Since the creation of the Sound Transit in 1996, taxpayers of the Snohomish County subarea have had the least realized transit benefit for the taxes paid. With the increase in estimated project costs and reduction of revenues, this could get even worse.

Under Sound Transit 3 (ST3), the agency promised that the Everett Link Extension would open in 2036. The route will both complete the original “spine” of light rail from Downtown Tacoma to Downtown Everett, and connect to the “Southwest Everett Industrial Center” (a.k.a. Boeing) and the new passenger terminal at Paine Field. However, Sound Transit’s new estimates have increased the project’s costs from $6.3 billion to $8.5 billion and the 16.3-mile project will now cost more than $520 million per mile.

Rethink Everett Link

And alternate Everett Link runs along I-5 from Mariner Station to Downtown Everett with a stop at Everett Mall. A straighter shorter alignment that the Paine Field dogleg in Sound Transit's plan.
An alternative transit plan for Everett Link, including bus rapid transit.

It’s time to rethink whether there is a faster, better way to meet the objectives of Everett Link.

Sound Transit should articulate the two separate goals of the Everett Link project and then planning for the appropriate transit technology for each: 

  1. Completing the light rail spine to Everett; and 
  2. Providing frequent, high-capacity transit to Paine Field and Boeing.

There’s precedence.

For Central Link, Sound Transit determined that building a light rail tunnel to First Hill would pose unacceptable engineering and financial risks. The agency instead funded the construction of the First Hill Streetcar to meet the original promises to voters.

For Everett Link, one option that should be on the table is to keep light rail focused on completing the “spine” to Downtown Everett along the I-5 corridor while serving Paine Field and Boeing with bus rapid transit. The bus rapid transit could either be another Sound Transit Stride line or Community Transit Swift line.

Saving $1.5 billion

There are obvious cost advantages. Sound Transit’s bus rapid transit costs just 13% of light rail per mile based on current estimates.

The I-405 Stride will cost $27.5 million per mile. The SR-522/145th Street Stride will cost $68 million per mile. By comparison, Everett Link Extension is now estimated to cost $8.5 billion for 16.3 miles. That’s more than a half billion dollars per mile for light rail to Everett.

Using the SR-522/145th Street Stride as the model, a Stride from Lynnwood Park and Ride to Paine Field and Boeing Activity Center to Everett Mall would be approximately 13.3 miles and cost $904 million. A Stride from Mariner Park and Ride to Boeing to Everett Mall would be approximately 8.75 miles and cost $595 million.

By running on the I-5 corridor and skipping Paine Field and Boeing, four miles would be shaved off the route. Applying the estimated per-mile costs of Everett Link, that’s a potential savings of more than $2 billion. However, the geotechnical design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction are likely to cost less per mile along I-5 since the project would not cross as many developed parcels and roadways, and so the potential savings are even greater than $2 billion.

Approaching Everett Link as one project with two elements (light rail and bus rapid transit), Sound Transit would save $1 billion to $1.5 billion — 17.6% of project costs — and perhaps more.

Sooner

A key strategic advantage of this approach is that Everett Link could be built sooner.

With a lower cost of Stride, the Snohomish County subarea would have sufficient accumulated funding to pay for the construction of the bus rapid transit immediately. Plus, building bus rapid transit just takes less time — the example of Madison RapidRide G notwithstanding. For example, the SR-522/145th Street Stride line will have taken just eight years from the passage of ST3 to its opening in 2024. Under this same timeline, a Stride to Paine Field and Boeing could be open in 2030, a full six years ahead of schedule, and perhaps two to four years sooner than the delays that Sound Transit is currently considering for Everett Link.

Six to ten years of additional transit service is significant. This is tens of thousands of transit trips serving Paine Field and Boeing at a time when we need to do everything possible to address climate change.

New elevated section of track near Northgate Station with light rail vehicle testing. (Sound Transit)
New elevated section of track near Northgate Station with light rail vehicle testing. (Sound Transit)

Lowering the overall project costs by $1 billion to $1.5 billion will also make building the “spine” of light rail to Downtown Everett much more financially possible. With lower costs, conceivably the Snohomish County subarea will be able to financially support building light rail to Downtown Everett on-schedule in 2036 with modest federal assistance.

Faster

A significant time-savings will be made by eliminating four miles of trackway for people getting from Downtown Everett and parts south.

With the current plan for light rail to both serve as the spine and to connect to Boeing, the Everett-to-Lynnwood project is projected to take 33 minutes and the Seattle trip is projected to take 60 minutes. That’s only slightly better than Sound Transit’s existing Route 512 bus that is scheduled to take 64 minutes to run from Downtown Everett to Downtown Seattle.

With a fourth of the miles eliminated from the route, a trip from Everett to Lynnwood might take just 24 minutes, and a trip to Downtown Seattle 51 minutes. That’s time savings of 25 minutes and 15%, which are significant differentials for someone choosing whether to drive or ride transit.

Better

Transit-oriented development and transit ridership

Context and possible station locations that would dot the Southwest Everett Industrial Center detour.
Context and possible station locations that would dot the Southwest Everett Industrial Center detour.

Boeing and Paine Field simply will never be major transit trip generators.  

