everett_lynnwoodLast week the Sound Transit board received the report of the initial planning process for the Lynnwood to Everett corridor, a corridor especially notable for two reasons. First, it has consistently been the highest priority for the Snohomish County representation on the Sound Transit Board. As a key political motivator for Sound Transit 3 in a subarea with relatively low funding capacity, the cost of this project is likely to drive the size of the overall ST3 package; if nothing happens to subarea equity, cost estimates in Snohomish County may determine how much is available to meet the effectively infinite demand in Seattle.

There are three light rail options and two BRT. Although they all terminate in downtown Everett, all five have the possibility of continuing to Everett Community College, like most colleges a decent generator of all-day demand (the figures in italics above).

There are five basic alignments coming down from Everett:

  1. Rail straight down I-5 (Option B);
  2. Largely elevated rail down SR99 to Airport Rd, and then over to I-5 (Option C);
  3. Same as #2, but with a sharp right turn to serve the Boeing plant (Option A);
  4. BRT down I-5 and to the Boeing Plant via separate lines, using freeway HOV lanes and business access and transit (BAT) lanes (Option D);
  5. BRT down SR-99 till it cuts directly south to the Lynnwood Link Station, mostly in new, dedicated right-of-way (Option E).

As with almost all of these studies, there’s a philosophical choice between low-cost, low-quality, low-ridership BRT options and more expensive, high-quality rail with significantly more ridership. The LRT costs and benefits are on the order of Central Link as a standalone line, and would allow Community Transit to get almost entirely out of the business of running North/South commuter buses. Roughly speaking, the BRT ridership numbers aren’t a clear improvement over current Snohomish County buses into Seattle.

Among the rail options, the cheapest option (B) has the lowest ridership, and like most freeway alignments has less development potential. However, as the fastest alternative it’s the clearest improvement over freeway express buses (currently 28-30 minutes). But even the diversion to SR99, with much more ridership and development potential, is about as fast as today’s buses while being somewhat more expensive than B. From the perspective of spending as much as needed to make the line as good as can be, Option C is clearly the best.

The Boeing diversion is a substantial addition in delay and cost that brings no net additional riders. Certainly the extension to the college is a better use of marginal dollars than Option A, in particular because rail is far more suited to the uniform all-day demand of a college than a shift-oriented workplace. It’s unclear how the presentation rates Option A as “high performing” in travel time, as it’s worst of the three rail options in that regard. It’ll be interesting to see how Boeing’s influential voice in Snohomish County policy affects this discussion.

120 Replies to “Sound Transit Releases Lynnwood-Everett Analysis”

  1. It seems like option A is presented “just in case” Paine Field becomes an airport of some type (domestic or international).

    1. And I think there are plans for that…wasn’t Alaskan going to start flying some of its schedule out of there?

      BTW: A look at Slide 7 in the deck shows that:
      Line A outperforms C in
      -Travel Time
      -Station Area Development Potential
      Line A matches C in performance in
      -Disruption to other modes
      -Cost Effectiveness
      -Environmental Effects
      Line A underperforms C in

      1. How does it perform better in Travel Time? It’s 4 minutes slower. It’s also more expensive per mile and longer, without serving any more passengers.

      2. [To respond to Stuart].

        If you look at Slide 7, that’s how Sound Transit grades it. I assume the metric is less about total time across the length of the route, and more about the median time between stations. Would be interesting to get further educated on the actual build-up for some of these.

  2. For the rail options, it strikes me that they’re proposing a lot of possible stations compared other Link segments (owntown Seattle and Bellevue excepted).

    1. Well, outside of Downtown Lynnwood and Everett, stations are at least 1 mile apart (and a lot farther in many places). That is about the outer limit for reasonable stop spacing on a suburban light-rail service through a continuously-populated area (it is silly to make people who live directly on a line to have to walk more than 0.5 mile to a station), and just because Sound Transit put in too few stops in the earlier lines shouldn’t have a bearing on this situation.

      1. Within Seattle, the spacing from the Roosevelt Station to Northgate is about 2 miles… I live within 100 feet of the tunnel and I will have a 1+-mile walk to the station. And I live in a fairly urbanized area (1920’s development with .1 to .15 acre lots). I’d hope they were not stopping more often than they do within the city limits.

      2. Yeah, there should have been an extra station between Roosevelt and Northgate. It would be especially useful considering the geography of the area (it is very hilly on Maple Leaf, so a lot of people won’t want to go down to Northgate). Plus the area is pretty decent from a density standpoint, and there is some room to grow (along 5th or Roosevelt).

      3. It could be seen as fixing the mistake made in earlier rounds (if you believe Link should have had S Graham, Bellevue Ave, 15th E, and 23rd E stations). Or it could be seen as “Stations at the ends are better than stations in the middle because the only people slowed down by them are those at the very ends”. Or it could be seen as, “Snohomish will have to pay a lot of money for that many stations, and will it be willing to?”

      4. Where would you put infill? Thanks to I-5, there’s nothing within walking distance of the alignment from Roosevelt to Northgate!

      5. The Route 8 bus on MLK sees to it that passengers don’t have to walk unreasonable distances to stations. Same thing will need to be done at east-west streets crossing I-5. And wherever the terminal is, it needs to be designed passengers don’t miss trains because buses can’t get through traffic.

        One thing station spacing needs to consider: the faster a train is moving, the longer it takes to stop. Same for acceleration. This was one consideration for stop spacing on LINK and other Tunnel service. From the driver’s seat, seems like a Tunnel vehicle could safely and comfortably hit 40.

