Why people start riding Sound Transit

Here’s part of a power point presentation that was delivered to the ST Board:

(The yellow is my editorial analysis)

The environmental benefits of building light rail, and of using mass transit, are pretty clear. But new riders don’t see the environmental bonus as something that’s changing their behavior. As much as we’d like people to clue-in to mass transit for carbon-related reasons, people have, and will, ride transit because it’s faster, cheaper, and more convenient than driving. Rather, when it’s faster and more convenient.

In another page of the power point, rider satisfaction is shown to dip slightly in 2006, just when the fuel crunch really hits, and ST buses (along with Metro buses and others) become packed with new riders. It’s the downside of transit popularity.


  1. 1


    I have rode trains and subways in major cities most of my adult life. And now Metro/ST buses. Mass transit is a very poor, suboptimal solution because it can never serve point-to-point, and it can never be timely. It always serves only a line, whereas, the surface of the earth is a plane. This is math literacy, isn’t it? I hate cars, but the solution is impose a standard such as, your car must fit through a 5×5 foot goalpost to get on the road, and the max weight is 800 pounds loaded. This allows a massive breakthru in lower cost of the vehicle, the road, tunnels and overpasses, parking –everything. Transit agencies KNOW this but they’re a heavy political/industrial complex, just as bad as the auto industry.

  2. 3

    Mark The Redneck-Patriot spews:

    You left out the most important reason.

    My time is really valuable. More so than most people. It really pisses me off when you fucking losers clog up the roads, get in my way, and slow me down.

    So the most important reason for you people to ride the fucking buses and trains and ride your bikes is so that you stay the fuck out of my way so my life is easier and more convenient.

    I appreciate you sacrificing your convenience for mine.

    I hope you like riding public transit and sitting next to the green haired single mother with her screaming fucking kids while I cruise by in my luxury carbon spewing SUV.

  3. 4

    Mark The Redneck-Patriot spews:

    Ummm Todd… I have bad news for you.

    Your “math literacy” is a little weak. The earth is not a “plane”. Look at the pictures from outer space. It’s not flat. It’s sorta round… Us grown-ups call it a “sphere”. In fact, earth is an “oblate spheroid”. (Look it up.)

    Can you learn fucking english too? Your first line should be “I have ridden trains and…”.

    More to the point though… anybody as fucking stoopid as you belongs on mass transit. If you have a car, sell it. You’re too fucking stoopid to drive.

  4. 5

    Tlazolteotl spews:

    Wow, Mark,

    Who died and made you king?

    I know right wingers can often be arrogant, self-absorbed assholes, but @3 has to be parody, right? Mark, are you really a parody troll?

  5. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Many wage earners are struggling to make ends meet and bottom-line things. One of the lede stories on AOL news this morning is food inflation and the strategies families are using to cope with it. In politics, it’s always important to remember that most voters will automatically react to an idea or proposal on how it impacts their daily financial struggle.

  6. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Light rail is an impossible sell to senior citizens because you’re asking people on limited incomes who are terrified of rising prices for food and medicines to pay taxes for something that won’t even be built in their lifetimes. Light rail needs to be paid for by user taxes and fees, like roads and ferries. Raising sales taxes or other genreal taxes is the wrong way to go.

    Also, the absurd expense of building light rail in Seattle because of the geography and geology here should have the ST board, local leaders, and citizens rethinking what is the best mass-transit strategy for this area. Light rail’s average cost in America is $20 million per mile; in Seattle, Phase 1 is costing $179 million per mile and Phase 2 would be even more expensive because of the extensive tunneling involved. The 5-mile route from U. District to Northgage would cost $2.5 billion, or $500 million a mile.

    And, if people don’t drive cars because of no parking, why would they ride light rail if there’s no parking at the boarding stations? What’s the point of spending $2.5 billion to bring light rail to Northgate if there’s only 100 commuter parking spaces there (all of which are already being used by bus riders)?

    It just seems to me the whole light rail plan has been very poorly thought through. This isn’t something I can vote for until substantial revisions are made to every aspect of the plan, including design and financing and construction schedule.