Despite a robust transportation demand management program, the transit commute mode share for Boeing employees in Everett is extremely low. The problem isn’t that it lacks high-capacity transit service — the Swift Green Line and 11 other bus routes serve Seaway Transit Center. The problem is that so many employees live in places poorly served by transit, like Bothell, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Stanwood, and Skagit County, and that their alternative of driving the freeways and parking for free provides a far superior time savings. Building light rail will not fix this problem.

As for the Paine Field passenger terminal, whatever marginal gain there is to getting higher transit ridership by building light rail rather than bus rapid transit, the benefit is overwhelmed by the astronomical greenhouse gas emissions of air travel. It’s just lipstick on a pig.

What is better is to prioritize building complete, compact communities around future light rail stations and serving these communities with the fastest transit possible.

The areas of the planned Southwest Everett Industrial Center and SR-526/Evergreen Way present minimal transit-oriented development opportunities. The Southwest Everett Industrial Center has no housing potential, no retail potential, and even the employment opportunities are spread out across suburban-style manufacturing and warehouse campuses. At SR-526/Evergreen Way, more potential exists for housing and retail, but any alignment of the future station is likely to be directly abutting SR-526, reducing development opportunities within a half-mile radius by half. Given the lack of development opportunities at both locations, the lower expense of bus rapid transit is more appropriate.

By contrast, Snohomish County has robust transit-oriented development plans for Ash Way and Mariner, and the City of Everett has rezoned the neighborhood around its future downtown light rail station for 22-story mixed-use buildings. These are the communities that will have a strong mix of residential and employment development, generating the highest transit ridership. These are the communities that need to be prioritized for fast, frequent transit service.

As an alternative to a light rail station at SR-526/Evergreen Way, a station should be built at Everett Mall. Like many other malls, Everett Mall has struggled financially and is ripe for redevelopment.

Some residents who live at Ash Way, Mariner, and Everett Mall will work at Boeing or another Southwest Everett Industrial Center employer, but a bus rapid transit line works just as well for them as light rail.

Make other transit systems work better

A benefit to serving Paine Field and Boeing with Stride is that the additional necessary improvements of queue jumps and dedicated bus lanes would enhance existing bus routes, making the overall system more efficient. Community Transit Swift Green and Blue Lines and several other local bus routes could become faster with greater on-time performance.

Reinvest

Besides building Everett Link faster and better, the $1 billion to $1.5 billion in savings could also be reinvested in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as well as affordable housing.

At Paine Field, the walk from the Airport Road, where the transit stop is located, to the passenger terminal is nearly a half-mile. Savings could be reinvested in widening the sidewalking and adding a raincover and lighting. Protected bike lanes could be added to both Airport Road and 100th Street SW.

Throughout the Southwest Everett Industrial Center, additional shuttle service could be provided to connect people from Seaway Transit Center to the many employers spread out over several square miles.

At SR-526/Evergreen Way, investments could go toward affordable housing and a partnership with the Connect Casino Road coalition for master planning redevelopment of the Walter E. Hall Golf Course, Fred Meyer, and Anderson Shopping Center.

Likewise, at Everett Station, Everett Mall, Mariner, Ash Way, and Alderwood, funding could go toward transit-oriented development and system access improvements that will ensure people can live and work near the future light rail stations.

Improving Route 510 and 512 buses

Even with a $1 billion to $1.5 billion cost savings, building light rail to Downtown Everett may still take longer than the promised 2036 open date. After decades of paying taxes to Sound Transit, these commuters deserve interim improvements.

Rides board a Route 512 bus in Lynnwood.
Passengers board the Route 512 in Lynnwood. (Sound Transit)

There’s already a simple solution. The current design of the stops at the South Everett Freeway Park and Ride, Ash Way Park and Ride, and Lynnwood Transit Center add a combined 10 minutes to Routes 510 and 512. That’s a 20% increase in travel time to commuters between Downtown Everett and the University District. By instead building freeway bus stops similar to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, we can provide immediate time savings.

Conclusion

By rethinking Everett Link, Sound Transit can both deliver on its original promise to complete the light rail “spine” from Downtown Tacoma to Downtown Everett. By building bus rapid transit to Paine Field and the Southwest Everett Industrial Center, the transit technology would be right-sized to the current and future land use conditions and travel behaviors.  

Overall, the needs of commuters to Boeing and travelers to Paine Field will be better served, the needs of people traveling from Everett to Lynnwood and Seattle will be better served, and savings can be reinvested in transit-oriented development and access projects that will ensure the overall success of the transit system.

Snohomish County taxpayers have paid into Sound Transit for too long without enough to show for it. It’s time to get something done.

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

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TransitRider

Extend Link to Mariner P&R to connect to Swift Green BRT, a 15 minute trip to Boeing/Gate 75, less to Gate 68, less to Paine Field. East Link is only going as far as Mariner by some ST maps.

Forget about Stride. CT already has the #107 that’s an express route between Lynnwood TC and Boeing: extend its south terminus to Mountlake Terrace and to Paine Field as the northern terminus. Extend Swift Green from Boeing to downtown Everett via 526 and I-5 OR Evergreen Way, the latter sharing Swift Blue stations and thus no right-of-way acquisition. Up and running in 18 months to acquire the buses, maybe less if they use artics in the interim.

