The Bellevue city council ultimately opted for the NE 6th station.
NE 6th Station

Yesterday the Sound Transit Board unanimously approved the Bellevue Council’s recommendation for cost savings, including numerous noise mitigation projects but a relatively poor site for the downtown station. I’ve said my piece on this subject, but here are some explanations from Board members with solid urbanist credentials:

Seattle Councilmember Richard Conlin: “Fundamentally it’s because this keeps the process moving without throwing it back into more confusion, and recognizes the good work that Claudia did in getting the $5 million for ped improvements, ensuring that ST will not be asked to pay for the HOV lane, and getting this to be required approval for the light rail line so that we do not have to fear further litigation or delay from Bellevue. Also, the ST ten minute walk statistics showed that the losses were minor for moving to the 6th avenue station and there was no measurable ridership loss.”

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn: “The design and cost savings were a compromise with Bellevue that moves the project forward.”

Bellevue Councilmember Claudia Balducci did not offer a comment in time for publication.

107 Replies to “ST Board Rubber-Stamps Bellevue Decision”

  1. Well, now I guess we’ll just have to wait until ST4 for the Ballard -> Issaquah line for a chance to get service through downtown Bellevue.

      1. I think the STB crowd needs a refresher course on how totally-never-going-to-happen a second Bellevue line is.

        The current East Link project did not even bother to apply for FTA funds, because the result was an essentially guaranteed “not recommended” rating. Why? Because it is inherently expensive, and it serves so few areas with all-day demand (and serves those areas so terribly) that the very best ridership estimates are depressingly lackluster.

        That doesn’t mean a lake crossing was unnecessary, just that the way the cost-benefit pencils out is not particularly… inspiring.

        So how do you think a second crossing, where no easily-convertible lanes are preexisting, and which would mostly serve to siphon demand from the existing line across the one inarguable choke point (the lake), would pencil out? “Ridiculously not recommended” would be an understatement.

        There will be no cross-520 train. There will be no Sand Point Tunnel. There will be no Bellevue re-do, and no chance to fix this week’s fatal error.


  2. Yep. After all the effort it took to get this far, ST wasn’t going to through the project back into uncertainty. And given the conservative background of a lot of the Bellevue City Council, the prospects of getting more funding for a better solution were almost exactly zero.

    So ST took what they could get, and locked Bellevue into the project just a little bit more. It is not optimal, but it is still a big step for Bellevue.

    Why give KF another shoot at derailing East Link? Approve it a move forward.

    1. I believe that ST board has underestimated the vileness of the Bellevue pols.

      This is what I predict: the City of Bellevue will refuse to provide the millions it needs to provide in order to build the unnecessary tunnel.

      With insufficient money, this will cause the entire project to be suspended, delayed, or cancelled. Which was probably Kemper Freeman’s original plan.

      At this point, ST should be spending serious work on getting a standalone ridership and environmental impact study for an “East Link” which terminates at South Bellevue. Because they just approved an *unfunded* route for the portion through downtown Bellevue.

  3. And of course no apologies for blowing 1/4 Billion on a pointless tunnel, with several sharp 90 degree turns, with really low speed limits that adds extra distance and time for everyone riding the line through Bellevue forever. Maybe the ST-art could be a harmonious wheel squeal symphony, as the train meanders near BTC, ‘out of sight, but certainly not out of earshot’.

    1. The sharp 90-degree turns will still be faster than waiting at the stoplights on the Bellevue streets, with cycles of 3 minutes a piece.

      1. Would have been.

        But now that the station is where it is, zero light cycles (as well as negligible distance) will be saved for all the additional expense and turn-making.

      2. Could you please explain? If Link were running on the surface through downtown, it would be making those same 90-degree turns, but with 12 minutes of wait at stoplights thrown into it (3 minutes per light * 4 lights). You may have to wait for more more light than the ideal solution, as a pedestrian, after you get off, but the train won’t have to wait for any stoplights in the downtown Bellevue area.

        If we want the train to be usable for Redmond->downtown traffic, avoiding the stoplights is key.

      3. I thought we were talking about additional cycles of waiting as a pedestrian.

        The argument here is that now that the station literally hangs over the edge of 112th, rendering the tunnel completely superfluous, it would have been only marginally worse (and hundreds of millions of dollars less expensive) to just run the thing elevated straight up 112th.

        Still ridiculously sub-par, but only marginally worse than what we’re getting. Still grade-separated, and exactly the same number of pedestrian light cycles from the actual places people are going.

      4. That I do agree with. But what’s done is done. Ultimately, ST’s decision comes down to the fact that saying no means more delay, and more risk that project won’t actually happen at all.

    1. Me either…there’s a big movement in the firm to move the office to Seattle once the lease expires. Almost nobody wants to stay in Bellevue (and I can literally see the station site from my window a block away).

      The streets around the station are dead except at lunchtime; the Bravern “mall” is a cold and uninviting space that consciously turns its back on the street, there’s no (nor will there be) retail on the city hall/station block, there’s nothing in the Microsoft building fronting 110th…in fact, looking right now up 110th from 8th NE there are TWO people walking on 110th as far as I can see (about NE 2nd).

      Bellevue’s nice and clean…but horrible to walk around and sterile as hell. A well-located station could’ve brought some more life to the area around it (there are actually restaurants, etc. near the BTC); this location trapped as it is in an area that will never develop any form of street life is just another short-sighted decision.

  4. “Also, the ST ten minute walk statistics showed that the losses were minor for moving to the 6th avenue station and there was no measurable ridership loss.”

    Wasn’t there another study that showed a substantial loss? In any case, I flat out don’t believe the quote above. I blame the Bellevue Council above all else.

