of thousands of people for the cost of one more grade-separated crappy light rail line in a deep bore tunnel carrying a few thousand people.

Examples of surface light rail with dedicated right-of-way around the world --

Gothenburg -- 15 lines, 300K riders per day :…

Budapest -- 33 lines, 1 million riders per day:…

Hiroshima -- 8 lines:…

Vienna -- 29 lines, 500K riders per day:…

Tunis -- 6 lines, 200K riders per day:…

Melbourne -- 29 lines, 500K riders per day:…

Mendoza, Argentina --…
@10: How delightful for you. I'm sure with all the time you saved by not being in traffic you had the time to fix yourself a cocktail and sit out on your deck and sneer down at those fossil fuel perverts and global warming deniers.
"And a pony."
In Seattle between beginning of 2012 and of 2013 (2 years) we added just shy of 9,000 new housing units.

In the one year period between July 2012 and July 2013 we added 7,000 more auto registrations.

To make matters worse, much of the new housing is built without parking and also without any impact fees that could help improve our public transit infrastructure.

It's no surprise we have a car problem and a transit problem - we're giving the candy store away to developers - most who don't live in the area or give a shit...
You were making sense until your infantile irrelevant ignorant last paragraph.
Plus, as to your statement "much of the new housing is built without parking" --- do you have any facts?

Otherwise I like your thinking very much.
@3 Then I guess we'll just have to drag your stupid, pot-smoking, car-loving ass through the gauntlet of progress whether you like it or not. :)

I say now is the time for Seattle to embrace Sabotage Politics. It works pretty well for the Tea Party; look at how much shit gets done in the US Congress unless they give the go ahead (answer: none). I vote we throw a wrench in every legislative issue that comes up until we get our way on transit. Eastern Washington wants better irrigation for their farms? Fuck you, give us transit. Coastal Washington wants money to build new schools for The Children? Fuck you, give us transit. Any part of the state wants anything for any reason at all? FUCK. YOU. GIVE. US. TRANSIT.

We're the goddamn breadwinners in this state. Without us, none of the other parts would get the kind of tax revenue needed to build and maintain the infrastructure they have. It's time to start talking about City State's right, because we've fucking EARNED IT.
We're currently stuck with the next regional light-rail vote likely being held in 2016—eight years after the most recent vote.

November 2016 is going to be here before we know it. With the opening of the University Link extension ahead of that potential Sound Transit 3 vote and 2016 being a presidential year, ST3 has the potential to be the real game-changer. That's our real chance to be visionary. But how?

Well, that's where Seattle Subway's vision comes into play. And really they're doing nothing more than stating the obvious. Take the highest priority new corridor in the Seattle Subway map and make that be the linchpin of the Seattle sub-area's ST3 component. While there are good candidates for that highest priority corridor, I think inevitably the #1 is building a second north-south light rail tunnel through downtown, whose initial destination, northbound, is Ballard.

As for doing the heavy lift of asking Olympia for funding authority, why do that for the sake of an interim package that is inevitably going to be small-scale compared to ST3? If there's anything we've learned about building effective light rail, it's go big or go home. Doesn't ST3 itself need newly legislated funding authority from Olympia? Isn't that where all our energy should be focused?
Follow to 18...

If Dominic or anyone has some reason to believe that the ST3 package isn't going to deliver the high-capacity light rail we want, then I can see the value of taking another path. But I just don't yet see a reason not to be hopeful about ST3. Like it or not, advocating for a separate, ill-defined track for light rail expansion winds up being an excuse for disengaging and not fighting to make ST3 be the package it needs to be.
raku @12: Surface transit is more accessible because it's right on the road, and if done right it's just as fast as grade separation, because all the tram space on the surface is dedicated only for trams with little or no traffic intersection.

Um, raku, apparently you have never taken the Max in Portland.

Side observation. I can never quite figure out if this raku character is a weak attempt at satire. I'm most familiar with raku for her pro-vegan screeds, and as someone who's generally sympathetic to veganism, every time I read one of those screeds I just cringe. Like, is this a deliberate attempt to capture all the worst vegan stereotypes?

The most frightening possibility is that raku's comments are in earnest. But I find that hard to believe.
Seattle and its wealth could afford to build a complete subway network that connects all the major neighborhoods within just a few minutes of travel.