        BART speed might allow two stations max for Downtown Seattle. Or more likely , one. Reason that MUNI runs light rail underground in a set of tunnels one story up from BART all the way down Market Street. Passengers change systems via elevators and escalators. But compared to Market Street through SF, Seattle just isn’t that long.

        You won’t board future bullet trains at King Street Station. Just a long way under it. Or if soils are as bad as I think, someplace else deep under Downtown.

        Mark Dublin

      6. colin, Ross, Stephen,

        There should be a flat section bored in the tunnel profile between where it under crosses 75th and 80th which I believe will be about 3rd NE. Grant that’s a little far from the Roosevelt urban village at 90th but it is very close to the Green Lake center and to 75th and Roosevelt. Indeed, the whole area between 72nd or so and 75th just east of the freeway is ripe for high rise development, but it’s just a little too far from the planned Roosevelt station. It’d be right next to an infill.

        However, I doubt that ST will provide the necessary flat zone; they just don’t seem to be aware of what’s needed for an infill station within a tunnel. There can never be one between Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium even if north Capitol Hill turns into a high rise center. There’s a constant gradient between the vertical curve north of the station and the matching one just south of the Ship Canal.

    2. Why wasn’t a BRT option with an exclusive lane on I-5 studied? Is it just politically impossible to turn the HOV lane on I-5 to a bus-only lane? Although that might be unpopular with carpoolers, it would save a lot of money that could be used to improve local feeder bus service while still providing equivalent speed/reliability with the I-5 LRT option. The only downside is that a connection would be required to Seattle, but if there was a cross-platform timed connection, that would barely impact travel time or convenience.

      1. Nobody wants to get on a bus in the middle of an eight lane freeway. Such a BRT line would have to exit at the three Park-n-Ride lots between Lynnwood and Everett, greatly increasing the running time.

      2. Eastgate Freeway Station gets good ridership (which would increase further if the local buses actually stopped on the bridge, instead of 3 minutes and 3 floors down).

      3. Rainier Freeway Station also gets good ridership. I’ve never been to Montlake Terrace TC, so I don’t know about that. My impression is that the freeway station is even a longer walk from the TC than at Eastgate P&R.

      4. That’s precisely the kind of thing public input is for. This is not the public hearing yet, but if you have suggestions for a completely different alternative (rather than just modifying the existing alternatives), I’d send it to ST now rather than waiting for the hearing.

      5. One of the most aggravating things about express bus service in the thirty years since work started on the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel has been fact that we’ve never even been able to get even a diamond lane southbound on I-5 during PM rush.

        Resulting in the waste of hundreds of thousands of service hours due to southbound buses stuck in traffic at the time they most need to move fast. And schedule delays on CT buses because they can’t get into Seattle in time to leave on schedule.

        Also guaranteeing that staging supervision at Convention Place can’t depend on anything arriving inbound on time- making the staging that the Tunnel was designed for difficult if not impossible. Though I do think we can do better than situation now.

        And also thirty years of absolutely no pressure from any quarter to get that southbound lane. And the decades-long excuse: Well, light rail will take care of it.
        The one complaint about light rail I halfway sympathize with is that people are expected to put up with decades of really lousy service until the trains arrive.

        This is why- sorry, Ben- my preference is a system that builds itself into a railroad from some really fast buses, specked out for rail for an easy conversion. What DSTT system was planned to be, but never with any energy behind it.

        Also while I agree with Mayor Murray’s statement on regional transit as a goal, history dictates serious attention to make sure it doesn’t become an excuse.

        Mark Dublin

      6. I completely agree–I-5 southbound in the afternoon is chronically congested and the lack of an HOV or bus lane is ridiculous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be fixed until Link gets to Northgate in 7 years.

      7. Josh,

        Also, what you’re asking for is a part of Option D. Just ignore the party about Boeing and you’ve got BRT on I-5 between Lynnwood and Everett. And you’ll see that they plan to exit at two of the three park-n-ride lots — the one at 128th would apparently have a Mountlake Terrace-style median station — resulting in considerably slower times than the LRT-along I-5 option B.

      8. I guess I’m not too familiar with the format of those park-and-rides, but is there any way to have the buses simply go in a straight line through the stop (similar to Eastgate or Mountlake Terrace)? Even though there might be some additional cost, it would still be far less than the cost of LRT for the same benefit,* so it should be worth considering.

        Also, the BRT option receives poor marks in reliability for not having an exclusive lane. Would it be politically feasible to make the HOV lane transit-only, or would there be way too much opposition?

        *Assuming that demand is not terribly high

  3. At some point, why not just switch to a heavy-rail, BART-type system? The costs are apparently the same, but heavy rail has such better speeds and capacity? I continue to be shocked by the high cost of building LRT in the Puget Sound region. Even these relatively straight-forward alignments in highway corridors are still a minimum of $150M per mile.

    1. Most LINK stations are already built to BART type standards. The only thing that really prevents it from being faster is the gearing on the axles. Kinki-Sharyo built the Link cars, and also built similar cars for use in Texas that have 70 mph speeds. So, once the desire is there for faster speeds it should be possible to do.

      The thing that limits speeds and capacity right now is the mixed bus and train traffic in the tunnel, plus a few very sharp curves in a few places.

      1. … and ST’s insistence that they don’t want to exceed the speed limit on adjacent roads. So, it’s 35mph on MLK and 55mph between the Duwamish bridge and TIB station.

      2. aw, I’m pretty sure it’s the law, not just “ST’s insistence,” that restricts trains to the speed limit of adjacent roadways.

