Let’s Build The Ballard Spur!

By KEITH KYLE, Outreach Director, Seattle Subway

The Ballard to University District line is why I got involved in transit advocacy in the first place. In November 2011, I was frustrated with the lack of progress on getting rail to Ballard and created The Ballard Spur Facebook page with a nice graphic made by my friend Cathy Rundell. Within a week I was getting calls from local papers who were intrigued by the idea and wanted more information, a true testament to how starved this town is for high quality transit. Soon I joined forces with Seattle Subway, and with a lot of help, we got the powers that be to get moving on transit relief for our city.

The fruit of our labor:  The Ballard to University District study is available for review and the year is 2014 – NOT 2020.

When reviewing options for high capacity transit, Seattle Subway starts by throwing out all the options that are not 100% grade separated because any portion of the line that interacts with traffic subverts the speed, reliability, and utility of the whole line. Unfortunately, that leaves us with only one presented option: Alternative A3, titled “via Wallingford Tunnel.”

A3 is a very good start. It is fully grade separated and very fast. Travel time would be as low as just 6 minutes, ridership as high as 26,000/day, and the cost would be just under $1.4-1.9 Billion. This corridor is the highest performing in cost per rider of any corridor Sound Transit has studied so far.

The Ballard Spur (Alternative “A4”)

A3 does have one glaring weakness, however: it needs more stations. A density map of that part of Seattle shows that several dense areas along the A3 alignment would be ideal for walking, biking, and transit connections if Sound Transit carefully located the stations.  A3 offers only one station in the 3.5 miles between Ballard and the University District. This stop spacing is too suburban for an area with many dense neighborhoods and attractions. Closer stops would maximize the utility for both pedestrian access and transfers from other modes.  This corridor is dense enough to justify full subway spacing of stops — which would mean full coverage of the corridor by the new line, replacing the need for the slow-as-molasses 44.

The good news is that adding just two stations and moving the Wallingford Station would maximize connections to both attractions and transit.

The Ballard Spur (Alternative “A4”) adds the following stations to Alternative A3:

1.  South Phinney/Zoo/North Fremont/West Wallingford

What do all of these locations have in common? They are walkable from a station that stretches between Aurora and Fremont Ave N with station entrances located on either side. This area is densely populated and has more people in its walkshed than the Wallingford Station pictured in A3. It would provide an easy connection to attractions in North Fremont as well as the Woodland Park Zoo and East Wallingford. It also would add direct connections from buses traveling along the Aurora corridor, Fremont Ave N, and Phinney Ave N.   A station at this location with well placed entrances would also expand its walkshed by making the station easily accessible from both sides of Aurora despite the hill and busy arterial (46th.)  Sound Transit MUST add this station

2. East Ballard

This station should be located to the east of 8th and Market and would serve people to the east of the 17th/Market walkshed as well as act as a connection for buses travelling on 8th Ave NW.  When compared to the blockbuster stations on this line like 17th/Market, Aurora, and University District – this stop doesn’t rate well.  That said, take another look at the residential density map – more people live near this stop than any of the current Link stations in the Rainier Valley.   This station would would also have good connectivity to buses that travel north/south on 8th such as the 28 and could possibly be built at a lower price due to a likely shallow tunnel at this location and less of a need to add frills to the station design.     Additionally, we think it’s critical to not view this stop in isolation, this station is required to fully connect the walkshed in highest priority corridor in Washington State.  For this reason alone Sound Transit must add this station.

The Ballard Spur (Alternative “A4”) also moves the Wallingford station. This station should be located in the center of Wallingford so that it is walkable from all sides. West Wallingford where the station is currently located will be covered by the North Fremont/Zoo station – so it makes sense to move it east.  45th and Meridian is a good starting point for analysis. The goal of this station is to be within the bike/walkshed of nearly all of entertainment district of Wallingford.

The station layout we recommend above would mean total coverage of this dense east-west corridor and a likely travel time under 10 minutes. Currently, that time isn’t possible without a helicopter.  It is our opinion that each of these stations would significantly add to the utility and ridership of this line. We believe that this stop spacing will deliver maximum benefit for the cost of adding just two stops. We only get one chance to build this: let’s build the best option possible.  Let’s build the Ballard Spur!

Contingency Planning

After the two rounds of public input on Ballard to Downtown, Corridor D was clearly the most popular line, with 76% of the support in public comment. If Corridor D is built, the Ballard Spur (Alternative “A4”) is the clear winner for UW to Ballard, as lower Fremont will already have a station. However, if Corrridor D is impossible to build for engineering or budgetary reasons, we need a fallback route for Ballard to UW that is fully grade separated and serves lower Fremont in route to Ballard.

That is why we need Sound Transit to study a tunnel in the C1 alignment. Alignment C1 shows an elevated path along 45th through Wallingford, then turns south to lower Fremont via Stone Way and uses a N 36th Street and Leary Way alignment to Ballard.

Unlike the Ballard to Downtown study, there is no specific comment period for this study, as it was done primarily to inform the board. Nevertheless, you can voice your opinions to the ST board at this email:  EmailTheBoard@soundtransit.org

You can also send your comments to LongRangePlan@soundtransit.org as this study is part of the long range plan.

What to say to ST in your comments

1.  I want The Ballard Spur “A4!”  — A3 is the best option presented, but ST needs to add stations at East Ballard and Aurora and move the Wallingford station east.

2.  ST needs to study a fully grade separated version of Level 2 Alternative C1 in case it is not possible to build Corridor D from the Ballard to Downtown Study.

3.  Building the best line possible is the most important consideration in this corridor as it is the highest value transit corridor that does not already have rail planned in Washington State.

4.  Study driverless subway technology to control costs and increase flexibility in operations.

5.  Design the Ballard to UW line so that it can be extended both east and west in the future.

Keith Kyle is the Outreach Director for Seattle Subway and is writing on their behalf. He has been a Sound Transit employee since 2004 and works in the IT division.  He is not involved in planning at Sound Transit, and is not representing the agency here in any way.

Comments

  1. says

    Overall I like this a lot. Totally agree that A3 did not have enough stations.

    That said, I think Wallingford needs two stations. What if we moved the Aurora station a block or two to the west, perhaps under Fremont and 46th? Or build the station underneath 46th between Fremont and Aurora and have entrances at both ends.

    Then build two Wallingford stations. One on 45th between Wallingford and Densmore, another on 45th around Thackeray. The next stop would be at 45th and Brooklyn to tie into the North Link route.

    The benefit here is that just one Wallingford stop leaves out a whole bunch of people living just west of I-5 but downhill from the solo Wallingford station. That seems like an unnecessarily large gap.

    • Jrd says

      I was also thinking the North Fremont station would do better further west— probably Phinney. My guess is that the thinking here to to make an easy connection with the “Rapid” Ride E line.

      Also agree on your extra Wallingford station, I presume that’s just a matter of cost. We’d already be asking them to build more stations than their original plan, and the Wallingford station shown is right in the middle of everything, so it’s a good choice if only one can be built.

      • says

        My own approach to this is to design the line to meet the needs of the next 100 years, without worrying too much about the price tag, and then asking voters to approve. Few voters are going to change their mind if ST3 goes from a $20 billion to a $21 billion size (those numbers are drawn at random and not meant to represent actual estimates).

        As to the Fremont/Zoo station, Phinney was also my initial instinct, but that would put it a bit far from Aurora, and there is value to having an easy transfer opportunity to BRT on Aurora.

      • RossB says

        The North Fremont station should straddle Aurora and Fremont Avenue. Buses shouldn’t travel on Phinney south of 50th (as has been noted before).

      • says

        Completely agreed re: North Fremont station, that’s what I was suggesting earlier. Build it under 46th and put a staircase/elevator at either end of the station: Fremont/46th and another at Aurora/46th.

      • Charles B says

        @Robert Cruickshank

        Building the station under 46th may or may not be the best solution. I like putting it closer to 50th than that if we can manage it. Moving the bus stops for RR E and the #5 north should be less of a problem if we can avoid the complexity of that junction near 46th and 99. We could also give folks a shorter walk to the zoo, making the station that more attractive to use.

      • Chris Stefan says

        CharlesB,

        I think moving the station closer to the Zoo. Would be a bad idea. The residential density and the the businesses along Fremont Aveneue are further South.

        If you want to avoid building in the 46th intersection then moving the station to 45th would be a better idea.

      • says

        Hey, I’m wide open on where exactly this particular station goes. There’s a walkable business district on Fremont around 43rd, so it would be nice to serve that. But I also see the point about moving closer to 50th. Another study!

      • Mike Orr says

        If 46th gets a station, please upzone it so it’s not so “concrete and single-family and highway”. It drives me up the wall transferring there.

    • RossB says

      I see your point, and in general the more stops the better, but I’m not sure about adding another stop there. It is a mile from Wallingford Avenue to Brooklyn Ave. It is 0.6 miles from there to Aurora. It is another mile from Aurora to 8th NW. Given that, you could slide the station at Wallngford a couple blocks east, to Meridian. Buses would likely go on Meridian north of 45th, and Wallingford south of there, so that costs you nothing, and shrinks the distance a couple blocks (1/10 of a mile). The area next to Thackeray is no more densely populated (or otherwise attractive) than anything else in that part of the city. Bus service from much further north isn’t likely to gain that many people (unlike 8th Ave NW) just because it makes sense for people close to 65th to use the station there.

      Probably the biggest gain in adding a station there is that you could get rid of the 44. I think you could get rid of it anyway. The key is to rework the buses so that they can serve the stations. It is much easier if you add a stop as suggested, but not impossible otherwise. You could always re-route the 26 so that instead of heading to Fremont, it heads north at Wallingford and 40th, to the station. Other, very frequent buses would be heading from Wallingford to Fremont (of course).

      • says

        Well, keep in mind that I don’t think we should be basing all our rail planning decisions on density – it should be a factor, sure, but not the sole decider. Given that people living in the vicinity of 45th/Thackeray would have to walk up a hill or across a freeway to reach a station, it seems reasonable to put one in that vicinity since that area is more densely populated than a typical SFH neighborhood (many of those houses are split up into numerous subunits).

        And for those who do care more about the link between transit and density, that section of 45th between, say, Dick’s and I-5 is ripe for redevelopment with taller, denser buildings…

      • RossB says

        I should add that I would be fully in favor of Sound Transit planning for a possible station in the future, even if they don’t build one with this line. It might make sense someday to add this station (if getting to 65th becomes too difficult, or the area gets a lot more dense, etc.). The main thing is, the tunnel needs to be flat in there, so that we can build a station in the future, rather than just throwing up our hands and saying “too late now”.

