VIDEO: ‘It’s going to be an interesting year and a half,’ Sound Transit rep tells West Seattle meeting, and explains why

That’s our video of last night’s Junction Neighborhood Organization-hosted Sound Transit light-rail briefing/Q&A session at the Senior Center/Sisson Building.


No revelations in the presentation itself. ST’s Cathal Ridge recapped the overall Sound Transit 3 plan, including the 4.7-mile extension from SODO to the West Seattle Junction that’s scheduled to open in 2030, connecting to a new downtown tunnel opening in 2035 with the northward extension to Ballard.

Key timeline points: “Alternatives development” from now through early 2019, then the environmental-review process, 2022-2025 design, with construction starting in 2025. An attendee asked about right-of-way acquisition; Ridge said that would likely happen around 2023. When concerns were raised about ST taking property via eminent domain, he said they try to use that as little as possible.

Key process point: ST plans to assemble three “stakeholder” groups for an engagement process starting next year. “We really want people to be involved from the get-go and issues to be identified” early. These groups – one of which will involve elected officials – will have “20 or so” people who are “able to meet periodically.” In Q&A, some worried that too much decisionmaking will be up to people from outside the area; it was pointed out that the Sound Transit board currently includes two West Seattleites, King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Council Chair Joe McDermott.

Open houses are planned in January-February of next year (no specifics yet), and that’s when Sound Transit will come back to West Seattle with more information on where things stand at the start. That includes the roughed-out “representative alignment” of where the West Seattle route and stations might be. While Ridge did not bring the existing maps to the JuNO event, he acknowledged that they had already been shown by the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (as seen below, republished from our coverage of WSTC’s unofficial design workshop back in June):

That’s part of what Ridge described as “a lot of work” that already has happened, even at that early stage, though he added, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will be built,” while reiterating that ST wants to hear issues and ideas.

Those will, it was made clear by several attendees, continue to include the suggestion that tunneling would make more sense to get to The Junction rather than what’s envisioned now as a much-elevated track. Without getting into the added cost of tunneling, though, Ridge noted that input needs to take into consideration the big picture, such as the project budget.

And in turn, several attendees pointed out that West Seattle – and The Junction in particular – is leery of processes like this because of how others, such as HALA upzoning, already have played out in a less-than-collaborative manner.

One requested that ST “come back early and often” to talk with the community.

Referring to the intensive early planning that’ll continue into 2019, Ridge said, “It’s going to be an interesting year and a half.”

34 Replies to "VIDEO: 'It's going to be an interesting year and a half,' Sound Transit rep tells West Seattle meeting, and explains why"

  • TJ November 16, 2017 (1:17 pm)

    While 2030 seems like a long ways away, decisions need to be me made quick on what form this will get here (elevated, tunnel) and where. Endless debate will push this past that. And people shouldn’t have any faith in the timeline or budget as is being no projects have come in on time. $54 billion, the largest local tax increase in US history, for 1800’s technology that may be obsolete with a autonomous seld driving car grid coming on line. Sound Transit has been revealed as a sham and has lost credibility, so they have a lot to prove by finishing all parts of ST3 on time and on budget BEFORE they ask for another dime. 

    • West Seattle since 1979 November 16, 2017 (2:19 pm)

      TJ, what roads are the autonomous cars going to drive on, if everyone abandons mass transit?  Our roads are already backed up, especially during rush hour.  

    • Jon Wright November 16, 2017 (2:37 pm)

      I’ve never understood this “self-driving cars are going to save the day” trope. The problem with cars is the amount of physical space they need. That isn’t really a function of who or what is driving. Sure, you might be able to reduce following distances a bit with computer control, but that only buys you small incremental improvements. The people on the self-driving car bandwagon characterize it as some sort of panacea but I have yet to see the specifics on how that is magically make traffic jams a thing of the past (or supersede the need for mass transit).

      And you choose to disparage light rail as “1800s technology” that risks obsolescence. I consider light rail proven technology that is efficient and in unique in its ability to move lots of passengers. I have visions of people who are putting all their eggs in the “self driving car grid” basket being just as disappointed as the folks who were counting on living in a lunar colony in the year 2000.