    1. Horrible as it may be otherwise, the alternate entrance at 112th NE and NE 6th might bring some residential and office locations north of NE 8th into the 10 minute walkshed. Not that I’d personally want to cross either NE 8th or 112th NE to get there. However it might be preferred to crossing over I-405 to get to Hospital station.

      1. Really? My office is north of NE 8th and we would be equidistant…the only area that would be marginally closer is the three-building office complex between 10th and 12th along 112th, and they’re probably closer to the Hospital station anyway. The development on 112th and 8th is possibly an entire half-block closer to the bad location; does anybody really think that someone there would choose not to walk the extra half-block if the station were correctly located? The Hospital station may even be closer to them as well as they can just walk across 405 on NE 10th. Anything along 110th is at least just as close to the preferred alternative station as it is to the approved crap location.

        From the corner of 110th and NE 8th it’s a block and a half to the new station location and three blocks to the Hospital station (admittedly across the horrible NE 8th crossing of 405). Those stations are too damn close–especially when you consider that the ENTIRE walk space between them is taken up by a freeway!

    2. Maybe we can use the station as an excuse to finally make it easier to access the station from points east of 405. Currently, the overpass on 6th St. doesn’t go, and the overpass on 8th St. is incredibly dangerous with all the on-ramp traffic that never stops for pedestrians. And on top of this, you have to wait nearly 5 minutes for the light to change to cross 112th.

      What we really need here is a new pedestrian overpass that goes over 405, 112th, ideally 116th also, avoiding all the traffic and stoplights.

      1. If I were north of NE 8th, I would prefer to cross I-405 at the new NE 10th bridge. If I’m remembering the connections correctly, you could walk on the south side without having to cross any frewway ramps. Cross 116th NE when you get to it, then it should be easy to get to Hospital station, assuming you’ll be able to acess it without walking as far south as NE 8th.

      2. 10th is definitely preferable if you’re north of NE 8th (and going that way; I walk to Uwajimaya frequently and it’s faster to brave NE 8th…although that also requires a latent death wish). :)

        aw is correct in that the south side of the NE 10th bridge does not require crossing ramps, and the ramp on the north side to 520 is signalized so it’s not bad to walk that way. Crossing the cloverleaf at 8th just flat sucks.

        Or, of course, you could get on the train at 112th and 6th and ride it the three Bellevue-blocks to 116th and 8th! ;-)

  5. Fantastic. The expense of a downtown Bellevue station with the convenience of a 112th station. This couldn’t have come out any worse.

  6. “Rubber-Stamps?” Wikipedia says “the term is meant to convey an endorsement without careful thought or personal investment in the outcome, especially since it is usually expected as the stamper’s duty to do so.” I doubt ST didn’t give this issue careful thought.

  7. Time to call the waaaaambulance for Seattle Transit Blog whiners. This station will actually require you to walk a couple of hundred steps. Waaaaaaa

    1. And what’s funny is walking from Bellevue Station to the biggest cluster of office buildings is no more of a walk than walking from many of the DSTT’s Link stations to office buildings on 4th and 5th avenue. Same amount of walking, yet no outcry from STB.

      One day, decades from now, when the area just east of 405 (auto row) is built up as much as central Bellevue, the decision to place Bellevue Station where is is will be seen as genius.

      1. Fun fact: If your office were near Union and 5th, and Pioneer Square were the only transit station in Seattle, you’d be bitching up a storm about it.

        Fun fact: People don’t like walking across 10 lanes of highway.

        Fun fact: There’s actually going to be another station, right on the other side.

        Fun fact: You have no idea what you’re talking about, and are just a troll.

      2. “And what’s funny is walking from Bellevue Station to the biggest cluster of office buildings is no more of a walk than walking from many of the DSTT’s Link stations to office buildings on 4th and 5th avenue. Same amount of walking, yet no outcry from STB.”

        Another thing that’s funny about this contreversy is that that same cluster of buildings has somehow been defined to be outside of downtown Bellevue.

      3. Sam, try to distract all you want by complaining about d.p.’s tone, but his points are still correct.

        “Auto row” or its descendants will be served by Hospital Station, not Bellevue Station.

        There is no office building in the downtown core that is even half as far from a DSTT station as the retail core of Bellevue is from Bellevue Station. Office buildings get you some peak-hour ridership. The retail core is what gets you heavy all-day ridership. Just compare ridership at Westlake Station with ridership at University District and Pioneer Square Stations and you will get the idea. Hint: Westlake has more ridership than the other two combined.

      4. [ ot ] The Bellevue station is on 112th Ave now, and there is nothing you can do about it. What we can do is raise our voice to increase access between the destinations.

      5. Westlake has top ridership because it’s the end of the line. Central Link goes from A to B. Not surprising that when A was TIB it had the highest ridership and then it became SEA when it was the end of the line. Westlake will continue to be a high use station because it is the only station that serves all of SLU. DT has a more “subway like” distribution of stations. East Link Old Main (not East Main which is in Crossroads for crying out loud) stands a good chance of drawing more Wilburton ridership if/when that area becomes something besides vacant auto dealerships, almost bankrupt computer retail, Home Dopy and a school bus barn.

      6. Another thing that’s funny is comparing DT Bellevue with DT Seattle. Seattle has the bus tunnel running the length of the CBD, above it 3rd which is primarily transit and flanking it just a soccer pitch length apart the 2nd/4th transit couplet. Bellevue has BTC… that’s it. No comparison.

      1. Idiocy doesn’t deserve respect or deference.

        Frankly, we’d make better decisions around here if we stopped pretending it does.