      • Chris Stefan says

        I’d say build the East Wallingford station too. It isn’t like the Ballard/UW segment is going to have a large number of through riders from far away who are going to be deterred by an extra minute or two of travel time. This applies even if the line is connected to Ballard/Downtown on one end and UW/520/Eastside on the other.

        Being able to eliminate the 44 entirely would be a huge win. Having roughly 0.5 mile stop spacing would do that.

        While I like the idea of a West Ballard station, it would present problems with interlining between Ballard/Downtown and Ballard/UW.

      • d.p. says

        The untenability of a Thackeray stop derives from its cost. It is inherently deep, this complicated, thus expensive. There would be no avoiding the whopping price tag.

        Whereas the East Ballard stop could be cut-and-covered just below the street for very low cost, would connect to a north-south bus with a unique walkshed and strong ridership, and is necessary to achieve an “unbroken walkshed” along the east-west corridor, Thackeray enjoys none of these justifications.

        Thackeray is 7 minutes mostly-flat walk from Meridian. The 26 tail is weak, and better served by Roosevelt station and perhaps by a straightened 16. And the depth of the station places its price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars, minimum.

        Perhaps in an ideal world, it might be considered. But in this one, it is thoroughly superfluous.

      • RossB says

        @Chris — That assumes that there is another route for Ballard to downtown. In my opinion, the A3 is *the* route to downtown. I’m not one to skip stops just to save a minute, but the stop has to be worth it. That’s why I think the best solution is to simply ask Sound Transit to put a flat spot in there. Don’t build it (because it isn’t worth it right now) but if the area does redevelop into something really big, then you can justify the cost. I’m guessing the cost to just have the tunnel go flat for a couple blocks is fairly small (compared to actually building a station).

        It was obvious when we built U-Link that we cut corners. For political reasons, I think we had to. But now that we are up and running, and we did the hard part (tunnel under the ship canal) people want more. Specifically, people want a fast way to interact with Link and 520. Unfortunately, that is impossible because we didn’t build a flat spot. I don’t want to make that mistake again.

      • says

        No, 520 is just across the Montlake Bridge from Husky Stadium station. It’s impossible because WSDOMA didn’t do anything to make it easier and Metro didn’t advocate for it.

    • says

      I see your point as well, but I don’t agree that Wallingford needs two stations. At least for me, when I was visiting a friend living just on the west side of I-5, it was always an easy walk to the Ave (7 min) or to the center of Wallingford (8 min). We don’t want to oversaturate the line.

      • says

        It may have been easy for you, but we also need to keep in mind those with impaired mobility, whether due to age or disability. I also suspect that the hill up to central Wallingford and I-5 present significant barriers that would prevent people from walking to stations. But maybe that should be studied. Overall I don’t see how a second Wallingford stop would seriously negatively impact the operations of the line.

      • Steve says

        Taking care of elderly, infirm and disabled means making the station wheel chair accessible; it does not mean extending the subway out to each disabled person’s front porch.

        If the slope incline to get up to 45th is the obstacle to a disabled person, then I don’t see how adding stops on 45th helps them.

        If collecting the infirmed and disabled from downslope is a need, then it would be better served by adding in-neighborhood circulator service, such as on demand van pickup, and later when built to higher density: streetcar service.

      • Chris Stefan says

        Just because Sound Transit likes building lines with 1 to 2 mile stop spacing doesn’t mean this is the best way to build an urban transit line through an already built up area. Ideally you want stations close enough together that it eliminates the need for any sort of shadow service along the line. Building A3 with 0.5 mile stop spacing does that at the cost of only $100 million or so and maybe 1 minute additional travel time per station.

      • d.p. says

        The ideal stop spacing for a comprehensively urbanized corridor — think New York, think Paris — is indeed 0.5 to 0.7 miles. And [insert your favorite divine authority] knows I have been frustrated by Sound Transit’s multi-mile in-city gaps, and by Seattle’s misplaced faith in “local shadows” (i.e. making you wait twice to keep moving in the same direction).

        That said, stops placed at 0.9 to 1.1 miles apart, along fully built corridors of varying density, are well within the realm of established and successful precedents, from the earliest rapid-transit elevateds to the most recent and elaborate urbanization explosions.

        Keith’s proposal takes great care to balance the costs of construction against the desire to achieve a “complete corridor”. Achieving an average 0.8-mile stop spacing, with excellent individual placement, stellar connections, and no gaps greater than 1 even mile, is a remarkable achievement!

        Adding additional stops willy-nilly would destroy the line’s great selling point: its unprecedented cost-benefit ratio, and would achieve little benefit over this already-fully-accessible proposal.

      • Charles B says

        @d.p.

        I agree that the spacing we see on Keith’s map is probably the closest we really would want them. The only adjustments I would think we could want would be to move things closer to bus lines where possible, and possibly minor north/south adjustments (no more than a block or so in any direction) that might give us pieces of land that are less complicated to build on without adversely effecting the walk shed and bus connections.

      • RossB says

        I also want to add that a lot of people will arrive by bus. Unless density patterns change dramatically, the only way this will be worth the money is if there are a lot of transfers. That is why a station at 8th NW makes sense. Buses can climb the hill just fine, thus saving people with disabilities the effort.

      • Lack Thereof says

        I don’t think we should be focusing on mileage numbers of stop spacing at all.

        We should be focusing on a) where is there a high density of foot traffic – popular pedestrian centers and b) do each of these pedestrian nodes get a stop

        But that is because I primarily view at transit as an extension of the sidewalk, not as a road alternative.

  2. Matt the Engineer says

    Excellent. Email sent.

    As a refresher about station spacing, check out this STB article. Link has a very, very wide station spacing most places except downtown. This probably comes from the regional nature of our system, serving park-and-rides at the end and is as much a long-distance commuter train as it is an urban subway. But the Ballard Spur will be short, and running through neighborhoods that are reasonably dense now and have a lot of future potential. We need much more of a Chicago model than a BART model.

    • Charles B says

      Maybe we should continue to let Ballard/Downtown/West Seattle continue to be part of the 2016 package for region wide transit and build this Seattle uptown line on a Seattle only initiative in 2015 to prime the pump for the overall package?

      If its just for Seattle (we can still have ST build it) we can demand tighter spacing, serving the neighborhoods that actually need service. We could use this model to detach some of the more critical Seattle centric infrastructure from the regional spine work that needs to be done with a regional vote.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        Not a terrible idea. To build the Spur and the Uptown line we’ll likely need to put in enough Seattle money to completely pay for one of the systems anyway – might as well make it an urban system and change the design focus. Though either system could benefit from being regional anyway – an Uptown line could head north with wide spacing and not affect the main line much (as long as it stayed grade separated). The same goes for planning to continue the Spur east under the lake. My main point is that while it’s in the dense part of the city it has to act like an urban rail line, not a suburban commuter line.

  3. RossB says

    I completely agree with the design of A4 (as you call it). Stations at 8th Ave NW, Aurora/Fremont and Wallingford Avenue make sense. I also agree that Sound Transit should study an underground version of C1 (which would have a stop on 8th Ave NW as well). With a underground version of C1, I would put the station at Wallingford Avenue, rather than Stone Way (but that may be splitting hairs). I disagree slightly about emphasis. I think A4, or an underground C1 is far more important for Seattle than Corridor D.

  4. Southeasterner says

    Why does it appear the ‘Ballard’ station is near 15th and Market when there is substantial growth at 24th and Market, not to mention all the commercial activity on Ballard Ave? 15th is already served by RapidRide (and the proposed central link line) which connects the area directly to downtown so it seems like a ‘Ballard’ station should be as close to Ballard and Market as possible, if not a bit West.

    • says

      I could see a case for three Ballard stations: West, Central, and East.

      West being around 24th/Market, Central being around 15th/Market, and East being around 8th/Market.

      More stops do slow down the system a bit, but even with 3 Ballard stops and 2 Wallingford stops the trains will get from the U-District to the end of the line in a quarter of the time it takes now on the 44.

      • ShaneC says

        I was thinking the same thing. If it’s truly a “spur” it could easily extend beyond ~15th/market where the possible corridor D station would be located. 24th/market is where all the action in ballard is happening. Shops, restaurants, the locks, etc. It’s also near many people living north of ballard in crown heights. I think A3 is a great option, but if we’re only going to build it once let’s do it right.

      • TB says

        Definitely on the West Ballard station. I think this was written with the study parameters in mind. Check out the Seatle Subway Map for reference on the later E/W extensions. The East side is actually in a different ST study corridor (UW to Kirkland to Redmond.)

    • RossB says

      Adding another station at 24th would make sense. I think it is more a budgetary thing, rather than anything else. But a station at 15th and Market also makes sense, in part to connect to buses (as you mentioned) but also to serve a fair amount of density there as well (plenty of big apartment buildings on both sides of the street). I would like it if they described the lines with “future enhancements” in mind (such as future infill stations as well as extensions).

      • TB says

        Definitely — a station at 26th/Market or so would be ideal. That said, ST wasnt studying the area east of 17th/Ballard. Check out the “what to say to ST” section.

      • Charles B says

        If we assume that funds will be somewhat limited, I could see building this line in a way that allows us to extend it as additional funding becomes available. I see no reason not to have stub tunnels at either end where we could put boring machines back in to finish the job after the core of the line is in place.

    • andy says

      Yes to a station at 24th & market — but don’t stop there….

      extend the Ballard end of the Ballard/U-District line the rest of the way west to the BNSF corridor.

      a station there, LINKing to Sounder / Amtrak would be a valuable & useful connection in our developing transit system.

      Light Rail could actually up the demand and usefulness ( = 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.

      likewise, 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?).
      Elsewhere, if you combine this with comments elsewhere about the Ballard–UW line extending along 45th to 25th NE / U-Village (portal-ing out near the NE 45th trestle) you could have a near-level tunnel from daylight to daylight.

      • andy says

        re: a golden gardens station

        I cannot see justifying that…

        but I do love the concept of emulating the old tradition of trolley lines ending at (or even creating) parks to increase weekend ridership. historically this is one of the things which gave birth to the concept of amusement parks.

      • Charles B says

        @andy I would see the “Golden Gardens” stop as the Sounder rail transfer stop… if that proved to be something worth building.

