Tomorrow is the last day for one to submit comments and take a survey on Sound Transit’s Draft North Corridor HCT scoping document. The corridor’s aim is to serve North Seattle and Lynnwood and the mode will almost certainly be light rail, but by law Sound Transit is going through a more general alternatives process so North Link will be eligible for federal New Start funds. The truly largest unknown for this project is which alignment alternative is the best: along I-5, Aurora Ave, or 15th Ave.

View North Link in a larger map

Each alignment has its own advantages and disadvantages that should become clearer as this process moves forward. Sound Transit has already studied these alignments in an issue paper. While the paper is a good starting point, there are still many unknowns.

All three alignments would serve stations at Northgate, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood — the difference is what happens in-between. Below I’ll outline what the three alternatives could look like and some advantages and disadvantages that I see for each. More after the jump.

I-5 Alignment (Red)

  • Runs along the side of I-5, switching from the east side to the west side around the county line.
  • Stations at NE 145th and NE 185th. These station areas are fairly constrained by single family neighborhoods (and a golf course at NE 145th) with very little space for P&R garages and virtually no TOD potential.
  • End to end travel time is lowest.
  • This alignment roughly splits the difference between the high demand corridors of Aurora Ave and Lake City Way, requiring all riders to either drive or transfer from a feeder bus.
  • Because of I-5’s ramps, sound walls, detention ponds, limited ROW, and bridges, I could see this alignment being more complex and costly than one would expect.

Aurora Ave Alignment (Blue)

  • Runs up Aurora Ave after transitioning over from Northgate Station somewhere between NE 103rd and NE 130th. At SR-104 it would turn east and meet up with I-5 at Mountlake Terrace.
  • Although Sound Transit previously identified only two stations, I believe three stations along Aurora Ave makes more sense.
  • The first station after Northgate would probably serve the Bitter Lake neighborhood at or around NE 130th.
  • The second stations would probably serve the Aurora Square Shopping center and Shoreline Community College somewhere around NE 155th to NE 160th.
  • The third station could be somewhere between NE 185th and SR-104.
  • End to end travel time would probably be 1-3 minutes longer than the I-5 alignment.
  • These stations have enormous TOD potential, with large underutilized and under-performing commercial lots that are perfect for significant upzoning and redevelopment on the scale of Bel-Red corridor of East Link. Bitter Lake has already seen significant senior housing development in the area.
  • The width of the road and commercial character make an elevated alignment down the corridor viable, which would be required to maintain reasonable travel times.
  • The federal transit funding landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. The federal government has finally gotten the message that land use and transit must go hand in hand. As part of this move, the FTA has relaxed cost-effectiveness rating which focus on travel-time savings — a pro-suburb metric — at the cost of livability. While cost-effectiveness is still one of the six measures used to rank New Starts projects, other goals such as transit-supportive land use policies and future patterns, mobility improvements, environmental benefits, operating efficiencies, etc. are now given more weight. While we have to wait for more information before we can have an informed discussions about some of these goals, an Aurora alignment easily wins with regard to TOD.
  • From a network design perspective I particularly like an Aurora alignment because it seamlessly merges Seattle’s two largest North/South transportation corridors. Despite Aurora and I-5’s close proximity — roughly a mile — connections between the corridors are horrible, especially for transit riders.

15th Ave Alignment (Green)

  • Runs up 15th Ave probably via Pinehurst Way N. The north end of this alignment conveniently joins with I-5 close to Mountlake Terrace.
  • Sound Transit is looking at two stations, probably at NE 145th and NE 175th. These are largest activity nodes along the corridor.
  • The issue paper says this alignment will take 4 additional minutes compared to I-5 — even with an elevated alignment, which doesn’t make sense to me.
  • This alignment a mixed bag, with less extreme disadvantages but also few large advantages. For example this alignment has modest TOD potential compared to Aurora but won’t have the same P&R opportunities as I-5.
  • 15th Ave is a narrow corridor with single family housing all along the corridor, making an elevated line fairly hard politically.
  • From a long range planning perspective, 15th Ave is bad. It puts Link in an awkward, no mans land; it’s half-way between I-5 and Lake City Way. This creates problems similar what Martin wrote about yesterday in the Rainer Valley.

These three options are the main alignment alternatives on the table, but the process is just getting started. Stay tuned over the next year or so. Just like with the First Hill Streetcar and East Link, you can expect different interests battling over different alignments. We’ll try to weigh in over the coming months to help you navigate the process.

162 Replies to “A Look at North Link Alignment Alternatives”

  1. Seems to me that 15th Ave NE not being a state highway would probably offer some advantages.

    1. I think it offers both advantages and disadvantages. Are there any I missed without getting into the weeds?

      1. I think it seems that Aurora itself should be a future HST corridor all the way into downtown (and isn’t RapidRide coming there soon?) So from a regional and long-term perspective, it seems useful to run it up 15th and then have feeders that could connect to both the Aurora Corridor and the 15th Ave Corridor.

      2. Rapidride isn’t a replacement for Link. If it was we wouldn’t be building Link. While I agree in an ideal world Aurora would get it’s own HCT line, I doubt that will happen even in the next 20-40 years unless something radically changes. I would much rather have Link on Aurora and Rapidride on 15th, although I don’t think 15th even has the demand to support Rapidride.

      3. I’m with Josh on this one. RapidRide can be incrementally improved over time to make it even more BRT like. Having link on 15th with various routes connecting between the two corridors, along with other transit friendly destinations on an East/West axis, seems to be the best plan with limited resources.

      4. I see the attraction of 15th Ave and I-5 but I’m worried because this means essentially 100% of riders have to access the stations via bus/car or possibly bike. That means everyone that accesses the system has increased access times. How this pans out system wide I don’t know.

        The other reason I’m worried is that Aurora and Lake City Way (just like rainier) have very strong linear demand, and breaking service off that corridor to serve the stations is really hard to do.

        I think if you built high quality BRT on Lake City way and connected it with northgate you could address some of these issues and create a huge node of activity. Imagine transit demand from I-5, SR-99 and Lake City Way converging at the Northgate Link station.

      5. Aurora itself isn’t a good HCT corridor once you get to Green Lake (which cuts off TOD potential) and once Aurora becomes a pseudo-freeway that divides Fremont from Wallingford and cuts Queen Anne off from Lake Union. But I do think an Aurora corridor should connect through Greenwood to Ballard and on to downtown on the Ballard-West Seattle line. (How it does so I don’t know, because I envision a very diagonal line plowing through Greenwood and 85th, and Greenwood is in an ecologically sensitive area.)

        Another thing about Aurora is, the logical next stop once you cross the county line is probably central Edmonds, or on to Mukilteo. Swerving back to I-5 for Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood is iffy.

        Sound Transit needs to be thinking about the future of their entire North Seattle and Snohomish County system. At some point, they’re going to need a line down Aurora and a line to Lake City and eventually Kenmore and Bothell. They need to figure out how they’re going to build those lines and what the routes are going to be, and how the Sand Point-Kirkland bridge idea affects things (since it’ll serve some combination of Laurelhurst, View Ridge, and Wedgwood). That way they can figure out what the next stop of the I-5 line is after Northgate, and what the best way IS to serve Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and Everett.

        I think part of the reason people like 15th, based on previous threads, is the TOD potential. The downside is that it’s probably not the first line you build north of Northgate in a perfect world, but subarea equity and politics dictates we get to Snohomish County, and preferably Everett, ASAP. Maybe they’ll realize this, take the Aurora route, use the Snohomish budget shortfall as an excuse to cut the line off near 104, and either extend that line to Edmonds or build the 15th Ave split in ST3.

      6. I still believe the Interstate 5 routing is the best, although I don’t know why they would want to build a station at 185th street since 175th would be easier to connect with Aurora Avenue as well as 15th with new bus routes. But maybe there shouldn’t be a station at all? Mountlake Terrace, then 145th, then Northgate. Gets people from the North end to Northgate/U District/Downtown much faster. There’s already a P&R near I-5 and 145th and there is some room to expand that. If it has to be 15th, that wouldn’t be too bad. Straight up 15th and it meets Mountlake Terrace without veering too far. I agree with the other posting that says it wouldn’t be very efficient to go up Aurora and then suddenly head East just to go to Mountlake Terrace. It may as well continue up Hwy 99.

