With all due respect, Mr. Mudede, I don't think you have your facts right. Let me quote a few sentences from Dan Ryan's excellent article about the possible ramifications of I-976, in the unlikely even that it survives a court challenge (

"Therefore, the impact of I-976 will mostly take the form of slower spending and delayed projects. If the Board chooses, all promised projects can probably be built eventually because there’s no time limit on the authority to collect other taxes."

So, basically, worst case scenario, this is just a big delay for projects that are already slow in coming, because they are both huge, and out of order. What do you expect? Sound Transit has never been about building what makes sense to build, let alone building pieces in order. How else do you explain that U-District to downtown -- the section that some board members themselves knew to be the most cost effective -- still isn't complete, but we instead started with a line to Tukwila. This is not a board interested in following the research, or history, or common sense; building the most cost effective transit system for the region. It is an agency geared towards pleasing various political entities. How else can you explain that Fife will get a station before Ballard. Or that Belltown, the Central Area and Fremont will have no subway service whatsoever, but that Ash Way, and some random spot on Delridge will.

Of course this is all being built out of order. Everyone who was paying attention knew this, even if they were thousands of miles away, working at MIT ( To quote a couple of his sentences:

Given these attributes, it is hard to understand why Seattleites must wait 23 years for their Ballard line. On the pure metric of the ridership-to-cost ratio, the phasing plan of ST3 should be revised.


That’s not how any of this works.


It is immensely frustrating.

China can build 10,000 miles of MagLev tracks in the time it will take ST to build a line from West Seattle to Ballard (and for probably the same price).

Doesn't seem like there is much that can be done about it.


"At the next meeting.... we will begin the process of responding."

A coworker was telling me the other day his parents are on the HOA board of their retirement community in Florida and hold meetings to discuss what will be discussed at their next meeting.


@4 China is a meaningless comparison. The U. S. spends way too much to build transit than other countries -- there is no reason to compare us to an authoritarian country with extremely low labor costs. Compare us to European countries, like France and Spain; or Asian countries, like South Korea, or Japan. We are towards the bottom -- things are just too expensive here. Alon Levy has a nice series of articles explaining how poorly we perform, with plenty of theories as to why:

As for Sound Transit, some of it is expensive construction costs, but most of it (as mentioned) is just priorities. We could start with the most cost effective line (Ballard) but we don't.

This is just one of many examples of Sound Transit mismanagement. They survive based on bullshit. The average person doesn't know shit about transit, so they vote for anything that sounds good. Everett to Tacoma? Fuck Yeah. Even when people who know a shitload about transit point out the various flaws -- or just outright stupidity -- of the plans, it gets lost in the usual "stupid ass Republicans" against "progressive Democrats" debate.

It sucks. I want great transit in this town. I'm willing to pay for it. I just won't get it. Oh, I'll pay a bundle -- way more than any city this size -- it just won't be that good.


@8 Eh, I think your take is just a tad simplistic. Seems like there is likely a good reason why they have the priorities they have and this is: the funding comes from the county at large (or at least did). The calculation is likely: we are not going to get the county at large behind this if lines within Seattle are prioritized. There's also the fact that a priority is providing an alternative to driving for suburban commuters.

And yeah I have read that countries like France build transit faster and cheaper. A comparison I saw with the Boston big dig highlighted such issues as how in the states there is usually a strenuous (and expensive) effort to minimize disruptions caused by construction.


@1: You making the mistake of seeing light rail through the lens of transportation first and real estate development second, when it's actually the other way around. Light rail is usually about real estate development first and transportation second.

Through that lens, going to the airport first makes sense. Light rail had more potential to increase the value of land and development in South Seattle, but only if it came on-line first and inspired an influx of white people into South Seattle (i.e., gentrification).

If the Link stations had gone in first in north Seattle, this wouldn't have happened. It just would have increased the value of land that was already valuable, and it would not have inspired gentrification in South Seattle.

So far it seems like this agenda has played out. While it hasn't happened at quite the pace TOD fans would have hoped for, it's mostly penciling out as expected. One more big development to go and both Columbia City and Othello will be mostly complete. Of course, Beacon Station also still has empty land around it, and Rainier Beach remains under developed.

Without this head start over north Seattle light rail, I doubt these developments would have happened. Even with the head start, just look at how slow some of it has been. The housing bubble bursting in 2009-10 didn't help either.

This is also why the powers that be fought so hard to kill the monorail. That would have put a bunch of west side land near a train, which would have sucked white demand for housing away from South Seattle.

