Here's what we're studying in ST2.
Here’s what we’re studying in ST2.

As I mentioned on Saturday, the 2008 ST2 package funded a whole bunch of corridor studies around the region.  Sound Transit is now in the process of conducting first-pass, high-level conceptual planning around these corridors.  Should any of the alternatives prove worthwhile, a detailed public outreach and planning process will occur.  It’s important to note that none of these projects are funded for actual construction yet.  Nonetheless, the corridor plans give us our first glimpse of what a possible ST3 package might include, should one be put on the ballot in 2016 or later.

Last fall we got to see the first corridor study, Downtown to Ballard. ST completed preliminary work on Federal Way to Tacoma for the 2007 Roads and Transit package. Last week the ST board got a presentation on several more: Downtown to West Seattle (which I wrote about in Saturday’s post), Lynwood to Everett, and the I-405 corridor.  In June we’ll see Ballard to the U-District and on to Kirkland and Redmond, along with Kirkland to Bellevue and Issaquah.

In the coming weeks we’ll dive into each of these in turn and have a look at some of the options on the table.

120 Replies to “Studies Provide a First Glimpse at Several New Regional Transit Corridors”

  1. Taking the Sounder to Mariners yesterday, was just thinking — look at how much transit use is generated not just from work…but from play!

    And think of all the great fun destinations around this region that are still transit-dry.

    Downtown, of course, which has the stadiums is accessible…and getting more so with game-day Sounders.

    But think about all the beaches up and down the Sound. From Dash Point to Carkeek, you really can’t get there by transit, yet it is in many ways the ideal way to do so (for teens who can’t drive, for example).

    Further areas are the mountains, Rainier and the ski areas, Snoqualmie. I know it’s a far way off, and being no more than an occasional skier, I find getting to these places can be impossible during a snowfall even with a large vehicle. Wouldn’t it be great to travel Euro-style and get off a train at Crystal.

    1. You know, John, in early 20th century, a lot of real estate companies built streetcar lines of their own to attract and carry people to their own developments. Best known example is Shaker Heights in Cleveland. Where the light rail station has a huge corn beef on rye sandwich. Or did last time I was there 20 years back.

      Also, Denver had Elitch Gardens, a popular amusement park reachable by streetcar. And in Glen Echo Maryland, few blocks from where I used to live, north from DC via MacArthur Boulevard, the PCC cars from DC used to terminate there.

      Would possibly solve the whole regional and local electric transit problem without a single public dime. Wonder why they’re not doing it- corned beef sandwich and all?


      PS: Coffee-table book I read showed pics of special funeral streetcars- etched glass sides, just so everybody would know “who’s dead around here!” Guarantee that everybody connected with Seattle Transit Blog would pick that one. In good time, John, just be patient.

      1. I grew up near the NYC ‘A’ train Rockaway Beach line….so used to walk or take my bike to Aqueduct station to go there. It was fantastic the way the A train subway car, which lived most of its life underground, would rise high above the water on the Crossbay Bridge to get the strip of land where the Playland (now defunct) amusement park and beach was.

        This guy made a video out of it:

    2. Many of today’s ski areas were originally built around available train service. The walls inside Freight House Square in Tacoma have many great photos of skiers heading for Snoqualmie on the Milwaukee.

      1. Many? Milwaukee was the only one in the PNW. It was short lived and an after thought. Although it was a great time while it lasted. The GN Stevens Pass tunnel bypassed the summit. And the Snoqualmie Tunnel also missed the better skiing by several hundred now critical vertical feet. Stampede Pass goes by the Mountaineer’s lodge and I think at one point they did have a stop but could be totally wrong about that. Sun Valley was a UP created resort. That’s the only real ski area I can think of created by the railroads.

    1. That’s because you haven’t densified to rail corridor status like Renton-Tukwilla-Burien-White Center has in the past couple of years.
      Hell’s Bell’s groan, we’re progressing from a van from PACCAR to BRT to Rail in that corridor in leaps and bounds.
      Staggering Progress, just Staggering.

