Ballard MockUpAfter nearly 1,800 public comments and 6 more months of technical study, Sound Transit held its final open house Wednesday to present refined options (‘Tier 2’) for rail transit between Downtown and Ballard.  After this round of public comment, the results of the full study will go before the Seattle City Council and the Sound Transit Board early next year.

When we last left this project, Sound Transit and SDOT had presented eight corridors more as conceptual thought exercises than actual proposals, helping to focus reactions and reveal the underlying qualities that matter to people.

In a testament to a high demand for fast, reliable transit – and no doubt in some part due to the work of Seattle Subway – Sound Transit said:

“We heard that efficient and reliable service that is ideally grade-separated is a major priority. We included many corridors with high levels of exclusive right-of-way, including a full tunnel option.”

Unfortunately, in response to public feedback ST also eliminated high fixed bridges from consideration, raising the stakes somewhat and leaving us with only drawbridge and tunneled options for crossing the Ship Canal.

The initial 8 concept corridors were refined down to 5 and then analyzed for ridership, reliability, speed, environmental impact, and impact to other modes. Full descriptions after the jump…

Corridor A: Interbay West / Ship Canal Tunnel

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 1.00.57 AMThis option would serve a 2nd Avenue tunnel through Downtown and Belltown, turn north for stops near Mercer and Galer in Queen Anne, turn west to emerge elevated across the Interbay Yard, turn north for a stop near East Magnolia at Dravus, and finally cross the Ship Canal either in a tunnel or on a 70’ drawbridge. The corridor would terminate near 15/Market in Ballard.

Corridor B: 15th Avenue Elevated

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 1.01.12 AM

Basically a rail version of Rapid Ride D, Corridor B would also tunnel from Downtown through Belltown to Lower Queen Anne, emerging to run elevated through Interbay, with a station near 15th/Dravus before crossing the Ship Canal on a new 70’ bridge adjacent to the current Ballard Bridge. The line would continue elevated as far as 65th near Ballard High, then descend to run at-grade up to 85th.

Corridor C: 15th Avenue At-Grade

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 1.01.23 AMThe cheapest option, this rapid streetcar concept would run at-grade in a Belltown couplet on 2nd and 4th, terminating near Stewart St (how this would interface with either Westlake Station or the proposed Stewart/Olive couplet of a 1st Avenue streetcar is unclear). Turning west on Denny and bypassing Lower Queen Anne, the line would run MLK-style along 15th Ave W, crossing the Ship Canal on a 70’ bridge and continuing on the surface up to 15th/85th.

Corridor D: Queen Anne Tunnel

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 1.01.40 AM

The only all-subway option presented, Corridor D would tunnel all the way from Downtown to Ballard via Lower Queen Anne, Upper Queen Anne, and Fremont. The line would terminate  on Market St a few blocks west of 15th.

Corridor E: Westlake/Ship Canal Tunnel

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 1.01.51 AM

The only option skipping both Interbay and Queen Anne, this rapid streetcar concept would branch off of the existing Westlake Avenue streetcar tracks, operate with an exclusive lane, cross the Ship Canal either in a short tunnel or a 70′ bridge, then run through Fremont, Frelard, and the commercial core of Ballard before terminating in North Beach on 24th Ave NW.

Comparative Analysis

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 2.09.39 AM

Capital Costs
Low Estimate (Blue), High Estimate (Green)

Travel Time

[Ed. Note – the chart above incorrectly shows Option E’s maximum travel time as 20 minutes, when in fact it is 21. We are working on correcting the chart.]RidershipCost:Rider

A few observations:

(1. Grade separation makes all the difference. Unsurprisingly, the tunneled options (Corridors A and D) have the best ridership, the best reliability, the best travel time improvement over current conditions, the least disruption to other modes, the most TOD potential, and the least environmental impacts. At $3.2 billion, they are also by far the most expensive. Meanwhile, the lone elevated corridor (B) offers the fastest trip to Ballard, clocking in at just 11 minutes. By bypassing Queen Anne and eschewing tunneling, Corridor B loses 2000-4000 riders per day but saves as much as $800m in capital costs. While both at-grade corridors (C and E) perform poorly when directly compared against tunneled and elevated options, they still far outperform current bus service, and the Westlake corridor (E) outperforms at-grade Interbay (C) despite having only half a walk shed.

(2. Corridor D would revolutionize central Seattle. Ballard to Upper Queen Anne in 6 minutes?  Ballard to Fremont in 3 minutes? Fremont to Upper Queen Anne in 3 minutes? Lower Queen Anne to Fremont in 6 minutes? Downtown to Upper Queen Anne in 6 minutes? Capitol Hill to Fremont ~15 minutes with a transfer? These and dozens of other trip pairs, every 10 minutes or less, 20 hours a day, in perpetuity.

(3. Corridor D could only be built with further expansion in mind. An all-tunnel option would preclude an O&M facility anywhere between Ballard and Downtown, forcing construction at least as far as SODO and pointing toward West Seattle. Not only that, but the northward orientation entering Fremont would be tailor-made to branch off for an Aurora corridor line.

(4. However, you could build Corridor B and E together for the price of A or D alone. Basically, we could have an 11-minute Skytrain to Ballard AND a rapid streetcar to Ballard/Fremont for the same price as a subway to Ballard via Queen Anne. That’s a really tough question.

229 Replies to “Sound Transit Refines Ballard Options”

  1. Drum Roll Please:
    And the winner is Option E, with a tunnel under Portage Bay, costing 1/3 as much as everyones favorite, Option A.
    No way ST Board is going to pony up an extra 2 bil to save 5 minutes on the trip to Ballard.
    BTW, I love the PhotoShop 6 minute headways to Ballard – more fantasy?

    1. Hey mic,

      If we ask the legislature for only enough funding authority to build E, and they give us less than that, we’re doomed. If we ask them for enough to build D, and they give us less, we can still build something else.

      1. If that’s the case, and a 3 bil Ballard option is chosen, then surely the rest of the North Sub Area will want at least that much in their piece of the package, so maybe 6 bil total.
        As the N. SubArea is only 36% of the total ST district revenue stream, surely the rest of the region will want to see there 64% of the pie, or another 9 bil., so we’re up to a 15 Bil package from a legislature that is deadlocked on an 11 Bil statewide vote.
        Sorry Ben, I just don’t see Olympia turning into Santa Claus in a big big way, even though it is Christmas, or unless Ballard thinks it will get all the gold and leave a few coppers on the table for everyone else.
        I’m putting my money on option E after everyone sobers up.

      2. mic, as usual you are just making things up.

        First off, why would there have to be another 3 bil in N King spending? Do you not understand how networks work? By connecting into the existing network those along the existing line benefit as well.

        Secondly, as the Mayor said last night for what people are saying they want there is a high likelyhood the city of Seattle will have to directly contribute funds to Sound Transit. The will is there from Seattleites, and there is a legal mechanism to do it. Seattle voted 2 to 1 for ST2, a local vote to ‘plus up’ Seattle’s network would likely pass just as easily.

      3. My thought about this after last night was this: why not pursue an enhanced version of E that would include grade separation where it is most sorely lacking- downtown. Taking advantage of Westlake to quickly reach Fremont from South Lake Union (rather than tunneling under Queen Anne Hill) is a smart move but building off the existing Streetcar alignment is a mistake. The best part of E is the strategically placed tunnel under the heart of Fremont. The worst part is the surface alignment downtown (we all know how painfully slow that corridor is now). Why not tunnel under Denny (and perhaps Mercer) to connect our rail lines underground at Westlake? The heart of the city is where we really need grade separation, not along 15th or under Queen Anne Hill. Currently E looks like it suffers from an adherence to the goal of expanding the existing streetcar line. I am very curious to see what that change would make to ridership, travel time and I assume it would still be dramatically cheaper than the all tunnel route, leaving revenue capacity on the table for other worthy corridors in the city.

      4. Drew, that would blow up the cost estimate considerably. One reason that the cost is so low is that it connects to the already existing Westlake streetcar. It would also make the streetcar much more useful between downtown and Lake Union Park because of the added frequency.

  2. Excellent options on the table, and I’m very happy they gave us option D (thanks Ben!). It looks like A and D are tied in the comparative analysis, and we have some good fallback options if we decide we can’t afford either (we can! but people can be cheap).

    1. We can indeed afford either A or D if we want them. After all, most voters don’t decide whether to support a piece of infrastructure based on its overall price tag but on whether they think it’s a good idea, it’s something they use, it goes where they want to go. There are very, very few voters who would support a $1.5 billion project but reject a $3 billion project. We should decide which one we feel is best (I really like D) and then advocate for it. After all, if ST3 is going to pass, it will do so with a big Yes vote in Seattle, which means the ST board will be inclined to give us whatever it is we decide we want.

  3. I find it hard to believe that a tunnel would have “more ridership” than an elevated line or that each would not have the exact same travel times.

      1. Because of the huge grade of Queen Anne Hill – the line would need to go prohibitively high over the Seattle Center coming downhill. Also, I’m not sure it would even be practicable to run something overground atop the hill, or whether residents would object.

      2. But B does serve Lower Queen Anne. Note there is a tunneled stop on Mercer and Queen Anne Ave. It emerges elevated after that.

      1. @John Bailo The only way you are getting a street car to go up Queen Anne is if you bring back the counterbalance. That might be fun, but it would probably be quite expensive for a streetcar. (I don’t have numbers, but that does require us to probably dig up and reconfigure for modern cars, which it was not designed for).

      2. I’m still confused, if it can’t go up the hill on the surface, or on a trestle, then how come it can go up in a tunnel?

        Or are they going to dig down hundreds of feet at the high end of the hill like they did on Mount Baker?

      3. It can’t go up in a tunnel either, or at least not more than a gradual grade. That was the answer I received when I asked why TIB station is so large: it has to be a certain height so that the track can gradually ascend over I-5, which is not next to the station but several blocks away.

        So the plan is to make a mostly flat tunnel from Belltown to under Queen Anne to wherever it emerges on the side of Queen Anne Hill. And therefore, Queen Anne station will have to be deep underground like Beacon Hill.

      4. John,

        It doesn’t GO up, well at least not much. The people come DOWN in an elevator, like Beacon Hill station.

      5. Or are they going to dig down hundreds of feet at the high end of the hill like they did on Mount Baker?

        I think you mean Beacon Hill, and yes. Technology’s been improving and the cost of underground stations is dropping.

  4. +1 to B AND E!!! Give us all the things.

    I’d be interested to see the travel time from Fremont to Westlake in E. And why B went up in cost a whopping BILLION dollars.

    1. The second question was the big mystery of the evening. I asked several experts, and no one had an answer. For those who don’t know what we are talking about, Corridor 3 in the old set of proposals is almost exactly like Corridor B. The only added expense is that Corridor 3 goes a little bit further and adds one more stop (at 65th) but does so in an elevated fashion (which is cheap). The only other difference is that the huge big is replaced by a big bridge. This should save money. A smaller big means shorter approaches which are less steep and thus a lot less expensive. The big reason the big bridge was shot down was because it garnered a lot of local opposition. It would interfere with their views the same way that the Golden Gate Bridge is such an eye sore. (OK — to be fair, if was about to lose my view of the Olympics, I might whine too — but seriously, have a little civic responsibility).

      1. My guess is that B would require the construction of a new Ballard bridge for cars as well.

      2. I don’t follow Ben. Why would you need to build a new Ballard bridge? It seems like there is a lot of space on either side of 15th to use for a bridge, and wiggling back onto the top of 15th would be trivial. It could be more expensive because they did a more detailed study, but when I asked, several of the reps shot down that idea. It was really surprising that they had no idea why the cost increased so much.

        If the difference is really the bridges (a 140 high bridge is about a billion dollars cheaper than a 70 foot drawbridge) then I’m back to being pissed about the lack of a 140 bridge.

