Portland MAX (Wikimedia)
Portland MAX (Wikimedia)

It’s fun to get out ahead of McGinn on this light rail plan, but let’s remember that even if McGinn wins it’s going to get passed off to the eggheads for a couple of years.  For that reason, it’s most important to understand the principles that is going to guide McGinn’s decisionmaking on this, not try to pin him down on a specific alignment.

Anyhow, a few unrelated musings on the plan are after the jump.


There’s been an idea circulating — in the Times! — that ST3 could go to the ballot as early as 2016.  Transit fans take that to mean that we can get a proper, big-money line to grade-separate all these corridors by 2030 or so.   However, that is nothing like a done deal because there is zero funding authority for Sound Transit to even start building until bonds are retired in the 2030s.

I don’t see anything in the legislature that indicates a willingness to provide substantial new revenue authority for transit; even if some is found, Metro may very well suck it up, since every local politician left of Susan Hutchison is in the press whining about Metro’s revenue sources.  Meanwhile, the County has no plans to use all the taxing authority it has for Metro, so it’s pretty easy for the legislature to ask why they need more.  Furthermore, should more funding become available no one knows how large it’ll be or if it’ll be enough to build a deluxe design.

All that said, I don’t want to discourage readers from pressuring their legislators to change this reality.

If you like, you can just sort of assume that we’re going to hit some sort of climate/gas price armageddon in the next 7 years that radically transforms the legislature‘s attitude to transit and taxes, but that’s dangerous to count on. If you “know” that’s going to happen, stop wasting time on transit blogs and make a fortune on the futures market.

Meanwhile, if McGinn or his plan fail, there’s a real chance we have to wait till bonds get paid off in the 2030s to even start bonding for ST3, with completion around 2050-ish.


When you look at some of the neighborhoods McGinn mentions — Queen Anne, Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard — you can’t help but notice that it basically matches the Ballard/Fremont streetcar line plus the Western part of the Central (aka 1st Avenue) line, if you’re generous with the boundaries of Queen Anne.

McGinn’s “Cadillac” remarks seem to indicate that he’s leaning towards an at-grade alignment to maximize coverage.  Due to the length of a block, at-grade through downtown means you’re going to have, at best, two-car trains.

In other words, aside from West Seattle, McGinn’s proposal may be a warmed-over portion of the streetcar plan, with the crucial exception that it would be in a dedicated ROW.  ROW can be expensive, but if you’re sufficiently willing to anger drivers and businesses, it can be done extremely cheaply by taking away bus lanes, on-street parking, and general-purpose lanes.

So, aside from West Seattle, a good first-0rder approximation for the minimum cost of this thing is the capital cost of the Ballard/Fremont streetcar line.  The Streetcar Network Development Report pegged the midpoint capital cost as $135m plus fleet purchases, or $29m – $32m per mile.  That uses the SLUT tracks and gets you only to Westlake.

We can go up from there.


As usual, there’s a tension between two criticisms of Sound Transit: one, that Link costs too much per mile relative to other light rail systems; the other, that anything less than full grade-separation is substandard.  Of course, Link occupies the middle ground between these viewpoints: it’s more expensive than MAX precisely because it grade-separates in many places.

We don’t know how much revenue is going to be available, but  building light rail is going to stress the capacity of the City to raise taxes.  I predict, without much evidence, that there’s going to be a point where the City has to make the decision between going almost entirely at-grade or not serving all the neighborhoods McGinn mentioned.

From his comments, McGinn would probably favor the former, but I suspect he’s persuadable on that point.  I’d probably prefer the latter, but in the event that the plan emerges almost entirely at-grade, the elevated/tunnel supporters are hereby advised to support it anyway.  A better plan is not in the pipeline in the near future.

74 Replies to “Three Musings on the McGinn Light Rail Plan”

  1. Thanks Martin

    McGinn favors scrapping the tunnel, redirecting traffic to surface streets AND adding some sort of rail link along the west side of the city. This will dramatically increase the cost of his tunnel replacement idea and probably make it way more expensive than the existing option on the table of the tunnel to replace the viaduct.

    I still cannot get over what a poor choice of candidates Seattle has in November and I am not even a Seattle voter. I can still feel for the City however from my place in Issaquah.

    1. The surface option may well be a better dollar for dollar value than the tunnel – I do think that additional capacity will be needed, but waiting until after the package of small projects is complete works as a strategy.