    But trying to get light rail proponents to address the plan’s weaknesses is like trying to get Bush to get out of Iraq; they’re no more receptive to reasonable arguments, reality, or changing strategy. Their crusade, like his crusade, is based on ideology instead of practicality and is rooted in a faith that building light rail will have a major environmental benefit. That’s nonsense. Light rail won’t make a noticeable impact on carbon emissions, and may even add to them, if the electricity to run the system comes from a coal-fired power plant. And that’s where most of the new generating capacity in the Pacific N.W. comes from these days.

  7. 10

    Roscoe Farts spews:

    Sound Transit spends money like an aircraft carrier full of drunk sailors. The Phase I cost projections rose by $5.5 billion over the past three years. It is completely out of control.

  8. 11

    mark spews:

    The fewer Obama, Kerry, Gore, Clinton bumper stickers we have to stomach the better. In fact I would be willing to
    pay 10 dollars a gallon if we had a lane for people that
    actually pay taxes only. We could call it the “Carbon
    lane”. Imagine myself and Mr Redneck would become friends
    and cruise our giant SUVs at breakneck speeds unhindered
    by some asswipe in a volvo whose kid failed the wasl.

  9. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The current thinking of light rail proponents seems to be that they can pass the light rail segment of defeated Prop. 1 simply by resubmitting it to voters separately without the roads. I’ve seen no willingness whatsoever to address ST2’s flaws. That, it seems to me, is courting another ballot box defeat.

  10. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 What this town needs is a bunch of these!


    This would accomplish several objectives all at once: It’s cheap, it would save lives, there would be less speeding and tailgating, and best of all it would piss off Mark the Welsher!!

    What makes you think your time is any more valuable than mine, you arrogant prick? Why should I have to wait at a crosswalk for your Hummer to go whizzing by? Why not the other way around? I’m more important than you are! Pay your gambling debt, thief.

  11. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 How about “Spendy Transportation”? If you think cars are expensive, they cost only a fraction of what light rail will cost on a per-rider basis.

  12. 15

    Mark The Redneck-Rabbit spews:

    Rabbit 13 – I’m what’s called a “Producer”. You are what’s called a “Taker”. I pay the fucking bills. Therefore, I get to make the rules.


  13. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Frankly, I’m more worried about Brazilians cutting down the Amazon rain forest to grow crops for making ethanol than I am about auto pollution in Seattle. The latter is a problem, too, but not nearly as great a threat to the planet as the conversion of tropical rainforests into cropland, which is occurring at a breakneck rate. In Indonesia, they burn the forests to clear land, and the smoke covers a third of the globe.

  14. 17


    Roger Rabbit,

    Then why don’t “senior citizens” oppose road projects that will be finished beyond their lifetimes?

    Everyone complains about the cost of transit, then assumes highways are free.

  15. 18

    mark spews:

    The answer is more pavement and more diesel. And not
    ULSD. Regular old fashioned diesel the way God made it.

  16. 19

    Mark The Redneck-Rabbit spews:

    Just wondering… how many of you support I-985 to actually start fixing road congestion.

    We seems to be in agreement that Sound Transit is NOT the answer.

  17. 21

    FSM spews:

    If these anti-rails IDIOTS had their way (thank god they usually don’t) New York city would never have built rail and it would take 5 hours to drive 3 blocks. NY is an ‘extreme’ example of density of course, we’re at the other end, but only getting more populated over time. At ‘some point’ we’ll have to build that first line. If you think it will honestly be cheaper in 25 years, that’s your opinion, but you’re nuts! We already had this debate in the 60’s…now you folks want to just push it off again for another 25 years. Ugh!

    1. The very ‘first mile’ is the most expensive, because you’re creating entire agencies, service yards and facilities, and so forth from scratch. But these facilities will be ‘reused’ if you build a new line (say West Seattle). That won’t involve having to build a transit agency and rail yard and maintenance facility all over again.

    2. But the Capital Hill (2nd line) will cost MORE!? Yes…but that’s tunneling, which is always more expensive. Welcome to living in a land with hills idiots. Unless you have some way to bend physics, this will ALWAYS be true. So your argument is to NEVER build rail anytime from now to 1000 years from now because we have hills? Sure it’s easier to build if you leave on a vast flat plane surrounded by endless flat land like Chicago, where they just eat through corn fields to build more ‘city’. We can’t do that. Get over it.