      3. ST said a lot during the first meeting that those weren’t actual cost estimates, just spitballed relative to each other for scale. So I don’t think anyone added or removed a billion dollars from anything. I swear I even wrote that in the post last time!

        I’m just guessing they might have to build a new bridge because the fishermans terminal is on the national register of historic places.

      4. When I talked to a couple reps about B and C they both indicated a new bridge would go in directly west of the current Ballard Bridge and would “likely” be used for more than just light rail.

      5. Unfortunately the Ballard bridge is on the National Historic Register which means it likely stays in any scenario. Now that doesn’t mean a new 70′ bridge couldn’t become the primary auto crossing with the old Ballard bridge serving local traffic, pedestrians, and bikes.

        Alternately the new bridge could get the southbound auto traffic while the old bridge serves northbound auto traffic (similar to what WSDOT is proposing for Montlake).

        Really the 3 issues currently with the Ballard bridge for bike and pedestrian access are:
        1. 15th Ave West is a high-speed car sewer and unpleasant for bikes and pedestrians.
        2. Access routes to the bridge are confusing and dangerous for bikes and pedestrians.
        3. The sidewalks on the bridge and approaches are very narrow.

        #2 and #3 are mostly fixable without a new bridge. However if some auto traffic was re-routed to a new high-level bridge there would be space to add a cycle track on the old bridge.

        Depending on how the costs are allocated this could save some money for rail construction as SDOT would be funding part of the bridge costs for auto traffic.

    2. Dont “BUILD ALL THE THINGS”… “BUILD ALL THE TUNNELS.” Every transit tunnel we build changes mobility in the city, permanently, in a way that no other mode can. There are no bridge openings, no hills to navigate around, no permanent environmental impact to neighborhoods, and no surface delays. The only problem with them is their cost. If we can afford a subway that serves a huge number of people, it’s worth the cost, and we should build it.

      1. A good example of this was the bus tunnel. We didn’t believe we could afford a subway system, but we were smart enough to build a tunnel for our buses. Later on this made our first Link line affordable.

      2. Whereas I don’t think we can build tunnels ad infinitum, I thank our lucky stars for the DSTT, without which I don’t think Link would ever have been built.

  5. If I’m ST, the bigger the project, the better. I would want to go out of my way to tunnel through hills under the guise of higher attaining higher ridership. The more money we spend and the more complicated our projects, the more important our agency is, the more money I can make, the better my resume looks, etc. At-grade up 15th? Too easy. Too small. I want our agency to do big projects. I would tell people we are examining a lot of options, but my goal is to tunnel underground and through a hill or two.

    1. And then when our complicated plots are accomplished, we find that tunneling under some hills really does attain higher ridership! Who ever would have guessed that people will ride subways if the trains go where they want to go?

    2. Why exactly is exclusive at-grade SOW inappropriate for the northern part of 15th Ave to 85th?

      1. Adam, if this line is to continue as the Transit Master Plan indicates on to Northgate and Lake City, and then to Kenmore and Woodinville in the long term, it’s inappropriate to go at-grade.

      2. ROW, sorry. Mistype.

        Ben – that’s a fair statement, but I’m not convinced that this branch of the transit network is best to connect up with further destinations on the other side of I-5, but that’s an opinion. Would a 15th Ave at-grade alignment force a bit of a rethink for Lake City, Kenmore and Woodinville in the Master Plan?

      3. Horseshit. Holman/105th is fast and wide with only two really problematic areas of congestion (Aurora and I-5) that require grade separation. LCW is similarly a good place for surface transit. These are exactly the kind of roads where you take lanes and run at grade.

        Building on the surface is a fraction of the price of underground. If the surface is fast and reliable, save the big bucks for where you need ’em — in the city.

      4. Yes, but elevated is only a fraction more than surface. Elevated gets you consistency. Consistency means better that you can increase headways. It also gets you the ability to run the thing without drivers.

      5. Elevated is significantly more than at-grade, but yes, much cheaper than subway.

        Yes, in terms of the resulting service, elevated is better. But sometimes you have to decide, for example, whether you want fully elevated/subway to Market, or whether you want a mix of elevated, subway and at-grade to 105th & Greenwood.

      6. Why wouldn’t you want to go with where the TMP already thinks this line should go? Generally, opposing good stuff that’s already status quo is a huge loss, because you end up breaking with the potential allies who worked to get it.

      7. Ben,

        My understanding is that the plan is to terminate half the trains at Northgate. There are your trains for Lake City and Kenmore. You don’t need to run them via Ballard.

        If Seattle Subway can find a grade separated right of way for the Red Line between Northgate and 145th and LCW, those terminated trains can run on it.

  6. I can get behind option A, but I can go all-in behind option B.

    B is the best of all worlds – good reach all the way to 85th (for which a surface route easily makes the most sense); exclusive, separated ROW; balanced cost, travel time, and ridership metrics compared to the other proposals. It’s not perfect, nor does it include everything that every interested party REALLYMUSTGOTTA have. But it’s the right mix of ambition and scope.

    1. With a 70 ft Bridge it might be possible to even move the Dravus Station to 20th Ave W so it gets higher ridership for less cost/rider, but perhaps not.

      1. That is worth considering. I know one the Sound Transit reps mentioned that. Of course, you lose a little from Queen Anne, but I think you would gain more from Magnolia.

      2. Yes, the walkshed/transit connections to more people is much, much better at 20th Ave W. Even with a zig and zag to get there from 15th. But that zig and zag allows the corridor A routing (south of Dravus) which means we can include a maintenance facility in the southwest corner of Interbay that is currently [wasted] on passenger parking for cruise ships.

    2. I think it’s easy to consider this “the line”. If you consider this as a component of a regional line that would go on to Lake City and Kenmore, going at-grade there doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      1. +1

        Exactly. We don’t need more of the short term thinking that gave us the streetcar sections of central link.

      2. Elevated makes sense on 15th. It is not a quiet, peaceful street, so there would be less opposition there (as opposed to other parts of the city). Elevated gets you all the benefits of underground for a fraction of the cost.

      3. A very high fraction. A is the same price as D. If you’re arguing for B, you’re just cutting 4,000 riders and an urban village out of the line.

      4. “B” is 75% the cost of “D”. When it was “Corridor 3”, “B” used to be about 50% the cost of “D”. Sound Transit can’t explain the price increase at all at the moment–and neither can anyone here.

      5. There wasn’t a price increase. As Sound Transit made VERY clear, the level 1 ‘prices’ were just spitballing.

      6. There was obviously a price increase in the presentation. Let’s try to get some grip on that reality. If the first one was spitballing and off by $900 million or 50%, then they probably shouldn’t have put prices on it for the first presentation… that is the definition of misleading.

        I have faith in Sound Transit to continue to show their good leadership, they’ve acknowledged there is a problem, they are taking responsibility, hopefully they will be honest and straightforward when explaining the issues that arose, and then fix them next time. Anything else is either immature, inept or sociopathic depending on the step in the leadership process. Sound Transit is great at maintaining the public’s trust even though some of us might apologize away their obvious presentation problem.

      7. What is becoming blindingly clear, is that running a line from Bothell to Ballard makes absolutely no sense.

        Option D makes a heck of a lot of sense. Then run your line along 45th from Market to Redmond.

        And that’s all Ballard gets or needs.

        If Ballard gets a south, cross-town and northerly subway, and as a consequence, the majority of the rest of the city fights for transfer scraps to avoid Ballard, I will personally start a website attempting to turn “Ballard” into a defacto curse-word.

        “That Mo-Fo’in Ballard reminds me of a preening Hippo.”

        “That restaurant could have been something worth going to more than once, but it Ballardized it’s surf ‘n turf by adding tofu and kale.”

        Then put the sensible spoke at-grade and elevated from Bothell along Bothell/Lake City Way to downtown, where, you know, people actually want to go.

  7. I wouldn’t be so sure that corridor D requires further expansion due to the O&M facility issue. I was told specifically that they’re considering an underground facility in Freelard. Needless to say, big $$.

    To finish the long term plan and go to UW, D would also require a 180 degree fishhook turn to head east. Couldn’t practically build a ‘Y’ at Fremont I was told.

    For both reasons, I’d expect to see A move forwards as the “Cadillac” option. Lots of empty flat port land for maintenance, and a tunnel pointed right at Wallingford.

    1. Interesting, and depressing. One of the big selling points to D is that it gets us half of the Ballard to Fremont to UW line. The other unfortunate aspect of D is that it doesn’t fit well with BRT coming from the north. Building a line north of Fremont towards Bitterlake sounds great, but just D is over 3 billion. You would have to tunnel under Aurora/Phinney Ridge, which means another billion or so before you can even consider going elevated. If you add in stuff we should have eventually as well (BRT to West Seattle, rail to South Lake Union) you are probably getting close to 6 billion. All this for a city of way less than a million. Yowzer.

      1. We’re already spending more than 6 billion on Link in Seattle, more if you keep in mind the cost of the DSTT in today’s dollars. We’re up to 630,000 people and likely to cross two million people in the lifetime of this infrastructure.

      2. I try to make myself think if we’re voting on this in 2016, what will we likely need in 2116?

      3. I worry about an eventual push back. At some point, the voters might say “Enough already!”. If we have a half finished first class system, then that would be a big problem. I don’t want to get super cheap (as we have been doing) but I don’t want individual pieces to be extravagant when they don’t need to be. I would hate to build a tunnel under 15th (when an elevated line would suffice) only to decide later that we don’t have enough money for South Lake Union or the Central Area or Eastlake, etc.

      4. Can you point me to a case where that’s happened – anywhere? Without some examples, I believe exactly the opposite happens. The more there is, the more people want the network expanded, because the higher the utility of each expansion becomes.

      5. ST3 should be the last BIG money ask. Starting in 2024 Sound Move bonds start start getting paid off, so votes after that will be ‘keep your taxes at or near what they are and build X!’

      6. We’re up to 630,000 people and likely to cross two million people in the lifetime of this infrastructure.

        No. Absolutely not. No.

        No existing first-world legacy city with established boundaries is going to more-than-triple in the next century.

        Even New York City has barely doubled in the last century, and you would not recognize the New York of 1910: vast farmlands across Queens, Staten Island, and much of the Bronx; freestanding single-family homes adjacent to Midtown Manhattan.

        There’s plenty of room for infill in this town (if our regulators and developers and blog advocates can figure out how to build dense infill instead of thumping endlessly for big-but-not-dense megablock crap), but neither Seattle nor the greater Seattle area is about to move into top-5-in-the-country territory. We’re not populous enough to start with. We’re not multi-faceted enough. We don’t have the economic diversity. And our built form is not about to change more quickly than it is changing today.

        If Ben truly believes this sort of crap, if he truly thinks you can build a sustainable city of millions with nothing but software engineering and speculative real estate — and from his past statements about the coming Manhattanization of Eastlake and Lake City and Issaquah, it seems that he does — then we have a serious problem here. Nothing he says about long-term funding and ROI is to be trusted.

      7. I try not to make guarantees about the future, but if Seattle were at Brooklyn’s density, we’d be at 3 million.

        Seattle voters and politicians probably don’t have the values to get there, but it’s not a dystopian amount of density.

      8. I never said it would be dystopian.

        I said it is comically unlikely, a wholly unprecedented percentage-growth for a first-world city already built to its borders in any form. (Even Brooklyn wasn’t remotely built-out a century ago.)

        Even if we had a larger population and a more diversified economy to start with, it still wouldn’t come to pass.

        Ben’s is a certifiably retarded assertion, and to the extent that it informs his expectations of 60-mile automated subways and extra bridges to everywhere, readers should understand that his “logic” is beyond the pale.

    2. “To finish the long term plan and go to UW, D would also require a 180 degree fishhook turn to head east. Couldn’t practically build a ‘Y’ at Fremont I was told.” What does this mean? Does this describe a route that goes from Downtown to Fremont and then turns east towards UW? Because that doesn’t seem like the route I would lay out.

