Projected Travel Times (SDOT)

With the internet once again ablaze with talk about Westside light rail, it’s a good time to mention my essay on the subject from 2009, which I think has held up pretty well.

What’s changed since then is the city’s fiscal situation, already dicey last spring and continuing to deteriorate. Meanwhile, this is thinly sourced, but I’m hearing the cost obstacles to even a half-hearted line to West Seattle continue to mount. Furthermore, my more reliable sources tell me that city officials that discussed federal New Starts options with Sen. Patty Murray were told flatly that any such money was going to go (sensibly, in my view) to Sound Transit 2, rather than any sort of city project.

However, there are rail projects that cover many Westside neighborhoods and are still affordable, affordable enough to fall under the federal “Small Starts” program. Obviously, rail projects fall on a continuum between streetcars mixed with traffic and light rail that isn’t. Traffic separation can be achieved with money, as when Sound Transit rebuilt MLK to preserve auto right-of-way, or with political will, overcoming local interests to repurpose on-street parking or lanes of traffic.

I’m of course talking about the Ballard/Fremont streetcar, last seen in the city’s May 2008 report. At a midpoint capital cost of $155m — much smaller than the future seawall measure, for instance — and 26 months of construction time, the SDOT report projects 10 minute headways all day, 15 minutes at other times,  16 minutes from the Commons to Westlake, a net annual operating savings of $1.1m, and 2.2-2.7m annual riders.*

It’s appropriate to treat preliminary study numbers with a bit of skepticism. Ridership may very well be lower if the rest of the network isn’t built out, and costs will escalate as mitigation claims come in. Moreover, there are numerous mobility-enhancing extras, like an extra ship canal crossing, that would cost tens of millions more.

For all we know, the Transit Master Plan may actually suggest an affordable path to building full-blown light rail from Ballard to West Seattle. If that doesn’t occur, a souped-up Ballard streetcar would be a dramatic improvement for one quadrant of the city, return many benefits of full light rail, and fall well within the available resource limits. Combined with some transit, bike, and ped projects for the rest of Seattle, and sufficient political will to make sure Ballard rail is fast, this is something Seattle can do and will vote for.

* By comparison, Central Link had about 7m riders in 2010.

73 Replies to “Westside Light Rail and What’s Possible”

    1. The Downtown-SLU-Fremont-Ballard streetcar would connect with Link at Westlake (it’s only 1 block of walking), and would connect with a future westside light rail line at 15th & Market. At that point it would be both a local circulator and a feeder system. This streetcar would be a smart investment. Rather than spending money on a light rail line that is decades away in any reasonable forecast, spend the money on a “rapid” streetcar that will provide mobility in just a few years. There is tons of right-of-way along Westlake (currently parking) that could be turned into exclusive bus/streetcar lanes without taking car lanes. There really only needs to be one stop along Westlake, so that stretch could go quite fast. The stretch between Fremont and Ballard may also have opportunities for exclusive bus/streetcar lanes if people are willing to give up parking and/or car lanes in certain areas.

      1. Not to mention that some of that parking along Westlake was the streetcar line to Fremont and beyond.

      2. “There only needs to be one stop along Westlake”. WHAT!?!? This is a STREETCAR, not light rail. It should certainly stop at all activity centers, and there are quite a few between Broad and the Fremont Bridge.

        BUT, it would be massively better were it to hang a Louie at Highland and switch over to Dexter where the PEOPLE and JOBS are. Dexter is close enough to serve the new mid-rises going up along the east side of Aurora. Follow the feet.

        Also, from Dexter it’s possible to launch a mid-rise car line bridge just east of the Aurora high span landing just north of Raye on the Dexter end and at 35th and Aurora on the north side of the Ship Canal. From there car lines could serve Wallingford as well as Fremont/Ballard.

        No, it doesn’t make sense to do that immediately; use the Fremont Bridge for a dozen years (although the traffic jams will be horrendous). But buy the necessary property at the south end to preserve the option.

        Go where the people and jobs are. Westlake will always be mostly parking lots because of the houseboats.

      3. That fact that it happens to mechanically be a streetcar does not dictate the stop spacing, just as it is nowhere written that a bus has to stop every quarter mile. This streetcar is intended to be a Fremont-Downtown express, and in that function it will free up space on the 26/28 for people on Dexter. There is exclusive ROW for the taking on most of Westlake; that is simply not the case on Dexter.

