Although it’s natural to get excited about any proposal to run grade-separated transit between Ballard and West Seattle, the monorail proposal Oran described this morning is not one worth supporting. First of all, the proposal is deeply flawed for all the reasons our commenters are slaughtering it. Supporting a plan that subsequently collapses merely reduces faith that this city can ever resolve its transportation problems.

Signing a petition isn’t even useful as “a statement” that people demand rapid transit in this corridor. By going for a ballot measure without really laying the groundwork, CenTran is working at cross purposes with the Seattle Subway organization, which in my opinion has a much, much more feasible approach to making something really good happen. Moreover, Seattle Subway actually understands what makes a transit system work, which is not a line with downtown parking garages, zero transfer points to Link, and PRT.

There is a very low signature threshold for this type of initiative – only 3600. Please don’t help bring about a vote that will end up giving transit a black eye, and sabotage carefully developed efforts to build a system of which we can be proud. I’m happy for there to be yet another movement that’s building enthusiasm for transit, but sending them to the ballot in August is premature and counterproductive.

212 Replies to “Don’t Sign the Monorail Petition”

  1. I totally agree, but what of the Seattle Subway group? Is there anyway to volunteer with them to help that project off the ground?

    1. Yes. We’re working on neighborhood outreach plans right now, and our goal is to be ready to organize volunteer efforts and start being on the ground in May. Things like a website, a good campaign plan, and the outreach we need to prevent early opposition are all really quiet efforts that don’t really go any faster with more help, so we’ve been waiting and just slowly growing knowledge in the transit community.

  2. You know, I almost wish that we had left Seattle for last for regional rail and built out the exurbs fast, using low cost surface rail or elevated.

    For what was spent, we could have had miles of track laid all the way to Covington and back.

    It’s all the tunneling that has dragged down this project from its inception in 1993.

    Now Elevated is coming back.

    1. Exurban rail to serve the same number of people Link serves today would have been many times the cost. We could have had miles of very empty track.

      The federal government agrees the tunnels Sound Transit is building are one of the most cost effective transit projects in the country – that’s why they’re paying for nearly half.

      1. Love to see some real numbers.

        Average cost of light rail is 30 million a mile.

        Could have done Renton to Covington along Kangley for the cost of one station from SeaTac to Federal Way.

      2. Real numbers like that “30 million a mile” number that comes from cherry picking some light rail and streetcar systems in 1990? We’re not building light rail here – we’re building a subway.

      3. You also build regional rail with successful ridership. Renton to Covington along the line you mention would have incredibly poor ridership. It may be more expensive, but you build transit where the riders are.

    2. Perhaps Kent, Covington, Southcenter, and Renton could build their own “low-cost surface rail or elevated”. That would get it done quicker.

  3. I will not be signing this initiative, and if it makes it to the ballot I will be working and voting against it. We don’t need another transportation failure in this city, and this proposal is a guaranteed failure.

    Per the Seattle Subway, I wish it had a different name.

    The casual observer would think that there is yet another group out there proposing yet another system using yet another technology, but what we really need is a ST sub-area overlay for the city of Seattle that would fund a Westside LR line with a high degree of grade separation.

    This is probably what would result from the Seattle Subway effort, but it is not clear from the branding.

    1. 99% of voters don’t know what a subarea overlay is – but they know what a subway is, and they agree we’re building one to the University District.

      Branding isn’t aimed at transit advocates. It’s aimed at the majority of voters. :)

      1. The Subway sandwich brand *exists* because of the New York subway. That’s why they have NYC subway pictures plastered on their walls.

      2. Agreed. And I’m not advocating for an effort called “Sound Transit Overlay”, or “New Sub-area Now”, or something like that.

        But I do think using the word “subway” will hurt the effort because: 1) it makes it sound like yet another disconnected, expensive technology, and 2) it has associations with New York City. And great as NYC is, the notion that we might want to emulate them won’t sit well with a lot of voters.

        But I don’t know what the right term actually is.

      3. lazarus:

        Every word has negatives. Subway has the least, compared to any other way of putting it. It also excites people who couldn’t care less about light rail.

        But “Seattle Subway” won’t be the name of a campaign, just as “Link Light Rail” wasn’t the name of the Mass Transit Now campaign. This is just the organization building consensus.

      4. We have had a subway for over 20 years, but we’ve been calling it a “bus tunnel”. We’re now building an underground railway from downtown to Northgate that we’re calling “light rail”.

      5. Count me in the 99% of voters: What is a subarea overlay? (I’m serious, I Googled it and didn’t come up with a good definition).

        For what it is worth, when I hear “Seattle Subway” I think the sort of thing we are building (or have build). In other words, trains underground. I think of Light Rail being under or over. In other words, if the point of the term “Seattle Subway” is to exclusively add more tunnels, then it does its job. If the point of the term is to add more grade separated rail, then it is misleading (to me).

      6. It’s not misleading any more than the New York City Subway is misleading. More than half of the NYC subway is above ground.

    2. No offense, but isn’t LINK essentially a failure?

      Don’t we really need either a true subway, or an elevated separated grade system, that can speed between regions.

      Maybe it’s case of not spending enough money instead of spending too much.

      1. Link is a smashing success.

        Instead of talking about whether we need mass transit, we’re now talking about how we need a lot more.

      2. As one who initially supported it, until they lied about the “supposed” tunnel, and then came to despise it afterwards, I have to say it is starting to pay off in my book when I stay in Rainier Beach. I think I have the “schedule” figured out now….

      3. Pretty sure the ridership numbers weren’t what they projected, but they obviously didn’t account for a recession occurring in 2008. Beyond that though, rail is a long term project. It takes time for development to occur (and for us to change development rules to allow for more housing near transit), and as we build more around stations ridership will continue to grow, both because there are more people living near transit and because a higher proportion of them will have moved to the area to take advantage of the transit. I’m really excited about the direction Link is taking us, and I’m insanely excited about the prospect of a line all the way up to UW, and eventually Northgate.

      4. Failure? Seriously John, you do mean offense if you say something inflammatory like that without any citation whatsoever.

      5. The only failure on part of Link is that they didn’t build elevated in the RV. Fortunately, North and East link trains won’t have to worry much about slowdowns here, but when we reach Federal Way it’ll be a big problem without a bypass.

  4. What’s with the implication that “underground” is “inferior?”

    All of the world’s major cities have substantial underground transit systems. New York converted from elevated structures to underground in the early 20th century because the elevated systems are loud and unsightly and interfere with other uses for the street.

    Logistically, it’s a lot easier to put trains underground than cars or pedestrians. Cars are not going to go away, and in order to get maximum utilization out of the street it needs to be friendly to pedestrians.

    1. “New York converted from elevated structures to underground in the early 20th century because the elevated systems are loud and unsightly and interfere with other uses for the street.”

      Exactly. Elevated systems have a significant negative economic impact to their immediate surroundings. Chicago’s very aware of this, and that’s why their new expansions are underground.

      1. And yet, Vancouver B.C., one of the greatest and most livable cities in the world have elevated guide ways for the majority of their system Critics praise their system as one of the best in the world. Ben it not just about moving people from point A to B, but creating memorable and unique ridership experiences. Tunnels are great but I believe a close- to-full elevated line serves the best for this corridor.

      2. I disagree. A rail line is successful because it’s useful, not because the views are beautiful. I don’t know much about Vancouver’s rail line, but I do hear good things generally. That said, it’s about moving people, and underground is at least tied in speed/reliability with elevated, and probably slightly better. If you’re taking a vacation or something you might care about the sights, but Link is mainly for people going from point A to point B on a daily basis. Subways are best for that.

      3. The system in Vancouver takes the right approach. It is underground both downtown and going south on the Canada Line because those are areas where an elevated line would have a negative impact. The elevated portions are on the sections that run along old railroad ROW and through areas with highrise TOD. These areas do not see as much negative impact from it being elevated.

        In the same way, I could see a future line running underground through downtown and uptown, but then running elevated through Interbay where you have a wide ROW. Whether we call it a subway or a skytrain, in reality any good grade-separated system will have a mix of underground and elevated.

      4. Apart from a few nips and tucks, Chicago’s newest line is the Midway (Orange) line. It’s entirely above ground, on a mix of elevated structure and railway embankment. The elevated structure was built new (in the 1980s) of reinforced concrete, and is noticeably quieter than the famous Loop elevated structure, which was built in the 1890s. The line was notable for its low cost.

        Chicago’s two significant subways were mostly built in the 1930s and 1940s.

      5. Talk to planners in Vancouver and they will tell you that they have a tunnel downtown because they had an abandoned rail tunnel. Their second choice would have been at-grade over elevated.

      6. It would be better if they started out by moving their elevated rail underground in the downtown heart of Chicago like what New York in the early part of the 20th century.

      7. @Eric: The Orange Line is a happy accident of geography. A part of Chicago that needed rapid transit service happened to be crossed by an existing freight rail embankment that wasn’t full to the brim with trains. They also had an existing connection from the Loop Elevated as far as the Dan Ryan, so only a short stretch of new elevated structure had to be built between there and the existing freight tracks. That’s why it was so cheap.

        Maybe the closest thing we have to that in this region is that right-of-way the City of Kirkland is buying its part of. But that’s not close to as good as what Chicago had. For grade-separated rail we’re starting with a blank slate.

