UPDATE: West Seattle light rail sooner – 2030? Sound Transit board considers ST3 changes

TOPLINE, 3:37 PM: Sound Transit said the big objections to the draft ST3 25-year proposal involved timelines – such as, West Seattle light rail in 2033. So this afternoon, board members proposed changes that include, as seen in the list below, moving that timetable up by three years:



From earlier, here’s how it unfolded, and what happens next:

FIRST REPORT, 2:37 PM: We’re in the Sound Transit board room on the south side of downtown, with a full house of people interested in the forthcoming Sound Transit 3 ballot measure for a variety of reasons – from journalists to advocates to elected officials and beyond. Public comment’s been under way since shortly after ST board chair King County Executive Dow Constantine convened the meeting (see the agenda here) at 1:30, and has just wrapped up. Much of it has focused on concerns from and related to the east and north sides of the area. This is all leading up to an expected vote one week from today on finalizing an ST3 measure to send to voters in November. You can watch live via the embedded stream above and we will add notes of interest from here on out. First up, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff will talk about how they might “reduce delivery times” (relevant for WS, where light rail is proposed for 2033 arrival, in the ST3 draft) – including talking to communities before making specific proposals, so they know if they’re walking into a minefield. Also: “establish a transparent schedule for … timely decision-making … throw it up on the Web for all to see,” and other process tweaks, such as fast-tracking permits. In the end, Rogoff added, a “culture change” would be needed, overall, to help speed things up.

2:54 PM: Now, a quick update on the ST3 finance plan. It has “additional capacity to accelerate the program you have under consideration,” the board is told. That’s followed by board members from each of five “sub-areas” proposing changes to the overall plan.

First list of changes includes proposing moving West Seattle light rail up to 2030 – three years sooner than the draft plan released in March.

3:13 PM: The proposed changes are “fully affordable” and meet “sub-area equity,” the board is now told. Next step: The board will consider on June 2nd whether to include any or all of these changes in the ST3 plan. Chair Constantine says, “It’s clear to me … that the will of the board is to move forward with these changes,” so he’ll have them written up by that meeting. The final vote on what to send to voters in November, he says, will be on June 23rd. And with that, this discussion is over and the ST board is moving on to other items.

3:37 PM: The meeting has just adjourned, and Sound Transit’s just sent a news release that points us to this summary of the proposed changes. The only other mentions of West Seattle: “The scope of a study of high-capacity transit between West Seattle and Burien would expand to explore potential future service to Renton via Tukwila.”

59 Replies to "UPDATE: West Seattle light rail sooner - 2030? Sound Transit board considers ST3 changes"

  • Diane May 26, 2016 (4:08 pm)

    so, best case scenario, if I don’t die first, I’ll be 78; pretty hard to get excited about that

  • they May 26, 2016 (4:33 pm)

    Wow if that’s the case Tax me double…

  • coffee May 26, 2016 (4:35 pm)

    Same here.  That’s a very long ways off.  Disappointing to say the least.

  • PSPS May 26, 2016 (5:40 pm)

    For comparison, the stretch of I-5 between Tacoma and Everett took about six years.

  • dave May 26, 2016 (5:58 pm)

    not near good enough.  vote NO.

    14 yrs hahahaha.  waste of money no return on investment

    They still don’t get it.  they need to cut these times in half to get anyone near excited.  

  • Roger May 26, 2016 (6:03 pm)

    Doable in 10 years.

  • Jeff May 26, 2016 (6:08 pm)

    Well, it’s better.    I’m still more concerned about whether or not it’s at grade than exactly when it’s finished.   We only get one chance to do it right, and the regular train/car collisions in the Rainier valley are proof of that.

  • monti May 26, 2016 (6:18 pm)

    idea for a booze shake name.  Asa’s Apple Delight!  after asa mercer

    • JanS May 26, 2016 (11:35 pm)

      Monti….wrong article…

  • Les May 26, 2016 (6:22 pm)

    Sound transit light rail projects have never been on time or budget they have lied to the voters every time .I live in the real world where there is  no  such thing as a reset when you have  made a promise to obtain my vote

    This project should not even be voted upon before the next president is in office you cannot count on any federal grants without knowing the future.