      1. Also, UW-Wallingford-Ballard-Magnolia/Interbay-downtown, with a poor ability for northward expansion from Ballard, seems like a poor route to me. 45th/Fremont is inherently a crosstown route; why are we trying to get UW a *second* one-seat ride to downtown?

      2. Think of the Y in the other direction – so that trains from Ballard could either go to downtown or UW.

        There’s a bad assumption in there on their part: you wouldn’t necessarily turn the existing line for a crosstown line. You’d build a new line.

      3. I’m not sure if I follow you. But let me just say that if you had a route from Ballard to Fremont to the UW it would be a very good thing. Some (including me) would say it is all we really need (or at least, the best value). But the connecting piece from the UW to Fremont along with Corridor D would do all of that, and more. Here are some examples of why that would be nice:

        1) UW to Fremont — Much faster
        2) UW to Ballard — Much faster
        3) Roosevelt or Northgate to Fremont or Ballard — Much faster
        4) Lake City to Fremont or Ballard — Much faster

        Consider this last one. From Lake City, you take a bus that goes every five minutes from Lake City to a station at 125th. Then you take the train south to the UW. From there, you switch to another train and arrive in Fremont or Ballard. Despite the transfers, the ride itself is competitive with driving in the middle of the day, and much faster during rush hour. You can extend these examples further north of course (to Shoreline, Lynnwood, etc.).

        Basically, it fully connects Ballard and Fremont. with the rest of the system.

      4. My previous response was to Morgan’s.

        I agree with you Ben, if that was their assumption, that is pretty stupid. If you build Corridor D, then you want a connection from Fremont to the UW. Conceptually, that forms a Y, regardless of what the trains actually do. I really could care less about transferring at that point, but if you had to transfer, than transferring to go south makes more sense. In other words, a one seat ride from the UW to Queen Anne is less important than a one seat ride from the UW to Ballard.

      5. Indeed. A one seat ride from Ballard to downtown may make unnecessary such a huge investment from UW to Ballard right away – West Seattle has nothing.

      6. I don’t think a (fast) one seat ride from Ballard to downtown reduces the need to build something from the UW to Ballard much at all. The UW is both a major hub and a huge destination (top three in the state). Consider that for a second. The UW is way more important than anywhere in Bellevue. Or anyplace south of downtown. Or anywhere north of the UW. It is also growing, and will likely grow faster in the future (as zoning changes occur). As a hub, it is huge. If you are going from Northgate to Ballard, you sure as hell want to switch trains at the UW instead of downtown. That would save you at least 10 minutes. This means ten minutes added onto the rest of your ride (which could include walking or riding a bus).

        Which gets me to Ballard and Fremont. Maybe they aren’t that important. But they are way more important than West Seattle, and will remain so for a really, really long time. If you have a cheap way to connect the UW with Fremont and Ballard, I’m all ears. West Seattle has the possibility of BRT on a road that is already half way there. It shouldn’t cost that much to make that grade separated BRT deep into West Seattle. I simply don’t see that as an option for the UW to Fremont section (unless you are talking elevated over the Burke Gilman).

      7. “There’s a bad assumption in there on their part: you wouldn’t necessarily turn the existing line for a crosstown line. You’d build a new line.”

        And if you wanted to turn the existing line into an Aurora line and build another line to the west through Magnolia and/or Interbay later, you’re left with a useless piece of track. And if you wanted to just split the existing line with one leg going to Ballard and the other headed up Aurora, a crosstown line ends up following a redundant path between Ballard and Fremont unless it skips the heart of Fremont entirely.

      8. Ross, if you are going from Northgate to Ballard, you’d just take the train directly from Northgate to Ballard. If you look at the TMP, the line we’re building to Ballard then goes up to Northgate.

      9. If we build option D, the logical next piece would be a crosstown spur from Fremont to the UW. To go from Ballard to the UW, you would transfer between the two lines in Fremont.

        If we think of it this, way, yes, option D is expensive, but for the upcoming Ballard->UW line, we’re already halfway there.

      10. > Ross, if you are going from Northgate to Ballard, you’d just take the train directly from Northgate to Ballard. If you look at the TMP, the line we’re building to Ballard then goes up to Northgate.

        It would be nuts to build a line from Ballard to Northgate before a line from Ballard to the UW. Northgate is minor. The UW is major. Ballard is somewhere in between. Forcing people from Northgate to go through the UW to get to Ballard is a minor inconvenience. Forcing people from the UW (and everywhere north, including Roosevelt) to go all the way downtown is a much bigger imposition.

  8. A: I don’t know that anyone was clamoring for a station in Magnolia or at the foot of the Magnolia bridge in lieu of one in the heart of Interbay. Given the way it curves at its terminus it’s hard for me to imagine any future expansion that isn’t due east along a 45th or Fremont corridor. The unanswered question of how Greenwood (and Aurora) ultimately gets served, and the unlikelihood of Ballard north of Market *ever* getting served, makes me nervous.

    B: How much more would this option cost with a tunnel through Queen Anne instead of a station in the middle of nowhere at W Mercer Pl? Of course, then the B/E combo isn’t as cost-competitive with A and D.

    C: Probably a non-starter given the better performance of corridor E and the fact Ballardites might put up with E better, even if it does have a better route than RR D has. Of course if you’ve read my prior comments you know how much I hate both C and E.

    D: Wow, this is almost exactly the corridor I proposed, except I wouldn’t have swung it quite so far to the East.

    I think we should push for D as hard as possible, and short of that a modified version of B. I don’t think a B/E combo is a good result if we want a future Aurora corridor (see my rule “don’t build permanent infrastructure to meet temporary needs”), although sending B to Queen Anne might not be much better and we might be able to reappropriate E’s elements later, and while on the surface A would be close to where a Ballard corridor would go once a Fremont/Aurora corridor would be in place, it’s the least expansion-friendly of the three real rail alternatives. I might accept a version of A that doesn’t swing quite so far to an eastward-facing direction and nudges the station closer to d.p.’s “Real Ballard”.

    1. I would also keep the Fremont station a little west of there. While a lot of the land west of the current urban village is industrial, that’s going to change over the next century.

    2. Comments to your comments:

      A) I agree. A station by the Magnolia bridge is poor. At best it picks up a couple of office buildings. My guess is that they were simply trying to keep costs down by doing as much elevated as they could (while still serving the top of Queen Anne). Or, to put it another way, minimize the tunneling by making sharp turns.

      B) The station isn’t at W. Mercer Place, but it enters the hill around there. The station is the same station as proposed for D. The stations are purposely vague. If anything, it is drawn too far east, not west. I would move the station north and west in both proposals (B and D). This might cost a bit more for B, but not for D. Basically, you want to move it away from the Seattle Center. The Center is essentially a park and unused 90% of the year and already has a spur line (known as the monorail). For that 10% (Folklife, Bumbershoot, etc.) folks will gladly walk the extra few blocks. If I had to pick a spot, I would pick Second and Roy, but I’m sure you could slide that around a bit and get something just as good. If you look at a population density map, you will notice this is one of the higher density spots in Seattle (higher than any other place on Queen Anne as of the last census).

      But year, I would be curious as to how much it would cost to have both (upper and lower Queen Anne) with Corridor B. If Corridor A is any guide, a lot. You might trade Fremont for Interbay and come out at about the same cost. That is hardly a good deal.

      C — I agree.

      D – I would move it west and north. Unless you go whole hog, and put it under the ship canal (Ben’s proposal) you might as well move it away from the water. I’m not sure how many people you would get from the north side of Queen Anne.

      I agree that a B-E combo doesn’t make much sense. B mainly makes sense if you can then deliver a line from Ballard to Fremont to the UW for the difference in cost. It doesn’t look like you can.

      1. I think you’re confused on Corridor B. I was referring to the station with a very narrow walkshed along Elliott, not the one on the west side of the Center. Upon further review, that station looks like it’s a little north of Mercer Pl, which just makes it worse.

      2. OK, yeah, that is a stupid station. It is basically a cheap, throwaway station that is added because it is cheap to add. There are a couple office buildings there, and that is it. Cutting into Queen Anne earlier would be nice, but add a bunch to the cost. I too would like to know how much it would cost. But that is true for so much of this.

      3. I’d bump that station further North to near the Magnolia Bridge (see option A). A much more useful walk shed and very likely much higher ridership.

      4. While I’m not saying the station is cost effective in a vacuum: It provides transfers at Prospect St., which is nice for the what, three Magnolia bus route riders?

        Also +1 to the segment cost breakdowns.

  9. It would be nice if we knew how many bridge openings we can expect if we build a 70 foot bridge. When I suggested two or three a week, I was told less than that. But I don’t think anyone was quoting anything official. Basically, none at rush hour, and very few at all. This height was considered a good compromise. Also, it was more likely to be used as a secondary crossing for bikers and pedestrians (which is sorely needed, because the Ballard Bridge sucks) than a 140 foot high bridge. it is also quite a bit cheaper. This made me less angry at the folks that shot down the high bridge.

    1. That’s the idea of a 70 foot height – the vast majority of boats are shorter than that. It’s not ideal, but it’s pretty good.

    2. Different Sound Transit/SDOT public-faces said different things re openings, so I suspect they did not recieve a talking point. It ranged from your less than twice a week to four times a day from what I heard. The best answer was “we’ll know when the Fremont ship canal crossing is complete.” I think any openings are kind of unacceptable for a 100-year infrastructure investment, but I’ll still be faced with reality and economics like everyone else at game-time.

    3. I also believe openings are unacceptable for such an investment. I say we go with D. :)

    4. While I happen to prefer the tunneled options, I do not understand why everyone is freaking out about the 70-foot bridge. This height was chosen because the vast majority of the masts that interrupt the Ballard and Fremont bridges would sail smoothly below it. Only the very largest ships, at the rarest of off-peak times, would force open a bridge this high.

      Chicago’s El crosses two downtown drawbridges. New York Freaking City sends a core subway line over a lift bridge! These bridges open rarely — in both cases the bridges are quite low, but so is today’s commercial traffic on the Chicago and Harlem Rivers — but when they do, having an exclusive bridge level ensures the trains are never delayed by more than a minute or two.

      Link wastes far more cumulative time with its lousy DSTT portal arrangement, not to mention its facepalming dwell times.

      A 70-foot bridge would open rarely, and the delay would be negligible. Everyone should reorder their worries list.

      1. I’m not freaking out by any means, but I am just curious as to the actual estimate. OK, I freaked out a little bit at the meeting, until the folks calmed me down by pointing out what you just pointed out. It will open very rarely, so, big deal. My main freakout is the fact that this line suddenly jumped in cost by about a billion dollars.

      2. I don’t feel like “Link sucks so our new train should suck too” is a winning argument.

      3. Worrying about a 90-second delay four dozen times a year makes a lot less sense than addressing poor Sound Transit operations that waste passengers’ time at every single stop on every single trip.

    5. If a 70′ bridge is higher than the existing bridges and would open rarely, that’s a hopeful thing. It makes me feel less bad about the one flaw in the middle of corridor B. ST should have publicized that more.

      1. Some perspective, current vessel clearances are :

        Ballard Bridge – 44′
        Fremont Bridge – 30′
        University Bridge – 42′, 6″
        Montlake Bridge – 46′

        If we’re talking a 70′ “vessel clearance”… maybe we’ll live.

      2. Ballard Bridge – 44′
        Fremont Bridge – 30′
        University Bridge – 42′, 6″
        Montlake Bridge – 46′


        W. Lake Street Bridge (Chicago) – 16′
        N. Wells Street Bridge (Chicago) – 16′
        Broadway Bridge (Manhattan) – 24′

      3. @d.p. Any information on–I’m not sure where to look–about vessel traffic on those particular waterways? Is the Chicago sailing community especially active?