      1. … to protect the moving sidewalk from the rain. Airports around the world have figured out how to shorten walks for not much money, low liability, predictable maintenance, and expanding walksheds between transfers.

      2. How many times does it have to be said, the proposed station is across the street from BTC. An overpass (and a moving sidewalk) are not justified. A bettet idea would be an undercrossing from BTC that goes to a mini-mezzannine crossing above the tracks just west of the city hall garage entrance. This level could be served by the elevators and stairs to get to the platforms.

      3. This is not one of those times when every Seattleite gets to have an opinion and we all get to respect each others’ opinions equally and kumbaya!

        You are wrong.

        The escalators are 2/5 of a superblock from “across the street”. The midpoint of the train is 3/4 of a superblock from “across the street”.

        Weather-exposed moving sidewalks won’t really help, because the distance and the deadness of the space and the accurate sense that it’s willfully inconvenient are the problems here!

      4. And yes, an underground passageway would make it feel slightly less detached, and in bypassing the traffic light, slightly less inconvenient.

        But that’s never going to happen, because there’s a goddamned driveway into the City Hall garage in the way!

      5. aw,

        Great idea; that’s exactly what’s needed. It should have an escalator up to the center island of the TC and one to the NW corner of the 108-110/NE4th-NE6th superblock.


        His idea avoids the driveway by having the platform escalators west of the garage driveway. Simply have the platforms project into the tunnel the width of the garage and then start the lift to the mini-mezzanine.

        It does work.

      6. It’s a nice thought, but you’d appear to be getting your extended platforms and ramps in the way of the tracks turning. — page 14

        Once you’ve re-engineered the tracks to compensate, you’ve completely blown your cost savings. Which makes it a political non-starter.

        If they could have designed this cheap-out station with a closer street-level landing they would have. The only real solution was not to cheap out in the first place.

  8. I am happy to see that common sense with money is unanimous on the ST board. If only more people realized that money isn’t an infinite resource. Do you realize what they could do with the 30 million roller savings?

    1. Do you realize what they could do with the $3 billion they’ll now be spending on a kneecapped line that no one will want to use?

    2. The point is they are spending hundreds of millions of extra dollars on a tunnel that is functionally no better now than an elevated 112th alignment. It’s like buying a house, paying the seller 9/10th of the cost, then saying “You know what, forget it, I don’t want the house anymore, but you can keep the money I already gave you.”

      The last $19-$30 million is needed to give the rest of that huge investment in the tunnel any value. What the Bellevue Council and ST have agreed to here is nothing short of ludicrous.

      But, seriously, keep saying “waaaambulance” because it’s a really strong argument. You might just convince me the 112th is better if you say waaaambulance 2 or 3 more times.

      1. Since the money for the current “preferred alternative” isn’t there anyway, I suggest another round of “value engineering”. This can engineer out the unnecessary tunnel and put in an elevated route over 112th instead. The station will be in the same place, so clearly it will have the same ridership.


      1. Whoops. Upon reading your comment history, I realize I was mistaken about you, Ramp.

        Your statements are so absurd that I thought you must be a blanket anti-transit-improvement troll, like Sam.

        But I now see that you simply love trains so much that you literally do not care whether those trains are conveniently-placed, well-run, or useful to anyone in any way.

        Your love trains so much that you inadvertently hate transit.

  9. This is baffling. I don’t in fact think that a this station location is the end of the world. With the escalator, this isn’t much of a walk. But it does mean that the whole exercise of putting the train into a tunnel is pointless. The line could have stayed on 12th with an elevated moving walkway connecting it to the transit centre with basically the same time profile. And with the three extra tight turns and just the added distance, travellers coming from the Seattle side could actually lose time with this configuration.

  10. Could a new transit center be constructed in close proximity to the station at 112th Ave NE? If people are upset about bus connections and long walks to BTC, then it might make sense to move BTC east and integrate its structure into the Bellevue link station. (and either demolish the old one, or leave it as a secondary transit center, like the Federal Way S 320th P&R.)

      1. Perhaps this could be an opportunity. In the way that the acres of abandoned buildings in Detroit are an opportunity. Perhaps all of the buildings in what is currently downtown Bellevue can be demolished and returned to wilderness since they’ll be inaccessible and nobody will want to go there. Then a new “downtown Bellevue” can be built around one of the other stations.

        (Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.)

      1. The east end of the platforms litterally hang over 112th. How is that erroneous?

        The far west end of the platforms are hundreds of feet plus a long light cycle from BTC. How is that close?

      2. (@d.p.) …which is precisely why I suggest constructing a replacement BTC at the link station.

      3. Alex, the Bellevue Link Station IS at the BTC, just as Link’s Seatac Station is at Seatac Airport. Nothing needs to be moved.

      4. Link’s airport station has the worst access to the airport of any “direct” airport transit link built in the last 40 years.

        But good example of how you clearly don’t use the thing and have no clue what you’re talking about.

      5. D.p., “Link’s airport station has the worst access to the airport of any “direct” airport transit link built in the last 40 years.”

        Did you forget about BART to SFO that you mentioned in another comment below? And you didn’t even mention how that screwed over Caltrain users. How about VTA to SJC? And as bad as those are, just wait until light rail reaches LAX.

      6. BART has a service-geometry problem, but not a station-placement problem. The platforms open right into the International Terminal; the closest security checkpoint is less than 200 feet away.

        For the domestic terminals, the airport people mover stops right above the center of the BART platform, and delivers you to the roof of every other terminal.

        Don’t feel like switching to the people mover? Fine. The furthest point in the further terminal (Terminal 2) is about 1600 feet from BART. That’s not even 2/3 as far as it is from Link to SeaTac’s A Gates… which you have to walk.