  • Chuck and Sally's Van Man May 26, 2016 (6:55 pm)

    An absurd timeline at an absurd price that will sail through by a wide margin. 

    Because, Seattle. It’s what we do. 

    • AJP May 26, 2016 (10:30 pm)

      No, we don’t do this. We willy-nilly around and act like we don’t need it. Could have had a subway system in the 60s, nope. Could have had a monorail, nope. We don’t build stuff because we’re always arguing about it. It’s pretty miraculous that anything is being done about the viaduct, decades after its expiration date. We sit in traffic and whine about traffic and reject solutions to traffic, that’s what we do. 

      • RJLN May 27, 2016 (8:38 am)

        Amen.  If this doesn’t pass then it is another what, 5 years until we get another proposal at which time it will be even more expensive to build.  I love this city, but this is the one aspect of Seattle that drives me bonkers.  So many negative, what’s in it for me, short sighted people.   Where’s the reason?

  • CherylR May 26, 2016 (7:14 pm)

    Oh gee, I’ll only be 63 when (IF!) that happens. How disappointing, and utterly maddening that we can’t do better than this to connect ALL of Seattle to the downtown core. You know, where the damn jobs are. #GRRRRRRR #GRUMBLE

  • prayforrain May 26, 2016 (7:14 pm)

    The timeline is tough to swallow but it’s not a reason to reject the proposal.  Funding over time is the main issue and there’s a reasonable expectation that more funding can be secured to advance the schedule.  

    Let’s not be Seattle circa 1969 and reject an idea because it’s not perfect.  

    • sam-c May 26, 2016 (8:59 pm)

      Yes, seriously. Some of these short-sighted comments, SMH.   

    • AJP May 26, 2016 (10:31 pm)

      Hear hear! 

    • RJLN May 27, 2016 (8:48 am)

      Well said

  • M May 26, 2016 (7:21 pm)

    What about underground in WS?

    • AJP May 26, 2016 (10:43 pm)

      This always makes me so depressed.

  • Dale May 26, 2016 (7:25 pm)

    Capitol Hill was not on time or on budget.  Not even close.  Sound Transit did at least one of their well known “re-sets” on that project.  They have never, on any project, met their initial promise that they got the gullible voters of this area to approve.

  • Mark schletty May 26, 2016 (7:42 pm)

    The Seattle Times article about this subject points out that any set deadlines are not binding and that these new taxes may continue indefinitely. Sounds pretty ominous to me. Vote for a huge tax increase with no set results and no end to the tax.  Just to maybe get some mass transit at some unsure time, and to immediately start taxing people with limited income out of their homes. Doesn’t sound very smart or compassionate.

    • Jon Wright May 26, 2016 (10:42 pm)

      The Seattle Times has an axe to grind.

    • East Coast Cynic May 27, 2016 (7:22 am)

      Keep in mind, the Seattle Times has opposed Light Rail from the get go, as well as much of any other progressive moves in infrastructure.  The media megaphone of Lesser Seattle.

  • Stuart Jenner May 26, 2016 (7:56 pm)

    I don’t think most voters, especially middle class, have $400 more per year for light rail as well as more money for schools, police, road repairs and maintenance (rebar on I5, anyone), parks, affordable housing subsidies, tax breaks for the next Boeing threat, etc. 

    • prayforrain May 27, 2016 (3:09 pm)

      For some, it will be harder.  For others, the taxes will be cheaper than the cost to fuel, insure and maintain a commuter car over the course of a year.  

  • Justme May 26, 2016 (8:07 pm)

    Does anyone know how much ongoing subsidy it will require once built? And whether those costs are allocated for in this package? All public transportation is subsidized to a degree as a public good. Just wondering if they are leaving these necessary costs out and only presenting the “bricks and mortar” cost.

    • Brice May 27, 2016 (9:40 am)

      From Sound Transit’s fact sheet

      “Approximately 80 percent of the $50.1
      billion, 25-year package would fund
      capital investments across the region,
      while 13 percent would fund operating
      and maintaining the expanded system
      and the remaining 7 percent would
      primarily fund debt service.”

      • Justme May 27, 2016 (12:05 pm)

        Thanks for the info! So after the main bonds run their course in 25-35 years (@ cost of ~$400 per household per year) the cost will drop to ~$50 per household per year, in perpetuity.