It also makes sense through the lens of transit equity, giving the less affluent south end the train first. Although at some level, that's probably more window dressing than anything else.

Anyway, a look at the timeline for BART is telling. They started planning that in 1947. Got the Transit Authority designation in the 1950s, finalized a plan a few years later, funded much of the first phase in 1962 (although it wasn't fully funded until 1968), and the first cars ran in Sept of 1972. But before things even really got rolling, San Mateo and Marin Counties dropped out of BART, and the significantly affected how it evolved. It's likely one of the reasons that BART didn't get to SFO until the early 2000s, over 30 years after the first trains ran. They weren't going to run a train south to San Mateo County, when that county wasn't going to help fund it.

Upon completion, BART was the most expensive public works project in American history to date. But I doubt anybody is complaining about it now. They fucking lucky to have it. I expect we'll be saying the same thing.

So with luck, the powers that be will just keep chugging along. I'll probably be dead by the time they finish some of this stuff, but if the world survives past 2050, people will be glad that we kept after it. That doesn't mean we could do BRT in the interim. They don't seem like they're mutually exclusive options.


Seattle is rich (and getting richer) and therefore completely out of touch with the rest of the state. People don't have the money. 40 years of sending money up and taxes down have led to people just not having the money even for things they need (or would be good).

This isn't about public transit. This is about balancing societal infrastructure debt on the backs of the poor. Regular people are tapped out. Doesn't matter whether it's for schools or roads or transit. They're out and they're done. The supposed progressives keep sending money up and taxes down. Try taking the money back from the rich instead. You know, like an actual progressive would.


Asking Pierce and Snohomish counties to pay for light rail in Seattle and not getting it to them until 2050 was a scam from the start. Glad they woke up. Forget about light rail for now and build a subway system. Sure could have used that $4 billion the state wasted on the tunnel, to say nothing of the dollars going for a tourist fun forest ride also known as the street car (in its original incarnation the SLUT) and the newest greatest and latest Convention Center. Just put it on the ballot, and bet Seattle voters will vote for it (they're not the ones losing elections).


I rode BART and Caltrain for years in the 90s. Absolute disaster that BART didn't loop the whole Bay Area. Once I got off the stinking peninsula BART was great. Well, unless you wanted to go out at night. Then it sucked again. But I agree that BART is great compared to most other US transit. But even great public transportation in the US sucks in many ways.


2, "Original Andrew" "That’s not how any of [what] works"?


Thanks for the reminder about ST2. I had forgotten there even was an ST2, and being a homeowner near I-5 I wasn't looking forward to my property value being wiped out by asshole eyeman. If courts don't strike down i-976 existing light rail could become even more valuable. Maybe I can't lose...


3 Sargon Bighorn -Correct, you are!

8 Ross, you speak many truths. One can even look to Canada to see faster, better, cheaper service. Vancouver's initial stretch of Millennium Line (10+ miles of underground HEAVY rail) was built in a little over 6 years for a little more than $1 billion US. The Montréal Blue Line extension will ad 3.6 new miles of 100% underground heavy rail, with 5 new grand stations that stand in as art galleries -in 6 years and for ~$3 billion.

SIDENOTE: LINK (shitty name) is NOT even light rail. It's medium grade rail. Sound Transit is so stupid, they even disservice themselves by underrepresenting what they are building.

8 You're 100% correct -most people DON'T know shit about public transport planning, including many at Sound Transit, most city/county councillors & state legislators.


IF A-hole Tim Eyman's i-976 passes and stands up in court (a huge if), Seattle/King County must either 1) create a Seattle agency to build its own subways and finish the job, faster and better or 2) work with the county on a similar new agency or to have Metro step up to do similar but stratching to the edges of the county or 3) least attractive, work with and over Sound Transit to get a system built by 2030(by building all lines at once. As for Charles Mudede's suggestion for BRT, though Charles has some wonderful insights, like his dream of eliminating individula kitchens (stupid, shortsighted and cultural tone-deaf), it's not the right fit for land-locked Seattle (unlike Curitiba, Brazil). Reality-check Charles: with another 1 million+ coming to the region over the next 20 years, there simply aren't enough roads for busess, service/delivery vehicles, emergency vehicles and any measurable amount of traffic.Does Charles RIDE BRT now?! Got to go elevated or below ground. #NoBrainer.


Missing reality. The desire to build quickly is shared by nearly everyone. But the reality is ST revenue comes in annually over many years, not in a lump sum. Federal matching revenue is essential and is also spread out over many years. Borrowing money for major capital projects to build quicker is too expensive as the interest becomes a major cost not covered by available revenues. Although not built as fast as some might wish, the long range plan is fiscally essential.


