48 Replies to “East Link Alternatives Visualized”

  1. Can’t sleep either, Andrew? I’m glad you posted this at 2am, it put me right to sleep. ;)

      1. Sorry, I just reread my comments and I’m a snarky ass at 3:30am. My apologies.

      2. Here I was hoping I had cured insomnia just to find I had a part in breeding more snark on the internet!

  2. This really makes me want to get this thing built! I understand a lot of process is required to design and engineer it properly, consider alternatives, allow stakeholder input, etc., but I find myself impatient nonetheless. Maybe that is how those who support the HWY 99 DBT see opposition to that project.

    My other comment is that as with central link I feel like some of the elevated stations are overbuilt. It seems like they turn out to be larger structures than they need to be. Maybe there is no getting around this with ADA requirements and other constraints. On the plus side it looks like bus transfers are being done a little more thoughtfully compared to what happened at Mt. Baker.

    1. And for what it is worth, I live & work in Seattle and make it to Bellevue about 3x a year. But who knows, I might work over there some day…

    2. The DBT situation is more analogous to having this whole B7 vs B2 fight in five years, once initial construction on East Link has started and contracts have been signed.

      1. actually more like if ST had started construction and signed contracts well before the EIS was done.

        Oh and ST would have had to do a much more slipshod job on the Draft EIS.

    1. When Oran drew the Seattle Streetcar Network map, he included a possible extension to the First Hill Streetcar that would go down Rainier S hitting up the Rainier Station on it’s way to terminate at the Mt. Baker station.

      Don’t remember where he got it from, or if they are still considering it for the future (and making it possible to easily expand as part of the construction), but it’s an interesting concept.


    2. Very ignored. But it will have a fantastic transfer from the 48, so it will be fantastic for the entire CD, in that they will be able to avoid a downtown transfer from a low-frequency route. One of the biggest complaints about current service is that the 48-550 transfer is extremely poor and requires hill-climbing in both directions.

      And I think that’s really all the neighborhood wants out of it. If there’s escalators from the 7 stop on Rainier (which there will be, given the elevation difference), it should be an equal or better transfer than the current stair-climb to the freeway bus stop.

      1. Not to be at all anti-light-rail, but it shouldn’t take bringing a train down I-90 to make a decent connection between east-west I-90 transit and north-south Rainier/23rd Ave transit, or to make the freeway stop a less scary place to be.

        It would be anti-climactic if the station were built, and the bike path on the south side of I-90 along the freeway still didn’t connect with transit.

      2. While it may be a dead heat in connecting between East Link and South Link using an express bus between Rainier Freeway Station and Mount Baker Station, and walking across a central platform at International District Station, there may be capacity reasons to have the express bus. Namely, as South Link trains head north from MBS, they get more and more crowded. Likewise for East Link trains headed west from Rainier Freeway Station. The express bus could alleviate some of the crushload.

  3. I’m confused by your title word “Alternatives”. I like this video itself, but this just seemed like the plan that has been Sound Transits’ preferred route, and not a set of alternatives.

    I’ve been living in the Bellevue Central Business District since 1997, and am currently considering moving to Seattle. Perhaps in another decade Bellevue will get rail, but it seems the council has been dragging things out.

    1. There are five alternatives in the video. The ST preferred alternative in segments A, B and D, and in segment C, C9T and C11A.

      Is this the same music as is used in the WSDOT SR520 visualizations? It sounds familiar…

  4. You’re going to need dogs and armed guards to enforce the pedestrian crossing at BTC near the station entrance. People frequently dart across this short little crosswalk even when I’m in the middle of the intersection headed right for it. With a mob of passengers exiting the station after a train arrives it’ll only take one idiot to cross against the light to cause problems. I see this kind of situation several times a week when turning from Campus Parkway onto University Way on the 73. One or two people go against the light and almost the entire group of pedestrians waiting will follow, frequently right in front of my bus.

    1. C9T is the solution. I noticed that they now show three entrances for for the tunnel. Previous designs only had two.

      If only the Bellevue City Council had spent their time figuring out how to finance the tunnel instead of chasing NIMBY dreams.

      1. God, but that BTC transfer point in the surface option is beautiful. I never really realized it before. This being such a central hub on the eastside, an ungodly percentage of riders are going to have bus-rail transfers here.

    2. It bet the darting issue gets solved with a couple long walls of plexiglass. ST wants passengers entering and exiting the station at the far ends, where the You-must-have-POP signs are posted.

      Given that likelihood, I doubt the transfer between the station and the bus bays is much faster than taking an elevator up from the tunnel to the bus bays.

  5. This video saddens me. Looking at this inefficient and meandering alignment only makes me think of what it could have been.

    1. I think you’d have to go back several decades and change how Bellevue & Redmond developed to fix it. The line is mainly following the Eastside growth centers although it is a bit of a tortured alignment, just as the freeways over here are.

    2. The “meandering” isn’t nearly as bad on a light rail line as it would be on a bus. Besides where would you route it instead that doesn’t miss major transit, residential, or transit nodes?

