Now that the deep-bore tunnel completion date has been moved back to November 2016, it happens to coincide neatly with the projected opening of University Link. This makes further mockery of the Governor’s promise to tear the viaduct down by 2012.  Regardless, let’s compare the vital statistics of University Link and its evil twin:

Deep-bore Tunnel University Link
Cost $1.96-$3.1 billion 1 $1.9 billion
Length 2 miles 3.15 miles
Exits 0 2
Projected Daily Traffic (2030) 72,000 vehicles 70,000-142,000+ people 2
Capacity per hour 8,800 cars 3 48,000 people 4
Fare $0.94-$2.25 5 $2.00 6
Overruns paid by ? 7 Sound Transit

Of course, I’m having a little fun here.  University Link is a slam dunk of a project and “worse than U-Link” is hardly a strong criticism.  That said, there are probably people out there who favor the road project but not the rail one, which simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

1 depending on what you count.
2 70,000 people will get on or off at the two stations; 72,000 more will get on or off between Northgate and Brooklyn. If all of those 72,000 continue to UW station and beyond, the number is 142,000; if none of them do, it’s 70,000; I’d argue it’d be towards the higher end of the range. I couldn’t find ridership numbers for stations north of Northgate, so I haven’t counted thousands of riders more.
3 Using USDOT figures for highway lane capacity if everything goes perfectly.  There’s no HOV lane, but you can apply whatever figure you like for people per car (I believe 1.2 is the standard). There are also no plans to put any Metro buses in the tunnel, nor is Metro likely to create a route that bypasses downtown.
4 800 riders per train, 2 minute headways, 2 directions.
5 In 2007 dollars; plus you bring your own car and your own gas.
6 Westlake to UW, using ST’s current fare structure of $1.75 plus 5 cents/mile, rounded to the nearest quarter.
7 “We intend to bring the project in on time and on budget” — the Governor’s spokesperson.

149 Replies to “Tunnels: Tale of the Tape”

  1. I wonder if the tunnel will become this decade’s monorail.

    Millions spent in planning until someone wises up and decides its a really stupid idea.

    1. except that it isn’t a bad idea. One may argue that it is being poorly planned … but it is a needed piece of infrastructure for the city.

      1. Yes, but now that we have Light Rail, we probably shouldn’t build a monorail as well… just kidding. :>

        But this tunnel really is building for past needs. Even if we convert all the cars to electricity, is a car based city really what we all want to live in? I’d argue that there is a place for cars, I drive mine because I have to, and because I can, and it does some things that mass transit cannot do at all (like tow a boat). But if I had my druthers, it would be hard, but not impossible to drive, and easy to bicycle, or ride mass transit.

      2. the tunnel isn’t just for cars in the city … it is also for commerce that needs to get through the city

      3. If this was a freightway we’d have to evaluate it a bit differently, but it’s not. And in any case there are much cheaper ways to accommodate the same purpose.

      4. It isn’t a freightway. If it were, it would have been built to go toward Interbay. No, it is an alternative for car commuters who could ride the bus but choose not to.

      5. Let me just add my vote to the others. I am sympathetic to the Port’s needs for freight, but let’s not pretend this tunnel is designed for freight. That is just a talking point that the state uses to persuade people, and we should point out their hypocrisy.

      6. The tunnel might have made at least some sense if it had been built toward Interbay. Freight mobility was a major consideration during the planning process. It was the ultimate trump card used to silence the transit lobby: “You can’t put freight on a bus.”

        Given that freight got pushed to the wayside, it appears that was merely a smokescreen to advance an automobile agenda.

        As it is now, I am also very concerned about freight trucks popping up in SLU and cutting through the dense, urban residential neighborhood in Lower Queen Anne / Uptown to get to and from Interbay.

        There are about 15,000 industrial jobs in Interbay. It is not a little deal.

      7. Moreover, the insurance costs on this project would be hugely less if it went toward Interbay instead of curving under Belltown. Look at the map and see how many tall buildings will be put at risk by the tunneling path.

        Plus, the Interbay path would have kept the tunnel from blocking the possibility of a West Link subway on 2nd Ave.

        Unfortunately, those who designed this project on the back of a napkin were trying to justify it with car trips (that could have been converted into BRT or rail trips) rather than freight trips.


      8. Why make driving a car “hard”? Why not instead make the other modes “easy”?

        A car provides a significant level of flexibility in time and route – striving to get the other options up to the same level of flexibility in time and route, which is very possible – and cars won’t always be the first choice.

      9. I ask: at what cost does driving become easy? There are direct costs like construction of deep bored freeway tunnels and large freeway structures. Then there are the externalized costs associated with pollution, noise, blight, parking, etc. Until recently, we chose to prioritize damaging and expensive auto infrastructure at every turn which makes utilizing other modes harder.

      10. It’s easier to make other modes easier to use if the available funding sources aren’t being dedicated to paying off cost overruns on the automobile-only infrastructure.

      11. If transit worked, I would be taking it. The problem is, working with transit, I have to be here till after it stops running. A co-worker chooses to wait the 1.5 hours from the end of his shift to the start of service.

        I get a free transit pass, but I don’t get to use it.

      12. We can’t switch from a “car based city” until there’s something to switch TO.

        This seems to be a lesson no one is learning.

        Thanks to our forefathers, this is something we have to do so that people can get around.

        No amount of banging heads against the wall is going to change that.

