Seattle Subway's Case for "Going Big" on the Light Rail Measure We'll Be Voting on Next Year


I want the lines on that map so bad.

2016 is a presidential election year. It is the time to go really big.
I also don't see why 30 years is "forever", but 20 years isn't.

We need TCC to fight for good and ambitious transit plans, not repeat and internalize opposition talking points. Prop 1 won big in an off year election against a well funded campaign. Don't make the anti-taxers look more powerful than they are.
Is it doable? Did humanity build a space station? Have we sent robotic probes to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Pluto, the asteroid belt, ...ETC!
Did we build the pyramids with a limited tool set?
..and on and on... Humanity can do nearly anything we set our minds too.

A Subway system is easy.
Look, light rail only works in places with sufficient density and dense enough surrounding transit.

It's like Bertha, a non solution intended as a gift to car drivers.

They don't like you.

Stop trying to make them like you.

Build it where people want it, DO NOT add parking, and it is cost efficient to operate. Build it in the car subsidized boonies and it bleeds to death.
@4: The park and ride at Tukwila is always full, and a source of a LARGE number of passengers currently. Burien's new garage gets lots of use, and puts lots of people on buses. Move a bit to meet people and they will take mass transit, and that's really what we want.
Looks awesome, but it could be an impossible sell for auto-supremacist Eastsiders and nutty ex-urbanites that won't vote for anything other than a train with their own personal stop at their McMansion's front door.
@6 I see what you're saying, but those people won't vote for a 15 or 20 year package either. I think you pick up WAY more Eastside votes with a rail line than with busses. 30+ years gives more people something they want. People who don't want transit at all will vote no on any option. Why build an measure with them in mind?
#5, I don't think I've ever seen the Tukwila Link station's parking lot 100% full, and I see it frequently as I use Link to visit family in the area. Yes, it is the source of a large number of passengers, but only because there aren't parking facilities at the Sea-Tac station. The Tukwila station's use numbers are skewed by how poorly Link is routed through and serves the area, not because it actually fills any need in the Tukwila/Sea-Tac area. In fact, most residents of that area hate Link because of the Tukwila station. Pulling the 140 out of McMicken Heights and rerouting a number of routes down 176th has destroyed transit in Sea-Tac. People take the 574 into Seattle over Link because of how much they despise the system.

Once you get past Sodo station, there is little good about Link. The routing choice is quixotic, the stop choices clearly pandering, and reduction in bus routes as a result of it literally crippling to mass transit infrastructure local to it.
My view is that quality mass transit always trumps quantity of mass transit. There's no way the corridor from Ballard to downtown to West Seattle meets the quality bar unless it runs grade-separated through downtown. In other words, we need a second downtown transit tunnel. (See the "subway" in Seattle Subway.)

That's a big ask, and when I think of ST3 going big, I think of that as the cornerstone for the city of Seattle portion of ST3. So then the question is, how much taxes over how long in the Seattle/North King County subarea will pay for a second transit tunnel? And if it comes to it, I'd be fine with not including, say, West Seattle in the ballot measure. That doesn't mean that line doesn't eventually get to West Seattle; it just means that portion of the line is being deferred.

I'm speaking in terms of such hypotheticals now that I myself have only a vague grasp of. So let me rephrase. My thinking comes down to this. The Sound Transit board should come up with a "go big" ST3 project list and then figure out the tax mechanisms and durations from there. What it shouldn't do is reverse that thinking by saying, "Let's start with the maximum tax timeframe we can put out there and determine the projects that tax authority will allow."