      • andy says

        yeah, that’d be nice — but getting the tunnel to daylight (a portal at about 61st & shilshole ave?) would already be pushing almost a mile past 24th and Market. getting from there to Golden gardens is another mile and a quarter beyond that. it wouldn’t have to be tunneled (making it cheaper), but it’d still be tough to justify that additional extension.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        That’s along the lines of what I am thinking too. That’s how quite a lot of systems work: rather than have a single central station the long distance system has a station or two on the outskirts as well, where you transfer to local or regional services to get where you want to go faster than a transfer downtown would.

        Furthermore, it wouldn’t have to operate that frequently to the Golden Gardens station, so a single track line would probably work OK between Ballard and Golden Gardens.

        So, using the existing Ballard Terminal freight line with overhead catenary on it would probably work just fine. It is now just a matter of how much would it cost to bring the line to the surface and connect it to Ballard Terminal.

        This could also work as a connection to the Magnolia bike path.

      • Charles B says

        @andy anything past 15th may have to go into the “future extension” box anyway.

      • Shane says

        I’m still a little flummoxed that Sounder doesn’t stop in Ballard already. If there was a subway stop near there that went east to the UW (possibly further toward Uvillage/laurelhurst/magnuson) it would be a very popular station.

      • d.p. says

        No one who actually comes to Ballard / knows Ballard / understands the geography of Ballard and movement patters to/from/within Ballard is surprised that Sounder doesn’t stop in Ballard.

        The location is poor. The connections are poor. The service in question is poor.

        This is not a useful idea.

      • andy says

        yeah well, I beg to differ. the shilshole/BNSF area has land enough for a station — and while one was considered way back when some NIMBY ballardites opposed it for the potential disreputable elements they thought a transit station would bring to the area (!?!). I remember the meeting back in what, 1998?

        I believe you have it backwards you can’t always just look to highly built-out, well-connected, high transit ridership locations and bring transit there. at that point you are rewarding riders and moving riders to more efficient modes of transit — but sometimes the bigger bang-for-the-buck is to find those underdeveloped locations which provide the possibility for smart growth, or the opportunity for smart new inter-modal connections.

        Yep, not much bus service to Shilshole/Golden Garden because there’s not much –or many people there– but if a Sounder Station had been built there a decade ago I’ll bet Metro would have accommodated it; route-ed to it; scheduled for it — and those routes and that train station would be useful and used.

        Likewise, yeah, SOUNDER North doesn’t have very good (alright, awful) ridership: but how many people from the north want to go to King Street Station? Some, but not a lot. And yeah, you can connect at that point to LINK — which in the near future you could ride it from there back to UW. But if Sounder North connected at Shilshole to a Ballard/U-District LINK Light Rail line there would suddenly be MANY more reasons to ride Sounder North.

        I mean I don’t want to get to “Fields of Dream”-y here –if you build it they will come– but if there are some obvious connecting spots in the natural and built environment then they should be exploited to their full potential. Sometimes there’s a site –regardless of its current use and usage– which could provide a common-sense, efficient connection within the urban area and the developing & evolving integrated transit system. A Shilshole station with a connection of “light” and “heavy” rail is just such a spot.

      • d.p. says

        The 17X and 18X, with their express segments and uni-directional bus lanes, already take peak commuters to any part of downtown in a reliable 15-20 minutes.

        Sounder riders would spend more time backtracking to Sounder on one end, and to their downtown destinations on the other end, than they presently do on their entire commute.

        And that’s without even accounting for Sounder’s frequency/span/on-time record, which make limited express-run buses seem positively ubiquitous by comparison.

        ——

        As the rest of your comment, you’re basically just wrong. “Magic TOD” is one of the most dangerous fads in urban planning, because it simply doesn’t fucking exist.

        Very little “placemaking” can happen from scratch. Any number of economic, topographic, and regulatory stars must align to create the conditions that will encourage people to inhabit, visit, linger, and move between specific locations. By and large, desirable locations and movement patterns merely evolve and grow from existing and proximate locations and movement patters.

        Even rapidly-transformed South Lake Union had to build upon prior bones and to adapt preexisting spaces in order to become a place of note and worth. And real proximity to other noteworthy places was an absolute prerequisite.

        You can’t just throw down rails and presume an important place will sprout around it. Just how many examples of this failure of fadthink do you need?

      • andy says

        man, D.P. you cut me to the quick.

        you are also so quick to launch your “Magic TOD” (cute phrase!) rant that apparently you didn’t really read what has been written in this part of the thread.

        maybe some suggestion of growth/development was suggested in passing, but I think you’re the first to mention TOD. the commenters discussing extending a U-District/Ballard line to the BNSF corridor has been all about connections.

        Its easy to get frustrated by a transit system which stops just short of an obvious connection to another part of the system. In this case the topic was discussing a 4 mile-ish (depending on alignment) light rail line which potentially ends (again, depending on alignment / route) less than a mile from a chance to connect to another element of our public transit system. That would seem to miss a golden opportunity.

        I’ve suggested a few reasons –people from North (Edmonds, Mukilteo, Everett, etc.) wanting to get to North Seattle/UW– but you don’t seem to believe any of these folks would be interested. Maybe they should ride to downtown and transfer to ride back; or maybe take busses (in growing & slowing) traffic. Unfortunately/apparently that isn’t a option that people people want to choose. I think connecting LINK to Sounder in North Seattle WOULD be a good option, that people WOULD choose.

        Perhaps I misunderstand, but it seems your argument comes down to “Nobody makes connections there — there is no demand, thus no justification for a station/connection.

        Yup, there’s zero ridership using that connection.

        ummmm– that’s because it doesn’t [ yet ] exist……

      • d.p. says

        North Sound is too terrible to ever make a useful connection to or from.

        I’m frustrated by this repeatedly-debunked idea, because the only reason it ever gets revived is that commenters with intense rail bias (often from hundreds of miles away) see existing rails, and therefore assume it must become a priority to connect them with other rails.

        You could build the most elaborate West Ballard transit station imaginable, and it will never be as easy for northern commuters to access the Link network there as it will to connect, by car or by bus, to the system at Lynnwood.

        Because Sounder North is terrible transit, running four times a day.

        Period.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I agree that Sounder North is terrible the way it is operated right now, but that doesn’t mean that within the timeframe required to build this line it shouldn’t be de-terribleized. If you put money into operating a rail service of most any type, the maximum effort should be made to make use of that capitol investment.

        When I visit Seattle, I say with a friend that lives in eastern Magnolia, overlooking Balmer yard (the railroad yard in Interbay). It also overlooks the terrible traffic jam that happens each day on 15th Ave., and have found myself stuck in buses on 15th not going anywhere particularly fast due to this traffic jam and the mess it makes of the Ballard Bridge.

        On the BNSF main line, from the ship canal to King Street Station it is about 7 miles. You only have to average about 30 miles per hour to beat this supposed 20 minute time on the express buses.

        Also, you are assuming that the dominant direction of travel would wind up being Ballard -> Golden Gardens -> King Street station. I think there is some potential for Edmonds -> Golden Gardens -> Ballard or Fremont traffic as well.

        I agree that there seems to be little transit oriented development in the area around Golden Gardens itself. However, in the time that I have walked there from Magnolia (using the walkway across the locks) I have found that there seems to be an awful lot of auto traffic in and out of there, even at times there really shouldn’t be. I’m thinking there may be a fair number of people living on their boats in the marina. It won’t be enough traffic alone to justify a station there.

        However, I would point out that there is already a railroad line operating freight service between the west end of Fremont and Golden Gardens. You could connect Sounder with parts of Ballard and Fremont already by getting a temporal separation type of service and a light weight DMU.

      • d.p. says

        Really, though, you’re just wrong. On all counts. It really is as simple as that. Rails in the ground aren’t inherently useful, and neither is opining from your remote and clueless Oregon perch.

        – There will never be enough demand from the far sides of Edmonds and Mulkiteo or from distant downtown Everett for the North line to run more than a few times per day, with all the track work and contract renegotiation that would entail. Not even with your hypothetical stop.

        – Your hypothetical stop fails to pass the “backtracking” test for downtown commuters. Not even with worsening traffic. It’s simply in the wrong place, and there is nothing you can do to fix this.

        – Connecting the east-west subway would mean digging an extra mile-plus past the present proposals, directly under Ballard’s historic center. There is simply not sufficient need for this, now or ever.

        – The Ballard Terminal Railroad is extremely short and in awful condition. It runs right past my apartment: I see it crawl at about 2 mph, with a guy sitting on the front watching for track and traffic obstructions. Commandeering it is another glorious non-starter idea.

      • andy says

        d.p.
        for the record, you seem to be mixing up comments I’ve made with the writers listed as “glen” and “Charles”, etc. I in fact live north of Seattle; periodically ride Sounder North; periodically work in ballard, and “west ballard”; and have been involved with transit (and transit issues (rail & non-rail) for quite some time.

        dunno why you are so against inter-modal transit connections between existing and potential transit systems.

        nor do I understand how you think that a rider from the north, transferring in ballard to go east to UW (just for one example) is in any way “Backtracking”. That IS what someone would need to do with the existing system as it is planned (ride to King St, then back north on LINK). And that is why probably nobody does currently use Sounder North for a trip like that….

        a shortcoming of our public transit is the sometimes awkward and/or non-existence of connections between modes and routes. It seems extremely appropriate to discuss potential opportunities for integration and efficiencies while future transit development designs are in their earliest “visioning” stages.

      • d.p. says

        I have not confused the two of you. I responded directly to your earlier comment (though I mistakenly read one of your paragraphs as anticipating TOD around your hypothetical transfer point). Then Glenn piled on the grossly mistaken presumptions, so I responded directly to him.

        Here’s the thing, Andy: It’s nice that you happen to be among the very few with semi-convenient North Sounder access and an occasional precise 9-to-5 need to be in Ballard. But that situation is vanishingly rare. North Sounder has only 560 daily round-trip riders, even though downtown is the primary commuting destination for the sort of rider on its limited schedule.

        The line is a total failure, as even Glenn begrudgingly admits. Frankly, your description implies that Sounder isn’t that convenient to your starting point or timing needs either.

        With such little demand and such high cost even at rush hour, North Sounder is simply not going to expand. It is never going to get more frequent, and therefore its usefulness will be forever limited. Even the cost of building one Ballard platform and hooking it up to the 44 bus is impossible to justify.

        Inflating the cost of the spur proposal by 25% or more to meet North Sounder is really, really not justified.

      • d.p. says

        …In the long run, the vast majority of Edmonds will be much better served by frequent bus transit to access the Link network at Lynnwood.