      Putting a City only expansion of light rail on the table is valid on this time frame. The Tunnel should stay on the project list, as too should a viaduct replacement/modified choppaduct. The big thing that is missing in all the talk is freight mobility to NW Seattle.

      At grade dedicated corridors have the opportunity to be joint bus/rail corridors – increasing the sweetness of that mid level cost point.

      If trucks, as well as busses, can be added to that corridor this idea might be just the ticket.- in 2050.

      1. Freight mobility to NW Seattle’s pretty easy – do the BNSF interbay speed and signaling upgrades. You’ll get more freight capacity than any other option on the table.

  2. I can’t believe you’re discussing this like it’s anything but a fantasy-world campaign promise. Look at your analysis, and that’s just the conclusion you draw: you can’t figure out how McGinn could possibly do what he says he’ll do.

    Yet you still support it? That seems irresponsible to me.

    You should be GRILLING the man over the details, talking to the people he would need to work with, and either proving this promise possible within the realm of likelihood or revealing it for the lie it is.

    C’mon. Don’t be lazy and use some critical thinking.

    I only wish I could vote for the other guy, but he’s just as incompetent.

    1. Grilling him over the details? There are no details and there is no plan. McGinn has simply said that if he is elected a plan will be developed and then voted on. Of course it’s possible to build a city-funded light rail line, it’s not like putting a man on the moon or something.

      1. And we should bear in mind that putting a man on the Moon obviously happened. When Kennedy proposed that there weren’t a lot of details, but there sure were a lot of ideas.

    2. This is in contrast to his opponent, who has not offered to make a plan happen. Of course we’d rather focus on the man who is trying to move the ball forward even if many pieces are missing.

    3. I like to think this WAS an exercise in critical thinking; if it’s not what you’re looking for, you’re going to have to find a different author to read.

      I made the point that McGinn could deliver a large chunk of what he’s promising for as little as $150m; how is that not achievable?

    4. Michael, a $100 TBD would raise 2/3 of the money the monorail did. That would be plenty to build a Portland-style light rail line.

  3. It’s too bad they could not reacivate the old Seattle Popular Monorail Authority’s taxing authorith. Alternativly, if they agency is still in existance for the purpose of retirement of bonds issued, re form them to build a light rail line along the same path as their ill-fated monorail. Such a idea would only affect the city of seattle (i doubt voters would approve ST projects a mere 15 years ahead of the start of any possible construction), and from what i remember of the ill-fated project, i’m sure a modest and reasonable light rail line could be constructed with the resources given, might be more MAX like than LINK light (Read less frills and gimmics) but would still work out quite nicely.

    1. That sounds like an awesome idea that would make a lot of sense to voters. So let’s find the holes in that plan and spend the next year filling them.

  4. Martin, I believe Sound Transit has authority to a head tax. I have no idea if that would raise enough revenue to bond a third line in addition to extending current taxes, but it may be technically incorrect to say Sound Transit has “zero” addition taxing authority.

  5. In his initial interview, McGinn was careful to put the duty on everyone but himself. The plan would be developed by the public, the line would be built and operated by ST or KCMetro, the plan would be put up for a vote, and if the people of Seattle wanted to build more rail transit, they would have the chance to do so. McGinn cast himself as the star that would make all this happen, but very openly stated that he himself would not be the person who would do it.

    If building such a line (and really, why shouldn’t it be the line you prefer?) has always been your dream, here is your chance.

    But, before leaping on the train, you might want to ask yourself if you want to hitch the future of Seattle transit to Mike McGinn’s political career. If McGinn is the candidate for transit, and is defeated in the election, what does that say about transit?

    Assuming McGinn is elected, there should be plenty of opportunities to input the process. It’s very obvious that McGinn and his crew know very little about transit and will be desperately fishing for informed support. McGinn has very cleverly phrased this so he is almost immune to attack by Mallahan on this issue, but after the election the idea will be examined by an entirely different constituency in an entirely different light.

    It may be that it will not be possible to make a plan that wins at the ballot box. At that point McGinn is still untarnished, saying he did what he said he’d do, let the people vote, and that the failure of the plan simply reflects on transit in Seattle, not his Mayoralty. And in a sense, he would be right.

    1. catowner,

      We said Nickels was the candidate for transit, and he was defeated. So you tell me — what does that say about transit?