      4. Also note that 70′ is higher than the clearance at the SR-520 bridge East highrise (64′, but blocked by construction most of the time).

      5. @aw: what’s the future (perhaps longtime future at this rate?) 520 bridge clearance set to be?

      6. TvC,

        The Chicago bridges open only 40-50 times each year. At this point, industrial/large-commercial traffic on the Chicago River is rare, and those who sail Lake Michigan dock on Lake Michigan. Most boats that ply the river are designed to fit under the river’s bridges.

        The real point is that they do open, occasionally, and with almost zero negative effect on the El and its passengers. They open, they close, the trains continue as normal, because the tracks are well above any backed-up cars.

        Given AW’s illuminating 520 East Highrise comparison, we might expect openings on a 70′ bridge — even one so far west along the channel — to be vanishingly rare.

      7. @d.p. I’m actively prepping myself for the 70′ (to be clear 70′ vessel clearance, and nothing shorter) probable eventuality. I will be heartbroken, but only for a little while.

        I would like to set the minimum for the “vessel clearances” to the greater of:
        1) 70 feet vessel clearance
        2) Whatever the NEW 520 bridge highest vessel clearance will be.

      8. The Coast Guard says the minimum vessel clearance is 140ft to have a bridge that never draws up.

        The Aurora Bridge clearance is 167ft per Wikipedia, I’m assuming that’s measured waterlevel to truss structure.

      9. Would a 70′ foot bridge preclude an automated system? Because I think that would be a deal breaker for option B, or option A without a tunnel.

      10. TvC, I don’t know if this is the current plan, but from

        Navigable Waterways

        Effects of the Original Alternatives
        The build alternatives would not allow passage of vessels with masts
        taller then 70 feet. This permanent height restriction would have a
        minimal effect because it is the same height restriction as the I-90 East
        Channel Bridge. Under the No Build Alternative, the Continued
        Operation Scenario would not change existing navigation channels. The
        Catastrophic Failure Scenario could open a large gap in the Evergreen
        Point Bridge, making passage easier.
        No mitigation for effects on navigable waterways is proposed.
        Anticipated project effects related to navigable waterways are minor.
        This is not a resource that has been identified as particularly important
        to minority or low-income populations.

  10. I like A or D. It’s worth spending the money to do this right the first time, rather than settle for half-measures. I would say U Link is about as close to ideal as it gets, and I think Ballard/QA should get that too.

    My only complaint is that all of these proposals have the Ballard station at 15th/Market. Especially if the subway options are chosen, why not move it a few blocks west closer to the center of Ballard (and the new condo/apartment construction)??

      1. There is no 18th Ave NW at Market Street.

        The 17th Ave station site isn’t bad. 15th Ave NW will always be a major through route, so it makes sense to be reasonably close. There’s multifamily development happening on the east side of 15th. And it’s less than a half mile walk to Ballard Ave/Market St.

      2. More crucial is that the pedestrian environment changes drastically at 17th.

        The new-construction behemoths between 15th and 17th are textbook examples of how not to foster a pedestrian-friendly environment with your quasi-density. The “retail fronts” are just that — fronts. The block is dead and awful at all times of day and night.

        The business/multi-use district that begins where the grid and building forms change is immediately welcoming. The rest of the 1/3-mile walk from 17th to the center of Old Ballard is infinitely more palatable than that onerous first block, and even the poor hospital-street interface is mercifully brief compared to the “Leva” experience.

        Option A may even get this more right than Option D: a station with an east-west orientation, ideally shallow, with entrances at both 17th (for Old Ballard) and 15th (for bus transfers and car-oriented whathaveyous).

      3. That block would stop being dead quickly with that many potential customers going in and out of a station.

      4. Thankfully I had a very nice chat with a DPD representative, during which we commiserated about the atrocities such as Leva and Market Street Landing. Thankfully, there’s agitation within DPD to figure out how to change the code to stop encouraging and even prevent such crimes against street life to be repeated.

    1. I prefer 17th because it’s closer to the action, and a tunnel gives us a chance to be closer to the action in a non-intrusive way than an elevated option would provide. Yes there is growth on the east side of 15th, but the area between 15th and 22nd has seen the most growth over the last few years and a Link stop somewhere around 17th/20th provides the best accessibility for Central Ballard. No reason why a tunnel couldn’t then swing eastward back to 15th and transition to an elevated profile around, say, 65th.

      1. I live in the area you guys are discussing. 15th versus 17th really makes no difference whatsoever. Having it at 15th allows for better bus connections too, as the stops at 17th (essentially one block away based on the street grid) are gone with the 44’s stop diet.

        Besides, walking along Market there is fairly pleasant, even though the retail space potential there is largely wasted.

  11. There is no point in spending billions building slow surface transit. We can have slow surface transit for cheap. If we’re going to raise $3.5 billion, likely tapping out Seattle capital funding for most of a decade, it should be spent on something that makes billions’ worth of difference.

    That is D.

    A and B are worthwhile, but D would make far more difference to far more people, well out of proportion to its extra cost compared to A and B. C and E are worth tens of millions for bus capital improvements, but they’re just not worth hundreds of millions, let alone billions.

    1. I agree with the general principal, my gripe becomes certainly E would be built by SDOT so Fremont potentially gets 3 rail stations (street car, Ballard-to-Downtown, and Ballard-to-UW) while we skip the Interbay area for the NEXT 100 YEARS.

      I know STB groupthink probably thinks Interbay only deserves [Not]RapidRide, but the two hills are just as dense as Fremont is today. Will Fremont grow more than the two Interbay hills in 100 years? Probably. But you’re skipping a lot of transit riders and at great cost that leaves no money to fix it.

      1. “The two hills are just as dense as Fremont is today.”

        No, they’re not (and the difference will get bigger over time, given that Fremont is going to become a major urban center). And, in any case, both sides aren’t within easy walking distance of the line in either option. If you build B, the Magnolia side isn’t within walking distance, although the Queen Anne side is well served. If you build A, the densest parts of both sides are only sort of within walking distance; the density is several blocks north of both the Galer and Dravus stations.

        The reason I like D better than an Interbay option is because it goes where the highest density is going to be. Every station on D is smack in the middle of an urban center. The ridership figures bear that out.

      2. It’s also worth noting that Interbay would be difficult or impossible to rezone for higher residential density west of 15th, as BNSF has told the city it does not was residential next to its railyard. It could be made more densely commercial, perhaps, but even then it’s pretty constrained.

        By contrast, Fremont has a virtually complete grid in all northerly directions from the Ship Canal; plenty of room to grow.

      3. …just as dense as Fremont Village* is today. But I already conceded on the point about the future, so that leads me to think you really dislike Interbay, what did Interbay do to you?

      4. I have nothing against Interbay. I’d improve transit to it substantially in my dream world — RR D would skip Uptown, I’d make the Magnolia-downtown buses quite a bit more frequent, I’d send the 31 through it, and I’d make the bus lanes full-time in both directions. But it’s just not set up to be a ridership center in the way both upper Queen Anne and Fremont are.

      5. Sorry, I have to chime in about Interbay versus Fremont. Interbay might not be within “easy walking distance” to those apartments on Magnolia, but people walk to them all the time. I used to live in an apartment that was actually in Interbay itself when it was all houses and lots of people would get off the 15 and walk across the bridge. It is not that far, it is flat, and the 15 is way faster than the 33. There is growth here too — the house I used to live in is gone — you can see it on the close in satellite view, but not the view farther away (you can see for yourself by zooming in and out). There is also plenty of future growth planned.

        Plus, there should be feeder buses for Magnolia. This makes sense because unlike other areas of the city, if you leave Magnolia by car, you cross 15th. If the transit grid gets built out, there really is no reason not to take the bus from Magnolia, then transfer to a train (if one gets built along there). Traffic along 15th is bad now, and is only going to get worse. So, for example, someone in Fremont might like Corridor D, but decide to drive north on Aurora, or go to the UW. For someone in Magnolia, Corridor B means that a significant part of your trip will almost always involve sharing the same line as the rail. This should increase ridership.

        But Fremont has its own strengths. Perhaps the biggest is that it is half way between the UW and Ballard. It is also a logical hub for the BRT coming from the north.

        I think there is a reasonable argument to be made for Corridor B plus a fast line from Ballard to Fremont to the UW. This makes the most sense if Corridor B is really cheap. Unfortunately, for fans of Corridor B, the new cost estimates threw a huge monkey wrench into that idea. Instead of Corridor B being about 1.75 billion dollars cheaper than Corridor D, Corridor B is now only 750 million dollars less. You could maybe build an underground line from Fremont to the UW with that money, but that’s about it.

      6. Ross,

        I’m in the boat you were a while ago it sounds like although a 33/24 rider since I’m further up the hill.

        I screwed up the reply button on so it’s not in the right chain, but my idea about “D” plus rebuilding the Dravus ramps so buses start from there heading into magnolia, instead of the magnolia bridge or emerson bridge (31) would cost $50million or something insane probably, but it solves Magolia’s and Interbay’s/Dravus Village’s transportation problems somewhat for the time being.

    2. I guess rebuilding the Dravus Street overpass ramps to allow busses to actually turn towards Magnolia accomplishes those things for a lot less than any of this Interbay rail non-sense.

      Doing that would effectively allow Dravus “Village” to become a much better Magnolia-bound bus hub. You could: eliminate 19 in favor of extending 31 from Dravus to Emerson, have the 24 go left up Thorndyke, and 33 right, down Gillman/Government and converge on 34th and Emerson or something..

      Schiendelman: gripe solved, build D as long as they completely rebuild the Dravus St ramps to allow northbound busses to turn west from 15th Ave.

  12. A clarification: the post describes C as a rapid streetcar – that’s true under the alternate routing shown on 1st, where it becomes an extension of the Center City Connector, essentially. The 2nd/4th coupler that skips the Mercer detour is a full light rail build out, per ST staff last night.

  13. Ben, I guess I’m not sure why you’re so anti-elevated track – B seems like the best fit for a broader long-term plan with a few modifications – namely moving the first tunnel stop for QA to W. Galer instead of that dud stop planned for Lower Queen Anne and finding a way to not have a drawbridge.

    I certainly understand being pro-tunnel (I know I am) and you can make arguments that the stations for D are “better,” but if you consider that there’s a potential connection East-West from Ballard through Fremont onto UW (aka Seattle Subway’s purple line) then option D (aside from being an awesome long tunnel) isn’t the best route, just the mode we’d all prefer.

    In the long term I don’t think the suggestion of at-grade along 15th should be a deal-breaker either: beyond 65th is speculation at this point and the option could always be to go from elevated to Subway at that point in the route. Furthermore, that strip of 15th North of 65th is too broad to feel safe for pedestrians and could probably use some of the scale improvements that at-grade rail brought to MLK.

    1. Wait, did I say something against elevated track? I’m not. I’d prefer not to have an opening bridge, and I’d prefer to avoid a fight against Magnolia and West Queen Anne homeowners, though.

      I think we should go for the option with the highest ridership, and if we have to build something that serves fewer people, that’s a fallback.

      1. Yeah, what Ben said. I think in general folks prefer elevated over underground, especially in such a pretty part of the city (I know I do). But trading Fremont and a station at Queen Anne for Interbay and some cash is not such a great deal. OK, I would like to know what we can get for the cash. But that cash amount is a lot less today than it was a week ago, so maybe not a lot.

      2. I’m still a believer that it’s critical to push this line as far North in Ballard as we can. Make no mistake, I’m not an advocate for Interbay, but the only options that push deep into Ballard (thinking to a not-too distant future where 15th is lined with medium density apartments and condos that rare already sprouting) route through Interbay.

        If Fremont gets left out in this corridor I’m sure it’s going to be covered one way or another. Queen Anne is a whole other story in my mind – it’s already poorly served.