        Streetcar only bridges are not in the cards either. Ever.

      4. Well here we are on opposite sides again. Where are you going to find adequate ridership to justify an “express” service between the Fremont Bridge and South Lake Union? Yes, there is a very nice urban village between 34th and 37th and two blocks wide just north of the Fremont Bridge. But there’s no compelling view along the south base of Phinney Ridge that would attract mid-rises to the Leary corridor. The Ship Canal is pretty for about four blocks west of Fremont than rapidly degenerates into decrepit industrial facilities on both sides of the channel. Maybe all that would get re-developed with a streetcar, but it shows no signs of it yet.

        So how are you going to fill the cars if you whoosh along Westlake? It seems to me that developers and residents have put put a big bet on Dexter as one of the densest streets in Seattle more than a couple of blocks long. I understand that the size of the street is a problem, but Westlake is really a bit too far and over most of the route, too different in elevation for a line along it to serve the Dexter corridor.

        And finally, when I said “it’s a STREETCAR” I didn’t mean that the vehicles in some way determine the stop spacing (although currnently they DO limit top speeds). What I mean is that streetcars are supposed to make relatively more stops than Light Rail because the routes are shorter and reservations are rarer. So they just have to go more slowly.

      5. “So how are you going to fill the cars if you whoosh along Westlake?”

        People in Fremont and eastern parts of Ballard who want to go downtown quickly?

        More generally, streetcars have two purposes: they can (depending upon how grade-separated they are and what signal priority they have) more far more people, faster and more reliably than buses. They also spur TOD and density by providing high quality transit where it doesn’t already exist. Different lines have different purposes: the Central Line would exist to replace part of the 1/2/13 trolleys that, in a decade, could well be overloaded; more development isn’t the point. The U-Line is a mix of both.

        The Fremont segment of the Ballard-Fremont line is largely about development. Providing people there with a fast ride to SLU and Downtown is about the best way I can think of (that we can afford) to make TOD take off there. Dexter doesn’t need that stimulus; moreover, the Fremont line will reduce the load on the 26/28, benefiting people on Dexter.

  1. Yup. The other nice thing about this “Ballard via Fremont” route is that it’s not going to be rendered obsolete by a future ST2-built “real” LR line which would almost certainly go through Queen Anne and Interbay.

    It’s also worth noting that streetcars can scale up to carry a LOT of people if the line is engineered with that future capacity in mind:

    http://www.ameritram.com/technical_innovation_features.php

  2. What implications would a Ballard-Fremont streetcar have for the route taken by a Westside light rail line? I’m thinking specifically of east-west mobility north of the ship canal. Does that essentially force us into building rail to Crown Hill?

    I would think there are more TOD opportunities south of 65th Street.

    1. I doubt rail will built north of central Ballard, there just isn’t any large anchor north of that area to justifies the cost.

      1. I would really like to see a rail connection to Greenwood, but I’m not sure how that would realistically work.

      2. Greenwood/85th does seem like it could support a rail connection.

        The idea floating around in my head right now is Link up Elliott/15th to an underground station at 15th and Market, then turning under Market to reach 50th and Fremont, then continuing east to a second level station at 45th and Brooklyn. This eliminates the 44 (shadow service would be provided by other local reroutes, or perhaps an extension of the 49 to Fremont.). From there, it can reach Kirkland via 520 or (more likely) a surface alignment on Lake City Way.

        The Ballard Streetcar would run from Westlake to Fremont, then 36th/Leary Way to 8th Ave W, up to Market Street, then west to 24th Ave W, then North to Loyal Heights. This eliminates the 18. An extension could later be built along 85th to serve Crown Hill and Greenwood.

        The 28 is rerouted to turn west on Market to Leary Way, then south to the Ballard Bridge and continue on the route of the former 18.

        A streetcar spur would continue north from the Fremont Bridge up Fremont Ave to the Link station at 50th Street. Perhaps a future extension up East Green Lake Way to 65th.

        The 15 remains on its current route to shadow for RapidRide. Obviously, the 15X is eliminated.

        Net result: streetcar service on 24th, where there is demonstrated demand for and willingness to build multifamily housing. Grade-separated east-west travel north of the ship canal. Frequent service from central Ballard to central Fremont. Nobody loses their one-seat ride to downtown, though it might get slightly longer. Lines oriented towards future expansion.