        A Ballard Spur would aid such a trip by providing a high-quality and highly frequent connection from southbound to westbound, without having to trek all the way downtown. This would work exponentially better than your proposal for the 95% of Edmonds that is nowhere near the Sounder stop, and infinitely better for anyone not travelling before 7:41 AM.

        That’s real transit, even if buses need to be involved at the feeder level. A hyper-expensive subway extension to meet 4 trains a day is not real transit.

      • Mike Orr says

        There are two unfixable reasons why Sounder North underperforms other commuter rail lines. One, it’s way on the coast while the bulk of the population is around I-5 and 99. Two, the abrupt hillside prevents double-tracking, which severely limits frequency, especially with freight sharing the track.

      • Jim Cusick says

        @ Mike Orr.

        ” …Two, the abrupt hillside prevents double-tracking, which severely limits frequency, especially with freight sharing the track.

        Other than between MP16 and MP18 (essentially through Edmonds), the Sounder North route is double-tracked.

        The ROW is wide enough to triple track in parts.

    • mdnative says

      In addition to what everyone else said, 15th and Market is where 4/5 of the Ballard to downtown options have a stop

  5. Larry Scheib says

    I agree with the underground C1 line however I like the T concept I proposed in another post. I think a Ballard to downtown line should be run from Ballard to Zoo and then sharply turn toward downtown. Then a connection could be made at the Zoo to UW as A3. This would only add a few minutes to a Ballard downtown line and also serve the most riders for Ballard to UW.

    • Chris Stefan says

      The geometry that makes sense if Seattle was flat would be to have two lines cross at 46th with a transfer (and a non-revenue connection so they can share an O&M base). However Seattle isn’t flat so any station at 46th likely would be quite deep. While deep transfer stations with junctions have been built elsewhere it adds a lot to cost and complexity over a simple cut and cover station with a cut and cover junction.

    • Charles B says

      You don’t need to turn sharply to serve the zoo. The zoo has a south entrance on 50th, so you could just put a station somewhere between 50th and 46th and put one of the station entrances on Fremont. Its a pretty short walk from there to the zoo.

      To me the bigger opportunity here though is the ability to have two major bus runs connect to this one station. It could rival the Ballard and UW stations for ridership with this configuration.

      • d.p. says

        Exactly, Charles!

        Excellent perpendicular connections are why this corridor offers such an unprecedented expansion of universal mobility in the city.

        My personal hunch is that the Ballard-downtown alignments have proven unexpectedly weak ($ for $) because they focus excessively on individual nodes and offer scant improvement in total mobility, especially north of the Canal.

  6. Mike B says

    Based on this blog’s own post from 2008 in regards to a forced transfer in the UW vicinity to the spine, written by none other than Ben himself, wouldn’t this overload the trains coming into Seattle? We’re already expecting huge volumes of riders from points north. 35k from Northgate Link, probably another 30k from Lynnwood, plus a new 30k from Ballard with 3 stations (they didn’t study 5). The problem is the same whether we’re bringing in tens of thousands of riders from the east or west and it hasn’t been addressed: can the spine deal with that additional stress? (I’d love ST’s take on this since there clearly is a study out there somewhere.)

    Also, just food for thought, to build the lines shown in the Seattle Subway graphic, ST is estimating a $5-$6 billion price tag ($3.5B for D, $2B for WFord Tunnel (adding 2 extra subways stations which cost roughly $100M/each)). That’s some serious money.

    http://seattletransitblog.com/2008/06/19/why-link-will-cross-i-90-first/

    • TB says

      This would not interline at University District Station for the reasons you mention. The most likely configuration would be a line that went from Downtown to Ballard to UW. Or, if this was the only thing built/built first — a transfer.

      • Charles B says

        We could have a maintenance only connection to the main line for sending cars down to the rail yard if needed. There is no need to give everyone a perfect one seat ride to everywhere when the frequencies are high enough to make transfers painless.

      • TB says

        Charles — my understanding is that each of the lines studied by ST were done (and priced) with $ for running their own O&M facilities. Any rail connection between this and Central Link is unlikely at this point… which is both an issue and an opportunity. There is no reason to go with “light rail.”

      • Charles B says

        @TB I have no objection to doing heavy rail. Could we re-use the funding mechanism for the monorail? They only called out light rail specifically as prohibited in the language I believe…

      • William C. says

        Very good point! And yes, “monorail” is legally defined as “any rail that isn’t light rail.” Do it.

      • Mike B says

        It wouldn’t interline, but there would be a forced transfer. Either way, a ton of people would be going from the U District to Downtown on Central Link. Could Central Link handle that? Ben raised the issue exists even with a forced transfer. Thinking beyond 45th, the issue is north/south capacity.

      • Charles says

        The biggest win is making this spur connect to the spine. ST needs to spend what it takes to make this work.

      • d.p. says

        Ben Schiendelman is no longer with Seattle Subway.

        And while I am privy to no insider information whatsoever, I can only assume that his tendency to bloviate that 100,000,000 new Puget Sounders will need 750 miles of high-capacity subways to get from their skyscrapers in Duvall to their meandering streetcar-mounted cubicles — and to broach no disagreement about any of this — has something to do with his departure.

        The trains will not be excessively full.

      • Mike Orr says

        Can I have skyscrapers in Duvall? Or better yet, Renton and Factoria, like New Westmimster and Surrey have?

        My understanding is Ben left Seattle Subway to persue new forms of transit activism, something legislature-ish or so. Seattle Subway is established and doesn’t “need him” now, while Ben is looking at niches that nobody is yet doing.

      • d.p. says

        Okay, correction:

        I am privy to just enough insider information to state, emphatically, that his departure was not unrelated to his fiction-based approach to transportation advocacy.

    • Chris Stefan says

      As TB says interlining was the real problem Ben was talking about. Though there is a possibility of overloading the Downtown/UW trains somewhat, especially if Ballard/Downtown is not built but Everett Link is (another 30k riders)

      As for costs don’t forget to add another $1 billion for a downtown tunnel which Option D would need in order to access an OMF and to reach its full ridership potential. So $6-$7 billion total.

      Two cheaper options would be to build option B between Ballard and Westlake with an OMF at Interbay or to connect to a UW/Eastside line over 520. While the latter has relatively poor ridership the money would come out of East sub-area funds. That said assuming LRT between Lynnwood and Everett there likely will be enough money in the North sub-area budget to build both Ballard/UW and option B between Ballard and Downtown.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        It is really hard for me to picture this as requiring its own maintenance facility. It’s about 4 miles or so worth of track. You could operate fairly frequent service on this with just 4 or 6 trains if the speed were kept at a decent level (and that is why it is in a tunnel isn’t it?). Things like wheel lathe turning and traction motor rewinding are things you really want to be kept at a single facility and just reassign equipment based on what needs to be done to it, rather than move the stuff around by truck or try to do this in a separate facility.

        Therefore, I really think a “non-revenue” connection is best.

        Furthermore, I have put the non-revenue connection in quotes for a reason. Sometimes these “non-revenue” connections are quite useful. Chicago has a number of non-revenue connections that are used in revenue service during special cases, and here in Portland the trains going from Ruby Junction on the Blue Line to their assignment on the Yellow Line operate as revenue trains in the early morning as there are workers that need to get from their residence in east Portland to various industries in North Portland, and since the trains have to go that way anyway they might as well be run as revenue trains to get to their assigned location.

        The discussion so far has been about peak period service and how that will impact train overcrowding, but off peak period that connection could also be useful to maintain frequent UW-Downtown service, where it is desirable to have more frequency than further north.

    • Charles B says

      If we assume that no Ballard to Downtown line is ever built, then yes we might well overload it. I would argue that we would build both, but maybe we could build this one first build the Ballard-Downtown-West Seattle line at roughly the same time (perhaps starting with the rest of the regional stuff).

    • Mike Orr says

      “wouldn’t this overload the trains coming into Seattle?”

      I’m not worried about it. The 44’s ridership is baked into the north-south numbers, along with an estimate of expected increases by 2040. So the “overloading” riders would be the difference above that estimate that the subway delivers. That number, as a wild guess, may be another 44’s worth of people, or less than the comfortable SRO maximum of one railcar (120 people). So if Link is coming every 5 minutes, that’s equivalent to 3/4 of a car every third train. There will certainly be room off-peak. If it gets overcrowded peak hours, we can call in a 15X and 16X to alleviate it. (That’s still cheaper than freeway buses from Shoreline or Lynnwood.)

      • Mike B says

        Well, you should be. A subway will have a lot more riders than the 44. Spring 2009 had 44 ridership pegged at 6,000*. Let’s say that jumps to 10k when NLink opens. That’s still ~20k less than the projected ridership of a 3-stop 44 Subway. Then, we add 2 new stations Seattle Subway wants to include which would draw thousands more.

        The problem arises during peak. Say the spur uses 2-car, 400-person trains at 8 minute headways (3,000pphpd) and dumps into Central Link (12,000pphpd), that’s a possible quarter of Central Link’s capacity taken by the Ballard Spur. If we run at 4-minute headways on the BS (6,000pphpd), then possibly half of CL’s capacity. Then, there are still 2 more big stations south on CL with lots of people getting on. It’s not a stretch to say 2,000pph will board at UWS and CHS during peak. Not a whole lot of room for growth on the Spur or on CL in a region that’s quickly growing and slow at building. We have a lack of capacity in all directions, but a huge lack of N/S capacity.

        Nobody is going to take a bus unless there’s a system failure and it’s an inefficient and ineffective backup option considering we’re trying to make a system that isn’t reliant on congested roads. If we build a subway system that needs to rely on buses from day one to not fall apart, we’ve done something wrong.

        * http://seattletransitblog.com/2010/01/22/king-county-ridership-spring-2009/

      • Charles says

        Then all the more impetus to build a Ballard Downtown line IN ADDITION to the East/West line. It’s a good problem to have. And are you saying that the CL capacity at 3 or 4 minute intervals and 4 car consists is at best 12K pphpd? I’d guess between 16k and 20k people per hour per direction. And that a large percentage of these people will be getting on and off at U District Station. It is ST’s folly that the didn’t plan for the possibility of an interlined connection. I certainly brought it up at a design meeting.

        And I’m sure if our system does get over burdened, people will get creative just as Chicagoans do with the “EL”. For example, if you’re at Merchandise Mart and you want to go Northbound during afternoon rush, you’re likely going to wait quite a few trains before being able to get on. The smart thing to do is to get on the Brown line going South and go around the loop. It takes less time than waiting for all those trains. When it comes back around to MerchMart, you’ll already be in a seat ready to transfer to the Red line in Lincoln Park or Lakeview. So, perhaps people transferring from the Ballard spur and wanting to go downtown could simply get on a northbound train and go to Roosevelt or Northgate and get on a less crowded train if the need arose.