It's the success of ST(1) and ST2 that has cleared the way for ST3. It's the success of ST1, ST2, and ST3 that will clear the way for ST4, when that comes around.
I don't see how a subway works in a hilly, seismically active area like Seattle. I think there should be some sort of elevated transit option; maybe something that runs on a single track for efficiency: they can call it a unirail or something.
If one looks at geography and population distribution patterns, elevated light rail makes the most sense for serving Ballard, Greenwood, etc. A cross-town subway from Ballard to the UW also would be ideal. For West Seattle, true Bus Rapid Transit--with grade separated lanes and its own Duwamish river bridge--is the most logical due to geography, population centers, and cost savings. A rail line to the Junction is going to miss everyone in Admiral, Delridge, and White Center. Unfortunately, people don't understand the grade separated part of BRT and freak out over the idea of more buses sitting in traffic.
@9 ST4 wont happen if ST3 completes the spine. Snoho and Pierce Board members wont have any reason to help it happen, and lots of reasons to keep it from happening. The Board has decided that completing the spine is the #1 priority for ST3. So the solution..... vote on ST3 and ST4 at the same time as ST Complete
@9 but yeah. The system HAS to be really high quality. A streetcar from Ballard to UW isn't what we need.
@4 Folks like you are second only to NIMBY anti-tax shits when it comes to regional transit options. We get it, you can afford to live in Seattle proper and others who can't (or simply don't work in Seattle) deserve to be fucked over. Then you get all mad when we go everywhere in our cars because there's no fucking access to mass transit at odd times or the weekends and expect us to move downtown if we ever want to see the opera or a football game.

These lines absolutely need to be built in Snohomish and Pierce counties, and yes, they're going to incorporate parking. Because that's how shit works when you can't afford to live within the density offered by Seattle - there simply isn't the infrastructure or lack of distance to do otherwise. Yet you're going to discount the huge savings that would be made economically and environmentally by having much greater access to mass transit anyway?

What the fuck is that shit? If you want a good system that people actually use over their cars, you need to make it more accessible to those who live just outside of it. I can't fucking wait to vote yes on this shit, and see lines open up in Everett.
@10 nails it.

Tunnels designed well are a good choice, but tunnels always cost 3-10 times surface and elevated is 1.5-3 times surface. It's all glacial till here. Any time you can find more problems than you have fingers on one hand, you really shouldn't do it.
@8: I work down there. It's always full after 8 AM, with cars circling like buzzards, desperate for a spot. They could have half again as many spots and it wouldn't fill demand.
Like, I literally (in the true sense of the word) just pulled up at the Tukwila station off the train. It's full.
the Seattle Subway group is 10000% incompetent to pull this off. They'll be lucky to get 5% as far as Seattle Popular Monorail Authority. Don't feed these guys.
People drive here from Renton to take the train in to the city and avoid traffic. It's a real thing. Park and rides in Issaquah, Everett, Redmond, Woodinville, etc would serve a huge number of people, and take cars off the highways. It's not about people being able to walk to the train from their house, it's about taking them off the highways.

This is a no-brainer.
As ever (and for reasons unknown), Seattle Subway wants you to get excited about their latest clever accounting trick, and wants you to ignore that 85% of their map -- about 100 miles/$40 billion worth of it, which would amount to the most extensive and expensive transit network ever built in a region of our modest and sprawled-out population -- is comprised of high-capacity rail to and through places like Woodinville, Issaquah, Totem Lake, South Park, Blue Ridge, nearly a dozen malls, the vast and pedestrian-hostile Boeing campus, and Fife. Yes, Fife.

In fact, what is most remarkable about the map is how difficult it would remain just to navigate car-free within and across the city of Seattle on a daily basis, even if every inch of the above plan were built.

Because this fantasy simply fails to acknowledge any realities of human scale.

If pressed to defend the map's usefulness, Seattle Subway will feed you a line about "rail" as a breathtaking force of efficiency-alchemy, producing riders and skyscrapers alike from any thin air that should be lucky enough to come into contact. Don't bother pointing out the similarly overextended systems in Dallas or Sacramento that have been unable to justify off-peak service even twice an hour, nor the outer fringes of the BART network that carry single-digit passenger loads at all times but rush hour and cost that network dozens of subsidy dollars per rider, despite the Bay Area's sprawl being far more populous and exponentially denser than ours. Seattle Subway will endure none of your reality checks, because "rail" is magic wherever you put it!

If pressed further, Seattle Subway will start talking about the millions upon millions of "climate refugees" set to descend upon the region, and also about how its accounting is unassailable because the tech bubble is as ever-inflating as it is indestructible (even as the aforementioned climate change collapses the rest of the national economy).