      8. I just have to add – no one in their right mind would say SkyTrain is one of the best systems in the world. A pretty good system (by relative standards), yes. Much better than Seattle and better than Portland, yes. But nowhere near the best systems in the world. Even just looking at the West Coast, I’d take the BART/MUNI rail system in the Bay Area over SkyTrain.

      9. MUNI better than the Skytrain? I almost fell out of my chair laughing. The Skytrain comes every five minutes even in the late evening. It runs at grade-separated speeds throughout. MUNI Metro fails on both counts.

        As for the Skytrain and BART, BART covers a much longer distance, so I’m not sure Skytrain could scale. Would Skytrain work with 10-car trains? In any case, they’re not really comparalble systems.

    2. Underground in settled areas costs a frigging fortune is why. New York built a mostly cut-and-cover system when land was cheaper and nobody cared if dozens of Irish navvies died during the construction. Tubes, well, as we know from the commentary surrounding the viaduct replacement it’s impossible to drill tubes because engineering doesn’t exist (er, tubes cost a lot too).

      Whatever gets built in this corridor will probably be the worst of all worlds, at grade. Run it down Westlake or 15th, no pedestrians are brave enough to cross there. Or would want to.

      I’ll join the chorus here: I supported the monorail, and wish it had been fully built, damn the cost. But this proposal is still at the cocktail-napkin stage and has numerous problems that will ensure that it always stays there. Stations where large buildings have just gone up, a new bridge, a ridiculous pod system downtown, no funding.

      I also take issue with the statement “all of the world’s major cities have substantial underground transit”. Correct that to say “many of the world’s major nineteenth-century cities”. A lot of the cities that matter in the 21st century economy don’t have substantial undergrounds, though many of them are building them (Delhi and Mumbai, for instance). Others (Melbourne, Sao Paolo) get by with extensive tram networks.

      Of course, Seattle is not one of those cities.

      1. “Tubes, well, as we know from the commentary surrounding the viaduct replacement it’s impossible to drill tubes because engineering doesn’t exist” What are you talking about? We’re not only currently deep bore tunneling through the city for Link, we’re about to deep bore drill one of the widest tunnels in the world under Seattle for cars. “tubes” work fine in Seattle.

      2. FYI: São Paulo has a 46-mile (and growing) Metro system with 3.5 million daily riders.

        Melbourne has an extensive commuter rail that includes a tunneled loop in the center city, and which is somewhat usable for urban transport in the manner of a German S-Bahn.

        I like Fnarf, but he’s not omniscient.

      3. The tubes comment was a joke. The Slog, where I hang out, has always taken the position that boring a tunnel is unprecedented and insanely risky, which is total nonsense, of course — there are dozens or hundreds of bored tunnels being constructed around the world as I type this.

      4. Sao Paolo relying on a tram system? What are you talking about?

        Sao Paolo has an extensive subway system, with over 3.6 million riders per day.

    3. One of the great advantages of light rail is its flexibility. It can operate in tunnels in dense areas or where topography calls for it. It can operate at grade where appropriate(low density or along freeways). It can be elevated where that works best. All choices have pluses and minuses.

      At grade–cheapest, builds communities, but slower and not as safe.
      Elevated–roughly 2x at grade, grade-separated, not very pretty or good for urban design.
      Tunnels–roughly 2x elevated, grade-separated, best at eliminating conflicts with other infrastructure.

      1. If you’re thinking a hundred years out (and note that all our skyscrapers came in the last fifty), tunnels make sense for most of Seattle.

      2. I disagree with the “not very pretty” part of the equation. There is no reason why elevated rail can’t be pretty, just as there is no reason why bridges can’t be pretty. When the Golden Gate Bridge was built, some folks thought it was ugly. Now it is quite popular. I could easily see the same thing happening with elevated rail (which are essentially really long bridges).

        One key thing to add is that elevated is probably the most enjoyable to ride. This is a very pretty city, and enjoying it while riding is really nice. I always put down my book when the bus hits the ship canal bridge. I’m sure other people do as well. It probably doesn’t make much difference for a lot of people, but for folks that have a borderline attitude towards the transportation system, it probably helps. In other words, it wouldn’t surprise me if having a nice elevated experience is worth five or ten minutes of commute savings for a high percentage of people.

      3. Er, any rail can operate underground, at-grade, or on elevated structures (and those things are common for “subways”).

        “Light rail” is a vague marketing term used for political reasons.

      4. @Miles Bader: No, “light rail” refers to a specific set of design criteria that allows the use of reduced-weight equipment on lighter rail supported on ties with reduced spacing density on a shallower subgrade than is required for regular passenger systems. There is nothing political in the practical reality of engineering design.

      5. @DWHonan @Miles Bader
        LRT isn’t defined by the weight of equipment or rail. It’s defined by its middle-of-the-road capacity and medium grade separation. From APTA: “Light Rail is a mode of transit service (also called streetcar, tramway, or trolley) operating passenger rail cars singly (or in short, usually two-car or three-car, trains) on fixed rails in right-of-way that is often separated from other traffic for part or much of the way. Light rail vehicles are typically driven electrically with power being drawn from an overhead electric line via a trolley or a pantograph; driven by an operator on board the vehicle; and may have either high platform loading or low level boarding using steps.”

        Link uses 112lb rail, which the San Diego Coaster commuter train and Amtrak Surfliner use to run 90mph on. BART and Link both use 112lb rail, NYC uses 100lb. Also, the Link LRV’s (74 tons) weigh more than a NYC Subway car (42.5 tons). BART weights in at a slim 28 tons. Normalized by length:
        Link .78tons/ft
        NYC .71 tons/ft
        BART: .4 tons/ft

      6. “Light Rail” cars are heavier because with surface portions they have to be able to withstand side impacts from autos/trucks etc. If you have an entirely grade separated system you can use “lighter” cars. (elevated, tunneled, or just fenced off.)

    4. I’m saying I prefer the combo of BART heavy rail and Muni light rail (and once it’s electrified, you can add CalTrain to the mix) to SkyTrain. I agree that, on its own, MUNI doesn’t hold up against SkyTrain, but I think SFs complete rail system is better overall than Vancouver’s.

      My larger point is that Vancouver doesn’t belong anywhere near the discussion of the world’s best systems (nor does SF).

      1. In Vancouver, trains come every 3-4 minutes all day long, even on late nights and Sundays. In North America, that frequency is matched only by the largest and oldest systems, like the NYC subway and parts of Boston/Chicago/DC. And yet Vancouver is tiny compared to those cities.

        SkyTrain absolutely belongs in a discussion of the world’s best transit systems, simply because it makes it possible for small cities to have the kind of transit that we all thought only big cities could afford.

  5. What happened to my post about burying transit riders underground? The so-called Seattle Subway should be elevated Sound Transit light rail. Maximize the views of the city. You will get more leisure riders ($).

    1. Most of the opposition from the DSA to the monorail plan was because it was elevated through downtown. An underground line gives you an easy transfer between a new line and Link, and doesn’t block views or shadow the street.

      1. an above ground line on 2nd gives you an easy transfer to link at benaroya.

        i thought all the opposition was about impeding views in historic pioneer square.

      2. It’s not just Pioneer Square. An above ground line on 2nd stays above ground through a growing nightlife district in Belltown, and then has to go through the retail core of Lower Queen Anne.

        An easier transfer to Link would come from connecting the stations underground like every other subway system in the world. :) How about extending the Pike mezzanine to 2nd?

      3. Yeah, the monorail died because of an accounting error. If they had the financing right, it would probably be running right now. Not that I think it is the ideal solution. It seems silly to restrict yourself to monorail (as opposed to light rail). It also seems silly to create another line paralleling the transit tunnel, but not quite touching it. In general, that is what is wrong with this system. It ignores the existing systems. I like the idea of elevated light rail from West Seattle to the Sodo station along with elevated light rail from Ballard to the northwest end of the existing tunnel. That seems reasonable to me.

        Of course, it may make more sense in the case of Ballard to just go to the UW. If you do that, it will probably be via a tunnel (I don’t see the people living in that area putting up with an elevated system). That’s expensive, but not that far, so that might actually be cheaper than running from Ballard all the way to downtown. If they are similar, there is also the trade-off between the folks along each corridor.

        It also might make sense to build trams from West Seattle to Sodo, but I haven’t done the math in terms of cost versus throughput, etc.

      4. It also died because of the “design build run” contract they tried to get bidding on. No transit building company wanted to run a transit system. Figuring correctly that public transit is a money loser without tax payer subsidies. In the end the Greenline never got a full on bid to build the dang thing.

    2. and you will gain hatred from the voters who’s views you are ruining. Underground may be pricy but its the best way to go for long term success.

      1. For sure. One of the big reasons people don’t like taller buildings is because of shadows, and blocking their views.

      2. underground is actually pretty cheap in the long run.

        Ideally … what has to be done is that a large single bore tunnel is started at one end of the line and allowed to continue all the way to the other end of the underground portion.

        A large single bore, while removing more spoils allows for in-tunnel crossovers, cheaper stations (think Beacon Hill and not University St. (or Pioneer Sq. or Westlake) … this is how Madrid has managed to quickly and inexpensively dig their new metro line.

        Once all the boring is done, then you excavate the stations. Once the TBMs start going they are relatively cheap to operate and can go almost non-stop day/night (excluding maintenance).

