Sound Transit Reviews Ballard-UW Options

CentralEast_KBIBUDUKR_Lev2_060514_Final_Exec.13Last week’s Executive Committee Meeting covered the preliminary findings from Sound Transit’s planning study of the Ballard/UW/520 corridor. We’ll cover the Eastside results next week, but today we’ll discuss the results for the segment between Ballard (15th & Market) and University District Stations. This very short segment covers trips currently served by the achingly slow 44 with no obvious high-speed corridors. Regrettably, the four urban centers worth serving (Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, and the U-District) aren’t linearly arranged.

The most direct option is a tunnel via Wallingford (A3), serving 22,000-26,000 riders with an end-to-end travel time of 6-9 minutes. This suggests a trip from Ballard to Westlake of about 20 minutes. Like any tunnel, it’s relatively expensive per mile: estimated to cost $1.4-1.9 billion in 2014 dollars.*

Path B2 serves central Fremont by bypassing Wallingford. Although not shown on the map, the study examined both an all-surface option and one that runs elevated through the U-District and Fremont. The trip takes 10-12 minutes (10-13 for surface) and 21,000-26,000 riders (20,000-24,000 surface). The costs range from $1.2-1.6 billion, with negligible cost differences between the options.

The highest ridership option is C1, which serves all four locations, on the surface except for a elevated run down 45th. Although the longest path, it’s estimated to cost $1.2-1.7 billion to serve 23,000-28,000 riders. End to end, it would be a 9-11 minute trip.

All three rail options are in the same ballpark of cost, ridership, and travel time. All are huge improvements over the status quo. C1 serves the most people, but the all-underground option avoids the thicket of legal challenges sure to hinder any above-ground choice, in addition to being more reliable. On the other hand, the tunnel makes it much more complicated to add any more stations.

The interactions between these ideas and the Ballard-Downtown proposals are interesting. These options are cheaper and slightly lower-ridership than the grade-separated downtown options, but more expensive and higher-ridership than the at-grade ones. However, the Downtown options do not include the cost of getting through downtown, covered in the West Seattle study.

No one knows how big the funding package might be, but if it were possible to do both, there is significant overlap between the options that serve Fremont, resulting in some savings. Although many might conclude that a downtown line might “compete” with a UW route for riders, in fact the network effects would likely enable more trips and boost ridership by more than the sum of their estimates.

The BRT options are in a different class. They mix operations in traffic and exclusive busway and have travel times between 14 and 22 minutes. They cost no more than $400m but serve between 10,000 and 17,000 riders.

CentralEast_KBIBUDUKR_Lev2_060514_Final_Exec.12

* “Cost estimates are conceptual and for comparative purposes only.”

Comments

  1. RossB says

    In my opinion, this is the most important line that Sound Transit is considering. It is really a small detour for someone to go from Ballard to downtown via the UW. But the opposite is not true. For someone to go from the UW to Ballard via downtown would cost significant time. There are two very important factors to add to this:

    1) The UW and Capitol Hill are the number two and number three destinations in the state (after downtown Seattle). Office space at the UW will grow considerably in the next few years (the city just has to figure out where). As it is, there is plenty of growth right now all over the UW.

    2) Everyone north of the UW would benefit from a fast, direct connection to both Fremont and Ballard. Right now, if you live in Lynnwood, but work in Fremont, you probably drive. You could, of course, take an express bus to downtown, then a bus back north to Fremont. But with a fast connection, you could get to Fremont from the U-District, and save time over driving. Keep in mind, this is true if we decided to end our light rail system at, say, 145th. Buses from the north end would unload passengers onto a train, then riders would ride the rails right to their destination. In other words, for everyone who rides a bus to downtown from the north end, the light rail will be nice, but not a significant time improvement. But for everyone from the north end who wants to get to Fremont or Ballard, a fast, frequent light rail line is the difference between driving and riding.

    Given all this, I think it makes sense for these light rail systems to be integrated. I suggest we run the system like so:

    1) Trains go from the East Side through downtown, then to the north end. This is the plan (as it exists now).
    2) Trains from Ballard go to the UW, then turn south and continue through downtown to the airport.

    Each set of trains should run every six minutes. This means that we would have three minute headways through the core of our system (UW-Capitol Hill-Downtown). For some trips, there would be transfers, but only a three minute wait.

    • Mike Orr says

      There’s a window of opportunity when the public comment period for this opens, to get ST’s attention on a Ballard spur (Ballard-downtown-KDM) or Ballard shuttle (Ballard-UW line first, Ballard-downtown line later or never). I’m sure ST will say “No spur” and “No diverting north line trains”, but this would be the time to at least get it into their radar. The “No diverting north line trains” part is that I believe ST thinks it will need both lines’ capacity in Lynnwood peak hours, if not at opening then later. East Link was once going to terminate at Northgate, then was extended to Lynnwood peak hours for this reason. A recent map showed Lynnwood full time, although I’m not sure if that was a change in schedule or a just an undetailed map.

      I’m more concerned about the transfer station at U-District. ST didn’t design it for a second line because no Ballard-UW line had been approved yet, and I’m afraid that might lead to a bad transfer experience. The station box is severely constrained on the west, east, and south, so it may be impossible anyway. But the point is that ST should study this now and reassure us what the worst-case-scenario is.

      There was never a plan to terminate at 145th. It was either Northgate or Lynnwood. Lynnwood is voter-approved, and Snohomish won’t hear about rescinding it. The only way it would terminate at 145th is if there’s an unexpected plunge in revenues e.g., another Little Depression. That could happen just as easily at any point; e.g., at 185th rather than 145th.

      • RossB says

        Yeah, I know ending at 145th was never on the table. Nor do I necessarily think it would have made sense. But my point is that ending somewhere fairly north, via a very fast transfer (HOV only lanes, etc.) then forcing Lynnwood (and similar) riders to transfer would be a small price to pay (for them). They would benefit more from a fast line to Ballard then by avoiding that transfer. Most of the folks who work downtown have a pretty sweet commute right now (very fast travel along I-5). But it is the people who work somewhere else who throw up their hands and drive. Some of those people work in the U-District or Capitol Hill (and they will benefit a lot by light rail). But some of those folks work in Fremont and Ballard, which is why a fast transfer would be nice.

        Of course, they have no incentive to compromise on this issue, because as it stands now, they will have the benefit of both worlds. If these two lines are completely separate, they will have to transfer to get to Ballard. But as I proposed, they will have to transfer anyway. The same would be true for those from the east side. It is everyone else in the area who would benefit the most. This means people going from Ballard to the UW Hospital, or Capitol Hill, or downtown, or Beacon Hill or West Seattle.

        I agree completely with your other point. We should study this now.

      • Mike Orr says

        All these lines are based on maps of the most popular trip pairs (transit and driving). For northwest Seattle, the heaviest trip pair is Ballard-downtown, and second is Fremont-downtown. Ballard-UW and all others are lower than that. You can argue how that might change in the future with fast east-west transit and emerging density, but those are the predominent patterns they see.

        However, the impetus for Ballard-downtown first was mostly the former mayor McGinn. So it’s an open question how the ST board will weigh Ballard-south vs Ballard-east now, and whether they could be persuaded to prefer Ballard-east first. It probably depends on how heavily they favor a Ballard-Burien line, which would include Ballard-south.

      • d.p. says

        Did you scan through Martin’s documents? The ridership potential here is higher than all but the most platinum-plated of north-south lines, for about 1/3 of the cost.

        And that ridership would only improve with design revisions that increase the catchment area, while retaining the whopping 70-80% time savings over existing transit in the corridor and eliminating the “radial- seat bias” evident in ST’s analytical assumptions.

      • says

        Sound Transit should always put switches will new lines are planned because they won’t need to shut down the part of the system to install them. TransLink and BC Transit seems to understand that concept because the Expo was design for the Millennium Line and Lougheed which is on Millennium Line was design for the Evergreen line. So, Sound Transit could save money by doing it before the trains start operation on the line or section because you do not need to take out the rail put switches for the trains in it place in the future.

      • Mark Dublin says

        Good point about cross-line transfers. One answer: tunnel the East-West line under the North-South one, including a mined-out chamber directly under first one.

        Often done on crowded urban systems.

        MD

      • Mike B says

        @ d.p.

        What do you mean by “radial-seat bias”? You’ve stumped an office full of planners and transit engineers because we’ve never heard of that term before.

        @ Zach

        It’s worth noting that building future infrastructure is rarely done. Not only does it cost money now to install those sort of things, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll be built and the future configuration might have to change in 10-20 years, rendering such investments obsolete (see: original rails in DSTT). TransLink’s future plan clearly included the Evergreen Line as a future extension on elevated structure. ULink and NLink, OTOH, are tunnels on a system that stopped at Lynnwood in our world of transit planning. Also, building a big switch cavern under the UW would be difficult; requiring an opening to the surface, switch structure built on floating slabs, and dealing with all sorts of curves. A “+” shaped U-Dist Station and forced transfer would make sense, then use a single-track tunnel somehow connecting to the spine for out-of-service movements.

        Off the top of my head, the only other place I can think of non-at-grade that’s done that is LA’s Green Line next to Aviation/LAX Station. Please add more if you can think of them, though!

      • Mike Orr says

        “Radial” means spokes converging on downtown. The 5, 28, and E are radial bus routes. The opposite is “orbital” or crosstown routes such as the 48 and 44. The word “orbital” imples a ring but it doesn’t have to be a complete ring. The major distinction is between a radial network where all lines converge downtown, and a grid network that has an even number of radial and crosstown routes. We can’t expect several crosstown light rail lines (on 45th, 85th, and 105th), but we need at least one of them.

      • d.p. says

        Pardon if the pun wasn’t perfectly clear. I was trying to shorthand a specific subset of one-seat bias: the vague base presumption that a line headed from a given place in the general direction of downtown will automatically generate extra ridership, regardless of whether the routing and stations are well-chosen or well-designed.

        Of course, even fragmented Sound Transit infuses some “network effects” into their estimates, which is why I specified the “radial” presumption rather than the “one-seat” bias that continues to hobble Metro.

        Also, if ST’s other questionable presumptions could be overcome, and an east-west line routed through Capitol Hill to downtown, then that too would technically be “one-seat”. Thus the semantic distinction.

        Anyway, my main point can be summarized thusly: Despite a strong inclination to go straight downtown — even that study was completed first, and better publicized — all of the downtown options are hobbled not only by expense, but by their limited catchment (and limited connections) north of the Ship Canal. This is actually reflected in ST’s own numbers, which max out at about 30,000 on even the Cadillac plan. One would expect them to be higher, at that expense. I’m sure ST even started out thinking they’d be higher.

        By contrast, I think “radial-seat bias” has skewed the estimates for the (highest-quality) east-west option(s) low, because even ST itself underestimates how broad the catchment area is, and how many never-before-possible connective transit trips would be facilitated.

        This low-balling of their own best plan is dangerous if it causes cut corners — i.e. too few stations — thus reducing the line from a “complete corridor” to an express of limited usefulness.

    • Glenn in Portland says

      Right now, if you live in Lynnwood, but work in Fremont, you probably drive. You could, of course, take an express bus to downtown, then a bus back north to Fremont.

      The one time I attempted this, the way I attempted was get off the express bus at 45th, and walk to a bus stop for the 31. What I found was that it is exceptionally difficult to find a 31 stop anywhere in the area. They are mostly for the 26 (which works for some people I suppose but wouldn’t work for where I was needing to go).

      It would be really nice if there were a rationalization of the routes for easy transfer. The local routes don’t necessarily have to stop right at 45th, but it would be nice if a few other local routes stopped somewhat nearby so that getting off an express there would yield a few other routes to transfer to than the 44. This is especially the case with the 31, which runs fairly close by but getting from the express stop to a stop where the 31 actually stops seems a bit difficult.

      • says

        There’s certainly a disconnect between the major south-south routes (both the 512 and the E Line, and even the 5) and lower Fremont’s east-west routes. But the curse of the southern route of the 31/32 is also its blessing: skipping the congestion around the freeway interchanges and getting to UW in a sane amount of time by a route about as direct as the street network allows. That’s probably more important than an unreliable connection to today’s 512 on a freeway onramp where it doesn’t even always stop…

        … such as during the forward-commute peak. So if you live in Lynnwood and work a 9-5 in Fremont you’re either going through downtown, or you’re taking a CT 8xx route that stops in the UW campus not far from the 31/32. If you work different hours you’re doing the 26 thing. If the 26 doesn’t work then you’re transferring downtown, except that if the 26 doesn’t work you’re probably talking about SPU, so you might actually be better off hoofing it to 40th/Latona-ish on the way in and either 40th/1st or University Parkway on the way back. Or you’re getting a bike. Except that in reality you’re driving any way it cuts; you didn’t move to Snohomish County with the intention of regularly taking the bus to Fremont. Freeway interchanges make terrible transit junctions.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I would have been happy for a stop at the bottom of the hill along the existing 31 route.

      • says

        There is a stop at the bottom of the hill. The eastbound stop is way, way down at the bottom of the hill because of the goofy access situation for Campus Parkway, but it’s at 7th Ave NE, right in line with the northbound freeway station. The westbound stop is also at 7th, a few blocks uphill at 40th.

  2. mdnative says

    Martin

    When you say A3 is less likely to be legally challenged (which I agree), are you also implying that it would be most likely to be built first (of LRT options)?

    IIIRC, A3 assumes that Option D is built (and thus Fremont would be served). There is some skepticism that both will be built, and Ballard to UW may be the only thing on ST3– so C1 will get a lot of support since it serves Fremont.

    • RossB says

      I wonder if you could “test the waters” and figure out if there would be a legal challenge before going ahead with the route. It is quite possible that there wouldn’t be a challenge. It is possible that the people who own property (e. g. Suzie Burke) would benefit immensely, or could be easily bought out.

      If there were no legal challenges, then I think the surface/elevated lines could be built a lot faster. At least that is my understanding (tunneling takes a long time).

