Boeing Access Road
Boeing Access Road, by Oran in the STB flickr pool

The awesome photo on the right by Oran shows where Link crosses over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) tracks that Sounder and Amtrak run on. At that spot was planned a transfer station between northbound Sounder riders to Link on their way to Sea-Tac, the Boeing Access Road station. Apparently, BNSF needs the space for freight operations there, and there wasn’t a spot for a passenger platform. Without a Sounder Transfer, ridership wouldn’t have been been high enough to make the station worth the cost of construction and so it was deferred.

A while back the Port of Seattle and King County were coming close to an agreement in which the Port would have bought the BNSF Eastside rail line, and traded it to the County with some cash for Boeing Field. There has been talk of operating commercial flights out of Boeing Field. Although the County-Port deal has been shelved, if  commercial flights ever make their way to Boeing Field, we’d probably see a BAR station. This is speculation, but Sound Transit is probably keeping its powder dry for just such a possibility.

Even without another airport or basketball arena, the site has allure for arm-chair transit planners. Not only does it provide access to a fairly large employer and the Museum of Flight, but it also provides an access point for Tukwila Metro buses in a stretch where those are scarce. Furthermore, with a higher level of investment, and a change of heart by BNSF, you could construct a tri-modal terminal where express buses, LINK, and commuter rail all converge to allow easy transfers between them, and possibly eliminate the need for buses to head into Downtown Seattle. And it would put a Link station within walking distance of my favorite diner in our region, and a man can dream, right?

If you live in South County, would you transfer from Sounder at a Boeing Access Road station on your way to Seatac? If you live in South Seattle, Renton or Tukwila how miserable would you be if jetliner takeoffs and landings at Boeing Field increased four or five fold?

31 Replies to “Boeing Access Road (deferred)”

  1. When I worked in that area I often wondered why anyone would decide not to build a station there. It seems a perfect spot to me. I was in a building where hundreds of people could have become train riders given the opportunity to board one nearby.

  2. I don’t live in either area but it sounds like a great idea to me. Airport fees are quite a revenue source – I wonder if it would make sense for King County to pay for the station and recover this cost over time.

  3. For me, a Boeing Access Road station, would be yet another jewel in the crown of the Light Rail network. I used to work on East Marginal at the Boeing Developmental Center opposite the Museum of Flight and the possibilities of the station close to here are as delicious as a juicy slice of fruit. I had colleagues who currently transfer at Sounder in Tukwila onto mini vans to get to Boeing plants on East Marginal and I think their commute would be substantially reduced with a stop at the BAR.

    The station would also be attractive for tourists planning to come and hopefully see the Space Shuttle at the Museum of Flight if we can get it in the next year or so.

    So yes, count me in as a strong vote for a BAR Station in the near future. How long would it take to build a temporary platform – not years I hope.

    Andrew, how far along is ST’s thinking on this one? Have studies and plans been thought up and most importantly, is it shovel ready if it is approved.

    As for more flights from Boeing Field, I don’t think SEATAC is yet busy enough to warrant shifting flights elsewhere and the two airports so close that I can see pilots landing at the wrong airport by mistake. SeaTac has experienced a big traffic downturn this past year and while it could pick up in the future, many planned flights such as Northwest/Delta’s planned route to Beijing have been cancelled and as of this month, their daily flight to London Heathrow got cancelled too and it only started last June. Until the airline industry gets back into the groove again, I don’t see it necessary to transfer flights from SeaTac to other airports in the area. Also, the number of larger aircraft with larger wakes is declining. Fewer 747s and DC10s and A340s means that the lag time between arriving flights is decreased and they can get more planes onto the ground without stacking them to avoid air turbulence from the wakes of the larger wide-bodies landing ahead of them.

    Last point, is that Horizon Air has shuttle flights something like every hour from SEA/Boeing Field to PDX – a Boeing Access Road Station for Link/Sounder would clearly be very helpful, but longer term, we need to be focusing on substantially adding trainsets to the Amtrak Cascades on this route. We should be running trains every hour between Seattle and Portland, and not planes – way more environmental.


    1. Andrew, how far along is ST’s thinking on this one? Have studies and plans been thought up and most importantly, is it shovel ready if it is approved.

      Not that far, the station designs were for a joint sounder-link station, and since a sounder station isnt really possible now at that location, they don’t have any decent designs.