      7. Oh I stand corrected. I see there is a small park and ride hidden away. I commuted via NE 145th for two years and did know about it.

  2. As long as there’s more east-west service put in (the 130, 331, 347, and 348 are too limited on the northern end; don’t get me started on the 301/347/348 situation on 175th St.), it seems like the Aurora Ave. alignment would make the most sense. The 347/348 already covers 15th Ave. and the 346 already covers Meridian Ave.

  3. In a perfect world we would build both the blue and green options splitting the trains onto both routes at northgate alternating destinations to both airport and redmond

    1. Yup, although if I had the money to do that I would go down lake city way before I went down 15th.

      1. Adam, this is exactly what I want to see. There’s more potential for stations on Lake City Way than 15th, though admittedly the likely Lake Forest Park station has comparatively limited potential. Still, 125th/Lake City, 145th/Lake City, Kenmore, and Bothell (downtown, UW, or both) are all great locations for stations both in terms of current transit users and long-term TOD.

      2. Lake City Way is too far east for a line that must continue to Lynnwood. A future Lake City line could transfer to a 405 line in Bothell.

      3. And Aurora is a likelier route for a line to Edmonds than Lynnwood (especially the part of Lynnwood near I-5). Visit downtown Edmonds sometime and you’ll see why a light rail line could do some wonderful things there.

    1. All would must be completely grade separate. The issue paper said that the Aurora alignment would need a tunnel but I have no idea where.

      1. I do not believe the board has committed to grade separation. The ST2 plan was basically costed out as entirely elevated even though parts may be tunneled and parts may be at grade.

      2. What I meant by grade separate is that the guide way (either elevated, at grade or tunneled) will not have any conflicts with other modes. As you said I don’t think the board has committed to full grade separation but a non-grade separate Aurora alignment will not fly. Period. The travel time will suffer too much to make it a viable option.

      3. ST says it chose a moderately expensive initial proposal (all-elevated) in order to have funding flexibility for alternatives. So anything except a subway is probably doable, depending on the ROW acquisition costs.

      4. You don’t need to a tunnel to get to Aurora. Just hug the south side of the cemetery. About fifteen houses would have to be removed, and I’m sure the people living in their quiet neighborhoods would be heartbroken.

        They should be very generously compensated for the loss of privacy and peace.

        But it is doable.

      5. P.S. I wouldn’t turn at Aurora but rather at the interurban ROW. It is possible to go at-grade all the way to 155th on it and make speeds of about 45 to 50 miles an hour. There would need to be overpasses for 125th, 130th and 145th, but by judicious movement back and forth along Linden north of 125th one could have a separated but at-grade right of way for well-over half the distance between Northgate Way and Aurora Village.

  4. Actually, my thought would be to build along I-5 now. The future Ballard line could then be extended to Lynnwood via a route and stop pattern that is similar to the interurban. A future Ballard line could split near 105th/Evanston where one branch would operate as above and the other branch could extend to Northgate and/or Lake City.

    This could preserve the speed for north end residents, and future wanting fast service to the niversity District and downtown Seattle, while the future line could provide more stops between Lynnwood and Seattle.

    1. This was brought up and generally agreed to at my workgroup table at Sound Transit’s Lynwood workshop. Our group was looking long term, specifically to eventually get light rail to Everett.

      While I’m a strong supporter of TOD/TOC we have to remember that Sound Transit is supposed to be a regional transit provider. It seems to me that a regional trunk line(s) connecting all major regions in a timely manner should be the first priority and then add in secondary/feeder lines with stronger TOD/TOC focus. Adding 3 or 4 minutes onto this segment alone doesn’t seem so bad but we need to look at the big picture of the entire line- preceding and future segments – and calculate all of the combined “extra” minutes. Are we going to look at a tree, or the entire forest?

      The only thing in my mind saying not to go with the freeway routing is that I would love for that ROW to be free for an eventual maglev line replacing the current Cascades service stretching from Vancouver BC down into Oregon or beyond.

      1. Ugh, Light Rail to Everett just screams Bad Idea. If you’re trying to get people from Everett to Seattle, why make them stop everywhere in between? Unless you plan on triple- or quad-tracking Link sometime, or omitting tons of service between Seattle and Everett, Sounder is the right mode for reaching Everett commuters. The Federal dollars we lobby for to improve the corridor also help out Cascades.

      2. I would agree that light rail being used to get folks from Everett to Seattle would probably be a bad idea. What would be those expected travel times? An hour? Maybe more? For commutes, that’s not actually bad for that corridor. I regularly see commute times from Everett to Seattle over an hour, sometimes in the 70 to 80 min mark on especially bad days. For off-peak though, that’s no good at all.

        But is that necessarily the idea here? To build a commuter train from? Specifically to move people from Everett to DT Seattle? How about Lynnwood to Northgate or UW? How about Everett to Lynnwood? Are those bad stories? Those are not rhetorical questions. I’m just wondering if people tend to focus too much on the terminii. From and to where would trips be made between Northgate and Everett?

      3. Link’s travel time from downtown to Lynnwood on I-5 is 28 minutes, competitive with ST Express and traffic-bound cars. If it can reach Everett in 60 minutes, again it’s competitive with ST Express and Sounder — but also serving several destinations in between.

        “If you’re trying to get people from Everett to Seattle, why make them stop everywhere in between?”

        Link has multiple purposes. One is Seattle and UW commuters. Another is recreation/shopping trips throughout King and Snohomish counties. Southbound to UW, Northgate, Capitol Hill, and SeaTac. Northbound to Lynnwood and Everett. A navy reservist could ride Link to Everett and transfer to the base, and perhaps Boeing workers could do the same.

        Any light metro route has two intrinsic limitations. It doesn’t directly serve residents between stations. It’s also not fast enough for the longest distances. We’re seeing good travel times for Lynnwood and Everett, but Federal Way and Tacoma will probably always require ST Express. Link will be more of a South King-to-Tacoma-or-Seattle service there rather than Tacoma-Seattle.

      4. Didn’t Roads and Transit propose light rail to Everett? The only reason we voted on a line to Lynnwood was to keep the costs down; the intention was always to extend it to Everett someday.

      5. If you don’t build along Aurora now it will never be built. It’s insane to have to high capacity transitways a half mile to a mile apart in such a non-dense environment.

        Express buses are completely adequate to serve the commuter demand on I-5. Light Rail lines are for dense development, not commuter lines.

        If ST wants to have a BART system they should have chosen heavy rail technology and avoided millions in annual maintenance costs for the catenary.

      6. My comment to Sound Transit supported an Aurora alignment (Interurban ROW to the Lynnwood TC), for all the reasons other commenters have mentioned.

        “My long range plan” includes connecting the Ballard west side line to a I-405 line via Holman Rd/Northgate Way/Lake City Way/Bothell. There isn’t enough transit demand in Snohomish County for 2 parallel Link routes (Aurora & I-5), and if you are choosing one, Aurora connects more destinations.

    2. I think we need to keep in mind that Link isn’t just about providing commuters a fast ride into downtown Seattle. That is a major goal but creating a regional transit systems means going where the regional activity centers are. Of these three corridors Aurora is it. Now to what degree this impacts riders from the north needs to be determined.

      1. Exactly. Focusing on one aspect of the system (commuting) tends to result in a poor overall system when there are needs far beyond it.

      2. Also all day demand corridors like Aurora are really what you need to run efficient service. Peak periods are very important but and I-5 alignment would basically just shuttle people back and forth between Lynnwood and Northgate. Aurora has demand all day long.

