News Mar 17, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Meet the people pushing transit to go as fast as possible



"modernizing the Port of Seattle with cleaner tech like electrified trucks instead of sticking with the old poisonous gas-powered engines."

This is a completely unworkable proposal. You'd think a bunch of transportation wonks would recognize additional investment in rail infrastructure--you know, like every other successful West Coast Port--was the way to go. But, this is pretty much what you get when you vote for the Stranger endorsements.


It's sad that @1 doesn't understand it's all about pole position.

Electrified or ZPG gets first pole (first access and on site dwell hookup) and fossil fuel gets second pole (off site and access when it's not so busy which means next year).




@2 - the most recent Link extension to Roosevelt and Northgate were opened early and on-budget, but don’t let the facts influence your opinion.


@5 -- ST3 is way over budget, and will be implemented much later than proposed. It is also quite likely that it will be much worse, with stations being much deeper, and in worse locations than originally planned. In short, ST2 was a solid plan, ST3 was crap (and it has gotten crappier).


If you think the biggest flaw with ST3 is that we don't have enough money to build the things we want to build soon enough than you haven't been paying attention. I get it though. It is easy to assume that the biggest problem is lack of money. But sometimes, the biggest problem is that you build crap. ST3 is crap.

Of course there are some good things, but the good things aren't that good, and the bad things suck. Of course it gets very wonky to explain why, but there is a growing chorus from even the most ardent transit supporters suggesting that this thing is a mess. Here is Stephen Fesler, writing for The Urbanist that "these projects cannot move forward as currently conceived, Sound Transit needs to take a mulligan":

Or how about these quotes from Jonathan Dubman on a recent article on the Seattle Transit Blog ( which is full of similar criticisms, although none that sum it up quite as well:

My basic feeling is, we are sleepwalking into a civic tragedy, as much as I love the notion of expanding Link in Seattle. The sure-to-be-value-engineered version of this ST3 WSBLE, with a West Woodland station at 14th Ave., a big swath of Denny Triangle high-rises left without easy access, these super deep stations and burdensome transfers, people always running between platforms at SODO and missing connections, half of Delridge taken out to build a palace in the sky that slows down commutes on the RapidRide line we are building right now, taking down brand new big apartments in West Seattle we didn’t think to postpone, combining Avalon and the “Junction” into one weak station — All of it is just not worth building, when we could build something great for the same money.

The point is, if you actively looked for the best way to improve transit service to Ballard, SLU and West Seattle for this amount of money with anything approaching an open mind, you don’t end up with ST 3 WSBLE, you end up with something that looks very different. And I think DSTT2 has an extremely poor long term ROI.

I’m full of ideas, but the most important one is: The planning process for WSBLE needs a reset, though I don’t know how to effectuate such a thing.


@7 -- Yep. Or maybe a combination of lousy escalators and elevators.


At the risk of oversimplifying things (despite what a fairly lengthy comment) this is how I believe we got into this mess: Sound Transit was created to provide a brand new regional rail system (from Tacoma to Everett). This is a flawed approach, as every successful city uses a mix of express buses and (cheap) commuter rail (using existing tracks) for this purpose. They essentially wanted to build a subway system (or metro) that extends longer from the center of the city than the New York City Subway, the Chicago El, the Paris Subway or the London Underground. They figured it would be cheap, because it is "light rail". It isn't. Flaw number one.

The board was made up of elected representatives with no knowledge or expertise about transit. They all had more important jobs (being mayors, city council members, etc.). Flaw number two.

When deciding on projects, they didn't defer to the experts. A sensible, responsible approach would have been to hire a consulting firm (or a few to get different opinions), set a budget and then have them come up with various ideas for the most cost effective way to improve transit (likely a combination of bus and rail improvements). They didn't do that. Instead they simply went around to each community and asked them what they wanted, and of course they said "we want rail". Flaw number three.

All of this worked out fine with ST1 and ST2. Most of the projects were obvious (downtown to the UW via Capitol Hill for example); the type of projects that anyone with any sense would build. Sure, there were flaws (not enough stations) but overall, still pretty good. But improvements beyond this point are not obvious. Should we serve Belltown or South Lake Union? What about the Central Area and First Hill? How best should we serve Ballard and the city north of the ship canal -- with a Ballard to UW branch off the main line, or a new line running through Interbay? What about the buses -- maybe we should build a new bus tunnel for now? These aren't easy questions to answer. Like other wonks, I have my opinion, but the next step is not obvious, like it was with ST1 and ST2. Flaw number 4.

