Let’s serve Kirkland right.

We’ve written recently about Sound Transit’s update to their Long Range Plan (LRP). This list of potential projects is what Sound Transit draws from when developing future ballot measures. It can contain projects that range from completely designed and shovel ready to opportunities for study.

Sound Transit has framed their current outreach as serving two needs – updating the LRP, and prioritizing projects for Sound Transit 3. These are different goals. The largest projects likely to be in ST3 are already in the LRP – completing Link’s first spine, potentially expanding Sounder and Tacoma Link make up the bulk of an ST2-sized measure.

Most of the comments I’ve seen people make focus on influencing those projects that are already in the LRP. That’s a solid goal, but it leaves a hole in our advocacy. Just as Sound Transit 2 contained the corridor studies now under way toward Sound Transit 3, Sound Transit 3 will need to contain study work for potential projects in Sound Transit 4 – and Sound Transit 3 projects will need to be designed to accommodate those potential expansions.

Given the advocacy I know has already taken place and the corridors that already exist in the LRP, there are two things I think we need to be sure to add to the LRP for study:

First, a third north-south corridor through Seattle. However we serve downtown to Ballard and West Seattle, a huge swath of the city will still be between the two lines. A new Ballard line won’t serve the Greenwood or 99 corridors, but we’re seeing growth in both, and that will only continue. A West Seattle line can’t serve California, 35th, and Delridge at the same time, much less Georgetown and South Park.

The key here is that any new tunnel in downtown Seattle (as is being considered as part of the Downtown-West Seattle study already) should be designed to carry two lines, not just one, without having to shut down for future reconstruction.

Second, a Sand Point alternative to connect Kirkland to our regional system. Right now, shortsightedly, the Ballard-UW-Kirkland planning focuses exclusively on using SR-520. I wrote about this more than three years ago, and from that post, I’m resurrecting the image above, which shows alternatives considered by a study designed to push rail compatibility on 520.

Using 520 to get from UW to Kirkland would be some 50% longer than Sand Point, costing more and dramatically increasing travel time. Plus, with Children’s Hospital expanding, a Sand Point alternative wouldn’t just serve thousands more people, it would serve tens of thousands more jobs.

Considering the massive political hurdles to building through UW campus again, retrofitting 520 and giving Olympia another hostage, and trying to build new infrastructure in Montlake and Medina, it might even be cheaper to build a new bridge/tunnel/whatever than to build all that extra mileage. We should be studying it, not precluding it before we balance the options.

82 Replies to “Key Additions to the Long Range Plan”

  1. Using 520 to get from UW to Kirkland would be some 50% longer than Sand Point, costing more and dramatically increasing travel time.

    Costing more, except for the part where the 520 bridge will already exist, with a design to accommodate the extra pylons necessary for light rail.

    1. During the fight for I-90, WSDOT asked Sound Transit to pay for the full value of the express lanes to use them. The only reason that valuation came out as low as it did – $90 or $150 million, I’m not sure which – was because the lanes had devalued for decades. Using the same requirement, the state might require Sound Transit to buy a billion dollars of bridge in order to use those lanes.

      1. Isn’t that a matter of state constitutional law? Kemper v. Freeman hinged on the fact that ST is paying WSDOT full value for use of the lanes. If we send Link over 520, ST should also pay WSDOT for a percentage of the existing pylons plus the full cost of any new pylons and guideway construction.

      2. …meant to add:

        It’s still quite likely that paying for use of the existing infrastructure would be far cheaper than building a new lake crossing.

      3. It’s still quite likely that paying for use of the existing infrastructure would be far cheaper than building a new lake crossing.

        I’m trying to figure out the argument you’re making, so bear with me.

        I think you’re saying that the 520 bridge benefits from economies of scale. That is, it’s cheaper to take two lanes of the bridge, or to build two new lanes, than it is to build an entirely new bridge.

        That might be true, but it also might not be. As an example, the existing pontoons are not rated to handle the loads that would be generated by trains. What happens if it turns out that adding two lanes to the bridge means that all the pontoons have to be replaced with larger ones? That could be much more expensive than building a tiny bridge that only needs to handle trains.

        The point is that we don’t really know the answer without studying it. The mobility benefits of a new crossing — especially compared to the lack of mobility benefits from 520 rail — strongly suggest that it should at least make it to the first round of consideration.

      4. I think you’re saying that the 520 bridge benefits from economies of scale.

        That’s not an economy of scale; that would be an argument that building multiple bridges would bring down the total cost, because the fixed costs of setting up a bridge-building enterprise would be dominated by the much lower marginal cost of building each bridge.

        The point is that we don’t really know the answer without studying it.

        Bingo. That is my point. Ben’s post states that one reason to study a Sand Point crossing is the surety that it would be cheaper than a 520 route. In case he edits his post without warning, like he has been known to do (emphasis added):

        Using 520 to get from UW to Kirkland would be some 50% longer than Sand Point, costing more and dramatically increasing travel time.