    3. If anyone can show that they have a buddy contractor who could tunnel through Beacon Hill or Capital hill for a 1/4 of the cost we’re paying now, PLEASE speak up or shut the fuck up.

    Look, at some point we WILL have to build mass transit, no major city can survive without it. Take it away for a few days from Chicago, London or NY and see what happens. Seattle is just growing up to the point of needing, so it’s of course a ‘debate’. The only real debate should be HOW to pay for it. I agree it should be targeted at those who use it more than a general tax.

  18. 22

    ArtFart spews:

    Rail (or any sort of transit that doesn’t just share the same thoroughfare as the lemmings in their cars) is a difficult but not impossible proposition in an area that already suffers from multi-directional urban sprawl. In some of the older eastern cities such as Chicago and New York, the trains were there first, and thus development happened along the existing transit routes. (Witness the string of suburbs extending nearly 100 miles west along the “Chicago Nort’ Western”.)

    Here, we have a sort of double whammy–we have sprawl in all directions, but right in the densest part of it, it’s all split down the middle by a large body of water–split twice, in fact, if you want to consider the Kitsap Peninsula to be part of the whole mess. This seems to make the provision of rail transit between Seattle and the Eastside an impossibly expensive proposition, even though providing multi-lane bridges for hundreds of thousands of single-occupant cars actually costs even more.

    It remains, though, that it ain’t impossible. Witness Los Angeles–LOS ANGELES for Chrissakes! The car capitol of the universe–, Vancouver, Portland and a lot of other “young” metropoli putting in extensive rail networks “after the fact”–heavily used, and highly effective.

    Meanwhile our “leadership” twiddles its collective thumbs and listens to the likes of Kemper Freeman and the Discovery Institute.

  19. 23

    ArtFart spews:

    I really think Sound Transit and CT up north are more on the right track than Metro in terms of equipment, at least for longer routes serving the ‘burbs. Their buses are a little fancier, with high-back, reclining seats and more sound insulation. Maybe the eventual solution here will be that when gas costs $25 a gallon and Mark the Numbskull’s wife has turned his SUV into a planter, we’ll be able to use all the nearly-empty freeways to run luxury first-class buses like they do in Mexico, complete with “in-flight” movies and cocktail service. If there are a few die-hards who still want to pass something like that up and spend every dime they earn driving by themselves–well, let ‘em go ahead and suffer.

  20. 24


    I yelled out loud YES! when I read Mark the Patriot’s comment, “You left out the most important reason. My time is really valuable.”

    The design of surface arterials imposes delay due to red lights. If downtowns had split levels, there would be no red lights and traffic would flow smooth and fast. This will never happen with todays pickups and SUVs, let alone trucks over 12 feet high.

    Today’s roads with 10 and 12 foot wide lanes, 15 foot heights, etc. occupy our rights-of-way and preempt any progress. They prevent a viable transportation system of much smaller vehicles. We are needlessly arguing with each other, like cats tied over a clothesline. It’s time to reclaim a 5×5 right of way, so that 100 years from now, traffic signals will be a forgotten memory.

  21. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 More wingnut bullshit. What proof do you have that every other driver on the road isn’t paying exactly the same gas taxes you are? Our trolls get sillier every day.

  22. 26

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @15 “Rabbit 13 – I’m what’s called a ‘Producer’. You are what’s called a ‘Taker’. I pay the fucking bills. Therefore, I get to make the rules. Understand?”

    I produce capital. You’re just a fucking laborer. Our system worships Owners and despises Workers, so you can bend down and kiss my bunny ass as soon as you’re ready. Meanwhile, pay your gambling debt, loser.

  23. 28

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @17 “Roger Rabbit, Then why don’t ‘senior citizens’ oppose road projects that will be finished beyond their lifetimes?”

    Because nobody’s try to grab our food money to pay for roads. If you drive, you pay gas taxes; if you don’t drive, you don’t pay for roads.