      1. Not much of it has happened yet, but there’s a lot of densification coming in Bothell and Kenmore. Even LFP has a plan to turn its retail center into something denser, though I’m not sure if those plans were shelved in the wake of the Great Recession. Lake City already has significant density in places. I live in Bothell near its “downtown” and the whole thing is a mess of road and mixed-use construction. Does that density support rail? Not yet. And there are problems with any alignment losing half its walkshed to Lake Washington from LFP on.

        On the other hand, if we don’t start the planning now it’s not going to be there when needed. And there are network reasons to have a line in that corridor. Once we have Ballard Link, extending diagonally through Northgate and Lake City through Bothell (and especially the UW branch campus) to connect to high-capacity transit in the 405 corridor just makes sense. I’m glad to see it in the Seattle Subway vision.

      2. Mic’s comment is a simmering irony stew, Cascadian.

        Of course a reasonably-scaled Lake City spur makes eight thousand times more sense than the South King County Tour de Rien!

        ST’s new Fiction Rail fetish comes with excruciating — and very real — opportunity costs.

      3. But at least the studies will be on the shelf when the time comes to actually build something in maybe 100 years.
        Is that ‘sunk cost’ everyone is so fond of?

      4. Not only studies on the shelf, but some level of neighborhood commitment to the alignments. That will make it harder for them to go NIMBY later, and it will make it easier for a business to locate near a potential future line, and for a person to buy a house there. Right now they have to totally guess, and they may guess wrong. Then when we do dust off the plan, it will have more local supporters because they will have located there, whereas those who don’t care about HCT wouldn’t find that location particularly attractive.

    2. Lake City, LFP, and (most of) Bothell are not regionally designated growth centers. There will not be significant densifaction in those areas over the next 30 years.

      Burien, Sea-Tac, Renton, and Tukwila are all official growth centers, and are planned to take on the bulk of South King County’s growth over the next 30 years.

      1. Except that their proximity and allowable development and corridors are more conducive to sustaining HCT than 405 desolation.

      2. LFP aside (it just happens to be along the way), there is already some density in these places. It’s 5/1 and 7/1 residential over retail type projects near likely station areas, and everything in between is sprawl, but it’s there. Rail to Lake City (125th and 145th at least) makes sense if it fits into a line that is a sensible addition to the overall Link network. That corridor was studied going back to the monorail, and there’s ridership along the diagonal line from Ballard to Northgate to Lake City. Past the Seattle city limits, the limited additional density doesn’t justify extension on its own, but UW Bothell and possible connections to 405 HCT do. LFP, Kenmore, and Bothell come along for the ride. It’s true that most parts of these “cities” will never have ridership, but the “downtown” parts of Kenmore and Bothell will, and they have pretty much ideal station spacing. LFP is not worth it on its own but again, it’s along the way and spaced right.

      3. But the milquetoast suburban politicos comprising the Puget Sound Regional Council made a map, Stephen! A map!

        How can you argue with a map made by the same organization that has so ably sculpted our development form lo these last seven decades?

      4. The only growth centers on the 405 corridor are Renton, Bellevue, Totem Lake, and Canyon Park.

        PSRC has not been impressed with the planning/zoning strategy of the other areas.

        However, the City of Seattle has marked Lake City for growth and given it an urban village designation. Strong transit links between it and the Northgate station are part of the City’s transit master plan. But a half-block strip of commercial sandwiched between half-block strips of lowrise, with a block of midrise at the core is not a substantial enough area to get regional HCT attention.

      5. Like it or not, d.p., that map is the reality of where zoning and local planning is going to allow mixed-use density. Please note that the biggest hunks of blue are centered around Downtown Seattle and Tacoma. But, you know, even the city can’t seem to tamper with the vast swaths of SF5000/SF7500 in north seattle, so I wouldn’t expect any regional group to attempt it either.

        PSRC is an organization whose mission statement is explicitly to prevent future sprawl of the type we’ve seen over the past 7 decades, not to perpetuate it. From the last status report:

        Accommodating Growth Sustainably: VISION 2040 addressed the central question of where and how the region would accommodate approximately 1.3 million additional people and 1.1 additional jobs over the next three decades. VISION 2040 noted that a similar rate of growth occurred over the past three decades, and this growth was dispersed through the region in a low-density pattern, which contributed to the loss of open space and resource lands, and increased congestion. Through this dispersal, the urbanized portion of the region expanded, creating longer distances to be traveled for many trips. VISION 2040’s focus on regional centers, along with other elements in the regional growth strategy, are intended to ensure that future growth is beneficial to the region and avoid some of the impacts seen in past decades.

