55 mph is Link’s top speed. That’s lot faster than a car stuck in traffic.
In 1955, the Seattle Transit Commission asked for transit right-of-way to be included in the I-5 design in Seattle. At $16 million, it was deemed to expensive. The freeway opened about ten years later.
63 Replies to “55 Days”
“55 mph is Link’s top speed. That’s lot faster than a car stuck in traffic.”
That could have been written by someone who works for Sound Transit. It’s factually truthful, yet deceptive and dishonest. And I believe you know that. Shame on you.
What’s dishonest about it exactly? I went to the airport and back Friday and it took me about 80 minutes, with just 5 minutes spent at the airport.
Rush hour traffic is no joke.
Thats not a very good example with link taking 35 minutes from downtown to the airport. So it took you 5 minutes longer in rush hour traffic?
The quickest I’ve driven from Uptown (Lower QA) to the airport is 25 minutes. That was non-rush hour and doesn’t include getting a parking space and the walk to the terminal. Since I go down 99 to 509 there is always the chance the 99 bridge could be up.
I’d rather ride and will tell my guests to take advantage of Link once it’s open.
I don’t live downtown, I live on Beacon Hill. Link is scheduled to be just 23 minutes for me.
I thought you lived in the U-district.
But either way, now try getting from Bellevue to Sea-tac via Link… Drive to the park-and-ride, wait for the train, 15 minutes to the ID, then wait another 10 minuets for your transfer, then 28 minutes to the airport. Driving in rush hour is starting to sound better. And BTW how often does your flight leave during rush hour anyway?
What do drivers talk about with each other?
Check it out:
But I’m not a transit driver…
There’s nothing dishonest about it. When there’s no traffic, cars go faster than Link. When there’s heavy traffic, cars go slower than Link. The Link speed stays the same regardless. To many, that’s one of the reasons for having Link. I wish they had raised the ante though and set 75 as the target speed. Then it would always be faster than cars. I think BART goes 85 on the long stretches around Fremont.
That’s the difference between heavy rail and light rail for you, and the problem with trying to use one technology to serve both as an in-city transit system and a regional commuter rail.
Given that we are spending the hundreds of millions of dollars per mile to dig tunnels anyway, I never understood why we would go with the slower, lower capacity light rail technology rather than a full-fledged 75 MPH subway. Cost is almost always the primary reason, but the cost difference is tunneling. Our light rail costs more than most subways do.
As far as suburban commuter systems go, we should have been focusing on commuter rail, like sounder rather than trying to extend link all the way to Everett and Tacoma.
Oh well, I guess when you’re blinded by rail lust and desperate to put down steel tracks no matter what the cost, you can’t be too picky. (Comment not necessarily directed at Mike Orr)
Central Link is not designed to get people who are stuck in traffic out of their cars and off the freeways.
Who ever said it was?
Sorry but passengers don’t care what the “Top Speed” is unless you approach the blur of a maglev 300mph train. What we care about is “trip time.” That’s measured from the time I leave my home to the time I walk into my destination.
car 45minutes (includes park and walk)
bus 50minutes (park & ride using the car to get to the P&R)
bus 90minutes (ride from bus stop near house)
BTW, on the freeway the top speed of the bus is near 60mph… but as you point out it’s often for only a few minutes.
The second thing we care about is total cost. What we measure of course is daily cost not total sunk costs of lost income from having bought rolling stock, and the depreciation of the vehicle.
car 2gals gas (free parking! and no I won’t say where.)
bus free (employer pass)
The next thing is convenience.
Bicycle major hassle..(need a shower, rain sucks, snow right out.)
car minor hassle…traffic, long walk from parking
bus minor hassle…few seats available, always a short wait at the stop, but arrives next to my work bldg.
why aren’t we all a bit snarky this morning
If Central Link were a line that went, say, up I-5 from Federal Way to Seattle, then it would be more accurate and ethical to say that “55 mph is Link’s top speed. That’s lot faster than a car stuck in traffic.” But Central Link doesn’t do that. It’s a basically a glorified local bus route on rails. All it does is meander through some of the most transit-dependent neighborhoods in the state. It won’t get anyone out of cars or off of freeways. It will simply get very low income people, many of whom don’t own cars, off of bus routes that are about to be discontinued (in order to increase Links ridership numbers).
So yeah, I take offense to slogans like that which was how regional light rail was initially sold to us.