    “Everyone complains about the cost of transit, then assumes highways are free.”

    Find me one person who thinks highways are “free.” I dare you. The difference is, people who use roads pay for them. Even 80% of the cost of state ferries is paid by ferry riders. What light rail proponents want is massive subsidies from taxpayers. They want to pay for ir complete abandonment of all restraint with regard to the runaway costs of the light rail system. In this case, OPM means, in part, MY money — money I need to subsist on — and my response is you can’t have that money. You will NOT get my vote for light rail by demanding that I fork it over. You MIGHT get my vote for light rail by coming up with a reasonable design, cost, construction schedule, and financing plan. Until you do, I’m a “no” vote and there’s nothing further to discuss. Comprende?

  24. 30

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    It’s unfair to make senior citizens who don’t drive pay for roads or ferries. For starters, they paid plenty of road taxes over their lifetimes; they paid their own way when they were driving, and did their share to build up the state’s infrastructure. They’ve also paid (and continue to pay) the 0.5% sales tax Now that they’re not driving anymore, and have other expenses to worry about, it’s not fair to expect them to pay for transportation at the same level that commuters do. They’ve paid their dues, and have earned the right to spend their Social Security checks on food, medicine, doctor bills, and other things they need to live. The sales tax is the wrong tax for this. I have no problem whatsoever with raising gas taxes to pay for light rail. In fact, I support this idea, because it will have the beneficial effect of discouraging driving and encouraging use of mass transit alternatives. Those alternatives do work for some people, primarily those working in downtown offices on a regular schedule. Mass transit doesn’t work for route salesmen, tradesmen who have to transport tools and materials to job sites, or people who work outside the downtown transportation corridor — you can’t get from Ballard to Lake City by bus on any reasonable schedule, and you won’t be able to make that trip by light rail at all. Despite the limitations of public transportation, it serves a useful role in overall urban transportation planning. However, it’s absurd to think you can get everyone out of their cars by throwing oceans of money at light rail. Even if light rail is built, over 90% of the region’s commuters will still drive — because they have to, and light rail won’t change that.

  25. 32

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @18 No, that’s NOT the answer, because you can never build enough car/truck lanes and we don’t have adequate supplies of diesel.

  26. 34

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @19 Maybe you’d like to explain where Timmy Lieman is going to get the $120 million a year of new state spending without raising taxes.

  27. 35

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @19 From more red light cameras? Timmy wants to take ALL the revenue from red light cameras for his initiative. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea in and of itself, but the problem is some municipalities are already becoming addicted to red light camera revenue for general expenses, and apart from the fact they’re not going to give up that revenue without a fight, Timmy’s initiative serves to create another financial pressure on municipalities. And you should be able to see where that leads: More red light cameras, more cops writing tickets, and pretty soon they start ticketing the wrong drivers because they’ve gotten addicted to the traffic-fine revenue stream.

  28. 36

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Here’s the problem. I saw a Lynnwood official on TV the other day decrying the fact drivers are running fewer red lights, because this means the city’s revenue from its red light cameras are declining. He was talking about the financial problem this is creating from the city. He didn’t come right out and say the city wants more people to run red lights because the city needs the money, but that’s what he said between the lines in so many words. What kind of fucked-up thinking is this? The whole point of the cameras should be to get people to stop running red lights to making driving safer for everyone, and if the cameras are effective to make more drivers obey traffic signals, that’s good, not bad. That’s what you want. What you don’t want is city officials getting addicted to the revenue from the traffic camera fines and so dependent on it that they start playing “gotcha” games with motorists all over the city to squeeze money out of drivers because they need the money. That’s extortion, and it’s bad. We don’t want city officials doing that.

  29. 37

    ArtFart spews:

    15 Yeah, right, you’re a “producer”…with “Springtime for Hitler” playing in your head 24 by 7.

  30. 38

    ArtFart spews:

    The real problem, vis-a-vis “who pays for it”, is that the first major chunk of our freeway system was originally built on Uncle Fed’s dime, justified by the stated need for a “robust system of highways for military transportation”. Trouble is, Detroit was more than happy to sell everyone enough cars to cover every square inch of that concrete, and the precursors to the present-day BIAW were willing, able and eager to buy up all the cow pastures, swamps and old gravel pits along those highways within a 50-mile radius of every major city, build houses and sell them to Mr. and Mrs. America. Unfortunately, the genie that got out of the bottle back then is still with us, and boy, oh boy is he hungry.