To spread out the the armada of buses that’s set to converge on Lynnwood TC in 2024, ST should dig out the plans that are buried in a basement somewhere and complete the north side of direct access ramps at Ash Way to eliminate most bus weaving and surface travel for commuter buses, as buses would be kept in HOV lanes. Extend ET #12, which terminates at Seaway TC, to S Everett Park & Ride and to Eastmont (for restroom facilities). Add S Everett P&R stop for ST #513 to bring connections to/from Seattle and Bellevue buses.

RossB

Boeing and Paine Field simply will never be major transit trip generators.

Neither will any of the stations you propose. The density is too low around the stations, there are little to no attractions at them, almost all of them are close to a freeway on-ramp, and they are too far from the major center (Seattle). The density around the station could improve, but it would still be limited by the envelope of the freeway, and the lack of all-day demand. Everett is simply too small. Seattle is simply too far away.

There is research to back this up. That report is worth reading in full, but the section that is especially relevant is titled “Common Problems in Light Rail Planning“. To quote:

Light rail works best in a very particular set of circumstances. In areas where driving is difficult but travel demand is large and consistent, it can facilitate relatively short trips of a few miles or less. In these cases, the ability to run larger light rail vehicles with less bunching and fewer drivers can offset the increased expenses in capital maintenance. Over longer distances, the low speed of light rail vehicles cannot compete with freeways; with lighter traffic loads, the problem of bus bunching becomes less severe. The low ridership of most U.S. light rail systems, however, frequently stems from one of two mistakes: overexpansion; and route choices that are more politically expedient than economically efficient … The best-performing newer systems in our database, such as Minneapolis, Seattle, and Houston, are all compact, serving urban areas near downtown. By contrast, larger light rail systems that stretch into low-density suburban areas tend to underperform.

Our own experience backs this up. The combination of the 510 and 512 get less than 2,000 riders from Everett. The bus is often faster than what the train will offer, in terms of getting to the UW or downtown Seattle. There aren’t that many riders, for the same reasons explained quite well in that report. For the same reason, Link will perform poorly north of Lynnwood.

The best thing to do is just put the money into bus service. Run express buses all day to Lynnwood, but also improve the (very poor) bus system in Snohomish County. The frequency of most Community Transit buses is abysmal. Even the Swift lines are not that frequent, and they manage to skip many stops. I realize that is the point (it is meant as an express overlay) but it leads to poor ridership if you don’t also have a frequent bus with standard international stop spacing (400-600 meters) to go along with the really wide, limited stop spacing of Swift (routinely over 1K).

Running light rail — even next to the freeway — is not cheap. Cities that are small, and spread out, like Everett and Yakima, should first build a first rate bus system before they spend a fortune on light rail. Lynnwood is an excellent terminus, with HOV lanes feeding right to it. Snohomish County would be better off putting their money into better bus service (that more people would use) than going any further north.

Last edited 7 months ago by RossB
AJ M

So you are saying Snohomish county should spend the next two decades reorienting its bus network away from Seattle express routes and build a network of high frequency, all day bus routes (let’s call them Swift bus routes), develop multiple major job centers with robust all day trip demand (let’s call them Lynnwood and Everett), and work to create entirely new urban neighborhoods where none exist now (like here: https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/07/22/light-rail-subarea-sno-co/)? And then once all that is done and the county looks completely different than the one you have in your head, is it OK if it then opens a light rail extension that ties together all of the above?

The 2035 population target for SW Snohomish county is 580K, i.e. more people than Seattle in 2000 or Portland in 2010. I’m not sure what Yakima has to do with any of this?

RossB

So you are saying that Snohomish County should spend billions building a light rail system that doesn’t make sense now, but will hopefully make sense in the future. Yeah, sure. Spokane should do the same thing too. And Yakima.

The fact that you are referencing data about a county suggests you didn’t read the article. For that matter, you didn’t even read the section I quoted. It doesn’t matter if cities like Marysville (the second biggest in Snohomish County) continue to grow. That doesn’t make Link (that doesn’t go that far) any more useful. For that matter, the same is true for Edmonds (3rd), Bothell, Mountlake Terrace (5th), Arlington (9th) and Monroe (10th). Snohomish County is a huge county, and most of it lies south of Lynnwood Transit Center.

To quote the article again: The best-performing newer systems in our database, such as Minneapolis, Seattle, and Houston, are all compact, serving urban areas near downtown.

What part of your plan is anything close to that? Do you think Lynnwood will become a major urban center, on par with downtown Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston? Even if Everett did become a major urban center, what part of the system is compact? Holy cow, the ST3 plan has the nearest station to Everett over 3 miles away! This plan makes it even farther! That is not how you serve a compact, urban environment.

You also seemed to miss the section about freeway stations like the one you envision:

Two species of overexpansion in U.S. cities deserve special mention. First is an overemphasis on serving transit-oriented developments. Many cities have seen new developments on “New Urbanist” principles: apartments with mid-rise units and a mix of commercial and residential development aimed at satisfying most residents’ daily needs without having to drive. Many of these developments are also transit-oriented, to allow for travel outside the development, such as to downtown jobs. Because of strict zoning laws in developed areas of cities, these developments often must be built miles from established downtowns. As such, transit-oriented developments frequently disappoint. New, isolated developments are rarely large enough to be self-contained or offer the amenities of true city centers. Residents who want to travel to specialty stores or jobs not readily accessible by the existing transit network—and in typical low-density U.S. cities, this is almost all of them—will need to own cars. Once they own cars, there’s no reason not to use them for all trips, especially if zoning policies guarantee copious parking.

