WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: See 3 possible Sound Transit ‘realignment’ scenarios

When the ST3 ballot measure was passed, it promised West Seattle light rail in 2030. Since then, the schedule has slid to 2031. And as a result of the “realignment” process on which Sound Transit has embarked because of projected revenue shortages and cost increases, it could be pushed back even further. The ST Board – mostly local elected officials from King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties – is supposed to adopt a realignment plan next month. At a special board meeting today, three possible scenarios were presented – they’re in the slide deck starting on page 3:

(If you can’t see it there, read it here. Note that these are not necessarily what the board will consider in its final vote.) While the third scenario would deliver all of West Seattle light rail by 2032, the other two would phase it in, starting no sooner than 2035.

Comments during today’s meeting continued to show disagreements between board members on the process itself. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan declared that the board is “barreling toward a decision that’s one of the worst decisions we could make as a board,” amending the plan based on financial projections that already have seen major changes and could see more. King County Executive Dow Constantine also warned against making monumental decisions based on “speculative” information. He suggested the decision could be delayed a bit further until the ST budget process gives them a better picture of finances. King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci, meantime, has been advocating working on scenarios to cut costs rather than delay projects, and she is said to be working with ST staff on an “alternative” along those lines, though it was not ready for presentation today.

No votes were taken at the meeting, but board chair Kent Keel (from the University Place City Council in Pierce County) asked members to send him their thoughts before the next full board meeting June 24th. He also noted that the System Expansion Committee will get an update one week from today on the evaluation of those dramatically increased costs first revealed earlier this year.

24 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: See 3 possible Sound Transit 'realignment' scenarios"

  • Niko June 3, 2021 (2:48 pm)

    Defund sound transit

    • Morgan June 6, 2021 (11:40 am)

      Succinct and correctly said. It’s bloated and the cost benefit of these projects are seriously upended. No sunk cost fallacies please.

  • Jort June 3, 2021 (2:49 pm)

    It may perhaps be the first time I’ve agreed with Jenny “I Love Cars” Durkan on anything. SoundTransit needs to stop giving presentations and focus groups about how much things need to slow down and start making presentations on how quickly projects can be accelerated and the ways that can get done. Cars are Seattle’s single greatest contribution to carbon emissions and we can not delay for one minute sustainable transportation systems that can break us from our planet-destroying car dependency. We are 40 years too late on reliable rail transportation in this city and the time to build these is YESTERDAY. Get them built as soon as possible and all these pessimistic “delay, delay, delay” presentations should go directly into the garbage can. SoundTransit must pivot NOW to a commitment toward acceleration. Let’s get moving NOW.

    • Martin June 3, 2021 (4:51 pm)

      I agree that car dependency is a huge liability and we need to accelerate, but why is rail the only solution? In case of West Seattle hills it may not be the best one. Sound Transit had to admit it will take 73% more money ($3.2b!) and a 150 foot high viaduct to scale West Seattle hills. Where do you suggest to pull that kind of money from and when will it happen? SkyLink could be built this decade instead of next for far less money. The savings could accelerate other ST3 projects!       

      • Jort June 3, 2021 (5:49 pm)

        Probably because the gondola is a joke project that any reasonable transit agency has an obligation to summarily dismiss? I know people’s fantasies are tickled by this concept, and I know that supporters have talked themselves in a virtuous circle of agreement about it, but all the crossed-fingers in the world doesn’t change the fact that the gondola concept is fundamentally flawed and a joke. Any minute wasted humoring people on this dead-end project is a minute further from getting the light rail completed to Weset Seattle.

