Photo of painting that reads "Welcome to Fremont -- Center of the Universe"
Welcome to Fremont

One idea that arose from the discussion of the possible Queen Anne-Downtown-First Hill-Madrona restructure that I blogged about a few weeks ago has been mentioned before in other threads, namely the possibility of extending the Queen Anne trolleybus routes up to Fremont. The case for making this change is evident just from looking at a map: the terminus of the 13 is about half a mile from the Fremont Bridge, a gap which is currently filled only by the infrequent daytime-only route 31. This short extension seems to offer the possibility of tying together two city neighborhoods with frequent service.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Such a route entails negotiating the Fremont Bridge — the most frequently-raised drawbridge in Seattle — along with the traffic around the bridge, which can be terrible (especially on the north side). To me, the cost in terms of schedule time and reliability outweigh that advantage, so I’ve always argued against it. Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for this any more, because I have obtained timepoint data make the situation clear, after the jump.

Chart of Comparative Reliability of the Fremont Bridge
Comparative Reliability of the Fremont Bridge

This chart is a normed histogram of the difference from average travel time for a selection of routes. It tells you what percentage of trips on a given route took between zero and one minute to get between timepoints, one and two minutes, etc. This chart puts in context the unreliability of the Fremont Bridge, using two sets of similar data that I happened to have lying around: the 3/4 and 27 data that was used in a previous reliability comparison. Here’s what I see in the data:

  • Route 27 between 3rd Ave and Broadway (traveling via Yesler) is an example of a very reliable route. 80% of trips are within a minute of the average, 96% within two minutes. Only a minuscule number of trips are more than five minutes late. For a well-used bus route using standard buses, this is about as good as you can reasonably expect.
  • Route 3/4, traveling a similar distance (but via James) is a well-known example of an unreliable route. Just over half the trips make it within a minute of the average time, about 15% taking more than four minutes longer.
  • Routes 26 and 28 show the reliably of the Fremont Bridge approaching or departing via Dexter. These route sections exhibit similar unreliability to the segment of the 3/4 on James — if anything, slightly worse, with more long delays over four minutes.
  • Route 30 and 31 approach or depart the Fremont Bridge via Nickerson — the same alignment that would be used by an extension of the Queen Anne buses. It exhibits the worst reliability of all, with just under half the buses making it within a minute of the average.

The bottom line: extending the 13 to Fremont would cause as much additional unreliability as moving the 3/4 wire from James to Yesler would solve, negating the point of that exercise, and perpetuating the current malaise of unreliability that afflicts much of the trolley network in the CBD. I don’t think the benefits are worth the cost in this case.

This analysis has some ramifications elsewhere. Another restructure sometimes floated in comments (and suggested in the 600k restructure scenario) is abolishing the 26 and 28 and putting the 5 on Dexter, passing through Fremont before joining its current route on Phinney Ridge. Like extending the 13, this does a better job of connecting dense neighborhoods, but at a very high price: it inflicts a delay and reliability penalty on many more riders who are merely passing though Fremont than is the case with the 26 and 28, as there are far more riders on the tail of the 5 than on the tails of the 26 and 28.

Ideally, we’d have a bus network that tied together our dense, close-in neighborhoods on a grid comprised of frequent, direct, and reliable buses. Unfortunately, the real world is distinctly non-ideal, and there are no perfect bus routes, only tradeoffs with varying costs and benefits.

Notes on the chart. You can stop reading if you’re not interested in the details of the calculations behind the chart.

The original dataset consisted of recent Metro timepoint data for the nearest timepoints to the Fremont Bridge for routes 26, 28, 30 and 31; and as specified in the previous post for routes 3, 4, and 27. The steps were as follows: for each route, for each direction, for each run, calculate the average time based on all trip; subtract that from all the trip times; bin that data in seven bins from zero to seven minutes, combining the different directions and runs; normalize within that set of bins.

This allows us to ignore dimensions of complexity that we don’t care about (direction, time of day) while preserving the validity of the average with respect to those dimensions. Two minor points: I’ve omitted deltas that were negative and more than seven minutes over, as the former are essentially uniform across all route combinations and the later comprised a very small fraction of any route.

73 Replies to “The Center of the Universe”

  1. Bus tunnel to Fremont? Perhaps a gondola?

    In other words, Bruce, are there any capital expenditures Metro could make which would make the last mile from Queen Anne to Fremont reliable enough to extend the trolleys?

    1. +1 gondola. What a ride from Seattle Center – top of QA – to Fremont, easily an E-coupon ride, and put the tower at the base of the monorail. Wheeeeeee!

    2. Time for that northwest subway, going from downtown to Belltown, Seattle Center, QA/Boston, Fremont, and one or more stops in Ballard, then bending back to 45th for Aurora, Wallingford, (Latona?), and Brooklyn station.

    3. Short of an outright subway, I can’t think of anything that would do the job. Unfortunately, at the moment, we just don’t have the money.