The idea that Mariner will blossom into the next Capitol Hill is absurd. It will blossom into, well, the next Ash Way. Moderate residential density, with lots of parking, and that’s about it. Put it this way — more than once, unprompted, my wife has said “I can’t wait for the Northgate Station, we can take it to Capitol Hill”. Do you think anyone is saying that about Ash Way? Do you think anyone will ever say that about Mariner?

This area doesn’t match the profile of any high performing system, anywhere. It is very similar to all of the lines (or parts of lines) that were bad values. Crossing your fingers, and hoping that it will be different isn’t going to make it any better.

RossB

As for what I think Snohomish County should do, it is to focus on buses. The bus system in Snohomish County is not very good, and creating low frequency “BRT” with poor stop spacing doesn’t make it great. It is a step in the right direction, but it simply lacks money to be effective. Consider that the flagship bus within the entire system — Swift Blue — only ran every 10 minutes during the day, and 20 minutes evenings and weekends. This is a limited stop overlay. The bus that served all the stops is even less frequent, at a half hour! That is bush league.

The rest of the system is worse (of course). When half hour buses are considered a step up, or “BRT” runs every 20 minutes in the evening and on weekends, you obviously need a lot more money for the buses. What you don’t need is an extremely expensive rail system with a handful of stops in the suburbs. To quote the article again:

Most transit agencies should be far more skeptical of building new light rail lines than they have been; any corridor without enough ridership to fill a bus every few minutes should not be a light rail line. Light rail projects that do not serve any current ridership should not be defended on the grounds that future transit-oriented development will provide a source of riders. Ridership from these developments is often disappointing, and many residents of far-flung transit-oriented developments would be much happier living in apartment buildings in inner-ring neighborhoods if zoning policies were more rational. For aiding commutes from far-flung suburbs, additional commuter bus service would be faster and cheaper than light rail expansions.

Swamp Creek Mike

I completely agree with the Everett Mall alignment for Link. Almost the same ridership as the Boeing alignment at a much lower cost.

Also, the Interurban Trail diverges from I-5 south of the mall, and is about 1500 feet from I-5 where it intersects Everett Mall Way. Assuming the station is along the Interurban Trail, you would have excellent redevelopment potential in all directions.

Martin Pagel

Again, I agree that Link should go straight to Everett without detour, but BRT service would add considerable wait time, in particular outside peak while a gondola would eliminate any such delays and could serve Seaway transit center and the airport and ferry terminal directly and deliver people straight above the Link station platform.

Boeing gondola.jpg
Peter Grosvenor

Somewhat off topic, but still important: the author’s rejection of Paine Field service because of the aviation greenhouse impact is illogical.
Currently there is no practical alternative to aviation for long distance travel (i.e., trips longer than 500 miles). Light rail service to Paine Field would would reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Snohomish County air travelers, because they wouldn’t use less-efficient modes to make the trip down to SeaTac.
Equally important, the aviation contribution to climate change has been overblown. Currently aviation contributes a few percent of the total warming impact. Aviation will only become a major contributor if and when air traffic grows tremendously in some theorized future. Plus, much of the aviation impact is in the form of water vapor, which exits the atmosphere rapidly. When aviation moves to electric and other low-emission power sources in the future, the water vapor will diminish and the long-term impact of aviation will be less than other transportation systems.

Stephen Fesler

Paine Field is already served by high-quality transit. Light rail won’t significantly alter the ground transportation emissions to the airport over going with the plan outlined above. But to the point that aviation emissions are small, that is a red herring. A new commercial flight daily is like adding thousands of cars to I-5 every day. To waive that away is dishonest to the issue of emissions. It’s actually our fastest growing source of emissions in Puget Sound having about doubled in the past decade. What’s misrepresented as ~5% of emissions by the PSRC is actually more like 20%+ when you factor in half a flight. Until planes are zero-emissions, this argument you’re making just isn’t going to fly.

AJ M

Good pun at the end. So your counterargument basically is that you see Link as providing negligible better mode share over Stride on a simillar Paine Field alignment?

RossB

Yep. To put things in perspective, SeaTac has a frequent express train that goes to downtown Seattle and the UW (with plenty of high quality stops along the way). Yet as of 2018, Link gets about 6% of the riders.

Paine Field is a secondary airport, and one of the big selling points is that for people who live north of downtown, it is easy to drive to. Like SeaTac, there is some employment, but that can be served just fine with buses.

Peter Grosvenor

The article proposes a solution that does not provide direct light rail service to:
(a) the region’s largest employer,
nor to
(b) the region’s only alternative to the overcrowded SeaTac airport.

I understand some of the justifications for that approach, but it leads me to ask: who will ride the light rail line north of Lynnwood? The author’s logic already eliminates the Boeing commuters and pretty much anybody who lives north of Everett Mall because they live in communities that don’t have much transit. Probably fair, although it’s not a great argument for the citizens who live in those areas and have been (at least to some extent) funding the light rail system with their taxes.

So who will ride the “Everett” line? Surely ST has done ridership studies. If you eliminate service to (a) and (b) above, will the only riders be people who commute tp downtown Seattle? If that’s true, then why not build a big Park& Ride at Everett Mall and skip any stations to the north?

