LIGHT RAIL: 3 years after ST3, advocacy group thinks it’s time to start talking about a possible ST4

The advocacy group Seattle Subway suggests it’s time to start thinking ST4, three years after voters passed ST3. Here’s the map of possibilities they’re circulating:

Again, this is a volunteer group, not formally affiliated with Sound Transit or any other government agecy, but the prospect of where light rail goes next has been raised many times as the West Seattle extension is planned, so we’re publishing their pitch:

In 2016 Seattle took a bold step toward carbon-neutrality by voting to expand the Link rail system—acting in the face of a climate crisis that chokes our blue summer skies with wildfire smoke, combined with a growing influx of new residents to our city.

Planning and building rail extensions takes decades, however, and a completed ST3 system will still leave frustrating gaps in Seattle’s densest neighborhoods, like Belltown and First Hill. That is why we must start working on ST4 now to expand Link service and move toward a vision of Seattle that is fully connected by high-quality transit.

Our next rail expansion vote on ST4 should come in 2024. More people than ever will be riding Link in 2024 as major stations open in Northgate, Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way, and Lynnwood. Critically, we will still have a window to design major ST3 stations and infrastructure for transfers and future expansion, since they must be planned that way from the start. The only way to avoid short-changing the potential of our investments in ST3, including a brand-new downtown subway tunnel, is to plan ahead with a Seattle-focused ST4 plan.

“Seattle is growing fast and started out decades behind on rapid transit,” said Keith Kyle, executive director of Seattle Subway. “When projects can take dozens of years to deliver, we don’t have time to wait around on getting started. We need to leverage the investments we’re already making to create a true Seattle Subway.”

Seattle residents should have the option to catch a train in Georgetown, Wallingford, or White Center and enjoy a smooth ride to Lake City, Crown Hill, or Fremont. We live in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet but spend far too much time stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, spewing carbon emissions from our vehicles.

“Improving Seattle’s public transit system serves everyone,” said Seattle Subway political director Ken Anderson. “Growing our Link network brings environmental, economic, mobility, and quality of life benefits to every person who doesn’t drive or is sick of wasting their time stuck in gridlocked traffic.”

To pay for this expansion, we have identified two existing funding sources with strong potential: The City Transportation Authority (CTA) and the Seattle Transit Benefit District (TBD). The CTA can be used in its current form, but can be greatly improved with state action. Please join us in urging your state legislators to improve the CTA.

“Seattle residents have a chance to make an impact on national and global issues like inequality and climate change by voting locally to expand transit access,” said Kjersti Egerdahl, board member of Seattle Subway. “Seattle can show leadership by developing a strong ST4 ballot measure.”

To make this vision of ST4 a reality, Seattle Subway is working alongside a coalition of partners to build grassroots support, talking to local elected officials, lobbying for small changes in state law, and preparing to run a ballot measure in 2024.

“The more stations Sound Transit builds, the more Seattle votes with our feet,” said Ben Broesamle of Seattle Subway’s Board of Directors. “As we continue to build today, we need to stay focused on the future and create more connections for everyone in the region.”

We stand at a crossroads to determine the future of rapid, low-carbon transit in Seattle and across the region. If you share our goal for transportation progress, come join Seattle Subway. Help us write our upcoming series explaining why each new ST4 line needs to be built. Help us connect with people at farmers markets and community events around Seattle to grow this movement. Help us by calling, emailing, and writing your elected representatives and Sound Transit officials to let them know you want more rail expansion.

Traffic is over, if you want it. Today, we invite you to join the ST4 movement— for the environment, for generations of Seattleites to come, and for yourself.

Seattle Subway is an all-volunteer nonprofit advocating for high quality rapid transit.

Just in case you haven’t been paying attention – ST3, approved by voters in the three-county Sound Transit district, includes extending light rail to the West Seattle Junction, opening in 2030. The planning process has moved into the environmental-studies phase, with a draft Environmental Impact Report due out for public comment late next year.