      3. But shuttling people between Lynnwood and Northgate is important too. Bypassing Aurora this time doesn’t mean abandoning Aurora forever. There are many other transit improvements that could be made on Aurora. Link would have tracks all along Aurora (from 105th to 205th) but only two or three stops. There are at least nine activity centers/potential TOD along that stretch, so Link would serve only 20% of those. So maybe regional Link is not the best technology for Aurora, and maybe Swift/streetcar/separate LR line would be better. Perhaps a streetcar from Northgate to Aurora Village.

    3. I-5 only makes sense if we want to permanently make this a park-and-ride suburban corridor. That might capture more riders in the short term but it’s horribly short-sighted.

      The future Ballard line would nicely connect through Northgate. That has no bearing on what lines continue from Northgate in North Link/ST2, and it gives no additional weight to an I-5 alignment. In the long term, I see Ballard continuing on Lake City Way at least as far as 405/UW Bothell, with possibly one more stop in Woodinville.

      I do see the long-term need for an all-Aurora alignment, but to me that looks like an addition after building Ballard to Northgate to Lake City. I don’t really see a benefit in splitting north on 99 from a Ballard line rather than from Northgate station.

      1. Ballard to Bothell? I don’t understand that at all.

        Maybe Ballard to Redmond, someday. Looping through Crown-hill just doesn’t seem justifiable, based on potential ridership. That is a SFH wasteland. Trunc it at 85th and hope for the best.

        Lake City Way could connect via tunnel to the Roosevelt Station, and pop out into the center of LCW around 85-90th St, and go a cheap surface route, with minimal crossings all the way to 115th. Then go Elevated 115th-145th, and then back down surface all the way to Kenmore,and perhaps beyond. Cheap and easy.

      2. Link could usefully follow the 75 from Ballard to Northgate and Lake City, and then it might as well continue to Bothell. One problem is — as dp has pointed out — Northgate Station is a few blocks south of Northgate Way. Another, east Northgate Way is pretty narrow and steep and single-family. Perhaps follow the 41 there.

        But the other idea of taking a Lake City line down to Roosevelt also has its appeal. That would be more direct to UW, downtown, and SeaTac, but less direct to Northgate Mall and Lynnwood. I guess when you put it that way, those destinations are more important than Northgate, and it would be just a short backtrack if you really were going to Northgate. But this routing would not serve the east-west corridor from Lake City to Ballard, which also deserves more service.

      3. I could see a track that could either continue the Ballard line to Northgate and possibly Lake City or move the current North Link onto the Aurora alignment.

  5. Every time I think about this, I refer to my ‘Puget Sound from Space’map. Hwy 99 and the old Interurban rail line defined where development occurred since it was virgin forest, and continues to define that corridor today. It’s a no brainer from 100 miles up – that’s where most of the activity is.
    I don’t think the engineering challenges of transitioning from Northgate to Hwy99/PUD ROW is that difficult(elevated over I-5 and short tunnel under the south edge of the Washelli Cemetary), then it’s pretty conventional construction along portions of 99 and the old rail ROW all the way to the Lynnwood TC. Some compromises between exclusive running, underpasses and over-crossings is needed to keep trains running at speed and conflicts with autos and pedestrians to a bare minimum.
    As the old rail line passes through back yards in some places, a combination of shallow retained cuts and under-crossings of intersections provide a partial noise wall for track and bogey noise, and grade separation at the few intersections that exist along the way. A good example is the bicycle u-xing recently built under 220th. Bike/Ped and overhead PUD electric lines are compatible with this type guide-way and it’s relatively cheap construction, allowing the line to push further north. A plus is the Aurora TC adjacent to the line, where BRT//Swift can meet Link trains.
    This proposal, made in the early 90’s, by the long defunct Puget Sound Light Rail Transit Society connects the dots (stations) where they logically need to be, without a lot of expensive tunneling and elevated structures, and it’s a fairly straight line, rather than jogging all over the place.
    OK, the snickering and guffawing may begin.

    1. On this point, I agree with Mr Skehan’s assessment.

      Using the Interurban alignment is a ‘no brainer’ from up close, too!

      Except maybe for the part about 220th. Having worked for Premera Blue Cross, I’ve seen that trail tunnel under 220th get severely flooded.

      1. Hmmm, maybe bigger pumps and a backup generator, Jim.
        I hope the deep bore folks are listening in too.

      2. There is no possibility to use the Interurban ROW between 175th and the hospital at SW216th. It’s too degraded and encroached to 205th and then in Sno County it REALLY runs through people’ back yards. North of 155th the line has to be on stilts to the hospital although the elevated can be in the ROW to 175th. That would minimize the traffic impacts and allow for more peaceful stations.

        From 175th past Aurora Village it will have to be elevated along the east side of Aurora and probably center of the road in Sno County to the hospital. Then it can swing back into the ROW for the diagonal run to Lynnwood TC.

        It’s the right way to do this.

      3. It would be interesting to see the cost differences between grade-separation via elevating the rail ROW, vs. keeping the line at-grade as much as possible, and having any road crossings built as overpasses, or possible eliminated.

        There are some neighborhoods where it might be desirable to remove the ‘drive thru’ connection (the YIMBYies).

        In other places, 220th comes to mind, that maybe it would be advantageous to bridge an at-grade track.

        BTW, Anandakos, where’s the hospital at SW 216th? The Interurban Trail runs behind Premera Blue Cross at that point, and travels through some industrial areas, up until SW 212th.

        Stevens/Swedish is on the west side of Hwy 99.

        Is the encroachment on the ROW from property sales?

    2. Basically agree with Mike as to alignment. The primary Shoreline station should be on 99 at 175th or 185th, or maybe in between. That’s the closest to a Town Center that Shoreline really has, or that’s likely to develop into one in the future.

      And in Lynnwood, why the huge dogleg just to get to the fancy new freeway stop for Mountlake Terrace? Better to continue on 99 to 220th, then follow the Interurban ROW straight to Lynnwood P&R/downtown development center.

      And two or three miles of center running on 99 won’t hurt a thing. It can be designed with fewer conflicts than experienced on MLK.

      1. I actually agree but I think we first need to get it over to Aurora. Then we can talk about passing up a large park and ride facility.

      2. “And in Lynnwood, why the huge dogleg just to get to the fancy new freeway stop for Mountlake Terrace?”

        The freeway stop is being improved anyway for CT. Highway 99 in Snohomish County has much fewer destinations than Aurora — it’s mainly car dealerships and strip malls. Although Lynnwood is promising TOD at the Swift stops. Snohomish County residents are happy with Swift; they don’t see a need for anything faster on 99. It’s 45 mph up there and Swift takes 40 minutes from Aurora Village to Everett. What South Snohomish residents want is an express train to downtown and the airport, not to go to Aurora. Or rather, if they’re going to Aurora, they’re satisfied with Swift and RapidRide.

      3. @ Anandakos, who writes: “There is no possibility to use the Interurban ROW between 175th and the hospital at SW216th”.
        Zip, none, nada? You’re giving up too easily on a 3.3 mile stretch of rail ROW, in favor of all the problems associated with building down the center of Hwy99, or the expense and degradation of the community with a huge ass elevated structure. If that thinking is intended to kill Hwy99 options, then I think your on the right track.
        Otherwise, consider the Interurban as a public corridor. PUD needs lines and substations along it, the ROW is mostly 100′ wide, and yes there are about 175 homes in proximity to it. Noise has to be a key factor in the design, but again, that’s not impossible to deal with.
        I’m not suggesting you buy them all out, but even that draconian measure would only cost under $100 mil, which is far less than elevated down Hwy99.
        I’m just suggesting ways to build cheap, go fast, and get to Lynnwood TC sooner, rather than later.

      4. We need a photo/video review of the Interurban Trail from roughly the Evergreen Washelli area to Lynnwood.

        Who’s got a working bike? Video camera?

      5. Jim Cusick,

        Yes, I was referring to Stevens Hospital. It is to the west, but it’s close enough for staff to use the train and is the best landmark in the neighborhood.

        The ROW skims close to Aurora between 220th and 216th, so jumping back to it would be very low cost. In fact, there should be a station right there at 218th to serve all the medical facilities. That’s a lot of workers and an all day destination. From there to Lynnwood TC it’s another section of put at-grade with overpasses.