        -=-=-=-

        Alternatively:

        Link north on Elliott/15th to Crown Hill (85th and 15th), then east to stations at Greenwood, Aurora, then joining North Link before entering Northgate Station. Splitting off again north of Northgate to follow Northgate Way to Lake City Way, and then on to Kirkland.

        Ballard Streetcar follows current plan of ending at the Ballard Commons.

      3. On your “Alternatively” I could also see that link line connecting up with North Link on Aurora if they put a station at 130th.

      4. Or follow the interurban right-of-way to Lynnwood. That is a little beyond Seattle I know, but it would help with the I-5 or Aurora question.

      5. Actuallly the Intermediate Capacity Transit study the City did a few years back shows a nice ridership increase from extending from Crown Hill to North Greenwood, Oak Tree/Aurora, and Northgate. The logical extension of such a line would be Lake City. By providing a transfer at Northgate you increase ridership on both lines with network effects.

  3. I think it would be good to take a look at current ridership numbers. Since the monorail it has just been assumed that West Seattle to Ballard is the next place to get rail. That might be the right priority but I think it is worth revisiting that discussion now with the Transit Master Plan, mostly the West Seattle part.

    1. I know I’m always spamming STB with this link but I’m gonna do it again:

      https://seattletransitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/spr_2009_ridership.jpg

      From the top, excluding non-Seattle routes we have:

      48: hilly, windy, ideal for electrification
      7: bad design, RV service should be restructured according to Martin’s post to put downtown riders south of Genessee on Link
      358: RapidRide route, possible Link route on the north end, maybe a good future streetcar route
      36: hilly
      2: busiest segemnt through Belltown overlaps with Central Line streetcar, the rest is hilly
      41: to be replaced by Link
      3,4: hilly
      5: hilly, might make sense for electrification
      120: possibly part of a future LR corridor? Should definitely have been a RapidRide corridor.
      15,13: possible future LR corridor
      49: hilly, replaced by Link and FHSC
      75: weird route that should probably be split up
      43: hilly
      44: giant hill right in the middle, otherwise would be a perfect streetcar corridor
      7x: to be replaced in part by Link
      14: hilly
      10, 12: hilly
      28, 26: kinda long for a streetcar or electrification
      70: proposed streetcar. Also, this stat understates the Eastlake corridor’s ridership because the 7x run in place of the 70 on Sundays and at night.

      Everything below that has less than 3.5k daily riders.

      What I’m getting at here is that the people who did the streetcar feasibility study, for all the somewhat glaring faults it has, didn’t just pull those corridors out of a hat. They’re basically the handful of places where demand is high and likely to get higher AND have topography that’s tractable to modern rail systems.

      1. Not spam at all. Notice the lack of West Seattle routes. If I count correctly there are four Ballard Femont routes that all individually have higher ridership than the 54.

      2. The graph has been posted several times but I’ve never seen an analysis of the most popular routes.

      3. Looking only at the 54 is a teeny bit unfair to the Junction as you have to add in the riders from the 55 and maybe some from the 22. (Of course, there are plenty of riders who use the 66 in preference to the 70 on Eastlake, too).

        Regardless, we agree entirely in our conclusion, namely that Downtown-West Seattle is not a blockbuster ridership corridor in the way that Ballard and/or Fremont are, especially when you consider how much cheaper those places are to build to. I think think appropriate level of service for the Junction right now is RapidRide.

      4. For W Seattle (and any other corridor really), I think it is more important to look at the aggregate ridership of the overlapping routes. For instance, the ridership on the 54, 55, 21, and 22 together from the Junction area to downtown probably demonstrates a higher potential ridership in the corridor than just looking at the individual routes.

      5. Oh I forgot the 21/22. Combined those two have a little less than 5k daily ridership. the 54, 55, 21 and 22 has a combined ridership of ~10.7. The 15, 18, 26, and 28 combined have a ridership of ~20K.

      6. Modern streetcars can climb surprisingly steep grades. For example, I think the route 44 climb from Ballard up to the Phinney neighborhood would not be a problem for a streetcar. Nor would route 43 up the hill from Montlake.

        Seattle certainly has some hills that are too steep, but a streetcar can handle a surprising grade.

