We previously reported that Sound Transit is in the early stages of its North Corridor Alternative Analysis. In October Sound Transit held a series of public meetings to solicited public comment on the alternatives. At the time Sound Transit was looking at three corridors, I-5, SR-99 and 15th Ave NE, which I outlined here. ST was just awarded $2 million from the FTA to finance the study.

On December 16th Matt Shelden gave the ST Board a briefing (starting at minute 27:00) on the progress of the Alternative Analysis (lots of other good info in the video too). I think the slideshow above from that meeting or better yet video, speaks for its self but some highlights are below the jump. No action was taken but barring unforeseen events this recommendations will probably be approved by the board. The capital committee will discuss the recommendations during their January meeting.

Highlights after the jump.

Alternatives forwarded:

  • Transportation System Management (TSM) alternative. This is essentially a minor-capital, improved bus service alternative.
  • Two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternatives were forwarded
    • I-5 based trunk route with direct access ramps and expanded P&Rs (B-1).
    • Three branch, I-5, SR-99 and 15th Ave BRT alternative (B-2) with less capital expenses and use of Swift/RapidRide facilities on SR-99.
  • Two I-5 Link alternatives, one elevated (L1E) and the other “mixed profile” (L1?). My understanding of mixed profile is an alignment that become elevated where necessary but is otherwise designed to be at-grade.
  • Two SR-99 Link alternatives, one elevated (L2E) and the other mixed profile (L2?).

Alternatives dropped:

  • All 15th Ave NE alignments (L3E and L3G) were eliminated. This isn’t a surprise. The corridor didn’t have much public support and the character of the corridor isn’t very compatible.
  • A SR-99 “pure” at grade alignment (L2G) was eliminated. I’m reading “pure” as in Rainier Valley type at-grade running which limits running speed and thus harms time competitiveness.


  • Slide 15 has a qualitative comparison of the alternatives. I’m confused how the three branch BRT alternatives has the best land use and economic development compatibility score. Also a few of the labels are missing.
  • A map on slide 11 shows that ST will look at both an SR-99 and Interurban alignment for Link.
  • Map also shows that ST will look at four different ways for an SR-99 Link alignment to return to I-5, via NW 205th, Interurban ROW, 208th St SW, and 200th St Sw. See map on slide 11.
  • Slide 18 and 19 have a rough timeline going forward.

31 Replies to “North Corridor Alternatives Analysis, First Cut”

  1. What surprised me is that alternatives that skip Mountlake Terrace Station are being considered, while all alternatives go to Lynnwood P&R. Is there something magic about Lynnwood P&R that it *must* be a Link station? Has ST looked at the possibility of sending Link over to 99, and then staying on it most of the way to Everett? … or using I-5 up to Lynnwood, and then heading straight north to 99, then staying there most of the way to Everett?

    All that money gets spent on Mountlake Terrace, and then it may not become a rail station. How did that happen? (I’m not saying Link *should* go to Mountlake Terrace necessarily.)

    I also fear the neighborhood battles that may ensue in Shoreline. Rep.-elect Cindy Ryu is an ally and protege of former County Council Member Maggie Fimmia, who turned against ST toward the end of her county council career. Efforts to have ST do things with Midvale Ave N in downtown Shoreline have drawn the ire of many local businesses (you know, the usual feeling of entitlement to have business access parking on public right-of-way). To quote the Book of Pythia…

    1. Lynnwood is the largest city after Everett, and a major transfer location, and Lynnwood has committed to building a Bellevue-like downtown next to the station. I don’t think they want to move their traditional downtown to 99/196th. Mountlake Terrace has a much smaller downtown, separated from the freeway station, and probably no appetite for skyscrapers.

      As to how it happened, it’s due to multiple transit agencies and the location of I-5. If I-5 hadn’t been built, presumably Lynnwood would be centered on 99. The 244th “transit center” (and I think there’s another one at 200th?) were built by CT for the shortsighted goal of facilitating CT commuter and ST Express buses, with no consideration for walkable neighborhoods. Possibly that investment will be lost if Link is routed on 99 and the express buses are eliminated. CT built what seemed best for CT’s needs, without regard to what regional mobility overall needed.