        I’m challenging him on that.

      5. It doesn’t matter whether Ben was too confident in his cost estimates. The fact remains that both corridors are worth studying, and the studies may reveal additional factors in the cost. The Sand Point-Kirkland route offers unique strategic opportunities — a direct connection between north Seattle, downtown Kirkland, and the northern Eastside that has never been possible before, and where transit might actually have better travel time than driving. (Try going from downtown Kirkland to Wallingford in a car and you’ll see what I mean, especially during weekday congestion. Then look at Kirkland to West Seattle and Burien.)

        Of course it may end up being too expensive, not beneficial enough, or low priority compared to other lines, but those are things we can consider after the study results come in and we hear how much Kirkland and Redmond like the alternative (since the Eastside would be paying for everything east of Sand Point).

  2. Completely agree with this, but wanted to throw in one detail:

    We’d be running a line through a neighborhood that tried to block the expansion of Children’s Hospital, and protected Seattle’s largest suburban-style office park.

    Who knows what changes the next few decades will bring to attitudes of the area, but prepare for a battle. That said, there’s a lot of long-term potential for development there if the neighborhood allows it.

    1. I can’t see much difference between “Seatte’s largest suburban-style office park” and the grounds of St. Mark’s Cathedral. A city needs some pockets of open space, even if they aren’t in the public domain.

      That said, unless you expect the area between downtown Kirkland and downtown Redmond (Rose Hill) to be completely rebuilt with high density housing, the green line and aqua lines on this map are dumb.

      While there might be a use for the red line (Aurora-Wallingford-UW-Bellevue-Overlake-Redmond) bridging the lake at Sand Point just because it’s shorter to Kirkland is a big waste of money. Let there be some evidence that Rose Hill will actually densify before spending that kind of money.

      1. And, why do you even think that there will BE an “ST3” vote? At the rate the state is developing envious hostility to King County, it’s extremely unlikely that the state will allow further bonding authority.

      2. We can vote on ST3 with or without the legislature, we’d just have to wait until 2024 to go regionwide. If we don’t go regionwide, we could definitely use property tax for a 2016 Ballard to Downtown measure in Seattle.

      3. The other advantage is two stations to the east of the Brooklyn stations that we will be much more popular than most of the line. A third station (at Sand Point) won’t be of much use, but it will be a lot better than a station in the middle of the lake.

        In other words, a line from Ballard to Children’s hospital is justified on its own. Connecting that to the east side might make sense, especially if it is cheaper than creating a line from Husky Stadium Station to the east side.

      4. Why do you think there won’t be? People get elected and defeated, attitudes change, coalitions change, backroom deals change, things may look different if the current transportation bill is voted up or down, etc. If ST asks in 2015 and gets an actual no, we’ll deal with that then. Don’t assume you’re defeated until you’re actually defeated, because you may end up missing opportunities.

      5. I certainly agree about the part of the Blue/Aqua Line within Seattle: Balland-Fremont-UDistrict and east perhaps all the way to Magnuson Park, perhaps only to the hospital. It makes sense, especially if it can be worked into a junction with the Ballard-CBD line either under QA Hill or at its south end. If you get your wish, Ben, and the Ballard-CBD ST line runs under QA Hill, this could share trackage from 15th to 3rd NW with it and maybe trains could come down from Bitter Lake to Fremont, swing west to 3rd and use the QA Hill tunnel to get downtown. That way there could be a “downtown Fremont” station shared between the East-West line and a Bitter-Lake downtown line as well as one by SPU shared by the two north-south lines.

        But if there ever is such a Bitter Lake south line don’t go down Aurora south of 125th. Greenwood is where the action is, and it is a GREAT!!! place for serious density right along the crest of the ridge. Both sides of Phinney/Greenwood Ridge between about 80th and the zoo are steep enough that the shadow problem already exists for structures not right along the arterial on top. As a result, adding six or eight story buildings checkerboarded so they all see both directions wouldn’t be that much of a shadow stopper but would produce a bonanza of spectacular view properties in a very small footprint.

        But crossing the lake? No. It’s exactly the same situation we have here in Vancouver (USA!). There’s a very nice smaller city CBD with the willingness–even desire– to become more dense and “citified” with a vast sinkhole of single-family neighborhoods around it. The lawnists living in them will never allow their neighborhoods to become dense enough to support HCT, and that’s just the way it is.

        If the lake/river weren’t there it would make sense to extend HCT to the downtown on the far side, but it is. So you’d have a couple of stations in downtown Kirkland/Vancouver and bumper posts or a few empty stations dwindling off into the gloom. The passenger loads will never justify the enormous costs. If LRT ever comes to Kirkland it should come from the Bellevue to the south, not across the lake.

        You can be double darn betcha certain that you’re not crossing that lake for $500 million (the difference in costs to add LRT to the CRC) so you’ll have the ‘Pub’s howling about the cost even more than we do here.