        Twin bores … while they remove less dirt requires multiple crews and a lot more precision as two tunnels have to be kept somewhat in alignment with each other and you need the cross bore passages et al

      3. “underground is actually pretty cheap in the long run.”

        That’s true, but what people care about is the up-front cost. Once you get past that hurdle, then people are like “How could we afford not to build this?”

    3. How many leisure riders do you expect there to be, exactly? The vast majority of people using light rail are going to be commuters, and we should be catering to that demographic. Subways are completely unobtrusive and incredibly reliable, and that’s what we need.

      1. Yes, but even commuters care about the experience. There are lots of people who would rather spend a little extra time taking a bus or riding the train than sit in traffic. Likewise, a more pleasant elevated experience might get people to put with an even slower commute. I have no idea if studies have been done, but my guess is that people would put with an extra five minutes of travel time if there trip was elevated instead of in a hole.

        Elevated lines are just as reliable as underground ones and much cheaper to build (in general).

      2. Nitpick: Commuters are important, but because they typically ride in the peak direction at peak times, they dictate capacity, which dictates cost. If you want a decent farebox recovery, you want a system that’s full of commuters at commute time but not totally empty at other times.

        Of course, that’s more an issue of routing — ensuring as many all-day destinations as possible — than elevated vs. subway. Being in a subway can help with routing (e.g. Link needs to go under Capitol Hill), but it’s not strictly necessary (e.g. Link hitting Northgate with an elevated stop is perfect).

  6. Wouldn’t it be interesting if this was an actual provocateur action by anti-transit forces? Launch a seemingly well organized campaign for a not very well thought out transit plan and watch it crash and burn spectacularly? The fall out from such would spoil any other real efforts at advancing transit for years to come.

    It would be an effective return on investment for someone like say… Kemper Freeman.

    I think we need to get high profile people to say, Not this project and not now.

    1. We don’t need high profile people to say anything. The more people that hear about it, the more people go “oh, hm, I don’t like this politician who just told me this monorail was a bad idea, I should help it.”

    2. Well, as long as we’re playing conspiracy theory, might Ben be behind this straw man line, to get knocked down, thus leaving his plan standing? If the Times runs with this front cover, I’ll be convinced.

      1. *laughing* I wish I were that good. But yes, if this goes down, it will end up helping.

      2. Death of an elevated system to Ballard/West Seattle does not mean success for a tunneled solution.

        I suspect that Seattle voters would approve of additional taxes to extend LINK within the city boundaries though if the plan wasn’t too ridiculously expensive. The question Sound Transit would ask, is, does the additional track fit with our original plan? Does taking some taxing money from Seattle preclude us from using it in the future for something else?

      3. The long-range Link plan was always to go to Tacoma and Everett and additional lines in Seattle, if voters approve ST3 and beyond. So it’s not like taking money from Seattle. It’s just fulfilling a vision that was anticipated when Sound Transit was created.

  7. Funding and construction for a subway will be year 2025 or later. This gives us enough time to let the increased density drive out the lesser-Seattle NIMBYs and bring in more urbanist residents. We should be pressing now for the cost savings and a new vision of the transit experience. It has existed for years already in Vancouver BC.

      1. Its doesn’t make sense cost-wise, time-wise or view-wise to have the westernmost transit line be one that is underground. It makes sense perhaps for some property owners but not for the experience of the entire city. This is what got us in the mess we’re in in Rainier Valley.

      2. Tony, I don’t see how the mode choice has anything to do with whether it’s western or eastern. It’ll run through the middle of downtown just like any good transit connection.

      3. West Seattle, Downtown and Ballard are the westernmost parts of the city. The scenic experience is totally different above ground vs. underground.

      4. We don’t build transportation systems for their ‘scenic experience’. We build them to move people. If you decide to make tradeoffs that get you a ‘scenic experience’, you fail – as we saw with the monorail.

      5. I’m suggesting that Seattle should build rapid transportation that capitalizes on its scenic setting.

      6. The Green Line Monorail failed based on financing, not because it would be rapid urban transit with views.

      7. It failed because it was strongly opposed by the powers that be, and that opposition, in part, came from people who didn’t want it to block *their* views.

      8. Well that’s open to all sorts of interpretation, including opposition from the “powers that be” who had the authority to appoint members of the different finance/governing bodies.

      9. The Downtown Seattle Association doesn’t want elevated rail through downtown. I happen to agree with them, and understand their economic rationale. What is your issue with this? Are you afraid of going underground or something?

      10. The original monorail design was on 2nd Avenue all the way through Seattle Center and downtown. The downtown businesses on 2nd made a huge fuss that they didn’t want a monorail in front of their windows, and they were powerful enough to get it moved to 5th, which raised the cost of the line. (They also didn’t want part of 2nd Avenue closed during construction, or the monorail’s stanchions taking out a car lane.)

    1. C’mon Ben, don’t rewrite history. If not for the financing error, there would be no extra vote. Without the extra vote (the last one) it would have been built. You make good points, but we all remember what happened.

      I think you are lumping things together. I don’t like this proposal because it ignores the existing line. Would it make more sense if they build an additional tunnel through downtown, a few blocks from the other one? Of course not.

      That is the big flaw in this system. Show me a plan which connects Ballard to the northwest end of the rail tunnel and West Seattle to the south end. That is a good staring point that most could agree on. Then haggle as to whether you want it above ground of below. Include the cost, time of completion, etc. Better yet, through in the “Ballard to UW” plan as well, so we could choose between that option. Of course, as you get closer to downtown, underground makes more sense. But from West Seattle or Ballard, it might be cheaper and nicer to have it be largely above ground (grade separated, of course).

      1) Elevated from West Seattle to Sodo or
      2) Underground from West Seattle to Sodo

      along with

      A) Elevated from Ballard to Pine Station (maybe underground for more than the end
      B) Tunnel

      1. Ross, I’m not sure where you meant to reply here, but the downtown transit tunnel can’t be used for an additional line.

      2. Sorry, the message got chopped off. The point is that I think it makes sense to have both the Ballard line and the West Seattle line to end at different points on the existing rail line. For West Seattle, the obvious choice is Sodo. Just run a line to Sodo and quit. People have to get off that train and transfer to another one (like a real subway). Likewise, a Ballard line might end at the north end of downtown. Where it ends would be a little trickier to figure out (Pine sounds good, but anywhere up there would be fine).

  8. When I saw this posted to MyBallard a few days ago, I thought it was comedy.

    It took all of five seconds of Googling to discover that Elizabeth Campbell was a great “lover” of the viaduct, and to realize that this is just her way of “loving” the viaduct into the future. Failing to provide any connections of less than six blocks(!) to our other rapid transit line be damned.

    I was hoping STB wouldn’t even give it the time of day.

      1. How about this:

        – Sound Transit doesn’t want to.
        – Ballard Spur agrees that this isn’t actually workable.
        – Opening up the design for North Link would lose us a likely $600 million federal grant.
        – Northgate needs those trains because basically every inbound bus on I-5 can terminate there.

      2. How about this:

        – ST should study it, since such a study was voted on in 2008.
        – Keith continues to call interlining “ideal”. I have no idea how or why he was convinced to advocate for something far less ideal.
        – The design is not 100% complete, and level crossing are so easy to retrofit it’s ridiculous.
        – See my number crunching in the other thread. Even our laughably high Lynnwood estimates are easily handled without precluding interlining.

      3. ST will study a cross-town line in 2015. That’s not the same as what you propose.

        Considering I see Keith a couple of times a week and he serves on the Seattle Subway board, I think I have a better idea than you of his opinion.

        Changing the design of North Link to add a spur and change where trains go would lose us a $600 million federal grant. You can’t just handwave that.

        Your number-crunching is not professional analysis. If you believe this is possible, raise money to get a study done.

      4. Again, North Link design is not 100% complete.

        Don’t change anything that would risk the money, and you won’t risk the money!

        Meanwhile, have you ever bothered to offer the slightest shred of proof that LQA and Interbay provide magical demand that cross-town connections hitting every major demand center north of the canal would not?

      5. The FTA submittal happens well before 100% design. You can’t change anything, especially not routing some trains elsewhere, without not just risking the money, but actually starting over.

      6. I’m not “rerouting trains elsewhere.”

        Show me where in the FTA submission the ability to drop headways to Northgate below four minutes is required… or where the specific headways are mandated at all!

      7. If trains get to Northgate every four minutes, you can’t put more trains in the tunnel between them.

      8. Even though 60-90 second headways exist the world other.

        But this is Seattle. Where “thinking big” is actually thinking small.

      9. 90 second headways come with automated systems, which we can’t have without grade separation.

        This kind of argument is why cities around the globe end up with maxed-out systems that they can’t add trains to. We have the support for better – please don’t try to fight for the cheap route.

      10. I’m just trying to help you understand why what you want isn’t happening.

      11. Why interline at all? Plan to continue the spur east under Brooklyn station, then, in the future, NE up 25th to Lake City, with a second, later line from Aurora interlining along 45th then SE to the 520 bridge and points east. For now, the Ballard line could travel from a transfer station at Brooklyn, west to Ballard, then a short run south to Interbay and a maintenance facility. (With additional funding the line would continue on through LQA and Belltown.)

        Brooklyn would be a bi-level transfer point between what could someday be four lines.