      • Chris Stefan says

        An elevated line down 45th in Wallingford will bring out pitchforks and torches, even from very solid transit and density supporters.

        Elevated lines aren’t popular, especially on relatively narrow neighborhood artierials.

  3. RossB says

    Thanks for the report Martin. It is difficult to parse through this information, and you have done a good job.

    Once again, I am disappointed in the way that Sound Transit presents this information. They basically provide a bunch of strange combinations, then tell you (in fine print) that you can “make your own”. I’m glad they don’t make pizza menus. Pepperoni, anchovies and asparagus? Canadian bacon and sauerkraut? How about pineapple and extra cheese? It is a bit baffling. Specifically, I have a few questions:

    1) If B2A provides an elevated route through the U-District and Fremont, why is it no faster than the surface option?
    2) Why is there no tunnel that includes Fremont? I would like to know how much that would cost.
    3) If the route goes through Fremont, then goes to Wallingford, why go to Stone Way? Why not go to Wallingford Avenue instead? That would involve a more gradual turn. I suppose it doesn’t matter if it is following the surface streets — this is more a question if there is a tunnel.
    4) Is there the possibility of an all elevated line through Fremont and if so, how much would that save (in time).
    5) If the line goes from Fremont but does not include Wallingford, how about adding a stop on Eastlake and 40th. It is right on the way. The area is extremely dense (more dense than any census block in Ballard or Fremont) and growing. It also makes a lot of sense as a way for people to get to Eastlake (and South Lake Union). It is a bit close to the other stations, but just far enough away to get people who would otherwise find a different way to get around. It would actually be the closest station to Red Square.

    Those are just some questions off the top of my head. If I had to choose from the menu, then I would definitely choose the tunnel. That just isn’t that much money considering the time savings compared to the alternatives. But I would definitely like to know the answer to the other questions, as I think including Fremont (on a grade separated route) would be worth it.

    • RossB says

      I think time estimates for C1 are baffling. How can you travel that entire line in 9-11 minutes. I asked Google Maps how long it takes to do the surface section (from Stone Way and 45th to Ballard via Fremont) and just that section takes 8 minutes without traffic and without stops for passengers. Meanwhile, the tunnel route takes 6-9 minutes, even though it never deals with traffic, and takes a fairly direct route of about three miles. That suggests that much of the six to nine minutes are being spent waiting at the station (as it is with most of our line). Based on that, I would guess the C1 time as being like this:

      Elevated section — 2 minutes
      Surface section – 8 – 15 minutes
      Wait time – 3 minutes (three stops)

      In other words, C1 is more like 13 – 20 minutes. It is worth considering, but nowhere near as promising as if it was 9-11. A ride from the UW to Ballard in around ten minutes isn’t bad, especially if you include all the other (great) stops. But a twenty minute ride is a different animal.

      It is possible that I’m missing something. Would C1 include dedicated lanes the entire way? That’s a bold proposal, if so.

      • Lack Thereof says

        Without looking at the plans, I would assume all LRT routes are dedicated ROW the whole way.

        I’m not aware of a single ST proposal for new LRT anywhere that doesn’t have at least MLK-style separation.

        For the most part, Stone Way has parking on both sides and a two-way turn lane down the middle. There are some blocks where the ROW is very tight, but in a project with a Sound Transit budget, a few blocks of strip mall parking lots isn’t a huge obstacle.

    • Mike Orr says

      Perhaps one of our illustrious reporters could ask ST why it uses this mix-n-match methodology.

      These are just high-level concepts: they aren’t specifying exact streets or addresses. It’s just enough study to decide whether to build a line and which cost level to budget. If it’s approved, there will be a more detailed Alernatives Analysis with all these options (more or less), and there will be time to address all these issues.

      But there’s one caveat. These studies have fewer rounds than the Ballard-downtown study because nobody put supplemental funding into them. So you may not get an answer to your Fremont tunnel question before the final report, and you’ll have to just give that as feedback to the final. That may still get the attention of the ST board when it chooses lines. So you may want to say something like, “A Fremont tunnel is important. Add something to the line budget to cover this unstudied cost.”

  4. Adam says

    It doesn’t look like any streetcar options (mixed or exclusive ROW) were studied here. Was that intentional, given that this is a ST study instead of a SDOT one? (Or did I miss something, and it was eliminated already in the L1 study?)

    • RossB says

      SDOT is probably studying streetcars, but there really is no significant difference between a light rail line running on the surface and a streetcar. This includes several surface level light rail options (B2 and most of C1).

      • Adam says

        Operationally, sure, but I was thinking about the capital costs for a streetcar against light rail, seeing how streetcars seem to have found this cost/benefit niche between BRT and true LRT.

        The primary talking point for this conversation is whether or not the system should be integrated with Central Link somewhere in the U-District, something clearly not studied here. It sounds like a nice idea, but is potentially complex to build and probably expensive. I think there’s a case (perhaps not a strong one) to be made that you can solve both goals (Ballard to UW and Downtown) at once with a single integrated branch line. If building such a thing is entirely prohibitive, then it does become an operational choice for LRT vs. Streetcar.

      • RossB says

        Are streetcars significantly cheaper than light rail? I’m no expert, but I would think the savings would be minor, especially since it would mean that ST would then have to maintain a second set of equipment. Hopefully someone who knows more about the subject would care to comment.

        As far as integrating this line in the U-District in concerned, I made the case above (in the first comment). I personally think it is a very strong one and gave reasons above why it would be.

      • Mike Orr says

        The distinction between light rail and streetcar is arbitrary. ST defines it in terms of service level: light rail is primarily exclusive lane or better (e.g., MLK). Streetcar could be shared or exclusive lane. ST’s mandate is regional transit, which means the higher service level, so it focuses on light rail or counterpart BRT. Tacoma Link may be the appropriate level for Tacoma, but not Seattle. The First Hill Streetcar was a shortsighted mitigation for withdrawing the First Hill Link station, not a model for future lines.

        Seattle is probably not focusing on a Ballard-UW streetcar because it has so many other streetcar ambitions (1st Avenue, Westlake, Eastlake). Also, near-north Seattle is clearly hilly, has narrow streets that end after a short distance, high congestion, and streetcar-overwhelming ridership — all arguments against a streetcar.

  5. Anandakos says

    Why is this a SoundTransit project? It and Ballard should be Seattle projects. ST’s raison d’etre is regional transportation. Ballard to UW and Ballard to downtown are hardly “regional”.

    Since the West Seattle to downtown leg is being considered as a party of Renton/Burien/White Center/West Seattle/Downtown, there’s some justification for ST doing it. But the two Ballard lines? Not really.

    • RossB says

      It is being built because it is an important part of our region, just as downtown, the UW and Capitol Hill are important parts of our region. These areas are way more important then anything south of Beacon Hill (and that includes the airport). They are more important than anything north of Northgate (with the possible exception of Lake City, which is being skipped). They are as important as most of the east side line, and will have ridership far in excess of it. Believe it or not, people sometimes want to go somewhere besides downtown Seattle. If that is the only place they wanted to go, our bus system would be fine. But folks from all over the region go to Ballard, Fremont or Wallingford (to work or play). People who live in Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford work in various places all over the city. When you build a system that serves the more popular places, everyone in the region benefits. When you don’t, then we have what we have now — a mess of traffic so bad that all it takes is an accident or a bad piece of metal to grind everything to a halt. You might think that if you live in the suburbs, someone commuting from Ballard doesn’t effect you. You would be wrong.

      • Anandakos says

        All true, Ross, but not the business of a “regional transportation agency”. Everyone is advocating the Metro redesign its bus system to force transfers to Link in the future, even for what is Metro’s current bread and butter: Seattle CBD trips.

        The reverse logic can be applied to Ballard-UW. “Regional” travelers can be forced to transfer to a Seattle project.

        Believe me, the suburbs will NOT vote for ST3 if there is a Seattle only project included. They’ve shown their hand in the Prop 1 vote. If this is to be built, it will have to be built by Seattle.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        It’s part of a regional corridor. The suburbs will vote based on what’s in the suburbs, not based on what constitutes the Seattle portion.

      • RossB says

        Ah, I get you, Anandakos. If your point is that is that Sound Transit either has its priorities out of whack (by focusing on so called “regional projects”) or has budget or goals way out of relation to that goal, then I agree completely. Maybe their focus should be on “regional projects”. That would mean scaling down there work considerably. With the exception of a line from Seattle to the east side, that would mean no light rail. They would focus instead on express buses (which they do fairly well).

        Then the state (with federal cooperation) could built light rail that makes sense for the area. That would include a line like this, as well as a line from Roosevelt to Beacon Hill, a line replacing the Metro 8 (South Lake Union, Central Area, etc.) then maybe extend it a bit to include Rainier Valley and Northgate (or better yet, Lake City). Add a short line for Phinney Ridge/Greenwood and that ought to do it.

        You would also have to add first class transit centers at the end points (and doing so would be helpful for suburban bus riders). All of this would benefit the region immensely, even if suburban riders don’t have light rail. For example, someone from Kent could ride one (very fast) bus to a nice station in SoDo, then transfer to a train (or at worse a couple trains) to get to Seattle U (or any number of very popular Seattle locations).

        Instead, that rider from Kent will someday be able to take a bus to a nearby train station, then a slow train to downtown, then an even slower bus to Seattle U. This type of thinking doesn’t benefit the region very well, even though it appears to include much of it.

      • RossB says

        I should have mentioned that the boat sailed a long time ago on that one. Sound Transit is what it is. Everyone views it as “The light rail organization” (even though they have a lot of buses). It will be very interesting to see what is proposed for the next round.

      • William Aitken says

        @Ross: You say “Then the state (with federal cooperation) could built light rail that makes sense for the area”. What state do you have in mind? While the plan actually sounds pretty reasonable to me, it’s hard for me to imagine Washington’s legislators agreeing to pay for it, or, quite frankly, even giving Seattle voters the opportunity to vote to fund it themselves.

      • Chris Stefan says

        RossB –
        The agency you describe already exists, it is called “Sound Transit”. There is little reason to add yet another transit agency to the current regional mess (Sound Transit, Metro Transit, Metro Transit, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, SDOT, State Ferries).

        Washington State gives almost no support to local transit beyond extending taxing authority to local transit districts. This is in contrast to other states where local transit agencies receive money directly from the state government (or local transit is run directly by the state government as in New Jersey). I don’t see this changing any time soon. Even if it does there is little need to create yet another agency such funding could be directed to existing agencies.

      • d.p. says

        Ross is suggesting that Sound Transit may not be the appropriate agency, on the basis of its demonstrated resistance to understanding (or caring about) basic principles of urban rapid transit geometry.

        I think that Sound Transit may have the potential to improve in this regard, although the suggestion of a tunneled option through North Seattle’s sole contiguous urbanized corridor that would retain 1.9-mile station gaps and offer no non-excruciating transfer to any part of Fremont or Greenwood gives me lots of reason to doubt.

      • Anandakos says

        Martin,

        The suburbs already have what they want: Lynnwood to the airport and Redmond. Nobody outside West Seattle cares about the “Big C” to Burien and Renton. A few people in Federal Way may care about an extension beyond Angle Lake, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. If Redmond cares to get East Link to it’s downtown it can easily afford to do so itself.

        So the die is already cast: the ST3 vote will be very similar to Proposition 1; the anti-transit vote in the county will overwhelm the city 55-45.

        Believe me, I agree with everyone here that Ballard-Downtown and Ballard-UW both need to happen and be high-capacity and grade separated throughout. To me it makes the most sense to combine the Queen Anne/Fremont tunnel option with a tunnel from Fremont through Wallingford to the U-District. The big fly in that ointment is of course the transfer to and from RR E. But the opportunities with a “stacked” station in Fremont for rapid reversing to accommodate UW/Wallingford-LQA/Belltown trips are lip-smacking good.

        But if all this goodness is going to happen Seattle is going to have to step up the plate and pay for it itself, because the chickenshit State won’t help and the “screw the hippies” claque in the county won’t either.

        Politics isn’t everything but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place when it comes to transit.

      • says

        The idea behind subarea equity is that “the suburbs will vote based on what’s in the suburbs, not based on what constitutes the Seattle portion”. I really doubt that’s the case, or at least that subarea equity means squat at the ballot box. Not that I think the suburbs have Eastern Washington-level hatred of Seattle, but I really doubt they’ll buy any “regional” arguments for why “their” money should go towards a Ballard-UW line.

      • Mike Orr says

        Pierce emphatically does not have what it wants: Link to Tacoma. Snohomish is keen on Link to Everett. The issue will not be whether Seattle has a counterpart line, but how much the burbs really want their extensions when they see the price tags. A few people are obsessed with screwing Seattle, but what most suburbanites care about is “How high are my taxes?” and “What am I getting for it?”

        If ST3 fails or doesn’t include a Ballard line, then Seattle would have to try building a line itself. But it would run into a much harder roadblock for state-allowed funding, because from the state’s perspective ST was supposed to be the mechanism for these large-capital projects.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      As I described above, thus study was part of a larger one of the Ballard/UW/520 corridor.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        The suburbs will vote based on what’s built in the suburbs, not the specifics in Seattle.

    • Mike Orr says

      “Why is this a SoundTransit project?”

      Because Ballard and Fremont are regional destinations. A significant number of people from Bellevue and Lynnwood and Des Moines go to them, because they have destinations with no equivalent in the burbs, as well as people just going to a specific job or business or concert event or house. And “regional” also means within Seattle: people in Rainier Valley and West Seattle go to Ballard, more often than they go to Greenwood or Sand Point for instance. Airport visitors also go to Ballard or Fremont; e.g., if they have a job interview there or are staying with somebody there.

      The first line had to be a multi-subarea “spine”. That doesn’t mean all the following lines have to be. It’s whatever the subareas want.

