About Smarter Transit
Smarter Transit is an all-volunteer, pro-transit, non-partisan, non-profit citizens’ organization. Our mission is to support and advocate for accountable public transportation governance and investments that grow transit, vanpool, carpool ridership, and safe bike and walking routes throughout the Puget Sound region in the most cost-effective way.
Smarter Transit builds on the work of CETA, The Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives started in 2001. With new people, a new website and new information we can reach more people and work together to educate ourselves and others about better transportation options in our Region.
Additional information at these three great companion sites:
Sound Transit Revealed – Mark Ahlers, an engineer and transit guru wades into the weeds of transit data so you don’t have to
Smarter Transit Facebook Page – New articles everyday
Help us get our message out! Donation form at bottom of page and Contact form on menu if you’d like to join the team!
Sound Transit Revealed
Mark Ahlers is scientist/engineer, a transit researcher and fact checker for smartertransit.org. He has tracked the public transit industry for the past 30 years and traveled worldwide to experience the operations of award winning public transit systems.
His website, Sound Transit Revealed, is focused on presenting facts and data about Sound Transit Light Rail performance.
Smarter Transit - Facebook
Keep up with the very latest news and developments about smarter transit alternatives (including bus rapid transit) and information about Sound Transit 3 and light rail at our Facebook page.
We’ll keep you informed, and provide links to great articles and resources. And make sure to like and follow us!
What We’re Working For
We Can Go Faster, Farther, Sooner and Safer By Building on What Works Best For Our Region
- Invest in a high capacity, affordable, rapid bus system that covers the whole Region within years instead of inflexible, expensive and limited capacity light rail lines that reach a fraction of the Region in decades.
- Finish the HOV system and commit to policies that keep it functioning at 45 mph 90 percent of the time.
- Realize the extraordinary potential of carpool and vanpool programs.
- Recognize that new technologies will change the way we get around making it even more critical to have the flexibility to upgrade and change as we need.
- Maintain our existing roads and bridges and fix the choke points that lead to congestion.
- Spend money on the simple sidewalk, safe crosswalk and bike path. These make communities truly livable and walkable.
- Start with the question, What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? Identify real goals and performance measures and allow objective analysis of the alternatives.
- Put directly elected people in charge instead of unelected boards who have no accountability and often a conflict of interest.
Even Former FTA Administrator Advocated for Expanding Bus Rapid Transit type Service over Expensive Rail …at one time.
In a speech about the future of transit in 2010, Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Agency said:
“Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don’t want to hear.
Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even the 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.”
In 2016, Peter Rogoff took over as CEO of Sound Transit and “is excited by big light rail expansion plans.”
In 2010 Administrator Peter Remarks at the Boston Reserve Bank – Next Stop: A National Summit on the Future of Transit (SOGR)
Federal Transit Administration
In 2016 Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff excited by big light-rail expansion plans
Seattle Times 3.24.16
Additional Information and Resources
Modeling has shown for decades that fixed light rail lines do not dictate where the great majority of people decide to live. It’s confirmed again in this recent study
Does Light Rail Really Encourage People to Stop Driving? No, but it does pull them off buses, if a new study of British systems is any indicator.
Have Light Rail Systems Been Worth the Investment?
Does Light Rail Really Encourage People to Stop Driving? No, but it does pull them off buses. Does Light Rail Really Encourage People to Stop Driving? No, but it does pull them off buses, if a new study of British systems is any indicator.
Expedia moves to Seattle – An example of how businesses go where they want to go, not where the “Plans” tell them to go.
Expedia Moves to Seattle
84% of Portland’s regional trips still by car
Despite bike and transit gains, 84 percent of Portland region’s trips still by car: Metro study
Transit Riders Union concerned about a two class transit system
Hawaii struggles to keep rail project from becoming a boondoggle
Billions Spent but fewer people using public transportation in Southern California
Sound Transit Revealed: More detail about light rail and bus rapid transit
Transportation Matters – Troy Serad has a passion for transit, especially trains that make sense, does not own a car, but the most important thing is that, like Mark Ahlers, his information is based on facts and careful research. His background is in urban planning, rail planning, accounting and cartography. https://transportationmatters.wordpress.com
What is Bus Rapid Transit – BRT?
Great website that works with cities around the world on transportation issues including Bus Rapid Transit.