Sound transit is crying because they very intentionally lied about ST3, got caught, and people are pissed off. Also, there needs to be an outside audit of sound transit, because they waste millions paying for "planning" which too me sounds like payoffs and bribes to continue stealing from taxpayers. Also... watch as WA STATE, does what it does best, waste tax money on lawyers suing itself, so that those in charge can continue too ignore voters and pork out on taxes.


@9 "Seems like there is likely a good reason why they have the priorities they have and this is: the funding comes from the county at large (or at least did). The calculation is likely: we are not going to get the county at large behind this if lines within Seattle are prioritized. "

It doesn't come from just King County, it comes from parts of three counties. But I get your point. Much of the work is designed to favor particular suburban interests. More than that, it is designed to please various suburban (as well as urban) leaders. But that is my point. It is bullshit. You have projects that are stupid that are being built because some ignorant politician says "we deserve it". I'm not trying to attack politicians (my mom was a politician). But they don't know what the fuck they are doing. Every member of the Sound Transit board has a more important job -- mayor, county executive, etc. None of them have any professional training or expertise on transit. None of them have studied the subject. They simply don't have time.

Imagine you were on the board. What would you do? I know exactly what I would do. I would look for outside help. I'm not an expert, so I would hire experts. I would hire two, maybe three firms to come up with projects for the area. I would ask for various metrics (ridership per dollar spent, time saved per dollar spent, etc.). I would then present the various proposals to the people and begin discussing the best options.

We did nothing like that. They arbitrarily chose a "spine" (a subway from Everett to Tacoma) without any science behind it. The whole idea is ludicrous (it stretches outside the city farther than the New York Subway, the London Underground, or many other gigantic subway lines built in mega-cities). But it sounds cool, and people embraced it. Cities like Everett embrace it, thinking it will somehow transform the city, even though no other city has ever followed that path. Oh, there have been stupid subway lines before, it is just that the end up with low ridership, and no real change for the area.

We also arbitrarily chose West Seattle rail as the next project for Seattle. Why are we building a rail line to West Seattle? Why not to the Central Area (an area with much more density)? Why are we building rail to West Seattle before rail to Ballard? It is pretty simple, really. Because Dow Constantine lives there. Well, that, and it looks pretty cool on a map (just like Everett to Tacoma). It is a stupid plan (I could explain why, but this comment is already way too long). The point is, people who know this shit, and study this shit, think its stupid.

It isn't that Seattle is getting a worthless transit system, or even that it will be the worst in the country. It is that Seattle is spending billions, while getting very little. Some of the most densely populated parts of the city will be ignored, while far flung suburbs get rail. Belltown, First Hill, Central District, Fremont, Wallingford, Greenwood get nothing, while Ash Way and Fife get a brand new train station (right next to the freeway -- Yippee). So much money spent, and we will end up with a half-ass system. It is like we paid for a new Lexus, but are buying a used Ford Focus. It's not bad, but man, did we pay too much for it.


@20 -- They didn't lie. That is bullshit. Look, I think Sound Transit is stupid (just look at my last comment). But they aren't liars. It was pretty fucking obvious how much you (and everyone else) was going to pay. It was all on the web. You could even put in your car, and figure out how much it was going to cost you.

Oh, and wasn't even Sound Transit that chose the valuation tables. That was the state. Sound Transit simply followed what they were allowed to follow.


I doubt anybody is complaining about [BART] now. They fucking lucky to have it. I expect we'll be saying the same thing.

Oh, bullshit. First of all, BART ridership is dominated by trips within the urban core (San Fransisco, Berkeley and Oakland). Trips between nine urban stations account for half the ridership. These are trips involving only those nine stations. Despite spending way more money on the suburban stations; despite world class speeds between cities; despite very few stops within the city; ridership is focused almost entirely on the tiny urban core. Furthermore, ridership is higher just on Muni Metro -- literally the slowest transit system in the U. S. -- than on the entire BART system.

They fucked up. To be fair, it was a grand experiment, to see if connecting far flung suburban areas via mass transit would work as well as transit inside the city. It didn't. There should be a lot more stops in San Fransisco, Berkeley and Oakland. There should be additional lines in all three areas as well. They should have followed the same model that works the world over: Cover the fuck out of your urban area with mass transit, with decent connections to the suburbs. Suburban riders can use express buses and commuter rail to get into the heart of the city.