Stephen Fesler

ST has looked at alternatives and policymakers from Snohomish County went with the second lowest performing (by 500 riders) and second most expensive option. I’d like there to be ridership in the industrial area as much as any transit booster and urban planner, but there just isn’t strong demand and there won’t be for a very long time. Elite projection is what got us the Boeing deviation. We should serve riders, not fantasies.

If there is such pent-up demand down the road that manages to materialize and can’t possibly be served by the proposed transit service map above, Snohomish County could always come back as part of ST4 and build a spur or criss-cross line that hits the industrial area (as presumably there will be a line southeast to the Eastside).

RossB

My opinions on the airport are up above (in short, don’t bother).

The Boeing Plant is a bit more nuanced. There are a lot of people employed there — 30,000 (although that number is shrinking). It is a bit spread out (just walking from one end of the main building to the other takes about 15 minutes) but Boeing runs shuttles. In that sense, a station there really does make sense.

But there are problems with that idea. The plant lies right next to the freeway, and there is a ton of free parking, making it appealing to drivers (downtown Calgary it ain’t). There isn’t much of a reverse commute (traffic northbound on I-5 in the morning is very light). This means that many commuters (pretty much anyone who lives between downtown Seattle and the plant) has a fast automotive commute. It also means that a bus from Lynnwood (connecting to Lynnwood Link) would be just about as fast.

From the north it would appeal to be better, but only for a handful. There are only two proposed stations north of the plant. The SR 526/Evergreen station largely serves as a connector to Swift and other buses along the main corridor. Since there is a freeway there, a transfer to a bus would work just as well (and better yet, a bus that avoids the transfer altogether). From downtown Everett you would get more riders, but still not that many. It skips over much of the city before getting there.

The plant is also very peak oriented. There is no all-day demand, like a typical downtown. There are different shifts, but not that many, and these could serve the area quite well for a small fraction of the money proposed for Link. Both the cost and ridership estimates for Everett Link were very optimistic, and yet it performed poorly in terms of ridership per dollar, or subsidized cost. With increasing costs, it is an even worse value.

Best thing to do is improve the buses.

AJ M

Why did you propose a separate Stride line, rather than simply improving and perhaps extending Swift Green?  

If I evaluate Everett Link under the 2 goals you have articulated, Lynnwood to Mariner is a ‘Spine’ alignment that buttress the locals Swift network, Mariner to Evergreen provides high-capacity transit to Paine Field and Boeing, and then Evergreen to Everett station completes the Spine.   If you adjust Everett Link to focus solely on the Spine and separately address Paine Field and Boeing HCT with bus technology, it seems to me the outcome of investing along the Paine Field alignment would be to upgrade Swift Green (perhaps by replacing it with Stride), rather than overlay a separate Stride line.

Jason

I’m not a transit geek but I live near the proposed Everett stations and read this post with a mix of surprise and frustration. As I read this article, you are proposing that my area does not actually get the full set of rail service we’ve been promised, but instead get more bus service. Rather than have rail that runs on its own timetable, free from traffic, we get more bus traffic on our congested roads. And I guess that bus traffic is rebranded from Swift to Stride because it’s a more interesting name or something?

You also propose we don’t get any rail service to Paine Field because “the astronomical greenhouse gas emissions of air travel” (among other, equally specious reasons). People will continue to fly out of Paine Field whether you approve of air travel or not, and the ability to fly out of an airport in Snohomish County instead of taking the long trek to SeaTac is a huge win for all of us who live here.

Under your proposal, it appears travelers would have to transfer from rail to bus in order to take transit to Paine Field — not a viable solution for anyone traveling with any amount of luggage (especially families traveling with young kids).

And while it would be great to have rail and housing near grungy, nasty Everett Mall as a way of rehabbing that area, that’s not what was promised. Furthermore, it’s not exactly certain that mall will exist in its current form for many more years before it gets turned into an Amazon fulfillment center or something.

Bottom line is that we’ve been paying large amounts on our property taxes to get better transit in our area. One of the key selling points of that tax increase has been that we will have rail in this area, especially to Paine Field. You’re proposing we get substantially less than we were promised. “Snohomish County taxpayers have paid into Sound Transit for too long without enough to show for it. It’s time to get something done.” Yes! Give us the map we were promised years ago, and deliver it on time.

Stephen Fesler

Stride is Sound Transit’s bus rapid transit programme (see I-405 BRT and SR-522). In any case, this proposal actually provides more transit to the area, not less. It just does it in a more affordable manner sooner than going with the envisioned plan that provides less transit later.

AJ M

Jason does bring up a good point – what is Everett’s current long term plan for Everett Mall? I don’t see it called out in the same way as downtown, Evergreen Way, and the Paine Field MIC (https://everettwa.gov/2297/Subarea-Plans)? Is it intended to be a major source of growth, like Tacoma’s mall?

It seems to me reorienting Link to follow I5 would require coordination with Everett, Snohomish, and the PSRC to adjust Comp Plans accordingly. Is along I5 where Everett wants to growth? If Evergreen Way is a more important growth corridor than I5, then I’d argue the existing Paine Field alignment, with the two transfer nodes with Swift Blue, better serves Evergreen Way.

RossB

Give us the map we were promised years ago, and deliver it on time.

Sorry, that’s not gonna happen.

Under your proposal, it appears travelers would have to transfer from rail to bus in order to take transit to Paine Field — not a viable solution for anyone traveling with any amount of luggage (especially families traveling with young kids).