    2. Tim,

      As a pilot, I guarantee you we could not mistake Boeing Field and SeaTac. They are not alined in the same direction and they are about 400 feet different in elevation.

      Horizon Air does have flights every hour, and at some times of the day every half-hour from SeaTac to Portland. They do not fly into Boeing Field. They are, however, looking to fly into Paine Field in Everett this year.

      1. Yes, my apologies, I was confusing some new start-up airline that is in fact operating out of Boeing Field and does run every hour with Horizon that only operates out of SeaTac.

        I am sure that Air Traffic Control and Pilots do know what they are doing, but as to the question as to whether we need to divert flights from SeaTac to other airports in the area, I don’t believe the case has yet been made – especially now that we have a third runway in use at SeaTac and the airport as a whole is running under capacity right now. I would be surprised if the final air traffic statistics for 2008 have arrested any overall decline in air traffic at the airport.

  4. Interesting post, Andrew, and informative comment Tim. These are the sorts of transit tidbits that a non-expert transit proponent like myself finds so valuable about STB. The stop makes sense in so many ways, and many of them seem to support the biggest transit value of taking cars off the roads.

    As for the potential NIMBY issue from commercial traffic at Boeing Field; I live in Burien and would be interested in the flight pattern/noise issue, but would not fear it. My neighborhood is two miles west of SeaTac. While we seem to get engine wind-up noise on some mornings when the wind is easterly (ie blowing from the east), and occasional exhaust fumes, our neighborhood is really very quiet. That’s not the case for airport neighbors directly south or north of the runways.


  5. I do think the Boeing Access Station would be incredibly valuable for employment centers and tourists heading to the Museum of Flight.
    As a South King resident, would I use this station to get to SeaTac? Absolutely not! For me, it is far more convenient to catch the 180, which goes directly to the airport. Would it be useful for others? Maybe, but the 180 runs from both Auburn station and Kent Station so it seems unnecessary to provide a connection further north. I also fear as a 150 rider that they’d likely terminate the route there and force us to get on Link to Seattle. This would make the trip from Kent to Seattl via bus even longer.

    Tim makes some very good points about Boeing Field flights.

    1. The museum of flight is one of the few really good tourist spots in Seattle, and I think it’s worth providing good access to it. There would need to be some TOD to make the whole project worth it, but that could be a problem with the airport limiting heights in the area.

  6. Can someone give me an example of how a tourist would visit the Museum of Flight using the Boeing Access Station? Are you presuming that it would be a tourist who is probably staying in downtown Seattle, who would then board a southbound Link train for the BAS? Then how would they get to the MOF? It’s not walking distance. If the idea is for them to then wait for a northbound route 174 to get them to the MOF, wouldn’t it have saved them time to have just waited for the southbound route 174 in downtown Seattle?

    I’m not trying to be nitpicky or a troll here. I’m honestly trying to follow the logic of why the BAS would be a great way for tourists to get to the MOF. I’m sure I’m missing something. Can someone help me with the logic?

      1. You’d have shuttles, just like every other airport station that isn’t built right next to the terminal (see Oakland Airport, LaGuardia, etc.)

    1. I agree with Andrew that there would need to be shuttles all the way up East Marginal to meet the trains and to take people to and from the Museum and other Boeing plants in the area.

      The BAR is a huge and up to now wasted opportunity to tap into demand for a station here. It shouldn’t have been deferred. Just think of the possibilities of also being able to stop Amtrak Cascade trains at the BAR as well as Sounder. This could be quite a focal point for transit passengers moving from shuttles to Sounder to Amtrak to Link.

      I say let’s encourage ST to go for this one if they can. I am sure it comes up a lot in overall deliberations and I don’t think we should let this one go.

      Plenty of Boeing folk go to SeaTac all the time and they drive and waste money with parking fees etc. when they could in fact leave their cars at Boeing and take our proposed shuttles to our proposed BAR Station and hop on a Light Rail train to the airport – nothing could be easier – but then comes the lack of money and as we know demand has to follow the money if there is any and not money following the demand even if there is sometimes an overflowing demand for something……..

      1. If it’s such a big moneysaver for Boeing, the funding source becomes obvious…

        Seriously though, the Boeing employees I’ve met have been overwhelmingly car-centric and I don’t see policy changing to force people to take airport shuttles or employees moving out of their comfort zone when Boeing reimburses them for all their costs.