      6. Ben,

        By your reply I gather that the ST1 bonds will be paid off in 2024 so that bonding authority would be come available. Is that what you mean? If so, great! That’s a long time but it’s a defined time.

      7. Guess what happens when you build multifamily housing, as is happening in Kirkland, Sand Point, Ballard, and other places. Single-family residents become a lower percentage of the population and lose some of their clout. The new multifamily residents are more likely to want good transit, even if in places like Kirkland they also insist on a parking space in their building. And as time goes on the “no growth, no transit” position becomes more and more untenable, especially if as that Minnesota consultant that was linked a couple days ago says, “The next thirty years will be nothing like the past thirty years.” We’ve already achieved things that were considered a long shot five or ten years ago, and signs are that things will continue to become more favorable, in spite of the current state anti-transit backlash, which can’t last forever.

      8. Mike,

        While multi-family development can and usually does change the political character of a municipality, it rarely is able to change the essential nature of an established and prosperous neighborhood if that neighborhood doesn’t want to change.

        All I’m saying is that between downtown Kirkland and downtown Redmond you have five miles of 1950’s to 1970’s single-family homes with mostly narrow arterials and a strong resistance to densification. Yes, strip development along Central Way/NE 85th to a mile or so east east of I-405 on 85th so you’d have one reasonable rail station near the freeway in five miles. On the other side of Redmond there will never be much development. It starts to get hilly pretty quickly on the other side of the valley and I’m sure most of that area is owned and zoned very low density.

        Sure, there’s every reason to put BRT on the Aqua line. Go for it; you could have four BRT stations along NE85th and serve more people. But not a rail line. There’s no easily reservable right of way along Central or Kirkland Way. You might get it for a bus, but not for a train. So it would have to be elevated. It’s just not worth the money, especially when East Link will already go to Redmond.


      9. If east of downtown Kirkland is too low density, that’s actually an argument for truncating the line at downtown Kirkland, not an argument for not building it at all. Downtown Kirkland is just the kind of place that rapid transit is meant to serve, and it’s the largest Eastside city that’s left out of East Link.

        However, I’m also sympathetic to the arguments that Kirkland’s HCT priority should be south to Bellevue and north to Totem Lake, before going to north Seattle.

      10. >However, I’m also sympathetic to the arguments that Kirkland’s HCT priority should be south to Bellevue and north to Totem Lake, before going to north Seattle.

        cough cough Eastside Rail Corridor

      11. … but detouring to Bellevue TC and Kirkland TC, not just going straight north-south. Light rail has to stop at the major pedestrian centers. Commuter rail maybe not. Fortunately, East Link will be a suitable path for any north-south line between South Bellevue and Hospital.

    2. That’s a battle that would be similar to going through Medina and South Kirkland – except that right along Sand Point, there is already office building and apartment construction. It’s buffered from most Laurelhurst residents.

      My point is that this is arguable either way, so we need a study.

  3. Considering time-frame for this work, very possible future state legislatures won’t present present problems. Remember: “The Dead Don’t Get Seniority” (Sequel to “World War Z.”)

    New generation in Laurelhurst will likely be a lot more favorable to what really does look like a good rail route.


    1. Its not Laurelhurst that abuts Sand Point but rather Windermere , and trust me, those folks HAVE power

  4. This is what I’m sending to ST today.

    A few things I’d like to see added to the LRP:
    1. HCT corridor from Ballard to Northgate.
    2. HCT corridor on BNSF corridor from I-90 to Totem Lake.
    3. HCT corridor between Elliot Bay and 23rd north of downtown.
    4. Third fully-elevated HCT N/S corridor which takes over travel to/from the airport. Extend Central Link to Southcenter/Renton area.
    5. A bus-rail integration program that funds small to major capital projects that improve transfers and bus speed and reliability around Link stations.
    6. Funding to establish a region-wide public development corporation to assist in finance and construction of affordable housing, mixed-use housing, and necessary public infrastructure to catalyze private investments along HCT corridors.
    7. A BRT partnering program to fund the capital components of arterial BRT projects with Metro/CT/PT to a ITDP standard of Bronze for 2nd tier HCT corridors.
    8. Regionally competitive grants for small to medium sized transit speed and reliability projects along major transit corridors.
    9. Matching funds for feeder bus service between Link and regional centers not served by HCT with a requirement of very frequent service all day.
    10. Program to fully implement the Growing Transit Communities partnership.
    11. Fund infill stations were appropriate.

    Some of these might be beyond the purview Sound Transit but if they are ST should lobby to get that changes on a state level.

      1. I think all my suggestions could overlap with both. With that said South Kirkland P&R is as important of a transit hub as downtown Kirkland so I think any Seattle-Kirkland solution needs to pass through that area. Additionally, because people on the Eastside want faster connection between Kirkland and Bellevue any improvement you make to the South Kirkland P&R to downtown Kirkland corridor will kill two birds with one stone.