Right, which probably helps explain why so few use transit to get to SeaTac (6%) despite the light rail connection. Relatively few people live close to a station, and they don’t feel like taking a connecting bus, and taking Link. Modal share for Paine Field would be much worse, since the population center lies to the south. Unless you have an evening flight, most fliers would get there much faster by driving and parking, or calling a shuttle, or getting dropped off (the way most people get to SeaTac).

I understand your frustration, but this extension is going to add very little, and cost a bunch. There will be very few riders north of Lynnwood, and many will do just as well with a shuttle bus to Lynnwood as a shuttle bus to some other Link station. The vast majority of people who take transit in Snohomish County will take the bus. The least we can do is improve the bus system for them by shifting money to where it makes sense.

Also worth noting is that Lynnwood Link benefits everyone in Snohomish County to some degree. An express bus from downtown Everett to Lynnwood will be faster than the train, as will other express buses. The train, meanwhile, will connect to big destinations in Seattle, like Northgate, the UW, Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle. There aren’t a lot of people north of Lynnwood who will go to Seattle, but they benefit just about as much as if you build out the whole system.

As Stephen wrote, this proposal actually builds more transit to the area, not less. If they just stopped Link at Lynnwood (and put the money into buses) you have even more transit to the area.

Brian

Out of curiosity because all of this is in the same area: are there any plans for increased connectivity between any new transit in this part of Everett and the Sounder/Ferry stop in Mukilteo? I know there isn’t much non-vehicle traffic that uses that (either cars off the ferry or people parking at the train station) but it would be nice to have a bit more in the future, especially to get non-vehicle passengers coming from Whidbey Island over to Link.

Stephen Fesler

Not that I’ve heard of or seen. Community Transit does run several routes down the Speedway: two commuter, one local. Neither of those hit Boeing area, but do have potential Link connections. Everett Transit operates a commuter route to Seaway Transit Center. Assuming the two merge, you’d probably get a better network in the area due to full coordination and more financial resources. There’s also Island Transit, but I honestly haven’t tracked any of their service plans, so I can’t speak to anything they might be doing, but they’ve traditionally focused on the connection to Downtown Everett.

Dardanelles

This is a great proposal!

A Joy

There’s an alternative you didn’t consider that would also make Everett Link complete sooner and provide faster service. Fewer stops. Take 130th and/or 145th, for example. These stops are less than a mile apart. Are both really needed? I don’t see how/why as a former Lake City resident. Whichever one provides better service (I am partial to 145th myself, as it is further from downtown) should be kept, and the other scrapped. Infill stations are a blight on timeliness, and much like the planned ones at Graham and BAR, one of these stops is a horrible idea.

Stephen Fesler

Infill stations are cheap. Cutting out 130th isn’t going save any timelines for Everett. Firstly, it’s a different subarea. Secondly, the cost is very small. And thirdly, Sound Transit has generally been looking at infill stations at the end of the programme timelines, so it’s not really a factor. You can’t cut out other stations on Everett Link beyond what I suggested. And we’re not going to do that elsewhere in the programme, so this is really a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist for Everett Link. The real problem is Everett Link’s alignment, which makes no sense. Even putting it on SR-99 would be better, but that presents many other construction challenges on its own.

asdf2

The big beneficiaries of 130th St. Station are Lake City and Bitter Lake. The bus ride to 130th would be shorter and less prone to traffic delays than either Northgate or 145th. In addition, the 130th St. bus could keep going, also serving Lake City->Bitter Lake and Bitter Lake->Link. This would be a huge improvement over the 30-minute slog on the 345, just to get to a Link station.

The Lake City->Bitter Lake bus could even be implemented as an extension of the 65 or 75, thereby providing a valuable connector between northwest Seattle and a large chunk of northeast Seattle that doesn’t exist today.

A Joy

Then keep 130th and get rid of 145th. I’m not sold on the idea that a bus ride to 145th would really be that much longer. I’m not wedded to either site though. I’m just pointing out that both stops aren’t needed.

RossB

It would be really cheap if they just eliminated all the stops altogether! And fast too!

That would make just about as much sense. The vast majority of the ridership will be in Seattle, not outside of it. The way you get ridership is by adding as many stops as you can afford. This is why the Paris Metro gets really high ridership (with stops at about 500 meters) while DART and BART perform so poorly. More stations in the city is the way to go. For perspective, the distance between 130th and 145th is about 1,500 meters, which is huge for about any high ridership metro system (except maybe the cities of the former Soviet Union).

A Joy

The distance from 130th to 145 is less than 1,300 meters. The number of people who would use 145th if 130th didn’t exist or vice versa is significant. The ridership overlap shows that both stations aren’t needed.

Douglas Trumm

The stations are one mile apart which is typical stop spacing for a light rail line. The walksheds barely overlap as the city defines them (0.5 miles). And the “145th St” stop is actually sited nearer 148th St NE, by the way. There’s no reason to go backward here. Build both stations.

A Joy

1 mile apart is far too close for Link, as Link is not comparable to many light rail lines. It has many spots, including its best served and most used stretch (UW to Westlake) where no stops are within 1 mile of each other.

