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Old March 30th, 2008, 12:25 AM   #241
TRZ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_christine View Post
Central Link Light Rail - Original Promise to the Voters in 1996
$1.7 billion / 25 miles = $68 million/mile

Central Link Light Rail - Present Estimated Cost
$4.44 billion / 19 miles = $234 million/mile

The actual cost of the project has proven to be about two and a half times what was originally promised to the voters. In addition, it is about 10 years behind schedule.
That's pretty outrageous there. It states 2.5 times the cost, that's total, it is even worse when taken from the per-mile context, which is closer to 3.333 times.
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Old March 30th, 2008, 02:03 AM   #242
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For that kind of money, Seattle could have simply built themselves a subway.

EDIT: Seeming how they can not seem to get things done, a subway there would have probably costed $500+ million
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Old March 31st, 2008, 05:55 AM   #243
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greg_christine likes to massage the numbers to attack light rail. Pay him little attention.

He talks about the monorail going to ballot in 2002, but ignores Initiative 53 in 2000, which actually funded the project with $200 million. The monorail project expected the rest to come from farebox recovery and advertising. There was more history than that, of course, with the initial vote for a study coming in 1997.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/mono191.shtml

Sound Transit and Seattle Monorail Project both underprojected costs and were also hit hard by construction cost inflation, but Sound Transit was realistic to begin with, and the SMP was not.

A subway would be ridiculously expensive. Tunneling costs hundreds of millions a mile - it's mostly the tunneling that drives up the average per-mile cost for Link Light Rail construction. The monorail was entirely elevated - Link's costs for elevated sections are comparable with what monorail would have cost.

Last edited by UrbanBen; March 31st, 2008 at 06:05 AM.
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Old March 31st, 2008, 06:03 AM   #244
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Originally Posted by TRZ View Post
That's pretty outrageous there. It states 2.5 times the cost, that's total, it is even worse when taken from the per-mile context, which is closer to 3.333 times.
Adjust for 13 years of inflation - 1.7 billion was in 1995 dollars. With construction cost inflation being in excess of 10 percent for the last several years, the original cost projections are around 3.5 billion in today's dollars, and the actual cost is about 4.4 billion.

I could pick this apart further - like pointing out that his 1.7 billion number was explicitly for 21 miles, not 25. The 1.7 also doesn't include the 500 million Central Link grant and the 750 million University Link grant from the FTA - grants that were expected from the beginning and specifically not built into the 1.7 billion number. The 4.4 billion does include those grants, which don't come out of local taxes. As I've said in the past, greg_christine is a master of long posts with outrageously misleading numbers. He's very anti-rail.

Last edited by UrbanBen; March 31st, 2008 at 06:10 AM.
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Old April 1st, 2008, 02:34 AM   #245
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There have been several votes in Seattle concerning both monorail plans and plans for conventional rail. The following is a brief history:

Conventional Rail Plans

1958 - Voters reject transit plan.
1962 - Voters reject transit plan.
1968 - Voters reject transit plan.
1970 - Voters reject transit plan.
1988 - Voters endorse planning for rail transit.
1995 - Voters reject regional transit plan with rail component.
1996 - Voters approve Sound Move 10-year plan with taxes for the University-to-Airport Central Link light rail line plus commuter rail and buses.
2007 - Voters reject plan that would have added 50 miles of light rail lines.

Monorail Plans

1997 - Voters approve an unrealistic and unfunded 40-mile monorail plan, which was terminated by the city council in 1999.
2000 - Voters approve $6 million monorail study.
2002 - Voters approve Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (A.K.A. Seattle Monorail Project) with taxes for the 14-mile Green Line monorail.
2004 - Voters reject an attempt to terminate the monorail project.
2005 - With the monorail 20% over-budget and 20% under-funded, voters reject a plan for a truncated monorail line, which terminates the project.

Sound Transit is debating plans for another vote to expand the light rail system. The vote could possibly happen as early as the fall of 2008. The mayor of Seattle, who forced the 2005 vote that terminated the Seattle Monorail Project, now presides over the Sound Transit board. This highlights the importance of getting the big political egos onboard for any major public works project. The Seattle Monorail Project board was made up of political outsiders with the result that the project was revoted until it was killed. The Sound Transit board features local elected officials with the result that Sound Transit's projects get revoted until they pass.
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Old April 1st, 2008, 03:10 AM   #246
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UrbanBen View Post
greg_christine likes to massage the numbers to attack light rail...
I'm actually very much pro-rail, but I do criticize rail projects that I think are screwed up. UrbanBen thinks that I "massage the numbers", so I'll use his numbers instead of my own to show how bad transit planning has been in Seattle.