      • Aubergine says

        ST3 will fail if it does not have significant rail projects in Seattle, and those projects better be west of I-5. For nearly 20 years we’ve been a blank space on the map to ST planners. We are, however, well known to ST tax collectors. Every overcrowded bus that takes nearly an hour to get to downtown is full of people who will vote yes if there’s something in it for them, but that will be a bus full of No Effin’ Way if ST3 defines regionalism as trains to Lynnwood, Redmond, and beyond, and ignores the huge demand for transit in the city.

      • Mike Orr says

        Subarea equity requires projects in North King. Its North King projects will be one or more of these corridors (Ballard-east, Ballard-south, West Seattle), because ST prioritized them six years ago and is unlikely to change its mind.

      • Anandakos says

        Mike,

        ST planners can do whatever they want, but the projects have to be authorized as a package by a majority vote. The voters out in the county are easily spiteful enough to vote “No” just to screw the folks in Seattle, even if it means they don’t get their little extensions.

        If the money from the North King sub-area piles up too high, they’ll just vote to dissolve the agency and divide the money among its constituent parts. My project and done is the Red Team motto.

    • says

      This is a SoundTransit project because SoundTransit is the only agency that has the capital budget to build anything serious around here. That’s how the agencies are set up; both sub-area equity and common sense dictate that there will be Seattle-only projects receiving ST funds.

      ST capital funds go toward lots of stuff that has less of a case to be called “regional” than Ballard-UW. As one random example, a couple years ago ST helped fund a minor intersection rebuild in Kirkland that didn’t affect any ST routes, or even any particularly popular routes.

    • Lack Thereof says

      Anandakos, as other people have already pointed out, this is not a standalone line, but a small segment of a potential cross-lake line. The suburbs wouldn’t be voting on Ballard to the UW, they would be voting on Ballard to the Eastside.

      I would much rather see one of these lines start construction today, under a Seattle or KC transit agency, but the political reality appears to be that this vital, obviously necessary line is most likely to be built as part of a larger regional project under the Sound Transit umbrella.

      Of course, that doesn’t mean that some local agency couldn’t use the ST study of this short segment of line as basis for their own local subway plan.

      • Anandakos says

        Guys,

        You’re preaching to the choir on the necessity of this line. I agree; I lived for seven years on the border between Fremont and Phinney Ridge (43rd and Phinney) and then right in central Wallingford back when the 44 was still the 43. And before 45th ground to a halt. I worked at UW and even when I lived over the co-op and had a free employee Metro pass, I walked because it was faster to 39th and Brooklyn when I worked. The only thing I can think of to match that 44 ride today, at least here on the West Coast, is the 30 Stockton between the tunnel and Broadway.

        But, as I said in a different post, politics isn’t the only thing when it comes to transit planning, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place. d.p. isn’t all that impressed with the ST planners output, but even if it were the creme de la creme of rational but responsive transit planning, the system is rigged for the suburbs. As long any new line proposed has its primary catchment zone in the suburbs and few to no stations inside the city other than downtown Seattle and UW, it has a chance.

        A subway to Ballard under Queen Anne Hill? “What in it for me?” comes immediately to mind when reflecting on Sam and TheMasterOfTheUniverse. A three stop subway between 15th and Market and the U? Ditto and moreso; at least the other one goes by Seattle Center!

        I know that the state legislature had knee-capped Seattle so that it can’t raise enough revenue to meet its needs. Why the stupid hicks want to do that is beyond me: King County funds the whole rest of the pathetic state including good ol’ Clark County where I live today. But they seem to enjoy it; envy is an ugly thing.

  6. Mark Dublin says

    Really three projects here:

    1. Surface Market Street to Phinney Hill, subway under 45th to U-Village area, surface to Sand Point, bridge to Kirkland. East to meet EastLINK.

    Nobody who’s ever driven any vehicle on either 45th through Wallingford or the U-District could seriously suggest surface either place. Or having shopped there, suggest elevated.

    Market Street Hill on surface cancels “R”-word in transit. But wider flatter arterials should work fine for center-reserved LRT.

    2. Surface light rail from Ballard via Leary to Fremont, tunnel with possible Fremont station under the Ship Canal, diverging east to South Lake Union via Westlake and south via subway to Downtown.

    South Lake Union leg: upgrade SLUT track to handle both streetcar and LRT.

    3. Variation of 2 featuring surface rail along the Ship Canal to the U-District. Excellent for historic streetcars.

    Just to bug Ben: Every one of these routes will be both a kick and a half to drive and impossible to automate. Time frame no problem: will return from the dead to drive them.

    Mark

  7. Anon says

    Thanks for posting the scorecard…
    …personally I like A3, combined with a future streetcar line that connects Wallingford Ave with the waterfront.
    -A3 is the strongest performer across most categories
    -In particular, its time effectiveness helps re-inforce the broader system, while ridership projections are strong.
    -Pulling it away from the ship canal would make it more relevant to more neighborhoods, and I believe increase ridership even more over time.
    -A streetcar could robustly serve the pockets of density along the canal, and would create less of a temptation for misplaced development to displace industry.
    -Gas Works Park is more of a streetcar destination 364 days of the year.
    -The same streetcar line would also connect parts of Wallingford Ave with more frequent stops (I think people upstream are forgetting that one of the differences between a streetcar and light rail is that streetcars are meant to be neighborhood routers; light rail is designed to serve “intra-metro”; commuter is designed to be inter-city in the metro region).

    The comment about C1 inviting legal challenges is no joke; I can’t imagine how a fully-fledged, ground-level light rail line would be squeezed into the narrow lanes alongside the ship canal, without completely re-orienting the area every foot of the way.

    A3 avoids that, which means it will get up & running sooner.

  8. Kyle S. says

    Why do all these alternatives terminate at 15th/Market when the latest study for the Ballard/Downtown corridor suggests that Ballard/Market or 24th/Market is the more appropriate terminus?

      • d.p. says

        As I’ve written before, a 15th NW terminus is perfectly acceptable as long as the platform is situated west of the intersection, with an eastern entrance abutting 15th and a western entrance at 17th.

        A 17th access point would sit on the cusp of the pedestrian-friendly Old Ballard grid and skinny-business district. It would reduce the walk to Ballard’s center-of-center from 10 minutes down to an acceptable 6½. It would still be palpably closer than RapidRide, for an infinitely faster and more reliable transit service.

        (I say all of this as someone who lives right in Ballard’s center-of-center, and despises the unrewarded walk to RapidRide.)

      • Kyle S. says

        d.p., I live near Old Ballard as well, and I too would be quite willing to enter a 15th Ave station from 17th. But since the other study of the same area concluded that Ballard/Market was a better site, then why wasn’t this study updated as well? Are the teams not talking to each other? (For all I know, they might be legally required to remain apart.)

      • d.p. says

        Could you point to that revision in the north-south study link?

        All I’m seeing are the same maps as in earlier drafts, in which all of the serious alignments continue to presume a station at 15th (or between 15th and 17th).

      • says

        I suspect ST is considering Ballard-UW and Ballard-Downtown as separate projects serving separate purposes.

        That may be a mistake. A3 could work really well with a subway option for Ballard-Downtown that serves Fremont (Option C?), especially in the long term if the system is built out more. I could see them merging at the eastern bend of A3. One of the other two options would work better for a Ballard Spur, though.

      • Mike Orr says

        It’s more likely that ST will interline them. A short shuttle with an isolated maintenance base raises costs. If it can’t build both segments at once, it will defer one and prebuild the interface to it. The difference between this situation and U-District is that the expectation for these lines has risen. When North Link was designed these studies were expected to take place at the end of ST2, in the 2020s. Public pressure forced the studies to be accelerated, and then the suburban councilmembers wanted their studies accelerated too, and all that created a demand for more lines now. So now it’s not a question of if but when. In that climate, ST can’t build one segment oblivious to how it would interface to the neighboring segment, regardless of whether the neighboring segment is deferred. Only if ST decides to cancel a project entirely (not even deferring it) would the interface issue go away.

    • mdnative says

      Only street car option E f Ballard to Downtown is not on the 15th and Market area. D starts around 17th and Market

  9. Alex says

    Not to be skeptical, but if the lynwood extension doesn’t open until 2023. I’m thinking sometime aroudn the 2030s to 2040s for ballard to downtown. Hoping Ill be alive to see it.

    • Mark Dublin says

      Alex:

      1. Check labels and don’t eat or drink anything with high-fructose corn syrup or any additive whose name calls to mind nerds cackling over a test tube.

      2. Drive with following distance of one car length (of your vehicle) for every ten miles a hour- after right-of-way, main problem with Bus Rapid Transit.

      3. Only drive transit part time, with six mile run and an hour weight-room after work every day.

      4. Limit presence at transit hearings- we regulars are always about three times younger than we look.

      5. Live your life more like a one feral cat than watching a million videos of them- especially while drinking above corn-syrup by the half gallon.

      Just for starters. Your life will really be longer instead of just feeling like it. And most important, realize early on that the more worthwhile your goal is, the longer it will outlive you.

      Oh, and also order your executors that your statue must be wearing one of those spiked German helmets from WWI. Even if your monument is at Tukwila International, pigeons will go elsewhere.

      Mark

  10. Charles B says

    Line A3 needs a stop at the south end of the zoo. It could provide easy transfers for the 5 and give the city LRT access to the zoo. This should be popular enough that it would have higher ridership than the combined Wallingford – Fremont routing.

    • Kyle S. says

      Yes, a Woodland Park station on A3 would enable access for the 5’s ridership—which should then be redirected off 99 and onto Fremont Avenue to serve the southern Fremont station and provide a motorized connection up the hill

    • Eric L says

      If the station were around 47th & Fremont, then it would be less than 1/4 mile from the south entrance of the zoo, as well as the 46th & Aurora bus stop, as well as north Fremont. Then the Wallingford stop could be moved further to the east and it would be about perfect.

      • Charles B says

        Wherever we put the station, we would want to place station entrances right next to the bus stops. Either that or we move the bus stops.

        The mode transfer needs to be as seemless as possible.

  11. Sam says

    Something fishy is going on. The surface and tunnel cost estimates are too close together. Is this a strategy designed to push people toward the tunnel option?

    • Anon says

      No one ever confused me for a soils scientist, but I imagine a shallow, straight-as-an-arrow, one mile tunnel under flat terrain is about as easy it gets. If it were any easier, the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce could simply rent a few backhoes one weekend and do it themselves.

      • d.p. says

        It’s deep bore (at least east of East Ballard) and precisely three miles total. But in this particular circumstance, that might be even simpler than a shallow dig (which wouldn’t necessarily be the case below, say, Belltown).

        Sam should not underestimate (and ST fortunately has not underestimated) the cost of rebuilding 5+ miles of busy, significantly-skinnier-than-MLK arterials from scratch, or attempting the (likely impossible) feats of unobstructed priority across downtown Fremont and a 90° surface-to-elevated transition here.

        Nor should anyone underestimate the lawsuits.

        There are few circumstances where boring through is the obvious choice. This is one.

      • Anon says

        You’re right, it is three miles…I thought it was tunneled only to Stone. Thanks for the catch dp.

      • Chris Stefan says

        People forget how expensive utility relocation and rebuilding streets can be. Surface lines can require nearly as much utility relocation as a cut-and-cover tunnel.

        Conversely tunnel boring technology is getting cheaper and better every day.

      • d.p. says

        This isn’t always the case, of course. It very much depends on conditions specific to the problem.

        The Canada Line saved a fortune by cut-and-covering the bulk of the line through medium-density mid-peninsular Vancouver, designing for minimum depth and bulk, and choosing very high frequencies over bulky station designs. For the same cost as our anti-urban 2-stop U-Link, they got 16 stations on two branches, a manyfold improvement in urban-level mobility, and 136,000 riders overnight.

        If a second north-south Seattle subway ever gets built, I profoundly hope that cut-and-cover is used, as the result will be exponentially better and a bore would likely be a costly overkill.

        But where the bulk of the line must pass through a solid mound, hundreds of feet below utilities and foundations… that’s where boring becomes eminently simpler and cheaper than messing around at the surface… especially when the surface route is inherently much longer. ROW distance matters, as the cost estimates above amply show!

      • Gabe says

        You really can’t fairly compare U-Link with the Canada line, or really any Vancouver transit project with Seattle. The geographies are totally different. Vancouver is flat and its streets are gridded and wide. Seattle’s most dense neighborhoods are built on hills and our streets are a mess of spaghetti. You couldn’t build a cut-and-cover Canada line here. Also, arguably, the Canada line should have been elevated from King Ed to Marine Drive, and was only buried for aesthetical (political) reasons.

        I agree that the tradeoff Translink made for more frequency and shorter/simpler/cheaper stations on the Canada line makes sense today. However, they made that same trade when building the expo line in the 80s, and that choice is haunting them now. They can’t run trains frequent enough to avoid crush loads during peak commute times, even at 90 second headways. They are now having to lengthen all of the platforms. Good thing most of the expo line stations are elevated.

        Back here in Seattle, I do not know where you could build a north-south line using cut and cover where it wouldn’t be more cost effective to build it elevated instead. I really can’t think of any place to cut and cover except for downtown and maybe short stretches of the U-District. Any other flat N-S corridor (15th, Aurora, Lake City) just doesn’t call for tunneling. And any other corridor that calls for tunneling is going to necessarily be done by TBMs due to the severity of grading, the ROW costs and other complexities and obstacles such as curves and water crossings.

      • d.p. says

        Sorry, I had specified “across downtown and Belltown”, but at some point I rewrote the sentence in that clause got lost.

        Mostly a reaction to the ST north- south brainstorm that was mostly elevated or at-grade (15th), yet bafflingly intended to deep bore a mere mile and change from Stewart to Mercer, with poorly placed stations and no time savings.

        That’s the precise kind of situation where boring is not advantageous.