      • Jort November 16, 2017 (5:23 pm)

        Not to mention that the alleged self-driving car will also make it easier for many more cars to be on the road. Now children can take up space in a car. Or the elderly. People who never could have driven before will suddenly be occupying space on the roads.

        The amount of space on our roads is a fixed, unchanging quantity. Traffic happens when too many cars are trying to get through that fixed amount of space.

        I know people like to think that traffic is all because “somebody else” is a bad driver and caused it … but if you’re in traffic, you ARE the traffic. 

        • The King November 16, 2017 (6:59 pm)

          The amount of space on our road is fixed…? So did 35th Avenue just shrink on it’s own? haha. VERY good point jort

    • Swede. November 16, 2017 (5:31 pm)

      Too late. They already upped the budget with $500 millions due to the exploding land/housing market…

    • Qc November 16, 2017 (10:40 pm)

      What’s this about a ‘boondoggle’? The city voted for this by a wide margin. A majority of us are excited for transportation options. I, personally, will vote for more at the first opportunity.

  • TJ November 16, 2017 (3:21 pm)

    I advise anyone not sure of the autonomous technology to actually research it. We aren’t talking about cars that people own, but a fleet of cars that get 400K miles and can follow another car at 50 mph at 2 feet and take stresses off of parking because there won’t be nearly as many parked cars. The technology is actually here now. I don’t know if this will be a revelation, because the bottom line is people love their own cars, but it makes more sense than fixed rail. But now we have committed $54 billion on a boondoggle, and with the anger over Sound Transit and the ST3 scheme, that agency is done. There won’t be support for a “ST4” 15 years from now to “build out the grid, let alone any money to throw at Metro now. This blog seems to be dominated by stories on development and traffic and parking, yet some people seem to think actually wanting to attract more people here is good. Seems to be a mentality that people are coming here no matter what, whether or not there is housing built. 

    • Jon Wright November 16, 2017 (4:54 pm)

      Perhaps if one were building a Utopian city completely from scratch, one could realize the benefits of autonomous technology. But there is no transition plan that spells out specifically how we are going to go from human-driven cars to autonomous vehicles and the devil is in the details. A city full of autonomous cars sounds great in theory, but how are we going to get there? For crying out loud, it took 13 years to switch from analog to digital television!

    • TreeHouse November 16, 2017 (6:29 pm)

      Do you know who will vote for a “ST4 in 15 years” or even vote to throw more money at metro in the next election? Me! And many other millenials.

      This is not a “boondoggle,” it’s Seattle catching up with other cities and making up for the mistake of not doing this 20 years ago. Let’s not continue to kick this can down the road. 

    • WS Guy November 16, 2017 (11:11 pm)

      I think TJ is right.  Before 2030 people will use dynamically routed driverless buses and ride shares since the per trip cost will be much, much lower.  Those will self-assemble into road trains when possible, or intermingle with driven cars at a safe distance when not.  Progressive cities (read: Bellevue) will dedicate lanes to them along some arterials, in place of existing parking lanes.  Car ownership will drop.  

      Backwards cities (read: Seattle) will waste money on obsolete fixed routes while their urbanist zealots languish in tiny TOD apartments.  

    • Meyer November 17, 2017 (7:49 am)

      @TJ – who will pay for this large fleet of expensive self driving cars that no one owns? It’ll likely be the taxpayers and I bet it will cost far more than ST3. I’m assuming you’ll be first on line to vote and pay for what will surely be “the largest local tax increase ever”?

      Also despite what TJ says this tech is pretty far out and even farther once we consider the regulation hurtles.

  • Car4me November 16, 2017 (3:48 pm)

    Was a man on the local news a couple of weeks ago(KOMO I think). He was talking about how driverless cars will make thing’s so much better. He said I5 would be much better with these car’s. Reality check. He said they’d have to have their own lane. Guess the technology won’t allow them to intermingle with us. He also stated that they need smooth pavement with good painted lane markings. He made no mention or who would pay for this.