      13. Buses!

        Passenger rail!

        Bike paths!


        Are all these improvements really that invisible?

  2. While I frequently agree with the posters on this blog, I have to say that you are missing the freight piece; this really isnt such an easy “apples to apples” comparison. The freight community relies on the southern portion of 99 extensively, and while they may not use the AWV directly, the impacts of removing it without replacing such capacity it could affect freight mobility. I’m not advocating one way or another, I just think it should be examined before slamming the AWV tunnel replacement project.

    1. Doesn’t the tunnel count as the NORTH portion of the AWV? This is what I have never understood about the freight argument. They come from SODO and use Spokane Street to get to I-5 to go north. Do trucks really use 99 north all that often?

      1. True, the north portion is the AWV, but I think the butterfly theory holds true here. Creating a stop controlled boulevard just north of a main shipping area has the potential to impact traffic conditions miles away. Its really difficult to tell what will happen. Additionally, computer models dont always tell the story; theres no “coefficent of driver idocy” variable to input.

      2. If you are invoking the butterfly argument, then University Link has much higher freight impacts than the tunnel does. If University Link takes 140,000 cars off of I-5, then it greatly improves freight mobility on I-5. Why on earth do you think that AWV will impact traffic conditions miles away, but that transit will not?

        Also, the uncertainty you speak of runs both ways. It is entirely possible that building the tunnel will increase traffic congestion on the southern portion of 99. Without the tunnel, South 99 carries only freight traffic and West Seattle to downtown commuters. With the Tunnel, South 99 has to carry all of that plus trough traffic to and from the north end. Just as widening 520 to 8 lanes would increase traffic congestion on I-5, when you increase capacity in one place you move the congestion to a different bottleneck, in this case South 99.

      3. Excellent point, Tony. I’m starting to think that the best thing we can do for freight movement in the southern portion is to have a surface blvd through downtown. This is somewhat counter intuitive. Has it been seriously analyzed?

    2. About 4.8% of SR 99 traffic is commercial according to the Freight Segmentation Report. Check out pages 8 and 18 (PDF numbering, the pages are labeled 4 and 14):

      As with I-5, the vast majority is commuters. That report didn’t identify single-occupant vehicles vs other non-commercial vehicles, but you can go stand by the 1st and Columbia viaduct on ramp at 5pm and verify that SOVs are the majority. An SDOT survey of industrial businesses found that what they actually want is “commuter solutions to driving alone” so that they can use the I-5 corridor which is far more useful than the DBT:

      1. In other words, we’re just spending billions to keep seats on buses empty. What a waste.

      2. I wonder where the freight community was during the 520 debate. A wider 520 unquestionably increases traffic volumes and congestion on I-5. Everyone agrees on that. If I-5 mobility is a priority for the freight community, you would think they would be champions of keeping a road used almost exclusively by white collar commuters as narrow as possible so as not to further congest their commerce corridor. Oh well.

      3. Josh thanks for looking up the figures. It is alway better to have them to inform our discussion.

    3. You are right that if we don’t have the tunnel, we still need some dedicated ROW for freight, or freight/transit.

      If the autophiles will get out of the way, we can have a dedicated freight/bus lane on 15th Ave W and other continuing streets.

      We can bar private vehicles from the waterfront (except for delivery and other enumerable permitable purposes), have freight use a two-lane freightway, and have a tourist-oriented streetcar to move pedestrians long distances.

  3. RE: footnote 5. Tolls will be collected via transponders.
    They’re assuming a very high compliance rate of transponder payments (over 90%), with the balance using photo enforcement(pay-via-plate), and a surcharge tacked on for collection fees, and maybe penalties at vehicle tab renewal time.
    This is a state highway, paid by the whole state, and effectively limited to only local traffic with transponders.
    Is this the model that PSRC is using to toll all our state and federal highways by 2040?

    1. I also see that the plan is to charge 4X the toll for large trucks as for cars. I realize that’s pretty standard tolling practice, but it’s a strange way to encourage freight to use the DBT.

    2. Isn’t this the same system that will be used on 520 and possibly 90? They are expecting a pretty high adoption rate in the region.

      1. If they plan on sending a bill for payment to anyone without a transponder, and charge an amount to cover the cost of processing the claim, then a two dollar toll could run up to 20 bucks. That’s just going to polarize drivers from outside the ‘normal commute club’ folks. Don’t pay the toll, then what, no new tabs, for you?
        This could turn into a really nasty pissing contest between East and West.
        And then there’s the out-of-staters. They’re probably the 5% non collectables the report talked about.
        It seems like all this tolling should be nailed down before any construction starts.

      2. You apparently get 7 days to set up a “Good To Go” account and pay the toll before there’s any violation penalty:

        But yeah, this seems pretty lame. I can’t imagine if I were on a trip out of town and wanted to cross a bridge like SR-520 and discovered I needed to set up some sort of account to do so. I thought it was just going to be OK to pay via mail as long as you didn’t do it too often. I wonder if rental cars have these already and if so how that works.

      3. I believe they’ve changed it so that anyone without a transponder will be mailed a bill based on license plate cameras. There was going to be a hefty fine/service charge for doing it this way but I think that was waived. I would guess that with a transponder you’d get a discount, at least enough to cover the cost of mailed collections but I’m not sure about that.