        The green corridor from U-District station to Children’s makes a lot of sense on it’s own but I just don’t see a compelling value for a new bridge though.

      2. Of course the Ballard-45th line could go to either Children’s or Sand Point, regardless of whether a lake crossing is built beyond that.

      3. Why a new bridge? Well, if we’re going to build another rail crossing, let’s use the one that would add the most value. Rail over 520 simply isn’t a good use of anybody’s money. Compared to East Link and express buses over 520, it won’t significantly improve travel times or quality for people in Kirkland or Redmond. Especially with center HOV-3 lanes, express buses on 520 are already doing a pretty good job of serving Overlake, especially given the exceptionally peaky demand — there just aren’t that many people who want to go to or from Redmond at 3pm on a Saturday.

        In contrast, a rail crossing at Sand Point would be a revolutionary improvement for people in Kirkland. It could cut their travel time in half or more, especially if they’re heading to North Seattle. And its walk shed — and “drive shed” — would be usefully distinct from that of East Link.

        The best way to serve South Kirkland, IMHO, is by building a Mountlake Terrace-style freeway station at 108th. It would be a lot of money, but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to a new rail station, let alone an entire rail line.

      4. WSDOT is already building what would have been a great freeway station at 108th. Unfortunately, for some unfathomable reason, it’s getting built at Yarrow Point instead.

        At that location, the primary criteria for the station’s effectiveness is how fast buses can zoom by it when nobody is getting on or off without risking leaving somebody behind the once-in-a-blue-moon somebody actually wants to board a bus there.

      5. It’s to avoid not taking away an existing flyer stop (Yarrow Point), and not excluding the Points communities completely. Those may or may not be good reasons, but that’s why it’s happening.

  5. A few extra desired things for ST:

    1. Feasibility Study for a Renton/Valley light rail connection (Tukwila-Southcenter-Renton-Kent)
    2. South Sounder 3rd track, plus lots of capital improvements at Tacoma, Puyallup, and Sumner
    3. Eastside Sounder corridor (Woodinville-Bellevue-Renton-Tukwila)
    4. Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College via 6th Avenue
    5. Seamless in-system pedestrian connection from King Street Sounder to International District Link station (preferably underground)

    1. I would actively fight against the BNSF corridor being used for Sounder. This corridor needs all-day, frequent service. Long-distance, commuter service would duplicate most of ST’s routes on I-405.

      1. Sure, it might be nice to not like it for Sounder, but this corridor is the main rail intercity corridor connecting Seattle to points far to the south, not just for commuters heading into the city. Making sure it’s in good shape keeps even our faintest notion of a interstate rail system intact.

        The current users of the track could use a little extra capacity, too — a 3rd track at least reins in the idea of all-day Sounder service from “pipe dream” to “we can do this someday if all the pieces fall together”. (I’m intentionally glossing over the fact that BNSF is the owner/operator – not really relevant to this discussion, but it is an issue even now.)

        Unless you’re proposing acquisition and construction of a new ROW?

      2. I think the other Adam was referring to your point 3 and the Eastside Rail Corridor. It makes sense that it should be considered for a HCT corridor alongside 405 BRT, but Sounder is probably the wrong mode choice.

      3. The rail corridor is a great trail, but running trains down it would totally ruin it. The ROW simply isn’t wide enough to include double tracks and a trail side by side without expensive clearing and grading of adjacent homes. And, even if it were, the noise from the trains going by would destroy the atmosphere for not just trail uses, but also nearby residents sitting in their homes.

        Buses down 405 – great, but keep the trail a trail.

      4. @asdf: it was bought as a rail right of way, so if the trail won’t fit, get rid of it. This is the satndard problem with allowing trails to built on rail right of ways: even when there is a promise that the right of way will be returned to rail use if needed, the trail becomes an immovable obstacle to progress.

        In any case, though, my impression was that the ROW is mostly a fairly standard 75ft corridor. Is this not the case? If it is, it’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t room in the ROW for both rail and trail.

      5. Kirkland said the ROW is wide enough for a trail and future commuter/light rail. They may be mistaken or lying about that, but I’ll take Kirkland’s word for it over one non-engineer’s word. If you (or anyone) want to gather evidence that Kirkland is wrong, now would be a good time to do so, before the trail gets further along.

      6. There is room for both along a good amount of the corridor. There is some private intrusion along the corridor but that is mostly along the stretch south of I-90.

    2. I don’t really understand why item #5 is even in your list. It is not hard to walk up the stairs (or use the elevator), cross 2nd Ext and Jackson St, and go down the other flight of stairs (or elevator) right there. What needs to be fixed? How are there even enough people using this path to even justify, as you suggest, a complete tunnel dug under an active railroad line in the middle of an active train station, under a street and a half, and then through the basement of Union Station?