With Bertha stuck under the city with no solution in sight for years (if ever), advocating for a subway system is not the best use of your energy right now. Or probably for the next decade or two. Maybe an L train, though.
20: Portland's light rail does not have its own space in/near downtown, so it gets stuck in traffic. That is not how it's done in most of the world. Take a look at link light rail right now -- it's faster and more reliable in south Seattle on the surface than it is in a tunnel downtown, because it has its own lanes in south Seattle. It has absolutely nothing to do with grade separation.

Meanwhile, even though Portland decided not to have reliable light rail with its own lanes downtown, their light rail carries about 100K more people a day than Seattle's, and its entire 4 line surface light rail system cost a fraction of our one partial deep bore tunnel line.

Portland is about to open its 5th light rail line, which started construction in 2011 and will open in 2015. Four years to build a full light rail line including a new bridge. Meanwhile, because ours is full of ridiculous expensive tunnels, it's taking 25 years to finish our first line.
How much is it?

Complaining is free, city-wide rail, not so much.
It's petty rich that The Stranger - which endorsed Tim Eyman's initiative defunding light rail, editorializing that the project should not be built - is now complaining that light rail isn't moving fast enough because of elected officials.

Most people aren't taking I-5 to the city...they want to get from somewhere South to somewhere North of it.

The city, by virtual of its exits, entrances and interchanges, interferes with traffic.

This begs the question, is the DBT the right answer?

No, because it is pictured as a paid adjunct to a highway that is supposedly then for people who wish to go to downtown Seattle.

Almost no one does, which is why a surface street for those who do would be far more appropriate. Then we could wall off I-5 as quick corridor...for the other 99% percent.
@17, hear hear
I'd love to see the light rail system completed within my lifetime.

On Saturday I had to be in Interbay at noon and then Renton at three. Given the traffic problems there was no way I would take transit. The bus from downtown to Interbay would be stuck trying to get by the Seattle Center and back again. And then there isn't really a convenient way to get to Renton any day.

If there was light rail from downtown to Ballard it would change things considerably since my transit time would be guaranteed and not tied down by the marathon at the Seattle Center. And then I could be one less car on the road slowing everybody else down. Which is why car drivers should be the first to support transit.

@24 Umm?

@25 I drive the viaduct fairly often and the traffic to/from North always dwarfs the traffic exiting on Seneca or coming from Columbia. Those are the only two access points that will be eliminated by the tunnel.

The new 99 will provide easier access to the stadiums and to the Seattle Center. It should appeal to people from the North who are heading to the Stadiums, West Seattle, the airport, or eventually south to Federal Way or Tacoma. And it should appeal to people from the South who are heading to the Seattle Center, Greenlake, Ballard, etc.

Sure there are people who will never pay a toll, but especially on days when I-5 is congested, every day if my experience is a guide, plenty of people will choose the less congested road even if they need to pay a little for the privilege.
@17 I'm ready to sign the petition: All tax revenue must be returned 1-for-1 to the county it came from.
Yes, great idea, then we can have a marathon and a parade everyday without inconveniencing some people.
So in raku @12 says one thing: Surface transit is more accessible because it's right on the road, and if done right it's just as fast as grade separation, because all the tram space on the surface is dedicated only for trams with little or no traffic intersection.

And then @22 raku says something just the opposite: Portland's light rail does not have its own space in/near downtown, so it gets stuck in traffic.

These are seemingly contradictory statements, sure. Surface transit is just as fast and reliable as grade-separated transit, except when it isn't. But I think raku's vision of fast, reliable surface transit works perfectly just so long as it doesn't have to suffer the minor inconvenience of having to traverse real cities with places people might actually want to go.

For those of you who believe that any attempt to do light rail at-grade through downtown Seattle and on to Capitol Hill and the U District would be an utter disaster, all raku and I can say is, who the heck would want to go to any of those places anyway?

P.S. I'm coming to the belief that raku is not a satirical character.
Why doesn't Seattle get its LRT constructed faster? I have no idea, but I bet it's very closely related to the political and administrative system that exists in the city. Committee upon committee upon special interest group, who all have their right to input in the process....

In order to get shit done fast, cheaply and efficiently, the best proven model is a strong central decision making system... Look at China. Shanghai for example went from 2 lines up to about 16 or 18 lines within 12 years, now comprising the largest municipal MRT system in the world. This scenerio is being repeated by the dozens across various cities in China today....