      7. Those AmeriTRAMS I linked to earlier can climb 9% and the SLUT trams can climb 8%. That’s not much at all.

        According to my Google elevation mapping skillz, Market St has an 18% max grade.

        http://veloroutes.org

      8. It is not even remotely possible that Market St has an 18% grade. The diesel buses couldn’t handle an 18% grade. I don’t think the grade exceeds 8%.

      9. Yeah, I take back the 18% comment. I still think it’s steeper than you’d want a streetcar going up. Could Oran or someone else with GIS tools weigh in?

      10. According to my memory of the design meeting for the building replacing the old Ballard Library, 24 th Ave NW at 59th St has an 8% grade. Unless my memory is wildly deceiving me, I have no reason to doubt the max grade on Market St approaches 18%.

      11. The 120 and 125 ALSO run to West Seattle, and would provide a significant amount of ridership onto a rail line, and would allow savings in truncating those bus routes at a rail station.

      12. Re: truncating the 120 & 125…
        Only makes sense if the rail line goes all the way into downtown (via an existing or new tunnel). If the on-the-cheap rail solution is to force a transfer at SODO, imagine living on Delridge and having your one-seat ride downtown on the 120 being taken away and replaced by a two-transfer ride! No way, no day.

  4. The recent US N&WR article listed some metrics for how they rate transit, but it’s doubtful that “diverse modes” was the only reason Portland ranked #1. People have reasons to hate transit entirely or support transit despite its flaws. Mass transit is simply a fundamental mode of urban/suburban travel that succeeds or fails depending upon how it is designed. Portland and Tri-Met aren’t fairly comparable to larger metropolitan area systems, but Portland still has one of the best designs with many elements that do apply universally.

    Portland is once again awarded #1 status because downtown traffic is amazing well-controlled through a combination of means, starting with Portland’s ‘idyllic’ pedestrian infrastructure and amenities, separate bicycle pathways and orderly on-street routes, the fareless free rail zone, cheap city-owned structured parking, a business-supported transit funding mechanism, and urban planning that enhances storefront small business environment.

    Motorists are subconsciously signaled to slow down, enabled to park easily, finish any routine trip walking and hopping on the fareless, convenient light rail trains and streetcars. Suck on that, Seattle, and guess what; Mayor Mcginn is right to oppose the poorly engineered piece of sh*t bored tunnel lunacy and right about the surface boulevard option. Seattle DOT and transit agencies are failing again.

      1. Haughty Seattle incompetence and failure, cjh. Portlanders don’t look down on Seattlers as ‘littler’ though were the intelligence difference measurable, Seattle would be the juvenile between the two. With the bored tunnel, be prepared for its utter failure and ruinous damage to infrastructure and reputation. Spend some money on a damage control spin plan.

    1. Interesting. What is Portland’s transit share of Journey to Work trips? and is that increasing or declining? How about Seattle?

  5. The high costs being charged to Washington for light rail are disgusting.

    Why are we the highest in the nation?

    Other areas get light rail for as low as $20 million a mile, yet we turn cartwheels at “only” being charged $179 million!

    For the money spent so far we should have light rail everywhere.

    We should have skipped all tunneling and just run it up and down 99 and then south around the end of lake union, up I-405 and then along 520.

    No tunnels. No bridges. Just good flat light rail with parking at the stations and feeder bus lines for hills.

    Could have been built already for money spent.

    1. Hilarious. You should come visit Seattle sometime – it’s a great place, and we have good food and beer.

      1. Bail’o whatever…

        Dude, you don’t even know your local geography. You should leave this discussion to the locals — you know, the people that actually live here.

    2. “The hills” are where most people in Seattle live. If you don’t put stations within walking distance of the neighborhood centers, people won’t ride it. If you live on Beacon Hill or Capitol Hill, you’ll take a 99 line if you’re going a long distance like to Tacoma or Lynnwood, but not if you’re going a short distance like to UW.

      1. Light Rail Along Road Rights-of-Way: a Cheap Solution to an Expensive Proposition

        As a result, some have labeled this plan little more than a streetcar, whose slow pace and minimal capacity make it more useful as a development tool than a transportation one. Others are convinced that the project will morph into a multi-billion dollar mini-metro like Link, a high-cost concept into whose face city budget experts are afraid to look.