        Yes, a few houses would have to be bought out around 208th north of Hall Lake, but the cost would be reasonable.

      6. Mike,

        Well if you can get it of course it would be preferable and much less expensive. However I really doubt that the people around Lake Ballinger are going to stand for it. They are MUCH richer than the folks in Surrey Downs and probably have concomitantly more political power. Those are some espensivo houses they live in, because they are so rare. South Snohomish County is not Minneapolis…..

        Transit Guy,

        I beg to differ. We DO have to consider riders from Lynnwood and north among all the balancing factors between the three options. Center running diagonally through the checkerboard of east-west and north-south streets means that there would be no stretches without lights, so the speed would be limited to 40 or so at the top. An elevated can run 55.

        The problem is that there are way too many cross-streets to overpass them all, so inevitably a few times a day a train will be caught by a light and its cycle nailed all the way to the next station. It happens regularly on MLK and on the Yellow Line in Portland.

        I do think an Aurora routing would need closer stations that ST is planning in order to maximize development potential, and that will slow things down. For instance I would put six stations between Aurora Village and 125th, one at 128th, 137th, 145rd, 157th by the ped crossing, 175th and 192nd. The Aurora Village station should be at 204th to serve the huge development happening along Echo Lake. With another station at Stevens/Premera that would be eight total between Lynnwood and Northgate instead of the planned three. That would add five or six minutes to the transit time as well.

        However, I honestly believe that by the time Link gets to Lynnwood (if it EVER actually does get to Lynnwood), traffic on I-5 will be dramatically reduced. People will HAVE to carpool and take transit. Buses will flow much more freely than they do now.

        Some time after 2030 if South Sno continues to develop it might be possible to take the HOV lanes and put “express” tracks with a single station only at the Mountlake Terrace TC on them, moving the HOV over to take a pair of the existing general lanes.

        That would be much cheaper than building alongside the freeway, avoiding off-ramps and overpass streets.

        But with an Aurora routing development that would have happened to the north might actually occur in the Linden/Midvale strip where it belongs.

      7. Anandakos: I think when the dust settles, I-5 will be the preferred alternative because of the reasons you stated.
        It doesn’t make it the best alternative from a long term cost or land use perspective, but one with the least amount of community push-back, and political teeth gnashing.
        Just another example of building something down the path of least resistance, rather than trying the difficult, which is unraveling a very tangled ball of transportation choices over the last 50 years.

  6. 15th NE is less of a “no mans land” between Northgate and Montlake Terrace than the I-5 corridor.

    I’d also say the 15th NE line should have one or two additional stations, one in Pinehurst near NE 125th and possibly one at the county line. The latter is possibly too close to the Montlake Terrace P&R station, but there is at least TOD potential. The former would still be within the Northgate Urban Village and provide the potential for fast connections to the Lake City/522 corridor via 125th.

    Given any additional rail lines through Lake City or on SR 99 are nothing but a pipe dream at this point, impact on future potential corridors should be a minor consideration.

    1. I generally agree it is a pipe dream, which is why we need really think hard about which corridor is best.

      1. Aurora is the best both from my perspectives. Is we can choose only one corridor, it’s 99 without question. If we’re building for the future, I-5 only helps get to Everett three minutes faster, which shouldn’t be the main goal of the system. 15th is too low-density residential to be compelling for TOD, and it’s not as good from a commuting perspective. Lake City is a comparative pipe-dream, but it’s the second most compelling corridor. And it also has the long-term advantage of connecting seamlessly with a Ballard line at Northgate. Building on I-5 or 15th just steals potential ridership from the better long-term plan of building on Lake City Way. So from that long-term perspective, starting with 99 also makes the most sense.

      2. I’m in favor of 99 as well, but the next logical stop after Lake City is following Bothell Way to Bothell, and long-term I’d like to see two north-south lines in Snohomish County.

    2. Yes, 15th NE would be a great alignment. But it MUST BE TUNNELED. There is no way in hell that the good burghers of Jackson Park are going to have an elevated railway through their peaceful suburb.

      Not to mention the folks north of 145th. There is little room to expand the road to accommodate the supports.

      Tunnel or get out of Dodge.

  7. Personally, I like the SR-99 corridor the best, it seems to be where both the most development is and what has the most potential. Plus, I think if we build there, there’s a better chance of getting a SR-522 light rail some day. After all, real rail through lake city was considered a good enough corridor for forward thrust 40 years ago.

    1. I think Aurora/99 makes the most sense and I’m going to be contrarian and say it should be elevated with pylons in the center (turn) lanes or bubbles. The station at 130th and could straddle 99 with stair/ramp/elevator/escalator access from both sides. This would mean far less ROW acquisition required, and I think far less engineering. Keeping them elevated also eliminates accidents and contention from stop lights. Up past the city line, it may make sense to have stations on the side of the road perhaps in conjunction with a P&R.

      I think Aurora offers the most TOD potential which satisfies the goal of creating density and new walkable communities. I’d also suggest a station around 105th to allow connections from bus routes from Greenwood, Blue Ridge and points west to Link with an easy jump to Northgate for shopping or to continue south.

      1. The big travel time saving with an elevated alignment is that Link can travel at it’s maximum speed. Surface running is limited to the street’s speed limit.

  8. Add another vote for 99. It’s also the best option for value engineering cuts if money gets tight by moving the elevated portion down to ground level. We could run it on the center lanes of 99, and the reduced car lanes will make that road feel less like a freeway.

    1. +1 vote. I wonder if it would be cost effective to build cut/cover for this portion? It probably depends on the underground utility situation and station construction costs as well as impacts to the surrounding businesses and commuters.

      1. Yup. While I have some idea how Link could transition I don’t think that level of detail is necessary yet.

  9. A few observations

    –Tunneling is highly unlikely due to cost. At grade is most likely for an Aurora or 15th alignment, especially if you have to pay the extra cost for miles of track to get to Aurora and back. An I-5 alignment would likely be a mix of at-grade, elevated and retained cut.

    –Although TOD at 145th in the I-5 alignment is doubtful, the prospects at 185th are actually pretty good. The Shoreline School District has a 65 acre surplus site there that they want to unload.

  10. How do the residents around 15th Ave feel about having light rail run through their neighborhood? Maybe I’m still smarting from the Surrey Downs debacle, but I feel like an Aurora routing encounter way less single family housing NIMBYism. Since Aurora was originally designed as a major transport thoroughfare, it just seems like a more natural fit. The potential for infill and redevelopment should make it a shoe-in.

    1. I think because Aurora has so many problems most neighborhood activist would actually be YIMBYs.

  11. I prefer the 99 alignment (via 130th), though I would continue it further up 99 into the center of Lynnwood at 196th St (a great area for future TOD, but that won’t happen if rail misses the area). From there, it could turn east along 196th and dip down to the Lynnwood P&R before entering onto I-5 for the potential final extension to Everett. Though I agree with others that improved Sounder service with multiple trains in each direction throughout the day would be better than Link extension. Chicago suburbs do very well with their Metra service… I don’t see why Everett would be all that different.

    1. If I can’t get my 99-Edmonds line, I’d much prefer this than swerving back to I-5 at SR-104. And I’d STILL rather stay on 99 a little further (freeways are horrible for TOD) and divert to Mukilteo and/or Paine Field before continuing to Everett. Planned this way I could actually support a single Snohomish County line. (Maybe I could even still get my diversion to Edmonds along 104 and 196th? :)

      1. @ Morgan Wick. I think the big question is how can the park and ride be used if Link doesn’t stop there and can Lynnwood be built with a large enough P&R to meet demand?

      2. I would think that between morning and evening peak commute there is ample excess parking at Alderwood Mall. If there’s need for more ST foots the bill for a parking structure. The Mall owners get back land they can build more retail on and share the parking. With a public private partnership you might even be able to incorporate enough underground parking as part of the foundation for a highrise building. Alderwood transforms into Water Tower Place :=

    2. Or instead of going to 196th, it could turn west at 200th. Several buses already run along 200th because of the transit center, plus it’s closer to Edmonds CC.