      12. DP and Ben:

        I actually think you are both right. The original Spur idea (interlaced) would have been a cheaper way to meet some of the core goals of getting high speed/capacity transit north of the ship canal.

        Unfortunately, I now believe that the political reality is that the headwinds are too strong to make that happen. It would delay Northlink and potentially put some of the fed matching dollars at risk for macro political reasons. It would create an adversarial relationship between ST and the project/city and probably between the city and the project as well. That’s a dangerous move (just ask the original monorail.) I still believe that cross town north is the best bang-for-buck line due to mobility issues. So… now I’m the #1 fan of the purple line of the Seattle Subway.

        DP — I hope you’ll get on board. I agree with a lot of your points and I’m glad to go through some of the lower level details of my reasoning for joining forces with Seattle Subway if you shoot me an email.

      13. d.p.,

        Hoping you’re still here long enough to read this. :)

        You know that I agree with you that, starting from scratch, a Ballard spur would be the right way to go. And I also agree with you that there’s no technical reason that would preclude a spur from being built now.

        However, I agree with Keith that Ben’s plan is worth supporting. Here’s why:

        – The Seattle Subway is the closest that we’ve come to a consensus among transit supporters in Seattle. Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (I’m sure you know about the People’s Front of Judea.)

        – Train transfers are easy. If and when the Purple Line is built, the easiest way to get from Ballard to Capitol Hill will be by transferring at Brooklyn, and the transfer penalty will be very small — much smaller than any bus solution. So even if a crossing line isn’t ideal, it’s good enough. All of the bus truncations are still feasible. It’s easier to turn a one-seat ride into a 3-seat bus-train-train trip than into a 2-seat bus-bus trip.

        – Yes, we will be overbuilding to Northgate. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be underbuilding to Ballard. If we find the political will, we can make sure that the Purple Line runs every 3-5 minutes all day. Sending trains to Northgate every 3-5 minutes all day may not be the best use of money, but so long as 45th gets enough service, who cares?

        – Could we change things in such a way as not to jeopardize federal transit funding? Maybe; maybe not. Aside from defense contracts, funding is a notoriously fickle thing. From my own experience, I know that it’s possible to run trains at 90 second frequencies using totally manual signaling, but I have absolutely zero experience with securing federal money for… well, anything.

        The point is, the most important part of the Ballard Spur proposal is providing a grade-separated way to get between Ballard and the U-District (and the intervening neighborhoods) that doesn’t require going downtown first, and at this point, the Purple Line is the most realistic way to achieve that. It’s not just engineering — it’s politics. If we make enemies of each other, we have no hope of getting the general public to fund anything.

        P.S. I know you know this, but Boston’s subway is full of compromises. Getting between the Red and Blue Lines is so awkward that most people just walk. For decades, Braintree was a pay-as-you-exit *station*. There are quite a few stations where you have to exit fare control, and possibly pay another fare, just to switch sides. Bowdoin is a daytime-only station. What’s different between Boston and Seattle — and I know you know this too — is that in Boston, they don’t let issues like these get in the way of actually getting something done! I would rather Seattle have a deeply flawed subway — and Ben’s proposal is not deeply flawed — than nothing at all.

      14. Aleks, the truth is that Boston has a pre-existing subway system that already manages such massive ridership that it has to “get something done” in terms of getting those riders around efficiently on a daily basis.

        But when it comes to newer projects, they don’t necessarily “get something done” in any acceptable way. Both Silver Lines are ridiculous, and are only connected at all because Menino put down paint for bus lanes through Chinatown. The Red-Blue connection might never happen. And the Green Line to Somerville is decades overdue, and they’ve chosen the much worse two-branch option in order to avoid any tunneling whatsoever.

        We all agree that no more urban true subways would be a disaster for making Seattle a transit city. The kinds of compromises that define newer MBTA projects would translate to just that.

        Please scroll down to — I don’t see Ben’s plan as likely to pass financial muster with the voting public, and there is huge danger in his railroading all who disagree with his very narrow vision.

        If he is dismissive of all I have written down there, then you will have your answer about what kind of leader he is.

      15. Again – sorry, but I’m a stickler for annoying hyperbole. Boston does not manage “massive ridership”. Their rail lines alone carry just over 500,000 people per day. Massive is NYC, Tokyo, London, Paris, Moscow, etc. – places with up to 10+ million riders per day.

      16. James,

        I’m still questioning the wisdom of my wading back in here, but you seem to be taking your semantic exception in good spirit, so I think it deserves a reply.

        There are 525,000 daily trips on Boston’s heavy rail lines, in addition to 230,000 light rail trips. The MBTA’s commuter rails carry 130,000 and bus ridership is 400,000.

        In total, 1.3 million daily trips are taken (not counting overlaid suburban bus systems) in a Metropolitan Statistical Area of 4.5 million that is roughly co-terminus with the MBTA’s extent of service. A large portion of these trips pass through either Boston or Cambridge (combined cities-proper population only 720,000).

        By contrast, Sound Transit, Metro, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit serve barely 550,000 boardings combined. The most pie-in-the-sky sales pitches for a fully-built-out ST2 vouch for barely 200,000 rail users by 2030* — in a metropolitan area whose population is expected to grow to just shy of Boston’s by then!

        *(Read: Link as designed is just not very useful!)

        So MBTA usage might not be “massive” in a New York or Moscow or São Paulo sense of the word, but it’s massive by the standards of anything Seattle has or will ever have.

      17. DP – I stand corrected, I misunderstood the number to mean that all 5 rail lines (heavy and light) had just over 500,000 riders per day. Even the current ridership is not “massive”, but your point is well-taken about the relative comparisons to Seattle’s system

      18. Also, I agree that Seattle’s system is not optimally designed, but I think land use and development patterns are going to make it much more difficult here. Seattle is spread out and much of it is not urban at all (unlike cities like Boston, San Francisco, or Philly) and so it faces unique challenges. At the same time, it’s not flat and uber-sprawl like Phoenix, so it can’t build cheaply like Sunbelt cities.

        Overall, I think there’s no doubt we need a better intra-city system than what Link could ever give us, but there will be a lot of political, financial, and logistical challenges.

      1. Nah, it’s still transit “news” and so it had to be written. You did a good service by keeping a neutral enough tone and offering full disclosure, while allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about its provenance and details.

      2. It’s not a good service to expose more people to a crazy idea, because some percentage of people will latch onto it anyway.

      3. It’s not like people won’t hear about this anyway. Better to give them time to think about it beforehand rather than when the petition’s in their hand.

      4. On the contrary – go down the street and ask a few people if they know what University Link is. Informing people that something exists is hard, and expensive. Getting petitions into people’s hands is hard, and expensive (it costs something like $2 per signature for a reason). This is basically free signatures for her.

      5. I disagree. We’re not talking about the general public. We’re talking about visitors to a transit blog – most of whom not only know what University Link is, but would likely lean toward any pro-transit petition that is placed in their hands.

      6. Matt, we *are* talking about the general public. Our readers share things with other people who aren’t regular readers.

      7. Education is a bad thing? If you present the case and people sign their signature who’s to complain? Not presenting the case to keep them from signing it puts you in an anti-transit camp, not what we’re here for. If the plan is ridiculous people won’t sign the petition. If it’s not ridiculous then they will. win win.

        I personally don’t t think a monorail is any more ridiculous than a Seattle subway project. Neither one have any chance of getting built.

  9. whats the consensus on serving Ballard? Spur line to Brooklyn station or go south through Interbay ?

    1. There will never be a spur line – there isn’t room for more trains in the downtown tunnel.

      There will eventually be both a cross-town line and south through Interbay – but Interbay (and you can’t forget Lower Queen Anne and Belltown) is much higher demand.

      1. Capacity argument debunked here: and here:

        And you’re so sure that Interbay and LQA provide more demand than all of the possible Ballard/Fremont/Phinney/Wallingford/U-District/Cap-Hill/Downtown permutations, but you’ve never offered an ounce of proof. Why don’t you try?

        (Fil, there obviously is not consensus.)

      2. d.p., I don’t understand why you’re doing this. You know nobody’s going to build a spur from North Link. If you don’t have a path to achieving the goal, fighting for it is just hurting things that have more support.

        This “proof” stuff is you trying to throw up walls – it’s not real. The monorail chose Interbay because it made more sense. Sound Transit’s study in the corridor chose Interbay because it made more sense. It’s not my job to tell you that – if you want to be an effective activist, it’s your job to understand what work has already been done instead of making quixotic attacks.

        We both want more transit – and you know that there are political considerations you’re not even touching. Why don’t you listen to and work with the people who are really putting together a plan, instead of trying to fight a battle by yourself?

      3. Honestly, because I don’t think your $15 billion plan is going to happen, Ben. Because I think you’re setting yourself up to be the next Grant Cogswell. He was charismatic and persuasive too… what did we get for it?

        So I’m arguing for something that would be much cheaper yet as — and quite possibly more — effective.

        Sound Transit’s study in the corridor chose Interbay because it made more sense.

        This is a lie. You said yourself that no study of any substance will be launched until 2015.

        The last time we had this argument, all you could say is “where besides Interbay would you put a maintenance base?” It seems to me like you’re the one with an inflexible vision that’s impervious to all counter-argument!

      4. We’ll check back with the Seattle Subway plan in five years, ok?

        That’s it; I’m out.

