RM Transit‘s latest video takes a look at whether major cities should still plan their transit networks around a subway network, also referred to as a metro. Host Reece Martin starts with his signature phrase — “It depends.” But the longer answer is generally, yes, a gridded system of short high-frequency, high-capacity lines separated from traffic is a really dynamic addition to cities, especially those intending to grow by dense in-fill urban development rather than suburban sprawl. And regions intending to be climate leaders should be growing upward in the core, not outward in the fringe.

It’s a great question for the Puget Sound region to ponder as it builds out its Link light rail system, which is being planned as a hybrid metro-commuter rail system. With a 62-mile-long split spine from Tacoma to Everett, this is not your normal metro. The extensions to Ballard and West Seattle will add more metro-like features to complement a spine that will be stretched to commuter rail lengths. However, getting the transfers right is essential to metros, and, unfortunately, recent Sound Transit station decisions have seriously compromised the future transfers. Incidentally, there’s a RM Transit video on that topic too. (If you like videos like these, RM Transit is definitely worth a follow.)

Plus, Link would need more lines and a compact grid rather than a hub and spoke system to embrace a metro identity over a commuter rail Frankenstein. Seattle’s recent update to its long-range rail plan offers some clues as to how that might happen in the next expansion measure.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.