TL;DR -- Seattle and its surroundings need serious, right-sized transit investments shaped by rational discourse. You won't find any of the latter coming from Seattle Subway, so unfortunately you won't be getting the former from them either.

You know Seattle Subway doesn't want to run this right? They are saying that we should vote on St3 and St at once, not give seattle subway the money instead...
@7, the key to winning will be convincing enough of those folks that everyone benefits when more people are out of their cars and on trains. It's in their own self-interest to vote for it.
@20, we're going to have around a million new neighbors moving into our region in the coming decades whether we like it or not. Wouldn't it be better to have a comprehensive system like this already in the works and headed towards completion?
@20: Plenty of people who own cars take public transportation. Park and rides exist- and are all over the suburbs- for a reason. Driving less is driving less, even if you still drive some.

@24: Denver and Dallas and the East Bay have oodles of (costly) parking infrastructure at their distant suburban "nodes" of ballyhooed rail. They still have abjectly pathetic commute shares, and trains rolling around quite literally empty at all other times (when they can justify running them at all).

And those were $5-$10 billion networks of waste. This map is $40+ billion. Really.

This map contains more rail than Los Angeles is planning to build. Except that Los Angeles is constructing every inch of it within fully urbanized areas with aggregate density that exceeds most of Seattle proper and demonstrated critical masses of demand. And Los Angeles is doing it with a tax base 7 times the size of ours.

Effective transportation network planning is about understanding demand/service geometries and selecting the right tools for the right jobs in the right places. "Rail everywhere" is not the answer. The map and math on offer from Seattle Subway are unprecedented and insane.
What d. p. said. I'm pretty sure that this would be second only to New York in terms of mileage, while serving areas many times less populous. This makes it many times bigger and more expensive than subways like Boston, Toronto or Vancouver (even if built now). Speaking of the last one, Vancouver's transit system serves as a fine model for us. The cities are very similar, yet they have three times the transit ridership of us (and three times the ridership of Portland). They didn't do that by laying hundreds of miles of track. The chose, as Cressona (#9) put it, quality over quantity.

The funny thing is, it actually works better for the suburbs than what that silly map suggests. This is true for similar systems throughout North America. As you get into the suburbs, what makes sense is major terminals (with, yes, giant parking lots). There is no need to continue to go farther north once you get deep into the suburbs -- those riders are better with more express bus service that can connect into the subway. Or, if possible, commuter rail. If light rail gets to Tacoma, it will take at least an hour and 15 minutes to ride it to downtown. It would be less frequent and much slower than the buses that run to downtown now (and not nearly as fast as if if they simply changed the HOV lanes from HOV2+ to HOV3+).

What is true for the suburbs is true for West Seattle, an area uniquely unsuitable for light rail. It would be really expensive (requiring both a tunnel and a giant bridge), serve only a small subset of the area, have no stops for miles and there is a logical alternative.

The answer in the short term is this:…. This is actually the consensus solution favored by "transit nerds", not the silly Seattle Subway map. After that, build a subway that mimics the Metro 8 bus route (connecting Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, First Hill and the C. D.). After that you are pretty much done. Bus improvements are definitely warranted (Vancouver has an outstanding bus system) but that is relatively cheap. The key is not to dream of trains going everywhere, but of a bus and rail system that work together well (like Vancouver's).
Ross @26, so suddenly on November 30, deep into Sound Transit's evaluation of ST3, Frank Chiachere pulls the idea for a second bus tunnel out of his ass and completely out of left field, the concept is met with a mixed reaction even in the echo chamber that is the post's comment thread, and you refer to that as "the consensus solution favored by 'transit nerds'"?

This has to be the most harebrained, back-of-the-napkin, talk-is-cheap transit plan since John Roderick hatched a city-wide streetcar plan to kickstart his failed city council candidacy.

One thing I've learned in my time as a time-constrained transit activist is to never underestimate the capacity for transit activists to come up with cockamamy plans that (A) distract us from the serious mass transit plans already under discussion and (B) aren't as ambitious or game-changing as the serious mass transit plans to begin with.