      2. I agree, Martin, that Boeing is not like Microsoft in its attitude towards Public Transit – hence the fact that there are so few Metro buses to Boeing Everett for example and few if any company shuttles between all of the Boeing plants in the area.

        Where I used to work, there was a healthy attitude towards Van Pooling and some effort was made to synchronise van pools to meet Sounder trains at Tukwila. Overall though, you are right that Boeing does not have a good record with respect to public transit and then it turns around all the time to tell the State that there isn’t any and that the road network is always clogged-up. I think there needs to be a paradigm shift here and one of the marketing ways we can try and do this is would be to encourage options such as the BAR station to service East Marginal. Yes, I agree that Boeing should be one of the major sponsors of shuttles up and down East Marginal, but I also think they would be persuadable – especially in this brave new world we find ourselves now in since President Obama ascended to the seat of presidential power.

  7. One posiable benefit of a BAR Transfer station would be that if the ESR were ever built, getting the ESR to the BAR station would take less construction work then getting the ESR to the TUK station.

    Given that if the ESR is ever built it would by default have a connection with EastLink in Bellevue, I do not know what level of benefit the Connection with Link at BAR would have, it would all depend on schedules (and your final destination) whether it would be quicker to xfer in bellevue or at the BAR station.

    Lor Scara

    1. This is because ESR doesn’t get to Tukwila? How far is that from Renton where it does go I wonder…

      1. To get to eitehr you would have to continue from the end of teh ESR (at least the portion being sold) on the BNSF ROW through renton to the black River junction. To get to the Tukwilla Sounder station, you would need to rebuild the branch of the Y that was removed years ago (not sure if the ROW still exists or if land would need to be acquired, and buildings demolished). To get to the BAR station location, you would need to build no new rail, the line already joins the BNSF main pointing North towards Seattle

  8. A couple of Link questions. Have they pinpointed an opening date? I know it’s going to be sometime in July (I think). Also, are trains and buses going to share the downtown tunnel? If so, how will that work?

    1. Not quite, sometime in July. Trains and buses are going to share the tunnel. It works when they do testing. What’s the specific questions?

      1. I use the tunnel fairly frequently, and during peak periods, the buses in the DSTT sometimes get backed up. Or, sometimes I’ll see a bus with some sort of mechanical problem have to sit there for more than a few minutes, waiting for help. Will the trains also have to patiently sit in that line of buses, waiting for them to clear out? I guess the obvious answer it yes, they will have to wait their turn to get to the platform, just like the buses, but that just seems like, at least scheduling-wise, a recipe for disaster. I guess I’m just having trouble visualizing everything running smoothly and efficiently for the trains during peak periods.

      2. Trains and Buses sharing the tunnel will be an interesting exercise. A bus can go around a stuck bus, but the trains don’t have that luxury.
        Any mechanical problems, security or medical problems will ‘tie-up’ a bus for as long as it takes a supervisor, and/or maintenance/push truck to arrive and clear the bus out of the tunnel.
        Wheelchair deployments take a couple of minutes extra for the driver toload and secure the chair in the bus.
        A lot will depend on the tunnel controllers operatiing rules. If all buses must completely clear all tunnel tubes and stations, before letting a train run through, things will get screwed up quickly. I hope they have a good Block Control or ATC scheme worked out with manual overrides in place.
        With Link running less than 10 minute headways in the peak, I can see some delayed trains. Hopefully for not too long, and not too often, or the buses will get an early ‘boot’ out of tunnel land.

  9. If they make a new large commercial airport, it will almost definitely be Paine Field, as it would make a lot more sense for all the people in the entire area north of Seattle who have to go a long ways. I don’t really know much about the terminal there though; does anyone know if it would be feasible to get light rail to the terminal there, or at least a little people-mover from a South Everett Link station??

    1. Sounds about right, though a bunch of upgrades to the terminals and facilities there would need to happen.

      It is possible to put a station there, since the “ash way” station would already be crossing I-5 there. If a station was put at paine field, then there would need to be another south everett station somwhere else.

  10. I’m think Link along I-5 to Everett, with a AirTrain-style people mover from South Everett or Ash Way station.

    1. It will likely be decades before Paine will see sufficient flights to warrant construction of an AirTrain style people mover. Hopefully, we’ll use any moneys currently proposed for Paine to improve the rail corridor between Vancouver, BC and Eugene as well as augmenting rail service between Puget Sound and Eastern Washington. Our goal should be REMOVING people from automobiles and airplanes, not encouraging their use.

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