        But Mayor McGinn’s proposal is neither of those things — it’s an effort to build a cost-effective rail transit line on the model used by cities across Europe, known typically as tramways.

        http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2010/03/25/light-rail-along-road-rights-of-way-a-cheap-solution-to-an-expensive-proposition/

    3. “We should have skipped all tunneling and just run it up and down 99 and then south around the end of lake union, up I-405 and then along 520. No tunnels. No bridges. Just good flat light rail with parking at the stations and feeder bus lines for hills.”

      Yep, no bridges or elevated viaducts there. Just flat, flat land. Last time I drove through town on I-5 I thought I was in Nebraska.

    4. You’re correct, Bailo. The tunnel to UW wasn’t necessary. I-5 Express Lanes were originally designed for light rail. Even up to the 1980’s, the DSTT rail led to a ramp to the Express lanes north. Aurora too is a rail corridor option. The key to making light rail work is still how connecting-transit transfers are designed. Your figure of $20 million a mile though is for the simplest surface route segments. Elevated and tunnel segments average over $100 million a mile. Some rail supporters know what they’re talking about, some don’t. Same goes for rail opponents. I agree with many of your comments and appreciate your effort when it’s clear (to me anyway) that you’re trying to present your argument fairly. Seattle’s DOTs and transit agencies are “Old School” AND suspect.

      1. “You’re correct, Bailo. The tunnel to UW wasn’t necessary. I-5 Express Lanes were originally designed for light rail. Even up to the 1980′s, the DSTT rail led to a ramp to the Express lanes north.”

        No they weren’t. The First Hill neighborhood association pushed for that, but it wasn’t implemented by WSDOT. From two esaays on Historylink;

        “As the State Highway Commission began planning the Interstate-5 Freeway, local officials begged it to include a right of way for future rail transit. The state replied that the cost, an estimated $16 million, was “too high.””

        “Mitigation of the freeway’s impact on Seattle was apparently a low priority to all but a few citizens. First Hill residents also suggested that the freeway plan should include “a complete mass transit study made as to the feasibility of putting mass transit in a median of the freeway or alongside it. Such far-reaching suggestions fell by the wayside, and freeway construction rushed on.”

        The tracks pointing towards I-5 at Convention Place Station were just wishful thinking. And BTW, the tunnel didn’t even open until 1990.

  6. I’m losing interest in a Westlake/Fremont streetcar and I’m afraid it would be counterproductive in the long run. The highest-traffic subway corridors in the area are downtown-QA-Fremont-Ballard-(45th-UW) or downtown-QA-Fremont-Aurora-Wallingford-UW. (Even if a subway backtracks it would still be fast enough to be an “express”.) Fremont is a natural truncation point for the 5, 26, and 28. It’s a natural stop for a Ballard-Fremont-40th-UW bus. So Fremont has all the ingredients for a major transfer station (aka transit center) but nobody’s planning one. It would be difficult to site given the narrow congested streets, but the arguments for it are compelling. Such a station should certainly be designed for a future subway if it can’t be built initially. A downtown-Fremont-Ballard subway would get more riders than downtown-Interbay-Ballard. Interbay is an automobile area with large parking lots that’s resistant to change, while Fremont is very transit-happy.

    A Westlake streetcar would serve less than half the transit corridor: Westlake but not Dexter. And the streetcar station may be put someplace that’s not suitable as a long-term multimodal transfer station, which means we’d either have to move it later or suffer suboptimal mobility forever.

    Ideally you’d want to site a streetcar someplace where it would absorb most of the traffic in the neighborhood, and where it would best complement future light rail. Eastlake scores better than Westlake on both those. Eastlake has a lot of houses/businesses who heavily use transit. Even after Link is built, a streetcar would be heavily used because Capitol Hill stn and UW stn are way too far away. But for Westlake, if a Fremont-downtown subway were built a lot of people would switch to it, and the streetcar would lose some of its purpose. Only those wishing a slow scenic ride or going to the maritime shops would use it. So the streetcar would be better than nothing, but not as effective as investing the money in something else.

    1. The Fremont streetcar would essentially be an express from Fremont to Downtown, stopping only at Galer St. I agree there’s more demand on Dexter, but much of the load on that corridor is downtown commuters from Fremont.

      An all-subway alignment is simply not in the cards. That’s why Interbay is attractive. Northgate-UW-CH-DT as a corridor DWARFS the ridership of Ballard/Fremont/QA in any combination. That’s the only reason we can justify the vast expense of tunneling for that segment.