      6. That is a seriously silly map, if you are trying to prevent sprawl. To ignore the dozen’s of actual (as opposed to imagined) growth centers in the limits of the city of Seattle, and this start putting blue dots on Silverdale and Kent. How can you defend that as “limiting sprawl”.

        All that map is good for is giggles.

      7. @Lack Thereof — Zoning laws change. Even with loose zoning, an area might not grow as big as places that are already big. You can allow big buildings in Renton, but it doesn’t mean that people will build them. Furthermore, the Lake City area is still growing and will likely continue to grow (to the east and west). Rent is very high there right now, so as they allow more growth, the builders will build it. As it is, the area on Lake City Way between 125th and 145 is more dense than just about anything in South King County ( So you are basically saying that south King County will grow really fast, and somehow catch up to dense areas in Seattle because it is an “officially designated growth zone”. I don’t buy it. I think is a lot more likely that areas like Lake City, and Ballard, and most of the other parts of the city will continue to grow really fast — faster than the suburbs. This is a good thing, and matches well with the vision you quoted. Much of that vision, by the way, has been accomplished by limiting new construction on green fields. Once you do that, the suburbs aren’t nearly as appealing (in part because they aren’t as cheap). Meanwhile, the biggest thing holding back growth in Seattle is the love affair with nice single family homes. For much of the city, I understand the desire to keep the neighborhood the same (they hate mega-houses too). But that conflict disappears in much of Lake City. Replace a parking lot/used car lot with an apartment building and no one complains.

        But none of that means that a line down Lake City Way will pencil out either. A lot depends on how expensive it is to follow Cascadian’s idea. I do think he makes a great point, though, in that we build stations, not lines. Each station can have plenty of dead space between it and it doesn’t matter as long as each station is close to a dense or popular area. Studying that area, without a doubt, makes more sense then looking at the sparsely populated area that is southern King County.

      8. Of course, we should be building “complete corridors”, in places where the urban fabric is unbroken so as to support them. Because that’s the difference between useful transit in transit cities, and $32-per-commuter subsidies in BARTland.

        This is why cut-and-cover, where feasible, has more benefits than just costcutting. It permits thinking of the city as complete, organic, naturally expanding, connected above and below. Deep bores and wide nodes make you think “what can we skip”?

        There’s a reason the Canada Line has been a mobility game-changer for its city, while most of Seattleites will be stuck on labyrinthine, non-perpendicular, terribly-integrated buses* forever.

        *(Just kidding. They’ll keep driving. And complaining about traffic. And demanding lots and lots of parking.)

      9. Good point, d. p. I was suggesting that if we continue to build the crappy systems we do (with stations a long ways apart) then a Lake City/Bothell Way corridor might make a lot of sense. But you are right, in general we should build nicer, more useful systems. That being said, a line like that might be dirt cheap, if it can just be placed above Lake City Way. I have no idea if it can, though, which is why a study would be in order. If it is expensive, then it isn’t worth it. But the beginning part (up to 145th) is justified no matter what type of system you build (Lake City between 125th and 145th is fairly dense right now, and still growing).

      10. Furthermore, the Lake City area is still growing and will likely continue to grow (to the east and west)

        To the east and the west of developed Lake City is single-family zoning, with the exception of a couple blocks along 125th. The only thing that’s left to redevelop in Lake City is to turn the big strip malls in the core into multi-use 85/65/40 foot buildings.

        So you are basically saying that south King County will grow really fast, and somehow catch up to dense areas in Seattle because it is an “officially designated growth zone”. I don’t buy it. I think is a lot more likely that areas like Lake City, and Ballard, and most of the other parts of the city will continue to grow really fast — faster than the suburbs.

        Lake City is one thing, Ballard is another.

        There a lot of the “urban villages” in Seattle that are similar to Lake City, and are going to hit their zoning limits very quickly. A lot of the residential lowrise has already been fully built out with parking-court-centric townhouse designs, and they’re surrounded by sacred-cow SF5000 zones.