      Another thing against an all-99 route for Link is it would obviate the investment in Swift, because Swift would be redundant if Link ran on 99. So CT and Snohomish County taxpayers would face a double loss: a dead-end investment in the freeway “transit centers” and a dead-end investment in Swift. That may be too much for them to face, which is why there’s pressure to leverage the investment in the “transit centers” and to not compete with Swift.

      1. “Another thing against an all-99 route for Link is it would obviate the investment in Swift”

        I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Swift stations are much closer together than the Link stations will be, so Swift will function as an efficient feeder to the Link stations. I’m sure that in the Southend Rapid Ride A will continue to run and be popular even after Link has made it to Federal Way, just because of how diffuse development is along 99. Swift and RapidRide serve different purposes than Link, in my opinion. Plus Swift will have been running for over a decade by the time Link gets built, so not all of the investment will be lost.

      2. “I don’t think they want to move their traditional downtown to 99/196th.” History is funny. That WAS Lynnwood’s traditional downtown. They moved it to the freeway later.

  2. So, not coming to my stretch of the Interurban Trail after all–only from 130th north is it being considered. I like the idea of running it on Linden instead of on Aurora from 130th to the city limit at least. Since they haven’t started the Linden Corridor project yet, the city can incorporate the possibility of light rail into the design. And then it gets light rail off of a major, traffic-heavy road and onto a street that is currently being designed to support pedestrian access and doesn’t currently have that much traffic on it. That would be awesome.

    I still like the idea of the 15th Ave alignment but if it’s off the table, PLEASE bring light rail to Aurora and my neighborhood!!! I dream of a day where I have easy access to the U District and I’m not riding the 358 with a bunch of hookers and their pimps home from work every day.

    1. Oh wait, that’s not the stretch along Linden, that’s north of 145th. Bummer. They really should consider Linden as an alternative from 130th to 145th, especially if they’re considering using the Interurban Trail routing north of 145th.

      1. The best part of a Linden ROW is SOUTH of 130th where it can run at full 60 mph speed at-grade down to 110th. A station at the relatively sharp curve necessary there would be a very efficient link to Ballard and Greenwood.

        The best way to “do Aurora” is to cross from I-5 to the Interurban ROW directly adjacent to the south boundary of Evergreen-Washelli, belly out a little at Evanston and with a station on the curve to the ROW. Full at-grade to just south of 130th with 125th overpassing. Aurora would also overpass the ROW.

        The guideway would have to be elevated from 128th to 138th because of tight existing development but it can land on the west side of the street alongside the Bitter Lake reservoir and occupy the land below the power lines on the west side of the street between 143rd and 145th. 145th would overpass but I believe that 143rd can be at at-grade crossing because of the slower speed of trains entering the 145th station and much lighter traffic than the arterial.

        It’s at-grade to 155th where it has to be elevated to cross 155th, Aurora and 160th, but it can land north of 160th as far as 173rd. To accomplish that safely 167th should overpass, unless a station is placed between 165th and 167th.

        From there to 192nd it would have to be elevated above Midvale for a couple of blocks and then above the grass between Midvale and the trail ROW. There’s a LOT of development around the P&R there. It would be best to tunnel to north of Edmonds Way from there because of all the congestion around AV.

        North of Edmonds Way the ROW should be elevated along the east side of Aurora, swing into the Interurban ROW just south of 220th and run straight along it to the P&R.

        The Linden/Aurora corridor is the best candidate for real development. The freeway is hemmed in by single-family homes and parklands at every interchange.

        Use express buses at a premium fare to continue serving the commute hour riders who would object to the more frequent stops of Link. Then maybe when (if?) Link is extended beyond Lynnwood it would make sense to add a single-track express bypass along the freeway ROW, with only a stop at MLT. To get the most “bang” for the buck, though, Linden/Aurora is far superior.

  3. It’s good to see this move forward, and I’m happy to see that the leading contenders appear to be Link on I-5 and Link on 99.