  • sna May 26, 2016 (8:09 pm)

    By 2030, an fleet of small self driving vans will be available on demand making light rail (and busses) unnecessary.  Owning a car will be unnecessary.  

    Just imagine if Uber had self driving cars.   It’s not hard to see how self driving vehicles will revolutionize transit.

    • Jon Wright May 26, 2016 (10:43 pm)

      Or flying cars! Like in the Jetsons!

    • Paul May 27, 2016 (9:19 am)

      This guy (or gal) gets it. The problem with the timeline isn’t that we have to wait and not have instant gratification. The problem is that there is technology on the horizon that will revolutionize transportation. With these timelines, there is a reasonable chance you spend billions on a system that doesn’t jive with what transit looks like in 2030, 2040, 2050, etc.


    • Kevin May 27, 2016 (3:20 pm)

      I wish more people understood the impact this technology will have. Light rail to West Seattle will be pointless by the time of its completion. Comparing this to the Jetson’s car only shows ignorance. 

  • Rick May 26, 2016 (8:52 pm)

    Kinda like back on the farm when all I had to do was whistle and my horse Trigger would gallop up and off we’d go.  Only had to tip him a carrot.

  • Dana May 26, 2016 (9:05 pm)

    I’m glad that they did not cut West Seattle’s light rail – there’s a loud contingent in Ballard that wants their light rail to tunnel under the canal instead of a bridge. If Sound Transit decided to do that, we would not have gotten anything. 

    And while I wish it was getting here quicker, they did speed the time up by three years remember. And part of the reason it will take time is because they’re building a whole new bridge for the light rail over the Duwamish. That is much better than taking lanes from the bridge. And part of why it takes so long is they have to study and determine the best final route. It could be underground at this point we just don’t know. Like the Sound Transit CEO said, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

    And just think, if those of you who are able to vote for Forward Thrust had supported it, we would already have this line. Instead people complained that it would cost too much and take too long (sounds familiar). That map I. Ponder linked too looks an awful lot like what Sound Transit is proposing, what we all so desperately want

    • AJP May 26, 2016 (10:36 pm)

      Hooray reasonable person, with understanding of complex issues and a concern for the future!

  • Barb May 26, 2016 (9:22 pm)

    Nope,nope and nope. Crazy timeline. Hire the guy that replaced bridges after the Calfornia earthquake in no time at all.

  • pam May 26, 2016 (9:44 pm)

    This is really poor, why is Seattle so far behind Vancouver BC when it comes to great transportation? we want high density in neighborhoods like WS but we don’t support people getting to and from work? If we increase density, transportation has to be a part of the plan right away, yhat only makes sense and I don’t have a city planning degree.

  • AIDM May 26, 2016 (10:10 pm)

    Seattle needs mass transit sooner! The city of Seattle should take a leadership role within the county and fund a West Seattle and Ballard line within the city on a much shorter time line than sound transit is proposing on its own. The city leadership is impotent if it is content to let West Seattle lag behind Tacoma, Everett and Redmond.  Light rail is a regional organization that connects cities and towns, but Seattle leaders need to lead and create the inner-city transit.  They need to create the city’s mass transit solution rather than wait for a regional organization to solve transportation entirely within the city.  It can be compatible with sound transit but should be funded on a 10 year time line.

  • jennifer May 26, 2016 (10:20 pm)

    It’s not for us, it’s a legacy for our kids and their
    kids. If we hadn’t voted no back in the 70s, we’d have our light rail already. Let’s stop kicking the can further down the road.

  • Chris Cowman May 26, 2016 (10:24 pm)

    Cost for build only $100,000 per rider…..

  • trevor May 26, 2016 (10:31 pm)

    It should be  like the stadium they voted down. Paid for by the users. We need to fix the homeless problems and bike lanes first. I vote no to the city of Seattle. I will wait in traffic longer, no big deal.

  • cj May 27, 2016 (1:31 am)

    Wow been waiting for so long  …  :(

  • Lura Ercolano May 27, 2016 (5:11 am)

    To the person who compared this to bridges in California – those already had the access, the property, etc in place. Of course that’s faster.


