LIGHT RAIL: Advocacy groups campaign against Sound Transit schedule delays

We’ve been reporting on the Sound Transit “realignment” process, which is still barreling down the tracks toward a potential board vote later this month. Board discussions have continued to include urban King County board members urging a delay in decisionmaking, as the financial picture keeps improving, and they contend the “affordability gap” may narrow further. In addition, one board member who’s led that call for months – King County Council chair Claudia Balducci of Bellevue – has been working on an alternative proposal which she has suggested would rely more on cost cuts than delays; the latter are the cornerstone of the realignment plan board chair Kent Keel of the University Place City Council has proposed. While his plan would only delay West Seattle light rail one year beyond the current 2031 projection, some parts of the ST plan would be pushed into the 2040s.

With all that as a backdrop, more than half a dozen advocacy groups held a media briefing today to “oppose any delay in delivery of voter-approved mass transit projects, to call on the Sound Transit board to instead adopt plans that keep the schedule promised to voters, and create a framework to fill budget gaps and accelerate projects.” The groups include the Sierra Club, Disability Rights Washington, 350 Seattle, Puget Sound Sage, Transportation Choices Coalition, Transit Riders Union, Seattle Subway, and local coalitions from around King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties.

We asked Robert Cruickshank of the Sierra Club what the coalition plans to do, and what it’s asking concerned community members to do: For one, Cruickshank says, “Sierra Club will be sending a message to our members in the Puget Sound area next week asking them to contact the Sound Transit board and urge them to reject any plans that would delay delivery of transit lines and instead work with state and federal partners to deliver projects on or ahead of schedule. And right now anyone can deliver that message directly to the Sound Transit board by sending them an email at — an email sent to that address will get sent to all 18 board members.” The board’s Finance and Audit Committee will discuss realignment next Thursday, and the full board might vote July 22nd if there’s no decision to wait.

20 Replies to "LIGHT RAIL: Advocacy groups campaign against Sound Transit schedule delays"

  • Joe Z July 9, 2021 (7:48 am)

    The estimated cost of the West Seattle – Ballard line has risen to nearly $1 billion per mile, which would make it one of the most expensive subway lines in the world. And most of it is not even a subway! The affordability gap is in the billions of dollars.

     Clearly the best hope for moving this forward and on schedule is to adjust the design of the line to reduce costs. Which means thinking about whether buying out hundreds of properties to build a 140 ft tall elevated guideway with two 50-75 ft tall elevated stations along Genesee is really the best use of our limited transit dollars. Who wants to get off a bus and take 2-3 escalators to catch a train that goes to the same spot the bus currently goes?

     Simplify the line — at-grade along Fauntleroy with at-grade stations that make for easy bus transfers. Same for Interbay/Ballard — run the train in the median of 15th. Use our existing right-of-way instead of spending billions acquiring property. 

    • Martin July 9, 2021 (9:16 am)

      Yes, Joe, $3.2 billion is ridiculous, we have so many other
      transit needs in our region which we should serve with such money. Sound
      Transit had looked at Fauntleroy alignment but rejected it as it is a tight
      corridor and challenging to fit a station to serve the 120 bus. Are you
      proposing to reduce Fauntleroy to one lane and put light rail on the other lane?
      The current WS bridge can’t accommodate light rail, Sound Transit would still
      need to build a new one and in a way so that it doesn’t get in the way of SDOT
      rebuilding our bridge eventually.
      It would be far easier to continue to build out light rail along the Duwamish
      river through South Park and build SkyLink to serve all 3 junctions and High
      Point and another line connecting South Park with White Center, Westwood, and
      even the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. This could all be done for less than what
      Sound Transit is proposing to spend for 3 stations.

      Mexico City is building such gondola feeders to their subway,
      San Diego is considering it as is Kirkland, VancouverBC… it can be done so much faster, with less disruption of the neighborhood, and you can reach more destinations as it’s far cheaper.

      • HS July 9, 2021 (10:44 am)

        Great gondola link – thanks for sharing. Their Instagram page is worth a look.

