Sherwin Lee at the Seattle Transit Blog, writes that light rail extensions to Everett and Tacoma should take a back seat to rail expansion within Seattle. He goes on to say that transit expansion to Pierce County will diminish the effectiveness of light rail because of poor intervening land use between urban centers. While current Sound Transit policy on sub-area equity prevents Seattle from paying for light rail in Pierce County (and vice-versa), the conversation is somewhat moot. However, he brings up some points that are worth exploring... and some other more harsh points that are worth confronting.
Transit riders should start as pedestrians/cyclistsUrban rail should be for urban corridors that can rely on transit riders to start their trips as pedestrians or cyclists. Sound Transit’s tendency to focus on providing Park and Ride infrastructure is a distraction from transit’s core purpose, which I’ll paraphrase from Jarrett Walker is “to effectively and efficiently provide mobility to large numbers of people, without the need for a personal vehicle.”
ST2 Program should change for Tacoma-Pierce CountyThe current Sound Transit plan is holding back the development of the regional transit system in Pierce County, because we are waiting on South King County to complete its segment to Federal Way. The banked bonding capacity that is slated to be used for the $1.6b segment between Tacoma Dome Station and the King County line (7mb PDF, PSRC) could be used for other projects between now and when light rail reaches Federal Way sometime in the 2030’s or 2040’s.
The Pierce County ST2 program deserves a course correction, adjusting down the moneys allocated or banked towards linking Tacoma with SeaTac Airport and SE Seattle and adjusted towards development of Tacoma Link, transit oriented development, multimodal Sounder station access (i.e. bike access), and studies that lay the groundwork for ST3.
Tacoma is not standing in the way of light rail to BallardWhat is unreasonable in the post is the insinuation that Tacoma and Everett are somehow at odds with Seattle, actively fighting against expansion of rail within Seattle, and would be counterproductive to add to the light rail network. Nothing could be further from the truth. In election after election, the urban centers at the proposed light rail termini have supported Sound Transit and ridership estimates for the extensions in both directions point to increased ridership - although at a higher incremental cost. But the point is, light rail in Tacoma is not Seattle's call.
What seems to get lost sometimes is realizing just how many staff hours were allocated to the Bellevue light rail alignment fiasco and the impact that must have had on other planning efforts within the agency. Tacoma residents, for instance, have been waiting patiently for movement on alternatives analysis to begin on Tacoma Link, which was approved in ST2 nearly four years ago.