        San Jose does not even try to have “direct” airport service. That’s probably a mistake — VTA is just a grand heap of mistakes — but it’s not a comparable example in any way.

        Here are some of the direct-access airport rail stations of recent times:

        St. Louis


        Washington National




        Philadelphia (a train stop at every terminal!)

        And that’s just North America. Needless to say, Europe and Asia often do even better,

        Seeing as it was built from scratch, Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle have no excuse for how bad the Link siting is!

      7. And if Los Angeles builds a Crenshaw rail line to LAX — replacing the current terrible shuttle from the Green Line — I have no reason to expect they won’t run it into the very center of the airport. Do you?

      8. How did BART screw over Caltrain users? The SFO extension brought a transfer connection that didn’t exist before.

      9. Well, shoot.

        Even if they build the spur into the LAX terminal area proper, they’ll be reenacting BART’s geometry problem. In fact, it seems they intend to make the BART mistake in either plan. Awful.

        They’d actually be much better off placing a transfer to the people mover right at the station at Aviation and Century Blvd. (But at least they’ll have a people mover. That’s a heck of a lot better than what exists now.)

        The good news is that they haven’t made this error yet. Unlike BART and Link, this can still be fixed.

      10. Don’t know why I can’t reply to the post I really want to reply to, but I’ll reply to the nearest post I can.

        As someone who’s done the expedition to T3 several times, I wouldn’t say that the connection between Link and teh airport is any worse than London’s connection between the Picaddily line and Heathrow.

      11. The key here being that the Picaddily line to Heathrow was built 36 years ago.

        The 14-year-old Heathrow Express station is smack in the center of the Terminal 1-3 complex, with about 700-foot access to any of them.

        Heck, Chicago recently moved the entirety of Midway Airport to the east, partially to get it closer to the train station.

        Only in Seattle do we build, in 2008-2013, stations really far from what they serve for no good reason.

      12. There WAS a good reason…but for the Port, not for all of us that actually use the station and airport, and would vastly prefer the terminal-adjacent station originally envisioned. The Port makes tons of money on parking in that immense garage–by some measures the biggest in the world–and they had no interest in losing any of that to a convenient rail station. It’s my understanding that the Port went to TSA after 9/11 and asked them to declare the planned Link station a security risk (despite all the other stations mentioned above, and the basically-a-freeway running alongside the terminal). TSA did so, the Port went “See? We can’t do this!” and ST had to comply.

        Hell, even to this day we’re told that it’s not physically possible to install a moving sidewalk system due to low head clearance in the garage…without looking into it, I find it difficult to believe that there is no system anywhere on earth that would fit. The damn passageway should get that, and be completely enclosed, and then it wouldn’t be quite so gawd-awful. The battle over providing adequate signage in the terminal directing visitors to the train station is yet another example of the Port specifically NOT wanting their patrons to take the train.

        I understand that decision on the Port’s end, despite vehemently disagreeing with it…Bellevue, on the other hand….

      13. My recollection is that it was the FAA, not the Port of Seattle or the yet to be formed TSA that nixed the original Link Station location at the airport. They went so far as to rule TIB was the closest practical location that ST would be able to build. Later the rules were relaxed but by then ST didn’t have the money to deviate from International Blvd. And since even the completion of the S. 200th extention wasn’t even funded the current location was at least a good location for bus transfers. I’d hoped for a tie in with the new rental car complex and an extension of the SEA underground shuttle system but neither the Port or ST seemed at all interested in that option.

  11. In retrospect, I have to wonder about all the compromises that have been made since the Puget Sound embarked on building a mass transit system. Maybe this is too far off subject for this thread, but worth noting as this is but one piece of the larger picture. BTC now joins the ranks of other stations along the lines that get failing grades for integrating rail-bus-peds-and autos with it’s disjointed approach to providing efficient rider experiences using transit.
    Most of us grouse about Mt.Baker, Husky Stadium, SeaTac Airport and Northgate, and the missing stations along the freeway routes preferred by the planners as poor examples transit design. Soon, other station of similar poor connectivity will emerge, such as Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way.
    Our line caters to freeways, which are probably some of the poorest places in the region to find riders that don’t require a bus or structured parking garage to lure them aboard. Sure, we have a few great urban stations to point to (DSTT, CapHill, 45th), but they are surely the exception, and not the rule. These are countered by just as many wasteland stops, such as Hospital, Surrey Downs, or Henderson.
    Looking at ST 2010 Fin.Plan (Source and Use of funds from 1997 thru 2040) for just ST1 and 2 shows the region will have spent $18 bil on projects, another $21 bil to operate them and $18 bil on financing the whole effort, with an overhanging debt of $7 bil to still be paid off over time after that.
    The statement made earlier about ‘death by a 1,000 cuts’ seems to make sense.

    1. “Is this the best we could have done?”

      Maybe if transit advocates had the power at the time to demand better – who knows, maybe they did but the risk of destroying the fragile coalition behind Sound Transit was too great. Or maybe if we had collectively outraised Kemper Freeman and prevented the total embarrassment to Bellevue’s better citizens that was the 2009 election. None of these compromises nullify the benefit of Link as a whole. Why the hell are people talking about elevated through Bellevue? Keep in mind the lawsuits to stop East Link entirely, and who is on that council.

    2. There are some strategic things we could have done, but it was always going to be a compromise due to the power of the anti-rail, anti-transit, anti-tax, don’t-understand-transit people. In Canada or Europe it would have been built much better, but not in the political structure and pro-car culture we have.