      3. If so — and it probably is — then it’s a damn stupid law that needs to change, at the least where the line is separated as in Duwamish/Tukwila. Does this happen anywhere else on earth? The apparent reasoning that drivers will unconsciously drive warp speed if the train is going faster flies in the face of common sense. When traffic is free-flowing, many/most drivers do not adhere to the speed limit anyway, so it’s a false limit on the trains. When traffic is NOT free-flowing, the train is already going faster and the cars can’t speed up. At least so far they have not required the trains to slow to 10-15 mph when there is auto congestion….

        If this truly is a problem, then some judicious blanketing of these areas with law enforcement ticketing speeders every once in a while should help fix it.

      4. I believe that law only relates to running at grade sections (like the Rainier Valley.) The top speed of link otherwise is limited by the train technology. That said, this will be part of the trunk line where the tech is already selected. For new lines (Ballard to UW – Ballard to Downtown, etc) we should defintely look at 3rd rail driverless ala Vancouver.

    2. In addition to the terrain of the City of Seattle, Ryan, which has as much space for surface transit right of way as the average hill town in Portugal, there’s another reason why light rail construction costs are higher than, say, San Diego- or every other North American place where they’ve built light rail last 30 years or so:

      Everybody else inherited existing rail right-of-way running pretty close to exactly where transit needed to go. Thanks to a California State Legislator named James Mills, San Diego acquired an entire regional freight railroad for one dollar. (In 1980’s dollars.)

      Skytrain in Vancouver BC inherited not only many miles of right of way wide enough to leave the freight rails operating underneath the pylons that elevate Skytrain- BUT- an old tunnel under Downtown Vancouver.

      Since this tunnel was originally built to vent steam locomotives, it was high enough to put the new tubes in like an over-under shotgun- so passengers changing direction downtown have to ride escalators between platforms.

      In dollars of a lot of years, on Skytrain’s operating linear footage, every piece of gravel ballast might as well be a gold nugget, and every pebble in the tunnel concrete a 14K diamond. So that’s the real story: nobody rich left us anything. Meaning all we got is bootstraps. Reason every effort makes us fall over.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I would agree when we talk about building in the city … but these alignments are along I-5 or Hwy 99 in Snohomish County. Relatively flat, wide ROW … and very low density without the NIMBY factor. So why are the costs still the same?

      2. *sigh*
        Legally speaking you don’t need full grade separation. Gates and flashers at every intersection — you know, the sort railroads have — are sufficient in order to increase the speed limit on MLK.

    3. That’s because with the exception of the MLK and busway segments Link is heavy rail, except that it uses catenary and Light Rail vehicles instead of third rail and subway type cars.

      Introducing “Light Metro Transit’ [ed. note. “Metro” here used does not mean “Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle:].

      Lower capacity vehicles + more expensive power distribution = bad choice

      1. Did ST ever look at how much it would cost to grade-separate Link? It’s amazing how we let a few grade crossings preclude us from a driverless future.

      2. If you look at the LRT options for West Seattle, that line is entirely grade-separated from downtown to past the OMF. It’s tunneled under 4th Ave downtown and elevated along the busway.

        One wonders if the planner’s intention here was to interline with Central Link here, have a junction or a wye near the OMF and abandon the at-grade trackage and stations. If the 4th Ave. tunnel was intended to join up with Ballard Link, you could have Ballard line trains serving the Rainier Valley and airport. This might be a sensible way to build a stub line that starts to go toward West Seattle, but could be used for RossB’s transfer station in SODO under an interim BRT system to W. Seattle. The stub could continue past the OMF an terminate somewhere in Georgetown.

      3. “Did ST ever look at how much it would cost to grade-separate Link?”

        The political envirionment before ST1 was different than now. ST was afraid the cost of tunneling Rainier Valley would doom ST1 and thus all light rail. The original plan called for at-grade both in Rainier Valley and on 99. The latter part got nixed when Tukwila objected to surface routing on the just-rebuilt 99. North of downtown is underground because of the hills.

        Now that light rail is running, people see how it can improve their neighborhoods, and the significant advantage of grade separation. That’s why they rallied around grade separation for Ballard. So now we could’ve maybe gotten Rainier Valley grade-separated, but not when Central Link was being designed.

        West Seattle has even worse hill problems than north of downtown, so surface routing is not viable in most of it.

  4. Snohomish representation on the Sound Transit board is very enthusiastic about the Boeing option. And in many ways it does make sense to detour to one of the largest employment sites in the region if the cost isn’t that much greater (which it doesn’t appear to be).

    1. For the sheer number of employees that Boeing has, and the nature of the shift changes there, it seems to me you would be better off running an 18 car Sounder train up the branch line that enters the plant from Mukilteo.

      Or, construct the LINK line as a branch off the main line, and run it as a separate branch following 525 to the ferry terminal. Or, temporal separation so that LINK can run on the freight branch of the BNSF, and run the trains to Boeing and then on to Mukilteo.

      Trying to serve all the desirable points with a single line with no branches is going to wind up looking like a plate of plate of spaghetti otherwise.

      1. With rapid transit, would Boeing change it’s shift practices to smooth out the peak?

      2. The Boeing spur branches from the mainline with a northward facing frog; the points are to the south requiring access from Interbay Yard rather than Everett Yard. How would you use such a geometry to provide a through Link ride?

        Your suggestions are usually sound, but this one is loopy (literally).

      3. Oh, I see. Apologies. I though you were proposing to run Everett-Boeing-Lynnwood. Instead you’re proposing doing a Boeing and Edmonds Ferry Terminal spur. That’s attractive except that the shore line has freights all the time so you can’t have temporal separation there.

        If there’s to be a Boeing spur from the main Link line it should be host streetcar type vehicles so that it can use streets where it must, reserved right of way where it can, and be single track if necessary.