      We haven’t endorsed McGinn, but should we never endorse because the candidate might lose.

      1. It tells us that you need to present transit more cleverly than Nickels. For better or for worse, I think as serial_catowner points out, McGinn is showing himself to play the political game quite well. He’s promising very little but has succeeded in getting a lot of people talking.

        I also can’t help noticing that over 70% of the 36th (Ballard, Queen Anne, Fremont) voted for Proposition 1. I’d bet the vast majority of these voters have no strong opinion on grade separation, but they’ve shown themselves quite willing to tax themselves for light rail (as has Portland, despite the “crappy” system).

        By avoiding the name “streetcar” McGinn is also distancing this idea from the SLU Streetcar, which whatever the merits has become a lightning rod associated with Vulcan.

      2. It says that the endorsement of Nickels by STB didn’t play that big a role in the primary. While there were a number of reasons for Nickels’ defeat, it also says people weren’t paying attention to his solid achievements in transit, which implies people weren’t very interested in his incremental and results-oriented path.

        McGinn, OTOH, has created a flash mob by his promise to sponsor a public vote on a plan, if citizens working with ST and KCMetro can come up with one. Right now this is the second big issue from the McGinn campaign. The question is, to what extent will McGinn, his supporters, or transit supporters, make the election a vote on transit?

        I assume your second line should have ended with a question mark- and the answer would be no. As a special-interest blog, STB has a mild public obligation to do some assessment and crystal-ball gazing and offer an opinion. Of course, that would be even more true if it appeared that one of the candidates might actually be qualified to do the job.

      3. I like that expression “flash mob” – that just about sums up McGinn’s campaign for me too!

        The strongest candidate in the primary did lose – Mayor Nickels – but I don’t think that had much to do with anything the STB said or didn’t say. The Seattle Times has a broader readership and it didn’t fair too well either in its endorsements, although I think we can blame them for stirring the pot against the current mayor ever since the snowpocalypse back in December/January. For them, it was one way of selling newspapers by presenting an opposition platform to Mayor Nickels that wasn’t necessarily there beforehand.

        The STB would be better advised to stick with certain objectives and principles and then to advocate them to both candidates, rather than necessarily discussing what either of them are proposing beyond the extent to which they affirm or deny those core principles. In other words, I don’t see a lot of point in discussing a train between north-west Seattle and West Seattle at this time when it is such a pipe dream at the moment, was ambiguously rejected anyway when it was first proposed as part of the Seattle Monorail Project, and is not even on the table at this point.

        To focus on achieving construction of the tunnel is, however, very much on the table and could be a core objective if only we could all agree on it! Linked to this, is construction of a first or second avenue streetcar and other waterfront improvements. Anything beyond this, is beyond the scope of the current debate and is likely to just prolong the discussion with needless results-oriented delay. Mayor Nickles has plenty of good ideas that need to be kept in the mix for the city council and mayor over the next four years.

  6. If we are going to build a streetcar, lets build a streetcar. However, if we are going to build light rail, it needs to be fast, frequent, and high-capacity.
    If we build light rail with Link technology out to Ballard via Westlake, the Fremont Bridge, and along Leary or other surface ROW to Ballard, it will take forever and have low capacity so it will get very few riders. Also, if it is built like this, it will be a very, very long time, if at all, until we get real grade-separated light rail to Fremont and Ballard, and it will damage the possibility of future Link expansion throughout the region when people say “Look, we spent $500 million to build a light rail line that take 40 minutes to get from downtown to Ballard and gets 5000 riders per day.” Let’s spend the extra two or three billion dollars to make it a real light metro. We can also have the streetcar, but it can just be a streetcar.

    1. How much per mile was the elevated section of Link along 599?

      First ave is straight, gently rising, and has no rivers.
      Also, in an elevated alighnment, a station at university would be the same height as the 2nd ave Benaroya entrance for Link.

      Though it is possible SAM would have issues with covering up hammering man with a ped ramp.

      A tunnel doesn’t seem in the cards, but I’d be curious what the cost and legal implications of elevated would be.

      1. I think a tunnel is in the cards. No one will go with an elevated alignment. The monorail already would have cast a large shadow over 2nd (and does already over 5th), but elevated light rail would make 1st or any street downtown like a tunnel. It would really kill that street to be like this.

      2. so maybe holding off on a first ave streetcar might not be such a bad thing if it looks like there could be a transit tunnel under 1st.