  12. I’m going to decent from what seems like the majority here, and say that the 15th AVE alignment, if grade separated, would be the best option.

    While the Aurora alignment would be great from TOD, it wouldn’t be good for too much else, the distance is have to get to/from I-5 is not comforting, and it will not serve the area east of I-5 at all.

    The I-5 option is the opposite, no TOD, but good from connections from other transit corridors.

    The 15th AVE options is appealing to me because it isn’t that far from I-5, which makes busing from the Aurora area make some sense, but it also allows to TOD, and allows buses down hwy 522 from Bothel/Woodenville be able to avoid heavy traffic on the southern portion of Lake City way and and Northgate way.

    I wouldn’t add any more stations then listed, though.

    1. You could avoid some of that distance back to I-5 by just going along 99 until necessary to get back to the first planned Lynnwood station (rather than heading back at SR 104). And in any case, it’s only 3-4 minutes.

      Also, the people you really want to serve east of I-5 are in the Lake City Way corridor, which needs its own line to serve people that currently use those buses that you mention. 15th would cannibalize potential ridership from a Lake City Way corridor without serving them nearly as well.

      1. It’d probably be worthwhile to include Mountlake Terrace TC, though. It’s one of the largest P&Rs south Snohomish County and is currently underutilized.

      2. I thought 15th made the most sense but hadn’t considered the potential of a future Lake City line and how that would probably not get built if the line runs on 15th. Now I say, run it on the Interurban trail through my back yard, or on Aurora, whichever is cheaper/easier. Seriously, I don’t mind it in my back yard so long as they soundproof my house. No promises that my neighbors would like it, though.

        I agree with the suggestion that you put a stop at 130th instead of 145th, both for selfish reasons (I would be in the walkshed) and because of the huge numbers of seniors living right by 130th in Four Freedoms and the senior apartments at Linden & 130th. Better TOD potential there than 145th too. I don’t think 155th needs a station–those businesses are not TOD, they’re all behind giant parking lots, and it’d be a bit of a hike from there to the community college. Makes more sense to put a station at 175th near Shoreline City Hall, and then run a bus to the community college from there. Those should be the two in Shoreline.

    2. While busing from other corridors is a good idea, it can’t be the main consideration of a line. And valuing TOD so much that you start seeing existing low densities as better than existing high densities is the sort of logic that demonizes transit and gentrification and brings us ideas like the Vision Line.

  13. As for the right way to get to 99, I favor 105th or something a bit north of that (such as skirting the southern edge of Washelli Cemetery.) That stretch could also be used by any future line connecting Ballard to Lake City Way via Northgate. It would preserve more options on 99 because you could choose to operate Northgate to Lynnwood trains along with future Aurora light rail (downtown Seattle) to Lynnwood. Or you could choose to build another station where those lines would intersect at or near 99th and 105th and provide a connection.

    In the short term you end up with a lot more disruption to 99 without any stations until 130th, so I can see why 130th might be favored. But again, we should plan for better long-term options instead of just doing what makes sense for the immediate future.

  14. When Adam says that at-grade is slower that elevated, is that because the vehicles must travel at lower speeds, or because of delays at crossings?

    1. Exclusive Right-of-way is the determining factor for speed.

      Elevated and Tunnel are inherently grade separated, but an at-grade alignment, without public access, and as few grade crossings (or none, if possible) allows for higher speeds.

    2. It is because the trains must travel at a lower speed. I don’t know the history behind this but from my understanding all light rails lines, when built in street ROW must travel at the speed limit. It certainly makes sense.

  15. Would lean toward Aurora because of the TOD potential and capacity for full grade separation with minimal impact. I would, however, like to see even another stop or two beyond Adam’s third station.

  16. According to the issue paper, the I-5 route can mop up all the ST Express and P&R express buses because of its competitive travel time and station locations. But the other routings would necessitate keeping some of the express buses because of their longer travel time and distance from the P&Rs. It also says the Aurora route would add only 500 riders per day, and the 15th route only 100, compared to the baseline ridership of 36,000 common to all three alignments. I’m surprised the Aurora estimate is so low, but OK.

    So besides TOD opportunity, we also need to look at the fuel saved by taking buses off the road (or alternatively, the number of bus hours that would be freed up for other routes). If Link on I-5 can effectively replace essentially all the N-S express buses, that’s a pretty good deal. And with frequent east-west buses, it would be only a mile to Aurora or Lake City Way, which would take like five minutes to reach.

    1. I really doubt a lot of these assumptions. The estimated minutes added of the 15th alignment is too high, the estimated added passengers of the Aurora alignment is too low. It’s like they’re trying to weight the numbers to support an I-5 alignment. If these are our priorities I’d prefer a 15th alignment.

    2. I think if they add a station around 105th on Aurora, you would get tremendous opportunity to feed riders from many neighborhoods that wish to go to Northgate or UW. It is true that neighborhoods in NE Seattle wouldn’t be as well served by an Aurora alignment but I think the potential to add many more car-less riders in the Aurora corridor is much greater in the long run. NE Seattle is primarily single family housing with narrow streets.

      NW Seattle has a mix of neighborhoods the huge corridor along 99 that is just ripe for development. I can envision adding 50,000 people along this corridor with out the need for more cars. (save a few zip cars) I agree that a Lake City line should be planned and I think it is a good candidate for a RapidRide alignment in the interim, recognizing that BRT is not a permanent solution.

      1. “I think if they add a station around 105th on Aurora, you would get tremendous opportunity to feed riders from many neighborhoods that wish to go to Northgate or UW.”

        That’s an interesting point. It would cover part of the 75’s usage, and it would be 48-ish even though its walk circle doesn’t quite reach 85th.

    3. Yeah as Morgan points out I there are some things in the report that just look wrong, so I wouldn’t lean too much on it.

      Overall what I would like to see the most right now is some modeling to determine how the different alignments would impact travel times all over north end neighborhoods. If I was designing an Aurora alignment I would put a lot of effort in determining how to improve bus service to the I-5/Lake City area. This could maybe done from an I-5 flyer stop for buses, or a high quality connection between Northgate and Lake City way.

  17. I favor the Hwy 99 alignment. I love the idea of an elevated line. One of its advantages is that a station near Aurora Village TC can allow easy transfers to Swift for people going to/from Everett and major points in between. This is a huge opportunity to integrate two regional transit modes, Link and Swift. Additionally, the Hwy 99 corridor is older, less hostile to pedestrians, and more built-up than the I-5 corridor; with better walking and TOD potential, it can continue to densify. I don’t have any personal issues with 15th Ave, but Hwy 99 probably has better ridership and TOD potential, and I think an I-5 would alignment would mean shooting ourselves in the foot.

  18. I think an elevated line along 15th with stations at 125th (Pinehurst), 145th (Jackson Park) and 175th (North City). I disagree that this route wouldn’t have much potential for TOD. It looks like there are about 10 acres of what is now single-story retail or offices around 125th St, 25-30 acres of this around 145th, and 25-30 acres around 175th. This property is all easily developable into midrise mixed-use buildings, and it’s not even including the large amount of low-quality single-family or lowrise multifamily around these stations that could be developed upon. Aurora, on the other hand, seems less likely to see significant TOD just because of aesthetics. It’s hard to get a lot of people excited about living along a pedestrian-killing highway.
    A 15th Ave route with a stop in Pinehurst would also be great for connections to Lake City. With a frequent bus along the 125th-130th corridor, the large transit market would be just a few-minute ride away from a station.
    An Aurora route would also likely be costlier, as it will be hard to find a way for that route to get over from Northgate to Aurora without a tunnel or without being quite circuitous. A 15th route could just cut across on Northgate Way then up Pinehurst Way.
    Finally, an Aurora route should be a goal for a future (say, 40-year-out) light rail line, and can for now easily be served by a quality enhanced bus service. This line should serve the general I-5 corridor.

    1. I think one of the big questions with Aurora is the extent to which the street and surrounding zoning would be modified with the arrival of Link. A project of this magnitude obviously affords the opportunity to pretty radically alter the character of the street and surrounding built environment.