      4. Yes, that is the idea. Make Everett a more direct route and if Boeing insists on being served then serve it with a branch line that, rather than make a sharp curve back east, to continue in the same direction it was going before and actually does something else that might be useful beyond what could be done with the Everett route.

        After it drops down to the base of the hill, there are several options. There’s a bit of land between the BNSF and the water, and most of that is vacant industrial. There’s all sorts of possibilities there after crossing the BNSF on a bridge. As this would be a branch to the main LINK line, it could even be a lower speed street line within whatever new development happens there.

        I know that most people don’t think there is much point in serving the ferry terminal there, but I have taken the bus from Whidbey Island to Clinton to Mukilteo, and the times I have done so the bus on Whidbey Island was full by the time it got to the ferry at Clinton. I think the biggest limitation is that you basically have to drive once you get to the mainland as there is really not very good transit service out of Mukilteo most of the day. It was a nearly two hour ordeal each time for me to get from there to N. 45th on the I-5 express bus.

        As to fitting the oversize loads going into the Boeing plant, I don’t think there would be too much of a problem. For a while they were running light rail and some pretty large loads on the first San Diego light rail line. If the Link cars don’t have a long enough pantograph to reach, then there are other options. Maybe make this line diesel light rail with Stadler GTW and continue south on the Link main line to make it worthwhile, without going into any of the Link tunnels?

        However, I was under the impression that the biggest Boeing loads currently handled are the 737 air frames, which go to the Boeing plant at Renton rather than Everett.

      5. The issue is, where do most of the workers live? I assume most of them live near the plant — somewhere between Mukilteo, Lake Stevens, and Mill Creek — and travel crosswise to Link. They wouldn’t use it for work. The people who would use Link are those coming from King County, Lynnwood, downtown Everett, or transferring in Lynnwood. Are those numerous enough to justify the deviation? Or is it an unrealistic vision that Link would be able to serve a significant number of Boeing workers?

      6. A spur would lessen frequency on the main branch. If East Link turns back at Lynnwood, it would be only 6-minute peak/10-minute off-peak frequency to Everett. Diverting half the trains would make 20-minute frequency off-peak, which would destroy Link’s potential as frequent transit.

      7. That spur rail line up from the water is very steep. I thought I once heard that it takes two locomotives to bring the freight cards loaded with airplane parts (which by their nature are not very heavy) up that hill. So it may not bee that tecnically feasible. Also, as an employee there, it seems like an odd way to get to the factory. I’d have to go to Edmonds/Mukilteo/Everett then take a train along the water and up the hill.

      8. As a branch line of the main Link route, you would only have to go through Mukilteo if you lived on Whidbey Island and came over on the ferry.

        If East Link turns back at Lynnwood, it would be only 6-minute peak/10-minute off-peak frequency to Everett.

        It is much better to do train turnbacks at a place where there is less demand for train service. Considering the congestion on Interstate 5 from Everett to Seattle, I’m not convinced that there is that much tapering off of demand north of Lynnwood. So, to my mind, it makes a lot more sense to run East Link trains north to a branch line that serves places not on the main route. That may mean somewhere east or west of Lynnwood or a Boeing Branch or some other place, but if you look at, say, the L map of Chicago or the London Underground map or a number of other extensive networks, you look at lines that spread out on branch lines before they end.

        Really, this is the nature of urban areas in our part of the world. The trains need to operate at maximum capacity on core routes, but rarely do the need to terminate on a core route. Once you are past the area where the core route capacity is too much, you enter areas of somewhat less density and demand that are sufficient for a single route but not the core system capacity. Thus, line terminals on branch lines.

        You have to get to some really concentrated urban areas that abruptly change in nature from very dense urban to much less dense suburban in order to have a line that simple ends its maximum capacity at the end of the line. São Paulo is one example I can think of where the transition from very dense urban to much less dense areas happens so fast that reduced line capacity doesn’t need to happen on their routes.

      9. If you say Link spur or branch, then I assume it goes all the way to Seattle, and that’s where my concern about frequency on the other branch comes in. If you say Link shuttle from Mukilteo to a north-south station, then I don’t care. If you say Sounder spur, then I don’t care because I don’t care about Sounder North. I’d rather cancel Sounder North and apply the money to Everett Link and replacement buses. But if that’s not happening, then I don’t care what routing Sounder North has.

      10. Ross,

        Sounder doesn’t go where Boeing employees live. Most are in SnoHoCo and the East Side. Sounder serves neither (the area around the station in Edmonds has almost no residences),

      11. snip:
        “. . . . . . . where Boeing employees live. Most are in SnoHoCo and the East Side. ”

        okay, so maybe the answer is that the long range plan (“ST4”??) should extend Eastlink north, connect / intersect the LINK mainline at/near Alderwood/Lynnwood, and continue to the boeing plant and end at Mukilteo, connecting there to ferry and train.

        sure, its a pie-in-the-sky pipe-dream ($$$ !), but it would open up lots of travel options for lots of riders.

      1. Aye, there’s the rub. Boeing tried to become a transit supplier, but that didn’t work out so well, did it?

    2. Companies move, but colleges don’t. Would anyone really be shocked if Boeing is gone from the area in fifty years?

    3. There are currently 40,000 employees there, on three shifts, so you’d have demand throughout the day. Also, if the factory was connected to Link, I think you’d see employees in the future chose to live near a Link stop in order to use it to get to work.

      1. It’s much more spread out than that. The blue collar workers come in around the same time for each shift, but the white collar workers are more spread out, somewhere between first and second shift. You have huge surges during shift changes, but even trickles during the remaining 6am-6pm period.