42 Replies to "LIGHT RAIL: 3 years after ST3, advocacy group thinks it's time to start talking about a possible ST4"

  • Also John June 25, 2019 (12:52 pm)

    Nooooooooo……  We’re not ready for ST4.  We’re still dealing with the unknowns associated with ST3 station locations.

  • Mark Schletty June 25, 2019 (1:15 pm)

    It’s never too early for activists to start asking for more taxes and levies. 

  • AMD June 25, 2019 (1:23 pm)

    Where do I sign?  I’d sell a kidney to have light rail in my neighborhood.  They could run it through my yard if they wanted.  On a more practical note, knowing what the next step of your plan is helps a lot in informing decisions made in this step.  The best example is the alignment of the Junction light rail station.  N/S makes way more sense if the line is going to be extended south.  That was a major talking point in deciding that the early E/W orientation wasn’t so great.  If no one was looking at “what’s next?” we may still be looking at an alignment that would make expansion challenging.

    • Nick June 25, 2019 (2:36 pm)

      I think its more likely the Junction becomes a spur off the mainline that splits off at delridge and continues south to burien/white center neighborhoods.

      • Also John June 25, 2019 (5:33 pm)

        @Nick….  That’s the most obvious design layout.  Lets hope ST believes the same. 

        • Keith Kyle June 25, 2019 (6:16 pm)

          A spur would mean either really low frequency or forced transfer due to capacity issues in the DSTT.  Our map follows the C5 alignment from the ST South King HCT study for that reason.

      • KM June 26, 2019 (7:12 am)

        I hope so! 

  • The King June 25, 2019 (1:28 pm)

    There really is no reason to pile another megatax on unless ST comes clean and says it’s to pay for the original initiatives going back to ST1 they are four billion over budget and behind on these projects. Companies like Waymo have been running in California since December with their driverless cars. Vegas has driverless mini shuttles and other countries like China have full size MCI style buses that have a steward on board to assist passengers, again…no driver. These ST projects will be obsolete way before the bonds are projected to be paid off in 2060. Automation is taking over, I know a year ago or so I was made fun of for mentioning driverless transportation, yet here we are. 

    • Quora June 25, 2019 (1:53 pm)

      This x100

    • Peter June 25, 2019 (3:24 pm)

      A four car light rail trainset that can move 800 people at a time will always be faster, more efficient, and take up less space on the road than 800 individual vehicles, driverless or not. The whole “we don’t need transit because of driverless cars” schtick is absolute nonsense.

      • Mike June 25, 2019 (7:44 pm)

        1) it doesn’t carry 800 people2) it’s had Numerous breakdowns this month alone.  My favorite was a couple months ago when they couldn’t run at all on the south end so they dumped everyone out near Greyhound.  I hope the guy catching a flight to Hong Kong was able to make his flight.

        • Peter June 26, 2019 (8:36 am)

          MIke, that is false. 1. 200 passenger capacity per cars X four cars = 800 passengers per train. 2. “Numerous breakdowns this month alone”? Please give details, I know of one. And of course cars never break down or get in accidents… And no, ST does not just “dump everyone out” when a train can’t run, they use connecting buses. Anyone catching a flight is responsible for allowing ample time to get to the airport, especially for an international flight. BTW, people can miss flights when cars break down too, so pinning that exclusively on light rail is bogus.

          • Mike June 26, 2019 (6:44 pm)

            Odd, I don’t remember seeing 200 seats.  I also remember them telling us all to depart the lightrail and no, there were no connections provided. I also got off at Westlake when one track was being used for North and South directions after sitting at Westlake for 20 min.  The next morning they had more issues, new problem, this week they were kicking riders off before SeaTac due to issues, shall I continue?  Maybe if you used lightrail, ever, you’d know too.

    • donttreadonme June 25, 2019 (3:30 pm)

      Good luck. Automated cars solving all our problems is the flying car of our generation. And like the flying car, it’ll always be a few years over the horizon.