  2. My wife takes the 31 to work in Fremont from Magnolia, and she can attest to the unreliability of that route. It’s not just that it’s late, but that it’s inconsistent. If it were always late you could plan on that, but some days it’s on time, and some days it’s 10 min late.

    I think extending the 13 across the bridge would be a mistake, and is unnecessary. If I did anything, I’d extend it down Nickerson to say Warren St. It would cut the walk time to Fremont in half and wouldn’t ruin the reliability of the route.

    From Warren it would be a nice .4 mi walk to Fremont and N 34th.
    That being said, I just don’t know if there’s that much ridership from Queen Anne Hill to Fremont to justify doing anything.

    1. Better yet, a water taxi route from the base of Freemont to South Lk Union would enable the northbound monorail riders transfering to Matt’s gondolas to be able to get back via boat and SLUT.
      The perfect Quadfecta of transportation planning. What’s not to like about it?

    2. “I just don’t know if there’s that much ridership from Queen Anne Hill to Fremont to justify doing anything.”

      The lack of bus service affects people’s travel patterns and what they think is possible. I’ve known many people over the years who would have ridden a QA-Fremont route if it had existed, but because it doesn’t they either go around (which adds an extra hour to the trip), or walk 20 minutes up/down the hill, or just don’t go to Queen Anne or Fremont at all. Why should the number of people going from Fremont to Queen Anne be less than the number of people going from Fremont to Ballard or Wallingford, if there were an easy way to get there. (And of course, Fremont-Ballard and Fremont-Wallingford are no piece of cake either on Metro.)

      1. Note that Fremont-Queen Anne does not necessarily mean Fremont-Queen Anne-downtown. Given the unreliability Queen Anne inflicts on any bus route (both at the Fremont Bridge and at Seattle Center), any Queen Anne route to north Seattle should probably terminate on the top of Queen Anne rather than being joined to the 13 or any downtown route.

      2. Nor will the creation of an improved transfer for a 2-seat ride from Queen Anne to anywhere else generate much interest out of Queen Anne riders unless the connecting service is very frequent (e.g. a streetcar or TrulyRapidRide).

        As Bruce has demonstrated, Fremont is not the path for top-of-Queen-Anne residents to transfer anywhere else … except Fremont.

        For getting to UW, a route across the Aurora Ave Bridge might be far more effective, if it is a 1-seat ride. I bet there is a market for that ride. But even if there isn’t, having such a route would cause more students to decide to live in Queen Anne.

        Besides, I don’t think there is much market for rides between Seattle Pacific and UW.

      3. There already is a route from Queen Anne to the UW via the Aurora Bridge — it’s the 45X, it performs terribly, and it’s almost certainly going to get the chop at the next restructure.

        This is probably not because no-one wants to make that trip, but because it was designed as a one-way peak commuter express, with limited stops between Queen Anne and the U-District.

      4. If there were a low-prioirity route that ended in Fremont, it could be extended to Queen Anne. But I can’t think of one. The 26 or 28 could do it, but then they’d lose their downtown segment and Dexter would no longer be frequent. The 26 and 28 have been mentioned for deletion, but I imagine things would have to get pretty drastic before rerouting then to Queen Anne would be considered acceptable.

        There is the 31 though, and it could go to Queen Anne and then Magnolia. It’s already crossing the Fremont Bridge so no loss there. I don’t know how much it would add to travel time — ten minutes? — or how many Magnoliaites would be angry.

  3. For those not wanting to read this whole post, let me summarize it for you. It’s basically a very wordy “I told you so.”

    1. Some of us like it when statements are followed by data. Considering many of your positions I can understand your aversion to facts.

    2. That comment is essentially the same as, “He’s smug.” But the article is not berating people for being dumb, or being gleeful that the author is smarter than everyone else. (A fault that the refreshingly humble Sam fortunately does not share.) The article is pointing out a significant problem in transit policy and showing that there are no easy solutions. This article is not only worthwhile, it will be a reference point when we inevitably come back to discussing Fremont routing.

  4. When I hear about a bus being unreliable, and see what you mean by unreliable, I get jealous and think, “Oh, he must live in the Center City. He hasn’t had the joy of waiting for a bus that only comes once an hour, only to have the bus never come (which has happened to me a few times with the 132).”

    But seriously…

    Whether the solution involves better coordination between Metro and SDOT on bridge timing rules (and within Metro on when buses cross), or having bus stops on frequent routes at either end of the bridge, the connection is worth making available.

    It isn’t just about serving the Artists’ Republic of Fremont. It’s also about giving many more residents of Queen Anne a more direct connection to UW, and another connection to the future Ballard streetcar.

    1. I’m pretty sure the Fremont Bridge operator tries to do what she can for the buses. I walk across the bridge 4x or more a day, and I often see her wait to put down the crosshairs if she sees a bus about to come through. But, you can only see the buses at the Fremont stop coming from the north, and at the 5-way intersection coming from the south. I wonder if they have schedules so they know when a bus is coming through or if that’s even a consideration?