      • Gabe says

        Now that I think of it, even downtown Seattle is a bad candidate for cut and cover construction. It used to be considerably cheaper to dig up an entire street in downtown, but there are a lot more underground utilities in downtown compared to even 50 years ago, and the impact to business and traffic/bus/pedestrian flow in the downtown street grid may be severe. It might be cheaper to use TBMs.

        Wasn’t much of the current DSTT deep bore for that reason? I wasn’t here for its construction, but from what I understand it was a painful construction process, and even then it’s only cut and cover from Westlake station to Convention station.

        I’m not understanding your point about the one mile tunnel ST proposes in Belltown. I agree there should be another station somewhere, but there’s no way you could get people to agree to an elevated line now on 2nd. With the Canada line, it runs along Cambie which is a six-lane road with a frickin’ 30ft grass median! They had to bury it because of the political opposition by owners of single family homes. Imagine trying to build an elevated next to all of those condos in Belltown.

      • d.p. says

        My point was that it was baffling to suggest assembling boring machine and eschewing the grid (where the grid actually goes right where you want it to go) for such a short and evenly-graded tunnel segment. It seemed guaranteed to reduce access for no benefit.

        2nd through Belltown is an exceedingly wide street, much like Cambie. You could fit your entire subway under half of it, leaving plenty of room on the other half to consolidate your utilities.

        And you are correct that the deep boring under 3rd — which failed to prevent disruption and utility relocations anyway — is why we have such terrible access to our only central subway, and why idiots think we need “streetcars for local access”. That was a gross failure of design and execution.

      • Chris Stefan says

        My understanding is there were 3 primary reasons for doing deep bore on part of the DSTT:
        1. The need to cross under the BNSF tunnel.
        2. The portion between the ID and Pioneer Square is off-grid and crosses under building foundations.
        3. The curve between Westlake and University goes slightly off-grid (true this could have been mined but that isn’t what they did)

        While the stations required utility relocation going deep bore did save a few blocks of utility relocation between stations.

        In the context of an E/W UW/Ballard line the section through Phinney ridge would need to be deep bore due to the hill and the need to go off-grid. Similarly any N/S line that serves Lower Queen Anne would need to be deep bore north of Denny because the line needs to go off-grid. Putting the Ballard/Downtown line in a larger context it seems ST is preferring a 4th Avenue alignment with a transition to 2nd North of University. This will require deep bore for obvious reasons.

        I agree with Ben that a Ballard/downtown line that terminates at 2nd & Stewart is unlikely. If it is built it will go at least as far as the ID and the transit hub there.

      • d.p. says

        Well, 1 & 2 are the same segment, and indeed, I cannot see how that segment could have been built without boring. (The DSTT crosses over the BNSF at University.)

        Anyway, we’re getting a little off-track, seeing as the hills of North Seattle are definitely places where a bore is as simple, easy, cost-competitive, and accessible as any longer and more labyrinthine surface/shallow option, and unarguably far less disruptive.

      • Mike Orr says

        Cut-and-cover is extremely unpopular due to the multiyear tear-up of business streets. Companies worry about going out of business during construction. So how would you ever get it approved?

      • Anandakos says

        d.p.

        And it crosses under BNSF between Main and Yesler. If they were snakes there would be little tunnels all over downtown…..

    • Mark Dublin says

      Truth is, Sam, that ruthless engineers and greedy lawyers have employed scientists chosen only from among undead escaped war criminals to create a tunneling techniques powered by compressed litigation.

      Expense is astronomical, and environmental damage makes fracking look like water-purification. But huge number of victims will not only enrich the wrongful death lawyers, but provide the scientists the experimental subjects denied them by unfortunate outcome of WWII.

      Good thing you caught on. Bang on their door and yell at the top of your lungs. The Seattle Times editorial board is either out to lunch or asleep in their coffins.

      Mark

  12. KyleK says

    A3 is the clear winner here if we take into account that Ballard to downtown is likely to be Alt D based on its popularity. The only issue is that it doesnt have enough stations. Suburban stop spacing makes no sense here.

    East Ballard, North Fremont/Zoo, and East Walllingford should all have stops. That is subway spacing and a case can be made for every on of those locations.

    ST needs to listen to public comment which is saying, overwhealmingly, build something really good rather than cut corners to save costs.

    • Mike Orr says

      These are concepts showing the major goals, not the maximum number of stations. All the other segments solidified their number of stations at a much later phase.

      • KyleK says

        Mike – These ST studies are not necessarily goong to go the way the Ballard to Downtown study went – city involvment changed that one.

        I don’t think these are wire frames – they appear to be options.

      • Mike Orr says

        Yes, that’s what I said elsewhere. But to build anything ST would need to do an Alternatives Analysis and EIS. This isn’t it; it’s a table game to decide whether to do it.

    • Eric L says

      The cost of each station is significantly higher both in terms of money and travel time when you’re running tunneled. That said, I agree there should be at least one more station between Ballard and UW. I wouldn’t bother with East Ballard, though. What I would do is move the 15th Ave station to the east side of 15th so that it covers East Ballard as well as bus transfers, then add another station just east of 24th, where there is much greater ridership potential.

      • d.p. says

        A 24th station + a just-east-of-15th station would be awesome. But with an extra half-mile of tunneling and the potential to disrupt lots of properties and busy redevelopment activity along the way, I can’t imagine it not adding significantly to the costs.

        East Ballard + a just-west-of-15th station would minimize costs while still maintaining a complete corridor walkshed with lots of transfer potential and no need for a vestigial 44. The need to keep the East Ballard station small and cheap in order for it to be viable is why I have long advocated a cut-and-cover approach west of Phinney slope.

      • Kyle S. says

        If we put a station at 8th and Market, I would really hope to see a serious upzone along 8th Ave. It’s all single family detached houses right now.

      • Eric L says

        The 44 isn’t going away. You’d need closer to half mile stop spacing before that becomes an option, and at that point it’s not so much of a game changer. We need local transit and regional transit, for the same reasons we have local streets and freeways.

        At the risk of completely derailing the thread, and I have some employer bias here, but I would not be surprised if self-driving cars as a service are a standard alternative to local public transit by the time this is built, and in that world we may more regret compromises to travel speed than to coverage.

      • d.p. says

        No and no.

        Where density isn’t quite high enough to warrant closer spacing, 7/8-mile to barely 1 mile is a perfectly acceptable foot-accessible standard, and has been on any number of latter-day subways. Walking distance is still determined more by lateral distance from the corridor than by parallel distance along it — you will not increase the latter by more than a few blocks for any potential user, and the infinitely higher service quality will more than compensate.

        The idea that urban-scaled rapid transit should still require a “local underlay” is a pure Seattle know-nothing fiction. Excellent perpendicular connections, on the other hand, are crucial.

        What is awful is requiring someone to take a logic-defying, possibly L-shaped, unreliable crawl bus just to access what should be the most access-enabled in your transit netword. That U-Link will open and the slow-ass 43 and 10 and 11 will have to soldier on unaltered is criminally ineffective planning. The “underlay” lie needs to die.

        As for the technopanaceamobiles in urban environments not subject to Google’s pedestrian-free highway and cul-de-sac dream… big whatever.

    • Lack Thereof says

      I disagree. C1 impresses me a bit more. With reserved right of way, the zig-zag costs very little time – it’s able to hit two more pedestrian centers at only 2 minute end-to-end time cost. 11 minutes from Ballard to the U-district is already a winner. 9 minutes is just Ballard getting greedy at Fremont’s expense.

      And there’s room on the ground for it’s surface portion, at least if we act sometime soon. What few property acquisitions it would need appear to be mostly legacy single-story retail with surface parking – pretty cheap stuff compared to what might be there in 20 years.

      • d.p. says

        Where do you live, Lack? I’ve lived in this quarter of the city for seven years, and I’ve traveled every inch of said alignment a thousand times, by foot, by bus, and behind the wheel.

        9 to 11 minutes is not credible. Signal priority and bridge-traffic preemption through Fremont’s ground-zero intersection is not credible. Protected ROW in any number of places is not credible.

        An average speed identical to the proposed tunnel over a surface-adhering distance nearly twice as long (thanks to the zigs and the zags) is really, really not credible.

        If “2 additional minutes” were a reality-based proposition, maybe we could talk. But C1 would be lucky to achieve 20 minutes. Seriously. It’s a recipe for disaster.

      • Anandakos says

        C1 might be fine with a tunnel under 35th or 36th between Greenwood, say and Stone or maybe Woodland Park Avenue, but d.p. is absolutely correct that the suggestion to be at-grade through downtown Fremont is beyond idiotic.

        However, the elevated section through central Wallingford is equally absurd and not fixable in the same way. A tunnel through there would be sky-high expensive.

  13. fil says

    What is the minimum amount of daily boardings a line should have before grade separted transit is considered? 20k boardings per day seems low for this. Seems like we should be focusing on giving existing buses signal priority, all off board payment and providing dedicated lanes by removing street parking before we consider tunneled or elevated rail…

    • d.p. says

      They have done nearly all they can for the 44 — queue jumps and boarding bulbs and stop diets and some of the highest frequencies in Seattle to combat the harm of extreme bunching and high demand/turnover in the peaks and shoulder-peaks — and the thing still routinely takes 25-35 minutes to go just over 3 miles.

      If that isn’t an argument for grade separation, I don’t know what is.

      • eddiew says

        have WSDOT convert the NE 45th Street I-5 on ramps to HOV only; this was suggested by the Wallingford neighborhood plan effort in the 90s; it would cause the general purpose traffic to shift to NE 50th Street and could also reduce the I-5 weave friction on the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge.

      • Scott Stidell says

        20 years ago the 45th corridor was already considered to have sufficient transit ridership to indicate grade separation. I’m pretty sure that hasn’t decreased in that time. It’s a huge reason I’ve been a supporter of the crosstown line since then–make a good transfer to the U District station and that line will be swamped. And no, a block walk underground from an E-W station on 45th to the U District station isn’t horrible–it’s not unusual in other cities even though it isn’t as optimal as the direct up/down transfer that ST seems loath to consider EVER at ANY station (Mount Baker, Northgate, 130th proposal etc.).

      • Charles B says

        @Scott Stidell
        If we can’t have a stacked station, we at least need a short mezzanine tunnel connection between the stations. Asking riders to walk to the surface, cross the street and go back down would be a waste of the investment.

      • Chris Stefan says

        For the U-District station it really depends where the station box is. That said I don’t see a mezzanine level connection between the North Link station and any likely station under 45th as being rocket science unless Sound Transit decides to do something goofy like placing the station just North of the Burke Museum.

      • Scott Stidell says

        @ Charles B — agreed, hence the “underground walk.” Chris Stefan phrased it much better as a “mezzanine level connection.” There’s no inherent reason this would not work unless the Ballard line’s U District station were blocks E or W of Brooklyn.

  14. mdnative says

    Which one would be built and running first– A3 of Ballard to UW or Option D of ballard to downtown?

    • Mike Orr says

      This one would probably have a shorter planning and construction time because it’s shorter, doesn’t cross the Ship Canal, and doesn’t require a second DSTT or termination at Westlake.

      • aw says

        For this short line, where would the maintenance facility be? Unless they can come up with some way to connect to U Link near U District station and use the OMF or OMSF, it would probably depend downtown-Ballard being built first along with another mmaintenance facitity for it.

        Don’t assume that something like the Ballard Spur could feasibly be built just because some guy on the internet said it was a good idea.

      • Charles B says

        @aw there are places in SE Ballard (currently retail?) that could be used for this purpose if needed. Preferably we could have a maintaince only connection between this line and Ballard to Downtown, but of that line takes longer, we might want to consider other options.

  15. d.p. says

    This document is a remarkable vindication of what myself and many others have been saying for years: an east-west line, done right, would represent a tectonic shift in mobility for as many riders to and from as many areas as any north-south line, for a fraction of the cost.

    My initial reactions (some already touched on by Ross, Charles, and Keith above):

    1. The C1 travel time estimate is not reasonable. Frankly, the C1 routing is not reasonable in many ways, as it claims to traverse the busiest three blocks of Fremont, to make three tight right-angle turns (Ballard Bridge underpass, Stone, 45th), and to climb a significant hill (Stone) on surface ROW, all while somehow finding unimpeded lanes and flawless signal priority and maintaining a faster average travel speed over its much longer route than the train in the tunnel. C1 needs to be recalculated, and then probably tossed out.

    2. Siting an A3 stop at the corner of 45th and Stone is an intriguing idea, as there is more potential construction space and a decent amount of redevelopment happening at that end of Wallingford. However, the 1.4- and 1.9-mile stop spacing and the astounding failures of intermodal connectivity that would result from any “lone intermediate stop” arrangement remind us that Sound Transit has yet to “get” how urban subways work. The agency cannot be allow to repeat the walkshed- and legible-grid-killing mistakes of Central/U-Link. ST must be implored in its 2nd-round study to consider ~1-mile spacing, by which a Wallingford stop, a stop spanning Fremont Ave+Aurora, and a (shallow/small/cheap) East Ballard stop would provide full corridor walkshed as well as seamless bus transfers to access every corner of North and North-Central Seattle. This “total walkshed” approach would also allow Metro to put the 44 out of its misery, as only a great urban subway can do. (As for the effect on travel speed: simply abandon the world’s longest dwell times. There, saved an entire minute on the two additional stops!)

    3. Many will express surprise that the Fremont routings performs so much less well on ridership than one might expect in comparison to a Wallingford-only routing, given Fremont’s comparative busyness and density and jobs. I am less surprised, since the Fremont plans offer only marginal speed benefit to downtown riders, who already enjoy exceedingly frequent, direct, and relatively quick (albeit unreliable) bus service, and who would therefore see far less benefit from indulging the roundabout subway than Ballard or Wallingford, whose present choices (in every direction) uniformly suck.