      4. So the WSDOT web site on “Good to Go” spells it out for SR520.
        Buy the transponder.
        Start an account with $30 bucks, minimum balance of $8, auto refill.
        Non payment of photo enforcement gets you a $54 fine after 7 days to pay.
        BUT, I don’t see any provisions on tolling 520, which starts next spring, for a toll booth of any kind for out of towners.
        (UPDATE: Talked to WSDOT. No toll booths. Just camera enforcement. You’ll get about 60-80 days to pay the toll, plus processing fees to be established by the Transportation Commission later this year), before any fines or penalties will be assessed.)

  4. Very funny “analysis.” Allow me to correct some of your numbers.

    Projected Daily Traffic.

    Either compare vehicles to vehicles, or passengers to passengers, please. Comparing vehicles to passengers is not “apples to apples.”

    So, comparing vehicles to vehicles we get:

    Bored tunnel 72,000 vehicles; U Link up to about 4,000 LRT cars (probably a lot less.)

    Comparing passengers to passengers we get:

    Bored tunnel 115,000 passengers/day (at avg of 1.6 passengers/car); U Link 70,000 or more.

    Your estimate on number of passengers using the U Link tunnel is flawed. Assuming people wil be using the Capitol Hill station, not all passengers using that tunnel will be traveling the entire distance: some will travel only between UW and Capitol Hill, andn others will travel only between Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle. The 70,000 – 142,000 you give is BOARDINGS — not the number of people on Link cars at all times in the tunnel.

    For example, if a Link train leaves UW with 100 people on it, and 50 of them get off at Capitol Hill, and another 50 get on at Capitol Hill, that is a total of 150 boardings on that trip between UW and downtown, but there were never more than 100 people on that Link train. Yet, you would say that 150 people used the tunnel, when only 100 people were ever on that train at any given time within the tunnel.

    On the other hand, every passenger in the bored tunnel will travel its entire length, since, as you point out, there are no exits or onramps along the bored tunnel.

    1. Norman,

      Here I go out of my way to make it clear what I’m comparing, so you can use whatever person/car figure you like, and still you find a way to complain!

      I believe the traditional planning figure for an SOV lane is 1.2.

      So you’re arguing that U-Link would be better if there were no stops along the route segment, as is the case with the DBT? Someone taking from Capitol Hill to downtown is not “using” U-Link? You’re welcome to your own definitions but I don’t think anyone else is going to find them useful.

      With regards to the current viaduct, no one ever uses figures that somehow discount trips that use one of the mid-span exit ramps. Your standards are totally made up and without precedent.

      1. I didn’t say Link would be better without stops. Where did you read that?

        Highway traffic counts are ALWAYS vehicles PAST A POINT on that highway. So, pick a point on the U Link tunnel, and count passengers past that point. You can have a point either between UW and Capitol Hill, or between Capitol Hill and downtown, whichever has the highest ridership.

        But, you don’t get to count one seat as 2 “trips”. Just because someone gets off at Capitol Hill and a different person gets on and takes that same seat, that is not 2 “trips”. That is one trip between UW and Capitol Hill and one trip betwee Captiol Hill and downtown, for a total of ONE “full-length” trip between UW and downtown. Just because that seat had 2 different people in it does not make it two “full-length” trips in the tunnel.

        The number of trips on the viaduct which you read (about 115,000 trips per day) is PAST ONE POINT on the viaduct. It does not count every vehicle which uses any part of the viaduct each day. That number is much, much higher.

      2. “vehicles entering and exiting at ramps,” are measured as vehicles PAST A POINT on those ramps.

      3. But the 70,000 BOARDINGS which is referred to for the UW Link is not the same thing as the number of passengers past a point in the tunnel, is it?

        You can’t add up all the boardings at each station on a light rail line, and claim that all those people made the entire trip from one end of the line to the other, yet that is what is typically inferred by “boarding” numbers.

        That is the number that is relevant to compare to the 70,000 vehicles using the bored tunnel each day. All the vehicles in the bored tunnel travel its entire route. Some of the passengers on Link trains will travel only part of the distance betweent UW and dowtown, because they will get off or on at Capitol Hill.

        How many passengers will be on Link trains past a point in the UW tunnel each day? Hint: it is not the total number of boardings at UW plus boardings at Capitol Hill. So, how many passengers will be DEboarding at Capitol Hill on each trip? Those passengers should be subtracted from the number used in this article. No vehicles will be “deboarding” anywhere along the Bored tunnel — they will all make the entire trip.

        So, compare apples to apples. “Total boardings” is NOT the same thing as “passengers past a point” along a light rail track or a highway.

        So, tell me, how many passengers will be on Link trains “past a point” in the UW Link tunnel? It is not 70,000 per day, is it?

      4. You’re confusing two different measurements. The original heading was “Projected Daily Traffic (2030)” not “Maximum tunnel throughput”. It’s the total number of users.

      5. Which is meaingless to compare to the number of vehicles using the bored tunnel. So, why did he make that comparison? It’s apples to oranges.

      6. Just so you could have the fun you’re having, playing with different load factors for automobiles.

  5. “Capacity per hour”

    Again, you compare vehicles to passengers. What is your purpose in doing that? Surely, you must realize that this is not a fair, “apples to apples” comparison, do you not?