Dow Constantine -- a reasonably good county executive, became chair of the Sound Transit board, and began pushing for light rail to West Seattle. Not only did this mean that West Seattle "cut in line" in terms of improvements, but it meant that they would get a mode completely inappropriate for the sprawling peninsula. The vast majority of riders heading from West Seattle to downtown will spend more time getting there, with the only new benefit a faster connection to SoDo. Flaw 5.

Somehow Sound Transit ignored its own data showing that Ballard to UW performed better than Ballard via Interbay, and decided to go with the latter (perhaps because of pressure from Amazon). Flaw 6.

The end result: Crap. We need a major reset, not more money.


Congrats to Liias, Pedersen, Berry, and Hackney for passing SB 5528, which will finally, for the first time, allow Seattle to tax itself to speed up light rail.

Ross @6 @8 @10, don't be a sore loser. You were fighting ST3 back in 2016. You lost. You claim to be pushing Sound Transit now to take a mulligan, but what you're really asking for is a do-over, and for Sound Transit to kill just the plan we voted for. But hey, maybe Sound Transit will be eager for ST3 advise from the people who have been fighting ST3 tooth-and-nail from the day it was a glimmer in Dow Constantine and Peter Rogoff's eyes.

I do agree with you that putting a station at 14th Ave. in Ballard would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. But I would think that, now that the Ballard-West Seattle extension might be able to secure more funding, a more Ballard-centric Ballard station deserves to be in the offing.


@12 advise = advice

jackkay @2 and @11, I agree with you that Sound Transit has tended to be late and over budget with their projects. I differ with you in being someone who WANTS to see their projects completed.


We need to pull the plug on these byzantine transit projects before they crater our region financially.

This entire process is over budget and out of control, with transit advocates throwing themselves publicity events and munching on hors d'oeuvres, bragging about their spendy projections for other people’s money and pretending they are environmental royalty.

Ironically, these over-extended transit projects are causing migraine-inducing traffic jams all over the region, as frantic taxpayers, further stressed by escalating fuel prices, scramble to get to work to earn the money to pay for all these monumental projects that are inherently cost-ineffective due to lack of commuter interest.

The overly complex, inconsiderately planned light rail layout is like a map of the cow trails of Uruguay, and already burdened commuters do not want to spend the evening on the light rail, or vomit-mobile, only to transfer to several busses to get home with enough time to feed the cat, pack a lunch and hop into bed, only to reverse this arduous process in the morning.

Then of course you have the prospect of crime on the Sound Transit system, with myriad reports of boorish behavior, public defecation, petty theft, and unwelcome fondling.

These colossal public transit projects, like the California High-Speed Rail (Phase 1), which pencils out to about 137 million per mile, is one such mind-numbing example of bureaucratic excess.

Taxpayers should request a temporary halt to construction while an independent third party like CH2MHill conducts an audit of the engineering efficacy of this transit extrapolation. Also, an accounting firm like Deloitte or Ernst & Young should be retained to perform forensic accounting on the budgetary excesses and taxpayer molestations of these concrete-addicted public agencies.

Public transit is a useful endeavor for wistful academics who seek employment in the public sector and like to tell everyone else what to do and how to conduct their lives, while providing limited improvements to quality of life versus cost, unless you live near the downtown core and can grab a train with relative ease.

If you live in an outlying area or suburban regions, you are still driving, and understandable so, as a bus to rail commute may take hours to get you downtown and back.

Once more, we are reminded of the relevance of telecommuting and avoiding the entire physical commute altogether, which renders this mass transit debacle even more irrelevant and mindless, particularly with the prevalence of mass infections like COVID and its variants.

King County should not let transit-envy of the Bay Area for instance, who got an earlier start, become the driving force behind public transportation policy.


I love taking public transportation.
I love being able to take the bus and not have to spend time looking for a place to park.
I love "cute" little Toonerville Trollies.
What I DON'T like, is having to spend 3 hours to take a trip that I could drive in 20 minutes.
What I DON'T like is finding a place to live right there on a major bus route, and then Metro cancels the bus route and the next closest bus stop is 2 miles away, and there's no park-and-ride lot.
What I DON'T like, is taking a trip that's a straight-shot on the map, but in reality you have to make 2 or 3 or 4 transfers to different bus routes, and their schedules aren't coordinated in any way, so you have to spend a half-hour at each transfer point, just standing around.
What I DON'T like, is when I go to the Metro web site to find a way to take public transportation from Point A to Point B, and it tells me there is no way to make that trip ( because the least amount of time to make that trip is more than 2 hours, each way ).
What I DON'T like is when every bus in the county comes to a complete stand-still whenever there is the least amount of precipitation, and I have to walk all the way home.

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