        I think the plant could be covered with a spur off of the main line, with trains that are timed with the shifts, and then every 20 minutes during the rest of the day. Shuttle busses are another, much cheaper option. A lot of the employees live along the 99 corridor south and north of the plant.

  5. A or C, but I’m not sure I’m exactly a fan of 128th. It seems a bit conventional for ST to do that. I think of variation of A is best. Also, I think that Everett CC and the Providence should be considered in the analysis. Those are huge employers in north Everett. I get that it’s a challenge given that Everett Station is the regional transit hub for north SnoCo/Everett. Maybe a streetcar for Everett, too? Or forced realignment of Everett Transit’s buses to nowhere?

  6. Martin makes a reasonable point on the difference between existing traffic patterns for Boeing vs. ECC. If a reroute of Sounder to Boeing was in the offering (like I suggested a few months ago), then it would have greater currency. But A) there is no public discussion of rerouting Sounder, B) Payne will likely evolve into a regional airport, and C) I thought we were all “build it and they will come” TOD men here…put in the “diversion” and we could see success.

  7. I would agree that Option C looks like the optimum choice at this early stage.

    The option probably affords the most possibility of serving both local and long-distance trips. It also provides an opportunity for reverse-peak-direction employment opportunities. As Link matures, it will be more and more obvious that we need to fill empty, reverse direction train seats since we’re already subsidizing them.

    I do think that we as a group need to drill a bit deeper in understanding what bus assumptions are being made here. How feeder bus and parallel bus operations are assumed can drive rail ridership up or down fairly significantly. In Option C, it’s unclear whether or not SR 99 bus services would be reduced or eliminated, or whether Community Transit riders will be forced to do things like make double transfers one station apart to make trips within Snohomish County. All corridor maps should show proposed feeder systems!

    1. At the board meeting the speaker said the 99 alternative would require rebuilding 99 to put in center tracks like MLK. It would also “disrupt” Swift, although she didn’t elaborate on how Swift might be modified for it.

      Option D (Lynnwood-Everett BRT and Everett-Boeing BRT) doesn’t serve south of Boeing. It assumes Swift 2 (Boeing-Bothell) would serve workers from the south and east if it’s built. (And possibly Swift 3: 128th Street/Cathcart Road.)

  8. If someone has a minute, could you re-post the link to the last primer on sub-area equity that STB has issued? I’m sitting here realizing that I’m confused whether it’s a measure of “make sure the $ come back home” re-investment, or if it’s literally a rough parity between areas (and what constitutes “rough parity”?)

    I wonder if the sub-area approach will still be workable by the time we get to ST4. There’s a lot of work to be done in King County, after the spine has been completed from Everett to Bellevue to Tacoma…

    1. Here’s hoping that by the time we get to vote on ST4, we’ve killed off the notion of an LRT spine to Everett and Tacoma nowhere.

      1. “Nowhere” happens to include the state’s second and third most populous counties, the last also widely acknowledged as being the state’s political bellwether.

      2. That’s nice.

        Name any sprawling, decentralized, economically troubled city of under 200,000 on the planet that supports a successful rapid-transit-style service to a moderately larger city 35 miles away.

        (Hint: this don’t exist. Anywhere.)

        Chreezus, people, Tacoma can’t even manage to support a reasonable bus system to its own immediately-adjacent environs.

        Sometimes, what passes for “conventional wisdom” around here is just irredeemably dumb.

      3. While I guess it’s not economically troubled, Mandurah, Western Australia (pop. 83,294)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandurah) is located 72 km/45 miles away from Perth and has a rail line to Perth that runs every 15 minutes all day, which counts as “rapid transit” in my view. The line is quite successful, with over 50,000 riders per day, despite running long distances through very suburban areas.

        The difference is that the Mandurah railway line is actually very fast, covering the 45 miles in 50 minutes, whereas Link will take 70+ minutes to go 35 miles. It also has timed-connections to feeder buses, unlike Link currently.

      4. Must run pretty empty most of the time, if it’s running that often and only carrying 50,000 total passengers (including boardings on the inner-suburban section).

        Since the entire cost of this 45-mile project was only $1.5 billion (US$), I’m guessing we’re looking at a reclaimed/upgraded commuter rail, Sounder-like, rather than something purpose-built and resembling “rapid transit”.

        Or maybe we’re looking at a quasi-sorta-kinda-useful outlier.

      5. d.p. : I can name you a dozen cities under 200,000 population which support rapid transit service to a larger city 35 miles away, and you probably can name them too, but they’re mostly dense little constrained nuggets. So I suppose the key qualifiers in your description are “sprawling”, “decentralized”, and “economically troubled”.

        W.r.t. Mandurah, the line was a new-build branch off an existing line. It runs through greenfields, and along the right-of-way of an overly-wide highway, and it has few intermediate stops. There’s a number of bridges which had to be built, but the route is basically all on the surface, apart from a tunnel to get under the Central Business District of Perth.

        But when I look at Mandurah, although it’s all auto-based-suburb in form, it’s actually kind of packed. The population is stuffed close to the beach, including on barrier islands. Tacoma, from the air, looks a lot sprawlier; there’s just a lot more vacant space.

        And Mandurah’s certainly wealthy and economically doing well.

        Perhaps the correct comparison point for Mandurah is something like Virginia Beach, VA or Monterey, CA. If Tacoma was an popular tourist and beach resort community, it would be comparable…

        There’s another important point. The Transperth rail network is the urban/suburban rail network, with 15 minute or better frequencies, and it’s *also* the freight network for Perth — it’s an S-Bahn. The closest US comparison is probably Philadelphia. Australia doesn’t have the crazy FRA regulations we have in the US, so sharing with freight doesn’t cause problems in Australia, and the passenger operator owns & runs the system.