      1. I don’t think a schedule would be exact enough for that. Even OneBusAway, at present, isn’t precise enough for the operator to use it to time bridge openings. But, if Metro moves to GPS, a bridge operator using OneBusAway to delay a bridge opening for an approaching bus might be feasible, if we could convince the appropriate authorities it’s worth doing.

    2. There are better ways to provide Queen Anne with improved transfers to the UW, ways that don’t entail damaging the reliability of the busiest (in terms of rides/hr) trolley routes in the city. The way you do it is by terminating the 30 at SPU rather than running it down Westlake/Broad St. This change does not require any more buses to cross the bridge than currently do, but provides a transfer point to the UW of the same frequency as they’d have access to if you extended the 13 to Fremont.

      The Ballard streetcar is not going to be particularly useful to most people in Queen Anne. Even if we built the streetcar and extended the 13 tomorrow, most of the population centers of Queen Anne — Lower Queen Anne and the south part of the hill up to Galer St — are better off using RapidRide, possibly with a transfer from the 2/13. Only people on the east side of Queen Anne can’t get to that easily, and there is a pedestrian trail (although I realize it sucks) from E Queen Anne, across Aurora to Dexter. More likely, if I had to make a trip like that, I’d bus it down from E Queen Anne to Mercer, walk under Aurora and catch the streetcar at Dexter.

      1. The old *30 Laurelhurst* used to terminate at SPU where transfers to Queen Anne Hill were available via route 13. I rode it a few times, but it wasn’t a well used connection.

      2. If we did this, we’d just renumber the all the 30s to be 31s, and then you’d have a “31 C Magnolia” and “31 Sea Pac Univ”. Queen Anne riders would have have frequent transfers from the restructured 3/13 — very frequent transfers (< 8 minutes all day every day) from the top of the hill.

    3. Also, bridge opening rules fall under the authority of the Coast Guard. The city may own the bridge, but the feds have to buy in on changes to the rules.

  5. A new bike, ped and transit bridge over the canal at 3rd Ave? It would have the advantage of being able to carry future streetcar should one ever be built. It would be much cheaper than a tunnel, and would mitigate that massive gap between the Ballard and Fremont bridges for bikes/peds trying to travel between Fremont and N. Queen Anne.

    1. There used to be a railroad bridge connecting S. Ship Canal Path to the Burke-Gilman trail crossing the canal. Just about where you proposed it at 3rd to 1st Ave NW. Make it transit, ped and bike only, and bypass both bridges.

      1. To make a new bridge more reliable for transit it needs to be higher above the water than the current Fremont Bridge. The reason the Fremont Bridge opens more often is that it isn’t as high above the water as the other bridges. Many vessels that can pass under the Ballard and University Bridges have to call for a bridge raising when they get to the Fremont Bridge.

  6. Didn’t the monorail project plan to spend about $45 million on its bridge to Ballard? I would imagine that a new Fremont bridge would cost about the same amount, which is totally beyond the realm of the possible at this time. I do like, however, the concept of combining transit, bikes and pedestrians together and providing a shared ROW, separate from motorized travelers. It’s an idea that should be looked at in the future when other projects are being planned and designed.

    1. Or we could build a new Ballard Bridge for Westside Link.

      It’s a significant capital investment, and we get much more bang for the buck that way.

  7. In case you’re curious, it would take about 12 minutes to get from the Seattle Center, up over QA hill (stopping twice), and back down to Fremont via gondola. The time from the north station on QA down to Fremont would be about 5 minutes. We’d only have to pass over a few houses and buildings at the bottom of the hill near the water, but the gondola could still be pretty high at that point. I’d land right next to the BG Trail in a mostly unused parcel a block west of Theo Chocolate, but there are lots of good options around there for a station.

    I’ve added the Fremont line to my Cap Hill/SLU/QA map.

    1. At first I kind of scoffed at this idea as being serious, but the cost/benefit begins to make some sense on some level. I’d love to see a ‘non-hatchet-job’ inquiry into the costs/ridership/technical challenges with the L-line.
      Matt, could it be one wire from Fremont to CapHill, or would you have to transfer cars/cable at Seattle Ctr?

      1. I believe you’d want to change wires at Seattle Center, but this is completely transparent to the rider. The same cars continue on, pausing only to stop at the station.

        The only situations I can think of where gondolas wouldn’t make sense: long distances, very frequent stops (though only for cost reasons – all the cost is in the stations), or if you have the money for grade seperated rail.

    2. Keep in mind that the gondola would need to cross the ship canal at the same height as the Aurora Bridge. The design air draft on the canal is something like 115′, it you notice the Aurora and I-5 Bridges, as well as all the powerlines are around the same height. Anyhow, it’d just mean that you couldn’t swoop down off of Queen Anne with the gondola cable, but it’s still a pretty cool idea if you could work it out.