      Things like this are the reason I would vote down an ST3 package… I feel that much more could be done with the tax money that is being collected now (and being squandered) than is being done.

      For the record, I voted no on Pierce Transit’s Prop 1: They do not need more money. They need to become more efficient with what they are getting now. Additionally, they were able to continue running all of these routes because the projections came in that the economy was *IMPROVING* and the revenues were up! We do not need more taxes in a down economy!

  6. I think you have some good points, Ben. I particularly like the Downtown connection question because it can have a much wider benefit and it would assess whether it is cheaper to build a new line or overhaul what we already have (a desperately needed comparison) for more capacity. I think that the platforms, escalators and connectivity of the now 23 year-old Downtown Seattle stations need to be reevaluated and included in a 2016 package.

    I hope there is more inspiration among transit advocates to say “We need to build a system that operates awesomely in 2035!” rather than “We only need to study the corridors drawn years ago.” Segmented corridors is how an organization designs and builds rail lines, but not how one operates them or uses them.

  7. What about a 2-level 2nd Ave DSTT (with connections to existing one) that could carry Sounder in its lower tracks and the Ballard/Seattle and Aurora/Georgetown/SeaTac in the upper tracks. With the same four stations as the current DSTT it would boost up the efficiency of Sounder enough to delete or reduce bus service along I-5 to Tacoma.

    1. There’s no way a Sounder tunnel would be cost effective, though I have seen renderings of a Sounder Station at University Street that looked pretty neat.

    2. I think it’s too much of a long shot at this stage, especially since it’s a brand-new idea that hasn’t gotten wider debate. (Or at least, I never heard of it until now.) But if ST were to make a strong commitment to half-hourly Sounder South as the primary regional transit for south-central King and all of Pierce, then this would be a natural complement to it, and would be akin to San Francisco’s future downtown terminal for Caltrain/HSR. And if ST figures out a way to improve Sounder North to make it a more viable alternative for the bulk of Snohomish County, then ithe trains could continue north. But you’re talking about a large commitment on top of a large commitment which ST hasn’t made. For current and projected Sounder service (almost-hourly South weekdays, no change North), it’s way too expensive.

      1. Mike: As I understand the desire for a Sounder tunnel, it’s an attempt to mitigate the fairly steep transfer penalty incurred by people headed for downtown jobs or shopping. Adding 10 to 15 muinutes at the end of the trip goes a long way to negating any advantage rail has over an express bus from many origins south of Seattle.

        As such, a useful downtown tunnel for Sounder would have to have at least one, ideally two stations downtown, and would have to stay east of 1st Ave until at least Stewart, or better yet Denny (and even tht doesn’t help people heade for SLU that much). At that point, I’m not really sure tha there’s a viable route back to teh BNSF ROW for Sounder North.

    1. It’s about a mile through Magnesun Park between Sand Point Way and the water, so you’d have to have some plan for how people would make such a connection. A mile-walk for a connection in the middle of a trip is a bit much and deviating the 75 to meander through the parking lot would be an extraordinary waste of time for anyone who simply wants to go between Lake City and the U-district. Furthermore, the roads in the park would likely have to be completely rebuilt to handle large vehicles like buses pounding on them every day. On top of that, water taxis expensive to operate compared to buses – they require a larger crew and significantly more fuel per mile traveled. On top of that, you would still have to operate the 255 anyway, or you would lose coverage in South Kirkland.

      The long and the short of it is – I don’t think the idea would be very realistic.

    2. They were actually going to do a test of a Kirkland-UW water taxi that would dock right next to Husky Stadium a few years ago, but they canceled it before it could start. I feel like that could be a really great idea when University Link opens – it would just be like a two-minute walk from the ferry dock to UW station, so people commuting from Kirkland to Downtown and from Kirkland to UW could both use it.

      1. First heard of the Kirkland-UW water taxi suggestion some 25 years ago, and from time to time the idea pops up again. I have always liked the idea.

      2. Kirkland to UW would make a lot more sense than Kirkland to Magnesun Park. Although the fact that a boat trip would cost more to operate than a 540 trip would probably doom it anyway. Then, there’s problem of football games. During the period of highest demand, such a ferry would have to suspend service because the loading area next to the stadium is reserved for millionaires to park their boats while they watch the game.

    1. That’s what I’ve been trying to get ST to answer, and the answer isn’t looking good. ST seems to consider it premature to make U-District station expandable since it doesn’t even have an alignment for a 45th line yet, much less voter approval for it. And the station site is constrained by UW Tower on the west, the historic Neptune building on the east, and a historic apartment building on the south. UW can prevent ST from doing anything that impacts UW Tower. So the site is very constrained, and the existing station box takes up almost all of it. So I’m worried about a transfer station, and whether we’d get stuck with a station a block away, and people having to come up to the surface and cross a street to get to the other station, and that would impat ridership massively.