Are Seattle residents willing to give up their system of "democracy"?
Dom, why all the love for cars? You know they enjoy spending quality time together in their smog.

Get out from behind your desk and on your bicycle.

Always fun watching Seattle pussies trying to act butch. Maybe send the dykes out next time honey.
31: I specifically said that light rail with its own right of way is as fast as not-at-grade. And Portland's does not have its own right of way downtown. That's not contradictory at all! That's exactly what I was talking about. I also provided links to a load of videos from 5 continents that show what I was talking about. There are obviously exceptions, like if you absolutely have to go directly from SODO to the top of Beacon Hill you could only do a tunnel, but the future "Seattle Subway" plan doesn't include any of those exceptions.

Also, if you don't think at-grade rail would work in Seattle, I point you to history -- we had dozens of at-grade rail lines in Seattle up through the 1930's. If we could do it with 1930's technology, we could clearly do it with 2010's technology.…

Also, obviously, dozens of other cities around the world have done it, and pretty much all of them have a better traffic and mobility situation than we do.

Here's a good Stromae music video shot at a Brussels at-grade light rail station that looks like it could have been shot at a future Capitol Hill or downtown at-grade light rail station. (It doesn't have 100% its own right of way, but it's close.)…
Part of the reason we build rail lines so slow is we are terrified of neighborhood impacts. That's why we do deep bore tunnels. We could do cut and cover tunnels a lot faster. The neighborhoods they pass through would look like hell for a year or so but then they would be done. Cut and cover tunnels are a lot cheaper and faster than deep bore tunnels. We have good soil for that as well ( glacial till).
FWIW, the traffic was great in my Seattle neighborhood.

If specific neighborhoods are having a problem then maybe they should get together and propose a TID, Ballard and downtown would make a fine pair to get together to solve their problem.
There are probable a couple other [ ] and downtown combinations that may be struggling to support the businesses downtown with transporting their workers to them.
Maybe downtown should be involved in paying for what primarily benefits their businesses.

It is amazing how many people have been convinced that it's the lowly commuter's burden, fuck that, most of our big ticket transportation items largely a benefit to businesses DOWNTOWN and the condo developers cheerleading density without taking responsibility for the impact on MOBILITY.

Turn the fucking tables on downtown in 2015, if you don't, then you're suckers.
Raise the B&O tax to fund transit that serves DOWNTOWN.
Allow developers to build apodnents without parking, but with an annual transportation impact fee (no cars, no car tab taxes).

You all want all this shit, well, I got bad news, there aren't enough fucking cars to tax to pay for all of your merry-go-rounds. It's a revenue source with diminishing returns. Ya, fewer cars per person, and fewer cars to tax…

Look your boss in the eye, Dominic, and let him know he is the fucking problem. No?
Well, you're no better than the politicians you are so keen to throw under the non-existent bus.
Light rail makes a TON more sense to me than a 24/7 supply of filthy coal and dangerous oil trains any day. But corrupt Big Industry isn't known for employing common sense--especially when so frequently blinded by devalued U.S. dollar signs.
1. Olympia hates Seattle. Until every legislative seat is held by Seattle Democrats, Olympia will not give Seattle what it wants. Whatever it wants, at any given time.
2. Everyone shut up about the tunnel. It will probably never be built, but the money is not going to be spent on anything else. It's state money; see 1 above.
3. Everyone shut up about their damned bicycles. No one cares.
4. This weekend was especially bad because of the Fremontathon and every single surface that could be closed down being closed down.
5. Previous weeks were bad because the state police seem to need to close down I-5 and/or 99 for 24 hours to investigate an accident. Strange that such didn't used to be necessary, but maybe they've decided they need to fingerprint the entire road now.
6. There are more people in Seattle now and they have cars. Why shouldn't they; they can afford them because they're making $$$$ and all the poor people have had to move to Burien. Light rail 25 years from now will do absolutely nothing to correct that.
That picture alone is keeping me from even getting on I-5 anymore, and I live north of Seattle!

Light rail NOW!
If this city had any real balls to go against the car-centric mentality, we'd have turned the I-5 express lanes into light rail tracks and we'd have had a run all the way to the northgate park and ride up and running years ago.