Bus Rapid Transit Institute – National data and info
CETA Archives, Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives
Here is the link to Sound Transit 2016 Budget. Pages 15 & 22 summarizes the amount of department budgets and staff.
Contact your local elected officials:
Find Your Legislator:
About Face by Sound Transit CEO
2014 PSRC Regional Growth Centers – Where does growth really go in our Region?
June 22, 2015 Seattle Times Small Ridership numbers don’t justify the costs
June 1, 2015 Crosscut We Deserve Better Transportation Planning
March 26, 2015 Daily Journal of Commerce Transportation 2040 Plan: What’s the Return on our $174 Billion investment?
The Average ST3 light and commuter rail capital costs per daily round trip suburban rider.
Many will already be bus riders.
Lynnwood to Everett = $214,488
Redmond Extension = $268,626
Bellevue to Issaquah = $253,846
Commuter train to Dupont = $485,600
That would buy a lot of all day, both direction shuttle and express bus service, shelters & stations for many transit riders not just one. It could include sidewalks so transit would actually be accessible.
Bang for the buck
Between 2010 and 2040 half of all transportation spending will be for transit – about $87 billion. This 2040 Plan assumes 79 miles of light rail and doubling of bus service. Yet, we only move the transit needle from 3.1% of all trips to 4.3 percent — almost 90 percent of those transit riders would still be on buses, not trains.
A few corridors in and out of Seattle, the U District and Bellevue see better ridership during commute times but this is a Regional plan and everyone is paying.
Light rail does not reduce traffic, increase transit ridership or help contain sprawl.
Studies, Reports and Statistics consistently show that cities with light rail do not have less congestion, more transit ridership or less sprawl. In many cases they are seeing the opposite. Light rail proponents like to talk about percentage of ridership growth instead of actual new riders. And, the ridership numbers are never put into context of number of total trips taken by all modes (types) of transportation.
Even according to Sound Transit, by 2040 fewer than 3 percent of all trips will be made on light rail. Traffic congestion increases.
Eighty percent of projected riders on the proposed light rail line from Seattle to Bellevue will be existing bus riders.
The minimum number of years before light rail would be available in Ballard. West Seattle, Lynwood and Everett will wait more than 20 years under the 2040 plan.
Key Performance Measures
It’s Time To Look At The Facts About Our Puget Sound Region’s Transportation Plan
How do we know if our transportation investment “work,” especially our investments in transit? It’s an easy to read, common sense approach to judging whether or not we’re getting the intended return on our investments. Sound Transit Plans are part of this larger regional one that is suppose to coordinate all transportation projects in the four county region: King, Kitsap, Snohomish and Pierce.
The price tag? $200 Billion some of which is still not funded. Add to that more Sound Transit projects if ST3 passes this Fall.
Half of the $200 Billion is already going to transit.
I-5 repaving didn’t make the cut.
Learn more about Bus Rapid Transit - Sound Transit does not want you to watch or share this video. Please do both.
In the News
By Mariya Frost of the Washington Policy Center, May 10, 2022 Since 2017, Sound Transit’s full system expansion went from costing taxpayers $92 billion to an incredible $142 billion, and project completion was stretched from 2041 to 2046. That’s $50...
Along much of the No. 94 route Stevens takes into the city, there are no shelters. That pattern is repeated across the country: Less than one-fifth of more than 122,000 bus stops served by 16 of the nation’s largest transit agencies have shelters, according to...
VTA approves $235 million San Jose BART extension contract — so why is it also reviewing its controversial design?
"The unanimous vote from the board puts the VTA in the unusual position of awarding a $235 million contract that moves forward with the extension’s “single-bore” tunnel plan, while simultaneously launching a new analysis of the contentious design." ...
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And then there’s Fuzzy Math
Sound Transit Chair and also the King County Executive in charge of the Metro Bus system, Dow Constantine, now claims that the capacity of light rail is the equivalent of 14 freeway lanes. Time to get out this great David Horsey cartoon from the Post Intelligencer in 2001.
The Seattle Times called him on it in their April 2, 2016 Editorial, “Voters grappling with Sound Transit’s request for $50 billion need clear answers from their public officials, not cheerleading.”
From that editorial: “Constantine exaggerated, using Sound Transit numbers to present a best-case scenario for rail while grossly undercounting freeway capacity.”
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