    I’m also confused why the split BRT option rates best in development, and all I can think of is that since it serves three corridors that’s got more development potential than any single corridor. That seems dubious, as split service would dilute the effect some, and buses don’t tend to increase development as much as rail.

    I haven’t seen the video because I’m in a shared work environment, but I also wonder why the I-5 option does so much better on the environmental considerations, and why there are three categories there. If you take each category as equally important, that seems to weight environmental factors three times as heavily as anything else, which seems too much. I think development potential is more important and shouldn’t be overlooked, and that the 99 Link options are clearly the best in that category.

    1. It depends on what the frequency of the three routes is, and what the frequency of the single route would have been. If the three routes can achieve 15 minutes from 6am-Midnight, then the one route would have excess capacity. But if the one route can only achieve 10 minutes (same as Link), then the three routes would be 30 minutes, which is no better than the 510 and is insufficient to turn a car-oriented neighborhood to a transit-oriented neighborhood.

  4. If there’s a bus to Shoreline P&R, it should continue to Aurora Village. Otherwise people will have to transfer to RapidRide and again to Swift after less than a mile. Why is Shoreline P&R such a hot destination anyway?

    1. In a larger sense we shouldn’t just route Link somewhere because we have previously invested there. It certainly is preferable to leverage existing investments but Link huge investment and just because we have already spent millions here or there doesn’t mean we should also spend billions in the same places.

  5. Glad to see the alternative of running at grade along 99 has dropped out of contention, so far.

    I agree about I-5 needing Link down the middle of it, though that’s clearly to late now with the Mountlake structure being built. It would be relatively easy to cancel the commute side of the heavy rail portion to Everett and go with Link instead.

    As much as I like and am a fan of the “real” trains, I have to admit that having a Link line run north would be a much better use of public funds and serve a greater range of transit users.

    1. The detailed corridor comparisons are at Alternatives Summary Sheets. It includes train and bus headways. All rail scenarios are 10 minutes off-peak. The one-route BRT alternative is 10 minutes. The three-route BRT is 10 minutes on I-5 and 15 minutes on Aurora and 15th. The baseline (no-build) alternative is 15 minutes to Lynnwood and 30 minutes to Shoreline P&R.

      No-build alternative: This is the only one with a Shoreline P&R terminal, which I take to mean they can’t afford to extend it to Aurora Village. It also shows what we’d get if the economy tanks. At least it would extend Link’s reach to Lynnwood, albeit with a 15-minute bus. The Shoreline P&R route would replace the 301 and 303, which would turn peak-only service to all-day but would lose the connection to Aurora Village. I have a further suggestion. Delete the 510, extend the Northgate-Lynnwood route to Everett, and add frequency to the Shoreline P&R route and extend it to Aurora Village. If there’s still money after that, extend it from Aurora Village to Mountlake Terrace (56th Ave W), or give a grant to ST to fill in Swift’s frequency gaps.

      Rail scenarios: I’ll be happy with any rail alignment, although I still think I-5’s speed should not be dismissed. For 99 fans, note that ST is taking the TOD advantages seriously, and is considering stations at 130th, 155th, and 175th as some have recommended. We need a full cost-speed-TOD comparison before we can say which route is most feasable at this time. One caution, the report says Aurora would have to be all-elevated to match the baseline travel time (I-5 bus), but it also recommends considering surface segments to lower costs, which suggests that all-elevated may not be affordable. The tunnel from Northgate to 130th is interesting; it would help speed, and there’s no reason to go to 105th/Aurora unless there’s a station there.

      BRT scenarios: this is what we may get if the economy recovers slower than expected but doesn’t tank. I think North King and Snohomish can at least afford this. The three-line scenario is intriguing considering the lack of frequent buses in the area. The 15th route would also serve the center of Mountlake Terrace. As above, I’d delete the 510, extend the I-5 route to Everett, and add frequency to the Aurora and 15th routes.

      1. As some point in the video, someone remarked that the mixed profile 99 option would require so much elevation that there wasn’t much savings there. Obviously that isn’t an authoritative statement at this point, but looking at google maps I could believe it.

