Pat McCarthy

Last week the Sound Transit board took action on a bunch of major items:

In related news to the last point, I think it’s now fairly clear that the Seattle City Council doesn’t think rail to Ballard is a very urgent priority. Or, they’d rather stymie the Mayor than have a good policy outcome. Either way, shame on them.

37 Replies to “Big ST Board Meeting”

  1. It’s our job to tell the City Council that we want rail to Ballard – and that we want it to be faster than driving, like we’re doing with University Link and North Link.

    1. I’ve got some ideas about the reasons why local government has had such a hard time coming to grips with things like street rail these last couple of decades. As agencies and as people, current generation is not very comfortable with machinery.

      A lobbying group of citizens with the civil and mechanical engineering expertise to more or less design a streetcar line to Ballard, and then explain in detail to politicians what’s necessary, what’s possible, and what it will cost might finally start turning intentions into progress.

      The last monorail effort might set a cautionary example on the importance of grounding every transit-related idea in firm practical reality.
      But another lesson is that a streetcar line with that level of citizen effort behind it would probably get built, and work.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Why are we so obsessed with sending streetcars off into the distance? Does anyone have numbers to show that streetcars perform better than buses on longer routes? That is, can someone point me to a holistic study covering total cost of ownership as well as performance metrics? Right now, I’m pretty convinced that streetcars only pencil out as the superior option for short, well-traveled routes in dense neighborhoods, not point-to-point travel over medium-to-long hauls.

      2. NO but I can show you a study of how my ass feels after sitting on a bus for an hour in traffic or how my stomach feels as I’m riding sideways trying to read in stop and go traffic.

      3. Considering the seats on a streetcar should be small, plastic, and oriented sideways, you’re not helping your point here. If you want to get bang for your streetcar buck, you need to encourage standing. That means short trips.

        My complaint with the long bus rides is actually with my knees: they are always pressed against the seat in front of me because we have these ridiculously padded seats. I can’t wait until the 6000s roll out with their Link-style seats.

      4. The only problem with the last monorail effort was that we could not afford to finance the project with the approved funding mechanism.

        We should advocate for better local funding options as part of next year’s transportation package in the Legislature.

  2. Agreed, Ben. And same goes for many more decisions that we need from our elected officials and aren’t getting. What do you think is good strategy and tactics?

    Mark Dublin

  3. There are two Ballard to downtown rail corridors — the one in Sound Transit’s plan that follow the Rapid Ride corridor via 15th Ave. W. and Elliott Ave, and the other via the Ship Canal, Fremont, and Westlake.

    And there are two modes at issue also — light rail as in Link, and streetcar as in South Lake Union, not to mention some undefined thing called Rapid Streetcar.

    Which mode(s) in which corridor will be studied by this $2m? Or is everythng up for grabs, in which case, who will do the grabbing?

    1. I think this is an important point in understanding why the City Council put the kibosh on McGinn’s proposal to study transit to Ballard. The TMP does not address the Interbay corrdior at all, which is obviously the superior choice for real transit investment. The TMP only focuses on the Fremont alignment, and it is my understanding (as corroborated by this Publicola article) that the mayor’s proposed budget would only have studied this alignment.

      If that is accurate, the City Council made the smart move in not wasting three quarters of a million dollars on the inferior alignment. Thankfully ST has stepped up to fulfill their obligation to study actually-productive corridors. Hopefully the Council is able to allocate the appropriate funds to contribute to ST’s study.

      1. It seems to me that any study should do a proper alternatives analysis without any preconceptions about what is the good route or the bad route (or what the right mode is, for that matter).

    2. Three corridors. Studying Ballard-downtown via the U-District is every bit as legitimate as studying downtown-Overlake via I-90 and Bellevue.

      1. Absolutely…possibly even better as it opens up more possibilities via future extensions.

        There’s no reason that after a crosstown line is built (Brooklyn-Ballard) that future extensions can’t be planned, one of which could continue downtown via either 15th or Westlake.

      2. Yes, a 45th line (with transfer) has to be studied alongside the direct Ballard-downtown routes. The 18-express is 18 minutes; the local is 26-32 minutes. Link to Brooklyn is around 10 minutes, plus 5 minutes transfer. That gives the train 3 minutes to match the express (unlikely), or 10-16 minutes to beat the local (easily).