We, of course, are following the failed BART model ( We ignored successful urban system (like Vancouver or Washington DC) -- We won't get a transit system that is worthy of our investment. Transit ridership will be forever dominated by bus service (sometimes slow, sometimes fast) just like it is in San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley. Oh, people will use the train at times -- and be happy when they do -- but the vast majority of transit trips (let alone all trips) won't involve it.


No, it didn't.

It is Unconstitutional to impair government bonds.

This includes transit.


The earliest you could even think of seeing $30 car tabs would be 2032.


@21 I'm skeptical that what you are saying here is entirely true. Politicians on the board are micro-managing the projects? I find it doubtful that they do not have significant input from people with expertise in building mass transit. I think it is more likely that there is an attempt to strike a balance and the end result is: no one is happy. I fully agree that the cost and the end product thus far is extremely disappointing. The trains are slow. They take meandering routes. I've even been dismayed by how jarring the ride is between Rainier Beach and Tukwila. Even old subways (that go faster), like in NYC, are not that jarring. Seems like shoddy construction. Frustrating. Still beats buses by leagues however.


Serious thinking is in order to fix the urban transit agencies across the state. This society is growing older and is in serious debt. Any loss of funds should be seen as an opportunity to look at new ideas and give the private sector a chance.

Why? This study from the federal government explains why. “The lack of personal mobility has economic, social and human costs, such as higher unemployment, reduced tax revenue, greater welfare and medical costs, and limited social potential.” source TCRP 49 p.1

The February 6th, 1915, issue of the Electric Railway Journal (p309) reported “518” jitney’s in Seattle “… are carrying 49,000 passengers daily.”

Today regulations make it difficult for private individuals to own and operate a transportation business in many cities. There are exceptions. In Bergen, New Jersey a system of small mini-buses that are private, profit making, charge less than the government run buses, and run every few minute is available to the public. This may reduce CO2 emissions and will be less likely to breakdown in an earthquake.

Here are more examples from other cities. A study by LEK Consulting titled “ON THE BUSES THE BENEFITS OF PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT IN THE DELIVERY OF BUS SERVICES” (search for this title on a computer) notes that “There is strong evidence from Australia and internationally that the private sector can deliver bus services more cost effectively than government operators. Around the world unit costs savings on transition from public to private operations have ranged from 20 per cent to as high as 55 per cent." p3
“In Melbourne all bus services are run by the private sector.”…” … services are spread across more than 16 separate operators…”

The solutions are available. All we have to do is look.
The Evergreen Libertarian


Robert Moses??? Really? Public transit officials should emulate a white man who amassed a huge amount of power and screwed over low-income communities and public transit for generations? Yeah, okay.


This is an excellent article.

Up north, a BRT loop that would have continued the Green Line BRT from Seaway Transit Center (Boeing) to/from downtown Everett via 526 and Evergreen Way could have opened next year, as no land acquisition would have been needed...the stations are already built on Evergreen Way and in operation for the Blue Line BRT. But no, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, who has blown off multiple chances to actually ride the Blue Line, wouldn't have any of it, for Mr. Somers wanted light rail, and only light rail, and because he said there were plans to upgrade the light density Paine Field area, though nobody would disclose what they were, light rail had to go there. There was even a proposal to appease him by having a spur light rail line from Everett Mall to Boeing, but that wouldn't do.

Local politicians who stepped out of line from the light rail dogleg were told to get back into line. So, Somers and company cajoled an extra $1 billion to change the direct line to Everett from alongside I-5 to dogleg to Boeing, without even a stop at Paine Field. Can you imagine how much non-Boeing riders will enjoy this extra time (about 2 weeks/year per average commuter) and cost (higher fare due to longer distance) in their commutes? This insistence also added on another 5 years of construction time. Further, Snohomish County leaders caved to have the entire 16-mile line from Lynnwood to Everett, the longest extension in the system, to be built and opened at once, rather than instead splitting it in two, first completing and opening the 6.5 miles/three stations after Lynnwood, about the same length as Northgate Link, but without any tunneling whatsoever, a feat doable by 2027. This would have connected light rail to the Green Line BRT at 128th/Mariner and would have shifted the forthcoming platoon of buses connecting to light rail north. Instead, they agreed to let non-spine spurs to Ballard and West Seattle were to get finished first. They've continued to reject the highly viable north side direct access ramps at 164th, which would keep the platoon of buses in the HOV lanes rather than crossing the general lanes to serve Ash Way.

And this is leadership???

Please wait...

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