    4. But that doesn’t mean Fremont’s multi-directional needs should be ignored, especially with an exorbitant (and not exceptionally impressive) north-south subway far from guaranteed. A 2nd-round study should at least find out what it might cost to bore the tunnel southward between Wallingford and East Ballard, toward a station somewhere around Fremont and 38th or “37th”. If this proves cost-ineffective, then a 46th/zoo-area stop with an impeccable transfer to both a straight-routed 5 and to the E line should be non-negotiable.

    5. Start planning for a track connection, and ideally for a stacked platform, at Brooklyn station. Do it now, as the foundations are just barely being dug. It will prove vital, whether or not the connection is used in revenue or merely for maintenance needs. This is not a groundbreaking suggestion; London has been future-proofing in this manner for 150 years.

    6. No, 520 rail is not going to happen. No matter what the new Yarrow Point Megaplatform implies. The cost-benefit metrics on it are simply too terrible. So get started figuring out how to make this westernmost, usefulmost segment an independently-funded reality. Because the need — and the highly encouraging metrics — are undeniable!

    • Charles B says

      I would add that there could be a use for a new bridge much further north than 520, and it could be worth making the Ballard UW line extendable further west if somewhere around ST4 or ST5 growth on the east side develops in a way that makes it viable, but we shouldn’t let that slow doen our call for from this crosstown line worth every penny by having good stops near neighborhood centers, attractions and connecting to at least one major N/S bus route at every stop.

      For some places along the line, this may be the only reasonable chance they will have for LRT in the forseeable future.

      I do think a stacked station in the Udistrict is the best idea, but I fear ST is not nimble enough to change plans now. We would have to make a lot of noise to make this even remotely likely to happen. I have been told repeatedly that it is not possible (at least from ST’s perspective) to change the station plan at this stage.

      We definately need to speak up now to make sure that if Ballard to Downtown and Ballard to UW both happen that at least Ballard gets a stacked station at the intersection.

      • KyleK says

        DP – Agreed on all points. It is quite a validation. The cost/rider numbers are easily the highest performing of anything ST has studied.

        What I really want to see in the next round of study is A3 + the stations I mentioned and C1 (ish) as a tunnel. If we assume the Alt D will be what is built from Ballard to Downtown A3 + stations is golden… But if engineering or cash get in the way of Alt D ST needs a backup plan that would come closer to lower Fremont w/o that ridiculous at grade section.

    • Cascadian says

      Future-proofing and building a comprehensive long-term network should be an overriding goal. To date, so many short-term compromises have been made that our descendants will be living with for decades (if not forever), because we weren’t willing to implement something that planned for the future.

      So one-mile spacing and a stacked box at Brooklyn, as you suggest, are necessities.

      I do wonder if it might make sense to abandon the idea of Downtown to Ballard and just plan a north-south line that tunnels through downtown, Belltown, LQA, Queen Anne, Fremont, Woodland Park (with a connection to the Ballard-UW line), and then on north (surfacing eventually) through some combination of Greenwood/Phinney/Aurora. There might be some way to eventually make that the Lake City line too.

      • RossB says

        That makes a lot of sense, but I think that would be really expensive. I wonder if it could be built in pieces. Run the Ballard to UW to downtown line (merging with the north line). Run at as A3, but with more stops. One of those stops connects to a light rail line as you describe. But the first section built is Fremont to Greenwood. That section might be relatively cheap, but still get plenty of riders who will transfer to the east-west line. Now you have an even stronger argument for mixing the lines. Right now, the argument against mixing the lines is simple: you need the capacity for the north end. But with this design, you not only add more riders coming from the west, but remove some of the riders who might ride the north line. For example, if you are 85th and Greenwood, you wouldn’t take a slow bus east to get on at Northgate or Roosevelt, but a fast train south, then transfer to the line that goes downtown. The same is true along that entire corridor. Even if you are at 105th and Greenwood, you are better off taking a train south, then switching to the other train, rather than taking a bus east to Northgate. It is only when you get really far north, close to 130th, that a bus heading east might make sense.

        Eventually, as we do reach capacity for the system (standing room only for either the north line and the Ballard line) we could then build the section from Fremont right to downtown.

    • says

      Ballard Bridge, Stone, and 45th aren’t the only turns. The map shows C1 east of Fremont Ave on 34th and west of it on 36th. This requires two turns and a run through The Only Bus Stop In Lower Fremont.

      They could use 35th between Stone and Fremont instead (avoiding the two turns, The Only Bus Stop In Lower Fremont, and some but not all bridge backups). Grade might be an issue, and 35th might be narrower than 34th.

      • d.p. says

        Yeah. 36th-Fremont-34th is what I meant by “traverse the busiest three blocks of Fremont.”

        The 9-11 minute estimate for C1’s 5 miles of street following really does presume a constant running speed identical to A3’s 3 mile, 6-9 minute trip.

        Pass through central Fremont on a bus. Do it after even a minor bridge opening. Look at the spatial arrangement of the pavements around you. What the C1 numbers suggest is simply not possible. It worries me more than a little that this even got past the brainstorming stage, and that someone knowingly agreed to put that fanciful running speed in the report.

    • RossB says

      I agree. My first thought with that first sentence was that it was a bit hyperbolic. An east-west line is very important, but pales in importance to the line from the UW to downtown. But thinking about it some more, I see your point, and agree completely. Travel from the UW to downtown is less than ideal, but fairly frequent and fairly fast. On the other hand, east-west service right now is terrible. A solid light rail line for that corridor represents a game changer. It has the potential to be faster than a car, which is really shocking to anyone who has ever been on the 44.

      I agree with all of your points. The one idea I will throw out is this: If a Fremont route does pan out, than we have a fair amount of flexibility with station placement. Ideally we will build a stacked platform as you describe. But if this proves to be too expensive, we could simply add another station south of Brooklyn. My idea (as mentioned earlier) is to have it at Eastlake and Campus Parkway/40th. I think this would be a great station, and would actually be the closest station to the heart of the UW (Red Square). The train would then meet up with the rest of the line before Husky Stadium. Someone coming from the north (Roosevelt/Northgate/etc.) and trying to get to Ballard would transfer at Husky stadium, which is less than ideal (costing them a stop either direction). But those riders are really a small subset of the overall riders, and this is a small price to pay (full disclosure — I would be one of those riders, and I would gladly pay this minor time penalty). People coming from Ballard probably wouldn’t mind exiting at 40th instead of 45th (they might prefer it). If they care a lot, then they could double back like the other riders. Half the trains coming from the south would go north (towards Northgate) while the other half would go west (toward Ballard). Again, my guess is that most riders boarding or exiting at the UW wouldn’t care either way. In some instances, such as folks coming from Eastlake or the southwest end of the U-District (which is a very dense part of the city), an extra station would be an improvement.

      If a Fremont route is chosen, the other stations are almost identical to those for a northern line. Add a station at 3rd or 8th NW and a station at Wallingford Avenue. Wallingford and 34th is not as good as Wallingford and 45th, but it is no slouch, either. There is a fair amount of density there (which may surprise people) as well as new construction (http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/AppDocs/GroupMeetings/DRProposal3014232AgendaID4619.pdf). Although that pales in comparison to what is going on (or about to go on) in the U-District (https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z_Uf08eywQjk.k-13ENVDTX1g). The nicest part about a station there is that the name is obvious: Gas Works.

      • d.p. says

        Ross,

        I didn’t actually mean it was more vital that UW Link or even Northgate. That one’s vital, and it was vital to get it right, and its permanent omissions will leave permanent holes in our vital urban mobility.

        I merely meant that this line was — and always has been — far more cost-effective and far more game-changing than any possible northeast-downtown line you could imagine. The interconnective potential of this line — if built correctly — is nearly limitless. This is the line that makes Seattle a city.

      • RossB says

        I agree. This is way more important than any northwest-downtown line.

        It’s not obvious, because people are used to thinking about the geography from a time perspective. Everyone knows that it takes forever (even in a car) to get from Ballard to the UW, so they assume that it is a long ways. It isn’t. Three miles is really short distance. Likewise, once you get to the UW, going downtown is really quick. Going to downtown from Ballard via Queen Anne isn’t really much of a shortcut compared to going via the UW. If Market/45th was replaced with a freeway, then this would be obvious. Without traffic, that drive would take about six minutes (since it is only about six miles). The time penalty for going via the UW is really minor, yet the benefit (if done right) could be enormous.

      • Anandakos says

        d.p.

        Isn’t “variable tax rates among sub-areas” another way of saying “Seattle should pay for Seattle projects”? Once we get to that, it begins to make sense for the individual municipalities to do the design. Not the engineering, but the design. I expect that the Seattle Department of Transportation would add those two intermediate stations that need to be there.

      • d.p. says

        Yup, pretty much.

        I simply cannot fathom the value of a political fiction that insists we raise money for a bunch of stuff that will abjectly fail to improve mobility for anyone, in order to have the chance to build even a fraction of the things that actually need to be built.

        If ST needs to have its comprehensive “design-tax-build-operate” role reduced in order to reorient everyone toward building useful and complementary projects well, then so be it.

        As these separate study releases (Tacoma and Burien and so forth) have begun to coalesce into an understanding of what some ST faction sees as the agency’s manifest destiny, it has been galling to realize just how much said faction lacks the remotest understanding of scale. The $40-$50 billion of proposed cumulative projects rivals what is on the table for the urbanized millions of Los Angeles in a similar time-frame, and no one in said faction seems bothered by the Puget Sound’s comparatively thin tax base, paucity of density or destinations, and unlikeliness to support projects that cost so much money and (by the studies’ own admission) achieve so little.

      • Mike Orr says

        Variable tax rates across subareas has a lot of pluses and I can’t think of any minuses. Let Snohomish built what it wants to pay for, and Seattle build what it wants to pay for, regardless of whether one is more extensive than the other. I don’t know why the uniform tax rule was established but it seems to come down to either:
        1) A simplistic understanding of tax equity.
        2) The “cars cost less in Puyallup” effect. But cars already cost less in Puyallup due to other taxes.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        I don’t think the political science of differential tax rates works out, unless the proposal is that there be a Seattle project with no tax increase in the suburbs.

        The worst possible electoral combination is a tax increase with no appreciable benefit. It’s far better to have a larger tax increase with projects that people envision using (i.e. not “more buses”), even if they don’t meet strict cost-benefit criteria. “This tax is useless — but at least it’s small” is not a winning electoral message.

        Moreover a tax package with differential rates that has huge projects in Seattle and BRT in the suburbs is easy to misconstrue as the suburbs sending money to Seattle, which is even more toxic.

        You could say that subjecting these projects to the ballot box is a terrible way to make transportation policy, and you’d be right. But slagging the suburban rail projects makes Ballard light rail less likely, not more.

      • d.p. says

        Martin, the eventual outcome would be each sub-area voting for its own itemized projects, in effectively separate elections (perhaps in separate election cycles), with “passage” of a given levy dependent only on vote totals in that sub-area.

        If Sound Transit doesn’t think it can convince voters to support right-scaled suburban projects without an urban supermajority compensating for suburban anti-transit sentiment, that’s on Sound Transit, not on urban voters.

        We shouldn’t have our electoral support so taken for granted that our vital mobility needs are delayed, underfunded, short-shrifted, and built at anti-urban scale on suburban-purposed corridors (with our money), all in service of political calculations to support a nebulous (and perpetually city-hostile) understanding of the word “regional”.

        ST’s L.A.-level $50-billion network map is not going to happen. It would have hardly any passengers if it did. If that is the ultimate “goal” behind ST’s political calculations, then those political calculations should be undermined, and the agency charter and funding mechanisms fundamentally reimagined.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        If you’re talking about completely separate elections, then I agree that my vote-counting objections fall away. If you think that “reimagining” Sound Transit in Olympia is going to get a short-stop-spacing subway in Ballard and avoid building anything of consequence in the suburbs in our lifetimes, I’m not sure what to say to you.

        If you think it’s more important to prevent the suburbs from getting service that’s a little nicer than necessary than to get rail in the neighborhoods you care about, that’s certainly your prerogative. But don’t confuse that with advocacy.

      • d.p. says

        The suburbs will not vote for tens of billions of dollars in projects that even ST’s own numbers say are terrible. If that is the political calculus behind the big ST3 push, then ST3 will go down in flames, no matter how enthusiastic Seattle voters are about their small piece.

        Trying to prevent a future collapse in our ability to do anything useful is advocacy, even if not of the lollipops-and-sunshine variety.

        Mayor Murray has begun to come through with surprisingly practical outcomes on a variety of sensitive political matters. Maybe leaning on Olympians to unshackle ST’s funding mechanism from illogical geographic appeasements should be his next project.

      • Chris Stefan says

        @d.p. –

        I think it is necessary to separate the short-term from the long-term. The short-term in this case being now through an eventual ST3 vote and the long-term being anything past that.

        Short term, certain suburban projects have the kind of political support that will be necessary for the legislature to extend Sound Transit’s taxing authority and for voter passage of ST3. Seattle simply isn’t going to get the taxing authority needed to build urban grade-separated rail without giving Snohomish County a LRT line to Everett or having equivalent projects for the East King, South King, and Pierce sub-areas. I agree LRT between Kent-DesMoines rd and Tacoma is likely a huge waste of money. Hopefully better projects like Burien-Renton or something serving the urbanized parts of Pierce County will be funded instead. However something will need to be built there or projects in Seattle won’t get any funding.

        Long-term I agree the funding model breaks down rather badly. Already for ST3 there is a lack of really good potential projects for East King other than Downtown Redmond and the Renton portion of a Renton/Burien line. The problem gets even worse for ST4 without some radical changes in density and land use. Giving Seattle the ability to tax itself to pay for transit infrastructure outside of the current Sound Transit constraints will be necessary.

      • d.p. says

        I guess I just profoundly doubt that the ST3 you (and Martin and assorted don’t-change-horses boosters) describe is going to pass. I don’t think there are enough normal voters who actually care if the local-scaled rail actually makes it to Everett or Federal Way, or who can see themselves needing an expedited ride from a part of Renton they never go to toward a part of Burien they never go to.