    3. The zoom-out at the very end of the video, showing just the regional satellite shot with the East Link alignment superimposed, had the opposite effect on me. It killed any qualms I had about the alignment in general.

      You can see a pretty clear splattering of heavily developed areas on the eastside, with the alignment spearing through the middle of all of them. It’s not the rail line that’s meandering, it’s the Bel-red development pattern.

  6. This flyover simulation perfectly illustrates my point in an earlier thread about how little likely TOD space is available on top of stations. If you assume the C9T alignment (and given how much the council hates at-grade light rail, it’s the most likely option), the stations break down as follows:

    * Ranier & Mercer Island are in the middle of I-90 — no-one wants to live there.
    * Given the politics of the area, no-one’s going to build TOD in Enatai or Surrey Downs, so S. Bellevue and 8th are out.
    * BTC is underground with the station box in the street.
    * Hospital is elevated.
    * Overlake Village and Overlake TC are by a freeway and the latter is elevated (I think.)

    That leaves 120th and 130th as the only places where TOD might work. 120th has excellent potential because of the layout, and both are flagged by ST as TOD sites.

    Keeping in mind that every new station north of Roosevelt and south of Airport will be elevated, there is essentially zero TOD opportunities out there that are not already tapped as such by ST. The idea that ST is somehow falling down on the job in this respect is just silly; where TOD is economically, technically and politically feasible, they’re doing it.

    1. “Keeping in mind that every new station north of Roosevelt and south of Airport will be elevated, there is essentially zero TOD opportunities out there that are not already tapped as such by ST. The idea that ST is somehow falling down on the job in this respect is just silly…”

      …until you see how all involved parties are completely screwing up one of the few underground stations at Roosevelt…

      1. Which is sorta my point. Even if Roosevelt Station is setting a bad precedent with respect to TOD over or on the station area (which I question), it doesn’t matter in the end, as there are so few other stations out there where TOD is a plausible possibility.

        Note that this is a separate issue from the surrounding zoning and land-use controls which ST can do NOTHING about, nor should it even try.

        If this unfolding drama at Roosevelt proves anything, it is that land-use issues are a MASSIVE political can of worms that we should want to avoid ST becoming involved in, at almost any cost.

  7. Ugh, so much for the pedestrian corridor from 116th to 120th getting better “real soon now.” The hospital station shows the existing parking lot that breaks up the sidewalk in that area with no alternative accommodations for pedestrians. It also shows a lone pedestrian under the tracks – where is that person coming from or going to? As much as I’ll enjoy being able to take Link to Whole Paycheck to shop, the connections in this area – especially to Overlake & Group Health, are going to be crummy.

    1. 130th is actually a little closer to 132nd. The TOD catchment in Bel-Red is from the equivalent of 118th to 138th and from Bel-Red to Northup. Bel-Red goes diagonally so there is more TOD area closer to 118th than 130th.

      If you really want the Whole Foods station to have TOD potential (the car dealerships), make sure to let Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue know! One of the alternatives would be elevated over NE 8th with entrances on both sides. In addition, they may add a crossing on NE 8th with enough lobbying.

  8. I like the South Bellevue alignment here. In the city center though, Bellevue needs to come up with the tunnel cash. Having LRT at-grade is just stupidity: problems with transit time, safety, liability, and congestion.

    I also approve of the 405 north ‘spur’ or ‘tail’ they’ve included near the hospital.

    1. The “spur” is to get to a potential operations and maintenance facility site. There will be no passenger service there, nor is any planned.

      I’d be surprised if it ever ended up carrying passengers north, since the current plans are to extend the line from Overlake TC past Marymoor and hook back to downtown Redmond. I assume that if any line were to go towards Kirkland/Woodinville, it would go from there.

      1. Link to Woodinville from Redmond would be easy to build, utilizing the Redmond Woodinville Spur of the Woodinville Subdivision, however Redmond to Kirkland/Totem Lake/Woodinville would be problematic in both ROW and Grade, unless your route is Redmond, woodinville, Totem Lake, Kirkland (which would be a poor routing choice.
        the Spur mentioned above, would be the best way to extend to the Kirkland, Totem Lake, Woodinville area using the mainline of the Woodinville subdivision.

      2. The idea of a future kirkland/issaquah line making an X through downtown Bellevue has been thrown around, but there’s no actual plans for anything. In the event of that actually happening in our lifetimes, the old BNSF ROW is actually a very good alignment from Hospital Station north as far as Houghton. North of 60th or so in Kirkland, though, it veers back off into less developed neighborhoods.

        From Redmond, a different logical extension is Totem Lake – netting the office parks and apartment complexes along Willow leaving Redmond, and avoiding the low density swath of Rose Hill. I’m making a complete guess here and saying Kirkland will probably get left out in the cold until development in the region demands a 2nd eastside line.

  9. I’m not a big fan of those sharp curves around downtown. I know the current trains can handle it, but what about in the future when we want to convert to heavy rail with longer cars and trains? They won’t be able to negotiate curves like that.