  31. 39

    YellowPup spews:

    Mark the Redneck’s time is so valuable. Don’t you see that his comments on HA can’t just write themselves?

  32. 40

    Sam Adams spews:

    All of you who use cities back east, saying “well they have it” when talking about transit:


    Did that hurt your fellings? Ok, then go to bed without supper.

    Cities laid out in a grid on reletively flat ground with no lakes that have been growning and developing for hundreds of years BEFORE Seattle just do not compare.

    Face it: Transit issues are ALL about $$$ and power NOT relieving conjestion or moving people efficiently.

  33. 41

    ArtFart spews:

    40 I believe I was the one who mentioned eastern cities. If you’d had the attention span to read the rest of what I posted, you’d have seen that I also referred to Los Angeles, Portland and Vancouver. I forgot to mention San Francisco.

    Go back to sitting in traffic with your gearshift in one hand and your teeny weeny crank in the other.

  34. 42

    Tommy Thompson spews:

    @15 – Redneck the dickwad – all you can produce is a fart. You and Puddy should get together and light farts together.

  35. 43

    Mr. Rcguy spews:

    Hey Will ,, glad you put in “rather when…..”. If I choose to ride the bus from my residence my commute is 4+hrs (roundtrip) along with multiple transfers. And that is the best case scenario. It’s a huge jump if just one bus gets caught in traffic and I can’t make a transfer.

    Carpooling on the other hand is 3hrs (roundtrip) almost every single time with multiple routes to choose from if one is slow or blocked. Not so with a bus route.

    And while I agree sitting on a train would be nice what’s the actual cost in carbon when you take into account that which is produced to provide the subsidies that light rail needs in order to exist? I know the dollar amount per rider subsidy for ST/Sounder is exorbinant. I want to say I remember $60,000 per rider per year but I haven’t looked it up for a while. Where is that money coming from?

  36. 44

    johnj spews:

    Folks may not ride transit primarily because of the environment, but plenty vote based on the environment.

  37. 45

    scotto spews:

    Oh, there’s no doubt at all that most people make their choices based on cost and convenience. This is not a brainstorm.

    But Andrew @2, Johnj @45 has it right. You’ve gotta convince people who might be willing to pay for light rail to do so. Nothing here refutes the Sierra Club’s and subsequent polls, which strongly suggested that tying roads to transit killed Prop 1. If you cannot understand this, you need to to go back to 7th grade math, where they taught basic set theory — those circle-ly Venn diagram thingies.

  38. 46

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @33 “I’ll take public transportation when it’s cheaper than driving.”

    Public transportation is always cheaper than driving when you can make someone else pay for it.

    This is a false argument, though, for the simple reason that most expenses of car ownership are fixed and most people who ride public transportation also own cars. They have to, because you can barely function in our car-dependent society without one. The only costs of car ownership that vary with mileage are gas and maintenance, which are a relatively small percentage of the total costs of owning a car. Thus, most people can’t escape most car costs by riding public transportation.

    Because most people who ride public transportation incur car ownership expenses, taxes for public transportation are in addition to, not a cheaper alternative to, the costs of owning a car. This fact creates a great deal of public resistance to higher taxes for public transportation, because for most family budgets, it’s an added expenses — not a way to avoid car ownership costs or reduce expenses.

  39. 47

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @38 Yes, but didn’t those federal dimes come from federal gas taxes? In which case, it was paid for by drivers.

  40. 48

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @39 Of course his time is valuable (he’s busy figuring out ways to abscond on his debts). That’s why he keeps reposting the same old shit over and over.