    • Robert C. July 9, 2021 (9:28 am)

      We are in a climate crisis. The only costs we should be worried about are the costs of inaction. We need to stop reacting to financial issues by scaling back projects, and instead start figuring out how to spend what it takes to build it right – and on time. Transit dollars should not be limited, and acting as if they are is one of the reasons we’re in this mess in the first place. I’d add that if Sound Transit gets away with delaying rail to Ballard, you can bet their next move will be to delay rail to West Seattle, likely to the late 2030s. There are numerous ways the state legislature can help, and Congress is debating a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan that can help. We need to make a fundamental pivot here toward designing projects well, that meet community needs, and then spending what it takes to do it right. Especially since the cost of the climate crisis is far, far greater.

      • Joe Z July 9, 2021 (1:05 pm)

        If climate change is really what matters, then it’s a no-brainer to just put the light rail down the middle of existing roads (either at-grade or elevated). If King County is truly committed to reducing vehicle miles driven by 30-40% by the 2030s as stated directly in the most recent climate report, then we will have excess road capacity that can be eliminated. A 6-lane road like Fauntleroy will only need to be a 4-lane road in 15 years. So it’s literally free space that can be used for light rail. And we’re spending $3 billion to bulldoze property and relocate people displaced by WSBLE. That’s not $3 billion going to transit. If you reduce displacement you can spend that money on building longer lines and more stations. 

        • Chris July 10, 2021 (7:27 pm)

          “If King County is truly committed to reducing vehicle miles driven by 30-40%”

          Who said that? Why would anyone living in reality agree to that?

  • TMach July 9, 2021 (8:52 am)

    WHY has Sound Transit not yet done a feasibility study on West Seattle SkyLink instead of light rail to connect WS to the light rail spine?It is a superior alternative in virtually every way – geographic and environmental footprint, turnaround in 3-4 years, well exceeds 2040 capacity estimates, is competitive in commute duration, less invasive on neighborhoods, construction and operation are green, safer in extreme weather/earthquakes, would offer gorgeous vistas and is ONE-TENTH the price. If found to be feasible, it would allow ten times more solutions for the same price tag, allowing expanded services to communities in need.Some are currently dismissive of this idea. By doing due diligence in studying the feasibility of this intriguing, compelling solution, we can factually ascertain its merits. We need a clean, green, functional solution FAST. West Seattle SkyLink promises that.

    • KM July 9, 2021 (10:58 am)

      You said it yourself, there’s no feasibility study. So we don’t know if the SkyLink idea is indeed feasible, or if it’s just a pipe-dream of some locals. We have no clue if it’s “a superior alternative in virtually every way.” or would cost “ONE-TENTH” of the price.  The gondola might work, but the numbers and dreams supporters selling are just educated guesses–and not what the yes voters threw their money behind. It’s a swiss-cheese proposal at best.

      • Joe Z July 9, 2021 (1:17 pm)

        Why doesn’t Sound Transit put the light rail in an immersed tube tunnel??? One retired engineer says is FAR SUPERIOR to a bridge. He even made some pretty drawings. 

        • Martin July 9, 2021 (8:47 pm)

          Joe, the challenge for light rail is to get up the hill. If you put it in a tunnel under the Duwamish, light rail would have to climb out of the tunnel AND climb up the hill, making it even more challenging. 

        • Martin July 9, 2021 (8:49 pm)

          Joe, if you put light rail in a tunnel, trains need to climb out of the tunnel AND up the hill which would make it even more challenging to build.   

      • Marfaun July 9, 2021 (6:28 pm)

        Thanks for raising the issue:  we need a Sound Transit feasibility study for SkyLink.   It’s within the ST Board’s power to do the study, so let’s urge the board to do it.Based on hundreds of installations around the world, including more than a dozen urban systems operating successfully in hilly urban country  (Toulouse, France; Mexico City; LaPaz, Bolivia; Medellin, Columbia; Germany; Switzerland, (and soon in Edmonton & Vancouver, Canada), etc.), we do know that gondola systems are feasible for hilly West Seattle.  We also know  their capacities, time and cost to build, minimal disruptiveness to residents and  businesses, and  environmental advantages compared to other modes.  The SkyLink folk are proposing a gondola system to serve similar West Seattle stations, and connect to light rail stations in SODO & the International District — as ST3 proposes.  We fully support ST’s regional light rail network.  But we also support using a more appropriate, less  expensive, faster to build, less disruptive way to connect that network to West Seattle.  That better way is SkyLink gondola.