    1. Link is unlikely to ever be converted to heavy rail. There are too many constraints in the system that assume it will be running low-floor LRVs. As for train length, that is mainly a constraint imposed by platform length. I don’t see digging up any of the underground stations to lengthen the platform any time soon.

      Remember that Link is one of the few light-rail systems anywhere that will be running 4 car trains at 3 minute headways.

      Most likely if the capacity of 4 car trains ever becomes a problem ST will order single-ended cars like Portland has done.

    2. Why not build another line instead? If you build a parallel line a few miles away (such as 520 or Ballard), then people closer to that line will switch to it, freeing up space on the original line. Then everybody will be better off because everyone will have a station closer to their destination.

  10. All I can see is underutilzed station after underutilized station. No TOD.

    How confident are we that the Bel-Red Corridor can/will be developeda as imagined? What experiences – in region or with ST – are similar? Anything successful out of region that this can be compared to?

    Can it be developed before the train arrives? or Will the stations be built and utilized with little or no riders? For how many years?

    1. Wright-Runstad has plans in the works for the site at 120th. The rest really depends on what the demand for office and residential space is.

      To that end I do suspect that a certain software company might be interested in leasing office space in the corridor.

  11. I already have an alternative for East Link.

    It’s called South Link.

    (We want it. Bellevue doesn’t. But ST insists on spending money and energy on forcing them to have it while denying it to us. The net result is likely to be a new system — called No Link.)

    1. ST insists on nothing of the sort. It’s called “subarea equity” and it’s baked into the law voters passed creating ST. Money raised on the Eastside must be spent there, and the same for South King.

    1. I agree, there’s no excuse for that many level crossings. The rest of the alignment looks pretty good though.

      IRT the spur: I realize it will be for maintenance etc. but I’m glad they have such a location there, instead of just at the terminus. It would also be a logical jumping off point to eventually link Kirkland in the future, but the extension to Redmond obviously will come from the Overlake TC.

  12. I realize it’s a done deal, but I’m a bit queasy about the routing from Redmond->Seattle via I-90. As long as everyone is going to/from downtown, it works ok (or at least as well as the 545 would, once the new 520 bridge is built), but when you start looking at trips to other parts of Seattle, the appeal looks questionable.

    For example, for anyone going to Redmond from North Seattle, I-90 is way out of the way (would anyone detour to I-90 to drive from Seattle to Redmond without really bad traffic on 520?), plus it forces users traveling from North Seattle to Redmond or Bellevue to go through all the tunnel stops downtown, which adds another 8-10 minutes to the trip. With the new bridge in place, a bus along 520 would be much faster for anyone coming from North Seattle, maintaining service on those buses would become a much lower priority, since they would just be a time-saver, without actually providing coverage. For example, I could totally see off-peak trips from Overlake to Montlake switching from a 10-15 minute bus ride to a 45+ minute train ride because trains are inherently better than buses and the marginal benefits of running the buses during off-peak hours being simply not worth the cost.

    For people coming from South Seattle, the I-90 alignment would provide a small improvement over the current 545 route by avoiding the need to go through most of downtown. However, even for them, the geometry of the train line, requiring a backtrack to the International District to go from Columbia City to Bellevue/Redmond is a significant source of delay.

    I also don’t see how the South Bellevue station and it’s 1400-car parking garage can possibly be built without completely wrecking Mercer Slough and the surrounding area. Construction people have an annoying habit of tearing up a much larger area that what they are actually building on.

    The part of East Link that I think the most important is the tunnel under Bellevue and (maybe) the Bel-Red section if the promised TOD actually happens (I’ll believe it when I see it), plus, of course, off-board fare payment to speed up the boarding process.

    Another concern I wonder about is, if the train goes down I-90, what will happen to the 554? Will the Ranier station accomodate it? Will it have to share narrow lanes with general purpose traffic?

    Sometimes, I wonder…suppose Kemper Freeman had his way. Would converting East Link to a BRT line, using the saved money to build the tunnel under Bellevue we otherwise could not afford really be that bad?

    1. So many questions. I’ll have a crack at a few of them. The I-90 question is addressed here:


      Short answer is that the demand to downtown Seattle is balanced if you do it this way. If you build over 520, you’ll get crush loads from the north and almost empty trains on the south.

      The next thing to keep in mind is that all of the existing Eastside ST routes (except the 550 of course) will stay, although they might be restructured or combined in different ways. In particular, the 554 and 545 will stay in some form.

      People coming from south Seattle might well be on the 7, in which case they’ll have a nice transfer. The curve away through to serve Beacon Hill does add time, but there are tradeoffs to everything. Beacon Hill is one of the best performing stations in Seattle outside of Downtown. If you skipped that, you’d hose the people there. We can’t build Link everywhere.

      Sound Transit is currently building a huge underground station on Capitol Hill — far bigger than South Bellevue — and the entire construction project (except for a tunnel for an entrance on the other side of Broadway, which will require them to dig up the street) is contained behind plywood walls. All you can see is the machinery at work — you should go check it out, it’s pretty cool. If they can do it on Capitol Hill, they can do it at the much simpler construction site at South Bellevue.

Comments are closed.