    So, compare vehicles to vehicles:

    Bored tunnel 8,800 cars/hour. U Link 240 LRT cars/hour (this is assuming 2-minute headways, which ST has no plans for running. A more realistic minimum headway of 4 minutes, gives 120 LRT cars/hour)

    Or, compare passengers to passengers:

    Bored tunnel 44,000 passengers/hour (at avg “capacity” of cars of 5 people per car.) U Link tunnel 32,880 (2-minute headways times actual capacity of 137/Link car. However, the 2-minute headways is really a fantasy. At a realistic headway of 4 minutes, the capacity would be 16,440 passengers/hour)

    So, my numbers for “Capacity per Hour” would be:

    Bored tunnel: 44,000 passengers/ hour

    U Link tunnel: 16,440 passengers/ hour

    1. 90% of all vehicles driving around the city have only 1 occupant. Not 5.

      1. And 90% of all Link cars traveling in Seattle have about 15 occupants.

        Your point is?

    2. For any possible assumptions about demand, you have no way of encouraging carpooling in the tunnel. There are no HOV lanes. So how are you magically getting people to bunch up into 5 per car?

      1. And by what magical way do you get 200 people in every Link car?

        You still can’t comprehend this? CAPACITY is how many people COULD use a vehicle. There is no light rail system in the U.S. that comes close to averaging 200 passengers/car past any given point, yet you have no problem whatsoever using that number for your Link capacity? lol

        If there is projected to be around 70,000 BOARDINGS per day on U Link, do you actually believe there would ever be anything close to 48,000 people per HOUR on link trains? That means Link could operate less than two hours per day, and meet the expected ridership for an entire day! LOL

        You want to talk “reality”, then use the “real” number for passengers/car on Link trains — not some fantasy of 200 passengers/hour per car.

      2. And for Husky games, highways are used by many buses with 90-plus passengers per bus, thus vastly increasing the passengers/hour on highway lanes, compared to assuming only cars use highways.

      3. There are zero bus routes planned for the DBT, and likely none to be planned.

      4. There is no reason the DBT could not be used for “special event buses” to and from events at Qwest Field and Safeco Field, is there? Buses from park and ride lots — not “regular” scheduled bus routes.

      5. … except that there are no park & ride lots that would use the tunnel. All the park & ride lots from the canal north would be using I-5.

        Now, a special Aurora rapid-ride shuttle through the tunnel to the games might make sense, so long as its route doesn’t leave it stuck in foot traffic before and after the game. Other than that, I’m afraid the tunnel is going to be averaging less than 1.1 passengers per vehicle.

        If we wanted to encourage carpooling, we could exempt carpools from the tolling, but I suspect WSDOT’s tolling technology is not that slick yet.

      6. Transponder $12
        HOV shield: $3.50

        (I just got a set today)

        CLLR fare: $2.50
        Narrows toll: $2.75

        Apples and oranges.

      7. Where does anyone get 1.1 passengers per car? The national average is 1.6 passengers/car.

      8. Norman,

        Public transportation, by definition, is designed to serve multiple riders per vehicle who have no prior relationship with each other. I.e. the person sitting next to me on the bus is not necessarily a co-worker, friend or family member. This contrasts with private transportation, also by definition, is designed to serve either a single individual or a group of individuals who already have a pre-existing relationship (hitchhiking being the exception here).

        To achieve more than one occupant per private vehicle, it requires not only that multiple people are traveling along the same corridor, but also that your carpool companions are from the fantastically narrow subset of individuals in this region with whom you already have a relationship of some kind. This substantially reduces the likelihood that private vehicles will be used at full capacity regardless of how high aggregate demand rises.

        There are reasonable levels of demand that would push light rail vehicle occupancy to physical capacity, but short of a natural disaster in which perfect strangers start carpooling en-mass to flee the city, there is no level of demand that will result in filling private vehicles to physical capacity because the requirement of a pre-existing relationship puts a second constraint on vehicle occupancy that does not exist in public transportation by definition.

        This is why it is reasonable to compare passenger capacity in public transportation to vehicle capacity in private transportation and why your proposal to compare vehicles to vehicles or aggregate physical capacity to aggregate physical capacity bears no relationship to reality.

      9. Absurd. Capacity is capacity. If you want to compare “realistic” numbers of passengers/Link car to passengers/auto, then use some actual numbers from actual light rail systems, which are never close to 200 passengers/car past a given point. We are not talking about the New York City subway system, we are talking about Link light rail!

      10. Sure they can, and are. Manila: “headway as low as 2 minutes with throughput of up to 60,000 passengers per hour per direction”:

        A light rail car isn’t a system any more than a car is a highway. It’s all in the design of the system, and Link has a lot more in common with various other medium-capacity transit systems around the world than with FTA’s somewhat arbitrary rail classes.

      11. Link opening weekend had 92,000 boardings. That isn’t fantasy. That data is empirical and with abbreviated service (10hrs Saturday, 8hrs Sunday). You can’t achieve that over 18 hours of operation on just 137 riders per car. 70,000 boardings for U-Link is entirely possible.

      12. 92,000 boardings over 2 days, or about 45,000 boardings/day.

        Link operates about 500 one-way car trips per day. 45,000 boardings divided by 500 Link car trips equals 90 boardings per Link car. That is not close to 200.

        But that is only BOARDINGS per car. That does not mean that there were ever 90 people on any Link car at any given time.