      And before everyone starts in on the 115′ foot thing, I routinely haul derrick barges through the canal that only miss the Aurora Bridge by ten feet or so.

      1. Gear info. I knew there’d be some requirement, but didn’t realize it was that high. We’ll probably have to move the station a bit north – maybe 36th.

      2. I could be a little off, but basically it’d have to be as high as the Aurora bridge. I’m not too up on gondola technology, maybe you could duck across the canal and then have a fairly sharp downhill section to lose some altitude in a hurry. Of course at some point you’ll get back to where tunneling under the canal seems like a better way to go.

  8. First of all, what about the scenario of extending the 13 to the tail of the bridge, with a layover/turnaround at Florentia? This seems to avoid the bridge unreliability, while at the same time providing a more convenient one-bus connection to North Seattle. No matter where you’re going, that seems like a better transfer point than SPU; you have easy access to the 5, 358, 26/28, UW, and Ballard (whether or not the 17 is moved to Leary).

    But besides that, I think there’s a broader point. Currently, a number of buses go over the Fremont Bridge. You’ve shown, pretty convincingly, that the Fremont Bridge is a source of unreliability for the bus system. So my response is, if that’s true, then why should we run *any* buses over the Fremont Bridge?

    The 26 is scheduled for between 14 and 20 minutes between 3rd and Union and Fremont. The 5 is scheduled for between 11 and 16 minutes for the same trip (well, from 3rd and Pine). And, of course, this does not take into account bridge openings.

    So what if you rerouted the 5 to head up Bridge Way to Woodland Park or Stone Way, then turn right, loop around to Fremont and 34th, and head north on Fremont? When you combine the extra cost of the loop with the savings from taking Aurora instead of Dexter, the scheduled run time to Fremont should be about the same, but without the unpredictability of bridge openings.

    (Note that the 70-series northbound morning expresses use exactly this kind of circuitous routing, and for exactly the same reason; it’s faster to take I-5, even if it drops you off in the wrong place, than it is to take Eastlake.)

    The 26 would be rerouted over the University Bridge (skipping the Wallingford E-W segment), while the 28 and 31 would be rerouted over the Ballard Bridge. The 17 would continue to provide service on Dexter/Westlake (albeit not both) and Nickerson. There are lots of things to do with the 30 — reroute it over Aurora, or over the Ballard Bridge, or stay north of the canal and go to Ballard.

    Anyway, I’m not saying we *should* do this, but I’m wondering out loud if it would make sense. Getting buses off of unreliable streets just seems like a no-brainer. And consolidating nearby buses on a single corridor, like Aurora or 15th NW, is just generally a good idea. (If we ever get transit lanes for RapidRides D and E, these rerouted trips will only get faster.)

    1. If we adopt this strategy, I would merge the 30 and 31 and send them to Ballard, and possibly through-route the 26 and 28 (or adopt Metro’s 71-26 combination proposal and find something else to do with the 28) and not send them downtown at all. In fact, I’m tempted to say the 17 should inherit the 31’s Magnolia leg (of which only Fisherman’s Terminal isn’t duplicative of another route) and let another route serve 32nd Ave NW.

      1. Also, the problem with extending the 13 to Florentia is traffic on Nickerson, especially when the bridge opens. I’m surprised to hear the north side is more of a traffic bottleneck than the south side.

      2. How would you get from Fremont to downtown then? Only on the 5? The 5 stops a couple blocks uphill from downtown Fremont, which may not be that long a distance but it gives the impression “it doesn’t really go to Fremont”. On the other hand, given the obvious bottlenecks at 34th and on the bridge, perhaps the problem is really downtown Fremont’s location, and it’s just not reasonable to have a stop at 34th in the middle of all the traffic.

      3. Mike,

        My proposal is to serve Fremont with a bus route that takes Aurora from downtown, exits at 38, then does a loop until it reaches the existing stops at 34th and Fremont. (Whether this is the 5 or the 26/28 is somewhat immaterial.) Circuitous? No doubt. But by avoiding the Fremont bridge, it has the potential to be faster, or at least more reliable, than a direct routing.

        In the event that the 5 gets rerouted to serve Fremont, this could be especially useful, since it would mean that riders from points north would not be subject to Fremont Bridge delays.

        I fully realize that this is [a] crazy, and [b] not as simple as I make it sound, since you’d potentially have to build some infrastructure to keep buses segregated from bridge-queueing traffic (at least heading south). But, in my defense, the Aurora elevator idea is pretty crazy too. :P

  9. What about bus lanes and queue jumps on both sides of the bridge? There’s certainly enough room in the ROW. It would require taking out some parking and some car capacity, but if a bus can get out in front of the lines of cars waiting for the bridge, that would take care of at least a big portion of the unreliability. Right now when the bridge opens the bus might be stuck at the end of the line of cars. Then when the bridge closes the bus still has to stop at one more stop to load/unload, something it could have been doing while the bridge was open. Bus priority would be a cheap solution until a new, higher bridge can be built in the far-off future.

