AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: West Seattle light rail in 2033, proposed in Sound Transit 3 ‘draft’

(TOPLINE: ST3 draft would run light rail to The Junction, with Delridge & Avalon stops, in 2033 – here’s the map)

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1:40 PM: We’re at the Sound Transit board room at Union Station downtown, where the draft plan for this fall’s ST3 ballot measure will be made public during the board meeting that’s about to begin (agenda here). We’ll be updating with West Seattle-specific details. You can watch the meeting live here; you can also watch our Twitter feed, here or via the box on the right sidebar of all WSB pages.

1:52 PM: Still awaiting the draft plan. After some discussion of Sound Transit’s big events last weekend, the board is now hearing about this letter from its Expert Review Panel that looks at “cost per rider.” John Howell from the panel also says their look at the development of cost estimates for potential projects concluded that “sound” methodology was used. He also mentions the importance of “transparency” regarding how taxpayers are advised of what the forthcoming ST3 package will cost PLUS what they’re paying for previous ST packages/projects.

2:18 PM: The board just heard a report about last weekend’s U-Link launch; next, an update on its East Link launch. Then, they’ll get to ST3.

2:37 PM: And now, the agenda reaches ST3. “The journey has been all-consuming,” says Constantine, adding that he thinks it “delivers on the promise of a truly regional mass-transit system for generations to come. It is an ambitious plan for an ambitious region.” He says the decades-long debate over mass transit in this region is “OVER. .. In this proposal, we go big, and not because everyone at this dais relishes the opportunity to vote for taxes … We go big, because the need is big.” People need to get out of traffic. It’s a 25-year program “that completes the regional spine to Tacoma, to Everett, to Redmond, and connects Ballard and West Seattle. .. This program will catalyze dynamic communities around stations.”

Now, the proposal:

For West Seattle, it’s the line to The Junction, with stops listed in Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction. The plan also proposes studying extending light rail from West Seattle to Burien at some later time.

As for the proposal on how it would be paid for:

MVET is “motor vehicle excise tax.” (added, from a handout) More translation of what’s above:

 Sales tax of 0.5 percent ($.50 on a $100 purchase) in addition to the 0.9 percent currently collected.

 Motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) of 0.8 percent of vehicle value ($80 annually on a $10,000 vehicle) in addition to the 0.3 percent MVET Sound Transit is collecting through 2028.

 Property tax of 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation ($75 annually for a $300,000 house). A property tax was identified as a new way to establish a more progressive revenue source for regional transit investments that reduces reliance on the sales tax

One detail we just went back to notice – the West Seattle light-rail line would open, under this proposal, in 2033. That’s five years before Ballard would get its line, accompanying a new downtown rail tunnel, in 2038.

3:13 PM: The briefing continues. Here’s the total cost, as requested by a commenter:

This is where the briefing is going now, too. Meantime, something else of note for West Seattle, while we await 2033 (assuming this goes forward as proposed and gets voter approval in the fall) – “King County Metro Rapid Ride C and D Capital Improvements” are also a project, described as “transit priority improvements along King County Metro’s Rapid Ride C and D lines that provide BRT service to Ballard and West Seattle as an early deliverable to provide improved speed and reliability in advance of light rail starting operations to these areas.”

Another part of the handout also has further elaboration on how light rail would get to and from WS: “a light rail connection from Downtown Seattle to the vicinity of West Seattle’s Alaska Junction neighborhood, including an alignment primarily on an elevated guideway, and a new rail-only fixed span crossing of the Duwamish River. This project would include five new stations including a transfer connection at SODO.” Pending the materials’ availability online, here’s a shot of a page with a closer look:


Next: Board members’ comments about the draft plan, and their decision about whether to send it out for public comment.

3:43 PM: Mayor Murray (an ST board member) notes that we’re finally doing something about West Seattle and Ballard, though “the timelines give me pause.” As does the cost, he says: “We need to be sure the public understands what they are buying.” Without doing this, though, he says the region has only said half a “yes” to transit, to make up for the “no” recognized as such a mistake back in 1970.

Also commenting, board member, and West Seattleite, King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, saying he’s “bullish on Sound Transit.”

Meanwhile, the materials shown here are showing up online:
*Here’s the system map (PDF)
*Here’s the list with a little more elaboration (PDF)
*Slide deck from today’s meeting (PDF)
*Proposed financing, including FAQ
*Phasing (timetable)

4:47 PM: The post-meeting media Q/A with board members has wrapped up. We asked for more elaboration on the potential Rapid Ride improvements that are mentioned. The topic was tackled by City Councilmember Johnson, who said it would be tweaks like making it possible for buses to queue-jump. But if you have specific suggestions, be sure to put them forward in the comment process that’s now beginning. Also, it was suggested that the timelines for some of these projects MIGHT move up. Video:

We also should mention that discussion of this is on the agenda for tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting – all welcome – 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way).