    2. Even if it is built to Link standards, I don’t think that construction would take too long. The actual construction time of Central Link wasn’t that long, it was the infinite talking and lawsuits that happened beforehand that took so long. If we can avoid those a West Link line shouldn’t take more than 4 years to build.

      1. Well if it has tunnels it will take quite a while (see University Link). But like I said, it’s worth it.

      2. If it uses tunnels, it would probably take about 10 years, which could easily result in West Link opening concurrently with the completion of the rest of ST2 (2023). I think that is what we should aim for. I’d love to have it next week, but it’s better to do it right than to do it fast (within reason).

      3. Zed, the thing that made Link slow was waiting for money to trickle in – not lawsuits or talking.

  7. As the original post says building light rail is going to stress the capacity of the City to raise taxes. Would that preclude the possibility of expanding the streetcar network (beyond First Hill)?

    1. I don’t think so. I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be the city itself raising taxes but a new citywide transportation benefit district raising taxes. I don’t think that would be much of a problem.

  8. Perhaps I haven’t been paying enough attention lately because I think this McGinn idea is crazy talk. Our transit plate is full! Between ST2, University Link, Metro budget problems, 520 tolling and replacement, and the recession – there is no public will for another big Seattle focused project – not even within the city.

    Have you all forgotten about the cost of replacing the seawall? The state will do nothing to pay that cost, and it will run into the 100s of millions. Seattle will have to cover it and it must be done soon.

    Without the AW Tunnel, McGinn wants a boulevard. And he wants light rail now. Downtown interests will hold that up until they get a tunnel under Belltown and Downtown (assuming he manages to kill the AW tunnel – a big assumption). The entire AW Viaduct can of worms will be open again, and the state legislation’s opinion about Seattle (that our city is impractical, obnoxious and self centered) will be doubly reenforced. There will be no action of AW for another 5-10 years because of McGinn.

    McGinn is a disaster waiting to happen to Seattle. I know Mallahan isn’t great, but since he is likely to be weak due to a lack of experience, the power of the city council should balance him. He is the lesser of two evils in my eyes.

    Seattle is going to regret getting rid of Nickels. I already do.

    1. In some ways I agree with you, but I think going with Mallahan would be really bad. He wants to stop the Mercer Street redo, is vehemently opposed to all streetcars (even the already funded First Hill Streetcar), drives six blocks to work every day, and missed ten elections in the last eight years (I think that’s more than half, including special elections). He would be a real disaster for the city.
      I disagree with McGinn on the tunnel; although I think the tunnel is stupid and will get very low usage I think it is important to just go through with the decision that it took us decades to make and the decision for which the state will give us money. However, I don’t think McGinn will be able to do anything to stop the tunnel, whereas he will be able to propose a ballot measure for light rail along the West Side Corridor, and I am pretty sure it will win, as long as it is mostly traffic-separated. The people of Seattle would vote for it precisely because of all the things you mentioned; now that they have ridden Central Link and they see that some more neighborhoods in Seattle are getting light rail, they want it too, and with all of the Metro budget problems and the recession, better transit is needed more than ever.
      So please, please vote for McGinn and not Mallahan, if just because he is the lesser of two evils.

    2. “there is no public will for another big Seattle focused project”

      Isn’t that the point of putting it to a vote? To see what the public will is? If a light rail plan is put to the voters in 2012 and there is no public will to pass it, it won’t pass. Ahh…the beauty of democracy.

    3. I concur with this argument – neither replacement for Mayor Nickels bodes well at all for Seattle. As Danny Westneat said recently in the Seattle Times (I think it was him anyways), Seattle is too big and important a city to be a training ground for politician wannabes who either haven’t voted much in the past, have little direct political experience, or only have one thing they care about.

    4. The seawall replacement is not that much money – you’re talking about peanuts compared to a new rail line. This comment reads as “there are a lot of things going on and I can’t pay attention to all of them therefore they must be stressful!”

      There are different people working on different things. This is no different than a lot of buildings being built at once by different companies.

  9. McGinn is a big talker that continues to prove how little he actually knows. I thought he was against the Alaskan Way tunnel because of the astronomical cost? Now he wants a new big light rail line which will certainly cost just as much.

    1. I think it’s more accurate to say he opposes the tunnel because he thinks it’s reactionary to dedicate billions of dollars to supporting greenhouse-gas spewing cars.