      The problems go back to before Sound Transit was created. If Seattle Subway had started ten or twenty years earlier — and if it had been as successful then as it is now — then maybe we could have started a better city subway network alongside “something” for the suburbs. The public was enthusiastic about the Monorail. Maybe it could have been enthusiastic about something else earlier.

      The reason monorail supporters disliked light rail was they were afraid it would be watered down to surface-everywhere, as had been the case with all then-existing light rail systems (MAX, San Diego Trolley, VTA). There was a huge fear that the public would not vote for the cost of tunnels. Central Link was still in design then, with questions about Eastlake vs Broadway, MLK surface/tunnel/elevated, a Roosevelt freeway station, etc. People feared that the grade-separated alternatives would ultimately be eliminated (except the DSTT which was luckily already built).

      So what we should have done was pushed harder for tunnels, to bust this mindset that tunnels are too expensive to be accepted by voters. That means convincing people that the quality is worth the cost and we can afford it. That would have allowed monorail supporters to embrace cheaper, multi-vendor light rail technology.

      The other issue is what ST is and why it was created and what people expect out of it. ST was created due to frustration with regional transit, meaning multi-city and multi-county. In other words, for “suburban” issues. Link did incorporate the main city axis (downtown, Broadway, U-District, Northgate, Rainier Valley), but that was always as part of the “regional spine”, not to be some many-station city subway. If people wanted that, they should have argued for a second system alongside Link, and maybe shifting some of Link’s less-regional stations to it (Roosevelt, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley).

      The issue of bad transfer stations and freeway stations ultimately comes down to the cities and public deferring to cars and parking too much, not understanding the potential of pedestrian/transit districts, or not caring enough about pedestrian/transit districts. Again, we go with the cities and public we have, not the ones we wish we had. A rail system that’s at least somewhat rapid, frequent, and seamless, is better than the no rail system we’ve had for fifty years, even if it takes longer to transfer than it should. And the region will pay in more energy costs, lesser economic potential, and greater vulnerability because it built a mediocre subway rather than an excellent subway.

      1. BART still runs mostly empty, most of the time, with little impact on the way its region works.

        I am unconvinced that doing things poorly is so much better than doing nothing at all.

      2. It makes a difference to people without cars or who don’t want to drive. BART within SF is faster and more frequent than MUNI rail or bus. Transbay you’d probably be waiting 30-60 minutes for a slower bus if BART didn’t exist. Its impact would be greater if it were more extensive: more SF lines, better-located East Bay stations, etc. People who want to take BART can’t because it doesn’t go to their area, so they’re counted as non-riders. Unlike Chicago and New York where the network is much more extensive so it has much higher impact.

      3. I agree with most of what you said. I think I would add that the monorail plan had two big problems:

        1) It was designed after Sound Transit had a successful vote.
        2) It was a monorail.

        The time for a city only transit system was the day after the first Sound Transit plan failed. The plan passed overwhelmingly in Seattle, but died because the suburbs didn’t want it. We should have said “Well, fine, we’ll build our own line. Some of it may be elevated (using light rail) some of it may be underground and some of it (a small portion, hopefully) will be on the surface. If the suburbs want to connect to it, then they will have to chip in.”

        Such an approach would serve the most important areas first. This means the UW to the southern end of Downtown Seattle section gets built first. Then south to Rainier Valley. Then start covering the areas to the west (Ballard and West Seattle).

        From a funding standpoint, I don’t see how that would be different than what we have now. Subarea equity pretty much guarantees this, right? The only difference is that the current system forces the suburbs to spend money on transit when Seattle wants it. This is a good thing. It means that Seattle doesn’t have to foot the bill for the entire region while everyone else gets to enjoy the benefits. For example, Metro might decide to cut the 7X buses (because rail does the job better now) but then reassign those buses to the suburbs. At least with the current system there should be similar reassignments in the suburbs as well.

        Seattle has a very dysfunctional political system. As voters, we often have to choose from ridiculous options. The best example is our current sports stadium situation. We knocked down a multipurpose stadium so that we could build two stadiums — one for football and one for baseball. Both are outdoor stadiums. There is no reason we couldn’t have built an outdoor stadium shared by both teams. Furthermore, it is ridiculous that the Huskies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars so they can play football in their own stadium, given the fact that a very good (football only) stadium sits less than five miles away. Oh, and the land they use for the stadium is extremely valuable. As one sports writer mentioned, it would serve very nicely as an expanded UW hospital. This is a sports writer (a sports writer!) saying that renovating Husky Stadium is stupid. Oh well, at least we don’t put our sewage treatment plant on our nicest, biggest park (oh wait, we do).

      4. People who want to take BART can’t because it doesn’t go to their area, so they’re counted as non-riders.

        Right. BART does one thing well (cross the bay) and pretty much everything else poorly (urban coverage, suburban station locations, service apportionment). As a result, it’s useless for 95% of the populace 98% of the time, and even those with “access” to it have little reason to use it.

        And this is different from the Link we’re getting how?

      5. I am one of those that was a strong Monorail supporter over light rail. One of the reasons was like you mentioned, that I was afraid that light rail would be watered-down to what it has become: a mostly at-grade, stop-at-the-traffic-lights, get-stuck-in-automobile-traffic, system that we have. For the Monorail, nearly everything would’ve been built off-site so construction mess would’ve been minimal. And it never would’ve been stuck in traffic. But, people kept nit-picking at it until it, too, died of a thousand cuts and opinions.

