Where I Am Now
A blog about what's on my mind today.
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West Seattle Light Rail Quiz Answers
How much will the West Seattle Link Extension Cost?
Answer: We don't know yet. Sound Transit's last estimate of cost put the project between $3 and $4 billion, far more than the $1.7 billion approved by voters. ST said that $3 - 4 billion was the estimate for an elevated train, but will not cover the cost if a tunnel option is chosen. That option will increase the cost and take longer.
When will WS Link be completed?
Answer: We don't know, except that it will be some time after 2032.
How many stations will there be in West Seattle?
Answer: We don't know yet. As of February, 2023, Sound Transit is considering dropping the Avalon station to save money. A final decision will be made at the end of this year.
How many homes or businesses will be lost or negatively affected by building WS Link?
Answer: We won't know until the final plan is completed, but in October, 2021, Sound Transit sent 1,400 letters to people potentially affected.
Will you be able to board the train at street level at any of the stations: Delridge, Avalon, or the Junction?
Answer: No. Stations will either be elevated or below ground.
If the Junction station is elevated, how high will the platform be?
Answer: We don't know yet. The final plan isn't done.
If the Junction station is in a tunnel, how deep will it be?
Answer: As of February 2023, Sound Transit is favoring a tunnel option for the station, which will be 40 feet deep.
Will there be a parking lot or parking garage at any of the WS Link station sites?
Will WS Link take you directly downtown, or will you have to transfer?
Answer: WS Link will take you only as far as SODO, and there you will have to transfer to a bus or another train.
If you want to take WS Link to the airport, will you have to change trains or take a bus?
Answer: WS Link will take you only as far as SODO, and there you will have to transfer to another train to the airport.
How much time will WS Link save when you go downtown vs. the bus?
Answer: It won't save time. The C line goes directly downtown. Link will require a transfer in SODO to get to the downtown core, which means your trip will take longer.
How much will WS Link Extension reduce congestion?
Answer: Light rail has not been shown to reduce congestion significantly in Seattle or elsewhere. Sound Transit's own studies predicted that light rail to Northgate would not change rush hour traffic, which turned out to be correct. As former Sound Transit CEO, Joni Ernst said, “We’ve never said we will reduce congestion.”
Cities like St. Louis, MO, and Portland, OR, have not seen a reduction in congestion, either. Nor have they seen other promised benefits. Read about their experiences here. A more recent report from Clark County, OR, is a cautionary tale on multiple fronts.
How many car trips over the West Seattle bridge will WS Link replace each day?
Answer: Not many. Most rail riders are former bus riders or people who don't own a car. This is one reason why congestion does not improve when light rail is added to the mix. As this study conducted in Los Angeles shows, people like voting for light rail, but they just don't want to use it themselves. This report from Denver, once called "the most advanced transit city in the west,” indicates that that's the case there, also. People want other people to take the train so their cars will have more room on the road. It would not be a surprise if West Seattle voters had the same idea in 2016.
How much will the WS Link Extension reduce pollution?
Answer: Pollution will increase dramatically during the estimated 6 years it will take to build it. Once built, it won't make much difference because light rail doesn't get many people out of cars. It also produces its own variety of pollutants. According to the Washington Policy Center light rail extensions neither reduce congestion nor improve air quality.
How long will the West Seattle Bridge be closed for construction of the Link Light Rail bridge?
Answer: We don't know yet. We don't have a construction timeline. The proposed Light Rail bridge will go over the top of the West Seattle Bridge, so it will be unsafe for drivers to be on the bridge during construction.
One thing that stood out for me while doing research for this quiz is how good Seattle's bus system is. And if you have to choose between a bus system and light rail for West Seattle, the bus is literally the way to go. Bus systems are more flexible, more affordable, and provide more access for more people than trains. Investing a fraction of the money being spent on light rail on expanded bus service in West Seattle, would provide far better transit for our residents, whether they need to leave the neighborhood or move around inside of it.
In this case, light rail is just a clumsy duplicate of the existing #50 bus route from the Junction to SODO. The #50 has multiple stops, starting at Alki, then to Admiral, down California, into the Junction, to Avalon, to Delridge to SODO, making it much more practical than the train for riders from multiple locations at the north end of the peninsula. First, riders don't have to find a way to get to the Junction to board the train. And second, they go directly to SODO without having to transfer.
Seriously, why would anyone get off the bus in the Junction, go down into a tunnel and wait for a train, when all they have to do is stay on the bus to get where they are going? I may be missing something, but that doesn't make sense to me.
All things considered, light rail won't serve very many residents in West Seattle. The proposal to eliminate the Avalon station will reduce ridership even more.
The Urbanist has the right idea about leveraging our bus system. For those bemoaning the loss of streetcars and who fantasize about light rail being a replacement for them, look at the maps in their article. The routes are still there, for the most part. Buses travel them, not streetcars. This is not to say light rail doesn't have a place in the transportation mix, but that it should be used where it makes sense. It does not make sense in West Seattle.
I leave you with this quote from Peter Rogoff, former Sound Transit CEO, in a speech he made when he was an administrator for the Federal Transit Administration. (You can read the full text of his speech here.)
"Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don't want to hear. One is this -- Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive.
Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a "special" bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.
Once you've got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap. Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.
A little honesty about the differences between bus and rail can have some profound effects."