      1. As someone else said, then this will increase sprawl anyways by moving the money to other road projects in the area (maybe even I-405).

      2. His argument has always been about the cost and scale of the project. He originally claimed that funds should instead be spent on our struggling schools, which is impossible. This very expensive light rail line would need to be funded entirely by new taxes in addition to those being spend on the tunnel.

        I’m not saying I’m against the idea. In fact, I think a light rail line from Ballard to West Seattle should to get done. What I don’t understand is how someone who argues so heavily against the cost of the Alaskan Way tunnel (esp when the city’s cost is fairly negligible at this point) and then pushes for a much more expensive alternative.

        This state gas tax money is going to be spend on a mega-road project somewhere, and McGinn seems hard pressed to make sure it gets spent outside Seattle to benefit some other constituency. Then, he wants to deal with the traffic problems using Seattle’s own tax revenue.

        We’re going to have to pay for all his pie in the sky ideas, and not building the tunnel is not going to be enough. Not by a long shot.

      3. Uh. No, a streetcar-style (Portland-like) rail line would be hundreds of millions, not billions.

      4. Ben, I think we’re still talking anywhere from $60 million to $100 million per mile even for a surface alignment depending on the amount of utility relocation, ROW acquisition, and how nice you decide to make the street when you are done. I’m guessing the downtown and Belltown portions will end up being on the high-side of that figure while some other portions might come in on the low-end.

        The Duwamish crossing is likely to be $150 to $250 million all by itself with a similar figure for the ship canal if an existing bridge can’t be re-used.

        All that said, I’m still in favor of doing it even if it is essentially the Fremont/Ballard streetcar line with Link-style LRVs and dedicated lanes.

      5. Martin

        That kind of assumes that the status quo will be ever thus – I believe the trend towards more environmentally friendly cars will only accelerate in the years ahead.

        It seems silly for McGinn to be proposing to get rid of the tunnel option because of cost and then to add more light rail to the mix instead. This smacks of lack of focus and pandering to me.

      6. RE: electric cars — see ben’s previous post on the topic.

        I’m kind of mystified, given all your time here, that you could equate a light rail line and the tunnel, simply because they’re both expensive.

      7. No one is equating light rail and the tunnel. Tunnel opponents, including McGinn and his campaign, point to the tunnel’s price tag as a waste of tax payer money. They quote how long it will take to pay off and what we could buy instead. Basically they use all the same arguments against the tunnel that others use against Link. He’s pandering to the anti-mega-infrastructure crowd and then turning around and coming up with a different major infrastructure project.

      8. No… McGinn does not say he opposes the tunnel because he’s anti-tax, or anti-mega-infrastructure projects, or anything else about spending the money.

        What he has repeatedly said, long before running for Mayor, is that we need to prioritize what we are spending our limited tax dollars on. That we need to understand how our society needs to change from one focused solely on cars for moving around. That we want to encourage a walkable and sustainable community. Etc.

        Light rail could accomplish that. Streetcars could accomplish that.

        A large tunnel project, that is unique in its construction, and liable to have numerous cost overruns that soak up all the taxing capacity in our region… does not meet those goals.

  10. On your point no. 1, “I don’t see anything in the legislature that indicates a willingness to provide substantial new revenue authority for transit;” I disagree. I think if we make sure our legislators know there is a demand for rail, we can get it.

    If our electeds insist on putting all of our eggs in the mega-tunnel basket, including cost overruns, with no regard for car exhaust/greenhouse gas reduction, then we need to vote them out of office. We can’t afford to keep spending our money on moving single occupancy vehicles. We’ve been mostly doing that for the last 60+ years and all we get is pollution & traffic. When are we going to get out away from last century’s ideas and move into this one?

    Don’t let’s settle for what most people think is political reality. We need rail on 520 and we need rail from W. Seattle to Ballard. It makes sense & we can make it happen.

    1. Becky-Sue

      Because of our penchant in much of the United States for continuous elections, citizen-led referenda and initiatives, and always second-guessing elected representatives, it is doubtful you will ever be able to elect representatives who actually want or even can lead with vision and without fear of retribution from those who elect them in the first place. Electing and/or confirming state representatives every two years virtually guarantees that strong leadership on huge issues won’t be likely. State and local government works incrementally for the most part, prefers to legislate and decide in the trench or bunker rather than over the parapet or through trial balloons and it is us, the electorate, that largely determines that it will be so. Us and idiots like Tim Eyman of course.