But instead they decided to bore a tunnel the whole way, which will completed in sixteen fucking years!
One day your children's children's children just may live long enough to see rapid light rail transportation that will be around 20% complete.
Why is it it took the United States a little over a generation to complete the entire Interstate Highway system but Seattle will take the same period of time to only finish a portion of a rapid transit system?

The ability to complete light rail in 10 years exists: we have just chosen not to take it that seriously.
@43 - be fair. There is no way the interstate highway system would be built as fast now as it was in the 50s. Many, many areas that were largely rural back then are urban now. And there's no way cities would allow freeways to grind through them the way they did back then.

The amount of time it takes to build light rail is directly connected to its funding. We could build things a whole lot faster with more money. But there isn't the funding, so we have to go slower. Part of that is our own damn fault, as we voted down forward thrust in the 60s, and voted down the first version of sound transit in '93. If either of those had passed, we'd have a much more extensive system. But in the end, it doesn't really matter how fast it gets built. It's going to be built, it's going to be expanded, and it'll be here forever.
Any Seattle City official who doesn't think that the bottleneck of I-5 under the convention center is a major transit issue that deserves immediate correction does not represent the people of Seattle.

As I-5 Northbound goes through Mount Vernon it expands from two lanes to four. That's because Mount Vernon is a big town. As I-5 Northbound goes through Seattle it contract from four lanes to two. That's insane. Only an idiot would design it like that and only idiots would allow it to go un-corrected.

Of course, these are the same city officials who are reducing Highway 99 from three lanes to two, so maybe they are idiots.
Don't look at me. I think the interstate system was one of our biggest mistakes as a nation. It's turned us into a country of fat impatient bores.

And if we had just approved Forward Thrust back in the 70's, the conversation would be different. But we were jerks then, also.
I just decided to live next to light rail, rather than wait for light rail to come to me. Once I can get my bike north of the ship canal, the city is pretty much wide open for me.
It's so amusing to observe Seattle's ruling elite and see all the neurotic obsession over being a "world-class city" on one hand and yet also see how timid that elite is about building transportation projects other than freeways and how much fear Seattle has over anything other than single-family detached housing being built in the majority of its land area.
I have been stuck twice now waiting for buses for at least an hour! Why can't Metro make some contingency plans for reroutes or something, it's not like the Fremont Parade was an unknown!!!
I couldn't get a D, so tried taking the E and walking from Aurora to where I needed to be, but even the E line shut down on Saturday and didn't run, what's up with that?? There's no apparent reason that the E line should have also stopped running. I think the drivers just all got too pissed at the roadworks and walked off the job or something..

It's not ****ing GOOD ENOUGH!! I depend on buses, don't have a car or a license. You can't just stop the bus service on a weekend for no apparent reason.
@3 & 16: Does your mom know you're smoking pot in the car Grasshopper? Better hope you don't get a DUI cuz you'll get grounded for sure and your ass will be back on the bus getting beat up by old, umbrella wielding ladies.
You'll probably lose internet privilege too.
Don't say we didn't warn you!
What leaders?
@3: Speaking of special snowflake...

People like you mystify and amuse me. You just don't get it, do you? The people that are trying to keep Seattle less urban "socialist" and less like San Francisco or Paris, have already lost. Your city belongs to us, the urbanites. We have won.

Seattle will be growing by some estimates at about 9% a year for the next 20 years. I'm not sure if you think that Seattle will regress to back to it's fishing village roots, or that some how urbanites will be be different here than anywhere else, but it won't, and we're not. When an urban center grows, it naturally creates a need for mass transit, because it's just a more efficient way to move people – it's simple math and efficiency equations without an agenda.

But that's not what you're after, is it? Logic doesn't work on folks like you, so, ok, I'll feed the troll. What else you suspect is also true. We're not from here, we're from California and New York and Massachusetts, and all those other terrible socialist places we've been priced out of, and we're gonna make this place a socialist urban paradise, too. It's gonna be great, there's gonna be sidewalk cafes and bike shares and newspaper kiosks and no-car zones. All your city are belong to us, pal, and no amount of legislation will change that now. The question is just whether the leaders want to lead or follow us.

