FOLLOWUP: Mayor Durkan signs Sound Transit partnering agreement for West Seattle, Ballard light-rail planning

That “partnering agreement” between the city and Sound Transit, to get going on West Seattle (2030) and Ballard (2035) light rail, has now been signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose office sent this announcement:

With the support of all Seattle-area Sound Transit Board Members, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan signed an agreement for an expedited plan to build the West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions. The agreement, which was unanimously affirmed by City Council on Monday, provides a framework for Sound Transit and the City to work closely during the next 18 months to identify a preferred route alternative. Early identification of a preferred alternative along with other alternatives to study in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a key strategy to meet the aggressive schedules for speeding up service to West Seattle in 2030 and Ballard in 2035. In addition, the agreement creates a new leader within the Mayor’s office to coordinate Sound Transit including a review of City codes, policies and permitting requirements.

“I am honored to appoint Mayor Durkan to the Sound Transit Board of Directors – she will be a strong partner as we keep our projects moving forward and tackle our transportation challenges,” said King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Member Dow Constantine. “People want light rail, and they want it now. During the ST 3 campaign I repeatedly pointed out that the timelines could be shortened if local jurisdictions and Sound Transit work together. Today, for West Seattle and Ballard, Seattle is a big step closer to making that happen, fulfilling my promise and showing the way for other cities.”

“If we want to remain the economic engine of the Northwest, with opportunities for all residents to thrive, we must have continued investment in light rail and other investments in public transportation. The West Seattle and Ballard to Downtown corridors will be areas of high ridership, and most importantly, will help our diverse communities stay connected. We are united in making this a top priority,” said King County Council Chair and Sound Transit Board Member Joe McDermott.

“We need better transit as quickly as possible. By expediting light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, we will be transforming our city for decades to come. As both Mayor and a member of the Sound Transit Board, I will work to cut red tape to provide faster, more reliable transit service to neighborhoods sooner. By working closely with key members of our community, region, and the Sound Transit Board, we will be able to make public transit more convenient and accessible to those who visit or live and work in and around Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor and Sound Transit Board Member Jenny Durkan. “I’ll also work to bring on better bus service to help immediately, as we build our next generation of transit.”

“We heard loud and clear that Seattle voters want light rail and they want it as soon as possible. This agreement will help the City and Sound Transit deliver the transit infrastructure our region demands,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, NE Seattle) and Sound Transit Board Member. “We know that good transit reduces household costs, connects families to good jobs and helps protect our environment, and I am thrilled we are taking action today to bring those benefits to more Seattleites.”

The agreement will go before the Sound Transit Board on Dec. 21. It includes specific commitments from each agency that include working together with stakeholders to build early consensus around project elements; developing environmental review documents that both agencies can use for required project development approvals and permitting decisions; and streamlining permit review and processing.

If you skimmed through, go back and note the “better bus service” mention in the third-to-last paragraph. We’ll be checking on that.

23 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Mayor Durkan signs Sound Transit partnering agreement for West Seattle, Ballard light-rail planning"

  • Ron Swanson December 13, 2017 (5:01 pm)

    Definitely important to keep an eye on the “better bus service” promise.  ST3 has $85M earmarked for capital improvements to the C Line, the D Line, and the future G Line (Madison street). 

    The G Line was supposed to have 50% of its $120M cost covered by the feds.  That hasn’t happened yet for obvious political reasons and the project’s been delayed. 

    I’d be worried that the bulk of the ST3 funding will suddenly be reallocated to fill that hole, and the C Line will get scraps.  In my book, it should get 1/3 of the ST3 funding.

  • TJ December 13, 2017 (6:47 pm)

    Does this mean light rail could be here earlier than 2030, or will it just help it stay on the promised time? If it is the latter, then I take it as a sign that Sound Transit didn’t have confidence in the 2030 date while selling ST3. And this better not end up meaning Sound Transit borrowing city funds as Moon had proposed, which would be a joke. That crazy idea probably helped doom her mayoral run…an agency borrowing money from a city that is part of it’s taxing base, that it will probably need to tax more at the end to pay back when it goes over budget. As for fed money for the added bus service, I wouldn’t plan for much, with as far as local politicians have gone to thumb their nose at the current administration. 

  • flimflam December 13, 2017 (7:17 pm)

    lol so in 2030 we’ll have choo-choo trains? wow. this is old technology, right?