      There was a time when the thought of having a light rail line down the west side of Seattle would have filled me with excitement, but I am more cynical these days and don’t see any of it happening anytime soon.

  11. Well, Becky Sue, put me in the cynical camp. I would love to elect a pro-transit legislature. For the most part the Seattle delegation is useless on transit with the exception of Ed Murray and Sharon Nelson. But even if we elect better transit representatives here (no small feat) we have an even larger task educating the rest of the legislature. I am with you on the fact we have to try, but I don’t think it will be quick or easy.

    A few other observations:

    –People talk about killing the tunnel as a bold step for greenhouse gas reduction. But the state’s money is more likely to be reprogrammed to ROADS projects. If I were a betting person, I would guess some would go to 520 and the rest might go to linking 509 to I-5, a program the state has wanted for twenty years. So, you killed a tunnel through Seattle to build more suburban sprawl freeways. Some victory.

    –McGinn’s plan is not based in reality. In all of the corridors he talks about there are some expensive cost drivers even if you go at-grade for much of the length.

    –West Seattle–you will likely need a short tunnel of a few blocks to get up to California if you want to go south from the Junction to make the grade work. But the big cost driver is crossing the Duwamish. I think you must assume a separate bridge. The monorail authority never even coming close to proving they could attach elevated to the bridge and the ROW is too constrained to add rail by taking traffic lanes.

    –Downtown–we can run it at-grade, but it will be slow and limited forever to two car trains. Elevated would be a disaster. I think we have to tunnel through downtown at a heavy cost. There is no capacity for this line in the current tunnel.

    –Ballard/Interbay–I think you could easily run it at-grade all of the way up to the bridge, but then you must build another cable stay bridge with at least 140 feet in height to clear the water.

    –Fremont/Wallingford–I am extremely skeptical of the ability to fit rail on 45th in the current ROW. And I also believe the grade going up Market from Ballard is problematic. The most likely solution would be to dive into the hill halfway up and be in a cut and cover tunnel until you reach I-5.

    Vision is a fine thing in a candidate. And I agree with McGinn that we should start to think about how we can build more rail faster in the city. But if you are getting too excited about voting for him with the illusion that he will make rail happen lickety-split, then you should take a deep breath.

    1. I think all the way from Interbay-Ballard-Wallingford-U District should be in a tunnel. Putting up such a huge bridge over the Ship Canal might actually end up being as expensive as a tunnel under, and then once you’re in Ballard it starts to get too dense to be elevated except maybe along 15th. Then from Ballard to the U District, all the streets are quite narrow and there are houses packed in everywhere, so you really couldn’t do any at grade or elevated, you’ll need a combination of cut-and-cover and bored tunnel. Mostly bored because you have the huge hill and then the Wallingford business district that could be destroyed by a few years of construction.

    2. reality-based – I don’t know where you’re getting all these problems. McGinn’s plan is likely to end up being westlake – fremont bridge – ballard, for which we already have plenty of right of way.

      1. The new bridge over the Willamette doesn’t have to accommodate ship traffic. A bridge over the ship canal either has to be a high-level bridge like Aurora or a lift bridge.

  12. I would only support a non-tunnel option for the viaduct if there was a FUNDED and realistic plan for light rail in the Ballard-W Seattle corridor prior to tearing down the AWV.

    Problem is, a realistic line that effectively serves the community will need to be largely underground. Belltown and QA and sufficient density that they both need underground stations. I think there is the ability for at-grade running in the median of 15th, but there *must* be grade-separation across the ship canal and in central Ballard. Perhaps a tunnel starting near Dravus, then emerging again on 15th near 65th (with a station in Ballard about 2-3 blocks west of 15th). At-grade could resume northward. Fremont could be connected via the Westlake/Leary streetcar. For West Seattle, an elevated line would work to the Junction, but you’d probably need the station near the Junction to be underground. Downtown is also a tricky problem since you’d likely need an entirely new tunnel because the existing tunnel would be full. And you’d want it to connect to the existing tunnel, so maybe it could be along 2nd or 4th with pedestrian tunnels between the two transit tunnels. Not cheap.

    In short, McGinn is playing lip service to light rail and the themes in his “plan” would doom the system to fail.

