Sound Transit extended the deadline for comment on its Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan to Monday (May 2nd at 5pm). You can fill out the online survey here.

It doesn’t appear that Sound Transit is significantly changing its plan despite some good reasons to do so. So, please take the survey, continue to give feedback, and put pressure on the relevant Sound Transit officials. Here’s my recommendations on improving the draft plan in each of the five subareas as follows:

Sound Transit has its mouthless cartoon game on lock.
Sound Transit has its mouthless cartoon game on lock. (Sound Transit)

North King County

  • Ballard should get light rail before 2038. A tunnel would be better than a moveable bridge on Salmon Bay, and the whole thing should be grade separated.
  • 130th Street in-fill station needs to get added. Lake City and Bitter Lake need better access to high quality transit.
  • Graham Street in-fill station should be done much sooner.
  • Upgrade RapidRide E line to full BRT. Like the C and D line, the E too needs capital investment as the busiest bus route in the state. Sound Transit could potentially be the vehicle to extend service across county lines to Edmonds (Snohomish) from neighboring Shoreline (King). We do ourselves a disservice when we do not improve our highest ridership lines. It’s hard to argue with 16,000 daily riders.

Draft Plan expansion concept for the region. (Sound Transit)
Draft Plan expansion concept for the region. (Sound Transit)

North King County accounts for greater than a fifth of Sound Transit taxing authority’s population and expected revenue; it will see more than a fifth of expenditures. Nonetheless, North King can’t help but wonder if it’s getting enough soon enough from this 25-year investment. West Seattle Junction isn’t promised light rail until 2033, and Ballard isn’t expected until 2038. During public comment meetings, Sound Transit has pushed back robustly against calls to speed up the timelines, saying they’re going as fast as they can. We can’t stop pressing them to speed things up because it’s hard to believe there isn’t fat to trim in a 22-year timeline.

South King County

  • Maximize transit-oriented development (TOD). Neither SR-99 nor I-5 (the draft routing) have fantastic opportunities for TOD. SR-99 is probably the better of the two, but either is workable with a conscientious design.
  • Include Burien to West Seattle light rail as a contigency plan with a full Environmental Impact Statement to make sure it’s shovel ready should funds be secured.

South King isn’t weighted as heavily population or revenue wise, but sees an even smaller share of expenditures at about 13 percent. It will see an early deliverable with light rail extended to Federal Way in 2028, but could likely see more considering South King holds not only a sizable population but also a disproportionate share of the region’s low income and minority populations. If equity is a lens Sound Transit is using, and they claim it is, South King should not be overlooked. Light rail to Burien would be one way to deepen Sound Transit’s investment in the subarea.

SubareaCurrent Tax ShareST3 proposed spendingPopulation Share Estimate
North King30%36%27%
South King15%13%18%
East King25%18%20%
Pierce18%12%23%
Snohomish12%21%12%

The numbers come from Washington Policy Center, which is a conservative think tank with bad ideas but probably decently accurate raw numbers. I estimated the population shares myself. (Washington Policy Center)

East King County

  • Actually made out pretty well.
  • Keep the momentum on transit-oriented development around stations and leverage Sound Transit land to maximize affordable housing.

East King, true to its reputation, has a good chuck of money if not the population of North King County. It will see the first light rail project with Downtown Redmond extension in 2028. In other relatively early deliverables, the Eastside will see two BRT lines by 2024 on I-405 and SR-522. Issaquah would also see light rail in 2041 in one of the more speculative projects, but Issaquah played the political game well so hats off. If Issaquah continues to grow and plan well for growth, Issaquah light rail could end up looking prescient by mid-century.

Pierce County

  • Build the Tacoma Link first since its subsidized cost per 30 years of daily riders is only $4.11 versus much higher totals for other projects.
  • DuPont Sounder Service doesn’t appear to pencil out with a $30.85 subsidized cost per rider. Perhaps express bus would be a better fit.
  • Complete two Environmental Impact Statements to lay the groundwork for light rail extensions to Tacoma Mall and Lower 6th Avenue.

Pierce County has a good chuck of population (the urbanized portion of the county’s 844,000 residents) and solid revenue, but must cover a wide area since the land use is not very efficient in Pierce County (see sprawling suburbs). It will see Tacoma Dome to Federal Way light rail by 2033 and Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College (a high performing project) by 2041.

Snohomish County

  • Reconsider the Paine Field alignment since it’s unduly expensive and slow.
  • Extend the RapidRide E line into Edmonds and potentially Lynnwood.

Snohomish County sees the smallest share of revenue and population (about 12 percent each) due in part to the northern and eastern portions of the county (Marysville, Arlington, Snohomish, etc.) laying outside of the Sound Transit taxing district, knocking several hundred thousand off the county’s estimated population total of 772,500. Nonetheless, Snohomish gets a large portion of ST3 expenditures at 21 percent thanks to Sound Transit bankrolling its dubious Paine Field diversion. Frankly, Snohomish County should spend its money more wisely, not only because it’s prudent, but also because if Sound Transit selected a more efficient alignment, Everett could see light rail sooner than 2041.