      • Jon June 25, 2019 (7:03 pm)

        Flying cars didn’t have computer vision, lidar, machine learning, etc. Autonomous cars and trucks are real and will significantly disrupt our status quo. If you don’t understand this then you probably thought a mosquito could spread HIV.  And yes, a train can move more people but only to static destinations. You’re also making a mistake if you don’t consider  that the workforce and transportation patterns will be very different in 10-20 years. All of the commenters on the Safeway thread that refuse to use self-checkout are delusional if they believe that they will save jobs.  

        • The King June 25, 2019 (8:16 pm)

          Thank you Jon. As scary of an idea as it is, Silicon Valley is about 98% ready to put driverless over the road semi trucks out. From what I understand that last 2% was fog and recognizing hand signals. This was six months ago so who knows about today. The downside of this is the 33 million driver jobs eventually going away. What I do like about driverless is it accommodates the elderly and disabled. Whereas you mentioned the rail will bring you to a static location, autonomous cars will be equipped with everything down to Braille buttons. Over 60% of our electricity in the US comes from fossil fuels so just plugging in is nice when you don’t actually see where the cord leads to I guess. I do know Metro was planning on going full electric buses by 2030 or so, had a meeting with the regions major power supplier and got laughed away from the table when their plan was proposed. Metro was asking for 30% more power than can actually be supplied to the whole city. Haha

        • HappyCamper June 25, 2019 (10:55 pm)

          Static locations where autonomous busses can pick them up and transfer!When is regulatory approval going to come for autonomous though really? If you think of all of the miles driven every minute and the unbelievable amount of exposure to risk every second who is going to underwrite that? The liability is insane and proving it “safe” enough isn’t going to be easy. I’m all for it but don’t see it happening overnight. And not without it’s own problems.in the end people don’t care what they are on or in. It’s all about time and cost. People will ride a train if it gets them where they want to go.

        • donttreadonme June 26, 2019 (4:19 pm)

          Cute attempt at an ad hominem attack but the fact of the matter is the technology isn’t there, it isn’t going to be there in “10-20 years” (always the expected timeframe, no matter when), it’s just the automotive industry trying to squeeze a little more time out of their outlandishly unsustainable business model. They’ve clearly been successful at marketing to you.

  • Friend O'Dinghus June 25, 2019 (1:45 pm)

    The nice busses with stewards, and the fleets of self-driving vehicles still have to use the same old congested roadways. The delivery/personal transport services are clogging many, many streets at events now because….well….they are cars. Having them self-driving doesn’t offset anything really…not for another 20 years I’m guessing. If folks won’t give up fossil fuels for all electric because it “only goes 80 miles on a charge”, then we are a long, long way from them giving up personal car ownership altogether to join the self-driving mass transit movement.Please understand the beauty of a dedicated egress, and rejoice in the fact that one day we can automate the train too! Wheeeee!

    • HappyCamper June 25, 2019 (2:42 pm)

      Totally agree. Same roads and even more people by then. And driverless won’t make a ginormous impact until virtually all cars are driverless so things can be synchronized. Which introduces cyber security risks with traffic signals and all kinds of other issues known or unknown. And people have to be able to afford it or it has to pencil out and there has to be a cultural paradigm shift. It’ll be a minute.

  • Corby June 25, 2019 (2:06 pm)

    We should just have an income tax at this point.

    • Swede. June 25, 2019 (7:28 pm)

      But then the rich had to pay a fair share! Can’t have that! 

  • Peter June 25, 2019 (3:25 pm)

    Excellent. We need to press our city council candidates hard on this. 

  • AmandaK June 25, 2019 (7:39 pm)

    We need to expand light rail to the places that people are being displaced to.  Auburn, Carnation, etc.  Let’s expand light rail out there. 

  • Bradley June 25, 2019 (7:59 pm)

    By the time the Alaska Junction extension is complete in 2030, ST3 will already be obsolete. “ST4” will be self-driving cars that you will order to your location on your smart ring. ST3 is a 20th Century idea who’s time has come and gone many decades ago.

    • Jon Wright June 25, 2019 (8:18 pm)

      That’s going to be an awesome traffic jam when 200,000 self-driving cars (ordered on people’s smart rings) all try to converge downtown.