Few stations (and fewer infills like Graham and BAR) isn’t going backwards, it is going forwards. And doing so in less time. That’s how you build a faster line. The A line was sped up by putting it on two “stop diets”. Why not consider the same for ST2 and ST3? Removing stops is politically difficult and a financial waste after the fact. Shouldn’t we be proactive here and save money as well as time?

Douglas Trumm

Easy for people who don’t live in Hillman City to say. Putting only one station in Capitol Hill and zero in First Hill was a mistake rather than a feature to emulated. One-mile stop spacing is very normal for light rail lines. Urban stop spacing is often 1/2 mile in other Metros. Stop diets are appropriate when the walksheds overlap a lot. When they don’t, you’re just abandoning riders and shrinking your service area.

A Joy

I lived in Lake City when ST3 was being voted on. I opposed two stops in/near Lake City then, and still do now. I voted for ST3 despite its wrong headedness on stop placement because we need light rail that badly.

Not just “Easy for people who don’t live in Hillman City to say”. Easy for the people whose lives were directly impacted by the choices at the locations to say. 130th was closer to where I lived than 145th. I still prefer the 145th site because it is farther away from downtown. And I’ve never owned a car or had a driver’s license. I rely on mass transit 24/7/365. 130th disappearing (or 145th for that matter) isn’t going to shrink the service area even one block. The busses will be used to take people to either one just as easily.

Link isn’t like most light rail lines. It is designed to have fewer stops, farther apart. To say “well other light rail lines do it this way” is missing and besides the point.

Ott Toomet

Here is a blog post about walking distance to transit: https://humantransit.org/2011/04/basics-walking-distance-to-transit.html. A very good read.

Brief summary: 400m, but with a long list of if-s and but-s.

RossB

I still prefer the 145th site because it is farther away from downtown.

OK, now you are throwing out random, nonsensical arguments. Everyone knows that you get more rides the closer you are to the core of the city.

The busses will be used to take people to either one just as easily.

No, they won’t. You can’t run a bus on the 125th/130th corridor (which connects Lake City with Bitter Lake) and then connect to 145th Station. You could have buses detour up there, but it would hamper the network, while delaying those riders significantly (sending them the wrong direction, as well as into traffic).

Let me put it this way: Have you talked to anyone at Metro about this? I have. The Metro planners I’ve talked to feel like 130th is essential. With it, they can design a much better network for the area. Not only with faster connections to Link, but with faster direct and indirect connections in the north end. A station at 130th allows you to do two things at once: serve the station, while connecting Lake City and Bitter Lake along a very fast corridor. The fast, straightforward route also saves Metro money, which means they can run the buses more often. The Metro officials I’ve talked to suggest 8 minute frequency along the Lake City/Bitter Lake/Shoreline College corridor.

Martin Pagel

I agree Bitter Lake/Shoreline College are the main destinations and the station will be focused on bus access and I’m glad Metro is looking at 8min service, but operating such a bus line will be a major expense. Rather than building a NE130th station and adding a new Metro line, I wonder whether it would be better to run a gondola from Northgate to NW Hospital to Bitter Lake and Shoreline College. From Northgate it could serve Lake City. It would provide continuous service rather than having to wait for 8 to 15min depending on time of day.

RossB

The fact that Link has wide stop spacing is not a good thing. They originally planned to have a stop at First Hill, but ran into issues with the soil. As with all metros, when an agency skips a stop, it is all about money. ST knew the system would be better with a station at First Hill, but didn’t want to spend the money. If they had the money, they would have added a station at First Hill, and added a station at Madison and 23rd. They didn’t, which is why we ended up with poor stop spacing.

You are calling a bug a feature, and then saying we should have more of them.

It takes about 20 minutes to walk from 130th to 147th. Very few people would get off of a bus at 130th, and walk to the station at 147th. Metro probably wouldn’t even serve it. Both the 147th station and the 130th station are meant to connect to buses. But they serve different corridors, quite far away from each other. From a transit network standpoint, they have nothing in common.

AJ M

I’m with Ross – Link isn’t commuter rail, and in particular the further Link is from Seattle, the less important total travel time to Seattle is, since adding 5 minutes to a 50 minute trip is less impactful than adding 5 minutes to a 20 minute trip. This suggests more not less infill stations, in particular on the south side where SKC to Seattle trips are already slow because of the RV routing, so BAR and Graham shouldn’t impact through ridership.

The lack of station between downtown and Northgate is a bummer for Seattle and probably a bummer for total ridership, but it does mean that 130th is a very compelling option to trips into downtown & beyond and therefore should be a great bus-rail transfer node.

AJ M

Great article. The opportunity to accelerate the delivery of the Spine is politically compelling, and I think the FH Streetcar in lieu of a First Hill station is a good precedent to point to from a legal & political perspective, though hopefully this time around the replacement project will actually be a useful piece of transit infrastructure.
   
Money ‘saved’ isn’t necessarily a benefit as Snohomish would still be looking for a full return on its ST funds. Given the subarea isn’t underwater in the long term financial plan, saving money is only useful insofar as it redirects money to invest elsewhere in Snohomish, in particular accelerating a subset of ST3 deliverables.  Saving money in Snohomish to help Seattle gold-plate West Seattle and Ballad isn’t a compelling outcome, so I like the idea of redirecting the savings into station access funds. Several hundred million of station access funding dedicated to the Snohomish subarea could be transformative.