        Crossing the lake, and reaching past the nightmare of the I-5 approach to Seattle, were really visceral and comprehensible necessities to the voters who approved ST2. The ST3 list screams “paltry and pointless” by comparison, especially with a comparatively large price tag affixed to it.

        The ST3 you describe is going down in flames, with or without ST’s cynical overriance on a Seattle supermajority (which they’ve so far used to screw Seattle out of First Hill and urban-scaled Rainier service, and to make us pay for a hefty chunk of East Link and for tracks to the Snohomish border).

        If I’m right, there will be no choice but to reinvent the charter to allow a rational approach to project-making and targeted taxation after the district-wide initiative has failed. But wouldn’t it make more sense to get that ball rolling before suffering such a terrible ballot-box embarrassment?

      • Martin H. Duke says

        I don’t think ridership studies have much to do with votes. I think a large number of voters in Kirkland, Issaquah, Renton, etc. want connections into the system. They may not use it every day, but they think it valuable for when they’re heading to the airport or to the Mariners game. Whether or not it’s enough people to carry an election depends on the specific election and conditions at that time, but it’s certainly the case that we got a lot more votes for ST1 and ST2 than what the sum of ridership estimates of all the services would imply.

        In any case, the vast majority of municipal leaders that care are committed to a regional model, including the Mayor of Seattle. It will in fact take an ST3 defeat at the polls for the establishment to pursue Seattle-only options.

      • Anandakos says

        @Chris,

        “Seattle simply isn’t going to get the taxing authority needed to build urban grade-separated rail without giving Snohomish County a LRT line to Everett or having equivalent projects for the East King, South King, and Pierce sub-areas.”

        This assumes that the voters in Snohomish, East and South King and Pierce still “want” their extensions. While it might be true that a slim majority of the regional leaders there still think they’re necessary, you will see those people washed away in elections over the next two years.

        The people in the suburbs have made their choices, and they don’t include transit expansion.

      • Chris Stefan says

        @Anandakos and d.p.

        I think you are drawing the wrong conclusions about the mood of voters outside of Seattle. Due to election timing Prop 1 attracted the most conservative and ant-transit electorate possible. A ST3 vote during a November Presidential election will attract a much more pro-transit and less anti-government voter.

        There is also a bit of psychology involved. You need to “go big or go home”. In other words there needs to be some sizzle in the plan to capture the imagination of the voters. Just look at the public response to option D for Ballard/Downtown even though it is the most expensive option by far.

        d.p. I think you are committing the endpoint fallacy with the Burien/Renton line. While a certain amount of trips will be strictly between station pairs, such a line will also connect people to the larger transit network. This means connecting the airport to Sounder and Amtrak. Connecting Rainier Valley to Southcenter or allowing someone to easily get between Burien and the UW. As suburban lines go the ridership potential is pretty damn good. I’d certainly say it should be built before any low-performing line between Federal Way and Tacoma.

      • d.p. says

        I understand the concept of “go big or go home”.,

        But for all the tens of billions of dollars cumulatively wrapped up in the suggested projects, none of really “go big” in any way that even a half-hearted voter plurality is likely to latch onto.

        An Issaquah spur, with a detour to transfer at South Bellevue P&R? “Who cares? My commuter bus goes non-stop into downtown in 20 minutes today, and they’re keeping the HOV lanes.

        Seattle to Bellevue felt like “going big”. A true (if too express) subway hitting every node on the forever-fucked I-5 corridor felt like “going big”. All of the billions of dollars you’d bait the suburbs with in your hypothetical ST3 still comes across as ineffectual, pissant, fantasy-map transit. Because it is.

        As for Burien-Renton, there’s no “endpoint fallacy” to fall into. There’s relatively little at either endpoint, thoroughly unwalkable intermediate destinations, large patches of emptiness along the way, and no transfers to be made that will save anyone enough time to be worthwhile. Only by comparison to the astounding Federal Way boondoggle does this look remotely worthy (read: it’s still quite a boondoggle).

        If rail ever reaches Renton, it should do so via the Rainier Valley, not via the Tukwila New Urbanist Slightly Better Camouflaged Garage Zone.

    • KyleK says

      Side note: What will the Eastside build for ST3? All of the 520 options are bad… But the other studies are abysmal.

      Considering what they are talking about with 520 is damn close to building a separate bridge, how crazy is the Sand Point crossing? At least that would allow you to hit some legitimate destinations…

      • Charles B says

        Yes, a new bridge next to 520 is worse than pointless… billions of dollars to bring a train to a freeway interchange. If I were an east sider, I would lean much more toward connecting actual city centers over duplicating existing freeway alignments.

        We really need to force a serious questioning of this 520 manifest destiny in regional planning.

      • d.p. says

        Is Overlake-Redmond ST3? Or ST2.5? That one is makes sense (if only because East Link will already exist, and Redmond has something of a functional and growing mixed-purpose downtown).

        But yeah, this is why I support variable tax rates between subareas, so that a network can be built as actually needed, without any area being overcharged or underfunded or seeking out useless pork to “balance” real projects elsewhere.

      • Mike Orr says

        I just read ST’s draft long-range plan and it rejects the idea of a Sand Point-Kirkland crossing, saying it has been studied before and found wanting.

        I’m assuming 520 light rail won’t make it due to cost. That leaves Issaquah – Bellevue – Totem Lake, 405 BRT, and smaller things like a Kirkland – Redmond express bus. And it would bring attention back to 520 BRT.

      • Mike Orr says

        Overlake – downtown Redmond is ST3. I forgot about that. But if East Link comes in under budget (ha ha, it has already spent a lot of money in Bellevue planning) it could put the difference toward the Redmond extension.

      • KyleK says

        Mike: “Studied and found lacking”. — by whom? When? Statements like this that refer to decisions that have been made with no public visibility are very frustrating. They also still reject subway technology because it requires grade separation. Wait… What? Have they read their own public comments?

      • KyleK says

        Mike — OK, I found the reference in the LRP Draft EIS. They reference a Trans-Lake Washington Study. I can’t find it anywhere — does anyone know where I can find that study?

      • KyleK says

        I’m putting in for a public disclosure from WSDOT — the only thing I can find online is an executive summary. Note: This study is from 1998 and was conducted by WSDOT. Seems like an odd choice of end all/be all information for ST.

  16. Colin says

    Seems like they should explore doing C1 via tunnel. The wallingford tunnel goes about 3 miles and would cost around $1.7B. Detour via Fremont, add about half a mile to the tunnel route, and add all those Fremont riders. The trip from Ballard to UW station would go up to about 7 to 10 minutes, and the cost would likely increase about $400M ( figure $600M/mile for tunnel plus one station).

    When they get around to building direct to Ballard, if they use the tunnel through Queen Anne, they can terminate it at the Fremont station. In the mean time, Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford can all go downtown via UW.

      • RossB says

        I brought it up first! :)

        Seriously, though, I have a lot of questions, but I think that one is one of the big ones (http://seattletransitblog.com/2014/06/14/sound-transit-reviews-ballard-uw-options/#comment-492729). The fact that other people (like yourself) independently come up with the idea shows that. Even though I raised a bunch of questions, I think the two most important are (in reverse order):

        1) What would the cost and time penalty be for an underground line including Fremont?
        2) Can you build a spur junction as d. p. suggests here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/67869267@N07/9152772373/?

        The second question is crucial. Build that and you really don’t need another line from Ballard to downtown.

      • KyleK says

        1. Good question. ST needs to study C1 as a tunnel.
        2. This question has been floating around forever. My understanding is that you can’t because existing tunnel will be overcrowded (because of the way they built it.) This question has been asked a million times (by me too) – ST apparently is not even remotely budging on it. I should also note that Belltown and LQA would be served by the north south line — and it sets up for future service to crown hill/greenwood/etc (as in the Seattle Subway map.) The decision to spend$ $3.5-4.0 Billion to hit upper QA, however, is one that is likely to be revisited once the actual funding comes into view.

      • Mike Orr says

        2) Is really an ST policy decision. The draft long-range plan (on which I’ve submitted an article draft to STB) says ST is reserving 3-minute service for potential Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond, and won’t add another line beyond 3 minutes. Unofficial sources say east coast and foreign trains work fine with less than three minutes, but ST policy.

        It’s possible the policy might change after 3 minutes is in operation, if ST is convinced there’s spare capacity, but they’re at least 15 years away from determining that so it’s moot now.

      • d.p. says

        While I still think the notion that Northgate will ever need 3-minute service is a steaming pile of cow output — take ST’s own ridership estimates, subtract Brooklyn station from the “North Link” segment figures, and you can barely get the 4-car trains half full unless like 90% of Northgate ridership is at the peak of peaks — I nevertheless suggested the following beneath the Flickr image:

        If trunk tunnel vehicle capacity is really as artificially limited as some claim, then the Spur could be run as a shuttle during peak hours. With one platform directly above the other and trunk service promised every 3 minutes, the transfer penalty would be negligible.

        At all other times, trains from the Spur would continue through to Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle.

        Off-peak, the problem of having two separate inbound platforms can easily be dealt with with a next train indicator (as here and countless other places). And if someone is too lazy to follow the indicator downstairs, Sound Transit is still promising excessively frequent offpeak Northgate service, is it not?

      • Anandakos says

        Ross,

        d.p.’s idea for a junction under UW is creative but “not gonna happen”. The university folks have made it clear that one and only one subway line will disturb their peace. The geometry he draws would require a steep gradient so I expect the points would have to be placed somewhat farther east than diagrammed.

        A better solution, but unfortunately one which has been forever thwarted by the Brooklyn Station design, would be for that station’s platforms to be stacked and a flying junction to the west implemented just north of it.

        So, the idea of roughing in the station box for an east-west line underneath the north-south tracks at Brooklyn makes a huge amount of sense, even without the proposed junction. Even if it is never used it would add only a few percent to the total cost of the station (another twenty vertical feet of excavation for about a hundred feet, a pair of permanent walls and a pair of temporary ones). But if a subway linking the U District to Ballard does come about and even if it never goes to Kirkland, it would still be useful to run it east to U-Village and Childrens’ Hospital.

        But it would have to pass under the extreme northwest corner of the UW campus if it’s under 43rd as shown, so that might be a deal-breaker.

      • David Lawson says

        My hope is that passing under the northwest of the UW campus wouldn’t attract the same anxiety and ire from the UW administration as the North Link alignment. There is no sensitive research equipment in that area to my knowledge — it contains the law school, the business school, a museum, the historic observatory. There are a few dorms to the east and some liberal arts buildings to the south. All the science and engineering buildings are further south yet.

        I’d very much like to see any UW-Ballard line have its east terminus near the northwest corner of U-Village, where there is a lot of multifamily housing and room for more, with currently difficult transit access to the rest of the city. From there it would also be a straight shot to Children’s and/or Sand Point, although the ridership case for those seems much weaker.

      • Anandakos says

        Also, having the junction underneath UW would mean that passengers bound for downtown from Brooklyn would have to choose between the two levels or dash from one to the other to get the “next train” bound for Capitol Hill and Westlake.

      • Mike Orr says

        I don’t think UW has ever pre-vetoed a second tunnel. It just doesn’t want any stations closer to the center of campus. And a second tunnel would have the same seismic-vibration hurdles as the first tunnel.

        After University Link and North Link are running, it may come to regret that it didn’t allow a station at the HUB. It will doubtless become a perennial complaint of students.

      • d.p. says

        The “research disruption” is a depressingly common canard. Boston, New York, and Chicago all have significantly rumblier trains passing literally through the basements or by the second-story windows of major hospitals, and nothing is measurably disturbed.

        Has the UW removed any and all HVAC equipment from their research facilities? Have they banned their researchers from wearing shoes? All are more likely to cause vibratory anomalies than a brand-new train buried hundreds of feet below.

        Fortunately, as David says, this complaint would prove irrelevant to any (invisible) digging below the far fringes of campus. The UW is still a public entity — it’s still us. If you can dig around/between/below thousands of private building owners, you can dig below UW’s grass and trees.

        Also, Anandakos, when I Photoshopped that line, I largely based the curve radius on ST’s own. And the “steep gradient” is actually an advantage, as the line from the lower platform would need to rise less in order to meet the first line at the junction.

        Lastly, David, I want to acknowledge that tunneling to/terminating at 25th northwest of U-Village is an interesting idea. I’ve long resisted suggestions that would water down the core 3-mile complete urbanized corridor between Ballard and the UW with expensive and far less pressing extensions eastward. Children’s is a minor outpost (and, you might recall, we skipped First Hill), while the mall is, well, a mall, forever to be primarily purposed for shoppers with cars. There’s not much down there that couldn’t easily be handled by a frequent bus down the 45th viaduct. But you’re right that 25th Ave proper is growing and improving, and particularly hard to reach from 45th by bus, foot, or car. So if ST refuses to through-route even outside of peak, it might be worth pursuing your case.

      • andy says

        regarding a line extending/reaching east to U-Village:

        besides being an obviously good place for a station — TOD opportunities; connections to 25th NE; and reserving the possibilities of extending NE in the future (lake city!) — extending to 25th provides a much better place to stage and begin boring from…. under the NE 45th trestle, pockets of undeveloped land, the (huge) university maintenance & surplus building. definitely seems like a good spot to work from; build a station; accommodate switching for a turn-back; and dare I even say provide the room for a maintenance facility and yard…..

      • Anandakos says

        d.p.

        So I looked up the Wikipedia on JFK/UMass and found that indeed a person entering the station and wishing to travel toward downtown or onward must choose between two platforms. And the article states that it’s likely to be reworked to a single platform for both lines.

        The article doesn’t say whether the current arrangement is popular but it’s probably on no one’s list of favorite stations.