  41. 49

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @40 Disregarding your crummy spelling, transit is in fact about moving people efficiently. Transit IS more efficient in terms of space for right-of-way and fuel consumption; transit does pollute less than cars; and it IS a partially effective way to address traffic congestion (because you’ll never be able to build your way out of congestion). Seattle needs more transit; the only proof you need of that is to look at the traffic flow in this town on any weekday and observe the standing-room-only crowds on the commuter buses. The argument is NOT over whether Seattle should have more transit; it’s over methods, costs, and who pays.

  42. 50

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @43 So what? Your party’s ideas (and ideologues) are fixed and inflexible too, and look where that got us. At least light rail gets you somewhere. Is it the best transit choice? No, probably not in this town. And your party isn’t the best choice for governance anywhere. That damned “fixed and inflexible” crap will get you every time.

  43. 51

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @44 I rough-figured the capital costs of a ride on ST’s light rail at about $25 to $30, not including operating costs. And fares usually don’t cover operating costs. So, if the subsidies were, say, $30 per ride then a daily commuter would be subsidized to the tune of $15,000 per year (2 rides x 5 days x 50 weeks x $30).

  44. 52


    @ 45

    Yes, excellent point. But voting on the ballot and voting with one’s commute are different things. I know lots of enviros who vote for green candidates, but think that riding mass transit is for peasants.

  45. 54


    Cities laid out in a grid on reletively flat ground with no lakes that have been growning and developing for hundreds of years BEFORE Seattle just do not compare.

    Yep, just flat empty land with no water in Boston, or NYC, or DC, or Chicago…what’s that the author was just talking out his ass and making shit up? That explains a lot.

  46. 56

    JB spews:

    No one seems to want to mention that even in the “old” cities that have grown up around public transit, the taxpayers contribute millions to the minority who ride. The construction messes and inflexibility of rail transit in the “newer” cities merely subtracts many millions from the taxpayer’s pockets for no purpose whatever. Well, except the larger the project the more money ends up in the politician’s pockets. Liberal voters are so stupid.

  47. 57

    ljm spews:

    So, with all these problems in Seattle, WHY do we have a full size city bus with a nearly hourly run, from Lacey to Yelm with maybe three or four people??? often totally empty. That hardly saves anyone money, uses lots of fossil fuels and blocks traffic views in a small two lane higheway. Totally tax paid. A few people do use this bus, but could easily be accomodated with a small van. Common sense is not in common use.

  48. 59

    Sackett spews:

    Seattle ain’t New York, and Seattle ain’t Paris.

    Maybe light rail works real well for those cites but it doesn’t fit in here in Greater Seattle because we have a series of small commercial districts rather than a few large ones.

    I support mass transit, but lets go with what works: Buses. We have a great bus system- let’s focus on that. Spend our money on something that works for Seattle instead of trying to recreate some other city’s transit system here.

  49. 60


    @ 59

    New York City doesn’t not have light rail. They have what is referred to as “heavy rail”, a system that is powered by a “third rail.”

    Paris, too.

  50. 61

    ljm spews:

    A van costs the same to run as a full size bus???
    What costs are those??? salary? fuel? initial cost of vehicle? paper work for the secretaries???? Insurance? Maybe if IT could sell the empty bus to Seattle….
    But I’ve talked to dreamers who want Yelm to take the bus. “It works in Europe”. Fat chance. Tenino, too. Hey, let’s solve Seattle!!

  51. 62

    Mr. Rcguy spews:

    My party? I have no party. And I’m a mass transit proponent. Just smart mass transit.

  52. 63


    Have you ever whizzed by a mom standing at a bus stop with a kid in the stroller and trying to hold on to both a 3 year old and a giant red and white Target bag full of dish towels with the other so the kid doesn’t run into the cars, while it is pouring down rain and the wind blowing, and the bus is late or has skipped a route.

    Are you telling me that that mom thinks “mass transit” is a blessing?

    Or how about me, taking a bus from Kent to Seattle to the Key Arena to see the Sonics, and then hoping that I manage to catch one of the 16 or 4s that will get me back to the last 150 that still connects with the last 169 going up Kent East Hill? Is that “stress free”?

    Green? Ask the guy in the brand new subcompact, stuck behind a bus belching diesel fumes and stopping and stalling traffic every 2 blocks.