      1. I want something similar to what Mike wants. I agree that a subway isn’t in the cards for the near-term, but I’d rather build it in segments as we can than build surface light rail and miss a huge opportunity.

        We should plan a West Side Subway from the stadiums to Fremont. Start with the section not parallel to the DSTT, building north from 2nd & Pike (colocated with a new streetcar line) to Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, Queen Anne, possibly SPU, and Fremont. Surface north of Fremont at about 46th, possibly building a station that bridges Aurora to improve pedestrian connectivity there.

        Eventually you can extend northward on Aurora or add a spur at some point to Ballard (I can see a case for a Y on either side of the Ship Canal.) Build south from the stadium area after getting to Ballard. I’d rather build to both Fremont and Ballard than to West Seattle, which has tricky terrain and more questionable ridership. Probably you build that and the central portion at the same time with a 2nd Avenue tunnel parallel to the DSTT, when it’s finally at capacity. If it weren’t for the DBT I’d say do that tunnel as cut-and-cover to save money, but the DBT is going to complicate any transit tunnel in the area where it crosses over, whether it’s bored or cut-and-cover. One more reason not to build the all-car DBT.

        The Seattle Streetcar is a separate thing and if we were going to do surface rail in the near-term we should do the streetcar along 2nd and then to Jackson (light blue on the network map).

      2. No-one’s going to build cut’n’cover on 2nd Ave. The entire Downtown Seattle Association would lay down in front of the diggers.

        And you can’t build a bored tunnel in short stages. You need to build a mile or two at a time, minimum.

        Bored rail tunnels start at $150 mil/mile and go up. At grade starts at $20 mil. At grade through Interbay is the only serious choice.

      3. Why a 2nd Avenue tunnel? A 5th Avenue tunnel to 6th Ave South would work even better, as it would provide for transfers at both Westlake and wherever the line crosses over Link on its way to West Seattle in SODO. It also would serve the upper part of downtown and the lower part of First Hill in its walkshed, rather than putting another line in the same walkshed as the existing subway.

        I do like the idea of building out incrementally–Link probably should have been handled this way in the best of all possible worlds, which would have probably allowed for grade separation in the South End. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

        Interbay is probably the line of choice, as there is development potential there, a transfer feed point from Magnolia at Dravus and possibly cheaper land. The 1968 rapid transit plan used that alignment…and a Westlake streetcar would tie into it at Ballard and Westlake Stations, working well in that regard.

  7. It’s hard to believe that the Mayor is actually committed to this. To date he has done almost zero for Westside LR, and he only trotted it out again the day after the entire political establishment “declared war” on him over the DBT and Elway came out with a poll showing that locally he is only slightly more popular than George Bush. He intends this as a distraction, and he desperately needs one.

    Plus, at least as of earlier this week, he had not had one substantive conversation with anyone at ST on this. It’s sort of odd that someone who is supposedly serious about LR wouldn’t talk the local agency that has all the experience designing and building LR. And ST is on the hook to study exactly what he is proposing to study – seems like a little meeting is in order, but no…

    Na, what McGinn really should do is to work with ST to get their study moved up. Fund it with a loan from the city to ST and adjust it so as to nail down the eventual Westside LR corridor.

    Once you have the corridor nailed, the city should focus on building supporting infrastructure like connecting streetcars. That is something the city can afford to do now and can do on its own.

    I’d start by funding at least the design phase of the Aloha extension, and then expand the SLU SC to something a bit more substantial.

  8. Re: “Projected Travel Times”

    Um, no. Those are “streetcar-advocate’s wishful-thinking travel times,” pulled from thin air and unable to withstand an ounce of scrutiny.

    Seven minutes from the Fremont Bridge to Westlake? Valley and Westlake are more than seven minutes apart already! Nine minutes from Ballard to cross the bridge? We must be getting absolute signal priority and closing 36th to all vehicles! Right!?

    Can those numbers please stop showing up to mislead in each and every streetcar post?

    1. Exactly. The 26 takes 16-19 minutes from Fremont to downtown (weekdays peak and midday). 26E takes 11-13 minutes. The 15 takes 26-27 minutes from Ballard. The 15E takes 21 minutes.