        It is amazing to me that people here can not comprehend what “boardings” means. Let’s take a hypothetical trip on one Link car between Westlake and SeaTac. At each station, 100 people board, and 100 people get off. So, there would be 1,200 BOARDINGS on this ONE Link car on that one trip! Does one Link car have a capacity of 1,200 people? Of course not. But, as long as people get off at every station, and other people get on, you can have a lot more “boardings” on one Link car on each trip than the capacity of that car.

        Do you get this? How many times, and in how many ways must I try to explain it?

      13. There is no one as blind as he will will not see.

        Or something like that.

        You can hide your head in the sand, but that does not change the facts.

    3. How is a 2 minute minimum headway a fantasy if the system was designed to do that?

      If you use 5 people per car when most cars have 1-2 people in them on average so why not use 200 people per LRV when that max isn’t usually reached, as both max figures are only reached under certain conditions.

      1. Because the official capacity of Link cars is 137. And the average number of seats in cars is about five.

        Now, there is no reason why the bored tunnel could not carry thousands of VANS per hour, and the capacity of vans is about 15. So, I could reasonably say the bored tunnel COULD carry over 8,000 vans/hour, or 120,000 passengers/hour.

      2. You could if you restricted the tunnel to 15-passenger vans. So yes, your fantasy tunnel has high capacity relative to the actual tunnel Sound Transit is building.

        The actual DBT project, in the real world, is nothing like that.

      3. Your “official capacity” is dubious as Sound Transit never claimed it to be the official capacity. Sound Transit’s website (and ST2 documents and East Link EIS) says it’s 200 passengers, 74 seated.

      4. Wrong. The official capacity of Link cars is 137 during normal commutes. I have this in a number of different documents, including Link EIS’s.

      5. Still means that it’s possible to put 200 people in a car.

        In the same document for East Link, ST assumes loading factor of 2 for peak hour so that comes to 148 passengers per car.

      6. We all need to settle this once and for all. Next STB meetup before we all go to the bar we’ll all go to Westlake Station and all get in just one car to see how many people we can actually cram into one Link car.

      7. That is not the way “capacity” of a train or bus is defined. It is defined by the number of seats, plus the number of square feet (or square meters) of standing space divided by a certain number of sq. feet per standing passenger, which varies according to the country or, even city, where the trains or busees are used. The official capacity of a Link car is higher in Asia than it is in Seattle, because people in Asia are generally smaller, and will accept less standing room per passenger than people in N. America will.

        Using that formula, and a “square feet per standing passenger”, determined by experts to be realistic for North America, the official capacity of Link cars is 137.

        What you are proposing is a joke, obviously. It is like college kids back in the 60’s seeeing how many people they could stuff in a Volkswagen Beetle, or a phone booth. They have probably gotten a dozen or so college kids into one Volkswagen beetle. Does that mean the “capacity” of a Volkswagen beetle is 12 or more?

        The “capacity” of an auto or heavy rail train or plane is defined as the number of seats. Is that ok with you?


        North Link Final SEIS Page 3-4 bottom paragraph:

        “Assuming the system would operate with four-car trains (137 passengers per car) at 5-minute headways,…”

        page 3-5, footnote2 under TAble 3.1-5:

        “2 Assumes North Link would operate with four-car trains at 5-minute headways and a passenger capacity of 137 passengers per car
        (74 seats with a load factor of 1.85).”

        Why does ST use 137 passengers per car, if that is not the accepted capacity of Link cars during normal operations? I would like someone to explain the use of 137 in this Norht Link Final SEIS, if they don’t accept 137 as the offical capacity of one Link car.

      9. The North Link EIS was written before they had chosen a vendor for the LRVs.

        The 2008 Operating Plan says this;

        “6.3 Load Factors
        The load factor, or the ratio of riders to available seats, is a key element in determining service frequency and fleet size. Transit services are typically sized for some standing passengers on vehicles during peak hours, and a target maximum load factor is used to avoid excessive crowding on trains. For midday levels of service, a load factor of 1.0 is used to represent a seat for every rider. A load factor of 2.0 has been established as a standard for Central Line peak period service. The 2.7 load factor produces a maximum assumed vehicle capacity of 200 persons for the 95-foot articulated light rail vehicle, equivalent to 800 persons for a four-car train.”

        “6.11 Future Line Capacity
        After the light rail line is extended north and train operations require sole possession of the DSTT, the signal system will enable trains to operate at 2-minute headways. At that time four-car trains will also be able to operate in the DSTT tunnel. Under these circumstances, the line will be capable of carrying nearly 18,000 riders per hour in each direction, as summarized below.”

      10. The East Link DEIS also uses the same two numbers, 200 passengers for max capacity and 148 passengers for peak hour (2.0 load factor x 74 seats).

      11. The North Link SEIS, which I quote, is from March of 2006.

        According to this article from the Seattle Times, dated Nov. 26, 2003, the vendor for the trains was chosen in 2003.

        So, it appears that, despite what Zed claims, the vendor for Link trains was chosen at least 2 years before the N. Link SEIS was published. I think this proves that ST knew what trains it would be operating when the N. Link SEIS was written.

        ST has a habit of altering its numbers to sound better to the public, especially when it is going back to the public for more tax revenue.

        Here is an SDOT document:

        Page A-2, under Central Link LRT; second paragraph:

        “A fully loaded car of 137 passengers…”

        Where do you think SDOT got that 137 number, except from ST documents? You think SDOT just made that number up?

        From a document by “People for Modern Transit” (I can’t find a link for this that works, but I think Oran has it). Document titled, “Analysis of King County Council Transportation Committee’s DMJM+Harris Tunnel Capacity Report”.

