Agreement on Downtown Tunneling for Seattle Region’s East Link Light Rail

East Link

» City of Bellevue will get its desired underground segment through downtown thanks to an agreement from Sound Transit.

At a cost of $2.5 billion, Seattle’s planned East Link light rail extension project is one of the nation’s largest and most expensive transit expansion programs, which makes it remarkable in itself. A new connection across Lake Washington and into the cities of Bellevue and Redmond will significantly decrease transit times for intercity trips in the region and attract about 50,000 riders a day once it is completed in 2023.

The real achievement of the project, though, is its response to local demands in the form of the construction of a tunnel through Downtown Bellevue, agreed upon by the transit agency Sound Transit last week.

The passage in 2008 by Seattle region voters of the Sound Transit 2 package of bond releases guaranteed that local funding would be available to construct new

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The Appeal of Modern Streetcars Continues to Mount, But There Are Obstacles to It Bringing Mobility Gains

Atlanta's Georgia Transit Connector

» Streetcar projects are advancing seriously in cities across the nation, but their quick rise to the top of municipal transportation priority lists may not be matched by sound thinking in terms of project design.

If the Obama Administration’s push to construct high-speed rail lines has suffered numerous delays as a result of Congressional inaction and state-level criticism, its decision to allow numerous streetcar projects to move forward through the federal funding pipeline has produced a veritable explosion of project proposals across the country. Yet the manner in which cities are pushing these schemes smacks of poor policy making and suggests that a better use of limited transportation dollars is possible.

The recent promotion of streetcars in the United States is something of an aberration — at least in terms of recent history. Generally ignoring the successes of the locally funded vintage 2001 Portland Streetcar, the Bush Administration repeatedly informed

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In Atlanta and Seattle, Hope for Better Transit Through Referendums

Seattle Streetcar

» Recognizing the limitations of federal  aid, local leaders in Atlanta and Seattle propose tax increases or additional fees to improve the quality of their transit networks.

Despite the skepticism about the importance of government spending now enthralling Washington on both sides of the aisle, the perceived value of investing local resources in public facilities such as new transit lines seems only to be ramping up.

Take Atlanta and Seattle, sitting at the helm of the nation’s 9th and 15th-largest metropolitan areas, respectively. In the first, a regional initiative supported by political and business leaders across a ten-county area will advance a 1% sales tax to the ballot next November. Over half of the billions in locally raised funds is proposed to be transferred to transit capital and operational programs. In the second, an enthusiastic mayor is articulating a grand, citywide strategy to bring high-quality transit to his city as quickly as possible. If approved

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When the Recession Strikes, Little Maneuvering Room for Better Transit

Proposed Entrance to the University of Washington Link Station

» Seattle’s large rail expansion program will be delayed thanks to a decline in local tax revenues. The sales tax comes back to bite.

The recession has not been kind to transportation agencies anywhere in the country. The loss of local revenues from dedicated taxes has in many places required agencies to reduce bus and rail operations — even with the significant aid that accompanied the 2009 Stimulus bill. But long-term consequences have been even more problematic for the hundreds of expansion plans either under construction or planned; in metropolitan areas from Dallas to Denver, previously funded projects have been put on hold.

Seattle’s Sound Transit is the most recent to announce its own problems: Last week, the agency revealed that its fifteen-year estimates for revenue collection established just two years ago would be 25% lower than expected. This means that a once $18 billion proposal to extend the region’s

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Seattle’s North Link Light Rail, Originally Considered for Highway-Running, May Be Partially Tunneled

Seattle Transit Tunnel

» Underground route may actually save money — but it raises possibility of altering the alignment.

Seattle’s light rail expansion program may be one of the most ambitious in the nation: Not only did the region open a 14-mile first segment last year, but it has a northern extension currently under construction and three further routes mostly funded and in advanced planning. Unlike most new light rail systems, Seattle’s is also being built to light metro standards, with capacity for four (long) cars at every station.

This huge investment does not correlate with a perfectly planned system, of course. One of its major flaws is its reliance on the Interstate 5 right-of-way north of Seattle for the $1.4 billion, 4.3-mile North Link section of the project. It’s a route alignment that will not only restrict commuter access to and from stations, but also result in lessened transit-oriented development because

Continue reading Seattle’s North Link Light Rail, Originally Considered for Highway-Running, May Be Partially Tunneled »

The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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