      • TB says

        Mike — Your example dumps all the people on the E/W train from Ballard on the S line (which will obivouly be the capacity issue in the AM.)

        This is a bit unlikely even during AM rush hour. UW is the largest employer in Seattle and a decent number of people will be transfering to travel north as well. If you use 60-70% of the E/W Ballard load tranfering to the S Central Link Line — the situation is far from dire even assuming full 2 car trains every 8 minutes.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        Also, if you connect to Spunder at Golden Gardens, maybe 1/4 or so of the peak ridership goes that way instead of UW.

      • d.p. says

        A Link car holds 200 passengers. That is the advertised, comfortable capacity, with plenty of elbow room and fully 3/8 of the passengers in seats — not a bad ratio for a trip whose highest-demand segment will be less than ten minutes in duration.

        That means up to 800 people on a train, or 16,000 one-way passengers on trains that come every three minutes. Again, this is not even in the vicinity of “crush loading”.

        Even ST’s most optimistic/inflated North Sprawl Link estimates — apparently bolstered by the absurd belief that Everett is primed to experience a “74% population increase” (seriously, WTF?) — see all-day 2-way boarding numbers unlikely to put strain on the central segment. Even if the vast majority of those riders are in and around the peaks.

        The trains will not be overly full.

      • d.p. says

        And Glenn, please knock it off with the Sounder spiel.

        North Sounder runs only four times a day. Reliability is terrible. It isn’t getting any better.

        Out-of-direction connections or pedestrian access can only be justified by very good and essentially seamless transit. In addition to being on the western fringe of Ballard, Sounder trips would (for most) require backtracking from the southern fringe of downtown, including another less-than-perfect transfer arrangement.

        This idea has been dead for a long time, and is beginning to smell rancid. No amount of your fetish for rails in the ground (no matter where they go) can revive it.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        This goes a bit off topic for Ballard – UW, but it does at least concern the transportation needs in the north end a bit.

        When you invest money into a rail line of any sort, you have to find ways of getting the most for the money invested. As you have said, Sounder North is terrible, but then it should either be eliminated (wasting the money that has been invested in it over the years) or ways should be found to make the most of operating those trains.

        Considering that this Ballard subway is quite some years in the future in terms of planning, there should be ample time to decide if Sounder North is worth making useful or if it needs to be eliminated completely.

        However, I can tell you that I am pretty much batting 100% when it comes to being on buses stuck on Interstate 5 north of Fremont – sometimes as far north as north of Everett and extending all the way. Link to Lynnwood is still years away, and the traffic congestion is only going to get worse during that time.

        It makes quite a lot of sense to use what is already there to the maximum ability possible. If express buses could answer the need then it would be great, but I have found it takes two hours to get from Lynnwood to 45th on these express buses. Maybe my luck is just terrible, but at the billions of dollars that is being thrown about for these various new line proposals, you can turn a BNSF main line into one hell of a railroad if you wanted to.

        My desire to see something added sooner and make effective use of infrastructure that is already there is no more a fetish than yours of wanting to spend massive amounts of money on things that will take decades to build. Furthermore, with the ongoing congestion that happens so regularly, development patterns that will support the future Link lines will not be encouraged.

      • d.p. says

        …And it would still be significantly out-of-direction and massively inconvenient for pretty much anyone to use it.

      • d.p. says

        …Like an awful lot of MAX, frankly.

        Sometimes, Glenn, the existing rails/easy ROWs are simply in the wrong place.

      • d.p. says

        And how does my “build the shortest thing that will work, start it now, future-proof the connection point” equate to “wanting to spend massive amounts of money on things that will take decades to build” in your mind?

        Longshot overpriced regional railfan fantasy-mapping overreach is what I have to spend so much my energy fighting against here.

      • d.p. says

        And one more thing, Glenn: If you were as traffic-logged on an I-5 bus as you describe, then you were not travelling in the peak direction, in which the express lanes are quite effective for at least some of the trip. In which case Sounder would be utterly useless to you.

    • Mike Orr says

      To illustrate the interlining issue, if we assume 3-minute north-south trains peak hours, and one extra busload of 100 people every 15 minutes, that’s 25 more people per car on every fourth train. (Or every fifth train if you expand the period to 16 minutes.) If half the people can’t get on the train, that means 12 people per car will have to wait three minutes for the following train. That’s not uncommon in subways, where you arrive at the platform, the existing crowd gets on the next train, and you’re front of the line for the following train.

      (And it’s a world apart from waiting 30 minutes for three buses until you can get on. — Or two buses because the second bus is 20 minutes late and is full, and then the third and fourth buses arrive simultaneously at the 25 minute mark, so you get on the third bus and the fourth bus is practically empty.)

    • Mike Orr says

      Oops, I didn’t finish the interlining issue. The illustration above is passengers transferring from a Ballard-UW train, and finding various standing spaces in the train. In contrast, with an interline (i.e., branch) the Ballard trains come onto the north-south track. Now instead of making room for 100 people, you’re making room for four cars. These cars may not be full, and the north-south cars may not be full either. So suddenly you need much more space for another train, even if there was room for all those passengers to fit in the north-south cars.

  7. RapidRider says

    Yes please. If we could start building this thing tomorrow, Ballard could have true mass transit to downtown (albeit with a transfer) by 2021 for under $2 billion!

    The Ballard>Downtown line could take an ever so slight backseat in regards to funding and construction priority.

    • Charles B says

      Not to mention that downtown could finally have its fast ride to the zoo they have always wanted.

    • Mike B says

      Uh, 2021 is a little off. It’s taking until 2021 to get Northgate Link built and the tunnel boring machines are almost ready to go. This hasn’t even been designed or funded.

      Maybe 2031.

      • TB says

        2025 is entirely realistic. 2016 vote + 4 Years D&E + 5 years Build. An arguing person might point out that 9 years to build a 3.5 mile subway line is a bit crazy, but that’s for another discussion entirely.

      • RapidRider says

        Hence the “if we could”. Believe me, I know how long it takes to design a light rail line.

  8. Lazarus says

    It’s hard to justify building something like the Ballard Spur when there are so many other valid transit needs going unmet.

    And is it really needed? For example, do you really need a spur like this if you are committed to building Link along the route of the Seattle Subway? DT Seattle-Ballard-Holman Rd-Northgate-Lake City would serve much of the same ridership base very well. Yes, there would be a forced transfer at Northgate, but from there south link should be running at 3 minute headways by then so it is hardly an issue.

    The other problem with a Ballard Spur is that it could cause capacity issues between the UW and DT Seattle. Remember that that line is supposedly going to be very full compared to other lines in the system. Load balancing thus becomes very important. This is one of the very reasons that the UW connection from the Eastside is being made via I-90 and not SR-520.

    So count me as against until convinced otherwise. I see something along the lines of the Seattle Subway as being more important, and we haven’t even talked yet about West Seattle and neighborhoods south. It seems a bit problematic to put all our transportation resources in the north end when there are so many other valid needs.

    • TB says

      To be clear — this will not interline with Central Link — Sound Transit has said that the central link tunnel will be overloaded when all the current lines open. Also — this is the clear #1 in $/rider per Sound Transits studies — ST3 should contain Ballard to Downtown, Downtown to West Seattle, and the Ballard Spur — but if you only built one, you would build this.

      • says

        Na. The problem exists whether you force a transfer or interline – interlining is just the easiest way to visualize it. Anytime you build an unbalanced system you will run up against capacity constraints sooner than if you build a balanced system.

      • d.p. says

        Any real-world system is inherently unbalanced. Some places are bound to be more important than others. Transit will be at its busiest through or near those places.

        It will be many decades before Sound Transit experiences anything resembling 4-car rush hour trains running at tunnel-headway capacity and with occupants experiencing even a modicum of spatial discomfort.

        Seems like an excellent problem to have: if public transit in Seattle ever truly becomes a “victim of its own success”, we would find plenty of political will for expansions (and for rectifying tunnel ventilation oversights). But for the forseeable future, we will have oodles of excess space on our trains.

      • Mike B says

        We’ve already know interlining won’t work; it’s clear. How about addressing the forced transfer and the capacity needed on CL to handle it? And how regional growth might impact the system.

        Remember, West Sea-DT-Ballard + Spur = $10 billion. By ST’s own estimates, that’s what all of this would cost. That’s a lot of support to drum up.

      • d.p. says

        I’m not sure if the first half of that last comment is directed at me, but here’s my answer.

        Trains on the Link spine will not be full. Not for years. Not for decades. Maybe not ever.

        Four-(double-articulated)-car trains running 20 times per hour in each director provide enormous capacity, the sort of capacity that nowhere in North America not already enjoying an established, pervasive, and highly transfer-oriented transit culture could even come close to filling.

        I’m from Boston. I know what packed-solid light rail looks and feels like. We won’t even be in the same universe as that on our zero-branching suburban-bulleting spine line.

        If Sound Transit ever remotely reaches the point where its peak-hour vehicles risk being too full to support transferring passengers, it will be time to crack the Dom Perignon. Because it will represent a level of cultural shift that is presently beyond this region’s ability to imagine.

        But no matter what transit neophytes try to tell you, current plans ≠ full-up capacity.

      • mdnative says

        Having rode DC’s metro many times (hence my screen name) in the summertime when it is armpit to armpit, I have yet to ride a Link train where I could not find a seat.

    • mdnative says

      If I had to choose between Ballard Spur and Ballard to downtown (I live in Ballard and work downtown), I would choose the Spur.

      While it would add a few minutes to the downtown commute, It will be much cheaper than Ballard to downtown (and an easier sell for ST3). In addition, the ability to go East to West would be terrific (e.g., going to Cap HIll much quicker than the D line and 2 which takes over an hour).

    • Mike Orr says

      “is it really needed?”

      Look at Seattle’s ridership patterns, car ownership, walking, and voting for transit. The main band is downtown – Capitol Hill -UW, and a second band is along 45th and 40th. It’s clearly the second-highest band in north Seattle, and possibly second in the city. (The closest competitor, Rainier-Beacon-Jackson, already has Link and will soon have the FHS.)

      “DT Seattle-Ballard-Holman Rd-Northgate-Lake City would serve much of the same ridership base very well.”