I disagree with your characterization. The goal isn’t so much to get existing freeway drivers off of the freeways. Rather, it’s about giving new commuters a place to go. We’ve already seen:
1) Significant development in station areas in South Seattle. 1,000s of homes have been added and many people, including a blogger here and soon yours truly, are moving or have moved down to Link Station areas. This will continue into the future
2) Light Rail provides a high level of service, so you can re-purpose existing bus hours towards other routes. We’re seeing that with the Southeast Seattle service changes.
The question isn’t “Are people who commute from Federal Way to Seattle (or whatever) going to switch to light rail?” The question is “Will light rail mean fewer future Seattle-area commutes on transit?”
I think you fundamentally don’t understand the differences between rail and bus transit, and that’s not a problem I can fix for you, it’s a problem you’ll fix yourself when you ride Link.
Light rail and a bus on the same path are radically different things. Until you realize that, you’re going to react badly to what is, frankly, reality.
Link *will* get people out of their cars, because yeah, traffic is unpredictable and horrible at many places along the trip from a home in Sea-Tac to a business in downtown. I think you’re falling prey to the “if the lanes aren’t slow, traffic isn’t bad” fallacy, which ignores the ramps, the surface arterials, parking availability, and *risk*.
Risk! Risk risk RISK. That’s the key difference between a car and a train. You don’t KNOW when some idiot is going to slam into the person in front of them and cause a five mile backup. That means if the consequences of missing that meeting are high, you have to leave EARLY. Rail systems have MUCH lower risk than a private automobile on a day to day basis, and that means twenty minutes saved here, fifteen here, five more here.
The proof is in the pudding. Where rail transit is built, it is used – and increasingly, it’s used a lot more than projections indicate. Whenever you make a comment about it “just” doing this, or “just” doing that, you’re failing to take into account reality.
I will ride Link (during daylight hours). I know I will like the train and experience itself. I am for light rail, but not to the point that I have lost my ability to recognize a poorly designed route.
Yes, Ben, light rail is fundamentally different from bus transit, and one of the PRIMARY differences, as eloquently detailed in: “TWELVE ANTI-TRANSIT MYTHS: A CONSERVATIVE CRITIQUE” by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind (available on apta.com), is that Light Rail is targeted at middle class choice riders who would otherwise drive, while bus transit is targeted at the transit dependent. Light rail, done the way light rail should be done, tries to provide a time and convenience competitive trip with auto-travel. Sam’s point is that Central Link fails to do that, by trying to do everything, it ends up doing nothing well.
If one had wanted to build a light rail system designed to REALLY serve the rainier valley, one would have built about twice as many stations and probably run the thing down rainier ave rather than MLK so that people could actually walk to the thing.
If one had wanted to build a system that drew suburban commuters away from the congested urban freeway, one would have run it as an elevated line straight through SODO (making a few stops throughout the second largest employment center in the state after downtown Seattle) and probably used heavy rail technology so that it could travel at 75 MPH.
Instead we tried to do both and did both poorly. We now have a large constituency that is unhappy in SE Seattle and a large suburban commuter constituency whose needs are not going to be served.
Perhaps Ben imagines that light rail never breaks down. That some car never gets stalled on Link’s tracks, that Link is never going to get into a collision with a vehicle crossing the ROW, that some passenger is not going to have a medical emergency, or any of the other misfortunes that can befall a light rail system. There is always risk in urban travel.
The funny thing is that we are complaining about Central Link as it is now. I suspect that once University Link opens that we will be praising the time savings! We will definately notice faster travel times between UW and downtown. I wonder what the max speed in a tunnel is? There is a long distance between Capital Hill and the Husky Stadium!
Putting the route down Rainier Valley was an extremely good thing for Sound Transit to do. Finally something like this was being given to a poorer area of the city. This will give people who normally don’t get very nice stuff from the government a very slick, safe, clean mode of transportation (that will be faster than the bus). No, it won’t take that many commuters off the freeways, but it will give a lot of commuters a much faster and more pleasant way to get to work.
Rainier Valley is an obvious route if you want riders. It’s the center of where people live and work in south Seattle. The alternative was what, a straight shot down I-5 away from where anyone actually wants to go?
I think it’s coded racism, really. The light rail route through Seattle south of downtown goes through ethnically diverse neighborhoods, at the cost of lengthening the trip for the people in less diverse neighborhoods who want to get out of town and to the airport. Just take a look at the comments about Sound Transit on the PI or Seattle Times to see less covert versions of the same attitude.
As for a tunnel vs. surface route, I think there’s room for an honest debate. I would prefer a subway anytime it’s practical, but digging is expensive.
No, the alternative is an elevate train through the Duwamish industrial district, which is home to over 80,000 jobs. In an effort to give the people of SE Seattle a shiny new train, whose primary consequence will be gentrification and the pricing out of that diverse constituency, the region has bypassed the second largest employment center in the state.