      • Bradley June 26, 2019 (12:53 am)

        Study the technology and you’ll see that self-driving cars will eliminate traffic jams by eliminating the hesitant, accident-prone human element. Getting from Westwood Village, stopping at 5 locations for errands, and ending up at a suburban residence on the Sammamish plateau in ONE vehicle is something the buses/light rail combo simply cannot accomplish in even 5 times the time frame (nevermind the transfers and extensive walking, too)

        • KM June 26, 2019 (7:23 am)

          It’s not just about human error, it’s about discouraging car ownership to alleviate the need for as much car storage, as well as roadway capacity, energy efficiency, natural resource extraction, protection of vulnerable road users, etc. And I have to know, who is going to Westwood Village from the Samammish Plateau to run errands so frequently that they must own a self-driving car? Do WS residents regularly run errands in Alderwood?

          • Bradley June 26, 2019 (8:54 am)

            Who is going from the Sammamish Plateau to Westwood Village? So you think people should only be able to shop in their local municipality? A soccer mom shouldn’t be allowed to take a minivan full of kids to their game at the High Point Playfield and stop by Bed Bath and Beyond to buy some new towels? That’s the problem with the authoritarian mindset of public transit obsessives: they don’t want people to have their own personal mobility, want them to limit their conveyance methods, and wish to contain people in their own “section” of the grid. Well, guess what? That’s not how things work in the real world, nor should it be. Talk to shoppers at Westwood Village and you’ll find many are from all over King County for various reasons. We should welcome out-of-area shoppers with vehicles large enough to take large products home at our West Seattle retailers. A free people should be able to go where they want, how they want, and when they want, which is only possible with personal vehicles. Public transit is a tool in the transportation workbench, but it’ll always be the choice of a very small percentage of people, mostly commuters and those who cannot drive.

          • KM June 26, 2019 (10:37 am)

            Bradley, don’t worry. I didn’t say anything about shoppers only being allowed to shop in their municipality, so you can rest easy. I wouldn’t want you to stress out too much that you came across an authoritarian “public transit obsessive.” Nobody should have to endure such trauma at 9am on a Wednesday. For the soccer mom in question, there are 3 or 4 Bed Bath and Beyonds much closer to her in Sammamish, so if she doesn’t want to order online, she’s not forced to drive to Westwood Village. As a member of soccer family, I’ve taken plenty car trips around for matches and tournaments–hard pressed on public transit for most select or premier tournaments for sure, (local rec. leagues are more easily accessible on transit).  Seems like an example of when people would prefer to drive, and luckily, soccer games requiring 45 minutes of driving each way across the county aren’t a daily occurrence, so it is also a great example of an exception and not the norm.  It’s a huge step forward that many transportation designers and advocates are approaching transportation as moving all people via all modalities through the lens of socioeconomic and climate justice, rather than continuing the trend of designing for and subsidizing car ownership for some. And sure, some people want to ban cars, but we are a car-loving, car-subsidizing culture happy to bail out auto manufacturers, so I don’t except a car ban to happen. The soccer mom will still able to drive her car full of kids across the county as often as she would like, while enjoying the benefits of less SOVs on the road. She can even share a self-driving car with her community for the days she prefer to do so.

          • Bradley June 26, 2019 (1:32 pm)

            Yes, but the soccer mom will be taxed to the hilt to continue driving her (soon-to-be-electric) minivan in ways that she’s not taxed today: Seattle city street tax, pay-by-mile odometer or GPS annual fees, ST4 increased sales taxes and fees on a whole new slew of items, etc. The everywhere-should-be-Manhattan urban social engineers seem to be oblivious that the trend is in the exact OPPOSITE direction. Gas-guzzling SUV and van sales are skyrocketing and carmakers are eliminating small car models. Ford is dropping every car besides the Mustang. Chevy has ditched the Volt and several others. Toyota axed their other Prius models. VW is killing their Beetle. Honda has scaled back production of Civics and Accords and raised production of Pilots and CR-Vs. Consumers are demanding large, safe, versatile vehicles and eschewing cLoWn cars. The coming wave of electric trucks, vans, and SUVs will eliminate the environmental argument transit advocates have historically used to herd people onto miserable, government-run, limited-access buses and trains.