50 Replies to "AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: West Seattle light rail in 2033, proposed in Sound Transit 3 'draft'"

  • M March 24, 2016 (1:53 pm)

    fingers crossed. 

  • natinstl March 24, 2016 (2:04 pm)

    Am I missing something in the letter? I see that they are recommending that ST break down cost by specific measures, but I don’t see an actual cost laid out.

  • KISS March 24, 2016 (2:57 pm)

    It’s a 25 year program.  So West Seattle will get Light Rail service in 2041?  Is that correct?

    • WSB March 24, 2016 (2:57 pm)

      KISS, I just added that detail. 2033 is when West Seattle’s opening is projected.

      Nat – looks like $50 billion over 25 years. I’ll add a snapshot of that page too, since the doc apparently won’t be online until after the meeting. (It wasn’t handed out until the very last moment before the agenda item.)

  • Wsgal March 24, 2016 (3:04 pm)

    Ah well, I’ll be retired by then. And my child will be away at college. Glad it will serve someone down the line.

    • Eileen March 24, 2016 (5:52 pm)

      That’s funny (and sad) I just thought the same thing

    • chemist March 25, 2016 (1:21 am)

      The way college tuition is going, you might not be able to retire if you intend to help pay for your child’s college.

  • East Coast Cynic March 24, 2016 (3:08 pm)

    It’s good to know that the next generation of worker bee commuters in West Seattle will have right of way public transportation:).

  • Time to get it done March 24, 2016 (3:12 pm)

    A regionalized transit system is sooo overdue… we are decades behind other cities, might as well get it done now, they don’t get cheaper. This is a better approach than the patchwork quilt of buses and trolleys and other stuff that usually get proposed. 

  • Scott March 24, 2016 (3:24 pm)

    17 years to the start of the project and you wounder why the City has problems.  Infrastructure is needed now not in 17 years.  There should have been no development in West Seattle until they addressed the transit issue.  The people running the city are a bunch of idiots. 

    • WSB March 24, 2016 (3:27 pm)

      Sound Transit is a regional agency, not a city agency. And there’s a long and ugly history about why we don’t have rail now, some of it the fault of voters as much as (if not more so than) people running things currently. Not just the monorail votes some years back, but also the infamous 1970 vote:

    • Joe Szilagyi March 24, 2016 (3:28 pm)

      “There should have been no development in West Seattle until they addressed the transit issue.”

      That’s a formula to dramatically, artificially, and dangerously inflate the value of single family homes, condos, and the monthly rental price of apartments in West Seattle, and nothing else. 
    • Seattlite March 24, 2016 (4:16 pm)

      Totally agree with you, Scott.  Seattle has been leaderless for decades.

  • dana March 24, 2016 (3:26 pm)

    This is great to see!  It’s too bad Forward Thrust didn’t get the supermajority vote needed to pass in 1970, then we’d already have a transit system in place.  But at least Sound Transit is working as fast as they can to build a grade-separated transit system for the region.  And yes, it will take awhile, but I think it is better to start now than to delay it longer

    • sw March 24, 2016 (3:57 pm)

      Nailed it, Dana.

      Our opportunity to have forward-thinking transit options hinged on the Forward Thrust votes.  Everything since has been merely reactionary.  At least ST has the gumption to address the need and put somewhat realistic dollar figures and dates behind it.  Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to approve and historically the region has had its head in the sand on the issue.  

  • Joe Szilagyi March 24, 2016 (3:27 pm)

    About time! 

    I expect that when this is built all the buses will bend in service to it as the NE and E buses are about to do next week to the light rail expansion at UW Medical Center and Broadway. 

  • natinstl March 24, 2016 (3:27 pm)

    Well, I’ll be retiring by the time it opens. Good for the people I sell my home to. Really hope the elevated option doesn’t result in an ugly WS or the loss of homes..

  • BL March 24, 2016 (3:41 pm)

    Will all the big money moving into the state, as evidenced by the ridiculous cost of real estate,  we need a state income tax now to pay for our infrastructure.

    Relying on sales and property tax is regressive tax policy. According to some studies we are the # 1 most tax regressive states in the nation so it is no wonder we can’t pay for infrastructure.

  • Les March 24, 2016 (4:23 pm)

     Seattle shoppers would pay a  10.1 percent sales tax rate if this is passed by voters in November.