        Let’s not forget the goal of this is to connect Ballard to downtown and when you look at most of the route traced in phase 1 it was pretty clearly straight down 15th. Fremont, while nice is really a small area that isn’t going to add thousands of new units in the next 10 years as SFH convert to town homes and complexes.

      3. @Ballardite I am up and Greenwood, and though I would normally agree that I want this line to go as far as possible, every one of the plans that presents something that goes north of the Ballard stop here does so with surface rail. I would much rather wait for a proper grade separation to come in the future than curse the line with surface rail to get it a few more miles north.

        Once the system is north of the canal on both sides it will be a lot easier to access via both bus and bicycle, so it will be quite usable (and tolerable) until they extend it further in later extensions of the system.

      4. Ballardite, by the time this is under construction we’ll already have another round of ST to extend it – these investments are going to accelerate as we pick up more cumulative taxing authority. I wouldn’t trade distance for pure capacity, as this line is going to get added to many times.

    2. Ballardite: What do you have against the Lower Queen Anne station? It’s a bustling area with lots of bars, restaurants, the key arena and seattle center, several major bus lines and lots of new housing. It will take a huge amount of traffic off the roads which will help alleviate the shitstorm that is the mercer mess, and greatly reduce travel times during rush hour, weekends, summer festival season, and any other big draw performances, and it’ll do it in a grade separated path immune to the other congestion. And don’t say the monorail is enough, since it’s disconnected from the rest of the transit system physically and fare wise. It may be fun for tourists hanging out at Westlake but it’s not very functional for anyone who actually lives here. Seems like leaving out that stop will do a lot more harm than good.

  14. Isn’t B (with the exception of Dravus stop) the 15X on rails as opposed to RR D? When talking to the ST folks, I made the same mistake– but after they made the 15X comparison, I realized it was better. I only suggest making the 15X reference is because most people may think Rapid Ride D on rails they will think of the Lower Queen Anne detour at the Mercer light that people hate so much.

  15. I could live with A, B, or D. E and C are non-starters (except perhaps for the B-E combination).

    While the 3 good options all have flaws, D makes the most sense long-term. My long term vision is a forked line with the western fork along the lines of B, the eastern fork through Fremont and north along Aurora, and a cross-town Ballard-UW line. D gets you everything to the fork, the tunnel to Fremont, and the starter section for the crossing line. Future expansions would add Interbay and continue the new western fork to the north (B) to eventually connect to Northgate, Lake City, Kenmore, Bothell, and Woodinville; add Fremont to UW via Wallingford; and add Fremont to Aurora. At that point, what was built as D would no longer be continuous, because Ballard would have a different direct route to downtown and UW already has its direct route to downtown. No one would lose anything long term but the shorter term provides both a Ballard-Fremont option and a Ballard-downtown option.

    I do wonder if perhaps D swings too far east in Fremont. I know that someone (Ben?) proposed a station under the Ship Canal further west at some point that would provide a pedestrian connection both north and south (and serve SPU). It would be interesting to investigate that option as part of the future segment-by-segment analysis of D. It might save tunneling costs for this stage and speed the trip up slightly.

    The key thing, though, is to make sure that the option taken in this stage works well with a longer-term vision. Build things so that future expansions will be easier and result in a more comprehensive network.

    1. Regarding your last point, this would be a great time to have deep conversations with neighborhoods and have them come up with 50 or 100 year plans. Will the Center of the Universe always be at the Fremont Bridge? Where’s the best place for a future center of Uptown? Will Upper Queen Anne allow towers in the long term? (It’s tough to block anyone’s view when you’re on top of a hill!)

      This will help make sure we build the stations in the right spots. The center of the neighborhoods will likely be wherever we build them. Let’s make sure that location makes the most sense.

      1. I think it would be really difficult to get good 100-year plans from the neighborhoods. The same “density will ruin my single-family lifestyle and take away my parking and bring undesirable renters” fears will affect 100-year plans almost as much as 20-year plans, even if single-family houses and cars may no longer exist in fifty years. Asking neighborhoods if they want to eventually move their center makes sense, but the logical next step is to upzone single-family blocks near stations, and that’s where people will balk even if it’s likely to happen anyway over the next fifty years.

      2. My hope was the 100-yr timeframe would remove the NIMBYs, as it would remove any change to their lives. But at the same time put in place a protection against future NIMBYs, as the neighborhood will be expected to upzone over time. But I suppose it depends on the motivations involved. Are people just protecting their parking spaces? Then they won’t bother to fight long-term plans. Are they trying to keep their neighborhood suburban forever? Well, then we hit problems.

  16. What I find interesting — and short-sighted — is the tacit assumption that all lines have to be west of Third Avenue downtown. Given that the “upper” Downtown and First Hill areas are not directly served by link now, I think there needs to be some work put into how the Downtown connections look. How long will it take a rider from Ballard to reach Columbia Tower or Harborview? As I’ve posted before, I’d want to see as a taxpayer whether we should modify the DSTT for more capacity or build a new line Downtown — and where. I could even argue that the “central segment” should be where the greatest benefit can be. Perhaps ST should “stop” the detailed planning here around Denny and dewsignate anything south of that as conceptual and part of another study.

    1. As I understand it, the southern half of this line would link to a potential West Seattle line, with a tunnel under 2nd that would have underground pedestrian connections to the existing bus tunnel.

      1. That’s really the best approach in my opinion. Effectively the existing stations would have walkways connecting them to new stations along 2nd Avenue, at the same cross-streets (Pine, University, Pioneer Square, etc.). In other words, from the view of the rider, all lines serve the same “station”, with an easy mezzanine connection underground to connect to the existing Central Linl.

      2. That’s my understanding as well, and it seems like a good approach. One block at the same mezzanine level will be a lot better than the pedestrian walkways being built in San Francisco for the Central Subway.

        If Option D is chosen, its extension to West Seattle could be a great opportunity to fix the shortcomings of International District as a transfer station. This is all working from Google Maps, since I’m not actually from Seattle, but it looks like there’s enough room to route the DSTT and 2nd Avenue Subway into a new bi-level station under 4th Avenue at King Street.

        I’m envisioning a setup similar to the BART stations in downtown Oakland: The upper platform would have West Seattle/Airport trains on the west side, and East Link trains on the east. On the lower platform, Ballard trains would serve the west track, and Central/East Link trains would both stop on the east.

        This would probably be pretty expensive, but it also seems like the only reasonable way to ever have cross-platform transfers between all three lines. Any thoughts?

      3. Sorry, more people are headed to Chinatown and to bus-served point further east than will ever be catching Amtrak or commuter trains at King Street.

        Perhaps someday Sounder South will be busy enough to justify an enclosed subterranean pedestrian passage into the DSTT. But never a relocation away from a built-out part of the downtown core.

        Comments from people not remotely familiar with a place, biased toward trains-as-an-end rather than transit-as-a-means, and seemingly indifferent to the very notion of well-built cities are rarely helpful in the slightest. When did STB become so alluring to the National Foamer Broadcast Network?

      4. Why is Second Avenue the best approach? Where is the public discussion on that one? Won’t the new SR 99 tunnel create some complications for this as many blocks of the tunnel are near or under Second Avenue? Aren’t most of the densest office towers, major hospitals and government offices uphill of Fourth Avenue so riders here won’t be able to get to these without a transfer? Won’t building the connections to the DSTT require boring a new underground pedestrian network in Downtown Seattle that isn’t being discussed or priced as part of this project? There are many unanswered issues with this assumption from both a procedural and substantive perspective that need to be answered before Second Avenue should be chosen.

      5. Wait I’m with Al S. on this. Why is it being more a less assumed that a line continuing south should go through downtown and not First Hill? The First Hill station would have been a huge boon to central link but was considered to risky to build. I’m not sure that would be the case with a line that would have more flexibility on routing and it’s at least worth studying. Considering First Hill is one of the densest Seattle neighborhoods and a line already serves downtown I think First Hill is the obvious place to continue building south from Bell Town.

      6. The new line needs an easy connection to the existing line. So where do you build a massive transfer station? And would Central Link have the capacity to absorb so many transferring passengers at Westlake, University street, etc? The two lines can’t operate separately from one another in a vacuum.

      7. I would hope that if a 2nd Ave subway were ever built — not inevitable — ST and the city would be willing to put up with the temporary intrusion in order to build it cheaper-yet-better: cut-and-cover, with a footprint both shallow and slender, toward the uphill side of street.

        Much of the first DSTT’s usability problems stem from its bored approach, and from the overbuilt stations they needed to meet the bores at track level. (Since the stations were dug from ground level, 3rd experienced just as much interruption as if they’d dug up the whole street end-to-end.)

        Relatively painless transfers would be the icing on this shallow cake: 2nd Ave stations would be roughly level with 3rd Ave mezzanines; one block of subterranean passageway and you’re done. No, it isn’t as fast or easy as this, but we all know Sound Transit would go out of their way to build some total fucking insanity if given too much design leeway anyway.

      8. Considering current ridership, projected ridership and the amount of additional train capacity available on central link I don’t think capacity is serious consideration compared to serving one of the densest neighborhoods in Seattle.

      9. The problem is that the two lines will NOT be at the same mezzanine level. Just look at the entrance from Second Avenue under Benaroya. Though there is a slight downgrade, it’s pretty much flat between street level Second Avenue and the mezzanine. Even if you don’t have mezzanines on the stations under Second Avenue you’ll have to rise up essentially to street level to be at the mezzanine on Third Avenue and any such line MUST be at least 20 feet deep at the top of the tunnel to avoid the utilities.

        You can certainly do that change of grade with escalators, but it’s not going to be some level jaunt just because there are white lines between the stations.

        So, d.p., when you say shallow and slender I think you’re asking for two impossible things before lunch. You can have slender by stacking, as in your Boston Red Line example, or you can have shallow by omitting mezzanines with side by side tracks, but then you have the southbound line with only access from the west side of the street and the northbound from the east side (assuming right hand running….). That’s OK to save money on stations outside the CBD, but you really need both-sides-of-the-street access there.

        The problem is “shallow cut and cover” means you have to preserve the utilities, which can be insanely complicated and expensive. I saw it in San Francisco when the Market Street tunnel was under construction. They had a latticework of steel trusses just below street level which supported the temporary road decking AND had hangers for the utilities. In a city downtown it’s twenty feet vertical before the maze stops and it all has to be dug through very carefully.

        Of course, you’re right that the stations have to be treated like that, and in fact, the utilities usually have to be re-routed around them. But don’t be fooled to think that having all the street between the stations torn up for years is only a little worse than the stations. It’s MUCH worse because its more total street than just the stations.

        If you’re willing to do slender and moderately deep you can stack things with a shallow sort of mezzanine hanging off the side of the platform at the upper track level, like your Boston Red Line example, but you can’t have entrances from both sides of the street unless you go really deep and have the mezzanine above the upper track above the lower track.

        I like stacked things; they make junctions massively easier, and narrow the impact zone. There’s only half the interaction with the utilities, and it’s the same total volume of dirt to take out, you just have to lift it up higher. But such a design can’t be called “shallow” in any sense of the word.

      10. Although a cocktail of situational determining factors may affect the relative cost of each, as a general rule, shallow cut-and-cover remains reliably far cheaper than boring, utilities be damned.

        This is especially true if you have a street wide enough (2nd Ave – ✔) to build mostly under one half, allowing you many options for how to reroute utilities, and allowing you to keep the street open during construction.

        Vancouver saved a veritable shit ton of money by going cut-and-cover under the east side of Cambie and part of Granville — and that’s in spite of still needing to buy and run boring machines for the False Creek crossing.

        It’s funny you mention San Francisco, which is spending how many billions on its 1.5-mile deep-bored Central Subway To Nowhere?