    1. The queue jumps would have to be about four blocks long on the Fremont side, and of not insignificant length in every other direction. Won’t happen for buses, won’t happen for the streetcar.

      I’m finding myself increasingly annoyed at the mayor and at The Stranger for buying into the “16-minute” streetcar “solution.” Lies and lies and lies and everybody drives everywhere forevermore.

      The solution is do obvious that it has already been approved for study: Ballard-UW spur, 2.25 miles bored, 0.75 miles cut-and-cover. Grade conflicts: none. Ship canal crossing: already taken care of. Travel time from Ballard to downtown: 14 minutes and passes through every other major activity center in this city. All-day ridership: exponentially higher.

      But instead we have to waste our time, money, and political capital polishing turds.

      1. I don’t doubt that, Oran. You tend to be on the ball with worthwhile projects.

        But the voters also approved it “for study” in 2008, as part of ST2. Too bad “study” equates to “defer” or “abandon all hope of action upon” in Seattle-speak.

        I actually hadn’t seen your proposal, though. Is that on the surface, or all cut-and-cover? My hunch is that the former would lack ample space through Wallingford and be to slow to be worthwhile, and that the latter would have too much construction impact to be politically feasible.

        Also, while it would be amazing to have a line that served all major centers north of the ship canal (including Fremont), the many diversions required would blunt its impact as a through-route. My hunch is that map looks more MAX Yellow Line than the corridor needs.

        Here’s mine that I finally got around to creating recently:

        At some point I’ll post it with an extended rationale for why it beats all other proposals, including RapidRide and especially the streetcar.

        But the short version is: three options, each presumably deep bore as far as 6th Ave NW and then cut-and-cover the rest of the way to 15th/17th Ave NW (two entrances). North or middle option probably preferable due to the much lower costs.

      2. It’s actually bored east of Fremont and elevated along Leary to under Ballard. I thought that if it’s grade-separated it wouldn’t hurt to divert to central Fremont. The Stone Way stop was added later but not necessary. And since I don’t live in Ballard I really don’t know where to end it. I like your East Ballard station and putting the station a block off 45th/Market because tearing that street up would be impossible politically.

      3. I don’t really like the idea of a spur line because it would cause confusion in the DSTT. Rather, I like the idea of using the spur as a starter line which would stop in Ballard, Fremont, Brooklyn, University Village/Childrens Hospital and then go up Sand Point Way before crossing to Kirkland through a new bridge at the southern tip of Magnuson Park annd go from Kirkland to Factoria or Issaquah via BNSF, downtown bellevue tunnel, se 8th, richards road, kamber road, and Bellevue College.

      4. I don’t know how it’d be any more confusing than the Airport/Bellevue split going southbound. BART branches off in 4 different directions with some branching twice.

        Also, if you don’t connect to the Link main line then you’ll need to build a separate maintenance base for the spur. They’ll need to build another one post-ST2 anyway but heavy works still take place in SODO under that scenario.

      5. Also, while it would be amazing to have a line that served all major centers north of the ship canal (including Fremont), the many diversions required would blunt its impact as a through-route. My hunch is that map looks more MAX Yellow Line than the corridor needs.

        I’m probably missing something, but when I look at the bottom line of your (d.p.’s) map, and Oran’s map, they look pretty much the same…

        Anyway, though, here’s an alternate alignment proposal:

        – Diverge from North Link at Campus Parkway. Build a second U-District station at Campus Parkway and Roosevelt (approx).

        – Cut-and-cover along 40th to Woodland Park, then south to 35th, and west to Fremont Ave, where you build the next station.

        – Continue on 35th until it ends, then switch to a surface alignment paralleling the Burke-Gilman and the rail line

        – Build a station at 24th and Shilshole/54th, with a small headhouse at 24th and Market

        This should be much cheaper than boring/elevating, since you’re mostly using existing right-of-way (grade-separated, too!). And you hit Fremont, which I believe is much more important than hitting Wallingford.

        The main downside is that you split the frequency in the U-District. And I admit that’s nontrivial. But you could imagine boring out to 45th and Woodland Park, then switching to cut-and-cover and heading south.

      6. Another point in favor of the spur is that you only need two service patterns, one east-west (Ballard to Bellevue) and one north-south (Northgate to Seatac). No confusion at all, just two lines, and a short segment (U-District to ID) where they share track.

      7. Of course, the reason we’re studying the streetcar is because ST isn’t going to approve another package for possibly another decade, so there’s probably no money for any tunnels.