      1. Another bloody stupid station design. Would nobody there have ever thought that a likely route for a future line would be on 45th, and transferring would be extremely important at a station that would likely be the busiest on the system? Arrrrgh.

        (We’ve already chronicled the existing station problems like Mt. Baker and TIBS; throw in Northgate not being right at Northgate Way rather than serving a bus transit center that is mostly inaccessible anyway and the new preliminary design for N 130th, which for an unfathomable reason is not directly underneath the street bridge–meaning bus riders from the west will have to wait to cross the street rather than just going down to the platform on that side. Horrible placement for a station whose on/off riders will nearly all be transfer passengers.)

  8. In my perfect world, the Ballard-Downtown line would proceed diagonally to Greenwood before hitting Aurora and following 99 all the way to Everett, while the line to Northgate would have turned east to serve Lake City and other places on 522. In that scenario, there would be very little need for a third line north of Downtown, especially if we build Ben’s Sand Point-Kirkland bridge. But that would have required the presence of sense and actual long-range planning a decade ago.

    As it stands, a third line would still serve very little south of Greenwood, which, if the goal is to eventually send the Ballard line to Northgate and Lake City, could probably still be adequately served by the Ballard line. (I don’t say that to belittle Woodland Park or the zoo, but even the densest part of Phinney Ave N doesn’t exactly strike me as the densest of areas.) Whether or not we could simply split the Ballard line at 105th would probably be determined by demand much further down the line, namely whether, given the choice of routing to get to Ballard, we’d still have need for two lines south of the Ship Canal, one going to Interbay and possibly Magnolia and one going to Queen Anne en route to Fremont.

    1. I’m guessing the ST3 Ballard-Downtown line will be via Interbay, in which case Queen Anne, Fremont, Phinney Ridge (I think it’s actually quite dense and densifying, and Link to there could increase tourist traffic to the zoo), and the Bitter Lake area could all be served by a third line, while the Ballard one could be extended north to serve Crown Hill. I’m don’t think the Ballard-Northgate will be worthy of a rail line for a long time.

      1. I really hope that your prediction isn’t true. The Interbay corridor is a great example of where *not* to build rail. You have an exceptionally wide street, with virtually no local demand, and no residents to complain about giving up street parking. That’s pretty much the perfect place for BRT, which is why the D Line is so perfectly placed (and why it’s tragic that the D squanders its advantages by diverting to LQA).

        In contrast, Ben’s “Option 9” does a much better job at hitting all of the west-side destinations that are difficult to effectively serve with buses, most notably Upper Queen Anne, Lower Queen Anne, and central Ballard. (Fremont just happens to be a convenient place to stop along the way.)

        If you’re going to extend a train north from Ballard, the logical route is to tunnel under 22nd or 20th, then continuing north on Holman Road to Northgate Way and 125th, with stops at Crown Hill (85th), Greenwood (the 5-way intersection with Greenwood Ave), Northgate (with a connection to North Link), and Lake City (125th/Lake City Way). That would provide a lot of much-needed grid connectivity. I don’t think that Crown Hill by itself has enough demand to justify a subway, unless you think that you’re going to extend it later on, but the Northgate and Lake City connection would open up a ton of routes throughout North Seattle that would otherwise require connecting downtown.

    2. I want to see the following two north-south lines.

      Line 1 (similar to a couple of ST’s options):
      – Underground at Westlake
      – Underground at Uptown
      – Underground at Queen Anne
      (diagonal tunnel under Queen Anne)
      – Elevated ship canal crossing
      – Underground at central Ballard (20th or so)
      – Possible: extension to Crown Hill and then to Northgate/Lake City

      Line 2:
      – Underground at Westlake
      – ? at SLU (could be underground, surface, or elevated)
      – Elevated ship canal crossing and stop at Fremont; enter portal north of Fremont
      – Underground stops at Woodland Park, Phinney (65th), Greenwood (87th or so), 105th, and Bitter Lake (130th)

  9. I wonder if a 520 line would need a second set of tracks alongside North Link to get from UW Station to U District Station. If that’s the case, I can see a Sand Point-Kirkland bridge starting to look reasonable in terms of cost, but even then it seems like another cross-lake bridge would be so expensive that it’s just not worth it.

    1. I agree – I think it is probably too expensive as well. However, even so, it is still worth studying, just in case it turns out to be significantly cheaper than we all imagine it to be. If the study concludes that LRT to Kirkland is too expensive, we don’t have to actually build it, but all we’ve lost is the cost of the study.

  10. A West Seattle line can’t serve California, 35th, and Delridge at the same time, much less Georgetown and South Park.