    I will just buy more  items  on line, sorry Seattle  business owners  I just can’t afford all the brilliant ideas  the voters keep approving.

    • AMD March 24, 2016 (7:02 pm)

      At least West Seattle will get a light rail connection in our lifetimes.  There won’t be an extension to Burien until “some later time” after this leg of the system.

    • beef March 25, 2016 (8:51 am)

      then push for an income tax. things need to be paid for one way or another.

  • Chris Stripinis March 24, 2016 (4:25 pm)

    2033!  That sounds so futuristic.

    Maybe they’ll have a senior discount for me by then.

  • JanS March 24, 2016 (4:42 pm)

    lovely. I just turned 69….I’ll be dead in 2033(or damned near it), I’m pretty sure…hope
    it actually, finally comes. My close friend on Capitol Hill is singing
    praises….5 minutes to UW Hospital, not much longer to Safeco field for
    the rally tomorrow afternoon. West Seattle? Leave early…buses may be
    crowded, and you’ll have to deal with construction all over the place
    blocking streets, and rush hour traffic. Sigh . West Seattle has always been the poor stepchild…I’ve been here 41 years, and it always the last to get ….except for the development.By 2033 those buildings will be old, outdated, ugly, and coming down for the new expensive type…what a future..yes, being cynical today.

  • Oakley34 March 24, 2016 (4:52 pm)

    Hopefully Transit Fatigue will not shoot this down in a vote.  THIS (or some iteration of this) is the ACTUAL solution.

  • skeeter March 24, 2016 (5:04 pm)

    The funding has me scratching my head.

     Tax funding will be 61% sales tax, 25% motor vehicle tax, and 14% property tax.

     Aren’t we trying to move AWAY from regressive sales taxes and TOWARD progressive taxes such as property tax?  The tax portion of this proposal is the opposite of what I expected for a progressive region.

    Or… maybe since ST covers the whole region only Seattle favors progressive taxes and the rest of the area prefers regressive.   I don’t know.  But I’m confused.


  • old timer March 24, 2016 (5:44 pm)

    I wonder what that “transfer connection at SODO’ means.

    Light rail to SODO and then get off and wait for another train?

    If so, commute = 4 train rides and maybe two bus rides each work day?

    And that bridge –  will it be high level, or will it be like the current intermittently available bridge, closing at the whim of commerce?

    IMO, it’s kind of a vague proposal with a $50 billion tag.

  • JeffK March 24, 2016 (6:18 pm)

    If it doesn’t fall behind schedule I will get to ride it 1 year until I retire.

  • John Novak March 24, 2016 (6:29 pm)

    It will actually be really sad if this doesn’t get passed.  I go to capital hill from DT for lunch now at least once a week.  So jealous that west Seattle doesn’t have this luxury yet.  This proposal better get voted thru or it will be a sad day for Seattle.

  • george March 24, 2016 (6:53 pm)

    They’ll squander the money.  2033 is ridiculous.  

  • Andros March 24, 2016 (7:02 pm)

    Halley’s Comet is going to go around the sun before they get this built.  And I’ll be dead.  Great plan.  

    Can we build the monorail now?

  • Mocking Bird March 24, 2016 (7:16 pm)

    Agree this is long overdue, but the timeline is really worrisome.  I’m afraid we may have missed our many shots on this.  What happens when you have critical mass of driverless vehicles? Will this whole thing be obsolete 5-10 years into deployment while the funding stays in place for generations? 

    • KM March 24, 2016 (10:07 pm)

      It appears driverless cars will help with efficiency, but not capacity. Regardless of who or what makes the turns and changes lanes, SOVs still take up a ton of space and valuable real estate on city roads, in new residential and commercial construction projects with dedicated parking. Cost of upgrading vehicles is not financially accessible or a priority for some car owners. Saving time is just one target of mass transit, and light rail is just one piece of the puzzle. I am excited to see what self-driving cars can do for our average travel times and accident rates–I think it’s going to be cool.

  • Trevot March 24, 2016 (8:17 pm)

    I think we should pay to park on city streets. I think we need a toll for ferry commuters. We need to raise our property taxes more. This has to be paid for .

    • kg March 24, 2016 (9:54 pm)

      Any word, as of yet, on who will have to give up their property to get this built?