        If you had a similar regulatory scheme in Washington State, you’d be running Link-style trains at 80 mph, every 15 minutes, on the Sounder tracks, with freight fitting in when it could be scheduled. We obviously don’t have a similar regulatory scheme; we have a scheme which is designed to kneecap passenger train service.

    2. Ok, I looked it up and it’s simply “making sure the $ come back home”. Got so bleary-eyed looking at different slides over the weekend, I forgot the basics.

      1. That’s basically it, but North King gets an extra boost because it doesn’t pay for ST Express or Sounder.

  9. I think San Francisco still has one or two historic Boeing-Vertol LRTs we could inflict/loan for the branch line. Complete with 49er seat colors.

    1. There’s one here at the Trolley Museum I Brooks, Oregon. I’ve been told the trolley guys actually have it working pretty well, after making a few modifications to it. Put a diesel generator cart behind it so it has power and you could run it on the existing branch if you wanted.

    1. It would be superior to Swift, but Swift has more stops than what is proposed for LRT. Only 3 common stops exist for Option A. 6 in Option C? CT would need to determine how they modify their route, if at all.

      1. I would think that Swift would just be cut because they would have Link running on highway 99 and that would just waste money by having two rapid transit in the servicing the same corridor.

      2. Right, on the north end of it’s alignment. It could have more local stops on its north end, be split in two, or modify stops so that it’s not duplicative, except at two common stations on its north alignment. I don’t see why it has to be cut. The corridor will be key in the future. It should retain the existing frequency with the addition of what Link adds while having ET completely realign all of its wasted services.

  10. We all know they’ll pick the I-5 alignment, why are we even kidding ourselves?

    1. Because we don’t know that. The politics and ridership/travel time/cost estimates are not necessarily the same for Lynnwood-Everett as Northgate-Lynnwood. It’s the end of the long-range line line rather than the middle. Plus, a lot of people regret that Northgate-Lynnwood went on I-5. That’s why 99 has more traction in South King County than Northgate-Lynnwood got, and Lynnwood-Everett may be the same. Also, ST has changed from being indifferent to TOD (to avoid getting dragged into political squabbles), to advocating TOD (because that’s what makes rapid transit the most effective). That change came too late for north Seattle and Shoreline, but it’s now in play.

    2. That silly. We can bomb ST will public input via STB, other blogs, and Seattle Subway to choose the right alignment, not the dumbest option on the table. Even ST’s analysis basically is begging to say “no” to an I-5 running alignment.

      1. 100%. Late night: all trains on the local track. Weekend revisions that would reduce either service below 10-minute frequencies: all trains on local track.

        Most of the rest of the time, passenger volumes justify 2-7 minute service on both tracks. That’s why it’s so commonplace to pull in on the local side of the platform, and see an express train pulling in simultaneously across from you, ripe for the switching. It isn’t some fancy-shmancy coordination; it’s just sheer — and numerically justified — quantity.

        People see New York’s array of transit options and scream “want!”, without ever asking themselves why such a system works there. The sole reason is insane demand.

        It will never make sense to wait 11 minutes longer to save 10 minutes in motion. A low-volume express overlay is not that different from redundant buses running two blocks apart: you’ve effectively thalved service for very little gain.

  11. It’s amusing for me to see some of the same people who supported a line to Microsoft now argue against a line to Boeing.

  12. Option C!
    So much distance covered… so many areas covered…and NO…

    NO grade crossings! Just like Lynnwood… Just like Northgate…Just like University!

    If trains are operated between Everett and International District…is this it?! If Option C is chosen, does Seattle actually have its first subway line?! Please tell me I’m not hallucinating patrons of Seattle transit blog! Tell me this is the moment when the first stage of an actual metro system began!

    Tell me good friends! Tell me this is not a sweet slumber from which I will be condemned to awake!

    1. does Seattle actually have its first subway line?!

      No, it has its first overhyped, needlessly expensive commuter rail, with demand outside of the peak so absurdly low (in proportion to the level of investment) that we’ll probably end up cutting headways to match the disappointment. At which point the intercity experience may actually be worse than today’s 512.

      All of this, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with an “an actual metro system”.

    2. Central Link is grade-separated from Intl Dist to Lynnwood, and from Rainier Beach to KDM. East Link is grade-separated from Lynnwood to around 120th. I don’t know what you consider a “first subway”. Downtown-Northgate is a respectable subway.

      1. Downtown-Northgate is the same route I’m talking about, and you’re alluding to the question I guess I’m tiptoeing around. Isn’t it likely the route will operate continuously from Everett to Downtown? If so, every segment of it (the University, Northgate, Lynnwood, and Everett segments) would be completely segregated from other traffic. Would any service other than this route be clear of traffic crossings?

      2. It’s most likely that the Everett and Tacoma extensions will be grade separated because there are wide highway ROWs in the right places there. However, the Everett 99 surface option has some compelling arguments. The road is 40 or 45 mph there and has fewer major intersections than Aurora, so even a surface route would be faster than MLK.

    3. Tell me this is not a sweet slumber from which I will be condemned to awake!

      You will only be awakened from your slumber by the scream of Chciago L trains rumbling down the middle of the street in a few places:
      “Subways” and “elevated” doesn’t necessarily mean 100% grade separated.
      Grade separated does not necessarily mean fast
      and grade crossings do not necessarily mean you can’t run at a decent speed.