    2. Alex when I talk about TOD I’m talking 10-30 story buildings. There is no way in hell 15th Ave will ever support that, but Aurora certainly could.

      Large scale TOD is transformational in its scale. You don’t see it often enough in the US, but when Europe does TOD they aren’t talking about 4 story buildings.

      Yesler Terrace is an great example of what TOD projects in Europe look like. They are talking about 5,000 units and millions of SQ of commercial/retail. This is the scale I’m talking about.

      1. But that’s not going to happen along Aurora, as much as we wish it would. I don’t think there’s any way the City Council will ever allow high rises outside of the Greater Downtown area, U District, and maybe Northgate. I think along 15th or Aurora you could get lots of 6-8 story buildings, though.

      2. Aurora not only COULD, it SHOULD. There is nowhere in the Puget Sound Region as ripe for a string of pearls development as the strip of land between Linden and Midvale from 125th to 205th. It is a HUGE opportunity.

      3. Maybe not high rises but aurora is a whole different ball game compared to the valley. It probably won’t have skyscrapers but a large development zone with midrise and the typical 4+1/5+1 design are completely within reason. You would certainly see zoning on the scale of Northgate.

  19. If your tracking the vote tally its:
    I-5 with 2 votes
    15th gets 4
    and 99 with 21,
    That was easy, now how about Bellevue

  20. All of these choices serve strips of low density; hence the crutch of P&R lots. The right thing to do is save the Billions in capital cost for a poor rail alignment and put it toward decent bus service on all three. The best of the worst choices is I-5 with a minimum of stops. Stop diets, like so many are advocating for for buses are even more important for high capacity rail. The down side is two fold. First, the prerequisite infrastructure (i.e. bus service) is short changed. Second, Link becomes a sprawl enabler like Sounder.

    1. Sorry, but sprawl has already happened between Seattle and Lynnwood. The question is how do you transform that sprawl into higher density urban villages to keep sprawl from happening elsewhere. If we keep being reactive in transit and land use planning instead of proactive we’ll just end up with more of the same.

      1. Sprawl as you like to call it is all along all three corridors. Putting a light rail light along any of them won’t make much difference. Hence the hedge, as there is on East Link, to justify ridership with P&R lots. Not enough sprawl so let’s offer free parking to justify rail.

      2. Bernie, you like to focus on Park & Ride lots as a “justification” for rail. However, Central Link only has 600 spaces and East Link will only have 1400 spots (unless there are plans to increase the size Overlake. If so, add those spots too).

        I really doubt justifying Link is the motivation behind these lots – Sadly, that’s what folks want though. My only hope is that Sound Transit draws a line in the sand and starts charging for parking in the future. They’ve said as much but I have yet to hear of a single P&R lot that charges for parking. (Except for private lots along Central Link)

      3. No, they’re planning 1475 stalls in a four story structure at S. Bellevue. There are already 450 stalls on M.I. with talk of adding more and there are East Link plans for a 130th Ave NE lot to be added with 500 new spaces. Overlake Village and Overlake add another 370 spaces. The problem, besides the expense of building them is that they increase congestion at peak hours and make TOD, if not less desirable certainly less compelling. But without providing additional 30-40k parking spots East Link doesn’t have enough ridership to even pretend to be justified. DT Bellevue and Microsoft are the only destinations. M.I. is primarily a transfer point although they are attempting to build some density around their city center. You’re right about charging. If the answer is nobody is willing to pay to park then why the heck are we building them? Like DT Redmond; 377 stall multi story garage at 55% capacity. And Link won’t even get there. Parking lots and perks for Wright Runstad are more important.

      4. So those P&R spots account for less than 10% of the anticipated East Link ridership. Big whoop, that’s probably less than the margin of error of the ridership projections. It was suburban politicians that insisted on having them included when the make up of the ST2 package was being decided, because it makes it look like they’re bringing home the bacon to their car-driving constituents. Both MI and South Bellevue are operating above capacity, so they probably could have justified expanding them even without light rail. It has little to do with light rail planners trying to bulk up ridership.

      5. So those P&R spots account for less than 10% of the anticipated East Link ridership.

        10% of the fanciful 46,000 projected for 2030, not initial ridership. And yes, since they exaggerated Central Link ridership by about 50% you’re right about the likely margin of error. South Bellevue P&R is over capacity but that doesn’t mean it’s where we should expand. Free parking DT Seattle would be over capacity too; the point of P&R lots should be to intercept traffic before it gets to the choke points; not increase it. But, by all means, if they aren’t needed then let’s close the budget gap by eliminating them instead of cutting back on ST Eastside bus service.

        It was suburban politicians that insisted on having them included when the make up of the ST2 package was being decided

        Who? The majority of the ST board has always been controlled by Seattle because they and the County Exec (Ron Sims and now Dow Constantine, both Seattlites) are the only ones guaranteed spots and control the appointments of all others.

      6. The question is how do you transform that sprawl into higher density urban villages

        By having fewer stops and only in areas where high density has a chance to expand around it; not by maintaining the ribbon of strip mall development with streetcar like stop spacing.

      7. “By having fewer stops and only in areas where high density has a chance to expand around it”

        Which isn’t the middle of I-5, as you suggest is the best route. You seem to be against P&R’s, but by building a freeway alignment you doom light rail to be nothing but a glorified P&R shuttle forever.

      8. “Who? The majority of the ST board has always been controlled by Seattle”

        That’s not true. John Ladenburg (Pierce County Exec) was the chair, Connie Marshall (Bellevue Mayor) and Aaron Reardon (Snohomish County Exec) were the vice-chairs during most of the development of the Roads & Transit and ST2 plans. Only 3 of the 18 board members were from Seattle, the balance were from outlying areas.

      9. Which isn’t the middle of I-5, as you suggest is the best route.

        “Best” is often different than ideal. Lake City Way is single family housing a block to either side plus there’s geographic constraints. Plus the ROW just isn’t wide enough and it never gets you to Snohomish County. 99 has got it’s own set of problems. First, I think you have to go as far as Northgate before crossing west to 99. From there how do you get to 99? Backtrack and use Northgate Way seems like the only option. Then you’ve just got a couple small pockets, Aurora Square (aka Sears) and the Aurora Village but none are really ever going to be something like a Microsoft Campus or even have the potential of Bell-Red. What you give up is not so much the P&R lots on I-5 but the bus transfers (I-5 express buses and east/west feeder service) You end up with miles of at grade ROW (elevated will be too expensive) so the train will be slower than I-5 express buses. Past Northgate maybe the bus base could be sold and developed. Ballenger which would require deviating from the median and then it’s Alderwood Mall before there’s really space for a “village”. But I think Northgate and Alderwood (only 15 minutes center running) far out weight the possibilities along 99. 99/Pacific really misses Alderwood in addition to just taking too damn long trip wise to be practical. 99 by the nature of how it’s been built over the years is better suited to Swift type service.

      10. Yeah, but the land along 99 is a lot more malleable than the land along I-5 and lot more amenable to pedestrian friendly development. Shoreline is focusing mixed use development along 99 and Lynnwood has already upzoned for high-rises in its core. Who knows what those cities could look like in 20-40 years with the appropriate influences. The oldest high-rise in Bellevue is what, 30 years old? Seattle itself has only been here for 140 years. I think it’s a little premature to say that the 99 corridor is destined to be nothing but strip mall development for the life of Link.

      11. land along 99 is a lot more malleable … and lot more amenable to pedestrian friendly development.

        Don’t disagree. All of which proves it doesn’t need light rail as our politicos seemed to think was required to spur development in the RV. And this development is better served by buses than light rail. And if I remember correctly the Lynnwood upzone is closer to I-5 than 99.

        The PACCAR building was the first “sky scraper” in Bellevue. It was built in 1970 and it was a long long time before anything close to it’s size was built. The vast majority of the Bellevue Skyline has happened in the last 20 years in the form of a building boom (followed by around 1990 and the same thing recently. It’s doubtful if most of it wouldn have happened without investment from Kemper and he very nearly went broke on that bet.