      • Yes to SkyLink June 3, 2021 (7:58 pm)


    • Eldorado June 6, 2021 (7:56 am)

      …even if everyone had an all-electric car by 2035?  I think one thing that the pandemic taught us is maybe we don’t need to ‘go’ to work anymore. Maybe MASS Transit doesn’t have to be ‘that’ big. Maybe boat service and bus service is enough.. and your favorite bike service is enough, and at the very least, leave light rail downtown… So why couldn’t a ‘bus only road’ (just like 3rd. Avenue downtown) be built to get people from their neighborhoods to the downtown light rail station and from there to airports and Northgate and Tacoma and such?  Take ALL of that Lightrail money and solve the homeless crisis. Use it to pay higher wages. Use it for anything we can dream of. If lightrail is operational from West Seattle by 2040, I will be incredibly surprised. I won’t be surprised, however that by 2040 the lightrail budget will have tripled by then. 

      • LS June 6, 2021 (6:53 pm)

        Thank you!  I like your idea of a bus only road, but would likely need more than one.   Cost/benefit of rail to W. Seattle doesn’t pass any resemblance to reason.   Most of W. Seattle would not benefit from it at all, and with the excessive cost and terrain, it’s not worth any more consideration.   Hopefully, more people will be ride sharing, using the bus, and primarily working from home, now that this pandemic has shown us how efficient and convenient it can be.    And for god’s sake, get rid of some of the closed streets that almost no one uses for biking or walking, which just increases the traffic issues within W. Seattle, with the bridge closure and all the rerouted traffic!  And I’m someone who both bikes and walks, but some of these closed streets create more problems than they solve!

  • D-Ridge June 3, 2021 (3:16 pm)

    We need light rail yesterday, let’s get serious on prioritizing transit and move light rail to the top of the heap across all levels.

  • Rico June 3, 2021 (3:38 pm)

    This section of Light rail is currently projected to cost in excess of $250k per West Seattle household.    However, Light Rail really only serves a portion of West Seattle – maybe 1/3.  For those living south, it will be faster to drive/bus/ride directly to down town than to  the West Seattle Light Rail.    Sound Transit  budgets are always exceeded, and generally by 30-150%.  (If businesses followed the practices of Sound Transit, the State Attorney would prosecute!)   Building density in West Seattle, (far away from major employers) is fools earned to begin with  –     A transition to electric vehicles will be far less costly and easier to accomplish than Light Rail.

    • Martin June 3, 2021 (4:42 pm)

      Replacing gas cars with electric ones may help some affluent drivers and reduce carbon emission (still produce break/tire emissions) but won’t help with traffic congestion or our aging road infrastructure, only multimodal transport will help. 

    • Jort June 3, 2021 (4:43 pm)

      Ah, yes, when the vehicle switches from gasoline to electric it will somehow overcome the unsolvable geometric and physical maximum limitations of private automobile transportation? Of course it won’t. No city in the recorded history of human civilization on this entire planet has ever built a sustainable transportation solution that prioritizes private vehicles above all other forms; Seattle will not be the first city to make it happen. The time for rail to West Seattle is 40 years ago, let’s get started NOW on building the rail. Stop dilly-dallying, stop dragging our feet, get it built. NOW.

      • Chemist June 3, 2021 (8:56 pm)

        We should also be like the big cities and prohibit bikes from the light rail in favor of moving more paying customers and not devoting previous light rail space to personal single occupancy bike vehicles that don’t pay a fare.  More human butts and more revenue per train.

        • Jort June 4, 2021 (1:53 pm)

          Why would you lie about this? Seriously? I know you hate bikes but … you’re not even remotely close to telling the truth. Here are the largest Metro systems in the U.S. and their bike status: 1) New York – Bikes OK 2) Washington, D.C. – Bikes OK 3) Chicago MTA – Bikes OK except certain hours 4) Boston Metro – Bikes OK 5) SF Bay Area BART – Bikes OK 6) Port Authority Trans-Hudson – Bikes OK 7) SEPTA (Philadelphia) – Bikes OK 8) Atlanta Marta – Bikes OK 9) LA Metro – Bikes OK 10) Miami MetroRail – Bikes OK. It is so bizarre to me that you would try to imply that bikes are incompatible with rail systems because it’s very clearly and demonstrably untrue. Very strange, very weird.