  • flynlo November 16, 2017 (3:49 pm)

    “…light rail as 1800s technology…”   It IS 1800s technology, especially as it is being implemented by Sound Transit.   It is NOT implemented as grade separated, causing how many fatalities already,  It STILL has a human sitting in the front “controlling” it.   Look to the north and see how the “1800s technology” has been implemented in a 20th century fashion.  Vancouver BC started developing their light rail system in the 1980s.  It is all grade separated and uses driverless technology.  I don’t know if it’s still true but at one time they claimed the possibility that they could cover ALL operational costs thru fares.  Something that will never be possible with the “technology” used by Sound Transit.   Does anyone really think that driverless cars are “just around the corner” when we can’t implement a driverless light rail on a vehicle which runs on a fixed route?

    • Seattlite November 16, 2017 (4:43 pm)

      I agree with your comment.  ST has a terrible reputation which goes back to its terrible leadership.

    • Ron Swanson November 16, 2017 (4:56 pm)

      All of the rail being built in ST3 including the West Seattle line is fully grade-separated.  It could be easily automated eventually.

    • Carole November 16, 2017 (7:06 pm)

      And yet driving through Vancouver BC is still a nightmare.

  • zark00 November 16, 2017 (5:04 pm)

    The tech is not the only thing that needs to be hashed out for driver-less cars to be a reality.

    There is a moral dilemma that we are further from solving than ever before – and there is no clear solution on the horizon.

    Basically – should the car follow utilitarian ethics and take the action that will minimize total harm — even if that action will kill a bystander and even if that action will kill the passenger. Or should the car follow duty-bound principles, like “Thou shalt not kill.” So it should never do something that harms a human being, and should always continue on its course even if it will kill more people.

    Most people say ‘utilitarian’ – harm the least number of people.  Then when asked if they would buy, or support the use of, these types of cars – it’s an adamant NO WAY.

    Now, replace yourself with your child in that car – and almost 100% of people say ‘do anything you can to save my child, even at the expense of everyone else’.  I will admit that I would program MY driver-less car to run over 10,000 of the finest people living before ‘deciding’ to instead kill my kids.  It’s just how human beings are – I know it’s not the “right” thing to do, but literally anything to protect my kids is the “right” thing to do…   I honestly don’t know how to make that decision and live with it.

    When this moral, social, dilemma comes up, most people ultimately conclude there is no good solution, and we should wait until drive-less cars are 100% safe 100% of the time – and every driver-less car manufacturer says that is, unfortunately, an absolute impossibility and will never be the reality.

    Of course, if we flipped a switch and all cars were driver-less instantly, even with today’s limitations, accident rates and deaths would plummet.  So if we wait until they’re perfect, we’re willing to accept all the death that happens while we wait.  If we make them a reality now, we’re willing to accept all the death that comes with an imperfect system.  So how much death can we accept to get driver-less cars on the roads is a very real question – and nobody can answer it and live with the answer.  

    Sorry – that’s some dark driver-less car stuff – but it’s interesting and it is a real problem with how we get these things on the road.

    Here’s an interesting TED talk on this topic.

  • Maw9 November 16, 2017 (5:43 pm)

    A little heartbreaking to see our little neighborhood around Delridge playfield demolished. Why not run the light rail up to Avalon parallel to the freeway and then just go up Avalon instead of destroying North Delridge?? That way it wouldn’t rip through residential streets. Let me guess, this keeps it out of sight of people up the hill who could care less about what happens down in Delridge.  

    • Jon Wright November 16, 2017 (7:26 pm)

      When Sound Transit begins the ST3 community outreach in earnest, be sure to share your thoughts with them!

  • TJ November 16, 2017 (8:33 pm)

    The price tag on this is ridiculous. And they won’t be done asking for more when ST3 is done. For anyone touting this, I suggest taking a look at cities ranked with worse traffic than here. Almost all are cities with rail (San Francisco for one). $54 billion for “an alternative choice” that won’t make traffic better is poor judgement

    • Jort November 16, 2017 (9:06 pm)

      Just an FYI since it appears you’re still not over it or maybe didn’t absorb the news from one year ago, but we actually had quite a bit of debate about this last year and it turns out Seattle residents voted 70 percent in favor of Sound Transit 3. 

      Rail is coming, and your drive is still going to suck. Sorry.

    • Paul November 17, 2017 (4:24 pm)


      New York has horrible traffic and it has rail.

      Boston has horrible traffic and it has rail.

      Chicago has horrible traffic and it has rail.