    3. A big problem with the Link model is the choice of light rail on a highly engineered, partially grade separated route. This brings the capital costs of grade separation with the operating costs of light rail. That was really the first compromise too far. A fully grade separated route would not have been that much more expensive and it would have allowed for fully automatic operation with 2 minute peak headways and 4 and 5 minute off peak headways well into the night. Such high frequency also means that trains can be shorter and station boxes can be shorter which is a savings on the capital front. Because the trains are automatic, increasing frequency does not increase operating costs proportionally, yet it does attract riders. Main trunk lines like Link should be operating at close to operating cost recovery.

      The Expo Line in Vancouver operates at over 100% operating cost recovery from fares and the others are more than 70%. The most recent line is a little less than 20km and was built for 115 million per km (aprox 12 miles and 184 milion per mile). This line is hardly perfect, there was cost cutting in the stations which are not that nice, but the line has over 100,000 boardings per weekday and is heavily used on weekends too. Vancouver is a high cost environment and has a smaller tax base than Seattle, so if it is possible here, if is definitely possible in Seattle.

      A true gamechanger would have a bored tunnel from downtown Seattle up Madison and then right under Lake Washington to Bellevue along 8th, and then further to points east. That would have allowed for travel times in the range of 10 to 12 minutes from downtown to downtown and good connections on the Seattle side to Broadway and 23rd. And since the tunnel boring machines would already be in the ground, I would have them skirt around Elliot Bay and carry on all the way to West Seattle. Such a line, and an equivalent north south line, would cost a serious piece of coin, but so does the Link system. If you can tunnel from England to France for 20 billion, you surely could get from Seattle to Bellevue for less. And something like this might allow for West Seattle to Redmond in not much more than 30 minutes.

      Another thing is that good rapid transit attracts bus connections. Yes it is nice if every station is in the midst of a walkable urban village, but rapid transit cannot go everywhere, and that demands some bus connections. I would not consider this a bad thing. A line right under Lake Washington would have a station in downtown Bellevue and then one next to the 405. Such a station would attract large numbers of bus transfers simply because it would be so convenient. I wouldn’t count out a station in the middle of a wasteland it if had good network connections and attracted riders.

    4. I speak as someone who departed Seattle for New York some time ago, after seeing a mind-bogglingly expensive highway tunnel being supported by the same mayor that killed the monorail — ostensibly because it was too expensive. I still visit Seattle every so often, because my parents live in Redmond (right on the crappy 249, which they use so seldomly that they think it’s very convenient for someone like me who doesn’t drive).

      Seattle is a city that is beginning to realize that everyone driving everywhere doesn’t quite work. But it’s still a city that believes it can have a great transit system without compromising the convenience of everyone who is still driving everywhere.

      Transit is still sold on the premise that it will “decongest” roads. The transit system is basically being designed by and for people who drive everywhere, and imagine someone else using it. Transit is thought of by most of the leadership in Seattle as essentially altruistic. It is a means of getting around for people who can’t afford a car, much like the paltry “affordable housing” development concessions are for people who can’t afford to pay market rent — largely symbolic, and almost totally ineffective at solving the underlying problem.

      So, yes, this is the best you can do. And even New York City has the same political dynamic — no significant transit construction has taken place in decades, much complaining over insufficient free parking, etc. We’re just lucky that, unlike the rest of America, most of the city was already built before the post-WWII consensus that driveability was more important than walkability.

      1. New York City has the same political dynamic — no significant transit construction has taken place in decades,

        Seems strange that you’d be a transit advocate living in New York and not consider for instance the new Second Avenue subway as significant.

      2. The first segment is really not all that significant, in the grand scheme of things. When it runs the length of the island, it will be significant.

  12. If the decision is now made here, perhaps we should quit fretting about it and instead push for how this design layout can work better. One idea: adding better pedestrian facilities to points southwest of NE 4th/110th in a way that eliminates or minimizes the number of streets that a pedestrian has to cross and exposure to rain that a pedestrian has to endure. Considering that Bellevue City Hall is the property in between the station and this corner, it’s easily a project that the City could initiate but it would require revisiting the “fortress” approach that pervades City Hall’s layout.

    1. City Hall was originally an AT&T/Qwest facility designed to be secure and robust enough to survive disasters. I visited servers co-located there when MSN rented space there in the 90s. I imagine the “fortress” approach would be difficult to undo, but it’s an idea worth looking at.

      1. Considering what it cost the City to renovate the building as a City Hall, I’m not really convinced that the building’s history is relevant.

  13. The platform for Downtown Bellevue Station will be about 500 feet further to the east of the current 550 bay plus potentially two street crossings and escalators, stairs, or an elevator. It takes me about 2 minutes to walk to my neighborhood mailbox, coincidentally about 500 feet from my front door. The average delay introduced by this (these!?) crossing(s) will be Bellevue’s chance to either shine or screw up.

    Assuming Bellevue optimizes this situation by turning the Intersection at NE 6th & 110th into an All Walk, similar to the current situation at the other end of the Transit Center, and gives pedestrians ample priority, this station shouldn’t be terrible. Vehicle traffic should be secondary – It’s about moving people, not 2-3 ton hunks of faux status symbol metal and machine. Given the lot of pedestrians in Bellevue trying to cross lanes of traffic flowing to transfer tax revenue from other jurisdictions to Bellevue’s city coffers, my hopes are not high but they absolutely can make this work.

    “It sucks less” is how I describe many improvements being made to help transit, bicycle traffic, and pedestrians in the region. How much less the areas transit user’s situation sucks is now up to the voters of Bellevue and their council. I hope to be surprised.

    1. “Given the lot of pedestrians in Bellevue trying to cross lanes of traffic flowing to transfer tax revenue from other jurisdictions to Bellevue’s city coffers”

      This is worth emphasizing. How many business patrons are coming by transit or would come by transit if the network were better. Garages look big and streets look full, but that’s because it takes so much space to fit fifty cars.