        I think it’s a little premature to say that the 99 corridor is destined to be nothing but strip mall development for the life of Link.

        Not strip malls but a strip of development. There’s nowhere for a dense DT core to develop (like there is say in Kent). 99 will resemble MLK which really isn’t even close to needing streetcar capacity. I would expect Bel-Red and South Lake Union to have high rises in the next 20 years. Maybe Totem Lake and maybe the area around Northgate and Alderwood Malls will seem some. But remember, the ~20% reported office vacancy rate in Seattle is actually a lot worse than that because Amazon is basically “double parked” right now still occupying it’s space in the Pac Med building while moving to it’s new digs on S. Lake Onion. The Columbia Tower is at 30% and it’s even worse at the old WaMu building. Those need to fill and the aborted projects restarted (and filled) which means that for the next 20+ years the biggest need is going to be moving people in from the surrounding metro area; not shuffling them a few blocks down 99.

    2. Sorry, but couldn’t disagree more re: “stop diets.” Quite the opposite: ST should add stops to Central Link and to its plans for future lines to reduce station spacing to no more than 1.5 miles or so.

      1. I agree. I think we make a big mistake by planning lines with stations spaced too far apart, only so people can ride end-to-end quickly. Sounder should be beefed up for that sort of thing. Link should serve people moving to various places along the line, not just to downtown or the airport. There will be regret in the future, I think.

      2. Link is for going longer distances quickly. If you want short stop spacing, take a bus or ask for a streetcar. If you make the stop spacing small, there is *no faster alternative*, and that’s the problem we have now. Most express buses are peak-only unidirectional (15, 18). Only a few routes have all-day expresses (UW-downtown, Northgate-downtown), which happen to be the routes being replaced by Link. Sorry if you’re going from downtown to Ballard in the PM, the expresses are running the wrong way. And if you’re going from UW to Shoreline in the off-hours, sorry, you’ll have to sit through all those stops because the in-between residents are more important than you.

      3. M. Orr: I’m not talking about station spacing remotely as frequent as bus or streetcar stop spacing. On grade-separated dedicated right-of-way you can have relatively frequent stops (1.5 miles) while providing service that is still far superior to and faster than buses.

        Link should not be reduced to commuter rail: that’s why we have Sounder. People working and living adjacent to the line should be able to walk to a station, and with the size of our investment in Link we should be looking to drive long corridors of dense development, not a scarce handful of density nodes.

        Light rail and heavy rail systems around the country function perfectly well covering long distances with station spacing ranging from .5 to 1.5 miles.

      4. Mike, in my opinion that’s the exact opposite of what Link should be. Link should be serving the dense area centered around the cities of Seattle and Bellevue, and serving to increase that density within a defined range.

        If you want intracity rail, build intracity rail.

    3. There are over 4 million people in the metropolitan area and there are many more coming in the next 2 decades. In the time since I left Seattle for Chicago, the area has added almost a million people. There are already established cities and towns and places of employment – many employers are not in central business districts. The task of future planning is to encourage density, walkable neighborhoods and independence from cars. That will require both serving existing cities and creating new communities within and between those cities.

      I think the Aurora corridor is perfect for launching very dense development with midrise buildings e.g. 10-20 stories with affordable quality housing spaces for tens of thousands of people that will settle here in the coming decades. That level of development can’t really happen along 15th NE. It could possibly happen along Lake City Way but that is not really on the drawing board for this alignment.

  21. Just to summarize my anti-Aurora argument above, Central Link may not be the best thing for Aurora’s TOD potential. There are 2-3 stations proposed for 105th-205th, but there are at least nine existing shopping centers in that area which could become TOD nodes, and additional TOD potential between those. Link would serve only 20% of those destinations. So maybe regional Link is not the best technology for Aurora. That doesn’t mean abandoning Aurora completely. There are many other transit improvements that could be done on Aurora. (1) Swift, (2) separate LR line, (3) streetcar, (4) streetcar from Aurora Village to Northgate on the proposed Central Link route, (5) Northgate-Aurora Village-Edmonds bus/streetcar, (6) Northgate/Aurora Village/99/Lynnwood bus/streetcar (one-seat ride through Aurora Village).

    1. There might be that many shopping centers but there are clearly 3 large areas that would have significant TOD, NE 130, NE 155-160th and the area around SR-104. It’s not about the percent of shopping centers Link serves its about the quantity of TOD potential.

      A train ride from Northgate to Bitter Lake would take about 2-3 minutes, currently it takes close to 25 minutes via transit, with a large amount of walking. An Aurora alignment will do wonders for connecting this underdeveloped area to the rest of the region.

      Also just because Link runs along Aurora doesn’t mean that RapidRide wouldn’t continue running to along the corridors. Link actually increases the need for bus transit service.

      1. Well said, Adam. The I-5 alignment is a transit desert while there is a good deal of existing activity and great potential at Bitter Lake / N 130th and along SR 99 in Shoreline. The Aurora alignment feels right to me, at least as far as the county line, and perhaps a ways beyond, maybe up to 220th around the hospital, maybe 196th St. SW. The existing development along Aurora is substantial; it’s quite visible from space.

        I know Mountlake Terrace has a redevelopment vision that light rail would support, and there are some park and rides along I-5, but those do not seem like strong enough reasons to make the big sacrifice of hugging the largest highway on the west coast. 15th Ave. NE may have some potential, but that seems to me overshadowed by SR 99.

  22. As a 27-year resident of Shoreline, at first, I thought that the I-5 alignment would make sense. Then, I thought about the stops being proposed and who would be interested in riding it. I-5 allows drivers to see the speed and use of light rail, a regular advertisement. It’s faster. The potential stations: 145th area has little room for expansion and is in the neighborhood of Thornton Creek, while offering limited bus connections: across the freeway from the west, the twice-hourly #347 from the NE, and a clogged 145th from the S. At 185th, a potential dual use parking lot at the NW with Shoreline Stadium and twice-hourly bus service on #348. A lot of stands of trees. At Mountlake Terrace, twice-hourly service on #130. But, other than commute times and special events, where are the destinations for off-peak riders? The same conundrum applies to the 15th NE routing, the proposed stops would serve underdeveloped business areas at 145th and 175th, more of a peak period demand than off-peak. The only routing that offers bi-directional opportunity of the three is Aurora Avenue North. A stop at 130th serves a huge base of housing to the west; a stop at 155th-160th serves Shoreline Community College, the state Department of Transportation, and Central Market. A stop at 185th would serve the Shoreline “town center” area, one at 205th the always-popular Costco and connection to Community Transit’s Swift BRT line to and from Everett along with routes from various points in Shoreline and Edmonds and routes going/arriving east from Kenmore and Mountlake Terrace/Lynnwood. Meanwhile, Metro’s supposedly “rapid” ride, with its 12 planned stops in the 3 miles of Shoreline, would serve as an underlying service on Aurora south (when it opens). Its present incarnation as the #358 is one of Metro’s heaviest ridership routes, in both directions, at most hours of the day, and light rail would alleviate the load…if it could be constructed without the expense of tearing up Aurora again, that is. My other concern about ST’s routing is to follow SR 104 to get to Mountlake Terrace. While logical on a map, it is following a street that is a huge vehicle traffic collector, with its two lanes in each direction often taxed with more vehicles than the pavement can accommodate, especially when a ferry unloads and afternoon rush hour. Too bad the ST alignment couldn’t follow the Interurban (even from points south), then use Lakeview Drive if they absolutely have to serve the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, the need to do is of questionable value given the plethora of commuter bus service that goes through that location, more coming in February 2011 with the opening of Sound Transit’s freeway station. The Interurban happens to go by Premera, another major employer, perhaps a better stop than the transit center, and travels directly into the Lynnwood Transit Center ending point (for this round of potential light rail expansion).