Regarding the cost of the Central Link light rail project, the original plan stated $1.7 billion. UrbanBen claims that this is actually $3.5 billion in today's dollars. I will accept this for arguments sake. We agree that the actual cost estimate to complete the line is now $4.4 billion. So the current estimate of the overrun is:

Central Link Light Rail
$4.4 billion/$3.5 billion = 1.26 (26% Overrun)

The Seattle Monorail Project stated the total project cost to build the Green Line as $1.75 billion in the campaign literature for the vote that funded the project. At the time that the project was terminated, they had unsigned fixed-price contracts that would have brought the total project cost to $2.016 billion:

Seattle Monorail Project
$2.016 billion/$1.75 billion = 1.15 (15% Overrun)

So, even if you accept UrbanBen's claims regarding the cost of the Central Link light rail system, it still has a bigger cost overrun than the Seattle Monorail Project.

Regarding the length of the Central Link light rail line, UrbanBen states that the promise to the voters was 21 miles, not 25 miles. For arguments sake, I will accept that the campaign literature was confused on this issue and that perhaps 25 miles was mentioned as a best case scenario and that Sound Transit never intended to promise a line longer than 21 miles. I will also note that the airport-to-university route that is presently planned is 19 miles in length. Two miles of the route has disappeared. Part of this is due to the location of the university station. The original intent was to serve the university district beyond the University of Washington campus. The current plan features the terminus at the southern corner of the University of Washington campus. It will be convenient to the football stadium and medical center but a long walk from residences and businesses in the university district.

UrbanBen has not disputed that the estimated completion date for the university-to-airport line now stands at 2016. The Sound Move plan that was presented to the voters in 1996 was described as a 10-year plan. The actual completion date for the Central Link university-to-airport light rail line will be 20 years after the vote. This was the principal change that allowed the line to be built following the realization that the cost estimates had been so wrong. Sound Transit collected taxes for nearly ten years before beginning construction of the light rail line.
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Old April 1st, 2008, 08:07 PM   #247
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Did you totally fail to read the articles I linked to? There are at least three problems (looking at it for ten seconds) with your last post. Let's see if you can find them - I already pointed them out. I'm tired of doing all the work to explain your numbers.

I have had all of these discussions with you in the Seattle Light Rail thread already, months ago - and yet, you pretend it's the first time, like things are new to you, and you're reasonable. For argument's sake, you'll accept that the campaign literature was confused? Again, read the articles I just linked to - the Seattle Times and P-I weren't confused. 25 miles was the maximum length, and assumed huge FTA grants. Those grants were not available after the Clinton administration.

Last edited by UrbanBen; April 1st, 2008 at 08:18 PM.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 03:47 AM   #248
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UrbanBen, please read your own posts. If you do, you will see that your own numbers indicate a higher cost overrun for the Central Link light rail line than for the Green Line monorail and that Sound Transit promised the voters at least 21 miles of light rail but will deliver a line that is two miles shorter and ten years behind schedule. Please also note that you have posted a link to an article that discusses one of the earlier monorail votes. It was the 2002 election that established the taxes to fund the Green Line monorail and set the parameters under which it was to be constructed:

http://www.historylink.org/essays/ou...m?file_id=2524
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 09:37 AM   #249
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So, you dispute that the monorail agency promised a line with a $200 million cost to local taxpayers in 2000?
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 02:14 PM   #250
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UrbanBen, do you dispute that the voters approved a $1.75 billion monorail plan in 2002?

The voters approved a detailed monorail plan in 2002 that established the taxes to fund the Green Line monorail and defined the route and several other parameters for the construction of the system. One of the requirements of the ballot measure was that there would be a revote if the plan could not be executed as originally planned. This was a reaction to what had happened with the Central Link light rail line.

The 1996 Sound Move ballot measure that created Sound Transit featured weasel words that allowed Sound Transit to unilaterally change the plan without going back to the voters. As a result, there was never a revote when the Central Link light rail line went vastly over-budget. Sound Transit was able to shorten the route and delay the completion of the line to the university for ten years without having a revote. I believe this is one of the reasons that the recent "Roads and Transit" ballot measure failed. A lot of people just don't trust Sound Transit.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 06:02 PM   #251
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Allow me to try and simplify this number game:

Quote:
Originally Posted by UrbanBen View Post
A subway would be ridiculously expensive. Tunneling costs hundreds of millions a mile - it's mostly the tunneling that drives up the average per-mile cost for Link Light Rail construction. The monorail was entirely elevated - Link's costs for elevated sections are comparable with what monorail would have cost.
So with the monorail, through the most dense areas (where mass transit should always focus on) the monorail would be elevated while the LRT would be tunneled. Therefore, the monorail would be the cheaper option through downtown Seattle.