        I’d be fine with any rail alignment, too, although I live downtown, and I can think of a grand total of one destination that I care about (Ikea) that does not have both a one seat bus or rail ride already, and a one-seat rail ride planned.

        Downtown living is rad.

      2. Oh, and another thing culled from the video: public feedback about the BRT system apparently included lots of “WTF? We voted for Light Rail.” Clearly, we all know why ST is going through this AA process, but if the feds agree to fund rail or BRT, but we have to delay the project to afford rail, I’d much rather wait and do rail, maybe with a maximized bus service (baseline alternative) in the interim. Of course, I’m not a likely rider, but that’s my feeling as a taxpayer. ST is likely to suffer in the public eye if they can’t deliver on a promised light rail system.

      3. Well, Bruce, keep those pro-rail, anti-BRT comments coming to the Alternatives Analysis…. if you do, then when they come to a locally preferred alternative, “hundreds of commenters said they wanted rail, not buses” is likely to feature in the rationale for rejection of stupid bus “solutions”….

      4. I wonder, given that the Interurban trail parallels SR99, wouldn’t it likely be the place to an at-grade alignment for the cost savings?

        There are places that intersect major roads that would need to be elevated, but most of the alignment lends itself pretty well to an at grade/exclusive ROW.

        Just getting past Lake Ballinger is the sticky spot.

      5. One of the proposals for getting from Northgate over to the SR99 alignment has it tunneling under the Evergreen Washelli Cemetary.

        Poltergeist revisited.

      6. Jim,

        No need to disturb the dead. See my post above about running directly adjacent to the south boundary of the cemetary. There would be about six or seven homes that would have to be removed. Now those people have a VERY peaceful environment and hence should be very well compensated for the loss of it.

        But it’s a LOT cheaper than tunneling for a mile between I-5 and Linden.

        Besides, a station at 110th and Evanston would be a great place to transfer to and from Ballard and Greewood outside of the Northgate traffic nightmare.

      7. Bruce,

        A mixed profile down the middle of Aurora WOULD require a great deal of elevation all the way from the south end to Aurora Village. It would be much more speed-limited too, because of the autos alongside. The city doesn’t allow Link to go faster than the speed limit on MLK; the same would probably be true on Aurora.

        This is not true of the Interurban ROW, though. It’s owned by City Light and I’m sure they’d be fine with having ST fence it for full speed running where elevation is not required.

    1. I think most of us are leaning towards the SR-99 alignment but that is more of a reflection of our beliefs of what a well designed transit system should look like. This process is about a year and a half behind East Link. I don’t think anyone will be able to make a well informed decision until the alternatives analysis is finished or the draft EIS is out.

  6. I might make an Aurora tour tomorrow. What are the must-see parts of Linden and the Interurban Trail that still have historic TOD remnants?

    1. Not so much historic, but go to Bitter Lake at 130th and walk up Linden from there to 145th. Lots of new development, and at 145th there’s an old Interurban shelter. Actually now that I think about it, some buildings along Fremont south of 105th might be remnants of Interurban-oriented development.

    2. I took the 358 to 155th and walked south on Linden and the trail to 135th. I was going to continue to 73rd but my back was sore so I’ll do the rest later. 130th-140th on Aurora-Linden is a nascent urban village. There are three large apartment buildings (seven stories, a block long, and at least one is mixed-use). Albertson’s, drug stores, other retail/restaurants, a Comfort Inn for out-of-towners, and several patches of open space nearby. It just needs a library. And it has several underused space (i.e., mall-sized parking lots that look bigger than the current businesses need). If the K-Mart ever leaves like it has done elsewhere, that would be another potential site for redevelopment. So it’s a good side for a Link station.

      155th-160th didn’t seem so as much, and it’s scarred by highway-like streets on the west side. I’d been to several of the businesses before but I didn’t look closely at the area this time.

      The 358 was s-l-o-w as usual northbound at 4pm. It’s absolutely ludicrous that Metro doesn’t think Swift is needed on such a long street with people getting off at every single stop. A bus stopping at 46th, 73rd, 85th, 105th, 130th, 145th, 155th, 175th, 185th would be wonderful. But southbound at 7pm was quiet so it wasn’t as annoying.