        3.4 “Light rail vehicle capacity is underestimated”

        “Their [generic low-floor LRT cars] actual capacity, using a figure of 5.1 sq. ft. (0.5 sq. m.) per person, is 137 passengers (74 seated, 63 standing).”

        I will continue to use the correct figure of 137 passengers per Link light rail car as the official, actual capacity. You can continue to try to fudge the numbers, but I will continue to correct you.

      12. Whatever Norman, you quote whatever numbers you want to. It really makes no difference to anyone. You apparently don’t even understand what you’re quoting anyways, since you just gave the number for a generic light rail car.

        I quoted the numbers from Sound Transit’s own operating plan from 2008, the one they use for day-to-day operations and service planning, and nowhere in it does the number 137 ever appear.

      13. That is why I showed you the ST N. Link SEIS, where ST says the capacity of ST Link light rail cars is 137. Right from Sound Transit, itself. Is the Sound Transit SEIS not official enough for you?

        And where did you read that the N. Link SEIS came out before the vendor for Link trains was chosen?

      14. Oh, and BTW, the capacity numbers in the North Link Final SEIS originally came from the 1999 Central Link Final EIS and the 2003 North Link Draft EIS, both of which predate the choice of Kinkisharyo as the LRV manufacturer.

      15. Yes Norman, the North Link SEIS is an official document, it just happens to be old. Quoting from it is like quoting from the 1960 Guinness Book of Records and insisting that the land speed record is 393 mph.

        “And where did you read that the N. Link SEIS came out before the vendor for Link trains was chosen?”

        Nowhere did I read that. I’ve been following Sound Transit, and the RTA before that, since 1993.

      16. I was just thinking a little bit more about this DBT for vans only, but let’s say for the sake of arguing and fantasizing that we made the U Link tunnel vans only. Now at each station, there would have to be enough parking or loading zones for each van to park and back out to keep going to the next tunnel station. Then there is the time it takes to find a parking space, time for everyone to get out of the van, time for people to get back into the van and time to back out into the roadway and continue on. Basically a mini-Seatac Airport departure and arrival avenue at each station.

        Now the point I’m making is that trains (and buses to a lesser extent) have a superior loading/unloading capabilities both in terms of time and space because of multiple cars with multiple doors and the interior of the vehicles that allow people to walk around. “Terminal Capacity” as Vuchic calls it.

      17. Show me anywhere in the Link EIS’s where there is a plan to actually USE 2-minute headways. A lot of people think 2-minute headways are not actually possible within the downtown tunnel, even with buses removed.

      18. Just as the capability to run over 8,000 15-seat vans per hour in the Bored tunnel exists.

        However, there are people who will argue that the downtown tunnel is NOT capable of 2-minute headways with Link trains.

        Nonetheless, what is the point of talking about something which may perhaps be theoretically possilby, but which will never actually happen? Maybe to get taxpayers to increase taxes based on false promiese?

      19. So who are those people (except yourself) who would argue that the DSTT is not capable of 2-minute headways? Are they the engineers or experts on the subject or just imaginary people you made up?

      20. During major events in Chicago such as a Bull’s championship celebration or 4th of July fireworks in Grant park, or election night festivities, I’ve observed the CTA pull off 2 minute or less headways with 10 car L trains with a steady stream of people flowing into the stations downtown. One way they are staying on time is for the operator to insist that the doors are closing and to not board and that other trains are immediately behind this one.

        The capacity of each 10 car train is about 1200 people. So, its odd that the CTA is a “heavy rail” system but each car supports about 123 persons compared to the supposed 200 per car capacity on Link. I think the 200 person number is a bit optimistic.

      21. Charles,
        Link cars are 90 feet long, I believe CTA cars are somewhat shorter, hence the different capacities.

        The size of the vehicle and the seating arrangement determines its capacity not if a system is “heavy rail” or “light rail”.

        Given how full I’ve seen the 71/72/73/74 between the U District and Downtown I have no doubt the Link cars can hold 200 people if not more. I also think that once U Link and North Link open this will be a regular experience during rush hour even with 4 car trains.

      22. So I’m assuming Norman is making things up since he refuses to name anyone credible who claims the DSTT isn’t capable of doing 2-minute headways.

  6. The 70,000-142,000 ridership figure is dubious, if not dishonest. Plus, it’s an existing transit corridor and much of the actual ridership is a switch from bus. The respectable figure is capacity. On the other hand:

    The Deep-bore tunnel and its related surface street projects Alaskan Way and Mercer West are obviously the worst sort of engineering imaginable. It’s probably been a healthy respite of humor for conservatives close to blowing a cranial blood vessel over how much they hate Seattle liberals:

    “Hey Martha. Those clueless idiot weirdo Seattler jerks still haven’t figured out that moving the Ballard traffic from Elliott and Western over to, uh, on the east side of Aurora, Dexter & 6th to Broad, Denny Way, Western to Elliott, or, on the west side of Aurora, Mercer to Queen Anne & 1st Ave to Harrison or Thomas or Denny Way and Western to Elliott, or, 2-lane Mercer Place to Elliott, is uh, stupid. Then there’s the Alaskan Way bullcrap, maybe 17 stoplights there, less through poor Queen Anne, 5 or 6, if they pay a toll. Wow. And they think we’re stupid. Ha Ha! Can’t wait to watch what it does to their Mercer Mess. Ha Ha!”