    1. Keep in mind that bus service would be restructured when the line opened.

      In a perfect world, if there was one Snohomish County line it would serve either downtown Edmonds or Mountlake Terrace TC rather than splitting the difference down Aurora. Unless we eventually build a line connecting both of them to Lake City…

  23. I think Aurora is the best option of these choices. However I do want to repeat what others have said about Lake City Way — it needs a line too.

  24. Reducing transit travel time between downtown Everett and downtown Seattle is an important goal, but so is reducing travel time between north Aurora and downtown Seattle.

    I’m also not convinced that there is reason to cut back over to I-5 at Mountlake Terrace.

    I-5 would be a more suitable corridor for high-speed rail, and should have ROW reserved for that. Besides, Everett may be a destination on the local version of HSR.

    1. Amen. It takes 45 minutes from 130th & Aurora to downtown on the 358 (on a bus with one of the highest numbers of assaults of any route in the Metro system). It takes an hour from Everett to downtown on Sounder. I dream of a 30-minute commute where nobody is having a drug-inducted seizure.

    2. I didn’t mention HSR in my survey response, but it does seem logical that Everett/Seattle/Tacoma would be the stops on a HSR alignment from Vancouver – PDX.

      Add +1 to the Aurora column, by the way. I grew up not too far from 15th NE, go back regularly, and can’t imagine it as a LINK corridor. Like several others, it seems logical to me to have Aurora and Lake City as the two North End LINK corridors, with far better feeder bus service than I had when I lived there.

  25. To my way of thinking we’d ultimately be best served by both a line on Aurora, and one on 15th/Lake City as well. If that’s correct then the only thing we need to figure out at this point is which one we’re going to build first. Also, if that was the direction we decided to go I suppose it’d be important to emphasize to the voters that the long range plan involved building two lines.

    1. While I’d love a Lake City Way line first for my own use, it makes sense to build the North end line that does more for the regional system. Aurora gets us to Snohomish County, and Lake City Way doesn’t. Lake City Way/Bothell Way could get us to the East King subarea, but East Link already does that. Lake City Way, along with Ballard and West Seattle, is a good candidate for ST3 (and probably ST4 or even ST5, because I have a hard time seeing them all happening in one package given subarea equity requirements. Each Seattle/North King line would have to be matched by a line or increased ST bus or Sounder service in other subareas.)

      Also, Lake City Way isn’t one of the options under study. Of the three that are, Aurora is the clear winner for ST2. I just hope Sound Transit, the feds, and the broader community agree.

      1. The best system would probably be the ‘X’ laid out in the 1968 Forward Thrust proposal, serving SE, SW, NE and NW quadrants of the city (plus the Eastside). We have the SE line now. Hopefully ST3 will provide the SW and NW lines. A NE line from Roosevelt or Northgate thru Lake City, Bothell and Woodinville hits areas with a great deal of TOD potential, as well as the possibility, in the future, to expand in some form to Monroe–should they join the ST region–and/or to Canyon Park, Mill Creek etc. The East sub-area line(s) could be intersected at Woodinville or Bothell.

        If such a plan comes to fruition, the clear choice today would be Aurora for the reasons many posters above mention. As long as good, frequent cross-town bus service is implemented in both the south and north ends of the City, people in most areas will have multiple options for HCT travel to various destinations.

        (Hell, being crazy and understanding it wouldn’t actually happen in my lifetime, I could see DMUs traveling from the Skykomish Valley thru Monroe–an advertisement for auto-based sprawl nowadays–to a transfer station at Woodinville where connections could be made to E and NE Link lines!) :)

  26. There is tons of room for development on 15th. That’s my vote. Whenever I have to drive to Seattle from Lynnwood, I’ll often use that route as an alternative. Seems like a perfect alignment to me. North City (175th) made some nice pedestrian-friendly upgrades last year and has tons of TOD potential. Grocery store, restaurants, Post Office hub. The intersection with 145th also has a lot of potential. Goodwill in old Albertsons building, new grocery store, restaurants and small shops.

    The problem with cutting out Mountlake Terrace is that parking at Lynnwood PR is at absolute overload. There are no spaces after 9 am, which essentially shuts down that PR after all the spots are gone. Local Community Transit routes aren’t an option for many people in my area. Riding CT to LTC from my home would add 40 minutes to my commute (my Bothell-area route runs down 204th, then over to Alderwood Mall, then back to 204th).

    1. If people are driving to park at Mountlake Terrace Station, why couldn’t they drive to 15th or Aurora instead?

      1. Because there’s already a giant parking structure in Montlake Terrace?
        It’s also well set up for bus transfers.

  27. I also like the Aurora/99 alignment
    My preference would be to stay on 99 up to Sweedish, and then transition over to the interurban corridor to get to DT Lynwood, and if at all possiable push the line as far north as Alderwood under ST2, extend to Everett under ST3
    ins ST3-5 timeframe I would like to see a Renton to Mukilteo via South Center, Tukwilla station, Burien, Fauntlerory, West Seattle 2nd Ave Tunel, Ballard, Northgate, Lake City Way, Kenmore, Bothell, Mill creek, Alderwood, Pain Field/Boeing. also in the ST3-5 on the Eastside I would like to see Link Renton to Issiquah via ESR and I90 connecting to Link in Bellevue (not sure how yet), and Bellevue to Bothell via either Redmond on ESR to Woodinville, or ESR from Hospital station in Bellevue to Woodinville, once in Woodinville cross I405 and 522 to Cascadia, and connect to the line above.

    Well one can dream anyway ;)
    Lor Scara

  28. The biggest problem I see with continuing the Ballard line past Northgate to Lake City is serving NE Seattle south of Lake City. Even if you adopt the Sand Point-Kirkland bridge idea, you’re serving nothing between Northgate and about 70th, so say goodbye to Wedgwood light rail.

    Stop spacing of 1 mile would put a stop at 105th (if continued from Ballard/Greenwood) or right near the cemetary (if continued from Northgate). 105th to 130th is 1.25 miles; the next mile is to where 150th would be, suggesting a 155th/160th stop. Then it’s another mile-plus to 185th, then another mile to Aurora Village, and then you just have to figure out where to go next: Mountlake Terrace TC, or some sort of stop near 228th?

  29. Does the Aurora segment really have to be elevated? Is it not feasible to run it mostly at-grade (if it is allowed to run above the automobile speed limit, if it is considered separate from traffic), with cross arterials either tunneling under over bridging over the line?

    1. As long as the intersections are grade separate maybe they could. It would be interesting to see how it could work. I’m betting that the biggest issue is how to deal with turn pockets if you run in down the middle of the road.

      1. All those shopping centers are going to scream if people can’t turn into them because of the rail ROW. That may suit the anti-car folks just fine and hasten the conversion of said shopping centers to mid rise apartments with retail on ground floor. I think elevated is the most logical choice for this segment.

      2. If you run in the Interurban ROW, at grade where possible with overpasses and elevated where not, the whole experience of Link improves. No crossing enormous Aurora, no standing above the fuming traffic.

        Much better.

        And cheaper.

  30. Has anyone talked about using 5th through Shoreline? That would be really convenient coming up from Northgate through Shoreline. Plus there is a big undeveloped property at 5th and 165th waiting for something to happen AND it would serve the library and Shoreline center really well. And it’s still close to I-5 for other connections.

    99 already has Swift and Rapid Ride eta 2013!

    1. If Swift and Rapidride were the same thing as Link, we wouldn’t be building Link. Those routes improve transit service along the corridor but they don’t really connection Aurora to the region.

  31. My other concern about Link on Aurora through Shoreline is that the city has spent the last 5 years working to improve that corridor for BRT, including BAT lanes, pedestrian amenities, traffic flow revisions etc etc. In my mind putting link through there wastes all that previous effort. A lot of it is under construction right now.

    1. Not ON Aurora. At grade on the Interurban ROW/Linden from 110th and then north of 155th on an elevated structure to the east on Aurora above the old Interurban ROW. North of 188th where the ROW swings west the elevated would switch sides of Aurora to 195th cross over again to the east side for the run to Aurora Village. Some small businesses would have to be moved in that stretch during construction.

      It might also be necessary to elevate from 130th to about 138th because of the existing development along there.

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