      • Kram June 4, 2021 (9:34 am)

        We already have the infrastructure for cars. Making cars electric and continuing to move towards more automation sure seems to be the future. At least the foreseeable future (next 50-100 years). When a train stop does get built in the Junction eventually a certain percentage will already be bus riders moving to trains. It will take many decades to show a shift in commuting in my opinion. I have 4 kids and job that requires me to make site visits in areas all around Seattle. A car isn’t a choice, it’s my only option and lively hood and most days I’m just fine with that.

    • natinstl June 4, 2021 (9:55 am)

      I live between Alaska and Morgan junction and it will still be faster even for me to take the water taxi or the bus. Going to SODO to then walk or connect to a bus after getting off light rail to get to work will increase my commute. That being said we’re still working from home and if that becomes the new norm, ST’s revenues will never justify the cost and like you said the cost is ridiculous. 

      • Eldorado June 6, 2021 (7:59 am)

        Amen to your sentiments. 

  • winniegirl June 3, 2021 (3:41 pm)

    Welp.  I guess I’ll be retired – and I’m still in my 40s!  For the life of me I can’t understand how decisions keep getting kicked down the road. They should expand single seat bus service in the city and to the east side and just admit that light rail has limited value for Seattle – it will just go through seattle rather than serve seattle.  Whether it’s popular or not is kind of irrelevant to me when all of the neighborhoods west of 1-5 are cut off from easy access. I grew up here, but lived in nyc for a long time where easy transit is a given.  It is absolutely absurd that we can’t get it together.

    • natinstl June 4, 2021 (9:52 am)

      NY’s transit system was built in 1904, even then population density for NYC was low so they could make it what they needed, it’s also pretty flat. We’re trying to wedge it into modern times where communities already exist. I’ve lived here 14 years now and I find that the majority of people use public transport primarily Mon-Fri for going to work so I agree with you that it has limited value for Seattle, we’re not NYC where people tend to live, work and enjoy being in the city. People live in WA to enjoy WA so we’re always going to have cars. I grew up on Long Island, an hour from NYC and we only took the train to go into the city during limited times. 

  • Joe Z June 3, 2021 (3:42 pm)

    Where is the draft EIS? How can they possibly make any decisions about realignment without the draft EIS? Sound Transit has suggested that the WSBLE preferred alignment is billions of dollars over budget. We’re almost halfway through 2021. The board should already be reviewing the draft EIS and coming up with an adjusted preferred alignment (ideally a tunnel) that does not impact so many homes and businesses (and run the budget through the roof with costly property acquisitions and relocations). Instead we’re wasting our time debating the timetable for projects that we haven’t even decided on an alignment for. There’s no budget crisis until 2029. When the realignment finishes the project will have the same flaws and challenges but we’ll be another year behind schedule. Enough already. 

    • Martin June 3, 2021 (4:57 pm)

      Even for a tunnel about a hundred homes in Youngstown would need to be leveled and the Avalon station will create construction site right at the entrance of the West Seattle freeway for 5-7 years right when we had hoped the bridge would reopen.

  • West Seattle Coug June 3, 2021 (5:22 pm)

    I have one word for all of this…Gondola. 

  • Greg June 3, 2021 (5:38 pm)

    $50 says Elon Musk lands humans on Mars before West Seattle light rail opens to the public. just sayen.Please don’t take that snark as opposition to light rail. Its not. I am excited by every additional connection we get. A single light rail is practically useless. Every time you create a new line that crosses that first line, the effectiveness grow exponentially. We need to plow forward as fast as (reasonably) possible.

  • Gary June 4, 2021 (5:14 pm)

    Funny how the Eastside got their service quickly, meanwhile the Northend and West Seattle are being “delayed” for decades even though we’ve been heavily taxed for it. Same thing goes for our roads, the Eastside has great newly rebuilt roadways along I405, 520 and 90 with parked in caps along places like Mercer Island but I5 and the West Seattle Bridge are falling apart and too small for even the existing traffic they’re supposed to handle. Schools? Same deal. SOSDD, the wealthy in this area get all the perks and the rest of us will pay for it while we all do without.

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