    A simple, straight commercial couplet directly to SR99 switched to an assortment of circuitous residential routes with so many more stoplights, a child could predict backed-up traffic, frustrated motorists going ballistic, air and water pollution and more accidents, but not Seattle’s unquestionably smarter than thou liberals.

    Of course the AWV is a monstrosity that will not be replaced, but even the Surface/Transit option is better than Mercer West. And the current design for Alaskan Way is nonsense.

    1. You bring up a very good point. Despite the fact that the actual liberals in Seattle have been fighting the tunnel, the rest of the state is likely to blame this ridiculous project on Seattle liberals.

      1. Many members of the environmental community support the DBT. They were enticed into supporting it via the Wide Plaza design for an Alaskan Way promenade. The Wide Plaza however is another giant fraud. A 4-lane Alaskan Way is not enough roadspace for thru-traffic the DBT will displace, an estimated 20,000 vehicles added to existing traffic there. Nor is it a good design for motorists and commercial traffic looking to park for waterfront district purposes. Nor is it good design for the transit component nor good for pedestrian accessibility and bicyling.

        I agree that there are liberals who oppose the DBT, but believe most have been hoodwinked into supporting it. Thanks for the feedback. Tunnelite is the only AWV SR99 replacement option that creates a car-free gardened walkway between the waterfront and Steinbrueck Park. It handles traffic best, makes for strongest seawall and most stable Alaskan Way surface, best utility relocation, better emergency evacuation system than DBT, more construction jobs, south portal applicable to cut/cover, 6-lane ‘stacked’ cut/cover possible while leaving AWV in place, etc etc, blah blah…

  7. On the tunnel subject, I found this on Orphan Road, and wanted to get the word out. This why figuring out overruns is so important. The overruns will suck money away from after projects like the waterfront.

    Not Coming Back?

    So the story has progressed from “Temporary shutdown until new carbarn is built” to “The George Benson Streetcar is gone for good”. Way to go Seattle!!

  8. Now he’s angry at deep-bore tunnels? I’ll have to add that to the list. Park & Ride lots. Culdesacs. Kemper Freeman. Rapid Ride.

    1. I’m in favor of RapidRide. I support park & rides under very specific conditions, which I’ve laid out in detail.

  9. This debate about capacity doesn’t much matter. The fact is they offer similar orders of magnitude of people-moving capacity.

    What matters to me is how those people are moved. I hope that this region can reduce its dependence on SOVs and set a course towards a less automobile-centric and more transit-centric paradigm. If $2+ Billion dollars of money is going to be spent, I want most of it to be spent on transit and as little as possible on road infrastructure. I think a majority of road spending should be maintaining and existing roads and making improvements which benefit pedestrians, cyclists and transit. Others are entitled to their opinions on how public money should be spent – its as simple as that.

    Anytime you try to pit transit against automobiles from cost, efficiency, “green-ness”, people can play devil’s advocate and make all kinds of crazy arguments for automobiles. While they may well be twisting facts and making questionable claims, entering into this debate is pointless.

    The AWV replacement tunnel does not fall in line with my personal priorities – it *primarily* benefits SOV trips and does so at an extremely high cost and at questionable effectiveness.

  10. It has been 5 years since I owned a car and I don’t even have a bicycle — I walk or take the bus everywhere. Even so, I am amazed by the hatred of the automobile that I find on this website. Still, I guess there has to be an extreme position to balance the people who drive a single-occupancy car everywhere.

    1. Seriously, what “hatred of the automobile” do you find on this website.

      BTW, I still drive and live in the city.

      1. The ‘hatred’ is mostly in the (subtle) message that the success of transit is to be measured by the death of the automobile, including reduction in parking and road capacity. The discussion of the 520 bridge replacement is an example of a place where I find irrational dislike of the car. The people who want the extra lanes to be transit only mostly argue from an anti-car “we shouldn’t let THEM drive in the lane” argument. What isn’t argued is that having an HOV-3 lane would impact transit speed at all.

        Just my opinion though.

    2. There is a difference between laying out facts and hating something.

      1. “There is a difference between laying out facts and hating something.”

        I could add:
        – There is a difference between bees and butter.
        – There is a difference between 1 and 2.

        But those statements would be equally unclear. I’m guessing your random statement was actually some sort of abbreviated argument, but I’m not quite sure what you are saying. Is there any chance of elaboration?

  11. 1.3 is the standard vehicle occupancy according to the most recent PSRC activity survey (pdf).

    … Overall, people in the region travel roughly 72 million person-miles per weekday, with about 65 million of that by car. If the person-miles for car trips is divided by vehicle occupancy, the resulting total is about 50 million vehicle-miles (VMT) per weekday …

    1. But the mean is probably lower at 1.0. There will always be a driver but passengers aren’t as common and is mostly a factor of trip type.

      1. The mean is clearly 1.3 occupants per vehicle after solving the above equation (65 million person-miles traveled / [veh. occupants] = 50 million VMT) at the regional level which probably includes all trip types/destinations and vehicle types.

      2. 2nded on using local data. Also, bear in mind that that load factor is obtained from the 2001 NHTS (see Appendix A of that report you cited), so it is a little outdated.

  12. Not sure if it’s a big enough effect to show up in that figure, but it of course includes those in HOV lanes, many of whom would not end up in carpools in the context of the DBT.