        So it kills three birds with one stone: (1) Competitive time to downtown. (2) A line to the UW “for free”. (3) A crosswise routes supports more trips than a parallel route because of the ability to go multiple directions; here, to Northgate/Roosevelt.

      3. We should also study a non-transfer route, i.e. an at-grade crossing. I’ll ignore the reasons why I think that’s better (since we’ve been over it already); the point is that it’s a realistic option, and even if it’s not the best one, it should be studied.

      4. If you can interline from Brooklyn to just north of Roosevelt, it would open up the entire Lake City Way corridor–which is the best route to the NE and to the northern eastside (Bothell, Woodinville). There is a tremendous amount of TOD potential in LC.

      5. Aleks, what specifically do you mean by “a non-transfer route; i.e., an at-grade crossing”? Do you mean a downtown-Ballard route via one of the bridges? Or do you mean a downtown-Brooklyn-Ballard route?

      6. Yes, we can study the Ballard branch. Let’s get an official alternative on how much impact it would on Roosevelt-Lynnwood headways, and what the true maximum capacity is. Then we can argue whether that’s acceptable. :)

  4. The Interbay corridor has the others beat hands-down when it comes to constructing the line with minimal disruptions to local businesses. But still what about the Ballard bridge? I have to say that a tunnel here is to far-fetched for me to believe.

    Is`San Diego’s light-rail considered streetcars? They seem to serve the entire metro SD area fine, so I don’t quite see Kyle’s arguments about a bus serving long distance better, but I may be missing the point.

    First step, build a new Sounder platform a Dravus. See how many people start to show up at it to take the train downtown. Way better than dealing with the Number 2, that’s for sure!

    1. But still what about the Ballard bridge? I have to say that a tunnel here is to far-fetched for me to believe.

      I expressed my skepticism here as well, but all things considered it doesn’t strike me as nearly as fantastic of a dip under Shilshole Bay as it takes to clear the Montlake Cut from Capitol Hill Station. It might involve reconstructing the Emerson/Nickerson interchange.

      Is`San Diego’s light-rail considered streetcars? They seem to serve the entire metro SD area fine, so I don’t quite see Kyle’s arguments about a bus serving long distance better

      The San Diego Trolley operates in dedicated ROW. The outer reaches are grade separated with miles between stations, like the segment of Link between Rainier Beach and SeaTac. In the city, it operates in dedicated at-grade ROW, like Link in the RV. I haven’t ridden the system south of Petco Park, so I don’t know what it’s like on the stretch to Tijuana, but it appears to run in dedicated ROW just like the northern extent of the Orange and Green lines.

      The Mayor’s proposed Ballard Streetcar would have been street-running south of Mercer and through Fremont/Ballard. The only dedicated ROW would be on Westlake Ave N, where such accommodations are unnecessary—traffic already moves plenty fast on that segment compared to the rest of the route.

      First step, build a new Sounder platform a Dravus. See how many people start to show up at it to take the train downtown.

      This is an interesting idea, assuming Metro service is restructured to provide all-day 31 service to the U-District via Dravus St as planned. Otherwise you’re serving an industrial wasteland (that happens to be where my office is, but that doesn’t help me any).

      But who would ride it? Sounder ridership is paltry as it is; once U Link is completed, why would you get off at Dravus to ride a bus to the U District when you could take the train one more grade-separated stop to King Street and change to a subway? You’re only serving Snohomish to downtown Fremont at that point. If you’re already in the city, are you really going to trek to Interbay to change to an expensive glorified express bus?

      And all of this is thrown out the window by the utter unreliability of North Sounder.

      1. The 31 on Dravus idea has apparently been canned in favor of the current alignment, which I think is most unfortunate.

      2. No, reliability is good on the Northline, it’s the PR that isn’t. The reason I suggested the stop at Dravus is because I think a lot of people would get to Interbay just to get to downtown easier, that’s the way the southbound No.2 was. I used to live right in front of a stop on the Hill and watched everyone crowd into our ‘hood from out of town or from other parts just to get aboard the 2. Then the dang thin became so freakn’ crowded…that was back in ’96.