    • WSB December 13, 2017 (7:57 pm)

      Do you seriously want to have that discussion again, with repeated refutations? No, it’s not a “choo choo.” And autonomous cars are still cars, with forms of mass transit such as light rail, buses, etc. taking up less of the finite street (etc.) space we have. Anybody else want to chime in? I have to go write something.

      • AmandaK December 13, 2017 (9:06 pm)

        OMG, TR +1

        • AJP December 13, 2017 (9:52 pm)

          +2 HAHAHAHA

      • WS Guy December 13, 2017 (10:05 pm)

        Tracy, I think we should modernize your understanding of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and ride sharing services.   Don’t think of AVs as just like the car you own but it drives itself.  The modern concepts of AVs are more like a cross between a taxi, a bus, and a train.

        Some day you will pay let’s say $50/month to subscribe to an AV service.  You may not even own a car.

        You will tap an app on your phone to summon an AV and declare your destination.   (Or say , “Alexa, take me to work.”)  A network will dynamically route an AV to your location within a few minutes.  You will probably pick up a few more riders who are going to roughly the same place.  (Or pay extra for a private ride, to which the city will likely add a “congestion tax”.)

        When your AV reaches an arterial, it will fall in line with other AVs. The AVs will communicate with each other, synchronizing speeds and traveling within just 1-2 feet of each other, forming a kind of “road train”.  Along those arterials cities will convert lanes that are currently used for street parking into dedicated AV lanes, leaving the existing lanes for human drivers.  The “road trains” will break apart as they exit the arterial, delivering people right to their destinations.

        At first these dedicated AV lanes will only be found on the major arterials during rush hour.  But car will ownership drop.  People will pay $50/month rather than $20,000 on a car, fuel, maintenance, and insurance.  Street parking will become less necessary.  Cities will dedicate fewer lanes to parking and convert them to AV traffic.

        Since point-to-point ride sharing is more appealing than riding a bus, more people will use it than ride the bus today.  The car/vanpooling effect will effectively increase road capacity.

        The ability for AVs to cluster into road trains and communicate with one another allows them to travel more efficiently than human cars, increasing road capacity.

        The conversion of street parking lanes during rush hour (or all day) increases road capacity.

        While flimflam’s post is not well phrased, he is more right than you might think.  Trains are expensive, fixed-line transit.  They cannot reroute.  They cannot change.  They cannot pick you up, nor do they deliver you right to the door.  They cannot pick your kids up from baseball practice for you while you cook dinner.  You cannot load them with the boxes that you are moving.  They cannot take you to the mountains on the weekend.  

        Intelligent networks and AVs will make trains, sadly, an obsolete form of transit before Sound Transit pays off.  They may even be obsolete before 2030.

        For more information start reading up on “smart cities”.  Thanks.

        • WSB December 13, 2017 (11:05 pm)

          Thank you; I’m plenty modernized and plenty well-read, and don’t see it as an either-or.

          • WS Guy December 14, 2017 (12:40 am)

            Ok, thanks for the clarification.  I read your reply as though it was common knowledge that AVs were infeasible and a net burden on the street network.

            I took flimflam’s critique to be, “is this really worth it?”  $54 billion dollars and 13 years into ST3 the region will still have a not-that-great rail system.  How many $billions more to go? 

            It’s not like NYC where light rail is a sunk investment that you just pay to operate.  We have made a very expensive choice and we are actively paying into it.  I, personally, do not believe that it is still smart money given the emerging alternatives.  I don’t think the alternatives are getting the serious consideration they deserve, and they are instead getting dismissed out of hand (as the 3-4 comments here imply).

        • East Coast Cynic December 14, 2017 (6:00 am)

          So I’ll be able to get a AV on a whim if I need to get to the supermarket?  H’mmmm.  

          With our limited road infrastructure and geographical limits to expand it in league with an increasing population, I could envision using one and getting stuck in traffic behind all the other AV’s and owner driven cars precisely because of the aforementioned factors; I could see my car continuously bumping the rear fender of the car ahead of me because it’s chip believes it should be moving:/.

          Don’t see Vancouver, London, Paris, Berlin, or NYC turning into a sea of AV traffic by the 2030’s.

          Sounds like a hatchet job on public transportation.