      5. In other words, “If you’re not going to support my particular idea, I’m going to take my toys and go home.”

        Learn to manage that frustration and join things that are already happening, and Seattle Subway really will happen!

      6. No, really, I’m done.

        I’m sick of being attacked for defending basic common sense; I’m sick of hearing why that which exists all over the world (subways without multi-mile station gaps, headways less than four minutes, buses that move faster than 3 mph) can’t happen here.

        You won’t see me on STB anymore. I know that there are people who will rejoice to hear this, but I think it’s a shame.

        There are only two kinds of transit in the world: that which works, and that which doesn’t. STB is losing a staunch advocate for the former.

        Here’s what’s going to happen: We’re going to end up with a bunch of crappy streetcars. They’ll only be marginally faster to downtown. They’ll be useless for transferring anywhere besides downtown. Most people will ignore them and will continue to drive and drive and drive.

        This will happen because the Seattle Subway price tag will be deemed too high, and the crappy streetcars will suddenly look like the “middle way.”

        But at least you’ll have gotten to act like a megalomaniac along the way, shooting down all other ideas for expanding the reach of our grade-separated core line by hyping your imaginary Interbay ridership and invoking the spectre of federal dollars on the brink. (Ask First Hill how it likes that last argument.)

        I hope you have a blast.

      7. d.p., you didn’t listen to a single response I gave you, except to call me a liar. Good luck!

      8. Come on d.p., don’t quit yet. Nothing is even close to being settled, or even proposed. I appreciate your ideas, and really like your input. The only thing that has been proposed is the topic of this thread: Monorail 3.0. As many, many people have pointed out, the Monorail idea doesn’t make sense for many reasons. If there is one consensus around here, that is it.

        Personally, I really like the idea of elevated rail. I don’t think it is appropriate everywhere, but I think it makes a lot of sense in a lot of places. I like the fact that it is cheaper than tunneling, but that is not the main reason. The big advantage is that it gives the rider a great experience. When push comes to shove, this is really important. Not only can it give the rider a great experience, but I think it can provide for a superb skyline, much as great bridges can. More than anything, though, I think a nice elevated transit system is likely to be more popular than an underground one. To the average commuter, it might seem trivial, but not everyone is average. Look how many people have moved to Bainbridge Island. What a terrible, long, expensive commute, right? No. It is a wonderful, long, expensive commute. Island residents complain about being cutoff from the city, but they sure don’t complain about their day to day commute.

        Besides, who knows what the future of commuting will bring. Maybe we will get to the point where commuting as part of business isn’t really necessary. But we will always want to visit people. We will want to go the big game, the big show or just visit Grandma. If that visit is more fun by rail than it is by car, then it is way more likely to happen that way.

        As to the bottom half of the red line versus the purple line, I could go either way ( It is simply a matter of trade-offs. I would love to see both, but I don’t know which I would like to see first.

        Oh, and no offense Ben, but I don’t buy the argument that building spur lines doesn’t make sense because there isn’t room in the tunnel. That seems like one of those good problems to have. If we really get to the point that trains are running at full capacity (one right after another, with no tiny buses in between) in that tunnel, then we solve that problem. At that point, it doesn’t matter if the added demand is because we added spur lines, or because lots of people decided to move to downtown, and they really like riding the train to the UW.

      9. (delurk…)

        d.p., FWIW, I agree with your comments 99% on STB of the time, and hope you’ll keep commenting here.

        That said, while I think the Ballard Spur concept has its merits in the abstract, trying to go forward with it at this point would be a mistake for the reasons Ben and Keith Kyle have given.

        I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude about Seattle Subway’s prospects. Living in Seattle for nearly a dozen years has made me cynical about our ability to make any decisions about transportation, let alone good decisions. At the same time the lines on the vision page are what the city needs, and from the comments Ben’s made it seems like they’re thinking through the political angles.

        I will be curious to see:

        * their support from the powers-that-be
        * proposed funding sources
        * anticipated construction schedule for the lines
        * whether the 3 lines will be part of a single package, or need separate approval
        * whether the red line will be built in one go, or grow in segments from a shorter line
        * where a new downtown tunnel will go

      10. d.p.
        Sorry you are leaving, as I agree with your position that adding more trains from the North is quite feasible.
        When I ask for the logic behind ST’s claims of fantastic boardings for both Northgate or Lynnwood, all I get is the Wizard of Oz stuff from behind the curtain, but no meat and potatoes.
        Northgate is claiming 15,200 boardings (mostly southbound) by 2030 based on some model nobody is allowed to question.
        Northgate has about 4,000 SB boardings now with NO provision for more buses, NO more parking, and a very limited walkshed.
        I don’t believe the 15,200 for a moment – just like I didn’t believe the Airport like would be well on it’s way to 47,000 daily riders by now. And I certainly don’t believe the Lynnwood trumped up numbers.
        So, that’s the whole arguement. Believe the numbers, and yes, the capacity is ‘iffy’. Don’t, and you’re right. There is room.
        I doubt my opinion will be heard around here also. Bye, bye.

      11. DP, please stay. You’re a solid advocate for high-quality transit, not compromising with at-grade routing, and your experience with Boston’s transit will be missed. It was you who convinced me a Ballard-UW subway was realistic, whereas I had assumed it would be dismissed out of hand as too expensive. Even though we disagree on a couple particulars of what high-quality transit or ideal transit means, we’re still on the same side.

      12. @Mike — I think the Northgate numbers seem a bit too high to me also, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they are eventually hit. One of the key things is growth near Northgate. I could see the Northgate area becoming ridiculously popular. Once the train is built, it will be much quicker to get to the UW as well as downtown. This is another reason why I want the bridge so much. Without it you limit the growth that will occur on both sides. With it, and people will flock to any apartment within a few blocks of the transit center.

        Unlike the trip to the airport, it will be fast. To me, that was the big flaw in the line to the airport, and I heard more than one person point that out before it was built (it is faster to take a bus). That won’t be the case with the North Line. Even with the stops in the U-District (which will be extremely popular) it will be faster to take the train (much faster if you count the traffic that the bus occasionally encounters).

        I think you will get a really big group of people who will come in from the Lake City area. The 41 is extremely popular now, and that will continue, as Lace City continues to grow. It wouldn’t surprise me if Metro just chops off the 41 (since it doesn’t need to go downtown) and runs the bus from Lake City more often. Basically, it could run that bus like the 44 — so often you don’t need to look at the schedule.

        I could see buses feeding in people from the other side as well. Rather than going down Aurora to downtown, the folks who live near Bitter Lake (another rapidly growing area) would take a bus to the transit center. This is another reason why I really want the bridge. The roads that cross I-5 are choke points. The buses get stuck in those just like the cars. Having a bridge means that buses can just stop at one end. Buses serving anywhere close to Aurora could just swing by the west side of NSCC and unload everyone. Lots of those folks would be students, but a lot would be people on their way to the transit center.

      13. In the future — it may take 10, 20, or 30 years — attitudes will change and people will be more accepting of a large urban village around Northgate and other stations, even replacing single-family houses. The anti-urban mentality is only seventy years old (to use GM’s Futurama exhibit as a start date) and will likely fade. Before the Depression it was a given that neighborhoods had to be walkable, that rapid transit between them was necessary, that centers naturally had 2-4 story buildings using their lot space efficiently, and that corner stores should be mixed into residential areas. Auto-dependent cities will be a passing fad, even if cars remain as an option. Those who hate multifamily density will move the periphery as defending non-walkable single-family blocks in the city and inner burbs becomes seen as ridiculous. What we’re planting is the seeds of a new infrastructure that can be expanded on when attitudes change. If we don’t plant the seeds, it will never get started, or it will develop in a more haphazard and less convenient way.

      14. Mike, I really am done here.

        For what it’s worth, though, you’ve really been a thoughtful, open, enthusiastic debating partner.

        You might still be wrong on stop spacing and shadow-busing, but your enthusiasm for getting real transit to happen — and your increasing focus on mobility/connectivity bang-for-buck rather than on transit-phile’s flight of fancy — will hopefully help to make sure the next generation of Seattleites don’t have to go without.

        If we should ever meet, I owe you about a dozen drinks.

      15. Mike, I really am done here.

        This time for sure := So you just let Ben win by repeating the same old saw until people believe it’s true? It’s not like anyone except the choir was buying it.

      16. There isn’t room in the tunnel like we can’t tunnel through Capitol hill because it’s glacial till (or whatever the argument was). They run 60 second trains other places in the world and some of them are driven by people (Mexico City). We run 4 minute trains.

        This is a problem that can be solved without spending multi billions of dollars digging more tunnels.

    2. This is a bit of a tangent, but one advantage of the Interbay alignment from Downtown to Ballard is that we need rail transit in Belltown and Queen Anne, two of our densest (in temrs of residential and commercial)neighborhoods. I think this is where Ben’s ridership numbers are coming from, in terms of an Interbay alignment having higher ridership than the proposed Ballard spur. However, I agree the Purple line is absolutely critical as well. I’d have no problem seeing it come first, even – but I really think it’s absurd that Belltown and LQA don’t have rail service.

  10. It is very likely that major media will get wind of it and start talking about it. These people seem to be plugged into that arena. If this happens, credible voices of opposition need to arise.