  7. So one of the options is to run commuter buses down I-5 and another is to run buses with 10 minute headways down 99. Is that right? *blink*

    I’d guess the completion date on both of those would be Monday morning at about 5am wouldn’t it?

    1. Which express buses will run from Northgate to Lynnwood all day, and from Northgate to Aurora Village (perhaps with one or more stops on Aurora)?

      To Lynnwood: #348 (15th NE) to Mountlake Terrace TC, then I don’t know what to Lynnwood. Weekdays/Sat 30 min, eves/Sun 60 min.

      To Aurora Village: #347 (Meridian). Weekdays/Sat 30 min, eves/sun 60 min.

      Or #75 tx 358: Weekdays 30 min. Sat until 10pm 30 min; then 60 min. Sun until 9pm 30 min; then 60 min. (Also 5 tx 358 weekdays daytime only; and 347 (Richmond Beach) tx 358 Weekdays/Sat 30 min, eves/Sun 60 min.)

      To Lynnwood via Aurora Village: 347 tx Swift tx CT 110 (216th SW), or something on 200th SW. (CT buses are 30 min weekdays, 60 min eves until 10pm, Sat 60 min until 9pm) so choose the right one to transfer to!)

      None of these have enough frequency to qualify as a “link extension” (10-15 minute 6am-midnight seven days a week), and most are local routes so it’ll take a long time. Currently it’s even worse because you have to take the 41 from downtown or the 66,67 from the U-district.

  8. Brent: I believe that Lynnwood P&R is a “must” because of its proximity to that city’s future “city center,” which is 196th & 44th as I recall. Lynnwood folks would actually like it extended that far. Similarly, Mountlake Terrace wants its future city center area along 56th to be served. You’ve nailed Shoreline fairly well. Mike: the 244th transit center? I think you’re referring to Mountlake Terrace, 236th, you’re partly right, it was built by CT with partners, one of which is ST, which is closing in on their freeway ramps (3/20/11 expected opening date). Commuter buses serving MLT will go from something like 62 today to just over 200. Hopefully, ST will serve both MLT and LTC on weekends, especially Sundays (when CT no longer has service). If the one at 200th you’re referring to is Aurora Village, that’s Metro’s; if it’s Lynnwood’s, that’s ST’s. A 99 alignment should, in my view, veer off at Aurora Village, and no later than 216th/220th, to serve the Premera/Swedish (Stevens) Hospital area and to minimize duplication with Swift. Swift would still stop at 238th, which Link probably wouldn’t. Shoreline P&R is such a destination due to its size (~400 vehicles), its potential as a transit-oriented development, and easy in and out access. In fact, Shoreline officials want Swift to serve that and beyond, de-emphasizing Aurora Village as a transit hub. Further, they want Rapid Ride to serve about 12 stations in 3 miles of Shoreline, not exactly rapid. South of there, the space in-between in more BRT-like. Comparatively, Swift has stations about 1 mile apart, as CT route #101 and Everett Transit #9 and #7 serve the stops in-between. The latter is the ideal situation. I’m not sure about your last post. Metro #346 goes from Northgate to Aurora Village. #345 goes to Shoreline CC, crossing Aurora at 130th, then changes to a #331 to Aurora Village and eventually Kenmore. #347 goes from Northgate via 15th NE to Mountlake Terrace; catch CT #130 to Lynnwood or a ST bus from the freeway station when it opens…or, catch it at the 145th freeway station northward today. #348 goes from Northgate to Richmond Beach, crossing Aurora at 185th. #75 and the #5 go from Northgate to Aurora to connect with a #358 to Aurora Village. To Lynnwood from Aurora Village: take a CT #130, takes 20 minutes, a single bus. Presently, no express buses from Northgate to Lynnwood, but I’d expect some when Link opens to Northgate, ETA 2020. Your best bet today is probably the #347 to 145th & 5th, then an ST bus at the I-5 station.

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