      11. 2nd Avenue is huge, Anandakos. There are entire city blocks in Boston that would fit inside its ROW. You could have trains running side-by-side without even reaching the centerpoint of the 5.5-lane roadway.

        The current Benaroya exit from University Street station indeed slopes slightly upward. If it sloped equally downward, it would arrive just below the surface of 2nd. A non-stacked station would still need a mezzanine level, but neither the mezzanine nor the platform levels would require 30-foot ceilings and long escalator descents.

      12. d.p.,

        Well, I would guess that Market Street, at six lanes is also wide enough that San Francisco could have built in half of it. But they didn’t. In fact, because they wanted center platforms, the tracks at both levels had to be so wide that the entire street, curb to curb was excavated, trussed, temporarily decked and excavated.

        Boring is the cheapest part of tunneling nowadays; the machines are constantly improving and are able to deal with pretty much any kind of rock. Didn’t you read that ST was so impressed by the progress on U-Link that they decided to throw out the retained cut section on North-Link north of 75th in favor of boring all the way to 90th and coming out of the hill where the gradient alongside the freeway was less severe?

        And comparing a cut and cover job on Cambie street anywhere south of Broadway with a cut and cover project on Second Avenue in Downtown Seattle is “apple meet orange”. By the time one gets three or four blocks south of Broadway (in Vancouver) one is in residential neighborhoods all the way down to the 60’s near the north outlet of the Frazier which is crossed on a bridge. You can be double darn betcha that the utilities are far less crowded and deep serving a neighborhood of single family residences than they are in Second Avenue downtown Seattle.

        I certainly agree, and have said on a couple of replies on this post, that the huge mezzanines and station boxes used in the DSTT are larger than they might have been. I believe that they made Pioneer Square and University especially high in order to make the gradient up from the underpass beneath the BNSF tunnel to Westlake more gradual. The bottom of the DSTT is well below sea level when it passes under BNSF. Think how high above Elliott Bay the Pike Market is and you get an idea of the elevation gain from Yesler to Pine that the tubes achieve. The station boxes are flat bottomed, so all that gain has to come between them.

        A new subway on Second Avenue that doesn’t have to pass underneath the BNSF tunnel can certainly go for a slender footprint with minimalist mezzanines or none at all to stay shallow. Without a mezzanine it could be very shallow, although without one I don’t know how you get the passengers to and from the platforms serving the southbound track, assuming right hand running and a location at the left side of the road. I guess the stairs would go down beneath the sidewalk and then a horizontal passage under the west side of the street would give access to the platform. That would certainly work, but anyone originating from or destined to Third, Fourth or Fifth Avenues using a southbound train probably would not appreciate it.

        But mezzanine or not, you’re not going to have an easy time with the utilities if you try to cut and cover it for the entire length. It might be OK in the Denny Regrade to use C&C; buildings there are smaller and probably have much lighter utilities. But in the downtown core they’re going to be thick.

        So far as your scorn for San Francisco and the Central Subway I guess I have to echo others on STB and ask “What proposed or now-building rail system expansion in America is good enough to pass your excruciatingly precise criteria for route, geometry, technology, and construction method?”

        For someone who claims to love transit infrastructure, you sure don’t seem to want to build much of it.

      13. Bill Williams,

        The BNSF tracks already occupy the space under Fourth Avenue south of Washington Street. Fourth Avenue is a trestle above them.

      14. Al,

        “Why is Second Avenue the best approach?” Because you can’t get to Fourth or Fifth with a tunnel! At least not easily, because to do so you have to go under the station box for Westlake.

        It’s true that you could probably share the mezzanine of Westlake for the new station, perhaps by using the space between the tracks for the elevators and a set of escalators down to the new tunnel. But if, as many people have complained, the problem with the DSTT is that it’s too deep having been bored, well a Fourth or Fifth Avenue tunnel would have to be about 30 feet deeper to maintain enough rock to support the station box of the DSTT.

        Shades of the Central Subway in SF. d.p. can tell you all about it.

      15. Other cities have built new levels for existing stations to accommodate new lines. See London for example.

        You can underpin the existing station box so there isn’t necessarily a need to have 30 feet of dirt or rock between the station boxes.

        Looking at the layout of Westlake, my guess is it wouldn’t be impossible to connect to a station under 5th.

        You could also place the station adjacent to Westlake which would allow a mezzanine level connection and only require that the track pass under the Westlake station box (somewhat less complicated that putting a whole station box there.

        The main reason for not doing this is it is more expensive than just digging a new station at 2nd and Pine.

      16. Chris,

        Ah, I wasn’t clear enough. I wasn’t saying that the TOP of the lower bore had to be 30 feet deeper. I was meaning the track and platform level. Since LRT tunnels are about 20′-22′ in diameter that means about 10 or 11 feet of clearance between the top of the new tunnel and the base of the station box.

      17. Chris,

        And I do like your idea of having the station box offset, probably to the north which would facilitate the connection to the streetcar network and get pedestrians a couple of blocks closer to Amazon on a rainy day, rather than directly under Westlake. Essentially you’d just extend the Westlake mezzanine north or south along Fourth or Fifth Avenue and have a three story drop down to the platforms from it,.

        If you were going to do this, I’d say Fifth would be preferable because of the steep rise between Third and Fifth in the middle of the CBD.

    2. In theory, the Center City Connector would serve the demand to First Hill and “upper” downtown well enough that a LINK station there wouldn’t be necessary, and the line could continue on to West Seattle eventually. This assumes an easier transfer than the current SLUS-LINK transfer and, and probably some priority improvements to FHS down the line.

      1. Although the First Hill streetcar is a nice solution going from North Link to First Hill. If transferring from a Ballard rail line the First Hill Streetcar would be 10/20 minutes slower than having a subway station.

        Also a First Hill subway line wouldn’t preclude continuing towards West Seattle. I could see a line that, going south from Westlake, stops near Madison and Boren then in Little Saigon near 12th and Jackson before either stopping near Lander Street station after traveling parallel to I-5, or tunneling towards International District station before continuing south towards West Seattle.

      2. I agree Alex. I’d be somehwat happy with a Sixth Avenue or a Fifth Avenue subway too. We have many tall buildings and public offices that deserve direct service. The more critical point though is that it deserves study.

        Finally, The Streetcar goes will have direct service at Capitol Hill Station for U-Link and North Link corridor riders, but people from this Ballard line won’t have an easy connection to First Hill unless they ride the streetcar all the way around Chinatown and back up the hill, or they make a double rail transfer. It’s tragic because now the Yesler Terrace proposal has been developed and that makes it even more important to serve the area with high speed, regional service.

  17. While I’m very excited that Sound Transit is considering some high-quality grade-separated alternatives that should revolutionize mobility throughout the corridor (in terms of travel time, reliability, and frequency), I have to admit that I am a bit concerned, and confused actually, by the extremely low ridership projections. While option D (Queen Anne tunnel) looks really good, it’s disappointing that it will only attract 30,000 riders, yet will cost $3.2-3.6 billion. In terms of construction cost per rider, this project would be astonishingly bad, at ~$107,000-120,000 per daily rider. (The other grade separated options aren’t much better, by the way.)

    By comparison, the Canada Line in Vancouver cost ~$2 billion and has 136,000 daily riders, which results in a construction cost/ridership ratio of ~$15,000 per daily rider, which is nearly an order of magnitude lower. Considering that both lines will be grade-separated, run through very dense areas, be faster than driving at all times, and run through major “choke-points,” I’m kind of confused at this discrepancy. While Vancouver is admittedly denser than Seattle, Calgary’s West LRT and Edmonton’s North LRT extension (under construction), which are mostly grade-separated, will also be MUCH more cost-effective…

    Is 30,000 riders really is the highest amount of transit ridership that can be added in Seattle with over $3 billion? I kind of doubt that… (Actually, for environmental purposes it’s even less than 30,000 new riders given that most of these already ride the bus, but the mobility benefit for these people would be so great that it would still represent a higher quality of life)

    1. I think the big question is why Vancouver can build their line so much more cheaply. Vancouver is more dense than Seattle, but we are growing, and a lot of these stops make sense. But somehow Vancouver can build their line for a lot less money.

      1. Its not just rail, most projects in this country just cost more to build.

        I might take a look at federal and state requirements to projects that make them more expensive in general…

      2. A part of it iscut and cover tunneling for most of the underground portion of the line, along with very short (150′ max) platforms. We’re building 400′ platforms and boring our tunnels. Personally, I can see some attraction to the low capacity but short headway model. Remembering what a mess cut and cover was when the dstt was built, I don’t think anyone would tolerate it here.

      3. Hmm. Given that the Ballard-DT line will be operationally separate from the rest of the system, perhaps the low-capacity but short-headway model would be a good idea. Unless ridership literally ends up being several times higher than expected, automated 2-car trains running at 2-minute frequencies (that is a capacity of 12,000 passengers per hour per direction), should manage demand just fine and platform lengths can then be halved.

    2. I agree. ST is coming up with low ridership estimates because their model is based on historic local ridership. It doesn’t account for the significant mode shift to transit that occurs in cities with grade-separated rapid transit networks, because it hasn’t happened yet. I believe that shift will begin with ULink and be more noticeable when Central Link reaches Northgate. But then, maybe most people will keep driving. Better to be conservative when planning.

      For the record, the Ballard-downtown corridor, at say 6 stops, would have*:
      At DC/Boston level of ridership: 60,000 boardings per day
      At the NYC/Montreal level of ridership: 90,000 boarding per day

      *Based on ridership per stop statistics.

      1. ST can only count ridership based on current trends and already-approved upzones, in order to qualify for federal grants. It can project a bit if the city says an upzone is pretty certain and it’s just deciding on the height. But it can’t count speculative riders based on a still-tentative plan, or somebody’s unofficial idea, or assuming that people will suddenly decide to take transit more in the future. But as those changes start to happen, they become “facts”, and then they can be counted in future plans. To some extent it has already started — e.g., Metro’s ridership growth on core routes, in spite of the overcrowding and unreliability. And we’re predicting an explosion of riders and interest when University Link and North Link open.

    3. The ridership numbers in this corridor are going to be pretty volatile. Seattle is a transit-rich City with lots of transit path options, and a forecaster can drive those line ridership numbers up or down depending on the alignment, speed and frequency of parallel routes. The transfer times also matter, as making someone walk 5 or 6 minutes to another transit line (such as Central Link) can drive ridership down. The question that needs to be asked is this: What happens with the parallel routes?

    4. The reason we don’t get as much ridership is that we aren’t allowing the density. We’ll fix that, and the line will end up carrying a lot more.

    5. We don’t value freeways on the cost per car, so why should we value rail systems on the capital cost per passenger? There’s a huge benefit to the city that the circulation system is there, a benefit to businesses that it brings customers, and a benefit to non-passengers that a train is available every ten minutes in case they need it someday.

  18. If you step back and look at “What kind of line would connect the largest number of walkable urban villages?”, it would be corridor D. It connects the highest-ridership neighborhoods that have been screaming for better transit (Belltown, LQA, UQA, Fremont, Ballard). It only leaves out SLU (one line can’t do everything) and Interbay (which may possibly become an urban village in the future but there’s no guarantee). So corridor D is “doing transit right”. If it really happens, it will set such a good example for the region, of what kind of transit line has maximum ridership, gives maximum mobility, and attracts the most ex-drivers. If it doesn’t happen — if the state denies authority or the voters disapprove it — well, maybe nothing would be a better alternative than a half-assed inadequate line. Even if it’s disapproved once, it could be approved later.

    Among the others, I’m glad ST has three grade-separated alternatives. That’s a real accomplishment compared to the last meeting. The other two are “streetcar options for SDOT” so I’m not concerned about them.

    A: I’m glad it’s grade-separted. I’m a bit uncomfortable with combining the most expensive element (upper Queen Anne) with lower-ridership Interbay rather than Fremont.