        Then there’s places like Ballard, and Fremont, and Northgate, which actually have some headroom in the zoning. Areas from Queen Anne to First Hill are going to add a ton of people. But “most of the other parts of the city” are already at max density, and seem to have their zoning preserved in amber. The city council can trumpet about how many new units they’ve approved, but it’s not close to enough. Vacancy rates are still down, year over year. Seattle’s housing shortage shows no sign of ending, and that means more growth pushed to the innermost ring of suburbs.

        But, at the same time, the suburbs are not going to be peanut-buttering their growth around anymore. The whole point of the PSRC is to make the best possible effort to attempt to funnel this inevitable suburban growth into dense pedestrian-oriented nodes. They audit and report on the various locality’s master plans for the nodes so that we can hopefully turn an active small-scale downtown and some empty lots into a “Ballard in Burien”, rather than have another Maple Valley spring up down the freeway. And if the plans pass muster and are kept current, they get to keep their box on the map.

        As an aside, the company I just left wanted to open a location in Lake City, but balked at having to install sidewalks (the horror!), and opted not to open anything. Glad to be out of that cesspool of an organization.

        Of course, we should be building “complete corridors”, in places where the urban fabric is unbroken so as to support them. Because that’s the difference between useful transit in transit cities, and $32-per-commuter subsidies in BARTland.

        I wholeheartedly agree. When I lived in the CD it pissed me off that it took me 2 hours on a typical day to get to Ballard on the bus. We have severely underinvested in our local transit systems. But what we’re discussing here is a regional study, of regional corridors, by a regional agency, with a regional mission. Our region simply has too much flyover territory, and that’s reflected in the maps.

      11. It’s also reflected in the price tag, which is why so very little of what you see above is likely to ever be worth building, and why it’s such a danger to put so many eggs in the “regional” lipservice basket, leaving streetcarp dregs for a transit-starved city.

      12. “They audit and report on the various locality’s master plans for the nodes so that we can hopefully turn an active small-scale downtown and some empty lots into a “Ballard in Burien” ”

        Is Mr Bailo listening? There’s your “more Seattles”.

        What we ultimately need is many walkable areas in both the city and suburbs, all connected by frequent/fast transit. That’s what cities did right before 1940, and what they didn’t do between then and now.

        The price of new suburban units will doubtless be higher than existing suburban units, but less than Seattle because land is cheaper and there’s less competition to live there. But the major advantage of those new units is you’ll be able to walk to frequent transit, which is practically impossible now.

        (104th and Kent-Kangley Road is an exception. 90% if existing suburban housing do not have that level of transit or walkability, so it’s very difficult to live in without a car.)

      13. Why are you guys jumping up and down about Lake City now? These studies were all chosen a year ago, so the time to promote Lake City was then. I understand that new readers don’t know the history, but most of you were here when the study corridors were chosen. I didn’t hear a peep then about how Lake City absolutely had to be in the next round.

      14. Then you simply haven’t been listening.

        I’ve been howling at the top of my lungs for years about how Lake City should be considered for something. Anything. Transit. Right here on this blog.

        A center running line right down the middle of Lake City, popping out around 80th as a spur off Roosevelt would be fairly inexpensive in just about any metric, compared to the silliness that is eastlink or the absurdity of running something to Burien. Burien can easily be served with the existing planned BRT from Tukwilla to connect to central link. No reason to blow billions more for a few apartment buildings.

        Go elevated over Lake City, then run center lane again all the way to Bothell. Maybe go elevated to reach UW Bothell and Woodenville.

        In any case, it would very likely make a heck of a lot of sense in terms of ridership per buck, if it were only studied.

    3. The Lake City/LFP/Kenmore/Bothell routing makes a million times more sense for BRT or light rail than Lynnwood-Bothell-Bellevue. Sigh.

      1. Yes, it does. That’s why it was included in every study since the 1960’s Forward Thrust heavy rail proposal, which, thanks to Washington law (sound familiar?), failed despite winning by 8 percentage points (54-46 IIRC).