      Holman Road-Northgate-Lake City is not among the study areas for ST3. The Long Range Plan draft has a Lake City line from Northgate, but not between Ballard and Northgate. That means ST considers it low priority. You want to forego a corridor now hoping that ST will change its mind about Ballard-Northgate in ST4?

    • TB says

      Unclear — probably in the $200M range. ST wasnt studying east of 17th/Market though (for a stop.) At some point a stop around 26th and Market would be awesome.

  9. Sophia Katt says

    This excellent post should be reprinted as an editorial in the Seattle Times. Then there would be at least one Times editorial worth reading this week.

  10. Charles B says

    This looks a lot like something I was actually working on last night. I guess at least two people were thinking the same thing?

    Here are some quick thoughts on this:

    I recommend that the aurora stop be placed somewhere between 50th and 46th, but 46th may not be the best option depending on how complicated it would be to build around the roads connecting to 99 there. Also, if the stop can be a little bit closer to the zoo than 46th you could just call it the Woodland Park Zoo station instead of Aurora station and it might be a better selling point.

    I think the best option would be (as noted elsewhere) to place the 99 stop between Aurora and Fremont ave, reroute the 5 bus to Fremont at 50th and have a major bus line serving both sides of the station. This would probably necessitate a pedestrian bridge over 99 so the Rapid D could serve this stop in both directions. This would also extend the TOD potential for the station away from the historic buildings at the south end of the zoo and more towards the east side of 99 which has seen a bit of development recently and may be more ripe for it.

    If we assume the major bus lines stay where they are, the Wallingford stop should be at Meridian to catch 16 as it comes south.

    • Chris Stefan says

      I’d move the station Sourh to 45th rather than closer to the zoo. The middle of the population density is roughly 46th and you don’t want to be too far from the small commercial district along Fremont Avenue between 42nd and 46th,

      • Charles B says

        I am not talking of moving far from 46th. Just an extra block north or south could be worthwhile to avoid the complicated junction there. You also can’t go too far north because of a few historic buildings in the area.

        Since buses should be running right along both sides of the station, the question of moving it a block north or south of the 46th alignment could come out as a wash (density vs shorter distance to a strong attraction).

        I think that we could leave the decision point on which location is less costly and problematic to build.

      • Keith Kyle says

        Charles – definitely. That level of detail should be left to the engineers. Its the function that can’t be messed with. It must provide easy walking connections from both upper Fremont and East Wallingford. It must facilitate direct connections from Aurora and Fremont ave buses… Apart from that, value engineer away.

      • Charles B says

        @Keith Kyle

        All the more reason for an Aurora pedestrian bridge where the station goes. It would make the investment worth a lot more and should be a LOT cheaper than the one for Northgate.

  11. Bobby says

    The 44 is THE WORST. But I digress. I want to echo what has been said here before: If I was a Ballard to downtown commuter (which there are a lot of), I would prioritize this spur line over the direct Ballard to downtown corridor. To me, a two seat subway ride with a transfer at Brooklyn & 45th is a massive improvement over the status quo. Yes its not the most direct possible route, but commuting between Ballard and downtown means that you LIVE in Ballard: all the additional destinations (north and south) via transit this line would afford while at the same time giving me a much better commute downtown.

    Likewise, if my destination is Ballard, Wallingford, Phinney or the Zoo, from pretty much any where in the planned system say Bellevue or Northgate etc, this connection via the spur is the same or better than a transfer downtown.

    Conversely, Queen Anne and perhaps the lower part of Fremont would appear to loose out. Unfortunately Queen Anne does not fare as well in the ‘cost/rider’ metric.

    • Charles B says

      If we assume this gets built before Ballard to downtown, where to we put the maintenance facility? Would we run a lead line down somewhere in South Ballard and take over some retail or industrial space for rail cars?

      • railcan says

        Charles gets the prize for figuring out why the east-west line won’t happen. There is no place to put a maintenance base on this line, except along the ship canal East of the Ballard Bridge. Which would mean displacing a lot of active maritime industry (summon the hue & crie now). This also would require a lead track in & out of the tunnel, a major cost driver. These trains can’t use the Sodo base because a) the segment can’t be interlined; b) Sodo is at capacity anyway under ST2; and c) the city demanded it never be expanded when the original decision was made.

        The higher ridership Ballard-Downtown line, on the other hand, presents an opportunity to have a base in the Interbay area, where there is a significant amout of underutilized industrial land owned by the Port. A base here could be accessed less expensively from a grade-separated surface or elevated line than one in the Fre-Lard area.

      • andy says

        snip:
        ” There is no place to put a maintenance base on this line, except along the ship canal East of the Ballard Bridge. ….”

        another option is to continue the line west, portal to daylight at/near shilshole and (along with a station) site a maintenance base there.

        or, another option: if the ballard/U-District line continues east to daylight near 25th Ave NE there’s room in that area. in place of UW’s surplus property warehouse? under the playfields across the street? there are possibilities.

        and maybe this line could should be designed to head right out to Lake City from the get-go (instead of thinking/hoping to extend later) and that opens up lots of possibilities for maintenance facilities.

      • TB says

        I think each of these lines was studied with its own O&M. Though I’m unclear on how, apparently there is a way to stub tunnel to the industrial part of East Ballard for O&M. As far as I know — that cost is included in these estimates.

      • RapidRider says

        UW will not give up property without a fight. And I don’t foresee there being any room in Shilshole, especially if you take the Forest Street OMF and overlay it (although a Ballard Spur wouldn’t need a very big facility).

        If anything, you could extend the line to Magnuson Park and bury the OMSF under the cricket pitch and soccer fields. Or if you have a service only connection between Central Link and Ballard Spur, you could use the Forest Street OMF (although it’s currently at and soon will be over capacity) and just a storage facility on the Spur..

      • says

        Andy wrote: “another option is to continue the line west, portal to daylight at/near shilshole and (along with a station) site a maintenance base there.

        “or, another option: if the ballard/U-District line continues east to daylight near 25th Ave NE there’s room in that area. in place of UW’s surplus property warehouse? under the playfields across the street? there are possibilities.”

        Under the playfields across the street? If you mean the parking lots and playfields east of Montlake Boulevard, that’s not a good idea. That used to be a municipal dump, and before that it was literally underwater. It’s fill land. I can’t imagine having underground facilities there would make any sort of sense. The surplus warehouse makes more sense, but, as someone else said, the UW won’t give it up.

        I’m not sure where you’d put a Shilshole base, either.

      • andy says

        no, I wouldn’t suggest digging down into the fill of the playfields east of 25th NE — it would be smarter to lay in the maint facility at grade and “lid” the whole area with the parks, as they’ve been doing with the resevoirs.

        shilshole area? just span the existing tracks and build it elevated over the BNSF tracks. if [parts of] downtown Seattle can be built atop the BNSF corridor a maintenance facility certainly could be…

      • RossB says

        >> The higher ridership Ballard-Downtown line

        Sorry, I can’t imagine a route from Ballard to Downtown that would be higher ridership than this (followed by a transfer or the train interlining). Ballard, UW, Capitol Hill, Downtown. In between Ballard and the UW you have three stops, two of which provide for excellent bus service for the entire region. Go ahead, tell me what will beat that one in terms of ridership.

      • Mike Orr says

        Somebody said there’s toxic chemicals beneath the Montlake parking log, which would be expensive to clean up if the land were used for anything else.

  12. says

    Any (sorely needed, long overdue) transit improvements to this corridor would help serve anticipated growth in the U District that’s likely to exceed what’s happening in Ballard now. The UW is already the city’s largest employer. Note that today is the final day of the comment period of the U District Urban Design EIS that looks at upzoning alternatives that would further boost ridership generators on the east end of this line.

    http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cityplanning/completeprojectslist/universitydistrict/documents/default.htm

  13. colin says

    Loving the Seattle Subway and everything you’re trying to do. Just wondering if it wouldn’t be better to curve the spur south to catch the Center of the Universe, instead of stopping at 45th.

    I would vote for a line that has as many stops as you propose, but follows Leary towards Fremont, then angles back toward Wallingford. Put stops at 8th and Leary, and Stone Way at 40th, along with one near 35th and Fremont. This would serve the center of Fremont without need for a downtown / Queen Anne line. If the line does eventually get built, a junction could go in at the Fremont station, or even a wye, allowing trains from downtown to Ballard or Wallingford without transferring.

    • Charles B says

      There is already going to be a big stop for Fremont on the Ballard to Downtown line (also shown in this post), is there a good reason to skip a zoo stop and put that in Fremont too?

      The Zoo stop up north of 46th would also serve Fremont, just a northern end of it.

    • d.p. says

      Keith addresses this in the section marked “contingency planning”.

      For those of us who doubt that a Ballard-to-downtown subway (plus new downtown tunnel) will prove justified by either ridership estimates or available funds, it absolutely makes sense to study a fully-tunneled east-west line that reaches the vicinity of Lower Fremont. This post suggests doing precisely that.

      • colin says

        You’re right. i didn’t see that he was also advocating for a tunnelled C1 option. I withdraw my prior comment, but I do think that the tunnelled C1 is most likely to get built, and would still be a huge improvement to mobility in the area.

        I support the A4 option, but only if option D to Ballard is guaranteed to be built.

  14. Andrew Smith says

    I think this is a tremendous idea and I love it. I hope we don’t call that station “East Ballard”, though.

      • Charles B says

        East Ballard is certainly better than “8th street stop” which is the kind of naming we might get if we just leave it to bureaucracy.

        To be fair though, its right on the border of East Ballard and Phinney Ridge. We could try to come up with some combo name (Phinnard?) or we could just call it east Ballard because its not actually up on the hill (so not on the ridge).

      • Andrew Smith says

        I think people who don’t know that area will get confused. Unless you know that’s where you need to go, you probably don’t want to stop there. Just my two cents. We do have some worse named stations already (Rainer Beach, Columbia City, etc.)

      • Andrew Smith says

        I agree though, that it is challenging. “8th Street” isn’t that bad. “Phinney Ridge” is also too confusing.

        There’s a joke in software that there are only two hard problems, one of which is “naming things”.

      • d.p. says

        For census purposes, East Ballard is actually known as “West Woodland”. But that would be an unhelpful name.

        I’m generally of the opinion that naming for intersections is the most practical and informative approach. “8th & Market” tells you exactly where it is, and being only twelve characters (including spaces) it fits easily and legibly on any kind of informational sign imaginable.