    B: Again, glad it’s grade-separated. I was concerned about the 70′ bridge, but less concerned after DP’s comment above that it would only open rarely. I’m not concerned about the surface segment north of 65th.

    C: Not HCT, the weakest streetcar option, and it doesn’t go to “real Ballard”. With Ballardites and Uptownians switching to the subway (corridor D), I’m not sure we need more than RapidRide for the rest.

    E: Not HCT but OK for a streetcar. It would serve SLU, the urban village that’s left out of A, B, and D. That makes it better than C.

  19. Regarding a Fremont “Y”, I’m not sure if everybody’s on the same page. If we assume corridor D, then ST’s next task will be a Ballard-UW line. There are three ways it could go: Ballard-Wallingford-UW, Ballard-Fremont-UW, Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-UW. The beauty of underground is it can zigzag ignoring the street grid above, without losing much travel time. So Fremont and Wallingford is possible.

    So if it’s going from Ballard to Fremont, it might as well share the corridor D track, and then it would have to diverge at Fremont to get to UW. That’s what the “Y” would be. Projecting further ahead, a downtown-Aurora line could also diverge at Fremont here.

    It would be great if ST could design Fremont as a “super transfer station” to allow for all these possibilities. I’m quite worried about U-District station and how it will interface with the 45th line. At best we may get a mezzanine-level transfer (which would be OK); at worst the station may be a block away and you’ll have to come up to the surface and cross a street to get to the other station — which would cut ridership in half. But physical constraints may preclude a great U-District transfer station — the most important transfer in north Seattle. If Fremont could, in contrast, become a great transfer station, that would at least be something.

    There’s also an opportunity if the 45th line falls through. Corridor D would allow Ballardites to go to Fremont and transfer to the 31/32 to UW. The 31/32 is faster than the 44 so it wouldn’t suck as horribly. And Metro could straighten out the routes and make them more frequent. 40th is a small neighborhood street, but it’s also unlikely to get much more car traffic because the whole neighborhood dead-ends a couple blocks south of it.

    1. That’s basically what I asked them about: without an infinite supply of money it makes no sense to do anything other than split the line just east of Fremont station and go on to UW from there: you already dug half the cross town line to get to Ballard!

      The problem, apparently, is that you’d have to start diving immediately east of the station to make it under the canal to go to QA, which wouldn’t leave room for a junction.

      You could split west of the station, but then Fremont commuters to the UW need to backtrack to transfer.

      1. Do you know how far west the split could occur? I’m asking because maybe the station could simply be moved to the northwest a couple blocks. That is less than ideal, but still provide Fremont riders with a one stop ride to the UW, and Ballard riders a one seat ride to the UW as well. Or maybe you just add another station wherever that split can occur.

        Worse case scenario the line from the UW to Fremont is just a spur line, forcing people to get off the train at that point (and enjoy Fremont or transfer to the other line). That is icky unless we really ramp up the headways. Still, for a ride from the UW to Ballard (or a ride from anywhere north of the UW to Ballard) I think taking that line would save a few minutes over going through downtown.

      2. The reply from the ST engineers implies that the Fremont (West) station (about 35th or 36th and Phinney?) would be at- or near-grade. But what if it’s not? What if it were like Husky Stadium where the tracks are already at crossing level? This is option “D” we’re talking about, so it’s assumed that Ballard-Fremont will be in a tunnel. Given the lack of utilities along Leary, it probably makes sense to cut and cover along there, but still, a tunnel.

        What if the C&C transitioned to bored west of the station and the station itself were a “stacked” version of Husky Stadium, with one of the tracks at crossing depth plus twenty feet? The two bores would cross the ship canal stacked as well which would allow the east-west tracks to share the station.

        By separating the bores in this way one would make possible an eventual full “wye” so that there could even be UW-Wallingford-“East Fremont”-Upper Queen Anne-Lower Queen Anne-Belltown direct service at some time in the future. Such an “East Fremont” station would have to be stacked as well and could lie diagonally under the block between 34th and Fremont and 35th and Aurora with a southeast entrance at 34th and Aurora for Adobe and its neighbors and a northeast entrance on 36th at the foot of the stairs up to the Aurora wishbone. That would require escalators to be sure…..

        And I do realize that one side of the wye would have to separate horizontally in order to switch the platform elevations; that should probably be the side between East and West Fremont because it would be the longest and have the least curvature.

        The whole half square mile between the waterfront and north side of 36th, from Fremont to Stone would be served by the East Fremont station which would be about where the Option D Fremont station is shown. That area would quickly be filled with eight to ten story mid-rises marching up the hill. Everybody would have a view of Lake Union.

        And in a “best of all possible worlds” in which the Seattle Subway Aurora corridor is realized (in all likelihood, the last line to be built), the north line could diverge from the north end of the East Fremont station to bend west to a station around 46th and Fremont then go north under Phinney/Greenwood as designed.

        Note for Ben: It needs more stations north of the Upper Fremont one. You only show one at “Green Lake” (65th? 70th?) The Second Avenue Subway in New York is planned for a station every ten blocks. No, Phinney / Greenwood obviously isn’t as dense as the Upper East Side, but it sure is a fantastic place for a bunch of new high-rise view properties. Views from the Olympics to the Cascades anywhere above the second floor and little shadow problem, at least north of 65th because of the steepness of the hill on both sides! It could be as dense as the Upper East Side some day for at least a couple of blocks width. You should allow for an additional station a bit north of 60th then one at 72nd or so, central Greenwood between 85th and 87th and about 97th. It looks like you show the Red Line crossing at 105th headed over to the Northgate TC.

        These stations (and ones added along 15th NW; you need another one between Market and 85th there, too) don’t have to be ST palaces, even underground. A nice clean version of Forest Hills or a covered version of Sunset in Beaverton (no mezzanine and side platforms) is a cheap but decent model. I guess you have to have an elevator on each side at each one for accessibility, but that’s fine.

        Yes, the two Fremont stations would be expensive, but the value of providing Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-UW service instead of just Ballard-Wallingford-UW is worth the extra cost. Right now most of the development in Fremont is under the Aurora Bridge, so such a “West Fremont” station would serve it poorly. But there’s plenty of opportunity for densification to the west as well. There are still a number of “old Fremont” single story business buildings near the waterway that could be replaced by employment or housing.


        If there is such a “wiggly” UW-Ballard line, it should also have a station somewhere around 41st or 42nd and Stone as well as the 45th and Meridian “downtown Wallingford” station. If you want to have a real city, with grade separated transit, this east-west line should have quite a few stations to provide as many riders as possible with a single-transfer connection to the north-south spines. There’s already significant density between Aurora and Stone Way and along Stone Way which can’t access transit on the Fremont side, and much of the housing this far south is rental and therefore replaceable without too much resistance. Even with two additional stations (“East Fremont” and “Stone Way”) such a line would be massively faster than the 44 and adding the full wye would give the two Wallingford stations better-than-Aurora-bus service to downtown which also included both Fremont stations directly, Upper Queen Anne and Lower Queen Anne without a walk from Aurora.

        This would all be expensive, true, but better integrated that the “straight” line versions of the Seattle Subway proposal.

    2. It would be great if ST could design Fremont as a “super transfer station” to allow for all these possibilities.

      If we’re planning long-term, let’s have a station that allows for the eventual creation of a Fremont upside-down peace symbol. (Seems appropriate.)

      From Fremont, trains should go south to downtown; northeast to UW; northwest to Ballard; and north to Greenwood and Bitter Lake. Yes, the northbound line will be another $3 billion lift, but the possibilities are just stupendous, and I’m talking long-term.

  20. Couple quick follow up thoughts after very quickly skimming the comment thread:

    While the maps didn’t call it out, all of the options include their own OMF – including D. In the broadest terms, there could be a stub tunnel coming up to a surface OMF site between Ballard and Fremont (Frelard). At the meeting I did joke about an all underground OMF. A joke was all it was.

    As RossB pointed out, he had the stumper question of the night regarding cost differences between the old Alt 3 route and the B alternative that’s in the final 5. We’re taking a closer look at the jump and will address it in the final report(s) to the Board. Our initial thinking is that further refined ROW costs are the biggest driver between last summer and where we are today.

    Thanks again for all the input. It has made a real difference.


    1. Hmmm, that’s a pretty obtuse joke, and I don’t think you were the rep I heard it from. Do these capital cost estimates include OM facility costs? And has an estimate of rolling stock necessary for the line and the acreage it will require to service them been developed?

      1. (I didn’t actually think a giant underground cavern was a possibility, but what I took away was the unspoken understanding that D could only feasibly be built if it extended to SODO where large parcels of land are still available)

      2. All I’m saying is that I don’t see very many if any vacant parcels of a suitable size in Freelard. Displacing existing businesses? Seems like the sort of thing that will raise the local industrialists’ ire worse than the Burke Gilman trail extension…which still doesn’t exist

    2. Thanks for the update. I appreciate it.

      I hope you get a chance to see the idea being thrown around on this blog ( Basically, it takes Corridor C, but replaces the surface line in downtown with a cut and cover tunnel. The cut and cover is the key — it could be a lot cheaper than Corridor B, which has similar service and timing. I am very curious as to how much cheaper that could be, compared to Corridor B (or D).

      I look forward to the ideas surrounding other segments, especially the route from the UW to Ballard. The way these two lines interact is very important and interesting.

      1. Cut and cover is usually more expensive than boring because of utility preservation, except at the stations. They tend to become grandiose Moscow Subway granfaloons because the bored lines are deep enough to get under all the utilities. So why not have a majestic “mezzanine” filled with artworks with seven entrances?

        I lived in San Francisco during the Market Street Tunnel construction. Yes, in the Haight….. Believe me, you do NOT want to inflict that on downtown Seattle, or even Belltown.

      2. You’re still wrong on this, Anandakos, no matter how many places you write it.

        Vancouver saved billions going cut-and-cover for most of the Canada Line.

        SF’s Central Subway is a fraction of the length of the Market Street rebuild, and is costing an order of magnitude more even in adjusted dollars. (And most cut-and-cover subways aren’t nearly as massive, complicated, or ROW-consuming as BART’s was.)

      3. 2nd Ave between Pine & Denny is a very different animal utility-wise than Cambie along much of the Canada line alignment.

        For one thing the alignment passes the CenturyLink Elliott exchange at 2nd & Lenora. There is going to be a thicket of fiber and phone cables coming in and out of that building.

        It used to be true that cut and cover tunnel construction was always cheaper than bored tunnels. However the equation has changed as labor costs (and utility relocation) have gotten much more expensive and as TBM technology has improved.

        Not to say Bruce’s idea isn’t worth consideration, but I suspect there may be little if any savings from a cut and cover tunnel. Indeed it may turn out that keeping the bored tunnel from option B is cheaper than a cut and cover tunnel along the option C alignment.

      4. Just as there’s a difference between cut-and-covering below an outer arterial and cut-and-covering through a downtown*, there are huge logistical and cost differences between boring deep below a solid hill and boring off-grid just below a central city.

        Once you’ve included the generous real estate plots ST would have to acquire for both stations and TBM extraction site(s), boring would become a massively more expensive proposition for not much benefit, if the line is going to surface a mile later anyway.

        Again, SF’s new downtown bore: $1.6 billion for barely 1.7 miles.

        *(Also, TransLink cut-and-covered a healthy portion of Granville, the axis of downtown Vancouver.)

      5. I’d say it certainly is worth comparing the following options:
        1. cut and cover along 2nd, Denny, Elliott
        2. bored tunnel, same alignment
        3. off grid bored tunnel, similar to alignment B.

        But I’d put off picking one over the other until the cost estimates are a bit more solid.

      6. Agreed.

        You’re not the first to boldly claim that boring advancement has rendered it cheaper than digging. I simply wanted to emphasize that there is plenty of very recent evidence, from our earthquake-prone coast to the Manhattan Schist to the Parisian Catacombs, that this claim is not accurate.