    1. I was mainly just trying to find out a source to back up the exact figure because there have been a few posts/comments where people just assume it’s 1.2 people per vehicle. Either way it’s still just observed occupancy as opposed to actual capacity per vehicle which Norman correctly notes could be 15 per vehicle if only vans used the DBT.

  13. So tunnel supporters are worried about losing North-South capacity in a year when equivalent capacity is becoming available on light rail.

    People talk about a surface option driving traffic into the I-5 corridor. But whatever portion of that additional traffic appears on I-5 will create congestion that encourages some portion of I-5 commuters to switch to light rail. This is a problem that will solve itself over time, with an obvious alternative being available from the very beginning.

    So why not just spend the $2-3 billion from the tunnel on increasing access to light rail?

  14. More Math:

    If the cost to build the tunnel is $3,000,000,000 and it is used by 72,000 vehicles per day for 20 years, then the cost per vehicle trip is $5.71.

    If the cost to build the U-Link is $2,000,000,000 and it generates 70,000 rides per day for 20 years, then the cost per ride is $3.92.

    Apples to apples? Maybe not, but I would say that the purpose of building the tunnel is to move vehicles through downtown, the purpose of building Link is to move people, not their vehicles.

      1. Good point. As with carbon and environmental impacts, I didn’t include stuff hard to quantify or not readily available.

    1. The purpose of the bored tunnel is to move people and freight — not empty vehicles.

  15. The purpose of the DBT is to move people and freight through downtown. Not the vehicles.

    1. As I understand it, the distinction between the the tunnel and U-Link is that the tunnel is being built to accommodate vehicles and passenger trips that can not be effectively served by mass transit; U-Link is being built to serve passengers who can be served by mass transit. All part of a balanced transportation matrix, I’m told….

    2. The DBT will move people (in cars) between Aurora and SODO.

      People (in cars) will still drive on the waterfront to get between Interbay and SODO. Freight to/from Interbay will still be stuck in gridlock.

      1. The new Western/Alaskan 1-way couplet will handle Interbay freight just as well as the backed-up Western offramp ever did. It’ll just provide better access to that route from SODO.

  16. There are also no plans to put any Metro buses in the tunnel, nor is Metro likely to create a route that bypasses downtown.

    I find this rather strange. I would think that there would be bus loads of people trying to commute to/from SeaTac/South Seattle Ballard/Aurora. Using 99 an Express bus could make the trip (guessing here) in about a 1/2 hour. The alternative is to somehow get over to I-5, struggle with traffic to downtown, transfer to Link and spend another 1/2 hour getting to Tukwila. The whole of 99 seems like a much more important corridor to serve with transit than I-5 and a stop prior to entering the DBT would have lots of connection options to DT, SLU, UW. Likewise a stop in SODO (perhaps integrated with the busway?) would offer connections to Pill Hill and once East Link is built Bellevue/Redmond.

    I wonder if there were any studies done that compare passenger through put if they made one lane each direction HOV during peak hours? I suppose the incentive to carpool can be directed via the toll structure but that doesn’t improve the commute time or reliability for HOV/transit use.

    1. It’s simply not Metro practice to bypass major transit hubs to directly connect secondary markets.

      1. Well, they’re not routes connecting “secondary markets” but bypassing a major transit hub is exactly what’s going to happen if the Montlake Flyer Stop is eliminated. This dogma seems to not only riders that would prefer a bypass but impacts the system as a whole since DT is a choke point during peak commute hours. Again, this is all predicated on the idea that there would be enough demand for north south express trips on 99.

      1. Having spent most of my life on the eastside I’m painfully aware of the “Hub-and-spoke” paradigm that for years (and still does to a great degree) required a trip DT to get between two points on the eastside. That made sense because it was the only way to even come close to ridership levels that were reasonable. But, if there’s enough demand between two destinations North and South of DT to get decent ridership why double a persons trip time and add to the congestion DT? In reality (assuming there would be enough demand to at least reach system average fare recovery) what this policy does is push more people to cars which in turn decreases peoples willingness to fund and use transit. It also lets WSDOT completely off the hook with respect to providing HOV/Transit lanes through the corridor.

      2. The Eastside is a different issue, as you’re going way out of your way by having to go all the way downtown. In the case of going directly under DT Seattle on your way to somewhere else, you’re forgoing a ton of connections that reduce the utility of the route.

      3. It doesn’t reduce the utility of the route if nobody on the bus wanted to go DT. It increases the efficiency of the routes that do serve DT by reducing congestion at one of the biggest choke points. Of course this assumes that there would be sufficient demand for an express through bus but given the traffic projections for the DBT I’d guess that’s a pretty good bet at least during the morning and evening commute. Metro seems to value the “you can get anywhere if you’re willing wait long enough” over providing direct connections to where there is existing demand. This isn’t only inconvenient but by increasing the number of service hours it takes to move a passenger from A to B it increases cost.

    2. Theoretically it may be possible for one trunk route to bypass downtown. There are a significant number of people going from the north end to the south end. But a large percentage of those are going to the airport, and Link is available for that. (It may not be as fast as a nonstop express from Aroura, but it avoids the traffic jams on I-5.) As for the rest, where would you put a north end and south end stop that’s close enough to where everybody is going that they will use it? Would you go to Aurora to take an express bus to.. I guess Tukwila Intl Blvd station is the most reasonable centerpoint in the south end.

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