    And Ben, I disagree with you on the thing about people. Inspiring people is key to getting the impossible done. You’ve commented that there’s a lot to be done yet, you’re not yet inviting people to help. Hell, I’d love to help out. Even if you want to keep certain key decisions or strategies close to the vest, it is in your best interests to have a grass roots based organization working on other things. You can give them plenty to do and the energy will only help.

    1. Charles,

      Have you ever read “The Mythical Man Month”?

      We have twelve people, and our critical path really only needs four or five. We will *gladly* take help when we can use it.

      Instead of attacking us for being more public than other campaigns, I hope you can see that you’re just not used to being able to interact with a group this early in their process.

      1. For the record, I’m not “attacking” you, I’m just suggesting your process could be more open. Think OFA 2008 open style campaign.

        And yes, I am cognizant of the “Mythical Man Month” and the Brooks Law that it is based on. But, this is more than a software engineering project isn’t it?

        Trust me Ben, I’m in your camp and want Seattle Subway to arrive.

      2. OFA was planned out long before they went public – it takes years of work to build a campaign that big, and they were doing it long before you knew about it! :) We’re in the same stage OFA was in 2006.

        I know you’re not really “attacking”, but it doesn’t help to complain that we’re not doing something when there’s really nothing we can do.

      1. Adam,

        Amen! Link could have/should have been built as heavy rail with faster resulting speeds, lighter, cheaper equipment and greater capacity. With all the geographical barriers and almost complete lack of former rail rights of way to exploit, Seattle is about the last place that Light Rail can shine.

        The reason Hillsboro Max is such a smashing success is the old Oregon Electric ROW all the way through the tech corridor. What a great stroke of good fortune for Portland.

        Seattle has nothing similar, and the relatively modest savings garnered by at grade on MLK and down the busway have saddled the system with permanent unpredictability such that the shortest headways in the fully grade separated and muy espensivo University/North Link line is four minutes.

        I work in the software field too and in thirty years I’ve learned that “cheap” is almost every time and in every situation LOTS more expensive.

      2. There’s a lot to be said for overhead wire, actually. And yes, you can build subways with overhead wire if you wanna.

  11. We shouldn’t limit ourselves through transit bigotry. People are using Monorail transit technology as well as light rail and heavy rail all over the world.

    1. Look, I’m sorry, but nobody’s going to build a podcar circulator in the middle of our retail district, and the cost estimates don’t even pass the whiff test.

  12. Don’t worry about ME, a BIG TIME transit, especially rail, supporter. The monorail is DEAD in Seattle. Except, of course, the 1962 Alweg. Monorail is DEAD.

    RIP, CenTran, RIP. I don’t mean to be presumtious, but if you don’t have MY vote, it is deader than a doornail. TRULY.

  13. Here we go again…

    *rolls eyes*

    I’m sorry to the Monorail foamers, but there just isn’t any money left to go around.

    If you want more transit, lobby the legislature for more funding options, such as property taxes (perfectly reasonable for fixed infrastructure).

    Brian Bradford (who can remember the 1 vs 2 path monorail debate)
    Kennewick, WA

  14. “… and sabotage carefully developed efforts to build a system of which we can be proud.” Proud of what? Our light rail system? Right now, the ST route 577 takes a little as 33 minutes to go from Federal Way to downtown Seattle. Decades from now, when Link finally reaches Federal Way, our light rail system will take over an hour to make the same trip. That’s nothing to be proud of.

    1. But light rail won’t be using oil or natural gas, and it will run 3-6 times more frequently off peak.

      Many transit fans assume ST will continue running the 577 et al, at least during peak times, because of the time gap you mention. My estimate is that Link will take 45 minutes to reach Federal Way, not “over an hour”. The Northgate and Lynnwood estimates apply here, not Rainier Valley. It will be a minute or two between stations, maybe up to three. At worst that’s 12 minutes for three “and a half” stations (200th is so close to 176th), including dwell times.

      Can we not agree that there’s a tolerable upper limit by which Link can be slower than an express bus? Express buses go point to point, while Link serves many other trips simultaneously, so that’s a big advantage in Link’s favor. But in any case, I assume the tolerable limit is 10 minutes. Link is 9 minutes slower than the 194 at worst. Seattle-Lynnwood and Seattle-Everett will be less than 10 minutes by my estimate. So I expect those routes will be replaced. But Seattle-Federal Way, Seattle-Tacoma, and Seattle-Redmond is a different story. No matter how fast or slow you make Link, there will always be a level beyond which Link can’t compete.

      I think it would be an excellent compromise to keep the express buses peak hours, and to force people to use slower Link off peak. In return they’re getting 3-6 times the frequency, which can lead to the same net travel time and allow more spontaneous trips.

      1. Ah the state gets 1/3 of it’s electricity from burning coal. So you can safely say that Light rail trains run on coal.

      2. It’s easier to deliver renewable energy to a wired vehicle than to a self-powered vehicle. In the future our supply of renewable energy will increase, and Link will automatically be the beneficiary of it.

      3. I found a spreadsheet from the Nuclear Energy Institute that breaks down the numbers by state. For percentages in 2010 Nuke/Coal/Gas/Hydro/Geotherm/Wind: WA 9.1/8.4/10.7/65.3/0/4.6, OR 0/7.5/28.6/55/0/7.1, CA 15.9/1.3/52.6/16.6/6.4/3.3, ID 0/.7/15.2/75.4/.8/4, MT 0/64.2/.4/31/0/3.1 The numbers for Montana aren’t a surprise since it’s one of the largest coal producing states. Wyoming generates 89.4% of it’s electricity from coal and West Virginia 96.8%! NY only 10.3%, Illinios 46.6% coal and 47.8% from nuclear. Excluding the coal producing states it appears Utah (80.7% coal, 15.1% gas), Indiana (89.7% coal, 6.9% gas) and Delaware (45.6% coal, 51.1% gas) are the greenhouse champs. Interesting, although I find it hard to believe, the District of Columbia (100%, drill baby drill) and Hawaii (75.6%) are listed as the only places that use Petroleum in any great amount. Alaska is 13.8% (no surprise) and all the rest of the states are less than 2.7%.

      4. The state’s last coal plant is being decommissioned. We are truly fortunate that nearly all of our power comes from zero emissions sources. Nuclear waste not withstanding…

  15. There should be a Truth in Transportation Act, it would eliminate this double agent thing by Ben:
    Ben, Ben, Ben. No, you did. You’re talking a lot of trash here and not staying with the truth about many things. You were one of the first people I contacted in September last year about working on the monorail project, and far from being dismissive of it as you now claim you are – in your phone conversation with me and in your follow-up comments to me you said: “You’re very welcome! Thank you for including me and talking to me about your plans – I’m interested in how this shapes up, and I’ll definitely take any opportunity to give advice or help out if I can. Talking about providing the waterfront with transit is important – it *is* an overlooked corridor. I just think we’re going to be focusing mainly on corridors called out in the transit master plan (the high demand corridors) for quite a while yet.”

    Shortly after I had that conversation with you, in December you lifted the confidential material I had given you about the monorail route and stations we were proposing, claimed it as your own and published it for the Ballard subway. It was obvious, you used the distinctive routing I had shared with you, in confidence, pursuant to the non-disclosure agreement you had signed about the project. In other words you violated the NDA.

    Telling the truth is not a screw up. Telling stories that are not true, violating confidentiality agreements, and talking smack about legitimate people and projects is. I have treated you consistently with respect and professionalism. As I wrote you during our talks, “Thank you Ben for taking the time today and sharing with me your wisdom and knowledge about transportation. That is one of the reasons why I did want to talk with you about the project because you know this material cold.”

    Apparently you’re not the person I originally thought you were, that’s abundantly clear – not to mention, you sucked Oran and others into your game that you weren’t playing on the up and up or straight with them.

    1. Martin et al., please leave Elizabeth’s comment up.

      Elizabeth, when you proposed your project to me, I signed your NDA in good faith, and remained silent about your activities – as even the Seattle Subway board will attest, they knew nothing of your project until you announced it.

      I also informed you that I had already begun a competing project, and offered direct criticisms of yours – even as your quote of me makes clear, you are targeting a low demand corridor. You never contacted me again for help or to inform me of your progress.

      If you feel our routes are similar, you’d better cancel your project, because I developed your “distinctive routing” in July of 2010 (see the date?):

      It’s also, as you accept I informed you, derivative from the fantastic work in the Seattle Transit Master Plan:

      Of course, claiming it’s either of ours is ridiculous anyway, because it’s nearly identical to planning dating back to the late 1960s:

      Like you said, I know this material cold. I offered my advice to make your project successful. You chose to ignore it and move forward with a laughable, utterly impractical proposal, and your reactions to criticism from others have been, quite frankly, childish and inflammatory.

      If you ever want to accomplish something, you might do well to accept the input of others. It’s something I struggle with as well – I’m cranky with criticism, but at least I’m aware of it, I listen to others, and I don’t threaten to sue people.

      I can’t say good luck in your endeavor, but good luck learning something from its inevitable failure.

    2. I wish Elizabeth would write about the merits of her monorail proposal rather than just complaining about how it was presented or what Ben did or didn’t do. I know nothing about her except what I’ve read in these two articles, and I’m surprised that none of her paragraphs discuss why the monorail would be a good idea or why the criticisms of it are wrong. It’s as if her quibbles with certain STB members are more important to her than seeing her project fulfilled, or as if she gets easily sidetracked.