Putting link through SE Seattle hurts the people of SE Seattle (through gentrification and displacement) AND undermines our ability to provide efficient time-competitive regional transportation. Unless, of course, purging Seattle of the “undesirable” classes concentrated in SE actually was the goal all along. But as much as some people would like to believe our leaders are evil masterminds, I think they really just didn’t realize what they were doing.
Tony, where do you come up with the 80k figure for jobs in SODO and the Duwamish? Does that include truck drivers that pick-up and deliver? Some of that could be validly attributed to the area but only if the trucks are based there.
It’s an interesting area. I came up with this when looking for employment figures? As the article says, nobody lives there.
Foreign investments in Sodo raise questions
Further analysis demonstrates that the highest percentages of these companies are very small:
Imagine gondolas whisking people from West Seattle
Part of the historic south downtown area that also includes Pioneer Square and the International District, the industrial landscape of the North Duwamish neighborhood reflects its position as the largest industrial and commercial area in the Pacific Northwest. This area of Seattle provides 25% of the city’s tax base and over 70,000 jobs.
Once you get south of the stadiums or as far south as Boeing Field there just doesn’t seem to be much density. There used to be but companies have closed (GE turbine refurb, Ranier bewery) or have become highly automated requiring a small fraction of the original labor (Bethlehem Steel).
Please delete my comments. I am trying to take a more civil tone on this board, and I failed. Again. I will try again another time.
It’s cool, these weren’t that uncivil. No personal attacks: just attacks on the ideas. That’s good form and welcome.
Nah, Sam, no apologies needed in my book. I disagree with a lot of what you say, but nothing good ever came of any ideas that aren’t criticized, discussed, dissected and the like. Many good ideas are born out of bad ones thanks to people willing to speak their minds. You tick me off sometimes, but you do it the right way;)
Weighing in on the issue: I think that what Ben said about reliability is the key issue here. I take the bus to the airport most times I fly, and I *always* end up at the airport earlier than I need to be, because of 1 time when I 1st moved here when the 194 was way late from a wreck on the freeway, and I nearly missed my flight. That won’t happen to Link. You’ll be able to count on the travel time, and the reliability will draw riders to the system and ultimately make this a more livable, more sustainable region (which is the goal).
Let’s be careful not to over-exaggerate the reliability of Link. I agree that it will be significantly less prone to delay than the 194 (or any other bus for that matter). But to pretend that it will be 100% on-time would be irresponsible. Drivers along MLK *will* run red lights or ignore no left turn signs and get hit by the train. The DSTT *will* have the occasional fire alarm or signaling glitch. These both have the potential to cause hour-long delays, and unlike buses which can easily be re-routed around these incidents, Link has nowhere else to go.
True, nothing is 100%. Routing a bus (194?) around a wreck, though, is no better–99 is so slow too–and that happens more than Link problems will occur once they get the bugs out.
Won’t it get near that speed in the section near Tukwila?
I think for a section there it will get up to that spead. Also in tunnels and especially on I-90 it will reach those speeds.
Cool pic. Although it looks ancient; hard to believe that was only eight years before I was born.
Without sounding like I agree with Sam, a point I’ve tried to make since getting involved with LRT in Seattle is this.
Link has tried to be too many things, to too many people. MLK is a good example, where station spacing is much further apart than typical streetcar stations (trying to balance the regional long distance average speed goals), but restricted to streetcar speeds in mixed traffic. Shadow bus service will forever be required to service the intermediate stops.
That’s all fine if you want streetcar service levels, but slows the trip way down for the regional commuter from Federal Way.
Again, not a slam on Link, just an observation! This system was designed by really smart people, and will definately be useful for urban trips, and focus development (all good things), but will struggle to capture riders between regional destinations compared to cars, express buses and commuter rail that will have shorter trip times overall, less the reliability of LRT.
But this is what our electeds at the time felt was needed in tradeoffs to get a positive vote.
IT IS WHAT IT IS.
Link stops six times between SODO and the airport, unlike the 194, which doesn’t stop at all between those places, and yet it takes just a couple minutes longer. By the time it is extended down to Federal Way, and is able to attain high speeds as it will be all grade-separated down there, Link will be much faster than an express bus from there stuck in traffic. And who knows, maybe in 2040 we’ll vote to put Link underground at MLK…
And also, this has nothing to do with politics. If it did, the first places it would go would be Laurelhurst and Medina. It went to one of the poorest areas of our region, which a politically courageous thing to do.