        Still, “East Ballard” can mean only this. The stretch of Leary south of here is “FreLard”. Anywhere north of 65th and east of Alonzo is “Northeast Ballard”. Market runs along a cardinal axis from the Locks to the foot of the Ridge, and so everyone knows precisely which way “east” is. There is no confusion inherent in that name.

      • Charles B says

        I don’t really have an objection, Call this one “East Ballard” and call the Aurora stop the “Woodland Park” stop. The only people going to East Ballard will already know what it is.

        Woodland Park is the stop that tourists will be going to.

      • Andrew Smith says

        The problem with “East ballard” is that some people, especially people from out of town or who speak poor english, might get “ballard” confused with “east ballard”. I remember being in The Hague and not being sure whether I wanted “Den Haag C” or “Den Haag Hollands Spoor”. If English is your second language…

        I agree with d.p. about “8th and Market”

      • Charles B says

        @Andrew Smith

        I think this is not as big of a problem as you think it is. The stations are right next to each other and within walking distance that is not unreasonable for someone on vacation.

        I am not a fan of using street names for a station name when a succinct place name is available and applies pretty much uniquely to the station.

        Its not like someone with language issues couldn’t confuse 8th and Market for 8th NE near I-5 and end up thinking (incorrectly) that they are going to the closest station to some other destination.

        Last year I ran into a tourist who got off at University Street station expecting to find themselves at UW campus. I could easily see someone looking for some market on 8th street (or maybe even the pike place market!) ending up in the wrong place entirely because we chose to name this station after an intersection rather than a clear place name.

      • Andrew Smith says

        I think this is not as big of a problem as you think it is. The stations are right next to each other and within walking distance that is not unreasonable for someone on vacation.

        Sound Transit thinks its a serious enough problem that they have made up pictograms for stations:

        http://seattletransitblog.com/2014/04/09/st-picking-new-pictograms-now/

        Not everyone can walk the distance you mention, that’s everything is made accessible.

        If there are five “8th” stations, especially next to eachother, that’s bad. But having two stations with “ballard” in it will confuse people with poor English skills.

      • Mike Orr says

        That’s why the stations in downtown Ballard, Bellevue, and Redmond should be called “Ballard”, “Bellevue”, and “Redmond”, without any qualifying words like “Downtown” or “Transit Center”. That will lead visitors to the station they’re most likely going to.

        Pictograms only help if you know the pictogram ahead of time. That means guidebooks and advertisements and people giving directions will have to mention the pictograms. What’s the chance they will? What’s the chance that people giving directions will even remember what the pictogram is? Is the kite Mt Baker or Capitol Hill?

      • d.p. says

        Yeah, I just can’t get too worked up about the possibility that a first-time user who happens not to recognize a cardinal-direction modifier with an near-identical cognate in every Germanic and Romance language might end up briefly on the wrong end of Market Street. This is the slightest of slight contingencies.

        When I’m somewhere that I don’t speak the language, I take especially good care to understand where I’m going in advance.

      • aw says

        d.p. and Andrew Smith, the station name should not be “8th and Market”, it should be “8th NW and NW Market”. If a tourist takes the time to understand our street and avenue naming conventions, there is no problem with having five 8th stations.

      • RossB says

        Kudos for d. p. for digging out the West Woodland neighborhood moniker. Most of the people call it FreLard, but I discovered that name as well. It would, as you say, be very confusing. East Ballard is really simple.

      • Charles B says

        @d.p.

        Not to mention that many many other major cities around the world do just this thing. There were countless East/West/New+Name stations I ran across in Japan and in the parts of Europe I have seen.

        Everyone does this and its not even remotely difficult to figure out by (at a minimum) matching the exact characters on your transit map to the place you are trying to go to.

      • d.p. says

        No, AW.

        The arcane quirks of our W/NW/NE/N/E/SE/SW nomenclature, with its arbitrary divides across Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, is the kind of information that should not be requisite in order to use transit services to utterly unrelated parts of town.

        There is only one Market Street. It is in Ballard. The entirety of Ballard is NW. If you’ve so much as glanced at a map, any further “NW”s become superfluous.

        Superfluous “NW”s are exactly the kind of thing with which we should not be cluttering our signage or our transit users’ memories.

      • d.p. says

        [See? I've lived here 8 years, and even I forgot for a moment that we have "S" but no "SE". That shit should become irrelevant when traveling by foot and transit. It should never be emphasized as you suggest.]

      • William C. says

        Ideally, I agree with you, d.p. But given the even more superfluous “Station” tacked on to the end of everywhere, an “NW” or two would be a breath of fresh air to me.

  15. Chris says

    Would there be any significant value in continue the line down to University Village and then somewhere around Children’s hospital? Obviously some technically challenges there but the connection to the Shopping center and children’s seems like it would bring in quite a lot of riders. Especially the idea of a simple 2 seat ride from SeaTac to the hospital. Hell I’d might even consider going to U village more often since it wouldn’t be a nightmare.

    • Charles B says

      As I had pointed out to me earlier, see number 5 in Keith’s list. We should build it to be extended later.

    • ray says

      Why stop there?

      Take it to Magnusun Park in the Sand Pt way boulevard. Develop the old barracks.Tunnel to Kirkland and back into Bellevue via the old BNSF line. Skip LRT on 520.

  16. Ernst of Wallingford says

    It’s interesting. It is correct in noting that tunneling/elevating is preferred. I’m not 100% that “East Ballard” needs a station, but Wallingford should be more east than A2.

    I think it makes more sense, though, to go along Leary and hit Fremont at the south end of the hill, getting to 45th by way of Stone Way, then down 45th (either tunnel or elevated) to U-District. There’s greater density toward the bottom of the hill in Fremont. And it would annoy Suzie Burke.

    • RapidRider says

      You would need some zany curves to do that and you would lose speed on the line. The furthest south you could reasonably get without slowing down the train is just north of 39th and Fremont/Aurora.

      • Ernst of Wallingford says

        Lots of curves? You bet! And even more when you get to the Junction. Petticoat Junction!

    • Mike Orr says

      A spur is a shuttle or branch from a primary line. In this case, a shuttle from U-District station to Ballard, like the shuttle lines in the NYC subway. A spur can also mean a branch, as in a downtown – U-District – Ballard line, but ST has rejected that saying no more lines in the north-south tunnel. Compare highway 20, which runs from eastern Washington to Fidalgo Island, then turns south across Whidbey Island. A “Highway 20 Spur” branches off at Fidalgo Island to the Anacortes ferry terminal.

      This line could potentially be extended east to Laurelhurst or Redmond, or south to Burien and Renton, but that’s beyond the “spur” idea.

  17. Mike Orr says

    “there is no specific comment period for this study”

    Is it true there will be no open house or comment period for these corridor studies? I’ve been holding back on my feedback to ST waiting for the comment period to open. Is it really “Now or never” with feedback?

    • says

      Ideally, it’s never too early to send in feedback. Transit agencies in this area are very responsive and prone to listening, maybe too much (see: watered-down Metro restructures).

  18. Mike Orr says

    I can see A4 for Ballard and Wallingford, and better bus or streetcar service for Fremont. Fremont’s problems are much less than Ballard’s, and has more room for at-grade solutions both south, east, west, and north with acceptable travel time. (South: Westlake, East: 40th or Northlake, West: Leary Way, North: Fremont/Phinney.) Ballard’s and Wallingford’s problems are uniquely greater, and the narrow streets prevent any at-grade solution. I still support a Ballard-downtown grade-separated line, but it would be easier to survive without that line than without an east-west line.

    As for C1 grade-separated, while I always prefer grade separation, there does seem to be capacity for MLK-line surface on Stone Way and Leary Way, so I’m not sure that would be unacceptable. The main hurdle is the tiny streets between Stone Way and Leary Way, and there perhaps a short tunnel would be sufficient.

    • Charles B says

      Of course, the drawback of a surface option for Fremont is situations like Saturday’s parade. The primary transit corridors are cut in half by a closed street.

      We could just prohibit those parades from happening, but I think we would be better off tunneling under the problem.

      That’s why I support both the Ballard to Downtown line (that also goes to West Seattle) and the Ballard to UW line. I can see a strong argument for doing Ballard to UW first, but I don’t see why we can’t try to do both…

      • Shane says

        I was at the parade this weekend. People were getting so mad at each other trying to cross the street through the crowds and even through the parade. I kept thinking about how nice it would be if there was a pedestrian underpass under 36th to access the transit tunnel I keep dreaming about. It would improve foot traffic so much during those times.

  19. Al S. says

    It’s great to see all the supportive comments! Visioning is at work! I do have to raise a few discouraging types of questions, though:

    1. If we’re talking subways, is tunneling here any more cost-effective than tunneling for a First Hill – Central District “spur” subway? That area has many more high rises and hospitals. I’d speculate that a similarly short subway line from Westlake or University Street station to First Hill to Seattle U/Cherry Hill to 23rd/Jackson to Rainier/23rd/I-90 would have potentially as much if not more merit than this line would in terms of riders and eliminate much of the need for the major bus fleet we operate in this area today.

    2. Would we want to pay for building two lines that run so closely between Fremont and Ballard, or just one? Would it be preferred to configure something that has a “Y” around East Ballard or Fremont with one direction going to Queen Anne and the other going to UW? If one line gets built, wouldn’t it make sense to engineer a “Y” in the design?

    • William C. says

      1. Good idea, except it isn’t on ST’s Long-Range Plan at the moment. Is there any way to fix that? Or if the City ends up going alone, they should definitely consider that line.

      2. I asked at the open house; ST said their design would make such a switch prohibitive.

  20. Brett says

    Email sent.

    I know this has been brought up elsewhere, but how can we work towards variable tax rates for the various SoundTransit sub areas? It would be nice if the tax rates matched the appetite for transit, allowing ST to plan more projects that support Seattle.

    • Charles B says

      Is there any reason we can’t just pass our own additional taxes in Seattle and feed those into ST projects?

    • colin says

      I brought this up last week and was told that the current state laws don’t allow for much additional taxation authority in Seattle, even if we vote for them. ST has the ability to collect and spend more money on this subject, but their charter is to do things regionally, so for now we’re stuck with that.

      This is an area where pressure could be put on state legislators to fix those laws and let Seattle vote in higher taxes if we want them.

      • Charles B says

        @colin
        Even Sound transit needs more authority from the state to tax for more light rail.

      • Mike Orr says

        The legislators opposing it are mostly in the exurbs and rural counties, so we can’t pressure them. In fact, some of them campaign on “Seattle wanted a tax increase and I said no”. The Pugetopolis mayors and county councilmembers are already pressuring them as much as they can, so there’s not much more we can do. Unless you know somebody living in those areas who can pressure their own legislators.