        I wasn’t talking about a “steep gradient” in the existing line. It’s actually not that steep since the campus isn’t on much of a hill. Yes, whatever upward change in elevation occurs in the main line between the place where the points would be and the main stem Brooklyn station box would help, but track elevation in the lower level would have to be at least twenty to twenty-two feet below the ceiling of the lower level station box. You’d need at least five feet of girder space to hold up the upper box. So you’re looking at twenty seven feet in about three “short” blocks. Twenty seven feet in 450 is about six percent. That’s not impossible by any means, but it is pretty steep, especially with a level crossing at the end of it.

        Muni Metro’s J/N flying junction has at least that gradient downward on the inbound track, but the junction is engineered for that track to underrun the westbound track on Market. So the difference in elevation for the trains climbing up to Duboce is much less than that they roller coaster down to the junction inbound.

        All in all, not a deal killer, but not something to be ignored.

      • colin says

        @d.p. – I Wish I could upvote for “significantly rumblier”….

        I’m not 100% sold on the junction under UW. I agree that being able to transfer from the Northgate/Lynnwood line to the Ballard line without walking 1/4 mile is important, but I’m not sure the Ballard people NEED a one seat ride from downtown. If there is a steadfast decision never to put in another north/south line, I can see it, but other than that, no. Consider this: If there is a branch line going to Ballard, the University Link tunnel is going to get pretty crowded. If the Northgate line needs minimum headways heading downtown to keep up with demand, the Ballard line is going to be caught in a traffic jam in that tunnel. At very least, the Ballard line service frequency is going to be impacted by having to share a busy tunnel. Would you rather have a one-seat ride on 15 minute intervals or a 2-seat ride with 3 minute transfer on 5 minute intervals?

        Add to that the possibility of extending the Ballard line towards Lake City and beyond, and it gets easier to support quick transfers instead of one-seat rides. IMO, the junction would limit the capacity of the line, not improve it.

        Yes, you could have it both ways, with some Ballard trains going downtown, some stopping at Brooklyn, some heading to Lake City… I think that would be great, but would require a heck of a lot of switching in tunnels for just a little added convenience.

        IMO if the Brooklyn station is done right, it can teach Seattlites not to fear transfers. Especially from one train to another, transfers are not evil. Transfers allow us to get more utility out of fewer trains. The key is to get it right this time. Screw up this transfer opportunity and we’ll wind up with a whole bunch of solo trains that all come out of their own tunnels somewhat near each other downtown. We won’t wind up with a subway system.

      • colin says

        I also think it’s not necessarily that tough to put in a T or + shaped transfer platform. The Brooklyn station is 70 or 80 feet underground, right? They could run their TBM through above the station, adjacent to the elevator/stair area (the portion that would’ve been backfilled after building the first station). They could even put in a “roof” and a “floor” before the tunnel gets there, or excavate down to that level, all without disrupting the working station. Then it’s just a matter of cutting through some (what used to be) exterior walls in the stairway portion of the station, and route the stairwells the right places. It would be more difficult to build the platform in the second station because they’d be perpendicular to arterials like Brooklyn Street, but I think it would be worth closing Brooklyn Street for a year or so to make it happen. On the plus side, they probably already relocated all the utilities in the area…

      • d.p. says

        Anandakos,

        With about 7,800 daily entries and 7,800 daily exits, JFK/UMass is the second busiest station on the southern Red Line (though it pales in comparison to the northern Red Line). The busyness of the station is why the additional platforms were added — for its first few years Braintree trains didn’t stop there at all. That was unpopular.*

        I’m baffled as to why you think it’s such a problem. The “next train” indicator is always on. You enter the station, you glance at the sign, you head to whichever stairs it suggests. It neither delays nor confuses anyone. It is functionally no different than the “next train” indicator at a stub-platform terminal, which is an even more ubiquitous concept.

        As I said, the Red Line arrangement is hardly unique. I know I’ve encountered it in London, that it happens on the RER, and that it exists on complex systems throughout Europe and Asia. It’s a fairly standard solution where two lines join and geometry prevents merging before the station platform, which can happen for more reasons than you can possibly imagine.

        *(It’s curious that someone writing on Wikipedia believes a station rebuild is in the cards. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. If it is linked to yet another expensive I-93 project, then my guess is it’s DOA.)

        Colin,

        You make some soilid points, and yes, the experience of painless subway transfers will be a welcome education for Seattleites.

        I don’t know how likely we are to get a Lake City subway in the next generation, and even if we do, I cannot see it duplicating North Link all the way to the U-District in its own parallel tunnel — 25th and Ravenna simply aren’t busy enough to warrant such an expense. So it’s not going to “extend” from Ballard unless it somehow merges into the trunk.

        It may be Quixotic, but I’m going to continue to rail against the fiction that we “need” 3-minute Northgate trains, because on principle I don’t overlook fictions presented as fact. The Brooklyn-UW-Capitol Hill-downtown segment will forever be where capacity peaks, and so Roosevelt-Northgate will by definition require less capacity. Either you can have fewer trains head in that direction, or your trains will be emptier in that direction.

        So while Ballard-downtown through-routing may not be crucial, it should be possible. And it would advantageously reduce the total journey time, attracting more riders and perhaps rendering another expensive north-south line superfluous. The cherry on top is much-desired (and much-bemoaned) Capitol Hill-Ballard journey, which would be reduced from 55-75 minutes to 11-14.

        Being able to through-route in the off-peak might be extra-handy when ST discovers that there’s near-zero off-peak demand from Lynnwood and cuts back evening service to 15 minutes, killing the transfer convenience.

      • Chris Stefan says

        I really don’t think any sort of junction at or near the University District station is going to happen. The final design of the station and tunnel is complete and the dirt is starting to move.

        If an E/W line between Ballard and the UW is built it is very likely it will be as a larger part of a Ballard/Downtown line. Perhaps the surface/elevated lines could be independent but I don’t see a good location for an OMF for option A3 as a stand-alone line.

        If one of the surface/elevated options is chosen there simply is no practical way it will interline with North Link.

        As for transfers, the station box for University District station is built on a very constrained site. It isn’t really practical to build a cross pattern transfer station on this site. A second set of platforms could be mined but that would be fairly expensive and complex. However a station under 45th between Brooklyn and 15th would be very close and should be easy to connect with a pedestrian tunnel.

      • d.p. says

        Under 45th and the Ave would be perfectly great for both pedestrian access and a reasonable underground transfer, of course, but I’d expect the construction disruption would be more than that busy intersection could handle. That’s why I wound up proposing a platform deep beneath 43rd Street, which is already being interrupted as we speak.

        I just do not see the north-south and east-west lines both getting built, Chris, and certainly not concurrently. The north-south costs more than 2x as much (3x including a new downtown tunnel) for not that much additional benefit. This study is a whopping vindication of the significantly greater cost-effectiveness of going east-west, even if that’s the only thing you ever do.

        The lack of an obvious place north of the Ship Canal for a base — which is, of course, precisely why that is a corridor worth serving with rapid transit — is why a junction really must be built, even if it winds up used only for non-revenue service.

        As you say, the dirt is just barely beginning to move. Now is the time to future-proof. Do you know how many drastic design revisions happen in the course of constructing anything? Bare-minimum preparations for future expansion at the foundation/track/pedestrian level would represent just a tiny fraction of the inevitable design changes!

        Seattle may be the only city on earth that never future-proofs anything. That should end now.

      • Chris Stefan says

        I just don’t see Sound Transit altering its plans for North Link to accommodate the E/W line unless it is something very cheap and easy to do.

        I’d really rather put my energy toward making sure ST3 is big enough to do both Ballard/Downtown and Ballard/UW, do them right (option D and A3 with more stations), and to build the support needed for tax authority and voter approval than toward getting Sound Transit to make major late changes to North Link that may prove unnecessary.

      • d.p. says

        Well then we are likely to create more problems for ourselves, since $6 billion for ~40,000 riders (after compensating for overlap) as almost certainly not in the cards.

      • Anandakos says

        @Colin,

        One thing to consider on this topic is train utilization. There will be some percentage of the ridership from Roosevelt and north on the main step which detrains at Brooklyn or Husky Stadium. There will be a noticeably higher percentage of riders on the east-west line who are destined for the U-district. I’m guessing that because the Ballard population is younger than that farther north and is therefore more likely to be UW oriented.

        Also, even after Roosevelt and Brooklyn open there will be at least three or four buses from northeast Seattle which will transfer riders to Link at Husky Stadium.

        So there is opportunity for passengers to replace one another at adjacent stations. Northend riders headed for the liberal arts part of the campus and U-district destinations get off at Brooklyn and are replaced by riders from Ballard and Wallingford plus the same originating traffic from Brooklyn that would arise regardless of the east-west line. The train gets pretty crowded for the stretch to Husky Stadium, but then riders from both the main stem and east-west lines detrain for the hospital and engineering areas. They are replaced to some degree with riders from a few bus lines.

        Contrast that with the pattern where the east-west line merges. Riders from both the main stem and east-west line trains debark at both Brooklyn and Husky Stadium and are both slightly filled with riders originating at Brooklyn and transferring from the buses. South of Husky Stadium the average train running is less full than it would be with the transfer, so there could be fewer trains running with the transfer option.

        So far as the need for a junction to allow for non-revenue runs, that sounds like a very good point.

      • d.p. says

        Maximum train load will forever be set by the segment between Brooklyn and Westlake. Indeed, it’s reasonable to presume that the 2-minute journey between Capitol Hill station and downtown will be when every single vehicle reaches its heaviest usage, peak of peak or late at night, forever and ever.

        This is why it does not matter, and has never mattered, that all vehicles be sent northward to Northgate or Lynnwood. The passenger load is inherently lower past Brooklyn, such that 1/2 the off-peak trains and 2/3 the peak trains can easily handle whatever the northern sections throw at them.

        The rest of your thought experiment is interesting, but entirely hypothetical and highly debatable. I would say that Wallingford and Ballard are highly disassociated from undergraduate or Ave-hanging types (who may live near campus, or commute in from their suburban parents’ homes), but may have more UW employees/grad students/researchers. I would also suggest that Ballard/Wallingford to Capitol Hill — the Achilles heal of current intra-urban transit — will become a primary source of ridership once a subway makes it feasible, more so than suburbs->Capitol Hill, as the suburbanites are far more likely to be commuting downtown.

        An interlined subway, no matter what the stubborn kooks at ST believe, is feasible. Rider demand beyond Brooklyn branches in two primary directions. Branching the trains at the point where demand branches is precisely what you are supposed to do to match supply and demand, whether you’re London or Boston or Seattle. Doing anything else merely overserves some areas while shafting others.

      • Chris Stefan says

        d.p.

        BTW a E/W station at 43rd is an interesting idea, that hadn’t occurred to me. Though it is perhaps a bit early to do more than just provide rough station locations.

        To that end I’d strongly urge Sound Transit to budget for 5-6 stations on any E/W line. Using option A3 they should be at roughly University Way, Thackeray, Wallingford, Fremont, 8th NW and 15th NW.

        At this point I’d have to say Ballard/Downtown is far more likely than Ballard/UW for ST3. North King most likely will have either $4.5 or $7.2 billion for ST3. This is based on the cost of LRT projects between Everett and Lynnwood. The first is enough to build option D for Ballard/Downtown plus a Downtown tunnel or option B Ballard/Downtown (OMF at Interbay) plus A3 in Ballard/UW. The second gets you option D Ballard/Downtown with a downtown tunnel, A3 plus stations UW/Ballard, plus some money left over for smaller projects.

        I know you are skeptical about the regional layer cake sub-area equity forces but those are the two most likely funding scenarios I see at this point. If ST doesn’t get the tax authority needed or ST3 goes down in flames then sure, let’s build Ballard/UW first in a “Seattle goes it alone” approach. That said, I don’t see where exactly Seattle gets the taxing authority needed to build a $2 billion project.

      • d.p. says

        Responses in no particular order:

        – I simply cannot see how a $4 billion expenditure (w/ downtown tunnel) for <30,000 people is going to beat a $1.7 billion expenditure that yields just as many riders and improves trip times more significantly and on more destination pairs.

        – Just saying "we'll have oodles and oodles of money because ST3 is guaranteed to pass" would be really poor logic even if it weren't intentionally wasteful. I really don't think Slowcoma and Burien are winning at the ballot box. Rely on there being extra billions in that one basket, and you'll see a lot of eggs spoil.

        – The diagram of my 43rd stacked-platform idea, if you didn't see it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/67869267@N07/9152772373/

        – Thackeray becomes redundant if you get a stop at Wallingford or Meridian, which are exactly a mile from Brooklyn. Less so if people start gravitating to Stone Way. But Stone only makes sense if you dig down to lower Fremont for the next stop; if the line heads to a Fremont/Aurora-spanning stop at 46th, Stone is barely a stone's throw away.

        – Four stops over 3 to 3.5 miles is a superlatively reasonable stop spacing, especially if you locate them evenly and well. While any plan that fails to provide an easy-access transfer to central Fremont and Phinney/Greenwood should be fought tooth-and-nail, one should take care not to superfluously propose more deep-mined stations at half a billion a pop. One of the reasons I've argued for cut-and-cover on the westernmost ⅓ mile is that shallow-and-super-cheap is the only way I see East Ballard happening and the reasonable stop spacing maintained.

  17. fil says

    Interesting that none of these routes shows a station at sr99. Seems like transfers from rapid ride to light rail would he a key componant of this study.

    • Charles B says

      A joint station near the zoo that could have direct transfers to both the rapid ride and the 5 would seem optimal to me (if doable).

      In either case, a station between Ballard and Wallingford needs study.

      • d.p. says

        Should absolutely be doable. At that point, Fremont Ave and Aurora are closer to one another than the two ends of the Westlake Station platform.

      • Eric L says

        The 5 would need to be rerouted to take 50th from Phinney to Fremont, rather than 43rd as it does today, but I see no good reason not to do that. At that point you could make a station close to both the 5 and rapid ride, and also kind of close to north Fremont and the zoo.