Tracks up 84th in Medina. The golf crowd would love it!… Link through Medina, that’s a funny one :-)
And unfortunately being replicated on the eastside with four stops between downtown Bellevue and Microsoft (yet missing Overlake Medical). None of the stops are even a good spot for a P&R. At least along MLK people use transit. The Bellevue milk run is completely useless unless the area is completely redeveloped; repeat of SLUT except the time frame is decades instead of years. ST’s ridership numbers depend on 20% of the people currently driving across I-90 to take Link instead. Good luck with that when it takes longer and probably doesn’t even match the destination of that many drivers.
It’s still very early. One or more of those stops may be eliminated or deferred by the time it’s built. But it’s up to us (especially those living on the Eastside) to ask for it. The stops need to be at least a mile apart except in the city centers.
The Ashwood station services the hospital.
Yeah, try walking that from NE 12th. Especially if you’re going for a medical reason. I think it’s actually shorter from the transit center to the front of the hospital.
There is a parking garage within feet of NE 12th. I can only assume there is an entrance from the garage to the hospital.
The so-called “hospital” station wasn’t all that close to the main hospital entrance either.
No, having walked from the Transit Center to the hospital a few times and from 12th to the hospital, I can say with certainty that it is a fraction of the distance. You could use mapquest or google maps and see that it is actually about half of the distance if you just used sidewalks and didn’t cross through buildings (4-6 blocks versus 10-12). Christ, can you read a map Bernie?
Oh! And the hospital station would have been 3 blocks away on the other side of Whole Foods.
Thanks for the wise comment, Mike – politics will always trump logic as long as we have to vote for each new extension for rail while never voting on highways. Hopefully, the rest of the system will be built with as much grade separation as possible. I look forward to the day when the Highway Lobby and their client politicoes have to come to us hat-in-hand for each new interchange and new lane.
MoHAI will soon be moving into the old armory building shown in the bottom left corner of the photo. (caption says MoMAI, I thing it should be an H not an M)
It seems like a major argument here against the route of Central Link is that they chose th eroute in an attempt to get high ridership. If the route they chose is a high-ridership one, isn’t that evidence that it is a good route? Wouldn’t Route A be better than Route B if A had higher ridership?
It’s funny to me that a lot of people seem to think Central Link is one big airport people-mover between Sea-Tac and Downtown. Sure, it is good that Link goes to the airport, as it will attract people wanting to test out light rail and will give a good impression of Seattle to visitors, but it’s not a high transit priority compared to getting people to their jobs and other daily functions. Should we sacrifice going through one of the highest transit ridership areas just so we can get to the airport a little bit faster? No one designs their transit system that way. It’s actually somewhat exceptional that Link will go to the airport in its first year of operation, rather than several years afterward.
And in the end, it isn’t going to matter. Most people who might consider going by Link to the airport aren’t going to be really concerned about whether it takes 5 minutes longer than by the bus or driving, because people only go to the airport on occasion and aren’t as concerned about maximizing their time. More people will exchange a small amount of time for the convenience (or novelty) of riding light rail. On the other hand, when people are going to their job or doing other everyday tasks, they are more concerned about using the shortest amount of time possible, because they know the difference will add up over many trips.
When South Link is built out, it will make a lot of sense to create an “express” route going south from SoDo and connecting back up at Boeing Access Road, connecting to Georgetown and South Park along the way. But it is obvious that the first priority should be connecting the Rainier Valley to Downtown Seattle.
Although I agree with just about everything in this comment, I really have to lash out at this “someday we’ll build an express route” argument.
We have a limited-stop regional express train: it’s called Sounder. People interested in a very quick trip to the South End should use it, especially when the span of service gets up to a decent level.
There are many, many priorities for Link I’d place above shaving 6 minutes or so off the trip time in the South End, particularly since you could achieve the same thing by simply improving speeds in the Rainier Valley, at much lower cost.
Well, it’s true that it would be way down on the list of priorities, but it has more benefits than shaving 6 minutes (or whatever) off of the travel time. It would connect Georgetown and South Park as I said, and it would allow for infill stations to be put in Rainier Valley if needed without reducing Link’s usefulness. Sounder and South Link are not the same corridor at all. People from Federal Way aren’t going to drive down to Kent Station to take the Sounder.
And I’m not pulling it out of my imagination by the way. The dual South Seattle routes were part of the Forward Thrust plan:
I think this will happen eventually. Yeah, probably not for a long time because there are more important things to get done first, but I think it will happen, more for the purpose of adding the new stations than for the “express” reason.
I get depressed every time I see that.