    2. Assuming Bellevue optimizes this situation by turning the Intersection at NE 6th & 110th into an All Walk,

      Not going to happen. Well, maybe if there is a paradigm shift and city council incumbents actually start to get booted out.. maybe but that’s a long long way into the future, a long shot and a piece meal fix to spending the $200 million for a tunnel and failing to get any value from it. I watched the council meeting last night on Comcast channel 23. The overwhelming pats on the back from our council was all about having dodged the bullet of at grade rail though DT Bellevue. Thank you very much but you wasted $200 million on the tunnel that could have gone toward extending to Marymoor and pushing the MF to where it was assumed (since Bellevue City Utilities owns the property) was going to be. And there’s still the 2+ years of digging up DT Bellevue for no good reason. There’s an open position on the Bellevue Transportation Commission. I wonder why?

  14. BART “runs mostly empty, most of the time” because it has trains which can carry nearly 600 seated passengers and cross the bay every four minutes in each direction. As you well — or at least should –know, it is very expensive to take trains out of service to change consists, so transit systems just run full length trains throughout the day.

    1. BART does decently between SF and Oakland.

      But those same trains run out to Fremont, Dublin, Walnut Creek, and even SFO with front-to-back loads so low you could fit everyone on a single 40-foot bus. Even though each of those lines operates at a mere 20-minute headway most of the time.

      Because you don’t need rapid-transit frequencies (or expensive rapid transit grade separations) for long-distance commuter rails. Not here, not there, not anywhere.

      If you can’t see that those outer BART spindles were a waste to build and a waste to operate — subsidies reach $32 one-way, remember — then there’s really no hope for your adding anything valuable to the conversation.

      1. (SFO is obviously a different need than outer-East Bay commuter spindles. There, demand is actually significantly depressed by the terrible frequency. There, BART’s shame is botching the geometry and routing so badly that usable frequencies couldn’t be justified by what was being served. Again, sound familiar?)

      2. Many of those distant BART routes would have been excellent routes for improved intercity “corridor” train service. I can name one which ought to be hosting trains to Sacramento… unforunately, BART built with Indian broad gauge and nonstandard tunnel profiles, so everything BART is forever incompatible with all other rail in the world. At least Seattle isn’t doing that; the tunnels you build now can be converted to something else later if you need to.

      3. If your intent was to baffle me, you have succeeded.

        Did you really just say that it’s okay to wildly overbuild something understood to be unnecessary — like outer-BART spindle lines — because they can be converted into a much simpler form of commuter rail later, even though that other form doesn’t need the same sort of expensive accouterments?

        Where do you get the false impression that transit money grows on trees, Nathanael?

        Why is “don’t spend billions on useless things” — inevitably leading to cut corners on the useful things, which then become useless themselves — not a golden rule in transit-advocacy world?

      4. So we agree that BART’s core is worthwhile; we just disagree about the tails. I’ll define the core as Balboa Park, Berkeley, Rockridge, and Bay Fair. What I’m glad about is that this core service exists. DP focuses so heavily on the tails as if that’s the only thing BART is. That’s like looking at binoculars the wrong way around. I’m shocked, shocked that the government wasted money on a too-long line. But that’s small potatoes compared to the fact that the core area has a rapid-transit system while before it didn’t at all. And the Dublin extension did not just send trains to nowheresville, it also added service in SF and make SF – OAK full-time (rather than requiring a transfer Sundays).

        DP focuses so much on making sure that people in suburbia who don’t “deserve” transit don’t get it, that he loses sight of people in the core who do deserve it. That’s like the right-wingers who are so offended at a few welfare queens and Medicare fraudsters that they want to eliminate the programs entirely, never mind the millions of people who can’t make ends meet without them. A better approach would be to just narrowly target the excess. So just erase the extensions outside the core and replace them with buses. I would rather do that than eliminate BART entirely. But DP’s all-or-nothing approach suggests that even the core should be gone too, and I strongly object to that. BART is the way it is because of the balance of political interests that was necessary to get anything accomplished. I’d rather have an imperfect compromise than no system at all. Too much transit is better than not enough transit, and is a refreshing exception to the sea of not-enough-transit that reigns everywhere.

        (I do think SFO and Fremont deserve special consideration because they’re not “just” tails. One is the biggest airport in the region, and the other is halfway to connecting two of the Bay Area’s largest cities. But that’s another topic.)

      5. DP focuses so heavily on the tails as if that’s the only thing BART is.

        No, it’s just where all the money gets set on fire on a daily basis.

        And it’s the reason serious investments in strained urban transit infrastructure get $$ shortchanged to the point where they end up useless (mixed-running T-Third segments, SF Central Subway To Nowhere).

        And its existence encourages politicians and other assorted morons to cream their pants about “completing the ring around the Bay”, thus creating 100 miles of empty trains in places that don’t need urban-level services.

        And that encourages Puget Sounders with inferiority complexes to wish to “complete the spine”, to equally useless effect.

        DP focuses so much on making sure that people in suburbia who don’t “deserve” transit

        For the billionth time, it’s not about “deserving” or “undeserving”. It’s that people in the distant sprawl don’t and won’t fucking use the thing, because it’s just plain ill-suited to their movement needs.

        I enjoy the playfully adversarial banter with you, Mike, but you’re just fucking wrong here.

      6. Mike,

        You’re right; the core wouldn’t have been built if the tails hadn’t been promised and delivered.

        And the core carries large loads every four minutes all……day……long.