Sorry, guy. Maybe move to Utah?
Even if I had underground light rail from my front door to Wholefoods, Sky Nursery, Fred Meyer, Costco, Home Depot and Lowes (my usual weekend “commute”) it wouldn't od a damn bit of good to keep me off the road. How in the hell would I schlep all that shit home without a car???
To make matters worse, much of the new housing is built without parking

This doesn't make things worse, it makes them better. Car storage is expensive, but requirements to provide them hide that cost from the consumer. People demand convenient car storage, but balk at paying its true cost. We shouldn't hide the huge costs of cars from people; that is a big part of the problem is attachment to cars and driving on a mistaken, distorted view of how much it actually costs.
If you live in the city you'll rarely even realize there is a traffic nightmare happening. A good geographic choice in housing = no traffic hassles. Many, if not most, of those idiots sitting in traffic made a choice to live in the suburbs so they could have a big yard and 5 bedrooms...they've rightly earned "traffic" time.
@45 You ever driven to Mount Vernon? The 5 goes from 4 lanes in Everett down to three in northern Snohomish County and then to two right before Mount Vernon (Anderson Road). Then it's two lanes each way all the way to Canada.
@12 Houston is a prime example of how surface-street light rail can be a bad thing. The accidents were a running joke for a while and are pretty much expected. And their city is flat with mostly broad streets (except for a few parts of town), which makes it a lot easier to plan/implement.
Wait until the price of gas goes up 100%, 200%, 300%.... And it will, eventually. There will be a tipping point when rail will be needed to maintain the economy. Even by the most blind-to-the-inevitable motorheads. Unfortunately, it will be so very late and unbelievably expensive.
Metro Transit "owns" the Democratic Party. They will never support light rail. We're building a new friggin bridge and we didn't include light rail. We have the "tunnel to nowhere" that is going to cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.....and not even an rough estimate of when they will start digging again, let alone when it will be completed. Maybe they'll start a tunnel for busses under Lake Washington when figure out how to fix Big Bertha.....any solution but light rail.

Our current bus system is increasingly dangerous to ride, with some routes, like the one from Renton to the Rainier Valley, are averaging one assault per day (and that's just the cases reported to the King County Sheriff's department. Business commuters are NOT going to risk their safety riding this totally unregulated system. The Feds gave Metro Transit very expensive video camera systems that could be sending live footage to the Metro Transit Police to help stop this problem, but they haven't bothered to maintain them and most just don't work anymore. What's Metro doing to solve this problem with daily assaults on riders? They are training their drivers not "to get involved". This may be good for the drivers, but it didn't help the blind woman who was beaten up on a Metro bus....while the driver just watched.

Yes....I'd say light rail is long overdue and the Democrats that run this city better wake up and quit trying to prop up the increasingly unpopular Metro Transit system as the only means of reducing this traffic crisis.

The truth is that most people who are not making Microsoft type salaries are not able to move into the city to be closer to work and avoid the traffic. The rents are no likely to be getting any lower. We are placing those in the economic middle and low class in an untenable situation. If the Governor gets his way and we end up with another gas tax increase, they won't be able to drive to their jobs either. If he's able to turn all of the roads in Washington into toll roads, businesses in Seattle are going to have to find some other way to get their office buildings cleaned and the trash take out every night.

Steve Sarich
Cannabis Action Coalition

Most Seattleites have little need or desire to travel to other neighborhoods in the city. Are residents of Wedgwood really clamoring to visit Beacon Hill or Wallingford? They go to where they work (generally downtown, First Hill, Sodo, South Lake Union or the UW area) and travel within their neighborhood or to someplace outside the city.

The fact is, when voters had to face exactly how much it would have cost to build the Monorail (not how much the idiots who planned it mistakenly estimated), they rejected it as too much money for too little movement.

And the suburbs won't care if the city builds transit. They won't fund their own: look at Vancouver, which is actively resisting the extension of Portland's light rail, even though it would save tens of thousands of people from rotting in congestion for hours. If the city funds a transit system, we would have to impose congestion pricing to keep others out (which would make a lot of sense.)
@56: Yes, I know the route through Skagit County quite well--I grew up there.
Yikes, though, I-5 is still a fucking mess the closer you get to Everett and south of there!
I am amazed at the arrogant ignorance here. So many stupid comments; so little time to point out the errors.

But let's focus on a few bits of reality. I'm all for more light rail too ... but listening to the idiots whining about "elites" and "wealthy people paying for it" is pure comedy.

Oh ... and yeah ... the SR 99 tunnel. Will be built. At some point you people are going to just have to deal with it.
Okay, Holden.