      I have something to say about the monorail but I’ll put it in a separate thread.

  16. HA, i love how neither one of these ideas (subway or monorail) has even close to a prayer of happening in the next 40 years.

    ST is running show now, you all get east link, north link, south link, and central/u-link. maybe a few streetcars. beyond that, better enjoy riding the bus.

    Seattle isn’t NY, Chicago, Amsterdam, or any other pie in the sky dense city that will justify the high cost and low relative return of a heavy-rail-esque system beyond whats planned already.

    You can throw all the numbers and stats at this blog as you want but the reality of it is, you aren’t going to get enough money with an all city vote to build either of these, and nor will you get any of the rest of us in the county to vote for high capacity line that doesn’t go to a major job center, and W. Seattle/Ballard are not MAJOR job centers and all the freaks/drunks/bums/students riding busses in the middle of the day in seattle inflating those numbers will change that.

    Preach all you want, but this is a self fulfilling policy. If there isnt a freeway going from point A to point B in Seattle, their won’t ever be a high capacity rail network going from point A to point B in the next 40 years and no amount of flashy graphics, metro ridership numbers, or pots of gold will change that.

    And a final note, don’t let the “cheerleaders” on this board help prop up these ideas. I would love to see a demographic of the folks that post on here…i would imagine a high percentage of mid 20 to late 30 males mostly without education about planning or engineering but some with, regardless, this is 95% political right now, and you won’t find a single rational minded politician that would push a plan like this now, or in the next 10 years.

    And you should probably block me also for “crushing your dreams”, sorry, the truth hurts. None of this will happen.

    1. Ha. You are dead wrong about your demographic assumptions — at least in relation to me. And dead wrong on all counts.

      And I’m sure we will see another LR line of some sort in Seattle in the next 40 years. ST3 will occur, and with this region firmly shifting towards rail transit and gas prices only going up, the voters are almost sure to approve it.

      1. well then you are in the low percentage

        you are right about new LR line in the Seattle AREA, within Seattle entirely is unlikely unless money trees start sprouting around city hall. you won’t get folks in suburban king county to vote for that and good luck getting folks outside of a handful of communities to vote for forking over extra $$$ per year per seattle resident to pay for that.

        grade separated link will go to redmond and issaquah before it goes to ballard. there’s room to make that happen without blowing up neighborhoods which no politician will get behind. And a subway? get real. show me the money AND the political will. its real easy to draw magic marker lines on a blank map.

        i thought mcginn was going to be all over this?? not with a re-election campaign coming up soon, he’ll avoid this topic like the plague and just make vague claims.

      2. Hey “goodluck”, in order for the eastside to get more, Seattle has to get more. Sound Transit doesn’t have the authority to build suburban lines without building in the city as well.

        And if you didn’t know *that*, I don’t think you’re very accurate about any other part of our political situation… :)

      3. There will be an ST3, and it’s almost certain to have extensions to Tacoma (Pierce subarea), Everett (Shohomish), downtown Redmond (East King), Ballard-east and/or Ballard-south (North King), Federal Way (South King), and perhaps Burien-Renton (if South King can overcome its recession). ST3 has to contain something for all these areas. The suburbs may say no Link extensions and ask for something else instead, but North King will certainly ask for another Link line. And “no Link extensions” is unlikely with Federal Way so keen on Link, and Tacoma and Redmond and Issaquah interested in it too, plus the fact that it will be more popular than it is now after Highline and Lynnwood and Overlake stations open.

        Of course, the tax rate will have to be set at something people can afford, and they may vote it up or down. And ST will have to do an alternatives analysis on all these corridors, and show how rail compares to BRT and what their respective price tags are. So people can say what they think once the proposals are out.

      1. well that puts me at ease, im glad ST will study this, just like they (among other agencies) “studied” the transit system we have now since 1960. hey if these are such great ideas why am i hearing about these “movements” from rail-fans and not prominent political figures? why did mcginn back down? you know there’s a counterpart agency on the eastside called “eastside rail now” that has gotten further than either of these movements will. and thats not saying much.

        im glad you guys think these can be built. waiting for sub area equity to pay for umpteen miles of subway will bury you. grab on to these little caveats saying that money that is paid to ST in seattle, goes to ST projects in Seattle. Let me know how that works out for you…

        if you want these things built you have better chance getting it done by being elected to a position in the county or ST board.

      2. please explain how I could be elected to the ST board?

        You start by running for King County executive or Mayor of Seattle. You win and you’re automatically elected to the ST board.

    2. Goodluck,
      Lets look at the politics of this: Snohomish County wants Light rail all the way to Everett. South King county wants LINK to Federal Way (and perhaps the Burien/Renton line). Pierce wants LINK to Tacoma. East King County wants LINK to downtown Redmond and Issaquah. Getting all of that done means getting taxing authority for ST3 and a vote in the entire ST taxing district. Guess what that means there will be money in North King for additional projects, and not just a little money but a lot as most of the tax base happens to be in North King.

      Furthermore Seattle has shown repeatedly it is willing to tax itself to pay for better transit. The projects in the TMP aren’t dead, just waiting for a funding source. Sound Transit isn’t going to say “no” to the city giving it more money to do studies sooner or even construct projects. Again it mainly is a question of taxing authority. Who knows one of the other jurisdictions within Sound Transit might choose to make use of the same authority to accelerate projects in their area or even build things earlier than ST3 or beyond what it could realistically pay for.

      The real key is lining up the taxing authority in the legislature. Fortunately with the budget crisis it seems there is more willingness on the part of the Legislature to give local taxing districts the ability to raise taxes locally.

      Finally at least in the case of Seattle there is the latent MVET authority created for the Monorail. It may not be enough for a 100% grade separated line all the way from West Seattle to Ballard via downtown, but it is enough to start studies and engineering plus build part of the line.

  17. I have to come out against the monorail because it would disrupt the emerging consensus. I spent 35 years in Seattle and Bellevue without rapid transit because Sound Move was voted down in 1973. I supported the Monorail because I was afraid light rail would be watered down like in Portland and other American cities. But when the Monorail died I became a light rail supporter because the routing was less bad than I feared. We need to build on the consensus between transit fans, voters, local governments, and the Puget Sound Regional Council, and that means light rail. A single technology allows interchangeable parts, and an off-the-shelf technology means lower costs. Light rail is off the shelf; monorail systems are proprietary and have one vendor each. Sound Transit is the accepted and reputable builder of these systems in this region. ST2 includes studies of LR routes from Ballard, and it’s our job to make sure they’re not watered down to streetcars. It takes time to develop consensus in a democracy, especially when the pro-car anti-rail movement is so strong. I wish we were building three more subway lines in Seattle right now, but it takes time to get the Powers That Be to commit to it. Our goal needs to be walkability and comprehensive rapid transit, not throwing down arbitrary lines with arbitrary modes with no thought of how it relates to the whole. We’ve had enough of that (SLUT, waterfront streetcar, bus 42). The 2000s Monorail plan could not afford free transfers from the rest of the transit system. How is that integrating into the whole? (No transfers may be acceptable for the Alweg Monorail, which is an optional tourist attraction, but it’s not good for the primary trunk route from Ballard and West Seattle.)

    1. Oh, yeah – note that Seattle Subway doesn’t *necessarily* require any new technology, just grade separation and perhaps higher top speeds. :) If it turns out to be cost effective to use a different type of trainset, there are big benefits to automated service like Vancouver’s lines, and we’ll support that. But the key is not to have the gee-whiz factor be involved at all – do it by the numbers and be forward thinking.

  18. Sydney is planning to TEAR DOWN their MONORAIL

    The monorail has drawn virtual non-stop criticism and ridicule from Sydneysiders and politicians since it opened more than 23 years ago. The city’s long-serving Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has called the monorail “ugly and intrusive”, saying it should be torn down to allow for an extension of Sydney’s expanding light rail network

  19. “whats the consensus on serving Ballard? Spur line to Brooklyn station or go south through Interbay ?”

    To get back to Fil’s original question, which got sidetracked on the issue of DP’s potential departure, there is no consensus. Seattle Subway suggests a Ballard-Children’s Hospital Line, a Lake City-Ballard-downtown-West Seattle line, and an Aurora line. DP prefers to split North Link and send half the trips to Ballard. I suggest a line from Ballard going east to Brooklyn and Lake City, and south to downtown, West Seattle, and Burien.

    The commonality between all these is a 45th line (approximately under 45th Street), which may terminate at Brooklyn or go further or join North Link. A lot of us think a 45th line should be built before an Interbay line, because a crosswise line can induce ridership in eight directions, which a parallel line can’t. (Interbay wouldn’t help with the severe underserving of Ballard-UW, or transferring to RapidRide E.) With Westlake-Brooklyn taking 12 minutes, and Brooklyn-Ballard taking 6 or 8 minutes, and a 5-minute transfer, the travel time would be in between the 15-express and 15-local (about 2 minutes slower than the express).

    1. The problem with debating where lines should go at this point is that the TMP already identified the corridors with the highest ridership demand – so advocating for something other than those corridors will be harder than saying “look, we want to implement what the city has already shown to be the best place to put transit”.

      1. Oh fucking fine. Make me break my withdrawal rule.

        Ben, the TMP only evaluates surface corridors, making it utterly fucking irrelevant to anything you’re proposing.