        The real solution, of course, is light rail to Queen Anne and Ballard, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

      8. I just wish that we were a little more forward-thinking at times like this, and gave some thought to building a wye, or something similar, into the tunnel between Brooklyn Station and UW station. It’d be a lot easier and less disruptive to get it done while the tunnel’s being built rather than wait until it’s in service. A little something like that in one or two spots at this point could save us years worth of hassle later on.

        Even if it was just to the point of diverging the bores of the tunnel in the vertical plane twenty or thirty feet or so between those two stations, so that it’d be easier to tie in another set of tunnels someday. Although in all fairness they might already be doing that.

      9. DP,

        Sorry, ST has already foreclosed on your east-west solution. Brooklyn Station is not “stacked”. The northbound and southbound tracks are at the same level, so there’s no opportunity for a route division just north of the station. Even assuming tight “New York Subway” curvature and very steep grades, the northbound to westbound flying junction would have to reach north to near 55th before it could pass under the main tracks. Don’t even THINK about a level crossing…..

        Metro made the same error in the bus tunnel. The turn between Pine and Third should have been stacked.

        Other than that your idea is excellent. It puts trunk transit in the only east-west corridor in Seattle that can support it and ties downtown Ballard directly into the regional system.

      10. Well, is it too late to re-do a bit of the engineering for the tunnel north of the Brooklyn Station? I’d imagine you might have to reconfigure a few things, but from an operational point of view would it make much difference to drop the one tunnel down and bring the other slightly shallower for a little ways? If you made a little tweak like that now it’d sure save a lot of pain in the future if that east-west line ever went in. Anyone have any thoughts on who to suggest such a thing to?

      11. Stacking Brooklyn Station is more than “a little re-engineering.” Given the constraints they’re working with, with the big buildings next door, the cost of digging deeper, and the logistical challenges imposed by trying to send two TBMs through that neck of the woods on top of each other, it’s never gonna happen.

        Can’t say I blame ST for that one. If the tunnel were cut-and-cover, it might be a different story.

      12. I knew it would cause trouble to post that map, then head to the airport the next morning without a proper computer on which to reply. Short answers…

        Oran, despite my use of a very wide Google Map, I put a great deal of thought into every station location. Thank you for noticing.

        My reason for the wide map is to show just how much density and how many activity centers would be served for so little actual track. Obliterates the argument that we “need” 8 extra miles and a lake crossing to Kirkland to justify it; that’s totally out of balance. Also shows how much better it would actually perform per mile of construction than even Morgan’s Ballard-QA-Belltown subway — my hunch is it would perform better period, and without the need for another canal crossing.

        Aleks, I look forward to providing more explanation when not typing on a tiny iPhone on Link.

        Anandakos, not needing to stack is maybe the only real benefit of light rail over subway. Junction-style crossing in tunnel, with a good signalt system. 10 second delay compared to a stacked split, and perfectly safe. Occurs in every light-rail tunnel in the world.

        p.s. Thank you to Oran and S.T.B. for the schedule posted a while back that showed exact Link departures on the :07s. After sleeping through three alarms and leaving Ballard 45 minutes later than I had originally planned, it totally saved me today!

      13. “But the voters also approved it “for study” in 2008, as part of ST2. Too bad “study” equates to “defer” or “abandon all hope of action upon” in Seattle-speak”

        That’s unfair to say in the case of Sound Transit. There’s no evidence that ST has neglected this study, or that it won’t fulfill its mandate to release a study. It’s prioritizing the North Corridor first because the mandate says “build the North Corridor” and “study 45th and Renton-Burien”. I wish they would build 45th now because the need is there and acute, but the voters would never have agreed to increase ST’s budget in ST2 to allow that.

      14. Anandakos et al.: d.p. is exactly right; there’s nothing wrong with a level crossing at all. Furthermore, they’re used everywhere. Boston has one on a segment of the Green Line where trains run every 90 seconds during peak
        Will there be minor delays? Sure. But it’s *so* much better than the no-build alternative that I’m willing to live with those delays.

        Morgan: I don’t see why you say that the “real solution” is a line to QA. Compared to a QA line, a E-W spur is far cheaper *and* far more useful for anyone who wants to go from Ballard to other points in North Seattle. As much as I’ve been advocating a Fremont-QA connection, even I have to admit that the demand between Ballard and the U-District is *much* stronger than the demand between Ballard and QA would ever be.

        Oh — and don’t forget that an E-W spur which goes downtown can serve as a natural terminus for tons of North Seattle buses. Depending on the routing and stops, we can split/shorten some routes (e.g. the 5, 16, 17, 18, 26, 28, 30, 31) so that they completely avoid crossing the ship canal (at least off-peak), instead terminating at one of the new stations. That’s a huge operational savings.

        A QA line does have the advantage of serving the west part of Central Seattle south of the canal, and it *might* also provide a faster route to downtown from Ballard. But it completely fails to connect Ballard to the #2 regional destination, and the service it provides to Belltown/QA comes at the expense of *all* of NW Seattle.