      • Charles B says

        @Eric L
        The 5 might go that way for legacy reasons or to avoid traffic. I have no objection to moving the connection to Fremont. If we have solid connections for the bus to the train, people who lose their bus stop can walk… to their shiny new train station.

      • Anandakos says

        We had a big argument about re-routing the 5 to Fremont north of 43rd about two years ago. Given that RR-E has seven minute service at 46th and Aurora, two very short blocks from Fremont, why would one want to deprive the folks along Phinney of their hundred year old service? There are a large number of apartments along the street between 43rd and 50th.

      • David Lawson says

        why would one want to deprive the folks along Phinney of their hundred year old service?

        Because the Fremont routing is still close by and is much faster.

        You might be able to get some of the same speed benefits with signal revisions at Phinney/50th and Phinney/46th and a new southbound stop sign at 43rd/Fremont, but the layout of both Phinney and 43rd is also part of the problem, and wouldn’t be easy to fix.

      • Anandakos says

        But of course, if there were an east-west subway station between Fremont and Aurora, it would make sense to divert the 5 to Fremont. Just not now.

      • Charles B says

        @Anandakos
        Agreed, I don’t think anyone really wants to divert it now… there isn’t a good reason for it yet.

        I could even see a good reason to terminate the 5 at Fremont (decoupling it from the 21) if both of the Ballard lines get built. Past Fremont, the 5 hops on 99 and acts as a downtown express anyway.

        Walking a few blocks east to the bus stop won’t be that bad when its now attached to a train station (where you can also charge your ORCA card!)

      • d.p. says

        I would divert now! The wait-left-right-zig-zag-wait-straight-left adds at least 2 minutes to every run, while saving barely 3.5 minutes walk for even those right along it!

        Like the RapidRide diversion in miniature, the 43rd diversion fails a basic transit test: would anyone under their own steam reasonably choose to drive this way? (If not, there’s a good chance the bus has no business going this way either.)

        But this is, of course, a tangential discussion.

      • Anandakos says

        d.p.

        You are right about the problems at 46th and Phinney. But that’s a good reason for SDOT to get off the dime and put a decent light at the intersection, not to deprive people of their historic service. I know we disagree on this, but I’ve lived there; a lot of people do get off at 43rd and Phinney and walk down the hill. They walk down to the 28 in the morning. And there are quite a few apartments between 43rd and 50th on Phinney.

        RR-E gives much more frequent service to the people between 44th and 50th around Fremont than the 5 ever would.

      • d.p. says

        In the late evening, when both the 40 and the D are reduced to frequency suck, it is not uncommon for me to take a 5 (if it’s coming sooner) and switch to a car2go for the last short leg of my trip home.

        In pursuit of an available car2go, I have walked between Phinney Ave and Fremont Ave literally dozens of times. Late at night. In the rain.

        Those streets are a 3.5-minute walk apart.

        Really.

        Really really.

        That’s the same as 17th Ave to 20th Ave — one single long block — in Ballard.

        Really.

        Really really really.

        Nobody can complain about a walk this short, when it significantly improves the trip for the vast majority of people riding through that segment on the bus.

        Really.

        Really really really really.

        A turn signal at 43rd would only minimally help, given SDOT’s proclivity toward giving 80% of the cycle time to the primary street. And the primary street — by every metric and by all logic — is Fremont Ave.

        Really.

        Really really really really really.

      • Chris Stefan says

        I have to agree here. The weird jog in the route of the 5 makes no sense other than it was once the path the streetcar tracks followed.

        If there was a reasonably decent transfer to the RR E it might eliminate some of the objections to having the 5 replace the 26/28 on Dexter.

      • Anandakos says

        d.p.

        There’s no need for a light at 43rd and Fremont, and I didn’t suggest one. I suggested improving the light at 46th and Phinney, where yes, the bus often waits nearly two minutes and did so even thirty years ago. The left off of Fremont at 43rd is often just at the right place to avoid the long line-ups northbound in the afternoon on Fremont; not always certainly, but often enough to be valuable. The right turn onto Fremont southbound is usually fairly easy to accomplish.

        I just do not see what value is gained from moving the bus to Fremont when better service now and forever will be available to the people along it two short blocks away on the E line. Yes, there are a number of new apartment developments between 43rd and 50th between Fremont and Aurora, but I’ll bet you $20 that the majority of the folks in them who ride would prefer to take the E line because of the frequency even if you re-routed the 5 via 50th. Remember that half the walkshed on 50th is park, and there are no new buildings along it west of Fremont. There are a few new buildings along Phinney between 43rd and 50th.

        The traffic waiting at 46th and Fremont is always much greater than that at 46th and Phinney, especially northbound, so Fremont isn’t necessarily going to be that much faster even though the light is more equal.

        Adding some sort of bus detection that would advance the cycle for buses on Phinney is worth doing. Southbound not that many cars continue south on Phinney from 50th, because if they’re headed for Wallingford or the U-district they pass under Aurora and if headed downtown they use 50th to access Aurora, avoiding the frequent jams on 46th at Fremont. Northbound those same cars do exit at 46th because of the left turn option there, so some do tend to line up on Phinney northbound at 50th; others turn at Fremont to go north. But neither group would be in front of a bus approaching 46th from the south on Phinney.

        I realize that Metro does not have on-board preemption equipment at this time so it’s not easy to accomplish, but here and at many other assymetric volume intersections in the city adding on-board preemption would pay for itself quickly in lower bus hours.

      • d.p. says

        Yet again, it’s not about riders at 46th and Fremont. It’s about the through-riders of whom threre are about 25x as many as there are on your pet deviation (a deviation that is, again, no more than a 3.5 minute walk to the rationalized route).

        I presumed you were suggesting a light at 43rd and Fremont because I have waited entire minutes for the bus to turn there, in both directions. The long downhill lightless straightaway encourages drivers to “spread out”, leaving precious little window for any lumbering bus to merge in or squeeze through.

        Sometimes you just sit there. For a really long time. All because of streetcar grade issues 100 years ago. That’s simply stupid!

        The reason Fremont has more cars using it at 46th is because that is the straight, logical, direct way to go! But I have rarely, if ever, seen cars fail to clear on a single light cycle. The only hold-up seems to be from turning cars (and Seattle’s infuriating refusal to pull the fuck into the intersection when turning so that others can drive around you). A dedicated turn lane would resolve this.

        The 5 is a really long route, with a lot of really long-distance riders for whom the E is never quite close enough nor frequent enough to prove a beneficial option. They’re stuck on the 5. The literal least you can do is not continue to send them on a 100-year-old neighborhood joyride down minor streets with 3 additional zig-zags, which can never be made as quick as the logical arterial path!

      • Anandakos says

        d.p.

        There are no streetcar grade issues on Fremont; it is nearly at the top of the hill when it gets to 43rd. The reason that the line turned at 43rd was to attain equal separation of lines with the old Woodland Park Avenue and Sixth Northwest streetcar lines, and that’s even more trenchant with the E line stop at 46th.

        Before I lived right at 43rd and Phinney I lived at 77th and Francis and worked at the Metro information office. As the most junior person there I had a terrible schedule (11 PM to 6 AM Friday and Saturday evenings and then back at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. My wife and I had no car of any kind and a young child. We used the 5 a

        I grant that my experience is obviously no longer 100% applicable because traffic has gotten so much worse, but the bus hardly slows down for the “wiggle” at 45th and Phinney. It might strictly be “deviation”, but it’s a pretty inconsequential one.

        Now I agree that for southbound buses the turn to go “straight” on Phinney does slow the bus, and then there is one extra turn at 46th. So the route is inherently probably 30 or 40 seconds longer than going via 50th and Fremont.

        I was just thinking today about how to create a bus preemption system which was cheaper than outfitting every bus and had the following idea. The folks on the site who know about hardware can judge if it’s a reasonable possibility.

        Create some sort of reasonably high quality camera mounted in a weatherproof box with the lens protected from rain like the red light cameras. Develop some sort of image analysis software that recognizes a bus reliably and rejects false positives very reliably. Since modern buses all have lighted destination signs and other running lights at a fairly consistent height, this shouldn’t be enormously difficult. Wire one them into the light chest at assymetric intersections like 46th and Phinney and see whether it creates effective bus preemption.

        It seems likely to be much cheaper than outfitting an entire urban bus fleet with preemption radios at $600 to $800 a pop. One would need many fewer since they’d only be installed at intersections which the DOT identified as a viable candidate.

        What do people think? Doable? Likely to be reasonably priced?

      • Anandakos says

        And not to be too argumentative but 17th NW and NW Market to 15th NW and NW Market, according to Google Maps, is 0.1 mile, 2 minutes walking. N 43rd and Phinney Avenue North to N 43rd and Fremont Avenue North is 0.2 mile, 4 minutes walking.

        So yes, it is about 3.5 minutes between the streets for a healthy person walking briskly, but it’s not the same as walking from 17th to 15th along Market.

      • Anandakos says

        Sorry, you said 20th to 17th, and GMaps says that’s 0.2 miles, 3 minutes’ walk. Apologies.

    • d.p. says

      And no one expects 17th or 20th to have me front-door trunk-line service. So why “must” the Phinney detour have it, at the expense of the travel time of many, many others?

  18. Larry Scheib says

    i think instead of running the planned downtown line to Ballard the line should go straight to 45th as the C1 line. Then cross the T with the A3 option. Just make sure the C1 line hits Freemont. This way all major districts are covered and only a couple minutes is added to a route from downtown to Ballard. This would probably save 1-2 billion.

    • KyleK says

      Interesting Idea Larry

      Lets break it down: The stretch of tunnel from Lower Fremont to Ballard is likely the lowest risk and cheapest bit (and you aren’t saving on any stations.) You are also adding tunnel from Fremont South to Fremont North.

      Bottom line; Savings would be very minimal and Ballard is the highest value end point on this line so forcing a transfer is probably not wise.

      • Larry Scheib says

        wouldn’t need a transfer. could run route straight through at T to Ballard. Transfers would be for to UW section. Seeing how C1 is projected as highest ridership area then might have Fremont tunnel built anyway.

    • RossB says

      I’m not sure if I follow you. How exactly do you propose to get from downtown to 45th?

      But I think if we build this line right, we don’t need an additional line from downtown to Ballard. This would do just fine (and be better than most of the proposals in terms of time).

      • Larry Scheib says

        Seeing how C1 is projected as highest ridership area then might have Fremont tunnel built anyway.

  19. Al S. says

    Is ST potentially “double counting” the construction costs with some of these alternatives? Aren’t segments of this corridor between Fremont and Ballard also serving a Ballard-to-Downtown corridor in some of those alternatives? It would be good to know how the costs and envisioned rail line operations interface with a larger NW Seattle service strategy. Each study should be informing the other.

    • aw says

      That’s premature. It’s probably best to look at the corridors in isolation at this point. Later on, the board will prioritize the projects, then when it comes time to implement them, they’ll go through an alternative analysis and EIS. At that time, they need to define how any project will interface to the current system and any potential extension.

      As someone suggested above, they should think hard about places along the line where there will be potential branching and plan for turnouts there.

      • aw says

        P.S., if they plan well they might avoid debacles like the shutdown of the DSTT when East Link will be cut in at IDS. But as much as they plan ahead, there will be times when some things will need to be rebuilt.

      • Al S. says

        All I’m really saying is that the capital cost estimates may be duplicative between Fremont and Ballard as both studies have capital costs for this same corridor segment.

    • Al S. says

      Thanks for the link, mdnative!

      It’s too bad that there are no “comment” sections in the survey, no ability to parse the segments from their predefined end points, and no interest in exploring other modes like automated people-movers or DMUs for some of these corridor segments. It’s simply not asking the broader questions that need to be asked at this point.

  20. Glenn in Portland says

    I’m probably too late to add to the discussion, but what about the west end?

    Maybe extend it to the BNSF and have a transfer location for getting to and from Sounder? Thanks to the expense of additional Sounder runs, it would probably be hugely expensive to operate any more than Sounder does. So, probably nothing so frequent as normal light rail. Maybe bring it to the surface and operate over the Ballard Terminal Railroad similar to the New Jersey RiverLINE, only using overhead wire. They don’t run double stacks there, so it shouldn’t have overhead clearance issues.

    It might help peak periods anyway.

    • andy says

      Glenn–

      I for one think that is brilliant.
      Positively extend the Ballard end of the line west to the BNSF corridor, YES!

      I remember when some NIMBYs in Ballard put the kibosh on the idea of a SOUNDER station in western-most Ballard (a.k.a. Shilshole).

      maybe time has passed and there is a different attitude about a station? — especially a station which was for both SOUNDER and LINK.

      a couple huge positives come to mind:

      CONNECTIONS:
      Light Rail could actually up the demand and ridership on Sounder from the North. Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds would all be able to connect into LINK without having to go all the way downtown. and in the case of Edmonds and Mukilteo that opens up potential ridership to/from the peninsula via the connecting ferries.

      CONSTRUCTION:
      a tunnel “coming out” of the hillside at Shilshole sounds a lot easier to build than boring a tunnel from the bottom of a pit. (maybe even load the spoils direct into train cars or a barge?)
      Then, when you combine this with comments above about this Ballard–UW line extending along 45th to 25th NE / U-Village you could have a near-level tunnel from daylight to daylight.

      • d.p. says

        Big meh.

        There just isn’t all that much over there. The townhouse and mid-century complex density is higher than, say, 99% of West Seattle, but its pretty quiet by the standards of Ballard. There’s a reason the last half-mile of the 44 rarely has a single passenger outside of peak.

        Combined with a minimally-operated Sounder line that has no expectation of improving in the future (weak time-competitiveness even for those right in Edmonds and Everett, nonexistent catchment otherwise, mudslide troubles), and the continued existence of peak express buses from both central Ballard and West Ballard that are reasonably fast and have better downtown stop distribution, and any Sounder-based plan is justifiably DOA.

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