        Unless you want to build Westlake and Eastlake subways now so as to conform to the Holy TMP.

        You are really grasping as you try to dismiss all who disagree with your internal logic. I really don’t understand why.

        Out again. Will do my best not to get suckered back in.

      2. The TMP’s corridors line up nicely with Sound Transit’s identified corridors as well, and those aren’t limited to surface. And they line up with the 1967 rapid transit planning…

      3. Ben, I’m going to try to be brief so as to avoid the timesuck of debating minutiae with someone who may or may not be approaching the facts in good faith.

        Suffice to say that the only thing Forward Thrust, the Monorail project, and the TMP agree upon is that Ballard, Fremont, etc. have a high demand for transit. Which you can file under the corridor marked “duh.”

        The TMP does, in fact, only deal in existing surface rights of way, and provides models only for surface modes. (The results, as we agree, are none too impressive. They also mirror precisely none of your travel paths between any two points.)

        The monorail project similarly only dealt with relatively flat above-grade options, eliminating Upper QA and Fremont and never considering an east-west alignment, and never persuasively argued that Interbay in and of itself was a core need. (Indeed, when the final vote cut the starter line back to Dravus, it failed spectacularly.)

        And ST’s “identified corridor,” which you like to cite, is shorthanded as “downtown to Brooklyn via Ballard,” meaning that (at least in 2008) it would have liked to study all options for connecting Ballard to the existing Link segments. ST2 never provided for more specifics than that, and certainly never identified any preferred routing or primary segment.

        So why do I care?

        I care because I worry. You’re about to go public with what will likely be a $15-$20 project, with your starter Ballard-through-downtown line coming in at $6-$8 billion or more. On city taxpayers’ dime. With no help forthcoming from the state, and little chance of a Federal grant.

        Meanwhile, still sitting on many powerful tables will be the pre-existing proposal for a streetcar network, measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

        And you know what happens when this city is given the option to cheap out on transit.

        Do you know how draconian the Fed now is about ventilation in long tunnels? Have you figured out how many 5-story ventilation fans we’d be required to build for your dozens of miles of digging(despite not qualifying for that FTA grant) ? Did you really figure out the cost of this before you picked your preferred starting segment?

        This is not about “my” idea versus “your” idea.

        As a Ballardite, I’d be perfectly thrilled to see a direct, unimpeded subway to downtown. And as an East Coaster, I’m aware that in-and-out subway travel to NE Seattle would still be much better than the unreliability of the 44 at most hours.

        My concern is cost, and making the case for a true subway line that does a ton of good for as little as possible, lest we wind up choosing between only that or no subways at all. I remain convinced that the original Ballard Spur could be built for $2 or $3 billion (no downtown real estate, no canal crossings, only 2.5 miles of deep bore to ventilate). All I want is for that option to be studied in depth, so that we can make the best choice.

        But you seem to want to discredit all non-Interbay ideas outright — and in service of that, you have resorted to some petty aggression and arguments with holes I could drive an interlined subway through.

        I fear for the consequences.

      4. d.p., please stop throwing out straw men. If you want to discuss this stuff, email me and let’s talk about it, but most of the things you’ve brought up are simply not real issues.

        Five story ventilation towers, for instance? Where do you see those in University Link?

      5. [rolls eyes]

        Just because you haven’t thought about something does not make it a straw man.

        All that stuff behind and next to the elevator banks at Beacon Hill? Ventilation.

        Seen the cross-sections for the U-Link station plans? A giant portion of the station box, both above and below grade, is ventilation. (And if I’m not mistaken, there will be a permanent ventilation structure next to the Paramount.)

        These stations have large footprints, so there aren’t five-story shafts above ground. But where space is limited — as in downtown, Belltown, and LQA, where you want to tunnel first — expect to need many intrusive ventilation structures :

        The Fed requires modern bored subways to over-ventilate just as if they were car tunnels producing exhaust, or perhaps out of fear of a 100-year fire. What they end up doing is so greatly inflating the costs of tunnels that few projects can justify them. The boring itself is getting cheaper all the time; its the ventilation requirements that keep inflating the price tag of subways.

        Do the math, Ben, and perhaps you’ll see why I’m worried.

        Your new downtown subway will cost billions, period. Your “starter line” from SoDo to Ballard is going to be $6-$8 billion, and perhaps more.

        That’s over $10,000 from every man, woman, and child in this city. Olympia has never given a damn about Seattle transit, so don’t expect them to pitch in. And forget about getting any FTA grant on a project with such a stratospheric price tag and a ridership estimate less than 40,000/day.

        Maybe a $2-$3 billion project (Ballard Spur) might pass the Fed’s ROI muster. But not $6-8 billion. Seems reasonable to study the former.

        I’ll e-mail you if you give me an address, but I don’t really see the point. All you’ve done this whole debate is to dismiss anything not precisely mirroring your vision as “100% impossible” (sans evidence), while insisting on the infallibility of your own plan, even though all the financial math and all Seattle political precedent is against you.

      6. It’s the 100-year fire they’re afraid of, judging by the history of the fire codes.

    2. I’m not worried about where exactly the lines terminate or which segments are joined into one line. I’m just concerned about rapid transit between Ballard and UW, Ballard and downtown, Lake City to some Link station, etc. I’m not even going to be pedantic on whether Fremont belongs on a Ballard-UW line or a Ballard-downtown line. I just want to see some number of subway lines connecting these neighborhoods.

  20. DP – while I don’t like the nature of your personal attacks against Ben (and vice versa), I do agree with you 100% that it’s a shame the spur option is not even being considered or studied at this point. I don’t understand the political and financial implications (in terms of Federal grants) of what that would mean, and maybe it is 100% out of reach, but I would imagine there is some way it could get done or negotiated so that the federal funds aren’t jeapordized (then again, I have no idea).

    I really hope this doesn’t become a crappy streetcar network vs. high-capacity rail debate – whether the high-capacity rail is the Seattle Subway or a less expensive alternative – because as DP says the cheapest option will likely win. I hope city and regional leadership can recognize they are two completely different modes serving different functions, and that it is not an “either/or” thing.

    ST needs to recognize they aren’t going to make the Ballard thing “go away” by putting a streetcar on Westlake. Yes, it’s technically “rail to Ballard” but come on – there is a huge demand for grade-separated transit to Ballard and anything less will not suffice.

      1. …and yet you can’t cite a single piece of evidence to back this statement up.

        Only in the most asinine bureaucracy would doing the bare minimum of prep-work to permit a future service expansion be considered a project-endangering change.

        I know Seattle has a history of being that stupid about transit, but I’ve come across no evidence that the FTA is quite so dumb.

        Or are you still claiming that the threat to funding comes from your conviction that interlining would “reduce Northgate capacity,” even though I’ve proven you wrong on that point repeatedly?

    1. Ben’s right. The ship has sailed on a Ballard Spur.

      In theory a connection for non-revenue equipment moves might be able to be retrofitted later. But why go to the trouble and expense when a junction can be planned into the West end of the line?

      At this point I think the only “ask” from the voters is some money so ST can study the West corridor (the Red line on the seattlesubway map) and the 45th corridor (the purple line on the same map). Once there is a plan with some real cost estimates we can go forward on securing some funding.

      It may be doing an E/W line and a canal crossing to an O&M base at first might make sense. Then again given the potential ridership I’d wager going downtown to Ballard via Belltown, the Seattle Center, and LQA first might be more cost-effective.

      Just remember if ST3 happens the North sub-area is going to have several Billion to play with (at least based on the other sub-area’s wish lists). It is likely to be enough to build LINK 100% grade separated all the way from the Junction to downtown Ballard.

      As a final note the Westlake streetcar to Fremont and Ballard is being pushed by the City and not Sound Transit.

      1. d.p.
        To your first point, ST studying the streetcar in no way obligates them to build it. Even if ST does ultimately fund the streetcar network there will still be a heck of a lot of money still on the table for the North sub-area when ST3 happens. ST won’t be able to extend LINK to Everett, Tacoma, Redmond, or Issaquah without spending a fair chunk of change in Seattle. Roughly on order of what would be needed to do a grade-separated Ballard to West Seattle line with a new Downtown tunnel.

        As for First Hill, lets not re-hash that situation again. You may disagree, but the reality was if the First Hill station had been left in ST would have lost the FTA grant for U-Link.

      2. There will still be a heck of a lot of money still on the table for the North sub-area when ST3 happens. ST won’t be able to extend LINK to Everett, Tacoma, Redmond, or Issaquah without spending a fair chunk of change in Seattle. Roughly on order of what would be needed to do a grade-separated Ballard to West Seattle line with a new Downtown tunnel.

        Those projects aren’t even in the same cost ballpark! None of the highway-running rail in Snohomish, South King, East King, or Pierce can cast a shadow on the billions and billions that would be needed for 12 miles of digging, with yet another new downtown tunnel and crossings of both the Ship Canal and the Duwamish waterway.

        You’re talking billion-dollar projects versus a $10+ billion-dollar project. What a perfect chance for them to cheap out and leave us with no subways at all!

        (You’re not wrong about the relative merits of your comparison projects, but building things people can or will actually use in large numbers is not what Sound Transit is designed to do.)

  21. If this monorail proposal is good for anything, it’s that it spawned two of the juiciest, most interesting STB posts and comment threads in a long time.

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