Through the suburbs, the monorail would still be elevated while the LRT would be at grade, presumably with its own ROW and traffic light priorities where space permits. So in the suburbs, light rail would be cheaper. However, with the premium that the monorail would cost, you would also get the benefit of grade separated transit. This would mean no unnecessary stopping due to traffic lights and virtually no train-auto accidents (though in theory, a moron could always plow into a pylon).

On a whole, both have their pros and cons, but I feel monorail would have been the better value. The best solution though would to have monorail through downtown Seattle, and then connect to LRT in the suburbs.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 09:04 PM   #252
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Electrify View Post
So with the monorail, through the most dense areas (where mass transit should always focus on) the monorail would be elevated while the LRT would be tunneled. Therefore, the monorail would be the cheaper option through downtown Seattle.

Through the suburbs, the monorail would still be elevated while the LRT would be at grade, presumably with its own ROW and traffic light priorities where space permits. So in the suburbs, light rail would be cheaper. However, with the premium that the monorail would cost, you would also get the benefit of grade separated transit. This would mean no unnecessary stopping due to traffic lights and virtually no train-auto accidents (though in theory, a moron could always plow into a pylon).

On a whole, both have their pros and cons, but I feel monorail would have been the better value. The best solution though would to have monorail through downtown Seattle, and then connect to LRT in the suburbs.
Well said and I completely agree. I was very disappointed (even though it doesn't affect me anyway) when Seattle rejected monorail over light rail. And the fact that their light rail system right now is mostly grade-seperated anyway!!!!
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 02:24 AM   #253
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i don't know whats with that yes and no voting thing i think it should go for yes.

Seatle doesn't have their minds straight they yes on one thing and no to that same thing.

why they should expand the light rail system it will be better then later on.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 06:59 AM   #254
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Electrify View Post
Allow me to try and simplify this number game:



So with the monorail, through the most dense areas (where mass transit should always focus on) the monorail would be elevated while the LRT would be tunneled. Therefore, the monorail would be the cheaper option through downtown Seattle.

Through the suburbs, the monorail would still be elevated while the LRT would be at grade, presumably with its own ROW and traffic light priorities where space permits. So in the suburbs, light rail would be cheaper. However, with the premium that the monorail would cost, you would also get the benefit of grade separated transit. This would mean no unnecessary stopping due to traffic lights and virtually no train-auto accidents (though in theory, a moron could always plow into a pylon).

On a whole, both have their pros and cons, but I feel monorail would have been the better value. The best solution though would to have monorail through downtown Seattle, and then connect to LRT in the suburbs.
You think the best solution would be a transfer? No planner would suggest that. Even Vancouver BC is building Evergreen Line as a skytrain extension (it sounds like) rather than force a connection to LRT.

Don't assume that Link light rail would be at-grade through the suburbs. Sound Transit plans for elevated + at-grade (but separated, like the sections next to 599 and 5 in Tukwila), fully grade separated. The only reason the Rainier Valley is at-grade is the planning failure and construction cost inflation that almost lost us the project.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 02:21 PM   #255
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I believe that Sound Transit developed cost estimates for the future extensions of Central Link to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond based on the assumption that they would be mostly elevated; however, I wouldn't necessarily have recommended monorail for the route. Given the distances involved, I would have favored a higher speed heavy rail metro similar to BART or the Washington Metro. In my experience, there is a significant psychological advantage in being faster than the motor vehicle traffic on adjacent highways. I experienced this most memorably on a recent trip to Baltimore, which has both light rail and a metro. Both have segments alongside highways. On the metro, there was a feeling of elation as the train began to overtake highway traffic even if this only lasted briefly as the train began to slow for the next station. On the light rail line, I found myself making "Giddy-Up" motions in my seat as the train was steadily overtaken by highway traffic.

This is what I find most irksome about Central Link. The cost over-runs for Central Link are in the past (I hope!); however, the fact remains that it is light rail. The way the system is designed, it is as though Sound Transit started with the intent to build a light rail line but then changed their minds and tried to morph it into a heavy rail metro.