      15. I’m hesitant about anything that dilutes the downtown-Northgate frequency as a spur would. We’ve worked incredibly hard to get at least one ultra-frequent route in the city, and it’s only going to realize its potential if it stays frequent. So I’d rather have the 45th line as a shuttle rather than a spur.

        As for DP’s routings, any of those would work. It would be stronger with a transfer to RapidRide E though.

      16. I’m hesitant about anything that dilutes the downtown-Northgate frequency as a spur would. We’ve worked incredibly hard to get at least one ultra-frequent route in the city, and it’s only going to realize its potential if it stays frequent. So I’d rather have the 45th line as a shuttle rather than a spur.

        The frequency to Northgate would be unchanged from today. The only difference is that the *extra* frequency to Northgate that we’d get from East Link will instead be sent to Ballard.

      17. For what it’s worth I wasn’t talking about stacking the tunnels at Brooklyn Station itself, but rather having them diverge a bit vertically as they left the station. You’ve got 20 or more blocks before Roosevelt Station, and with that amount of room I’d think you could separate the bores enough without it being too big a deal. After all, you’ve only got to make yourself one tunnel diameter’s worth of room, so 25 feet at the most would do it I’d think.

      18. D.P.

        Level crossings do not occur in the Muni Metro tunnel which is the only one in the US built since the 1920’s. The route split at Duboce is a flying junction. The exit to the surface at the foot of Market is a flying junction around the tail tracks.

        The junctions within the MBTA Green Line are traversed (slowly) by trains of at the most two cars while Link will be using four car trains at some time in the future (or they have wasted beaucoup buckos on those huge stations). It will not be “10 seconds” for a level crossing delay. It’s more like a minute that the crossing is “fouled” (that’s a term of art in the rail industry) because the turnouts don’t snap like your HO train set’s.

        The only other “LRT tunnels” in North America are in Pittsburgh in the West Hills (no turnouts) and the mile and a half in downtown and crossing the Allegheny River. No turnouts except cross overs for track maintenance run-arounds and at the tail track.

        The only place that a tunneled LRT has undergound level crossings is in Boston. So you prefer early 20th century standards?

        Frankly I have no idea why ST chose light rail technology for Link, because they’re building BART-North. Had they taken a deep breath and said “you know, we’re a really big city with serious geographic barriers that limit mobility; we need a real subway” and gone with HRT they’d have saved tens of millions on all the tunnels they’re boring by allowing a smaller diameter (no catenary).

        It didn’t take all that much whining from Bellevue to get ST to elevate and/or depress Link all the way past downtown over there (which I think is definitely the right thing to do; no complaints here). They’re not going to put North Link at grade anywhere, and it doesn’t look like South Link will be on the ground either. So where exactly is it that “light rail” is needed? Sure, MLK is at grade for three and a half miles, but it really didn’t need to be. There certainly aren’t enough stations to make elevated impossible.

      19. And Aleks,

        You CAN’T “diverge at Campus Parkway”. UW has flatly and finally ruled out any tunnel under the south portion of the campus so the line is to belly north under Denny Yard and Parrington Lawn. There’s some $50 million physics lab they don’t want to move.

        Now, you might diverge under the campus and dive the north to west track under the curve into Brooklyn Station and by so doing eliminate the big loop to the north. But I doubt ST or people would like two stations with alternating service six blocks apart. Students can make the walk to Brooklyn.

      20. At the first topically-appropriate opportunity after I get back to Seattle, I intend to repost that line map and address all of the loose ends from this post, including the rationale behind all the chosen station locations (for Oran), why even the longest of my options is about 3/4-mile shorter than Oran’s prior plan and why serving Wallingford and its walkshed directly makes more sense than serving downtown Fremont directly (for Aleks), why an excellent connection to the 5 corridor is a greater priority than a transfer to an incidental/unreliable segment of the otherwise long-distance-oriented 358pidRide (for Mike), and just generally to refine the arguments for why this line is the most necessary project on or near any table and why we should be fast-tracking it rather than diverting our energies to lesser projects that look okay on paper but would have little impact in the real world.

        Anandakos, I generally agree in principle that true subways are better than light rail, the latter being a late 20th century euphamism born of Americans’ fear of anything too “urban.” I have explained to many Seattle transit neophytes why it makes little sense to spend $8 billion on light rail when for just a billion or two more you could have an exponentially better true subway.

        But we’ve got light rail. Why not take advantage of one of light rail’s few advantages?

        Your Muni example is the outlier, not the other way around. Philly’s subway-surface lines (1950s) have in-tunnel grade crossings. Pittsburgh’s in-tunnel crossing was designed for branch services; they just happen to be dormant.

        The MBTA’s Green Line is decades overdue for a signaling upgrade; it’s the technology that makes it slow, not the form of the junction. And they’ve run 3-car trains on the D line over the years, without incident.