Hey, maybe while Frank is at it, he can suggest a little personal rapid transit (PRT) revival too. I mean, he sounds like a really creative fellow.
The idea for a 2nd bus tunnel downtown isn't new. Seattle Transit Blog first introduced it back in February, well before the ST3 selection process started this summer.…

Frank Chiachere merely reiterated it on November 30 in preparation for the Sound Transit Board's workshop this Saturday.

It did receive support from a majority of STB participants, though a vocal minority cited the failure of joint operations in the current tunnel as the main reason Sound Transit wouldn't want to spend billions on a new bus/rail tunnel today.
@20 "pedestrian-hostile Boeing campus"?

How fucking high are you right now? You can walk all over the fucking place. Yes, you need to watch out for things because many areas act as heavy manufacturing areas or I dunno ACTIVE RUNWAYS but hey, don't let that shit get in the way of your stupid fucking rant.

There's only around 50,000 people working there, why in the fuck would you want to make that a mass transit stop?
UnderTheClouds: "It did receive support from a majority of STB participants,..." A majority where, on the comment thread for that post?
@29: Because today's transit-using Boeing (and vicinity) workforce cannot even halfway fill 5 fucking commuter buses. Because all of accumulated history demonstrates that there is near-zero demand for reverse transit commutes to sprawling post-war industrial areas where virtually no one's job is within a mile of the station, and whose workforce lives absofuckinglutely nowhere near the proposed rail line. Because shift changes happen a few times a day and you're building a many-billion-dollar train to run every few minutes.

But, hey, let's not let facts intrude upon our $40 billion pants-cum, right?
#16, I walk to the Tukwila station, often during both rush hours. When you walk through that lot, you see there are always vacancies.

I see you are complaining about "vulturing", a common parking tactic that is seen even in lots with several vacancies. You can see perfect evidence of this all this month just over in Southcenter.

Those people are presenting suboptimal human behavior, not reflecting actual conditions on the scene.
@31 Absolute bullshit. All those buses and vanpools and carpools add up to much, much more than 5 busses. More will use it once they can have more than one or two busses home.

Even then, the line will get used later a few hours later (morning and evening) in the day by everyone else commuting from Everett down south. The full Park & Rides tell the tale. Not to mention the great use these would get for high traffic special events like sports or concerts.

We get it, you hate taxes, you hate it when people spend money on things. You aren't offering any better solutions, you're just whining and making shit up. Get fucked. Either we connect Snohomish and Pierce counties to Seattle or we never, ever solve this fucking traffic problem.

"It did receive support from a majority of STB participants, though a vocal minority cited the failure of joint operations in the current tunnel as the main reason Sound Transit wouldn't want to spend billions on a new bus/rail tunnel today."

Said failure never happened. A change in federal law prevented busses and light rail from using the same station at the same time. Washington even tried to get the DSTT grandfathered in, as the tunnel had already been built with this in mind when the law changed (Link was not yet running through the tunnel at the time of course), but the attempt failed.

A change in the law does not amount to an operational failure.
@33: Absolutely incorrect, top to bottom.

I love taxation for real and useful outcomes, based upon diligent planning and informed by decades of accumulated expertise on how land use and human behavior together impact outcomes.

I hate proposals that seek to waste billions of dollars to ensure that idiots can nod approvingly at empty trains of no fucking use to them, while they continue to drive everywhere.

This is the latter.

If Boeing's commute patterns and layout of facilities had any hope of encouraging transit patronage, then there'd be more than "one or two buses home" already. But instead there's acres of free parking, miles of unwalkablility between and around facilities, and a workforce that sprawls all over the northern half of the region (and emphatically nowhere from which they'll ever be able to catch a train).
Also, @33, Link is already getting built to Lynnwood. Lynnwood is in Snohomish County. That will integrate well with forms of transit and access that are more appropriate for the astounding sprawl that blankets your county.