Do all the software engineers on this blog think that the Duamish Industrial District is an empty desert or something? There are 80,000 jobs in between the ID and Georgetown. That’s more jobs than Bellevue and Redmond combined. It’s more than Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt and Northgate all combined. Downtown Seattle has about 100,000 jobs and we are making it the centerpiece of a 50-mile system plus express buses and commuter rail.
Why are we building a $4 billion car tunnel under 1st ave? To serve this district. We have ONE station that touches the north end of the district before heading east through the Beacon Hill station. I don’t understand why SODO was not a top priority from the very beginning.
I’ll assume your figures are correct, and not incredibly misleading because most of those jobs are North of Lander and therefore well served by Link.
I do know that the bus service is pretty bad south of Spokane. Metro planners aren’t idiots, so I take that to mean that the transit market is pretty poor, regardless of the raw number of jobs.
better yet would be a route from West Seattle through White Center, Boeing Field, Georgetown and then connecting to the existing line near the MX facility
A direct route from West Seattle would be much better. Going around in a U shape, which is what it sounds like you’re proposing, would take way too long for most people.
People get too caught up in the downtown-to-airport trips. Link is not just an airporter. When it’s built out you’ll be able to go from Rainier to UW, Rainier to Bellevue, Capitol Hill to Bellevue, Capitol Hill to south King County events, etc. People making overlapping trips. Link may or may not be faster for trips that previously took one bus route. But for trips that previously took two bus routes, Link will be much faster. There never was a fast connection from Rainier to the airport or from the UW to Beacon Hill, but now there will be.
I agree. I don’t understand this obsession that Link should be faster than the 194 while ignoring the benefits of increased accessibility to and from Beacon Hill and the Rainier Valley.
The point is that for downtown riders to the airport, they get decreased service. LINK is not a benefit. It doesn’t matter what it’s top speed is, what matters is service, door to door and it’s worse.
Now if you lived on Beacon hill or in the Rainier Valley going to the airport is better.
What most of the complainers about LINK and the airport forget is that about 10K people work at the airport. I expect over time for many of them to re-locate their housing to near a LINK station. These aren’t all high paying jobs, even the pilots don’t make much money if they only fly for a regional carrier. I expect gentrification of the Rainer Valley and that this new LR service will drive it.
No, it’s not a service decrease between downtown and the airport. Link will run more frequently and cover more time than the 194. Travel time is a wash during off-peak hours but an improvement during peak, and it’s more reliable.
Ever taken luggage on the 194? Or taken it at rush hour? I think Link is a huge improvement over the 194. More space, easier to board, reliable travel time, more frequent service. Seems like an improvement in service to me. The increased frequency alone makes up for the 2 minute slower travel time.
“In 1955, the Seattle Transit Commission asked for transit right-of-way to be included in the I-5 design in Seattle. At $16 million, it was deemed to expensive. The freeway opened about ten years later.”
This is something I always wondered about, and hopefully someone can clarify –
I always thought the future transit ROH was included – what is now the Express Lanes. At least that’s what my parents (who ran a business in the U District) always told me while growing up, that the Express Lanes were where the tracks would run, that’s why there’s large open areas around certain exits like 45th (future station) and that the Ship Canal bridge was engineered to accommodate trains on the lower deck in the future. And that it was the failure of the Sound Move vote that kept it from getting built, but that if it was ever built in the future, that’s the route it would take.
Now, my parents were probably wrong or confused, but I always assumed they knew more about it since they had been involved in many of the U-District meetings in the 60’s.
Like I said, I was just curious, because when all the debate was going on about the route Link would take North, I always wondered why they didn’t just take it up the Express lanes, if most of the ROH was already there.
In today’s dollars that would be about $130 million. Of course $130M wouldn’t even cover the cost of preliminary engineering today. Half of that would be spent on studies to model the effects on traffic. It’s always seemed odd that traffic reports include info on whether it’s faster to take the “Express Lanes” or the mainline. If the two are about equal during peak hours shouldn’t that be a sign that they need to be converted to HOT lanes and transit?
where do you come up with the 80k figure for jobs in SODO and the Duwamish? Does that include truck drivers that pick-up and deliver? Some of that could be validly attributed to the area but only if the trucks are based there.
It’s an interesting area. I came up with this when looking for employment figures? As the article says, nobody lives there.
Further analysis demonstrates that the highest percentages of these companies are very small
Imagine gondolas whisking people from West Seattle
Once you get south of the stadiums or as far south as Boeing Field there just doesn’t seem to be much density. There used to be but companies have closed (GE turbine refurb, Ranier brewery) or have become highly automated requiring a small fraction of the original labor (Bethlehem Steel).
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