        • I December 14, 2017 (10:51 am)

          That’s pretty pie in the sky, WS Guy. Your hypothetical situation would only work if all, or at least the vast majority, of vehicle son the road are your speculative “AVs.” What is your $50/month figures based on? You’re selling a product that doesn’t exist at a price that is just made up. 

          Nope. Anti-rail activists have glommed onto autonomous vehicles as a flimsy attempt to invalidate actual mass transit. No amount of “AVs” can match the capacity of a fully developed transit system.

          But really the bottom line is we have voted overwhelmingly for light rail on multiple occasions. 

    • RickB December 13, 2017 (8:36 pm)

      Bring on the choo-choo! Here’s a rendering of a train pulling into the junction on a nice sunny morning.

      Looks like a great way to start the day!

      • Dawson December 14, 2017 (6:08 am)

        Just as long as the train doesn’t lack self confidence about hills we’ll be fine.

        • Anonymous Coward December 14, 2017 (8:09 am)

          Have you looked at the grade up Avalon and compared it to what’s normally used on friction rail lines?

    • Mike December 13, 2017 (9:21 pm)

      You realize we’re one of the only industrialized cities in the world that doesn’t have a half decent train system in place to haul the masses around?  Japan makes us look like a 3rd world country.  So much so they apologize for leaving EARLY by 20 seconds. You ever get a ‘hey, sorry we were late or did not show up’ from Metro or SoundTransit?

  • Chas Redmond December 13, 2017 (9:17 pm)

    OMG OMG AK+1 for the TR+1.

  • brandon December 13, 2017 (9:36 pm)

    Yippee.  Still 15 years away.  Wow.

  • Seattlite December 13, 2017 (9:56 pm)

    I am so jaded when it comes anything to do with Seattle’s transit problems, plans, and promises.  I used to follow Sound Transit’s news but I gave up awhile back because I got too discouraged. 

  • markinthedark December 14, 2017 (8:21 am)

    George Jetson say’s hi!

  • WS Guy December 14, 2017 (11:18 am)

    So I’ll be able to get a AV on a whim if I need to get to the supermarket?

    >>> Yes.

    Don’t see Vancouver, London, Paris, Berlin, or NYC turning into a sea of AV traffic by the 2030’s.

    >>> I don’t see why not, since they are already a sea of these things called “taxis”.  My friends in NYC use Uber as their primary means of transportation.  The most expensive part of a taxi is the driver (2/3 the cost).   Now split the ride with two other people and add the efficiencies of network routing and controls.  You will reduce taxi costs by 90%.  Then what’s possible?

    Sounds like a hatchet job on public transportation.

    >>> A conspiracy to stop using taxes to fund less efficient forms of transit?  I was under the impression that public transit exists to serve us, not the other way around.  Anyway, it’s more like a conspiracy to undermine private car ownership and the billions of dollars of car loan payments, maintenance and repair, and insurance costs that impoverish many Americans.  Not sure why you’d oppose that.

    • AJP December 14, 2017 (3:14 pm)

      I was listening to a Radiolab podcast a couple weeks ago about the millions of jobs that would be displaced by AVs. That undermines a lot of people. What sector would be making up for those lost jobs?

  • Mickymse December 14, 2017 (1:24 pm)

    Many folks seem to have a misunderstanding of things… It’s not going to take 13 years to build a train line. It takes time to do public outreach and design and environmental review and permitting and all the like. Actual construction takes only a few years.

    And it’s not a crazy idea to “borrow” money from the City or elsewhere. Some of the delay is because Sound Transit literally has to wait for enough tax revenues to come in and for bonding capacity in order to have the money to spend. So, YES, we could actually speed some things up with Sound Transit’s projects if more money was available to hire extra staff to start planning earlier or pay multiple constructions crews to work at the same time, etc.

    Finally, while Seattle is clearly growing into a world-class city, we are not really “behind” on anything. Places like New York and Chicago have had systems for a century or more. It’s much easier for them to add and expand. And we have nowhere close to the population and density to support systems like Tokyo or Paris or London. We don’t even have 1 million people in the city yet or a couple in the region compared to places with much better systems, but that serve MILLIONS of people.

    We’re getting there. Just be sure to participate in public outreach opportunities and support tax revenues to pay for this.   

  • Mal December 15, 2017 (5:15 pm)

    Thanks.  I’ll still be driving my car, however.  

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