      • WSB March 24, 2016 (10:07 pm)

        KG, this is only “a list and a map,” as Chris Arkills from the county described it at tonight’s WS Transportation Coalition meeting (report tomorrow). He said station locations and other key details are 5-10 years out. That’s why speaking up now is even more important – this is the draft plan and there will certainly be changes in the final plan sent to the fall ballot – TR

    • wb March 24, 2016 (10:03 pm)
      We have been here before.
      By 1918, Seattle had serious transportation problems. World War I was underway and the city had to contend with an influx of war workers, many of whom were shipyard employees.
      Sound familiar?  Are we having an influx of workers?
      Everybody wanted street cars! And we got
      Where did it all go?
      By April of 1941, Seattle had ripped up 230 miles of streetcar lines, melting them into steel for the war effort – and becoming the largest city in the country at that time to have no streetcars. Instead, the city got the electric trolley-bus system we still have today. – See more at:
      Oopsy, it got chucked out.  
      Then the Forward Thrust in the 70s as TR mentioned above.  We had federal funding and said no!
      Maybe someone can explain this?
      And don’t forget, once you have the shiny new toys, you have to take care of them.
    • Trickycoolj March 24, 2016 (11:31 pm)

      2033… I’m 31 now. I’ll be damn near 50 and maybe not retired but I doubt I’ll still even be at the same employer which I might add isn’t connected to any of the future light rail (provided they don’t move out of WA or the US by then). Is there an option to crash the schedule and spend more to get it sooner? Could we do some radical Roosevelt style New Deal jobs and get this built in a decade? Provide some construction jobs to all those homeless campers everyone is panicking over? Let’s get creative and shorten the timeline. 

    • Donna Dykstra March 25, 2016 (4:59 am)

      We need light rail. We need overall better mass transit.  That said, this will not happen in my lifetime. Would I like to leave Seattle in better shape for younger generations? Sure.  Soon I will have a fixed income, and as planned out it will be adequate but not luxurious.  Combine this with the new taxes that will come down for education and recent local transportation tax increases and the need to better fund crucial services such a mental health, and let’s not forget higher taxes to pay to address the homelessness issue, and affordable housing, and a whole host of other good things, and this very seriously will greatly exceed my fixed budget.  I hinestly don’t know how I can make it.

    • DC March 25, 2016 (5:19 am)

      These draft timelines are conservative, and it is likely that some of the delivery dates will be a bit earlier when the final plan is adopted in June. If there were more dollars earlier – say, if ST could borrow more against future revenues – projects could be delivered sooner, which would more than justify the (very low) cost of borrowing. That would require state legislation.

      It is good to remember that projects from ST2, approved in 2008, are under construction now and will be coming on line over the next several years. Major milestones include U-District – Roosevelt – Northgate in 2021, and then 25 new miles in 2023: Shoreline and Lynnwood; Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake (Microsoft), and Kent/DesMoines Road. Engineering is underway for downtown Federal Way and downtown Redmond.

      Also, the tax sources and rates are those authorized by the legislature. No real choice for the agency there, but the legislature and the people could at any time in the future choose to finally fix the state tax system and swap out these sources for others.

      The West Seattle line will use the existing downtown tunnel once a new tunnel is built. With trains already coming from the north, east and south, the original tunnel will be at capacity until then. Ultimately, West Seattle will be interlined through the current tunnel with Capitol Hill – UW – Northgate – Lynnwood – Everett. Ballard will be routed via Uptown/Seattle Center and South Lake Union through the new tunnel and interline with Beacon Hill – Rainier Valley – Sea-Tac – Federal Way – Tacoma. Underground transfers between tunnels will be at the International District and Westlake. Surface transfers will be available in SoDo and elsewhere.

      I have lived my entire 54 years in West Seattle. This is likely the one and only chance to bring rail to our neighborhood in my lifetime. Let’s get this done.

    • anonyme March 25, 2016 (6:52 am)

      Owning a home does not automatically make one wealthy, regardless of the value of the home.  Cost of living expenses are exorbitant around here, and those of us living on a fixed income are hard pressed to make ends meet, even with homes that are paid for.  The funding structure for this project is absurd.  I will be dead when it is completed, and impoverished in the meantime.  Our tax structure is driving people out of their homes – people who have been responsible tax payers all of their lives.

    • BJG March 25, 2016 (9:45 am)

      Dead before this ever sees the light of day!  And where is that $300K house they always like to use when suggesting tax burdens?