      The SLU streetcar takes 10-11 minutes just to reach Mercer; that leaves 6 minutes to get to Fremont to equal the 26. So there’s no express without bypassing SLU, which won’t happen because of SLU’s historical role in the streetcar and the fact that it’s a growing area. If they can figure out a way to make significantly better time in SLU — as in actual signal priority and removing the 7th stop — then it would be a better downtown-Fremont-Ballard route.

  9. “For all we know, the Transit Master Plan may actually suggest an affordable path to building full-blown light rail from Ballard to West Seattle.”

    Not unless a lot of liquid magically transforms into solid. Or you have a very loose definition of “affordable.”

  10. Thanks for this one, Martin. Since my travel day generally includes either LINK or the 511, or both, the Route 17 local is my usual ride Downtown. Ride is pretty, but terribly slow. Route 18 isn’t much faster. 40 minutes for that trip is ridiculous.

    The Fremont-Leary Way routing seems right. Industrial neighborhood between the Ballard Bridge and Fred Meyer looks to be ready for development- increasing ridership heavily. Has also always seemed strange not to have any direct service at all between Ballard and Fremont north of the Canal.

    Have seen estimate of about $150 million for a transit, pedestrian and bicycle bridge past Fishermen’s Terminal- possible good complement.

    Question: Major bottleneck for Fremont streetcar is downtown Fremont. Have seen streetcars fit comfortably into parks. Good idea to run it along the Canal, joining Leary at 3rd Ave. W.?

    Mark Dublin

  11. When will we hear Metro’s decision about keeping or eliminating the trolleybuses? It seems like a lot of things are waiting on that, such as electrifying the 48, 8 and 11.

    1. Metro will make their decision this summer, then the final decision will be made by King County as part of its budget process this fall.

  12. The main problem that I have with the Westlake streetcar is that it can’t really replace the 26/28 service along Dexter if it hardly stops. It still should have a couple stops along Westlake so that they don’t have to run duplicative service but that rapidly densifying corridor can be served with adequate transit. Also, I’m not sure the Fremont to Ballard portion would end up with much ridership.

    1. Westlake is rapidly densifying? It was mostly houseboats, a city parking lot, boat dealers and a hellishly steep embankment last time I was there.

    2. Also, keep in mind that you’re always going to have to run the 17 down Nickerson, as there’s plenty of houses there, plus SeaPac. It’s not much more expensive to run it down Westlake than Dexter.

      North more than 1/3rd of a mile north of Galer St, no transit on Westlake is going to be better for the people at the top of the hill than the transit on Dexter. I think the merit of the Fremont-Ballard alignment is to move people quickly from the urban village residential / employment area in Fremont to SLU and Westlake station so that the 26/28 can focus on the Dexter corridor.

  13. Slightly off-topic but how’s this for a crazy idea:

    Start a bored tunnel near the northern terminus of the monorail, popping out just south of the junction between Mercer and Elliot. Run elevated down Interbay, tunnel under the river and build a monorail yard and terminal in the industrial area near Leary. Rearrange bus service to connect there.

    Build a stub tunnel on the south end under Seattle center and construct the tunnels to by light rail convertible. Someday, when we have more money, do a second bored tunnel through downtown and convert the whole lot to rail.

    This gives us a high-capacity Downtown-QA-Ballard shuttle with no downtown tunneling, that could be converted to integrate properly with a regional system in time.

    1. Bruce,

      You said it yourself: “a crazy idea”. The geometry of monorail and light rail are quite different. Monorail trains have a four to five foot overhang below the floor for the horizontal guidewheels straddling the beam. That means that in a tunnel the station platforms would have to be at least five and a half feet above the base of the guideway. I suppose you could fill in the bottom a couple of feet when you converted to LRT but it would be not be simple.

      But the elevated portion is definitely not convertible. The straddle beams for a monorail are much lighter than the box structure that supports light rail trains. You’d have to seriously over-engineer the supports for monorail on the chance you might someday replace the overhead way.

      You said it yourself.

      1. The elevated portion down Interbay would be knocked down and built at-grade.

        Like I said, this particular idea was just brainstorming.

    2. A properly designed monorail is comparable in capacity to light rail. It would be “crazy” to retrofit a monorail line to a light rail line as any capacity increase you would get – if any – would not be cost effective. It would also be crazy to build a tunnel for the monorail as it wouldn’t need it. You’d be better off just building the northern half of the Green Line monorail.

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