      7. You’re right; the core wouldn’t have been built if the tails hadn’t been promised and delivered.

        You appear to be confusing “poor leadership influenced by poor basic understanding of needs” with “the way things must inevitably have happened in all possible realities”.

        And the core carries large loads every four minutes all……day……long.

        Sadly, even that isn’t really true. Outside of commuting, it just isn’t useful enough.

      1. And after three minutes of fearmongering as we watch trains enter the Transbay Tube — the only truly busy part of the system — at the peak of the peak, snide reporter lady admits that most of the “capacity problem” is those gigantic seats clogging up 3/4 of the train’s floor area.

        Again, BART is a commuter rail. Seeing it full of commuters is not surprising. But the physical form those commuter lines take beyond the “core” delineated by Mike is dramatic overkill, and the service the rest of the day (even at only 20 minutes per branch) is a ghost town.

        Also, it’s nice how she dismisses that app that tells you which cars are likely to be emptiest. My last rush-hour-timed trip to SFO, it intentionally put myself on the completely vacant front car, only to look back and see people trying to push their way onto a middle car.

        Is the West Coast just inherently dumber about negotiating space than the rest of the word is?

  15. Idea. Build an underground pedestrian tunnel with movable walkways from Bellevue Station to Bellevue Way.

  16. And 36 is suddenly less more than 40? HEx is hardly ideal either since it dumps you out at Paddington, which, for most people is quite a bit less convenient than the Picadilly line’s run through Central London, or for that matter the Downtown Transit Tunnel in Seattle.

    All of this is pretty much irrelevant anyway. I’ve never found the walk at the airport which is flat, covered, and doesn’t conflict with cars problematic. The issue is at the other end. Except for leaving work (and even that only because I now happen to work downtown) and running to the airport, there’s literally no journey I (or most locals) could make to te airport using Link without (essentially) treating the ride on Link as a destination in and of itself (been there, done that).

    1. You’re replying out of thread.

      36 versus 40? What are you even referring to? My point was that the Tube built an inconvenient and imperfect Heathrow facility 36 years ago, and now it’s unfortunately stuck where it is.

      But when Heathrow Express was put in, they did not repeat that error.

      We just five years ago rejected the opportunity to learn from precedents elsewhere — a mistake Seattle makes again and again — and willingly built a brand-new station 1000 feet from the closest point of the airport (and nearly 3/4 mile from many airport gates). And now we’re stuck with it where it is.

      Like you, I long resented that a bus->Link->airport trip would require leaving three times earlier than getting a ride or taking a cab. Fortunately, now I can use car2go to get to Link, making the whole process much more time-competitive for about 1/20 of the cost of a cab the whole way.

      1. Sorry for replying out of thread, unfortunately, it’s not possible to reply in thread — for some bizarre reason, not every post has a reply link.

        The original statement was “Link’s airport station has the worst access to the airport of any ‘direct’ airport transit link built in the last 40 years.” Last time I checked, 36 < 40. Also, as I point out in my post HEx has it's own set of problems (and HEx to T1 is hardly a picnic either).

        I think the bottom line is that in all three cases, stations and routings were a result of compromises: you wouldn't have done it that way if your only goal was to provide a useful service to the airport.

        car2Go looks like it might be useful to some in Seattle, but it doesn't seem to do much for the rest of King County. And I'm not sure how I feel about having to find a parking space on the way to the airport, or how to make it work at all on the way home.

      2. Ah, I see which comment you’re referring to.

        Yes, obviously that was a rounding error, and I was mostly thinking of the list of North American examples, which covers pretty much the entire history of dedicated airport links on this continent, and proves that even the endlessly compromised (and sometimes completely asinine) U.S. rail projects of the modern era haven’t botched this particular matter as badly as we did.

        Even in Chicago, which I left off the list because neither airport link is great, both are better than what we have, and the Midway connection is getting better all the time. Generally, those 40 years show an arc of improvement both here and around the world, a trend with Sound Transit shamelessly bucked. 1000 feet of outdoor trudging just to set foot inside any terminal is unprecedented and unacceptable.

        As you say, if you’re coming from anywhere but Seattle, Link fails to adequately sell itself as your airport connection. North and East Link are unlikely to change this in the slightest, unless you happen to be inches from one of a handful of stations (a tiny statistical probability). But this is why the station placement matters: I have no doubt that there are many who consider making a downtown transfer, or getting a ride to a station; then when they think about the extra 10-minute walk at the airport end, dragging all their luggage behind them, that ride or cab right to the check-in desk sounds all the more appealing.

        (As for car2go, the trick is to bypass downtown and shoot straight for SoDo or Beacon Hill, where parking at Link’s front door is plentiful. But of course this only works if you’re in a place where car2go’s are plentiful when needed.)

  17. I believe that (for the most part) people have made their decision not to use transit well before they think about the transfer at the airport: either because of last mile issues, or because of an inconvenient transfer downtown, or because of limited hours of service, or some combination of the above. After all, people pay close to 30 bucks a day for the privilege of a similar trek from their cars.

    That said, at the margins, of course there will be people for whom the airport trek is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The question then is what could ST have done differently given the local political climate in SeaTac, the pre-existing configuration of the airport, and the actual funding situation? How many extra riders would they have attracted, and would it have been worth the trouble?

    Thanks for the car2go tips. That’s much as I supected it, but other than a vague (and perobably vastly unfair) impression of a mixture between sprawling slums and industrial wasteland, I barely know the part of non-downtown currently served by Link, and I certainly wouldn’t have had a clue of where to try to park.

    I’m hopeful that once Link’s extension is complete it will at least provide a useful connection between UW and the airport.

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