      1. Do bear in mind that the particular video of the L at Wells (probably Washington/Wells) is within the Loop where stations are within roughly 1000 feet from each other, so going fast is an impossibility. All of which gives credence to many comments that point to station spacing and service frequency are just as important as the way the track physically gets to the stations.

        I’m not trying to champion transforming every corner of Seattle into expensive heavy-rail haven. I’m merely celebrating the opportunity for train service of multiple modes coming to Seattle. While I think some options are excessive in the present (West Seattle), I simply think we won’t know the best way to get places until we have multiple ways to get places at our disposal. While there are significant parts of East Link are grade separated, The North Link looks like the only instance of a genuine HCT line entering the realm of possibility.

  13. What does option C have that makes it have the same ridership potential as A? Even though A directly serves Boeing’s employment center of 30k+ people? That’s just a little less than downtown Bellevue. Boeing needs a station.

    I agree with a previous commenter that once Boeing does get a station the employees might decide to live closer to a light rail station. I’m assuming a lot of them do already live in Seattle since the I-5 Southbound afternoon rush from Northgate to downtown is always a parking lot. Curious where all those cars came from and where they’re going.

    1. The estimates say that 99’s ridership potential equals or surpasses Boeing’s, especially with the TOD potential and faster travel time. The lost Boeing riders would be replaced by other riders. And if a shuttle from 99 to Boeing is fast enough, it may lure back some of those Boeing commuters.

  14. Does anybody know any examples in North America where LRT runs express trains with limited stops?
    I’m asking because There are many examples (Such as the Keikyu Main line, or the Hanshin Main line) in Japan where Express trains with very limited stops manage to average competitive speeds covering long distances (15-45 miles) while local trains serve stations under a mile apart.
    For example, the Keikyu Main Line has 37 Stations Between Shinagawa and Yokohama (13.8 miles). They manage to run 5/hr local trains and 10/hr Express trains. and their express train covers the 13.8 miles in 17 mins.
    Could this be a fix for Link in the future?

    1. Express and local trains used to be fairly common on lines in the USA. Trams (what we call streetcars in the USA) would stop at every block, while interurban trains covering the longer distances would be on the same tracks but stop much less frequently. I think I heard that a few lines in Philadelphia still had this express / local type of operation up until the very early 1980s.

      Unfortunately, there is a perception problem among current transit management in the USA that this type of operation causes more problems than it solves. Before giving up, I attempted to convince our local transit agency here that express trains would sure help some of the frequent station spacing issues in Portland (the first MAX line has a few that are about 250 feet apart). At various times I was told that this is an unsafe practice because people would attempt to step out in front of a train moving through the platform, or that it would cost too much due to the need for passing tracks in various places, or that too many people would get upset at seeing trains go past them without stopping, or they would get on an express train and expect it to stop at a local only stop.

      After watching how many people still make those mistakes with the few express buses we have here, even after two decades of their operation, I have a far more pessimistic view of the current transit literacy of the population in the USA, and tend to agree.

      1. New Yorkers seem to understand express trains and express buses just fine. Despite being a native, I don’t actually think New Yorkers are in general possession of intellectual superiority.

      2. It’s not a perception. It’s math.

        If you don’t have the demand for very high frequencies, then all you’re doing is increasing the wait time for most of your passengers for the arbitrary benefit of a few.

        Even in New York, express services cease when the combined headway drops below about six trains per hour. It simply no longer makes sense to wait ten minutes longer just to limit your destinations and save a handful of minutes en route.

      3. Correction: when each headway drops below six trains per hour.

        If a route that would local and a route that would be express each drop to a 12-minute late-evening headway, they’re both switching over to the local track.

      4. 100%. Late night: all trains on the local track. Weekend revisions that would reduce either service below 10-minute frequencies: all trains on local track.

        Most of the rest of the time, passenger volumes justify 2-7 minute service on both tracks. (Especially on Lex.) That’s why it’s so commonplace to pull in on the local side of the platform, and see an express train pulling in simultaneously across from you, ripe for the switching. It isn’t some fancy-shmancy coordination; it’s just sheer — and numerically justified — quantity.

        People see New York’s array of transit options and scream “want!”, without ever asking themselves why such a system works there. The sole reason is insane demand.

        It will never make sense to wait 11 minutes longer to save 10 minutes in motion. A low-volume express overlay is not that different from redundant buses running two blocks apart: you’ve effectively thalved service for very little gain.

    2. It’s in the least likely place you’d expect. San Jose VTA, the worst and least-used of all light rails, has peak express runs in the central segment, and is expanding the tracks to offer it on the Mountain View segment.

      1. And this revealing chart says these express runs happen only twice an hour at the peak of peaks, rendering them useless as time savers and reducing underlying local frequencies to a pathetic-for-peak 15 minutes.

        Are there any profoundly stupid ideas that West Coast transit agencies won’t enthusiastically pursue?

      2. Thanks for the chart, which you posted earlier. Frequency is the most important thing. What I see in the chart is an inadequate commitment to frequency. The expresses should be in addition to local runs rather than replacing them. I couldn’t find the expresses on VTA’s online schedule (although I had earlier seen them on the printed schedule), so I couldn’t confirm whether they actually replace local runs or are in addition to them.

        I was glad that Link is full-time frequent in the chart. I was surprised that Link has more boardings/mile than San Diego, even though San Diego is decades older and has several phases running. These are the kinds of things that make me feel better about Link than you do.

        (The chart is a bit misleading because 7:30am Sunday is the least typical time for frequent service. It shows the far extremes, but what’s more relevant to most riders is 9pm. That’s when many lines have gone infrequent but more people are still actively traveling — or would travel if the lines hadn’t gone infrequent.)