    I no longer live in Seattle (living abroad) but will be voting there in the future. What a disaster these two mayor candidates are! I’m thinking I will write-in Nickels as a protest vote.

    1. Please, please don’t. Mallahan is anti-transit, flat out. We can’t afford to lose a vote on a protest.

  13. Give Mike McGinn credit for one thing- being first to go public with a serious address to transit for the Waterfront and the whole west side of the city since the demise of the Monorail.

    For the Waterfront, the best that even pro-transit people have been able to do is say “surface-and-transit”, with the main emphasis on not fixing the viaduct or digging a tunnel. Transit has just been one more bullet-point on a long list including fountains and benches.

    Whatever the failings and weaknesses of the Monorail project, the opposition still has one thing to answer for. Does anybody else remember the anti-Monorail ads and literature prominently showing ST light-rail cars, which clearly implied that a vote against the Monorail was a vote for light rail?

    OK. The Monorail’s dead. Where’s the light rail?

    I doubt I’m the only passenger in Ballard or the rest of the west side who doesn’t feel like waiting until 2030 for some serious transit. By which I don’t mean “Rapid-Ride”- which doesn’t go anywhere near the Waterfront, does it?

    Look at any old map from around 1900- the Waterfront was nothing but train tracks. “Railroad Avenue”, wasn’t it? So let’s thank Mike for the idea that electric rail transit is more than an amenity for this project.

    One question for Mike, and the People’s Waterfront Coalition too: what if the deep-bore tunnel included tracks and caternary?

    1. The bored tunnel really couldn’t have light rail in it because it is way too deep. They are able to have really deep tunnels under Beacon Hill and from Westlake to Roosevelt but in order to build the stations they have to demolish entire blocks, which can’t happen downtown. Downtown we’ll have to go with cut-and-cover on Second, which shouldn’t be too bad because second does not have very much retail right now that would be affected.
      And hm maybe it could have an entrance in that building on the other side of the Macys garage block when they finally get around to building it, like the DSTT entrances in the WAMU Tower.
      Anyways, do you think West Seattle-Ballard light rail should go along the Waterfront? Ithink that woudl be a very bad idea given the very steep hill up to downtown.

    1. Never mind, I found what I was looking for in the analysis Orphan Road did of the KCM 2007 ridership report.

      1. I don’t know, but for what I needed it for the 2007 numbers distilled in the format Orphan Road were perfect. I wanted rough all-day per-route ridership figures for estimating the potential for rail in various alignments (and to provide a rough comparison to the current and planned link lines).

  14. For this to work for Seattle voters, it needs to meet the needs of the rapid transit system we already approved, namely a 1.2B dollar elevated line that connects Ballard, Interbay, Seattle Center, Downtown, Stadiums, SODO, West Seattle. Lucky for us, the Downtown to SODO part of the line is already done and underground to boot! Tunnelling the entire line is not an option with a 1.2B pricetag, but a a partial tunnel from Westlake to Seattle Center is probably doable. The north leg of this new Green Line would emerge along Elliott and run at street level grade separated along 15th W (just like MLK) to Dravus where it elevates over water and stops at Market, 65th, and 85th. The run to West Seattle would diverge south of SODO station and elevate to Spokane Street, cut west and probably ride the upper West Seattle bridge and follow an alignment similar to what was proposed for the monorail.

    I can see this being done for a cool billion. Folks, we deserve this and can have it before 2020. Are we ready to pony up some tax dollars and restart the car tab fee?

    1. Jack,

      You can’t use the DSTT for this — the full capacity of that tunnel is already spoken for with ST2.

    2. You aren’t going to build another elevated line in the city, either.

      And $1.2 billion? LESS line than that cost $1.75 in 2005 dollars. Get real – you’re talking about $3 billion, and probably more because you can’t actually ride the West Seattle bridge with a double tracked line.

      1. Even a largely surface line won’t be $1.2 billion. My back of the envelope calculations say you’re looking at $500 million just for the two water crossings alone. Now you could run light rail across the Fremont bridge but that causes a bunch of operational and congestion problems in a new rail line you may not want to impose on your system. I mean, OK Portland does this with the Steel Bridge, but that bridge doesn’t open as often as the Fremont Bridge nor is the ROW quite as constrained.

        All that said there is the tax base in Seattle, especially if property taxes are tapped, to provide the same level of yearly revenue for building rail that Sound Transit has for the entire ST district.

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