      WE did vote for mass transit in 1970, but recall a supermajority of 60% was required, and at the time Boeing was laying off its workforce. Vietnam was tapping all our human and financial resources. No job was was secure and even the huge enticement of federal funds couldn’t overcome the panic that was being felt. My UW commencement speaker told the graduates they would be facing very limited career opportunities. We were not in any way secure, so a good plan was only good if we  had the prospects of an income.  That said, I was optimistic and voted yes. Now I am retired and facing stunning  property tax increases in every election cycle. The only taxpayers who can’t run away are homeowners.  It is coming down to groceries and medical bills or taxes. I never thought I’d be there, but I am.  So count me out when it comes time to pay up.  It’s not there anymore, and I’m not alone among West Seattle’s formerly middle class.

    • CanDo March 25, 2016 (11:04 am)

      Yes…  where IS that $300K valued house in West Seattle?   And yes, the worth of our house is ridiculously high…. stupidly high really, with a corresponding tax burden to go with it.   We didn’t scrimp and save to purchase a home in West Seattle so we could watch the valuation rise.  We scrimped and saved and worked extra hard to purchase a home in West Seattle because we thought it was a good place to raise kids, to have a sense of community and to enjoy the great neighborhoods.  We bought in the late 80s, planning to live in this community for the rest of our lives , not to speculate and sell when the valuation was high.    The ever-increasing tax burden and corresponding rising costs, along with infrastructure snarls, are forcing us out of West Seattle and very soon. 

    • JVP March 25, 2016 (11:23 am)

      What can we do to fast track this and compress the timeline? I’ll make a sizeable donation today to the organization that will 1) push hard for the west Seattle line and 2) push hard for creative yet realistic ways to get it done 5 years sooner. It can be done, we just need the political will to railroad some of the famous “Seattle process”.

    • chemist March 25, 2016 (1:56 pm)

      We have $80 in Transportation Benefit District and some more in RTA fees added to our Seattle tabs and now they’re talking about a return of the MVET ?

      I remember the city’s wonky depreciation table from paying monorail taxes – suggesting cars are worth double what they’d actually sell for used (example, an 8 year old car was worth 48% of MSRP).

    • sam-c March 25, 2016 (2:15 pm)

      The fact that West Seattle gets light rail 5 years before Ballard is kind of funny and ridiculous.  And I have no idea where I might be living in 17 years.  kids will have probably have moved out (so hard to imagine the younger one as a 20 year old when he can’t even use a toilet yet- lol) and we will probably have downsized into a new (to us), smaller place closer to amenities anyhow….maybe i will move closer to light rail before light rail gets to me. who knows….Maybe I will retire early and move to out of the country :)

    • metrognome March 25, 2016 (2:30 pm)

      @chemist – please place the blame where it actually rests … the ‘wonky depreciation schedule’ was developed by the Monorail Authority, a quasi-governmental entity that was completely separate from city government.

    • Dana March 25, 2016 (2:39 pm)

      I found this page on the Sound Transit website. It shows how long the different phases of building the light rail  could take.  Based on this, it looks like the projects expected to finish earlier (Redmond, Federal Way) are already in planning.  Because West Seattle Link (and Ballard Link) aren’t in planning yet, that plus the state’s funding restrictions is why we’re looking at 2033.

       But at least if this passes it will be on the way.  If this doesn’t pass, then who knows when it would…and how much worse the traffic will be by then.

    • Ex-Westwood Resident March 25, 2016 (7:00 pm)

      Has anyone looked at the cost per mile of this? I heard on the radio today where they were discussing it, that it works out to $500 million per mile?!!!???

      This is RIDICULOUS!!!!

      As far as a time-table…ST STILL hasn’t provided the system that was voted on in 1996/7. The proposal that was placed in front of the voters was a line from Northgate to Seatac Airport, 33 miles.

      Here we are 20 years later, BILLIONS over budget and they are asking for MORE MONEY to complete what was originally promised in the approved, ORIGINAL proposal.

      Are you people really that gullible to give ST $50 BILLION more, which if the past performance and delivery of approved proposals, are nothing short of DISMAL???

    • wsguy March 26, 2016 (6:13 am)

      So on a $40k vehicle you would be looking at a roughly $450 a year car tab? And my property taxes and sales taxes go up? Didn’t we vote on something like this in the late 90’s? Their record of delivering on time and budget is abysmal. And  I am sure we will have another bus funding crisis next year that will require more property taxes and car tab fees. 

      I love the idea of light rail but I look at it and say it will be probably after 2050 when it gets to WS and probably a $200 billion dollar project with overruns given the track record.

      Suddenly those home just south of Roxbury are looking a lot better….

      • Ex-Westwood Resident March 26, 2016 (7:51 am)

        WSGUY – Don’t get too enamored with the homes south of Roxbury. ST is a Regional entity and the taxes, fees, any and all money stolen from us would be stolen from ALL those living in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

    Sorry, comment time is over.