    • Jort July 10, 2021 (4:53 pm)

      Because the gondola is a joke? 

      • Auntie July 10, 2021 (6:49 pm)

        I agree. Gondola is a Disney Ride, not a reasonable mode of transportation here. It might work other places, but it just isn’t anything but a cartoon for our purposes.

  • Pessoa July 9, 2021 (3:37 pm)

    As a veteran of Los Angeles light rail, these projects will never recover their enormous costs, they never deliver the ridership they promise, and they create traffic headaches.  Much better to funnel that money into improving bus infrastructure, such as adding more lines and increasing service frequency, all of which can be easily adjusted to reflect public demand.  Light rail is not what West Seattle needs, but in every city is seems there is a zealous contingent of those who are simply enamored by the idea of riding a train from point A to point, whether it’s practical or not.  

    • East Coast Cynic July 9, 2021 (4:48 pm)

      My commuting life would be simplified considerably rather than enamored by public transportation that goes above or below the car traffic.If you could allow for an West Seattle bus ride that is not impeded by car traffic on 99 as it is under normal conditions and allow for easy connection to link, then you could justify sticking with buses.  The growth in West Seattle that we will be seeing over the next 20-30 years will justify providing people on the peninsula with a high capacity right of way public transportation option such as link otherwise bus users in the foreseeable future will be increasingly hampered by the car traffic in commuting not just to downtown but to places beyond–eastside, North Seattle, etc.

      • Pessoa July 10, 2021 (6:52 pm)

        Most of which I agree with.   San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a dedicated, bi-directional bus lane(s) that crosses the valley from N. Hollywood to Chatsworth, called the Orange Line.  Originally it was to be light rail, but funding fell through.  It is very convenient, with buses servicing stops every 15 or so minutes, and though it shares intersections with motorists, it’s far less of an inconvenience for the latter because the bus enters and exits the intersection within seconds.   The problem with rail, is that it tends to be a permanent fixture, even if it becomes obsolete.  I am thinking about Seattle or any other city that has abandoned vestiges of tracks where trains used to run, but don’t anymore.     

  • DJ Allyn July 10, 2021 (11:57 am)

    All this light rail talk for West Seattle is ludicrous.   By the time any of it become operational, most of us will have left the area or will be dead and stinking.The idea that we need to be continually paying for a service that very few of us will ever see is crazy.  To ask us to pay money every year for the next twenty years or more (and most likely more, considering that no projected timeline twenty years out is ever met on time) is nothing more than a theft.It would be one thing if our tax dollars were paying for a project we might see in under five years, but to tell us that we won’t see squat until at least 2040 is insane.If Sound Transit is telling you 2040, then expect it to not happen at all.

  • Auntie July 10, 2021 (7:11 pm)

    Long live the Monorail. Doh! The Monorail is dead…

  • myBodyIsTightAndHard July 11, 2021 (8:05 pm)

    From a friend: “Driving in the Netherlands is awesome. People from the US or Canada cannot understand this. If you try to propose that they implement any kind of Dutch road and street design (as I do on my channel), Americans are violently opposed, declaring a ‘war on cars’ (or worse). Just check out the comments on my recent “stroads” video, for example.They cannot fathom that building a city where you do not need to drive, works for everyone, including drivers.  The Netherlands ensures that the only people who are driving are the people who need to drive and the people who want to drive. And that makes driving better.I usually ride a bike for most things in Amsterdam. Not because I’m a “cyclist”, but because it’s the fastest and most convenient way to get around. But I also drive fairly regularly, and when I do, I’m really, really, really glad that there are lots of people on trams and on bicycles, and not in cars, so I’m not stuck in traffic. Yes, there are all sorts of streets where cars aren’t allowed, and you have to take the “long route” around. But that long route is still faster than the short route would be with American levels of traffic. It really does work.As for the reason why the roads are in good condition, it’s pretty simple: there are less kilometers of asphalt per person, which means there’s enough money to properly maintain them. In the US, there is so much car infrastructure spread over so few people, that it’s impossible for states and municipalities to properly maintain them. This is the Strong Towns Growth Ponzi Scheme. Belgium has the same issue: because they are such a car-centric country, they require a lot of car infrastructure, which is horrendously expensive to maintain.”

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