      • Keith Kyle says

        There are local funding sources that are large enough to build… Something. We are currently taking a hard look at this and plan to present some ideas soon. Seattle has to answer the question: what if ST doesn’t get funding authority for 2016? starting NOW.

      • Mike Orr says

        “Even Sound transit needs more authority from the state to tax for more light rail.”

        Yes but the state explicitly created Sound Transit for this purpose, to “take care of” regional transit so the state wouldn’t have to get more directly involved in it. The state expects ST to come back periodically for more phases.

  21. 2Tall says

    ST A3 is a classic example of an engineering solution that emphasizes “speed” over this thing called ridership and rider access. There is no question in my mind that more stops are needed to provide a realistic look at the market and market potential.

  22. FDW says

    I like the idea of A4, but I think that if both extensions end up approved, Option D should instead going over to Ballard, cut straight north through Fremont once it gets over the Ship Canal and hook up with A4 at Fremont/46th.

    • Keith Kyle says

      A lot of people have made some version of this comment. I think the distance you save (<1 mile of tunnel?) vs what you lose in terms of operational efficiency make this configuration problematic.

      Downtown to Ballard to UW will be a single seat ride in the configuration shown – no need for separate train lines. This is a key efficiency gained by the configuration presented here.

      • Keith Kyle says

        In responding to this I just realized I also answered the “Why isn’t ST studying the line to 24th?” Answer: Operations.

      • FDW says

        However, by having the two as separate lines, it becomes much simpler for an extension up Aurora to be built in the future. (Which is something that ST is considering)

      • says

        You do need to be thinking about how to serve Loyal Heights and Greenwood long-term, and how much of Magnolia and Queen Anne you serve. In the past Seattle Subway has had diagrams showing two north-south lines on the west side of Seattle, one serving Magnolia and Ballard and another serving Queen Anne, Fremont, Phinney Ridge, and Greenwood.

      • d.p. says

        …And two different colors of ponies!

        Not that another north-south-and-further-north line is an impossible future consideration, but it is worth remembering that the early Seattle Subway fantasy maps contained tens of billions of dollars in lines of questionable ridership potential, and should not be taken as instructive.

  23. Fil says

    Compared to projects elsewhere, does $1.4-1.9 Billion for 26,000 riders a day warrant this line to be constructed? It seems like more riders would be needed.

    • Keith Kyle says

      Yes. This price for that many daily riders would make this one of the highest priority corridors in the country for FTA funding.

      Captial cost per rider over 50 years (which is an appropriate timeline for considering this investment) on this line will end up being pennies. Cheaper than any other mode of transportation in both capital and operating costs.

    • Charles B says

      @Fil

      Actually, quite a lot of the projects ST has been looking at have ridership MUCH lower than this. They also did not look at the ridership this line would generate with the Aurora stop. I think it bares mentioning again, the Aurora/Woodland Park stop will generate more ridership than any other stop on this line that isn’t the Ballard or UW terminus and it wasn’t included in the original estimate.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Good point Charles — the added stations will raise the price a bit but they will SIGNIFICANTLY increase ridership.

    • FDW says

      Don’t look at total ridership, look at ridership per mile. It’s about 8,000 on the low end, and assuming the maximum number of stations could go as high as 12,000. To give perspective, that’s roughly around the ridership density that LA’s Red Line/Purple, Washington DC’s entire Metro network, and Boston’s Green Line LRT have.

  24. Tony says

    Why not just make it a loop? Ballard>U District> Westlake>Ballard

    Northlink would feed into the loop at UW
    Eastlink would feed in at Westlake
    Southlink? would feed in at Westlake
    520link would feed in at UW

    • Keith Kyle says

      Unfortunately, not possible — the Spur can’t interline with Central Link due to crowding issues that will exist in that tunnel once everything ST is already building is complete. Also — Ballard to Downtown will also exist in a separate tunnel past Westlake for the same reason (that’s why Westlake looks double on the map — it will be a pedestrian linked double station.)

      • Tony says

        What I mean is, break central link into two separate lines. Wouldn’t that alleviate multiple line crowding issues in the tunnel, as there would just be one line: the loop.

        All trains coming from the south would terminate at westlake, where people would transfer onto the downtown/UW/ballard loop.

        All trains coming from the north would terminate at UW, where people could transfer onto the loop to continue to ballard/downtown/eastside/airport

        …and so on

      • SounderBruce says

        Better yet, get rid of the one-seat ride from Lynnwood to Overlake and instead make it a one-seat ride from Ballard to Overlake. If you want to get to the Airport, transfer at any of the stations between the U-District and International District.

  25. Charles says

    I agree that we need the Ballard Spur for west-east rail transit. However it should be done in concert with the downtown-Belltown-Queen Anne-Ballard north-south line. Belltown and Queen Anne (especially lower Queen Anne) are some of the densest areas in the city and it is crazy that we haven’t connected them to the rail network yet. We need these areas connected as much as we need Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford connected.

  26. yvrlutyens says

    Can’t see how a Downtown Ballard line plus a Ballard UW line makes sense. Seems more sensible to have a Ballard UW Alternative A4 and then a line from the North Fremont stop to downtown: North Fremont, Fremont, Queen Anne, Seattle Center, Belltown, Westlake. As noted above, it would require a connection at North Fremont between the two lines, and that will be a complicated station, but not insurmountably so. Ballard-Downtown and Ballard-UW would both be one seat rides with a junction.

    To connect with the rest of the system and the maintenance yards, the Ballard Downtown line could connect to Link at Westlake. According to ST, the tunnel will be maxed out, so those traveling further south of east will need to switch trains, but the connection could be used in the off hours to shuttle trains to and from the maintenance yards.

    This of course assumes that ST is right that the tunnel will be maxed out. The tunnel ought to be able to handle trains every 90 seconds which would allow Central Link and East Link to run every 3 minutes and likewise with Ballard Link and University Link (obviously they would be through routed in whatever way made sense). Likewise the Ballard-UW line could be interlined with the Ballard Downtown line also on 90 second frequencies to keep the whole system in sync. And if the tunnel truly cannot handle 90 second headways, automation is something to consider. Since most of the system is grade separated already, really just the Rainier Valley segment would need a full rebuilt. That might seem crazy, actually it is crazy, but it comes down to whether it is cheaper to build a new tunnel downtown or build a cut and cover tunnel in the Rainier Valley. Of course interlining in the current transit tunnel would make transfers that much easier. And something to throw into the cost mix would be the lower operational costs of a fully automated system.

    • Anandakos says

      The connection to the existing tunnel “at Westlake”, by which I assume you mean at the curve just west of the station, can’t be made on 90 second headways. It would have to be a “flying junction” to be reliable, and there isn’t enough room between the north end of the station box at University Street and the curve for the northbound Ballard track to diverge and dive deep enough to clear the existing tubes.

      Also, 90 second headways are very hard to manage consistently; they require a level of equipment quality and maintenance that just isn’t reliably attained in the US.

      • Lloyd says

        I agree totally. Too many dreamers wishing for unattainable performance standards.

      • d.p. says

        In fact, the central tunnel systems were designed for “90-second design headways, for 120-second operation headways”. All systems in concert. Leeway already built in.

        Only the deletion of one vent structure at Montlake — a galling display of ST’s lack of foresight and political will — reduced the Capitol Hill segment’s headway to “one train per station gap”, or 3 minutes at best.

        Too many dreamers wishing for billions of dollars in redundant tunnels, and failing to get the most out of what we’ve already paid for.

      • yvrlutyens says

        The junction at Westlake will be complicated and expensive. No getting around that. But obviously it would be cheaper than building a whole new downtown tunnel. A new would require complicated pedestrian connections to the current tunnel stations and that alone won’t be cheap. (For new Westlake station could demolish the parking garage at 3rd and Pine to give some room to maneuver. Replace some of the parking underground and a new building above grade.)

        But the idea that 90 second headways are impossible just isn’t true. That happens twice a day in Vancouver, morning rush and afternoon rush, and it’s no temple of quality and maintenance. Pretty ordinary system. The junction just after the Columbia Street station switches trains at that frequency from one line to another without issue.

      • Al S. says

        I agree with all of you that there should be at least a tail track east of Westlake Station if not full access. It’s useful in many circumstances – getting to maintenance yards, turning around trains if there is a problem up or downstream – even if Ballard to UW is a separate line. I feel the same way about the lack of a “Y” above or below the U-District station because it really limits the operational capabilities.

        I only have to mention that the entire San Francisco Muni meltdown in the 1990’s was caused by the lack of a tail track above Castro station. The capital planners spent hundreds of billions of dollars planning and building the Third Street line (not anticipated when the Market Street Subway was built) but didn’t completely think through how the trains would terminate on the other end. The result was that both tracks had to be shut down if trains were reversed. At their frequent headways (like what ST says we’ll have), it jammed up the whole system and 10 minute rides became hour long rides. Much of the solution was interlining but that was complicated because driver work rules were that the line travel time was longer than maximum time allowed for driver breaks. (noting that if we extend link to Tacoma and Everett this will become an issue for ST, and it may be an issue for Redmond to Lynnwood trains).

    • Glenn in Portland says

      Only the deletion of one vent structure at Montlake — a galling display of ST’s lack of foresight and political will — reduced the Capitol Hill segment’s headway to “one train per station gap”, or 3 minutes at best.

      Is ventilation the real capacity issue here? Thanks for the explanation for that. The cause of this capacity problem hasn’t been explained too well here for my tastes.

      Maybe you just install a 5,000 horsepower blower like the BNSF has in the 8 mile long Cascade Tunnel, and just blast the passengers all the way to Westlake?

      • asdf says

        I’m not too worried. It’s not like the vent structure can’t be built later, if it is actually needed.

  27. DrK says

    If we have a station at 46th and Fremont, could we add a horizontal shaft entrance with moving walkways at station level from somewhere like 39th and Fremont? This would allow a better connection to central fremont without making the alignment of the actual trackway zig-zag on its way between Ballard and UW.

  28. Heidi Friesen says

    I really like this proposal. I definitely think A3 needs to be designed with an East-West consideration, since currently it can take upwards of 45 minutes to drive the short distance between Ballard and University District. Wallingford station needs to be moved east with additional stops added to accommodate the astronomical population explosion currently taking place in Ballard.

  29. Gordon Werner says

    would like to see the line extended east to serve UVilliage, Children’s Hospital and Magneuson Park

Trackbacks



You may want to read our comment policy.