        More importantly, Western Europe has tunnelized and pre-metroed dozens of its streetcar systems over the last 50 years, with myriad branches and higher frequencies and carrying capacities than in Seattle’s wildest dreams, and it all works perfectly well.

        So you prefer early 20th century standards?

        Yes. I prefer solutions that allow us to build something vital rather than putting something vital on the backburner for generations and suffering the much worse fate of trying to fudge “mass transit” out of 7-mile streetcars over drawbridges. That’s a total no-brainer.

      21. Another thing. “Early 20th century standards” gave us the Paris Metro and the New York subways and Boston’s so-easy-to-use-it’s-ridiculous system.

        “Late 20th century standards” gave us a Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel so deep and labyrinthine and irritating for transfers that politicians and bloggers want to build a slow-ass streetcar right on top of it.

        “Late 20th century standards” have evicted hundreds of New Yorkers from their homes and “necessitated” 7-story ventilation towers every five blocks of 2nd Avenue.

        “Late 20th century standards” have made projects only politically feasible if they travel dozens of miles and go out of their way to improves the transit options of as few existing transit users as possible.

        So, yeah. There are a lot of reasons to prefer the old way.

      22. @Anandakos You yourself presented an excellent set of reasons not to built elevated through the RV. Of course, maybe we should have built elevated straight down I-5 to Tukwila and SeaTac, but at that point we’re talking about rebuilding and redesigning the whole system from scratch.

      23. Bruce,

        You’re right: I didn’t and still don’t think the diversion through the Rainier Valley is appropriate for the long term Otherwise-Regional-Metro that ST is building. MLK is right for light rail, it’s just not right for a trunk line that is eventually planned — or maybe more rightly “is blue skyed” — to be 30 miles long. I was just pointing out that, with the possible exception of the two mile long stretch through the Bel-Red corridor, MLK will be the ONLY section of Link with at-grade road crossings.

        Using HRT would have saved enough on the nine total miles of tunnels (and on operations with the higher-volume trains) to pay for three miles of elevated along MLK and the two along Bel-Red. With the higher speeds that HRT sustains the belly east would be less of a barrier for deep South KC riders.

        I agree strongly with D.P that the right Ballard solution is the cross-town “spur”. I just would like to see it built using modern engineering that matches the high level of investment the rest of the system is receiving (except MLK and MAYBE — unless the Bellevue City Council extorts from ST again — Bel-Red).

        Brian’s idea to depress one tunnel and elevate the other vis-a-vis the “level grade” is what happens at Duboce and is a very good way to avoid steep grades. But even that would require the route division to be somewhere about 50th I expect which means you have to diagonal across Wallingford farther before you get to 45th. Stacking Brooklyn would allow the division to be at a slow point so that the radius could be somewhat smaller than farther north where speeds will be higher.

        Maybe diagonaling isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if one intends to pick up Fremont along the way.

  10. My favorite pie-in-the-sky Fremont-Queen Anne connection doesn’t use the Fremont bridge or local bridges. It uses Aurora and the future RapidRide line. Basically… there’s a bus lane on SB Aurora north of 46th, and then south of there there’s a bunch of weirdness. From the satmap and what I recall from driving it, there’s a bunch of super-confusing exits/entrances and some street parking (?!?). So, you know, delete a bunch of the intersections and all the street parking (srsly, wtf?), and make the right lane for buses and entrances/exits only all the way across the bridge. Also make the right lane NB a bus lane along this stretch. This requires lots of paint and maybe a little concrete, nothing special. So here’s the crazy magic: bus stop at 35th and Aurora. Build a couple of big elevators down to ground-level from each side of the bridge. Bam. The 5 and 16 can serve this stop, too. Insert below engineers telling me why such structures cannot be built. And also politicians that don’t want to anger people by deleting general traffic lanes.

    Now, to serve Queen Anne… um… actually I don’t have anything for Queen Anne that even reaches the low bar of plausibility I’ve set with my Fremont solution. Maybe an elevated busway cutting diagonally through people’s backyards from Aurora to the middle of Queen Anne, then through to downtown. Let’s just go as stupid as possible.

    1. This is exactly what I was thinking. We could just have the 5 and RR E serve the stop at 35th and Aurora, and then you have a bus every 5-7 mins from Fremont to downtown, and also on a much faster route than taking Westlake! Its win-win, and all it really needs is a couple elevators. The bus lanes would be nice, but not required to have RR E and the 5 and whatever else stop there.

    2. Or put the stop at 36th for a “troll” stop! :)

      If the Aurora Bridge could support trolley wires, you could conceivably route the 13 or 3/4 (preferably the latter so the 13 can still serve SPU) down Queen Anne Drive and the Raye/Halladay system, then deposit them wherever on the other side of the bridge. You might be able to eliminate a route this way; maybe make it a reroute of the 16 up Taylor Ave N (no trolley wires required!) and cut the 3/4N. This also takes care of the 16’s Seattle Center Maze.

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