      Do you think any of these cities would have better traffic if they didn’t have rail?  No, they wouldn’t.

      Do you think they can build more highways and make their traffic better? No, they can’t.  

      Those cities don’t have horrible traffic because they have rail.  Their traffic would be a lot worse without it.  

      Self-driving cars aren’t going to be the solution.  I can’t imagine what the West Seattle Bridge, and the roads leading to it,  would be like in the morning if you put the people on all those buses into self-driving cars.

  • TJ November 16, 2017 (10:42 pm)

    Support is way down after the vote Jort. ST3 wouldn’t pass again right now, after the smoke and mirrors tactics to get it passed were revealed. We will see what happens whenever ST3 is finished and if there is support then for any other projects. Its a long ways off. My response to peole wanting to spend my money? I have conveniently registered my 3 vehicles to my property in Spokane to avoid the car tab scheme here. I have no plans to use rail so I don’t harbor any guilt

    • Jort November 16, 2017 (11:15 pm)

      I think it’s fascinsting that you admit to breaking the law, and you’re proud of it. Perhaps we should begin disregarding the opinions of people who are actually criminals engaged in tax fraud. I’m very disappointed that you are proud of breaking the law by evading taxes. How shameful. 

  • Denise November 17, 2017 (6:56 am)

    Take a look at Bellevue and see what businesses have been taken  by eminent domain.  Sound transit  does not make you whole and if you believe that you are a fool.  They will take any building that is in their way. They do try to work with you but at the end of the day they do what they need to do.

  • Jort November 17, 2017 (10:20 am)

    I would just like to remind everybody, once again, that no city in the recorded history of human civilization has ever “solved” traffic congestion. Not with a train. Not with a freeway expansion. Not with anything.

    It is not possible to “solve” traffic. It IS possible to provide alternatives to it. That’s what we’re doing with Sound Transit 3 and with bike and bus infrastructure. New York City has one of the most expansive subway systems in the world. It also has undeniably unfixable traffic issues, and it always will, forever and ever, because traffic is not solvable.

  • BlairJ November 17, 2017 (12:35 pm)

    Both trains and cars are 1800’s technology.  And both have improved since then.  The benefit of adding trains in the urban environment is not to make traffic better, but to move people more quickly past the traffic.  Trains do that best when not running on the surface, but elevated or tunneled instead.

  • Joe Clark November 17, 2017 (12:52 pm)

    Bringing “affordable housing” into this is a deliberate ploy for support and also dead wrong. Even if the Housing is cheaper, the cost to rent a parking space (if there’s even one available) is going to run a minimum of $200 a month. Also, even if someone doesn’t own a car, it’s likely they borrow one occasionally or have a relative or caregiver who visits several times a week.

  • Jort November 17, 2017 (3:23 pm)

    I hope JUNO realizes that, with new tunnels, comes new expectations about density.

    If JUNO (and the WSTC) truly decides to dig in its heels and demand a tunnel at all costs, then the city is going to respond by allowing 20-story buildings in the Junction to support that infrastructure.

    They don’t build tunnels to low-ridership stations. If you keep asking for it, then you better be willing to accept more residents, too.  You are NOT going to get it both ways.

    • Paul November 17, 2017 (4:14 pm)

      Beacon Hill got a tunnel.  Haven’t seen the zoning change to allow 20-story buildings there yet.

      • Jort November 17, 2017 (4:41 pm)

        Beacon Hill got a tunnel because it was physically impossible to go over the top of it with a train. 

        The Junction does not face this challenge. The Junction is also the endpoint for the rail line — and not just one stop along the way. 

        • Canton November 17, 2017 (8:59 pm)

          Try having a kid jort, when you only have one individual, “yourself”, to deal with, the hypocrisy grows. Put yourself in other people’s shoes, just cause you live a single life, without ANY, responsibility but your own, doesn’t make your utopia the utopia of the masses. Get out of your car hating mindframe, and add actual, usefull feedback to the topic. Your trolling 101 tactic, doesn’t have traction.

  • RayK November 19, 2017 (9:10 pm)

    How did the thread get diverted to bashing driverless cars? Did I miss a Tweet from RealDonaldTrump?

Sorry, comment time is over.