    Actually, depending on how you define “Delridge,” a deep-tunnel West Seattle line could serve all of these destinations. The stops would go like this:

    – Elevated near Youngstown (Delridge/Andover or so)
    (enter portal near Genesee/Avalon)
    – Underground near 35th/Avalon (or within the triangle)
    – Underground at Alaska Junction
    – Underground near 35th/Morgan (High Point)
    (exit portal uphill from Home Depot)
    – Elevated at Westwood Village
    – Elevated in central White Center (south of Roxbury)
    – Continue elevated to Burien

    As for South Park and Georgetown, they need improved bus service (15 minutes all day on both the 132 and 124, please, along with routing changes to speed both lines up) but they just aren’t big enough for rail and won’t be for a long time.

  11. Are there any metrics which justify prioritizing Ballard to Northgate ridership any time in this century?

    There are people in the NE. Many of these people work downtown. Exactly 4 of them want to go there via Ballard.

    It is absolutely absurd to prioritize a 3rd line in and out of dead-end Ballard over serving a high density of people in the Northeast with even one line that doesn’t necessitate a transfer to get where the vast majority will be going.

    1. This is the endpoint fallacy.

      A line between downtown and Lake City, via Northgate and Ballard, would serve *tons* of trip pairs. With one line, you hit Lake City, Northgate, north Greenwood, Crown Hill, Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne, and Belltown. So you serve every possible trip between those two points. In addition, you provide a connection point at Northgate, which accommodates trips like Ballard-Roosevelt, or Lynnwood-Lake City, or Lynnwood-Fremont.

      Maybe folks from Lake City will transfer at Northgate to head downtown. But if they want to go to Fremont (a major employment center), or Belltown/LQA (both major all-day destinations), they would probably stay on the train.

      Anyway, I’m not exactly sure where you think a second N-S line should go, if not Ballard. Do you think that the line should stay on Aurora? That’s the moral equivalent of building a subway on the I-5 express lanes; a lot of your walkshed is taken up by the roadway itself. Do you think the line should go from Ballard-downtown and not any further north? Then you force everyone from the NE to head downtown first if they want to go to the west half of the city, which is a heck of a lot of backtracking.

      1. Thanks for your response, Aleks.

        I am not sure what plan you are looking at, but I’m confused how those heading from Lake City to Fremont just stay on the train. If you are looking at Ben’s delusional morphing of Seattle into little-Manhattan, his subway line from Lake City doesn’t go anywhere near Fremont job centers.

        I appreciate the fallacy argument, but the problem is density There is very limited density along the route from Northgate to Ballard. Sure, there will be some folks that take a ride from Crown Hill to Shoreline and what not. Just very, very few. Not enough to justify a line.

        I have no idea why you think Aurora doesn’t have huge potential for walksheds. Of course it does – significantly more than the incredibly short-sighted I-5 nightmare. That brings me to your final question.

        Seattle, for better or worse, just doesn’t have the density to justify the meandering lines through single family neighborhoods that Ben’s map recommends. It’s the height of Seattle conceit that we will have that sort of density before 2100.

        As such, we should stick with a hub and spoke design that makes sense for the vast majority of those riding the trains. If it were me, I would have sent the Lynnwood link up via 99, then a second northern prong up to Bothell via Lake City, interlined at Roosevelt Station.

        Ballard gets it’s shot from downtown to 85th St, and no further. No reason to. If things get dense up in the boonies in a hundred years, we can extend.

        It also gets the crosstown line to UW and beyond, which allow access to all sorts of transfers north and south for all those far less frequent trips for which you think a shot to Northgate is justified.

        The upshot is that the northeast deserves a line for the places the majority of people are, and will be, going for a hundred years. That place is not Ballard, fanciful but delusional imaginings aside.

      2. To illustrate my point, go to NYC and ride the G line. That is the single worst line in the whole system. Even though I lived right on it, I never, ever took it. I’d choose instead to go through Manhattan.

        The Ballard to Northgate line would make the G line look good.

      3. We don’t know what things will be like in twenty years. People in 2000 could not imagine what 2013 would be like, and people in 1980 had mistaken notions about 2000. In 1980 they never imagined growth, urbanism, or vegetarianism would be so strong and mainstream. In 2000 they knew there would be “more growth”, but it’s different living in Capitol Hill or Ballard before the construction vs living in it now, and they could not precisely predict what it would be like. They didn’t know that so many people would be commuting from Capitol Hill to Microsoft, or that anybody would be commuting from Capitol Hill to Google.

        So for a long-range plan we need to pencil in what might possibly be necessary in the next thirty years. Don’t assume that Holman Road won’t grow. Broadview is already growing. Just pencil in where HCT is geographically logical, and later people can argue about whether now is the time.

      4. In a vacuum, yes. I agree Mike.

        But to prioritize it over a direct line to and from places that are already dense, and are ALSO growing, is to pine for a dream instead of waking up and looking at the needs of the real world as it is now.

      5. @bilruben: But the planning process here is so cumbersome and anti-agile that not putting it in the long range plan now precludes it even being thought about in ST3, which means it can’t be in ST4, which means that it can’t even get a real design until ST5, which means it won’t be operational for at least thirty years.