For the Ballard-downtown-West Seattle route, I thought monorail was an excellent choice. I do not believe that they will be able to build a light rail line cost effectively unless they make it a streetcar line, which would be hopelessly slow. During the 2005 election that terminated the monorail project, opponents of the monorail implied that a plan would soon be developed to serve the route with light rail. No such plan has emerged.

UrbanBen, I have to comment on the title below your forum name, "the transit nazi". I am not sure many of the forum members get the joke. (I assume it is a joke!) A person with a name like Ben Schiendelman doesn't usually aspire to be a Nazi.
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Old April 4th, 2008, 12:42 PM   #256
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I'm glad someone else saw Seinfeld!

I think Sound Transit knew all along that we needed heavy rail - but we shot it down. They came back to ballot with light rail because they figured (apparently correctly) that we would swallow that, but they've worked every step of the way to maximize future capacity within the constraints of the vote (and of their tax recovery). They can't justify the cost of a 75mph line, but they can at least build long stations.

I'm not relying on Sound Transit to build fast intercity rail - I know we need it, but they really just don't have the tax base to do it. I think the best way to get there is to build Everett-Tacoma and Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond light rail (and whatever else comes at the same time), improve Sounder service, and watch Cascades ridership go up to the point where the state legislature can reasonably talk about the Amtrak Cascades upgrade projects.

It really is the tax base that's the limiting factor. There is nothing you or I can do about that, so why let the perfect become the enemy of the good? We can always retrofit the lines later to go another 20mph in straight sections.

Just in terms of West Seattle-Ballard, once people have ridden Link, they will become more likely to vote for a citywide agency to build in those corridors. If we're patient and we wait for Sound Transit 3, the North King subarea will probably pay for those projects anyway, as the mainline will be built out. Those are the next logical places for Sound Transit to build.
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Old April 5th, 2008, 08:32 AM   #257
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Quote:
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You think the best solution would be a transfer? No planner would suggest that. Even Vancouver BC is building Evergreen Line as a skytrain extension (it sounds like) rather than force a connection to LRT.

Don't assume that Link light rail would be at-grade through the suburbs. Sound Transit plans for elevated + at-grade (but separated, like the sections next to 599 and 5 in Tukwila), fully grade separated. The only reason the Rainier Valley is at-grade is the planning failure and construction cost inflation that almost lost us the project.
Transfers are not that bad, as long as they are not cheap extensions of a certain line. An example of this the connection between the subway and the Scarborough RT in Toronto. Basically all it is, is a cheap extension of the subway line into north Scarborough, with a few stops in the middle of nowhere. Ultimately most passengers on the line will have to transfer on to another bus once they reach the Scarborough Town Center station. Even worse, there is nothing of significant interest at the transfer station, thus reinforcing the idea that it is a needless transfer. The best solution would have been to create some kind of busway, allowing the bus routes that serve that region fast access to the subway, eliminating a needless transfer.

With that said, looking at a map of Seattle, I'd say it would be quite easy to have light rail and heavy monorail coexist in the same metro area. Below is a rough map I've drawn up of how it would work:



Red would be heavy monorail (two lines: north/south and west/east), while blue would be light rail. While transferring may be necessary depending on your destination, it is clear that you would take the monorail when traveling the inner city and the light rail when traveling around the city and suburbs.
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Old April 5th, 2008, 02:56 PM   #258
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Isn't it kind of pointless to talk about monorail through the main corridor when we're already building there? I mean: http://soundtransit2.com - this is just a matter of time.

Also, that BNSF corridor misses downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, and Bothell. It'd be a huge waste of money.
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Old April 5th, 2008, 08:02 PM   #259
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Quote:
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Isn't it kind of pointless to talk about monorail through the main corridor when we're already building there? I mean: http://soundtransit2.com - this is just a matter of time.

Also, that BNSF corridor misses downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, and Bothell. It'd be a huge waste of money.
It was a rough fantasy map just to show how LRT and monorail could both serve the needs of Seattle. Monorail through the main corridors would in theory be cheaper and more efficient, because tunneling would be unnecessary and trains could hold up to 1000 people. LRT through the suburbs would be better because it could be built at grade with virtually full traffic signal priorities, and there would be less need for ultra high capacity trains.
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Old April 5th, 2008, 11:15 PM   #260
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Sure, actually, the Sound Transit long range plan does show light rail (although grade separated) in the 405 corridor, Lynnwood-Bothell-Kirkland-Bellevue-Renton-Tukwila-Burien.
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