I agree Everett Mall is a good candidate for a Link station given the redevelopment opportunity, but it would still be served by light rail on a freeway alignment – why would the counterargument be any different than what you have presented for SR-526/Evergreen Way?   There’s no reason a Link station couldn’t be pulled away from the freeway envelope to support TOD to provide a better station placement similar to the Stride station you sketched at Evergreen and Casino, for example the placement of the KDM or FW Link stations in Federal Way Link. Similarly, an airport Link station could serve the terminal directly with minimal time penalty, whereas a Stride station would likely either stick to Airport road or require a deviation.   If anything, I would argue that an arterial BRT mode like Swift or Stride is more likely to suffer from inferior station placement or slow alignments, while I5 between Everett downtown and Mariner station is more conductive to bus operations and inline freeway stations.

I don’t find the ‘sooner’ argument compelling because that can be achieve by phasing Everett Link and delivering Lynnwood to Mariner in a timely manner. The key question facing Snohomish is how to best deliver ST3 beyond Mariner.  Here, I think the placement of the OMF-N will likely end up begging the question. If the most compelling location for an OMF is in the Paine Field MIC, and I expect it will be, then ST will need to build a line from Mariner to Paine Field no matter which alignment is pursued.

Therefore, I would suggest the following approach:
1.      Build Everett Link as intended from Lynnwood to Airport Road, terminating at the OMF. The final station would be the infill station at SR-99 and Airport road to provide a strong transfer to Swift
2.      Invest in a Paine Field Swift or Stride line as you suggest, or just enhance the existing Swift network
3.      Invest in Stride along I5 between Link and downtown Everett. It could terminate at Mariner or continue all the way to Lynnwood TC and provide an infill station at S Everett Mall
4.      Build a junction at Mariner station to support a future extension along I5 and set aside money to fund planning and early design to get Link to Everett, considering the Paine Field and I5 alignments.  This would be consistent with prior ST actions of deferring extensions to future levies (UW, Redmond, S 200th)

As Stride is considered High Capacity Transit, I believe ST would still meet the spirit and letter of completing the Spine while also providing high-capacity transit to Paine Field and Boeing

Stephen Fesler

I don’t disagree that the alignment could be moved. It was really just illustrative. You also don’t have to send it up I-5 north of the mall. You could do something different like the trail, which presents interesting possibilities.

AJ M

Yeah there are several possibilities, which is why I would like ST to temporarily truncate at Mariner rather than decide now on Paine Field or a pivot away from it. Much will change by the time Link gets to Mariner, and the region can then revisit which alignment, if any, would be best.

If Stride is proven to be a successful mode, a good outcome could be Link service ending at Mariner and then several lines (Swift and Stride) fanning out to serve Paine Field, Everett downtown, and Mill Creek.

Martin Pagel

I agree that we need to look for ways to reduce ST3 budget shortfall, Link would not even get close to either Seaway P&R nor serve Paine Field passenger terminal directly. Swift might suffice or you could build a gondola so Seaway and then split it to go to Paine Field and down the hill to Mukilteo and provide a Sounder alternative for ferry riders.
We should do the same value engineering for West Seattle and build the WestSeattleSkyLink and run Link through South Park to Renton in the future to serve South King better.

Andrew

Not sure about these suggestions about rebuilding the three P&Rs. With the exception of half of the Ash Way P&R, all three connect directly to the I-5 HOV lanes. Also moving the Lynnwood stops further away from a light rail station that opens in 3 years seems unnecessary. Besides, route 512 is the only bus that stops at all three. 510 only serves the South Everett P&R.

A better investment would be tolling or otherwise freeing up the I-5 HOV lanes to improve travel times for ST Express (and Community Transit) buses. 

Pat

If you’re going to replace part of it with Stride, why not go even further and end Link at Mariner and then run an express bus between there and Everett? It’s basically all freeway running, and although you lose Everett Mall, Link north of Mariner is not a very good value.

You wouldn’t even really need the proposed Stride line – the Green Line does a fine job of connecting Paine Field and Boeing to Link (at Mariner) and riders coming from Everett Mall have their choice of ET local buses (which hopefully by then will have merged into CT).

AJ M

Ending a Mariner is effectively the “phased” approach proposed by ST and is the most likely outcome. I think this article does a good job thinking through what would come next, as a truncation of ST3 at Mariner would leave a sense of “unfinished business” for Snohomish.

I agree, I’m also not convinced a standalone Stride line is needed if Green Swift has good frequency and a strong connection to Mariner Link station.

Paul98101

I’m big time for (real, separated lane) BRT and think we’ve been nuts not to employ it much, more more – and sooner.

As to Sound Transit history with alternative modes, The First Hill Streetcar does NOT meet Sound Transit promises or in any meaningful way provide service comparable to an uninterrupted light rail trip. The current scheme is two waits for two conveyances, each with substantial headways. And then there are the ongoing and forever operational cost overruns, requiring city of Seattle expenditures to keep the thing going. Ye gods!

All to say let’s go for BRT, let’s go for updating fixed rail plans to meet changing times and needs. But I think holding up the First Hill Streetcar as precedent for effective and efficient light rail alternatives is not going to win over Snohomish County voters and leaders or enhance their trust in the process. It will, however, remind them of how Sound Transit has been spending their tax dollars.

AJ M

Snohomish riders will be using Stride in a few years. It will be very interesting to see how that experience drivers future decisions at ST.