        The process is completely broken, but it’s what we’re stuck with. I’d be the first to agree that we need a process is capabale of reacting to changes on the ground, but I don’t see a legal, politically viable route from here to there.

      6. Yes, except that indulging this Holman Road density-fantasy that Ben has MacPainted (I know) onto all of your brian synapses will have consequences.

        The communities of Lake City, Kenmore, Bothell, and possibly Woodinville, which are all far denser than Crown Hill will ever likely be, will have their transit service crippled for all time due this indulgence. Forcing a transfer will damage speed, reliability, frequency and, as a consequence, ridership numbers. I know it’s probably too late to build in an interlining at Roosevelt, but some other way to give the NE a useful train should be done.

        Otherwise,I argue that is a massive mistake and a horrible trade-off.

        There is a reason why there is only one line that doesn’t go into Manhattan, and it’s the worst line in the whole system. Very few people want to go from Brooklyn to Queens. As a consequence, it is starved for resources, and is infrequent and unreliable.

        Very few people want to go from Lake City to Ballard. Same rules apply.

      7. “But to prioritize it over a direct line to and from places that are already dense”

        Nobody is prioritizing anything here except those who don’t understand what “long-range plan” means. Adding a corridor to a long-range map does not jepordize other segments that may be higher priority. But it gives us insurance that that corridor will be given its due consideration.

      8. The communities of Lake City, Kenmore, Bothell, and possibly Woodinville, which are all far denser than Crown Hill will ever likely be, will have their transit service crippled for all time due this indulgence.

        Bothell and Woodinville are denser than Crown Hill? Sorry, what?

        Crown Hill’s density is hovering right around 6,000 people per square mile. Bothell’s density is 2,764.4 people per square mile. Woodinville’s *total* population is 10,938, and its population density is 1,953.2 people per square mile.

        Forcing a transfer will damage speed, reliability, frequency and, as a consequence, ridership numbers. I know it’s probably too late to build in an interlining at Roosevelt, but some other way to give the NE a useful train should be done.

        I understand that no one gets out of bed in the morning and says “yay, I get to transfer today!”. But I think you’re really overstating how bad a connection would be. If you have two lines, each running at 6-minute frequency, then passengers can expect to wait a total of 6 minutes for a 2-train trip. In contrast, passengers today can expect to wait 7.5 minutes just to board the first bus, and then another 7.5 minutes if they need to transfer.

        There is a reason why there is only one line that doesn’t go into Manhattan, and it’s the worst line in the whole system. Very few people want to go from Brooklyn to Queens. As a consequence, it is starved for resources, and is infrequent and unreliable.

        This is a red herring. You seem to be arguing against some hypothetical line that goes from Lake City to Ballard and then just stops there. Of course that would be a terrible idea.

        The better NYC comparison is not to the G, but to the B. If you’re heading from a B stop in the Bronx to the East Side, you’ve got two options: you can transfer at Yankee Stadium, or you can stay on the B as it runs along Central Park West. Depending on where you’re going, the two-train trip is likely to be significantly faster. But plenty of people still ride the B. By your account, it shouldn’t exist, since clearly, everyone in Bronx wants to go to Midtown via the fastest possible route.

      9. For the walkshed around where the potential stations will be sited, yes they are likely more dense, with much more commercial zoning as well. Sure, if you disingenuously choose to include the 1-5 acre horse farms in your calculation, the 5000 sq ft lots win out.

        There is a big difference between midtown and the east side and Downtown and Crown Hill. I regularly walked West Side to East Side. I don’t see too many folks hoofing it from Carkeek to Columbia tower.

    1. A sufficiently deep underwater tunnel would have the advantage of allowing boat traffic. The area where Ben proposes to build a train line is one of the most popular places to sail on the lake.

      1. Nobody has ever built one because people are totally freaked out by the idea. It’s a tubular submarine with no defenses. Either of the other subsurface options has an overburden to protect it. An immersed tunnel (e.g. BART) has about twenty feet of fill above the tubes. An actual drilled tunnel like the Chunnel or the Hokkaido rail tunnel in Japan can have anywhere from twenty to hundreds of feet of undamaged rock.

  12. I though the Monorail was suppose to provide a West Seattle to Ballard connection? If Subarea Equity goes away than I would have a problem with spending suburban money to address what appears to be a mostly Seattle problem. With subarea equity intact I don’t have as much of a problem with spending on West Seattle to Ballard. Sound Transit has a very interesting makeup of its service areas as the central core is very urban, and the area goes all the way out to the suburbs and even in pierce county the exurbs which currently see no direct ST service. Some of these areas in Pierce County need service, not only to address what can be called a federal problem (JBLM) but also the retreat of service that was once provided by Pierce County. I think that if these areas do not receive service in ST III they may be inclined to pull out of Sound Transit’ RTA like they did from Pierce Transit.

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