30 more miles of urban-style rail to the tiny, distant, sedate, and itself rather sprawling burg of Everett will do nothing for anyone, except to light everyone's money on fire. Especially when you talk about detouring to a single glorified More Boeing Gvmt Pork station on an 800-acre industrial campus.
Gotta love DP. Telling people what they should want and that they are stupid since.... well it feels like forever.

Perfect, meet Good... Now fight to the Death!
@32 - I "vulture" the Tukwila light rail station. I work in an office a mile down the road from the station, on 86th St E. Quite often, I'll have a client meeting or conference to get to in Seattle, mid-day and will drive up to the station for a quick hop into and out of downtown. About a 1/3rd of the time, I will patrol every single lane for *any* space possible, even down to the last spot, across the street and next to the McDonalds. I've seen it were nearly each lane has an idling car, waiting for a single spot to open up. This is especially bad on days when the Mariners or Sounders are playing an early game.

More than a few times I've been forced to drive back to the office and pull one of my co-workers away from their tasks, so they can drive me back up and drop me off at the station, since I couldn't find a spot after 10 minutes of waiting around.

Anyone who says the Tukwila station isn't near or at capacity on most days (especially at around 10am), simply doesn't know what they're talking about.
@36 "Hey guys, look at me, I think mass transit should avoid the major population centers of Snohomish County and a site that employes over 50,000 people because I think it's hard to walk around a heavy industrial manufacturing facility".

And yet he still ignores the fact that tons of folks commute from Lynnwood and Everett to Seattle for work, and that those stops are already established park and ride areas. But hey, why stop the tradition of complaining about shit he clearly doesn't understand now?
Jon, Solk,

Yes, transit planning should require expertise. The fuzzy feeling that trains are awesome no matter where you send them does not constitute expertise.

$27+ billion dollars for useless crap is not "good" by any stretch of your 20-year-old foamer's imagination. It's also not going to fly with the electorate. But apparently you'll have to learn that the hard way.

Tiny, distant, sedate Everett is the 7th largest city in the state and has a population of over 100,000 people. You're one of those people who thinks the world begins and ends at the borders of the City of Seattle, aren't you?
@41: Find me a city of barely 100,000 persons and a density of only 2,000 persons/sq.mi. that successfully supports an urban-style high-frequency rail line through 30 miles of pedestrian-impassable sprawl on its way to a moderately-sized, medium-density city that you won't be able to navigate without a car once you arrive (because the actual urban transit remains intractably shitty).

Go ahead. Find me one of those.

Find me one anywhere in the world.

I'll wait.

(Seriously, you're honestly trying to argue "7th largest city in the underpopulated state of Washington" as your selling point for $billions worth of subways-where-they-don't-belong? Seriously!? I knew this region was proudly daft, but goddamn!)
I would like to purchase 2 of the Orange CB2 Ornaments and 2 of the green CB2 Ornaments together. I see you are able to revise the shipping ? Please send me an update invoice.

Surprised no one has mentioned TAAS (Transportation as a service) that Apple, Uber, Google, Tesla, Benz, Volvo ect.. Will all be offering in less than a decade for less than most people pay to own the car they're currently driving, I will vote yes for rail, but think it's just for the poors in the end, it's going to be hard to get people to hoof it to and from a train station, when a robot car will take them door to door.
@42 -- where did I say anything about the efficacy of rail in Everett? You said it was tiny and sedate. That statement is ridiculous. That's all.
Everett is this country's 272nd-largest city. It has a population density less than 1/4 of Seattle's (which is itself relatively sprawling, low-key, and lacks bustle by major-city standards).

Everett's two major centers of culture and commerce are downtown -- which is studded with surface parking and utterly abandoned after 6pm -- and a mall at its southern border.

Yeah. Everett is objectively tiny. Everett is objectively sedate. Your standards are objectively too low.
None of this can be at-grade. Link is ridiculously slow in the on-grade sections and if the rest of the network is not faster, people will not use it. Bad enough we are stuck with the central part of the system on the street.

Elevated tracks make all the sense in the world if tunnels are too expensive. Come to think of it, I seem to remember a much cheaper plan to run on elevated monorail tracks a few years ago.