      7. It would seem bored tunnels are being chosen in many situations that would have been either mined or cut and cover in the past. Presumably cost is a factor here.

        Indeed AFAIK the tunnels for the Second Avenue Subway are being bored between stations rather than cut and cover.

      8. That was a political choice, and almost certainly a mistaken one. The Second Avenue Subway is costing more than $2 billion per mile, and will be less easy to access when completed than any existing New York subway line.

    3. Why couldn’t the existing OMF for Central Link be shared with the new Ballard spur line?

      I understand that there are capacity limitations in the Central Link line that prevent the full sharing of Central Link by each train during regular service hours. However, wouldn’t trains on the Ballard spur line only require access to the OMF during exceptional one-off events or at the end of regular service hours when capacity constraints change?

      If the only material obstacle to a shared OMF facility is a fork in the line enabling trains to optionally split off into the DSTT, couldn’t this produce a significant cost savings?

      1. Firstly, there would be no direct connection between the proposed line and Central Link.

        Secondly, currently planned expansions will max out the storage capacity at the OMF to the extent that they’re planning a secondary maintenance site for East Link and Lynwood Link.

      2. Josiah, you are right to ask the question. Any rail operator with multiple lines will tell you that it is very stupid to build a rail line near another with at least one track that lets you easily move trains from one to another. Here, somewhere in the past, someone apparently declared the DSTT issue “decided” and now no one with power seems willing to have the gall to mention that it’s a costly assumption to make. They get stuck on the “DSTT can’t handle another line” reason (ignoring that Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Boston and Dallas have segments with more than two lines in their downtowns) and just don’t get the operational expense to the operations of a rail system in general.

      3. Yes, Portland’s downtown surface snail rail is perfectly comparable when understanding the meaning of “operational capacity”.

        Apple, meet orange.

      4. I believe it was the Ben ‘tail’ wagging the ST ‘dog’ that consistently dismissed the possibility of using CPS and associated switching to add another line. Somehow any rational discussion of the idea has been discarded forever, regardless of the merits and feasibility of having trains run from Westlake to Ballard, through SLU, LQA and a few other places where the network would benefit from same platform transfers.
        No, we must have another tunnel in Seattle for the millions heading to Seattle in U-Hauls

      5. All of these maps show the lines ending at about Stewart. That is not going to happen; any line between Ballard and Downtown Seattle will go south from Stewart to at least Jackson, using some at-grade or underground routing. Option E looks like it would use the Downtown Connector, C would be at grade on a Second and Fourth couplet (although it is actually shown as reversing at Stewart or Pine in the diagram), and the other three would presumably be in a subway under Second Avenue since their passages through Belltown are shown in tunnels under it.

        Clearly, that leaves a big question mark, “how does this continue south?” if it’s to go to West Seattle and Georgetown as proposed by Seattle Subway. There are two very large structures blocking direct passage south along the old Second Avenue South right of way: the sports stadia. There are buildings going up north of Century Link Field between King Street Station and First Avenue South which will block any effort to swing over to First Avenue other than by boring under Pioneer Square, and at that point you would be right over the Deep Bore Tunnel. It is crowded tunnel territory between James and Jackson in downtown Seattle.

        It very well may be that the only way south is along the busway, either sharing tracks with Central Link or adding a new pair and kicking the buses over to Fourth Avenue. That would require dipping underneath the BNSF tracks around the station because they can’t be overcrossed because of Fourth Avenue, Royal Brougham Way and the I-90 stub. That may be why no underground passage between King Street and the platforms at ID has been built; somebody has been thinking ahead.

        So at some point it’s very likely that some sort of interchange track between parallel lines or as mooted, shared trackage south of the East Link interchange will be a reality. If the Ballard line is built with compatible technology the swapping cars between the two systems would be feasible there.

      6. Perhaps a review of the design manuals for ‘Flat Junction’ merges with respect to minimum headways would be a good jumping off point to start a discussion.
        Slide 10 shows 2 minute headways are feasible, with occasional delays incurred for trains not running exactly on schedule, and with proper Positive Train Control (which isn’t the worst thing to have!)
        I guess we’ll never know now.

      7. Anandakos, in the post about option C, I had suggested shifting a bored tunnel to Occidental Ave. around Occidental Park, then contunuing south from there past CenturyLink Field and going under Safeco Field. There might be some challenges here avoiding the foundations of the field and the Edgar Martinez Way bridge, but you could have a real Stadium station around Royal Brougham and Occidental. If the line continued south, it would probably need to remain below grade for a while to avoid RR crossings and keep the airspace clear for a future bridge at Lander St. Maybe it could be in a trench instead of a tube.

        If the aim were to serve W. Seattle, it would probably need to transition to elevated at some point. That might be pretty challenging; I’m not too familiar with that part of town so I can’t comment on it.

      8. aw,

        Well, that might work. As I mentioned, my post was predicated on the supposition “without boring under Pioneer Square”. The DBT is beginning to surface through there and I’m not very comfortable proposing a second layer squeezed between it and the surface, especially with the rubble and whatnot comprising the Pioneer Square subsurface.

        Continuing straight ahead on Second Extension gets you off the DBT’s back farther north where it has dived deeper.

        Your idea might work though. It’s not to be rejected out of hand.

      9. The DBT is under Alaskan Way in that area. There is no more chance for interference with it than there would be with the DSTT.

        The DBT doesn’t cross First until Madison and Second until near Pike at that point it is deep enough to clear building foundations so shouldn’t be much of a problem for any transit tunnel.

      10. Chris,

        According to the “Deep Bore Tunnel Map” at the DBT is between First and Second Avenues as of Jackson. That was the map on which I based by post.

        I see there’s one on Wikipedia that shows it under what would be Western if Western went that far south (e.g. it’s a little west of First at Jackson). It also shows that it doesn’t cross First until about Marion. So, you’re right about the tunnel not being close to Second Avenue until it gets pretty darn deep. Since Wikipedia is no doubt more accurate, going south on Second or Occidental would probably be fine except for one thing.

        That big new building going up between Occidental and Second on the south side of King is going to block both paths. Occidental jogs at King without overlap and the building intrudes into the space through which the tunnel would have to jog. Second Avenue doesn’t run into the building but would need a nasty “S” bend to pass between the new building and Century Link Field. And who knows if they’ll build another new structure in the south half of the block. That would completely block the path from Second Avenue to Occidental for anything but keeping the tunnel deep. This is all fill down there; no rock to support anything. Not a good place to be boring under anything.

        Maybe the line could S-bend toward the railroad tracks; that would be a much easier curve assuming no building is build in the parking lot between Second Avenue South and the train station south of King. But even that is iffy, because there’s room for only one track between the existing Amtrak/Sounder station throat tracks and the east wall of the stadium. Maybe one track could remain underground while the other came to the surface, assuming that the stadium foundation doesn’t spread out.

        But overall, it does not look good for veering directly south through Pioneer Square, on either street. A Second Avenue subway will probably have to continue on down Second Avenue Extension, underpass the BNSF tracks and find its way through the maze of Fourth Avenue pillars to come up in the busway between ID and Stadium.

        That’s why Fifth Avenue would be better, although passing under the Westlake Station box would be a doozy. Shades of the Central Subway.

  21. In looking at the crossings, it’s pretty much the ones looked at for the monorail, and the same costs.

    Look, you either tunnel, use an existing bridge, or build one of two bridge types – cantilever or marine crossing height.

    The ones shown are fairly good (cheaper) options so good work on ST’s part.

  22. Personally, I very much prefer the D line. It goes everywhere(almost) I want to go. It gets me there VERY fast and VERY reliably. Its a line for now(as in get me there now:)) and for the future.

    The pricetag is meh. Meh as in unimportant. 3 billion to build the right line in the right place with the right technology and it will last 100 years? Yes please. In 25 years that 3 billion will seem quaint.

    1. Instead of people deciding to live in neighborhood “B”, then demanding government spend 3 billion dollars to help get them to neighborhood “A” on a daily basis, why not just move to “A” in the first place? That’s what I’ve done. I’m a hero.

      Secondly, what mode of public transportation that was around 300 years ago are we still using today? Transportation changes and evolves from century to century. Let’s remember that before we sink $950 kajillion dollars into any one mode.

      1. So there’s only one place you ever go to? Do you buy groceries at your workplace? Do all your friends live at your workplace? Are you a college student living on UW campus who rarely leaves the U-District?

      2. Because transportation is not just about getting between home and work and nothing else. There is shopping, entertainment, socializing with friends, etc. No matter which neighborhood you live in, it is not reasonable to expect everything you could possibly ever want to do to be right there.

        Even with respect to work trips, there are a lot of couples out there who work in different neighborhoods. If you have a job in neighborhood “B”, but your wife works in neighborhood “A” and there is no transportation between them, where are you supposed to live?

        Finally, many people have jobs in boring suburban areas with not much around except work and, sometimes, you have to choose between being able to walk to work or being able to walk to other places you frequently go outside of work. In many cases, choosing a home that allows walking to work means choosing a home where almost nothing is within walking distance except work and public transportation outside commute hours is poor. On the other hand, living in the city means you can walk, bike, or bus to almost all of your non-work needs on evenings and weekends, and your trip to work happens during the one time of day that the buses are set up to make it easy.

      3. Honestly, that “what mode from the past still gets used” question is really funny in this context. There are two answers. Boats and….wait for it…..trains! I don’t think trains have had their 300th bday yet, but it’s close.

        Also, you living where you work doesn’t make you my hero. But you could be, if you can get me to my gjetost store in Ballard in 11 minutes! Any way you could help me with that? :)

  23. They proposing at-grade rapid streetcar along 15th NW with just three stations?????? No wonder the ridership is so low; there’s no place to get on the freaking thing. Hasn’t anyone been to San Francisco? The Muni Metro lines that use the Forest Hills tunnel are a great model. Now maybe stopping every three blocks is overkill, but stopping every two miles is underkill for surface transit. You’d still have to run a local bus along the route.

    If they choose either C or E, there should be a stations at 75th and 65th as well. They’re just platforms in the middle of the street. How expensive can these “stations” be? Call them stops and set expectations appropriately.

    As Bruce points out in the follow-on post, even if a 15th Avenue line is extended northeastward to Lake City to form a crossing loop, many people getting on it in Lake City or Kenmore headed for downtown will transfer to Link at Northgate. So the “don’t slow down the through riders” issue won’t be important unless the idea is to turn north along Aurora with an extension rather than crossing Link.

    However, there’s no way that the fantastic opportunities for TOD along Aurora will ever be realized now. The Feds would double over laughing if a line parallel to link and a half mile away were proposed now.

    1. TOD on Aurora only requires “development”. It has been held back by recalcitrant owners opposing density and refusing to give up on-street parking. not by the lack of light rail. But regardless of this, Aurora’s fantastic opportunities will remain because of the nature of the street, and future generations will probably realize its potential even if the current one doesn’t.

  24. I think Option A & D are definitely the most logical alternatives at this point, but don’t you think Option D isn’t covering neighborhoods like Interbay or Magnolia? Whereas Option A isn’t covering places like Fremont or Wallingford. Option A has seven stations where Option D has only five. Also, tunneling costs are a big factor in this decision. It might cost a lot of money to tunnel all the way from Downtown to Fremont then to Ballard. If I were to choose, Option A would be my vote because it covers more areas on Queen Anne hill, and will lower costs for Sound Transit. In addition, if the Ballard Spur were ever to be constructed, we probably wouldn’t need a second Fremont station so it isn’t necessary for the Ballard project currently happening.

    1. Interbay and Magnolia aren’t urban villages. They aren’t where the city’s planning directs growth.

  25. Any option that skips Belltown is not a viable option. Option E skips Belltown. Belltown is one of the most dense populations in the city and it would be crazy not to include it. Options A thru D include Belltown.

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