Let's fully commit to light rail. And, it's been determined by a panel study a line needs to be built down your street with a busy transfer station and a park and ride lot on your block. Of course some beloved local businesses and/or residential structures will need to go in order to do it. Of course, it will have some negative impact on the value of your home, if your home is not actually targeted for destruction in order to build the line, the station, or the park and ride lot.

You want still want to know why Seattle's not committed to building light rail?

Oh I'm so happy for the bicyclists that can afford to live close enough to their job and not have to sit in traffic every day! Can't even read through any comments on an article about our problematic traffic without reading some bicyclists bragging about their commute. That's cute.
This question gets asked about lots of infrastructure projects, and the basic answer "corruption" (from constituents on the left and the right) and poor planning:…

We could solve this problem, but it would involve goring politically important oxen.
Your idea makes sense in principle, but would not be effective in practice in Seattle. Not because Seattle is a snowflake, but any transit system must be appropriate for the geography and politics of the city it's in.
You'd have a really hard time doing surface running light rail in Seattle. There are 2 huge and related problems to overcome.
1) Physical/Geographical obstacles. Light rail needs a <6% grade to operate, which seriously constrains your possible routing through the city. So seriously that many hoods would simply be unserviceable. As examples: Queen Anne, Beacon Hill, The Rainier Valley because you cant get to it, West Seattle, any Ballard to UW line cause you couldnt get over Phinney Ridge, and more.
2) Political problems. There are 6 North-South crossing in Seattle. They are major chokepoints, and if you were to say take 2 lanes off the Fremont bridge, there uproar would be enormous. It is much politically easier to simply build under, than it is to kick cars off the bridges and arterials. This is not a minor point. This helps limit what is possible. Transit must be seen as a way around traffic, not as a major cause of traffic, or you will always have a hard time funding it.
@51 succinctly nails it. Real leaders would implement tolls on all of I-5, I-405 and 520 that increase as usage increases (supply/demand). Dedicate HOV lanes to bus traffic at peak hours and transit becomes a lot more attractive than sitting in your car.

Of course with people believing in their entitlement to drive anytime, anywhere, for "free", they wouldn't be leaders for long.
I visited Seattle this weekend from San Francisco -- how lucky you are!
I saw big clean fast comfortable buses, LRV's, and freeways. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers were courteous and respected the law and each other. The lights and crosswalks downtown were well timed, and pedestrians respected the "don't walk hand". I'm sure you could use more transit, but if you want to visit transit hell come to San Francisco.

Our transit averages 8 mph, is on time about 60%, is dirty with hard plastic seats and they are tanking seats out to make more standing room think "sardines packed against homeless carrying bags of recycle". Our city has a war on cars and uses every excuse in the "new urbanism" book to create congestion and make motorists' life miserable to drive cars off the street. All road users are "entitled" and hateful. Pedestrians are so unaware they are called zombies. Bicyclists are so "elitist" and lawless that they are called anarchists.

At least your govenment seems to be listening to all and providing good services. Just wanted to let you know that your "problems" could be a lot worse. I really enjoyed my visit.
Because our leaders have not decided which property owners will get screwed and who will get rich when the land is purchased?
99 tunnel - No one including The Stranger has told us who will get rich when the old buildings on the east side of Alaskan Way are torn down and replaced with high rise apartments and condos.
@60 I love this utopian picture you paint where we all live in these perfectly planned communities where everything we need is within skipping distance, but unfortunately Seattle just doesn't do urban planning that way (with the exception of some recent neighborhoods with a lot of private money.) Some of us actually have friends in other parts of the city, dine in Ballard or on the hill, visit the doctor up North, shop in the u district, visit the city target by pike place, and work in pioneer square. I ride the bus as much as I can and have piecemealed together my own shitty transit "solution" that combines busses, uber, car2go, my bike, and the car that occasionally leaves the front of my house in Wallingford because there's no great way to get anywhere in this city quickly unless you happen to get lucky with busses on surface streets.

But the thing that we're really missing in Seattle is predictability and reliability. My wife lived in Boston for six years and knew that if she missed the T the next one would arrive in 5-10 minutes.
Seattle needs some more rail because our buses absolutely SUCK.

You never know if your bus trip from the CD to Ballard is going to take one hour or three. Neither of those timeframes is at all acceptable.