        That 1968 plan still makes more sense to me than anything the sub-area equity political reality of today has come up with. Add another cross-town line north of the ship canal to it and we’d have a vastly better system than anything I’ll ever see in my lifetime (which is depressing since my parents voted “yes” on that plan when I was one).

    4. Lake City is in the next round after this. It’s in ST’s long-term plan. But we can only afford so much in each phase due to the tax-limiter activists. Also, subarea equity. Lake City is competing with Ballard-south, Ballard-east, and West Seattle. It’s not competing with Burien-Renton because that’s different subareas. Ballard-south and Ballard-east are clearly higher priority than Lake City.

      West Seattle has also been designated higher priority than Lake City (by ST and Seattle). Some people disagree but that has been the general public expectation for decades, an “X” over Seattle. The reason is geographic distance from Link. With future feeders, Lake Cityans can take a short straight bus ride to either 130th or 145th stations. But West Seattlites would have to take a long bus ride to SODO or an extraordinarily indirect ride to TIB. It’s not acceptable to leave 1/5 of the city isolated like that, even if its population is modestly lower. West Seattle is not Magnolia. Magnolia is a small neighborhood with no urban villages that has asked to be excluded from trunk-transit plans (nothing west of Interbay, please). West Seattle is an entire quarter of the city with two emerging urban villages.

      I’m not saying West Seattle MUST have light rail, but it needs something substantially better than what it has, and I’m not yet convinced that the BRT solutions so far are adequate.

      1. Oh, so urban Lake City might get some urban infrastructure… after ST has hit the $50 billion mark in empty-running trains elsewhere.

        (Meaning: never.)

        That sounds like an awesome plan we’ve got going here.

      2. “West Seattle has also been designated POLITICALLY higher priority than Lake City (by ST and Seattle).”

        Fixed that for you

      3. You had a decent argument going until you started mixing up facts: West Seattle is an entire quarter of the city. No, no it isn’t. There are 88,000 people in Seattle west of the Duwamish (as of the last census). This includes areas that light rail simply would not serve. For example, it would be crazy to take a bus from South Park to the junction, so that you can then ride the train. It makes a lot more sense to just head towards downtown. But even if you accept that number (88,000) as the population of greater West Seattle, you are not talking about one quarter of the population. Let’s see: 608,000 divided by 88,000 = 6.9. So, if my math is correct, greater West Seattle is about 1/7 of the population of Seattle (as of the last census).

        Nor is it growing particularly fast. The booming areas are closer to downtown like South Lake Union (which isn’t being studied). Funny how the area between the two biggest urban centers in Washington (the UW and downtown) is not being studied while we worry about West Seattle. But I digress. Anyway, the fastest growing section in West Seattle is High Point, which experienced pretty good growth at 15% (nothing like Ballard’s 35%, but still pretty good). Then there is North Delridge, at 10%. Again, not too bad, but not in the top ten (for Seattle). Unfortunately, like South Park, it isn’t clear to me how that area gets treated by the ‘X”. If you live close to the north part of Delridge, why would you take a bus west up the hill instead of towards your destination (downtown) especially since there is a freeway there, with car pool lanes all the way into the station, which is closer to downtown (and transfers)? Oh, and that train (in SODO) would be way, way more frequent. This just points out one of the many weaknesses of West Seattle light rail.

        West Seattle is just in the wrong place and has the wrong density. Rail there is expensive, unlike the section that was built between Mount Baker and the airport. That section was cheap because it went on the surface and above ground on cheap land, with relatively cheap elevated structures. West Seattle rail would be expensive. It also doesn’t mesh well with the adjoining areas, because of the need for a really high ramp. You can’t just add a station at Delridge, and have the train keep going to the junction. You have to pick one, which means the other group is out of luck. This is in big contrast to Central Link, which at least has a station every so often as it moves through the neighborhood. Their really isn’t anything between SODO and the first station in West Seattle. That is a huge distance to build very expensive light rail without even a feeder station. Nor is it heading to someplace more important (like Central Link and the airport). For a city like Seattle, the airport isn’t a huge destination (it would struggle to get into the top ten) but it is something. Unfortunately for West Seattle, there really is nothing to the south. Burien is tiny, and can be served just fine by BRT.

        Meanwhile, West Seattle is unusually well suited for BRT. