Meetup Panorama. Photo Will Green.
Meetup Panorama. Photo Will Green.

The upstairs of Hale’s Ales was packed on Wednesday, as well over a hundred people crowded in to hear Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn discuss the upcoming Ballard High Capacity Transit study. The room was a mix of STB regulars, agency staff, political insiders, neighborhood activists and interested members of the public. A show of hands before the speeches indicated the audience was overwhelmingly enthusiastic at the prospect of building better transit to Ballard.

After Martin’s words of welcome, Chuck Sloane from the Municipal League of King County announced that Seattle Transit Blog is this year’s recipient of the Best Government News Reporting award, which we’re thrilled to receive; Martin will have a separate post on that soon.

Our first speaker, Joni Earl, introduced the study by way of explaining ST’s previous and ongoing work in building out Link; the ideas of sub-area equity and the agency’s regional mandate, which have thus far operated to focus construction outward from Seattle to the surrounding region; and the crucial fact that any major new project by ST would require new taxing authority from the legislature, and in all likelihood, a public referendum.

Mayor McGinn spoke in more detail about the study. The only thing formally decided is the study area itself; essentially everything else — type of vehicle, alignment (Uptown versus Fremont) etc. — is on the table. The area is shown on this map, and includes Ballard, Fremont, Interbay, Queen Anne, and downtown Seattle. One of the primary purposes of the study will be to generate a set of alternatives, with estimates of construction and operating cost, ridership and other pros and cons for each. The first open house (in the more traditional format with presentations and posterboards etc.) will be held sometime in March; you can be sure we’ll announce it when we find out specifics.

The speeches were intentionally brief to provide maximum time for audience questions. As at many such public events, a majority of the questions were only vaguely related to the subject at hand (parking and traffic in Ballard, Sounder to Olympia, Ballard Sounder station, buses to Golden Gardens, Fremont-Queen Anne bus connections, labor disputes involving an ST contractor etc.), and to most others (What would the streetcars look like?, What about building another downtown bus tunnel?, How much is revenue is it plausible to ask of from the legislature?), the answers are simply not known yet.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten all the best questions and answers, so please chime in below with all the things you learned that I missed. Thanks to all of you who brought your questions and your enthusiasm; but particularly to our special guests, Joni Earl and Mike McGinn, and their respective agencies, who put this together; to our gracious hosts at Hale’s Ales; and to the donors who helped STB cover the cost of the venue.

109 Replies to “Joni, McGinn and Lots of Enthusiasm”

  1. Thanks to STB for hosting this and congratulations on being the ‘Best Government News Reporting’ outlet.
    This meeting was all about High Capacity Transit, but after the last thread, where Ben revealed the ultimate capacity of our system has been reduced due to technical reasons I’m wondering where the reporting on that was.
    That’s a huge bomb to drop during a time when Seattle is looking for ways to increase transit capacity.
    Before I speculate anymore, on why the original 2 minute headways through the DSTT are no longer possible, could someone who knows what the circumstances are please straighten this out.
    Going from a system designed to handle 24,000 riders per direction during the peak hour of the day to one of only 16,000 per hour is a huge loss. Tell me it’s not true.

    1. I believe it has always been 3 minutes with the current systems implementation — it’s the value I’ve always used when doing capacity estimates.

      Maybe you’ve been getting your info from unofficial sources?

      1. To clarify: My understanding is that 2 mins is not impossible, but that it would *potentially* take some minor upgrades to the control system and would come with an increase in risk to operational reliability.

        Thus ST has been shooting for 3 mins for initial ops, and would only go to 2 mins at a future date if demand required it and operational experience indicated it was possible.

        This is a prudent approach by ST.

      2. lazarus, we recently learned that 2 minutes would violate fire code between UW and Capitol Hill.

        2 minutes would have been possible if they had installed a vent facility (and that could happen later) at the hop-in market site near 520, but because that site was owned by Kemper Freeman Jr. at the time, they elected not to take on that political fight during the ST2 vote (when the decision was being made).

      3. I had no idea Kemper was at least partially responsible for why ST opted not to build a vent facility as part of U-Link.

        Now the question is was it just a coincidence that Kemper happened to own the Hop-in site or was this an attempt by him to throw sand in the gears of Link construction?

      4. Typically the sale data on Parcel Viewer goes back at least 10 years so it would have been pretty crafty, even for Kemper Development to have made the purchase before U Link was planned and they shifted the alignment to Montlake. I suspect it was simple value engineering. Plus political fallout from paying Kemper a couple million and spending millions more on something that may never be needed couldn’t be good. It also seems awfully close to Sundodger Station. Is there any other vent structure between there and Capitol Hill?

    2. The information came from Joni and the Ballard Study PM Karen after the official Q&A when they were nice enough to stick around and keep answering questions.

      Earlier in the evening I had asked if the study would include full grade separation Ballard to DT and gotten a straight up affirmative. So I followed up with a question about how it was planned to work DT, whether a second tunnel was part of the scope or would it be interlined. The answer was neither. This study will be looking at terminating the line either at or near Westlake Station, with transfers to the DSTT and/or Central Connector. A second tunnel is outside the scope of this study and due to the RV segment, ST doesn’t want to go below 4 minute headways in the DSTT, so 8 minutes Central Link, 8 minutes East Link. There is no room to add another line.

      That was the gist. I’m not a reporter nor did I record it, but that is what I got out of her and Karen’s response. The commenter Anton was there when we were chatting, hopefully he can chime in.

      1. “A second tunnel is outside the scope of this study and due to the RV segment”

        Please to explain….

      2. Well the first part is pretty straightforward. This study will only look at a Westlake to Ballard line. A second tunnel is outside of that.

        As for the second, my understanding is that b/c of the Southern section where the trains are not fully grade separated (RV was actually my paraphrasing, she just said South), the trains can be delayed, which with really tight headways would throw everything off.

      3. Wouldn’t a second tunnel completely insulate the new line from any operational issues resulting from the RV? I’m thinking that with a second line you wouldn’t want to interline anything with the existing line, hence you would be completely independent and could roughly double capacity through DT.

      4. A second tunnel is not being looked at in THIS study. Maybe one will be in the future, but neither a second tunnel nor interlining are being looked at in this one.

      5. due to the RV segment, ST doesn’t want to go below 4 minute headways in the DSTT

        Is this for real? We have a grade separated tunnel under downtown, dedicated (eventually) for trains, and we can only run one through every 4 minutes due to timing uncertainty from the RV line? REALLY? Is this political, or just really, really conservative Seattle engineering? Or are they planning to continue running buses through it, thus 4 minutes?

      6. Really? Four minutes? This just keeps getting more and more interesting.
        Now we’re down from 24,000 per hour in the official ballot literature in Sound Move to 12,000 per hour PHPD.
        I guess a half-assed HCT system is better than none!

      7. It is really stupid not to look at a second tunnel in this study. If you believe any of the ridership projections for this corridor then surely a second tunnel is at least worth a scoping exercise.

        But interlining? They are correct to ground rule that out.

      8. If 16000 pphpd is half-assed then I hope Seattle gets more half-assed transit!!

        Because almost any municipality in the country would love to have a line that was that successful.

      9. I think it’s potentially beneficial to not study a second tunnel as part of this study. Building a second tunnel would only serve to increase the cost difference between a new grade-separated Link line and the slow streetcar through Fremont. The smaller the cost difference is according to the study, the better chance something actually good will be built.

        Once we have the Ballard line built and want to extend it somewhere to the south, then we can look at what the next tunnel will cost. Or, maybe whoever’s in charge of Sound Transit at the time will come to the belief that running trains every two minutes in the existing tunnel won’t through the whole system into chaos and they’ll just decide to connect it up through there.

      10. “…we can only run one through every 4 minutes due to timing uncertainty from the RV line?”

        Eventually every alternate train will be coming from RV and Eastlink and then merge to serve Northlink which means one train every 4 minutes on the RV section but one every 2 minutes in the DSTT and north. Assuming demand on Northlink reaches a level requiring 2 minute headways downtown, that’s your limiter, not RV.

      11. I agree – a grade-separated line to Ballard that terminates at Westlake is much better than a slow streetcar that goes all the way to Pioneer Square. There are so many trains and buses you can transfer to to go further south, I don’t think this is a big deal.

        I will say though that if the line is going to terminate at Westlake, an underground platform->platform connection to Westlake station, without needing to go up to the street level and back down again, is definately in order.

      12. Velo, the original comment from Matthew was:

        due to the RV segment, ST doesn’t want to go below 4 minute headways in the DSTT, so 8 minutes Central Link, 8 minutes East Link. There is no room to add another line.

        This is 4 minute headways through DSTT, not 2 minute headways. My concern (shared by others) is that if we convince ourselves that we can’t run more than one train through DSTT every 4 minutes, we certainly will never consider the Ballard spur, which deserves looking at. It also might prevent a LINK-standard line (fully grade separated, 4 car trains) to Ballard, because that would require a second tunnel through downtown, artificially backing ourselves into a corner where the only thing that is feasible is a surface streetcar to Ballard.

      13. I was with Matthew when the question was asked. Joni and the PM were quite clear that the DSTT headway limit was 4 minutes. 4 car trains were implied.

        Whether or not that was with a bit of rounding, or if that is a final “It can only ever be this,” vs. “without signal upgrades” wasn’t discussed.

      14. Hmmm… Well, I’m sure they have their reasons to be timid. I’ll chalk it up to planning to under promise and over deliver and hope they can figure out how to do 2 minute headways once the buses are gone and they have years of operational experience with trains only under their belt. This a perfectly valid path to take, using the RapidRide debacle as a negative example of over promising/under delivering.

      15. I think the correct term is ‘Bait ans Switch’, but maybe that’s just a used car lot thing.
        If upper management is telling staff and contractors 4 minutes max, then I guarantee enough stuff will be dumbed down to save money to ensure that’s what it will be.
        Where’s the memo that gave the store away.

      16. But interlining? They are correct to ground rule that out.

        Snowflake, snowflake, snowflake! We’re a special snowflake!

        Can’t know what you don’t study.

      17. At-grade segments are limited to about 6 minutes headway; you might get it to 5 if you have awesome engineers and moderate crossing traffic demands.

        East Link and the RV both have at-grade segments, so adding that together you’re limited to 3 minute headways in the DSTT. I can’t speak to the specific signaling constraints ST has in the tunnel that might make it 4 minute headways instead.

        I do know that the more you push these together, the more you will impact travel times and reliability, as you will have more occasions where one train is waiting on the other. Really low-headway systems like the DC Metro experience this all the time, even though they are entirely grade-separated.

      18. Okay, now we’re finally getting somewhere! For it seems we can finally agree that gargantuan demand from Northgate will not be the capacity-setting factor for the central tunnel.

        It is my understanding, according to the same documents that stated the downtown and other central tunnels had “90-second design headways for 120-second running headways”, that the Rainier Valley is fixed at 6 minutes minimum.

        It is also my understanding that the service plan for East Link envisions 8-minute running into the distant future, regardless of grade separation, because that is all the projected demand will warrant.

        I have no idea why ST would have abandoned 2-minute U-Link headways in order to not rile a political foe, as Ben has now publicly claimed. I also have no idea why the 3-minute headway resulting from that decision has magically become a 4-minute headway.

        All I know is that central capacity exceeds southern capacity, that central demand exceeds northern demand, that stub tracks exist at Stadium, and that variable through-routing patterns can be used to respond to demand-uneven branches, just as D.C.’s Yellow/Blue Lines do.

      19. “I have no idea why ST would have abandoned 2-minute U-Link headways in order to not rile a political foe”

        Look at the problems with East Link. Would you want that kind of obstruction to be imported to Seattle, which might have jepordized University Link/North Link? Well, maybe you would because it doesn’t go to First Hill’s and Group Health’s front door. But I wouldn’t. What happens in Bellevue, should stay in Bellevue.

      20. Ask Ben who the property owner is.

        There was no way this concession was going to turn foe into friend anyway.

      21. I know who the property owner is. It’s not about turning foe to friend, it’s about not turning a foe into a bigger foe that might have destabilized more of Link. You think ST’s fear was unwarranted but that’s just one non-expert’s opinion. You’re not the one who studies this all day or is responsible for the consequences of how Link turns out. It’s one thing to argue on a widely-validated principle like “density is good” or “the best urban subways stop every ten blocks”. It’s another thing to accuse people of incompetency over specific 10-20 year gambles when in fact you don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future better than ST does.

      22. The family has already thrown everything it’s got at stopping East Link. To no avail. Because the populace wants it and there’s no legal impediment to it.

        And legal attempt to stop a landtaking for such a clear “public purpose” as a ventilation shaft for a multi-billion-dollar train would have been summarily dismissed by any court. Quickly. With prejudice.

        Instead, as (mic) says, they gave away 33% of their capacity and a huge amount of future flexibility, for no reason.

      23. p.s. Mike, I’m sorry you feel I’m just Monday-morning quarterbacking. I truly am sorry.

        But as you well know, the story of transit in Seattle is death by 1000 cuts. At every level. Basic core routes can’t work because we can’t get rid of cash. We botched a once-in-a-generation chance at a restructure by axing half of it and turning the remaining infrequent one-seats into terrible, infrequent transfers. We get BRT with more cuts than features. We get a subway with half the stations misplaced or overdesigned, and gaps that will become permanent mobility holes.

        At some point, you have to say “enough is enough”. If current fire codes require a vent to maintain stated design headways, then you find a way to build the vent! Eminent domain law is on your side. Moral right is on your side. The best value for billions of dollars of taxpayer money is on your side. Your best chance to maybe, just maybe, break the entrenched habit of overserving the boonies and underserving city needs (a streetcar named Consolation Prize) is on your side.

        There is literally no reason to give away 33% of your capacity here… now rounded up to 50%. It’s simply a terrible decision!

        [Okay, that’s my last violation of my self-imposed thread exile for the day.]

      24. I’m glad I started this thread but am saddened to learn Seattle has shot itself in it’s transit foot. We seem to do that alot.
        – DSTT aimed at the reversible lanes in planning, to be abandoned for the Cap Hill routing.
        – BRT ( all buck and no bang )
        – Monorail > major fail
        – FHSC Booby Prizes
        – $100 a day Sounder rides
        – etc, etc,
        Now we are embarking on a completely grade separated HCT line that stops ‘somewhere around’ Westlake and with ZERO consideration as to where it goes from there (not part of the study). It’s a another ‘DeadEnd’ project for Seattle to add to its collection of Transit Oddities.

      25. Well mic, I guess that’s what happens when all the experts’ time is spent posting comments here.

      26. I suppose being flip about losing half of what you paid for works for some, but what if you bought a computer and they only put half the memory in it, saying you probably wouldn’t ever need it anyway,
        or Boeing sold jets with only half the seats ordered or only went half as fast, would you be so quick to forgive?
        Going from 2 minutes to 4 on tunnel capacity is no different!

      27. ST didn’t originally plan to have an at-grade segment down MLK. That happened because the Seattle City Council pushed for it.

      28. That’s not relevant. We’re discussing tunnel capacity, not MLK signal timing issues, and all this relates back to why the HCT study refuses to consider this important asset when figuring out where/how to terminate a grade separated line from Ballard to the CBD.
        The logical thing to do is to merge the two lines, getting more life out of an existing DSTT asset. You also get higher network effects on ridership by having convenient same platform transfers.
        It was quite a revelation that 1st, ST caved in to Kemper Freeman and decided 3 minute headways were OK under CapHill. Then, the CEO of ST says, NO, 4 minutes are the best we can do.
        What’s next, 5 minutes because ?????

      29. Mic,

        The signal timing issues have everything to do with tunnel capacity, unless you have a plan to kick the Rainier Valley line out of the tunnel.

      30. One future possibility is a Georgetown bypass that would haul ass to Tacoma, and making the Beacon/Rainier loop into a secondary line that could be attached to a future streetcar or something.

      31. Thank you Mike, that’s just one. Another would be a second y junction after SODO that continues across the W.Seattle Br.
        The buried treasure here are the current 4 stops under the CBD, not the mythical new ones in ‘maybe someday land’.

      32. Using just the existing infrastructure and the planned extensions, it would be possible have additional service through downtown and to the north beyond any operational constraints implied by the RV or East Link. Using the pocket track at Stadium Station, some trains could be turned and head north through downtown.

        You then have to worry about whether some areas to the north would be overserved. The crossovers at UW Station and Northgate Station could be used to turn trains, but without a pocket track, they would block other trains while the operator switched ends in the station.

        If some viable way is found to connect a Ballard line to the DSTT, northbound service could be split between Ballard and UW/Northgate/Lynnwood. It seems to me that there would be two locations to consider connecting to the downtown tunnel. Either on Third Avenue at the turn into Westlake station, or at the Pine Street stub tunnel where trains and buses currently split.

      1. Uptown sounds so “New York”, I cringe every time I hear the phrase.

        The proper phrase for that part of town is “Lower Queen Anne”.

        “Uptown” means nothing to a Seattleite. If the goal is to connect with Seattleites and push Seattle transit, then we should avoid using terms like “Uptown” (ditto for “subway, BTW).

      2. It’s been Uptown since the 1920s (notice the Uptown Theater?) – it just became Lower Queen Anne when Queen Anne was the rich fancy place to be.

      3. We don’t call the U-Dist the “Neptune District” just because that is where the “Neptune Theater” is located.

        Nobody in Seattle refers to Lower Queen Anne as “Uptown”.

      4. I grew up in Seattle. I definitely remember that neighborhood being alternately called Uptown or Lower QA. The theater wasn’t the reason for the name; it’s the other way around.

      5. Here is a link to the City Clerk’s site of “official” Seattle neighborhoods — please show me where “Uptown” appears.

        Oh, gee, it’s Lower Queen Anne.

        The point of this being, you aren’t going to get any traction locally by trying to make Seattle seem/sound more like New York. People here don’t want to be New York, and proposing otherwise won’t get you anywhere.

      6. The City of Seattle refers to Uptown as a neighborhood designation. Uptown includes Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, and the Uptown Triangle (according to Twitter).

      7. When I was growing up in Seattle, and my parents would announce that we were going to see a movie at the Uptown theater, I didn’t think to myself, “isn’t that a New York-centric term?” I just thought of it as a place in Seattle near the Seattle Center.

      8. When John Hamrick named his theatre in 1926 he almost certainly stretched the meaning of the word “Uptown” in order to make his theatre sound more glamorous and less far-flung than it was. At the time, “lower Queen Anne” or the “lower Queen Anne district” was quite regularly used for that area in news articles, classified ads and by the Lower Queen Anne Improvement Club. Uptown, on the other hand, usually referred to quite a different part of town, as a sampling from the Times in the ’20s shows: the Oxford Hotel, on First between Stewart and Virginia, was “in the center of the uptown district”; Adler’s, an apparel store at 2nd and Pine, proclaims their prices are lower “because of being in the uptown district away from the business section”; the “Uptown Branch” of Eberharter’s Garage was at 3rd & Virginia; the “new uptown store” of booksellers Lowman & Hanford was at “Third Avenue between Pike and Pine”. Remember, when your “Downtown” is still just Pioneer Square and the financial district immediately north of it, you don’t have to go very far to be uptown.

        That said, thanks to the Uptown Theatre (and Uptown Espresso), I think the name’s got quite a bit of currency—far more than the West Edge, that’s for sure. But I agree that Lower Queen Anne is the more useful term. It’s like Denny Triangle or Cascade instead of South Lake Union. Metro signage shouldn’t be about historical terminology, it should just be useful.

        Now someone please tell me where the hell Westwood Village is.

      9. So I just wandered over to an old-timer here at work and asked him where Seattle’s “Uptown” neighborhood is. He grew up on Queen Anne near Kerry Park, so I figured he should know, but…..

        He was totally stumped. He said he had never heard of it before, and when pressed about the Uptown Theater he said it was in Lower Queen Anne.

        And, interestingly enough, his dad used to own a radiator shop called “Uptown Radiator,” which was located at…….Olive and Minor near the freeway on Cap Hill. It was then moved to 12th and Pike, still called “Uptown Radiator”.

      10. “Nobody in Seattle refers to Lower Queen Anne as “Uptown”.”

        People on upper Queen Anne do, sometimes. The names “Uptown” and “Lower Queen Anne” have been interchangeable for decades. The name was probably more dominant in the streetcar era when the theater was built. When the streetcars were removed and then further with I-5, neighborhood commercial districts went into decline. Seattle Center also brought tons of people who weren’t really interested in the neighborhood. In Uptown’s case, it seems the name declined along with it, but it never disappeared completly.

        “West Edge” is completely a real estate invention in the 1990s, and a pathetic choice at that. Nobody thinks in terms of its boundary. Uptown/Lower Queen Anne has a distinct identity even if its boundary is fuzzy (like Fremont’s and the U-District’s).

      11. Westwood Village is sort of south of West Seattle, but north of White Center….I think so at least (don’t get to that part of town much)>

        Or is that just a mall name?

      12. “Uptown, on the other hand, usually referred to quite a different part of town … First between Stewart and Virginia”

        That’s Belltown. :) In any case, it gets into the original meaning of “Uptown”, which means a residential district where the classy shoppers/businessmen live, and which may or may not be further north or at a higher elevation than “downtown”. In Seattle’s case, it has the advantage of being both. The theater owner may have stretched the name into the hinterlands, but if so, he was successful.

      13. Instead of asking random people on the street look at what the city designates as a neighborhood. I went to the UW but have a much more concentrate view of what is the U District than what it actually encompasses. Here’s the Uptown Neighborhood Design Guidelines. I noticed Matt Roewe in the list of acknowledgments. Isn’t he one of the Gondola Matts? Anyway, your muffler buddy is correct, the Uptown Theater is in Lower Queen Anne. McCaw Hall is in the Seattle Center. Both are in the Uptown neighborhood of Seattle.

      14. “Nobody in Seattle refers to Lower Queen Anne as “Uptown.”

        Sorry, but that’s a pretty absurd statement, especially since a bunch of living, breathing Seattleites are here telling you they hear it and use it regularly. I live on top of the hill and hear people use Lower Queen Anne and Uptown more or less interchangeably, with the caveat that—as Bernie notes–LQA is generally considered a part of Uptown.

      15. The popular names are what characterize a neighborhood in people’s minds, not the city’s names. Over the past thirty years there has been a partial shift from the larger district names to the smaller census-tract names, after the city put up all those “Welcome to [Census Tract Name]” signs. It’s still an open question how much communities will form under those names. Is Squire Park a cohesive community yet? How is it distinct from the surrounding Central District? What’s so Stevens about Stevens and Bryant about Bryant? They begin to look like arbitrary bureaucratic lines with no relationship to how people identify with places.

      16. I never could figure out where the Denny Regrade was and whether it’s the same as today’s “Denny Triangle”.

  2. What is STB’s editors’ reaction to the Mayor’s comment that going over the ship canal is not going to be cheap (I forgot the exact number, but I think he said 150 million??), and would require an environmental impact statement (since it is going over water) and time consuming? It made me a reluctant supporter of a Ballard Spur like solution. What do others think?

    1. Any big project is going to require an environmental impact statement. I wouldn’t let that dissuade anyone from looking at a particular alternative.

    2. For $150 million, you’re almost there for building a tunnel under the ship canal. But in the end, for the price we are paying to get to the extremely undense suburbs, that then require $300 million parking garages, $150 million is a bargain to the dense (and getting denser) Ballard.

      1. Um, yeah, no. The mayor war referring to a new 3rd West drawbridge, and $150 million was the low-end estimate.
        Figures that have been tossed around for a tunnel underneath the canal in the Salmon Bay area have ranged from many hundreds of millions to well over a billion.

      2. $150 million wouldn’t even be a down payment on a tunnel. The study alone is $50 million and that doesn’t include any engineering. The number I recall from the Sometimes was $500 million for a bridge crossing. A tunnel would be even more expensive. Did you want trolly wire with that tunnel?

      3. How much did the Montlake cut tunnel cost? I would think it’d be much less than a billion, considering U-Link’s total cost was $1.9 billion, which is just over 3 miles of tunnel from downtown to the stadium, complete with two very deep stations.

      4. Rapid, the problem is that one is an artificial cut, quite skinny and shallow, while the other a natural cove, wide and deep.

        It also a matter of finding workable portal locations at just the right distances from Salmon Bay if you wind up on the surface in Interbay or somewhere in Ballard; the Montlake Cut tunnel actually benefits from being unified with the complete, longer U-Link tunnel.

        One could, of course, try to do Ballard 100% underground too, but unfortunately that winds up even more expensive. (The most expensive part of any north-south subway is likely to be the part from downtown to LQA, where construction would be forced to interact with the existing urban surface more than the U-Link tunnel was forced to.)

      5. Exactly. You can’t do cut and cover so boring is the only option. The cheapest way to do that is with a TBM which is always custom designed and built for the job. Anyway, as many of the Seattle council members pointed out, there are so many unfunded infrastructure needs in the City (seawall anyone?) spending $50 million to study something that far down the list is premature. I think McGinn’s “let them eat studies” tactic is going to wear thin with voters come next election.

      6. @d.p. Makes sense, I’d never considered the depth of Salmon Bay. I couldn’t find any depth information other than a report about the marina wanting to dredge to 18 feet.

        I’ve always envisioned the “Ballard Link” to be mostly cut and cover down 15th and Elliot, but to dive down deep enough, you’re right, it’d have to be a bore for quite some distance, if not all. I’ll just go back to riding the RR D with a fake smile for years to come!

      7. Martin correctly identifies the politically operative tension ↓↓in his comment below.↓↓

        East-west has less distance to cover and fewer topographic obstructions, and is therefore almost certainly cheaper. North-south is deemed the ideal for the sake of marketing to voters.

        I continue to feel that voters can be more easily persuaded to support a smarter option than real-world physical hurdles can be overcome.

      8. I don’t see it as necessarily “smarter”, just cheaper. And anyway I think it’s West Seattle voters that would most be won over by a downtown alignment, and for reasons having nothing to do with either motivation.

      9. @d.p. – Sounds great. I’d vote for an East-West line too, if I lived in Seattle. But since most voters don’t read STB, do you have any ideas on how to organize voters?

    3. I think that in the long run we’ll both need an East-West and a North-South grade-separated line for Ballard, so I’m not particularly passionate about which is built first.

      Which is to say, I’m happy to support whichever solution fits in the funding authority we end up getting and is likely to get enough votes to pass. I think East-West would be a bit cheaper and North-South would get more votes, so there’s a tension there. But I don’t know what the numbers are and am keen to see the cost estimates in the studies.

    4. Any light rail line will require an EIS, so you won’t speed it up by abandoning the Ship Canal tunnel. Joni said the FHS did not require an EIS because it’s so small. OK, so do we want to build something that small to avoid an EIS? No. The City can do what it likes with a streetcar, but ST needs to think about real rapid transit/HCT.

  3. I’m a native Seattleite who previously worked for a local newspaper publisher and I’ve heard and seen it referred to as Uptown as often as Lower Queen Anne.

    1. I like the term Uptown. Two syllables. In general, the fewer syllables the easier term to use. I also like the term West Edge. At Fred Hutchinson, we referred to the areain which we are located as SELU, (as in SODO), but it never took off and is unused today. Again, two syllables versus South Lake Union.

      I went to the meeting at Hale’s but the crush and noise was too much for me. I left before the speakers took the floor, but did talk briefly to Joni Earl, who, I think, has done a great job at ST. BYT, I understand the open house referred to in Bruce’s opening words will be held March 12 at Ballard High School, but I don’t have the time written down.

      1. “Again, two syllables versus South Lake Union.”

        You know what else is two syllables? Cascade.

      2. Cascade was never used for the area west of Fairview, where most of the SLU neighborhood is now centered.

      3. So instead we should drink yours, Ryan? Redefine the neighborhoods just to spite someone who dared to profit on underutilized land?

    1. “Due to a fire/life safety requirement,trains in the light rail tunnel between International District / Chinatown and Northgate must maintain a separation allowing no better than 3‐minute scheduled headways in the tunnel.”

      This fits in with what Ben said he had heard – that the headway restriction was related to the elimination of the vent facility at Montlake.

      Still, it’s 3, not 4. That’s the difference between being able to have 3 lines with sub-10-minute headways and only having 2.

      1. Oh, great.

        So now their map insists on significantly overserving Overlake relative to long-term demand, in addition to overserving Lynnwood, sending 5 empty trains an hour to Everett and Tacoma, and sending every last train in their godforsaken “regional” system to the Northgate Mall.

      2. significantly overserving Overlake

        Outside of peak commute East Link is monsterous over kill for every station on the line with the possible exception of DT Bellevue. The rest of the line serves primarily P&R lots. And yes MS is a giant P&R as there is little transit activity outside of the times when the Connector buses are rolling.

      3. Outside of peak commute East Link is monsterous over kill for every station on the line with the possible exception of DT Bellevue

        That really depends on what happens in the Spring District, but I agree that S. Bellevue and the Redmond stops are basically P&R driven plus some good bus transfer possibilities.

      4. The Spring District and the master plan for the Group Health property in Overlake are really just more of the same Suburban landscape. They will be nice swanky offices to commute to and posh condos to commute from but nothing that generates all day demand. Sure there will be a few more people coming home from a night on the town (read Seattle) but there’s nothing like; an airport, transportation hub, major medical center, sports arena, major performance venue or the UW. The only thing that comes close on the eastside is the shopping district flanked by Bellevue Square and The Bravern. And those aren’t exactly transit magnets.

      5. One big difference between East Link and North Link is the reverse commute. North Link will be almost empty in the reverse direction. But, thanks to Microsoft, East Link will carry a lot of people to Redmond in the morning and back to Seattle in the evening.

        The connector is not and will never be a substitute for real transit for the simple reason that it does not provide enough capacity to move more than a tiny fraction of the people who work at Microsoft. 8 buses from Cap Hill each morning multiplied by an average of 10-15 people per bus (outside the peak of the peak, the buses are not full) means the system is capped out at moving 80-100 people per day from Cap Hill to Microsoft. If the very crowded 545 is any indication, the actual Cap Hill->Microsoft demand is much higher than this, and demand that Link will do a good job filling.

      6. Still a peak-only thing, as the (still to my mind) shockingly low long-term East Link ridership estimates demonstrate.

  4. I promised myself I’d stay out of today’s thread, so I’m just going to do just that.

    But I’ll just leave you all with a reminder: One of the very first questions asked of Ms. Earl and Mr. McGinn was whether they could guarantee that a streetcar-inclined survey determination would not scuttle any possibility of grade-separated transit in northwest Seattle for all time.

    They could not guarantee that.

    So please don’t base your discussion assumptions on which high-cost option will “inevitably” get built.

  5. A grade-separated Ballard – Westlake line is a great start. It’s more urgent to get Link lines to all neighborhoods than to have a one-seat ride through downtown. Subway-to-subway transfers are more convenient than subway-to-bus transfers, especially with Link’s respectable frequency. It’s something Seattle hasn’t really experienced yes, so people’s skepticism is misguided. Southbound, there will always be a train more frequent than the one you’re leaving. Northbound, you’ll be limited by the Ballard line’s frequency anyway, so who cares if you have to transfer from a more-frequent line.

    1. Agreed in full. Divorcing this study (and its resultant numbers comparison) from the cost of a new end-to-end downtown tunnel is the smartest idea to come out of this project.

      Of course, with no track connection (as you could have in the U-District), we’re now looking at a standalone maintenance base for the line. So say goodbye to any just-dig-it-under-Queen-Anne-Hill option in the study.

      1. Even if we couldn’t run Ballard trains through the DSTT for operational or life safety reasons, that does not preclude a connection for non-revenue moves.

      2. The MF in SoDo will be a capacity when East Link and North Link are completed. That’s why they’re looking to build a new MF in Bellevue. A separate MF would be required for a new line to Ballard. I wouldn’t stay up nights thinking about it though since the whole idea is still in the pipe dream stage.

      3. I’d connect it anyway, if you could do it without breaking the bank, just in case.

        Of course, my favorite place for a connection would be either the University District or Northgate…

      4. I would connect it at IDS station, where a Y-junction to the mainline currently exists. This line would be cut cover under 9th to an elevated station at Denny. This first stop is in the heart of SLU, over the SLUT then proceeds to LQA/Seattle Center, basically following the Monorail Green Line route to Ballard.
        Think of it. A one seat ride to DSTT, SLU, LQA, and Ballard from anywhere on the Eastside.
        Many more OD pairs for that route esist than from Northgate/Lynnwood to Bellevue that aren’t better served by buses on 520.

      5. As an aside, this gets around the 3 minute rule on the ULINK segment, so it recaptures some of the lost capacity by using the DSTT at 2 minute headways, if ever needed.

  6. I hope they’re not considering putting any rail on surface streets through Belltown or LQA. A streetcar is fine along the west side of the lake up to Fremont, but a serious Ballard connector link will have to be subway.

  7. The City neighborhood designations are not the best source. I don’t know what the best source is but the city doesn’t describe my neighborhood correctly and there are many disagreements in local vs city boundaries. Of course this is probably the nature of something that wasn’t written down and is based on memories. But the city is run by people who often don’t live here and have even less connection.
    That being said, I wanted to say that i was at the event. I object to what I can only call the snide tone of the blogger that most comments were off topic. Reward, pshaw. An insider political even with a poorly described goal in a crowded room where it was hard to hear, and you are telling us that we didn’t understand the purpose and asked the wrong questions. What a nerve.
    I was one of the last people called upon and the mayor did not answer my question. He instead gave me a lesson on urban sprawl. I was too polite to interrupt him and point out that i already know what urban sprawl is and don’t need the lecture. But I still don’t know what the city and sound transit are trying to accomplish with their street car line to ballard because that was not answered. Except by Joni from Tacoma who claims to be a Ballardite. From her, I get the impression, that Sound Transit is going to bring a streetcar to Ballard, cross it off their list and then move on the “help” the next neighborhood. By the way, I was a lot more enthusiastic until I read your comment in this blog (the one at the top of MY comment).

    1. Oops, i can’t edit. I meant to say “event”, not even. And my comment about the blogger came second, after I commented on other comments about the defining authority on Seattle city neighborhoods. My dictionary defines uptown as the upper part of a city, away from the main business district. I also found this reference from the city of seattle circa 2009

      1. From her, I get the impression, that Sound Transit is going to bring a streetcar to Ballard, cross it off their list and then move on the “help” the next neighborhood.


        If you’re paying close attention, this is the impression you’ll get.

        If you just showed up at the meeting out of curiosity, this is the impression you’ll get.

        Only the deeply delusional seem to think this process is headed for a fair evaluation of what Ballard and northwest Seattle truly need, rather than just a minimum-effort check mark in the appropriate column.

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