        • Jon Wright June 26, 2019 (10:56 pm)

          Re: “eliminate traffic jams by eliminating the hesitant, accident-prone human element,” that’s just a pipe dream. There is not physically enough roadway to accommodate the cars that are out there now, let alone the cars that would be if we give up on traditional transit like the train. My favorite unintended consequence of all this autonomous vehicles is what do they do when they don’t have any passengers? If it costs too much to park, they just drive around empty creating even more traffic. No, autonomous cars are not going to magically eliminate traffic.

          • Bradley June 27, 2019 (12:45 am)

            Trains are only going to reduce a certain amount of commuter traffic. Nice, but that’s not who we’re stuck behind on clogged arterials at 1pm on Saturdays anymore. We’re stuck behind cars full of people running kids around to various events, shoppers bringing a trunk full of groceries home from Costco, elderly couples going to doctor appointments, guys taking their dog to the park, real estate agents showing customers around, etc. <—— none of them will use the expensive trains for that.

  • TJ June 25, 2019 (8:56 pm)

    ST4 shouldn’t be considered until ST3 is completely done. If it’s on time and on budget then maybe. $54 billion is a ridiculous amount of money, yet the writing is on the wall ST3 will be overbudget already. My family is not a blank check for these projects. And Sound Transit is over 3 counties, not just Seattle, which this is focused on. Pierce County is irate over ST3, and they will need to be a big part of any potential expansions to appease them. And as previous comments have said, the ST3 projects benefits will be diminished by technology by 2030, along with the climate benefits of trains being negated by electric cars

  • Friend O'Dinghus June 25, 2019 (9:32 pm)

    Does light rail run on coal?

    • Peter June 26, 2019 (8:40 am)

      Yes. Don’t you know Sound Transit uses steam engines? Very retro, they’re going steampunk!

    • Bradley June 26, 2019 (9:05 am)

      No. Sound Transit trains run on electricity from salmon-killing, river-warming dams and their buses run on air-fouling diesel. A 45-foot, soot-spewing diesel bus getting 2 mpg with 8 or 9 passengers is far worse for the environment than 3 Nissan Leafs or a even a few 40mpg Ford Focus sedans with SULEV-rated engines.

      • KM June 26, 2019 (2:45 pm)

        It looks like we found the car lobbyist of the group. Can’t believe it took me this many comments. I’m off my game.

        • Bradley June 26, 2019 (5:40 pm)

          Yes, I am a proud car advocate. The personal automobile has been the most liberating consumer product in world history. You’re obviously the government-controlled transit advocate of this group, yet you wish to continue to have 97% of ground travellers in this area pay for the 3% of those who use public transit. Perhaps we should tax transit riders to subsidize the rapidly-coming electric cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, instead? That way, transit users can give back to the system they enjoy. Even Expedia knows that personal automobiles will continue to be the choice of it’s well-educated workforce. They have wisely built one of the largest parking garages in the region at their gorgeous new Seattle waterfront campus.

          • Canton June 26, 2019 (11:25 pm)

            Very well spoken Bradley. As a father, that needs a personal vehicle to provide income to feed myself and my youngster, there is alot of hate for people that need to commute alone. Alot of people assume, everyone heads downtown for a desk job. What about people that do laborious service work, that need tools, and equipment? No love, for the working class, everyone must adapt to the idealistic views, of the alternative commuters.

  • an-admiral June 26, 2019 (8:58 am)

    i already have a self-driving car… and I’m the “self”! doesn’t mean i don’t add to traffic

  • Josh June 26, 2019 (3:50 pm)

    If the idea is to change the those two Seattle area only taxes and possibly an increase tax for King County Metro  but no change in the other counties  unless they want create an Environmental Impact Statement tax and have everything to FEIS be done with that tax hopefully if passed so will be ready for had off in the mid 30’s

Sorry, comment time is over.