        Plus, places like Illinois have stations very close depending on which line, one at Dravus or the Magnolia Bridge would fit nicely, I think.

        The Line to San Ysidro is the same(did it two years back), dedicated ROW. So my question is, why can’t they do the same with the proposed Ballard Line? It would have the space to do it if using Interbay. At least from downtown to the bridge, and then like you said a big rework of Emerson/Nickerson interchange.

      3. I’m sorry, but North Sounder reliability is nowhere near acceptable. The rain has held off so far this winter, but last winter it was a laughable nightmare of mudslides.

        Having grown up riding the Long Island Rail Road, which has stop spacing similar to South Link, I’m not opposed to commuter rail. I’m even in favor of Sounder stops in Ballard and in Belltown. But I believe attempting to serve Ballard-to-Downtown commuter traffic via Dravus Street will be an exercise in futility.

    2. SD would be considered light rail by most people. They run as multi-units and have lots of their own right of way. They’re mostly built on old freight corridors, and I think they’re rebuilding some of the older platforms to provide level boarding, but don’t quote me on that.

      If we’re going to build rail through Interbay, we should build it fully grade-separated, with a tunnel. Go big or go home.

      1. I don’t think grade separation is necessary between Prospect and Dravus. It’s already impossible to make left turns on that street. Let’s discourage it and make the road safer.

      2. Let me slightly clarify that: fully exclusive ROW. No signals, no bridges. Whether that’s in the median or elevated, I don’t care.

  5. Why a three and a half mile spur from the West Seattle Alaska/California Junction to SODO Link Station is not being looked at baffles me. It could work. The density in the California Avenue area is increasing rapidly. And we are talking a relatively short branch line. Much easier than a line to Ballard.

    In spite of what Ben S. believes. Rail already exists to Avalon in West Seattle. I repeat, already exists.

    1. Risk/reward? Ridership studies are prohibited from factoring in potential upzoning. Ballard is already zoned for higher density. Building a line to Ballard is relatively low project risk, if high cost (and thus higher financial risk).

      That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it. I’d love to see Ballard-West Seattle via a 2nd Ave subway, as the first stage of service continuing to Lake City and Renton. But in the meantime, Ballard is ahead of West Seattle on the list.

    2. I think it’s worth pointing out that a line to Ballard could *also* be a three-and-a-half mile spur, and it would serve a corridor with much higher — and much more consistent — density.

  6. Even though it was obvious that it was going to be I-5, the final outcome may include some interesting aspects. The City of Shoreline, population ~53,000, approximately the same as Lynnwood + Mountlake Terrace combined, may end up with its first – and probably only – return on its years of tax dollars flowing to Sound Transit coffers – with a single light rail station, at 185th (ST bus is off-peak and not in city limits). The motion that was passed includes as possibilities for the first station after Northgate as 130th (Seattle) along with 145th (the boundary) and 155th (Shoreline). Last I saw, the plan was for 430 parking spots for this station, 500 for 185th. Since Sound Transit is having financial challenges, they might be tempted to drop the parking, leaving limited street parking for both stations. The 185th station is presently to be on a street that’s one lane in each direction with a single Metro route and 2 or 3 miles from Shoreline’s city center. And, Metro just staved off effecting 17% in transit cuts with the 2-year vehicle license fee, but may be forced to cut later. Meanwhile, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace continue to get their all day, bi-directional, 7-day-a-week ST bus service, which they’ve enjoyed for decades, and will get light rail to boot.

    1. Really really hoping the station will be at 130th and Metro will develop a route that goes east/west on 130th/125th to serve the station. There is a lot more TOD at 125th & Lake City and at 130th & Aurora (well, 130th & Linden, but close enough) than there is at 145th & Aurora or 145th & Lake City, and I think it would open up better cross-town transportation options for the north part of the city. Also, I will not lie–it would be better for me personally, assuming I don’t move before the thing gets built. If the stop is placed in Shoreline, then 155th seems like the better choice to me–there is more development/potential development at 155th & Aurora than at 145th.

    2. Fun fact: adding stations at 130th, 155th, and 175th would still be faster than the “4 minutes longer” Aurora route.

    3. 145th and 130th already have small P&R lots, already. 185th doesn’t currently have a P&R, but there is a large parking lot at the nearby school district property.

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