      3. Not sure you’ll see this; hope you do.

        I too am relieved that Sound Transit has placed an emphasis on 7-day, 20-hour frequency on its first urban “demonstration line”.

        But make no mistake: the current 10-minute headways are a public edification and branding project, meant to open Seattle’s eyes to the positive implications of having a service that you simply walk to, which then simply comes. An understanding of urban mobility that Metro, with its intractable suburban and commuter mindset, has long denied this city.

        But current headways on our one urban-ish starter line do not actually reflect demand: most trains, outside of rush hour and special events, continue to leave downtown with every passenger sprawling across an entire row. I have never had to sit next to another person on the train, nor have I had to stand except by choice.

        Where distances are short and many potential destinations proximate, a slight overservice for the benefit of passenger convenience and trip-time competitiveness can be justified. Once you are sprawling dozens of miles across barely-inhabited areas with negligible all-day demand, the cost of high-volume overservice ceases to be sustainable.

        That’s why all of those sprawl-rail systems drop to skeletal headways, yet still lose money had over fist. It’s why those BART trains cross the San Leandro hills only every 20 minutes, still with barely 1 or 2 passengers per entire subway car, each eating a $32 taxpayer subsidy. Unsustainable.

        Even if the “spine” gets built, you won’t see Sound Transit running urban-style frequencies over vast distances. It’s just not supportable. And you should prepare yourself for worse headways than the 512/590 at many off-peak times. Because the people and the needs simply aren’t there!

        (Oh, and I think 7:30 AM on a Sunday is a great test of whether these trains service real life needs. Because life happens on Sunday mornings too. And if life can happen with no service or terrible service, the train probably isn’t going somewhere where it matters too much for life.)

  15. after a first scan through the document (and I’m glad STB provided a link to an archived copy- can’t seem to find a link to it on Sound Transit’s own website) I’d have to say that of the options proposed “C” does seem the best — with one tweak.

    Dunno why they’ve got the alignment hugging I-5 right through that mammoth I-5/I-405 interchange; and then heading up I-5 only to turn sharply west at 128th to jump over to the SR99 corridor. (okay, yes I do understand they’re trying to hit the already-constructed 164th P&R….)

    It would be a much better alignment (straighter, more TOD opportunity) to come out of the Lynnwood P&R and turn north sooner and pass west of Alderwood Mall and use the SR525 to get to SR99. or split the difference and find a workable alignment between the I-5 and 99 corridors. commuters from East of I-5 would barely have any increase in distance (the corridors are 1/2 to 1 mile apart), and the stations would/could be much better located and sited compared to shoe-horning them in next to (in the middle of?) the highway.

    one digression:
    on top of other advantages this would hopefully put a station just north of alderwood mall and adjacent to the empty 91 acre (!) site currently held by Lynnwood Schools (okay, not completely empty– there’s playfield there). I know nothing of the story of that site –its history, politics, plans, etc– but its hard to imagine a larger, better located, site just begging to become a fully designed + developed Transit Village.

    1. The reason for the late diversion is Ash Way I am sure, go look at it on google maps. There is quite a lot of TOD going on there (next to the park and ride), and you can see some of the several 6+ story apartment buildings going in there. As long as we are already on I-5, skipping that section seems like a bad idea.

      1. still, the alignment could follow (roughly) 33rd Ave W along the west side of Alderwood Mal and adjacent to all the growth there; “hit” that currently vacant school property (which would be a perfect site for a transit center / transfer point for a Mukilteo–Eastside line; and then get to the west edge of the Ash Way developments on the way to joining the SR99 corridor…..

        I guess my point was mostly about not bothering to align right through 120 acres of interstate interchange — but rather to prioritize serving developed (and developable) land.

      1. wow. nearly a million sq. ft. of buildings coming soon…..

        the PDF of elevations and map are fairly interesting.

        nice that they are including 500 residential units so this won’t be JUST more shopping center……

        btw, dunno where I came away thinking the site was 90 acres. yes, its 40 — and there’s another 10 north of it waiting to be developed.


        I hope the LINK alignment will take all this in to account and serve these developments.

  16. Option A all the way. Like others have pointed out, Payne Field could someday support commercial operations. I agree with this assessment. As an aeronautics specialist, I can assure you that there is only so much capacity that Sea-Tac can support. As the Seattle metropolitan area continues to grow and as Asia’s population and economy continues to grow, the demands on Sea-Tac will continue to increase. Light rail is a long term investment. Why bypass Payne Field when it could become an important airport in the future? If that never becomes reality, I still think this alignment will see high ridership considering the Boeing Plant.

    1. I gotta agree with Mitch. Option C is clearly the best RIGHT NOW, but in the long-view option A serves the most potential growth. I also view regional light-rail as a way to connect the entire region, not just as a replacement for express buses on the freeway. Option A also allows for an easy connector bus between Paine Field and the Mukilteo Ferry/Train terminal. As a former Whidbey Island resident, and frequent visitor, I can vouch that this would be invaluable. Currently there aren’t even options to reach the island by transit on Sundays, and this would vastly simplify that. Many islanders commute to Everett, Seattle, and all points in between (and a ton of people at Boeing), and transit options are sorely lacking even at the best of times. Most are forced to either drive across or spend several hours transferring around on insufficient bus routes.

      I think that Option is already valuable in providing service outside the main I-5 corridor, and if/when Paine Field becomes a commercial airport it only gets better. Let’s think about this in the long-term.

      1. Great point about the ferry connection, Shane. I think that connector route would see quite a bit of ridership, especially outside of the commuter hours covered by the Sounder.

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