    I too wish it could be built faster, but nothing can get done at any speed at all if you want the engineering and design to happen before funding.

  • Anonymous Coward May 27, 2016 (5:47 am)

    I’m a big fan of all the people who have decided that this is something we can and should do without even knowing how much it will cost*.  Do y’all do that sort of thing when you go to buy a car or a house?  And, no, the $50B number is not how much it will cost.  That’s just the capital costs, not the financing costs nor the operating costs.  It’d like buying a condo without knowing the interest rate on the mortgage nor the monthly HOA fees.

  • JeffK May 27, 2016 (6:55 am)

    We went to the moon in 10 years, surely this can be done in 5.

  • Brian May 27, 2016 (8:15 am)

    I like articles like this because everyone comes out of the woodwork to tell you how old they’ll be when a project is done. Then you just walk the math back a little and say “Oh, this is a bunch of out-of-touch whine factories who are only interested in perpetuating the problem.” 

  • Meyer May 27, 2016 (8:50 am)

    Very excited for this. Seattle has been missing out on good transit long enough. To those saying it will take too long – you are only hurting future generations. Also keep in mind there will be many immediate bus improvements so you won’t need to wait the full time to get something in return.

  • Felix May 27, 2016 (10:00 am)

    As a person who will eventually get old and die, I  am bitter about the idea of paying taxes for something that will benefit generations of people after I am old or dead.

     Now get off my lawn.

    • AJP May 27, 2016 (1:35 pm)

      HA! Indeed. 

  • Just build it already May 27, 2016 (10:54 am)

    Agree that this timeline is still too long. Agree that taxes are too high. But will still vote yes. Seattle needs this. Silver lining? With light rail within walking distance of my home, its value will skyrocket right around the time I retire, no?

  • wsn00b May 27, 2016 (10:58 am)

    This levy based funding is just stupid and illogical. It will take the city 10 years to rebuild arterial roads( like 35th) with money trickling in from a levy. Why do  you think they can build a set of train lines in less than 2 decades?

    The funding model is broken. This is a capital investment (with a federal grant), you can’t OpEx (operational expense) your way to do big things.

  • Wsgal May 27, 2016 (2:43 pm)

    I’ll be retired by then. Awesome. Why can’t weed revenue be spent to fix our infrastructure I mean NY had tunnels and mass transit practically 100 years ago. Crazy!

  • Seattle Solution May 27, 2016 (5:32 pm)

    I really want to support this–I’m okay with higher taxes for good public transit that benefits all of us. But the extended timeline with minimal results for Seattle neighborhoods isn’t really very helpful. If the plan was for a West Seattle light rail line in 10 years and something similar for Ballard, I’d be thrilled to support it. But it’s not a line rail line. It’s one stop (Alaska Junction), maybe two (N. Delridge Industrial). No Admiral, no Morgan Junction, no Westwood, no ferry connection, no long term plan to head south to the airport. I don’t care that I’m going to be retired when it opens; I care that virtually nothing is opening and the plan isn’t a comprehensive solution. I agree that Seattle city leadership needs to step up on this, and we need to stop relying on a regional transit authority to solve our in-city transit needs.

  • Kristen May 28, 2016 (8:19 am)

    Perspective please, city planners! This was on the news the other morning, like it was some great improvement. Wow, shaving off 3 years from a 30 year plan, not very impressive. Given how poorly the tunnel project has gone, this information means nothing to me :)

  • Ová May 28, 2016 (10:25 am)

    I realize this isn’t s perfect plan.  But it’s high time we move forward with something.  Yes, many of us will be in our 60s, 70s & 80s when it’s complete. But you know what?  How great to have a light rail system at a time of life when we truly won’t WANT to be driving (and some really shouldn’t be behind a wheel in their later years!).  I also can’t get behind the “but we will have self driving cars by then” philosophy because those self-driving cars will be INCHING along on clogged roads.  With the population growth that’s coming our way in Seattle-we absolutely have to have solutions that get people around outside our existing roads.

  • wetone May 28, 2016 (4:29 pm)

    Don’t know how anyone can believe anything Sound Transit board says. Track record tells all. Keep feeding them money they’ll keep telling you what you want to hear. 

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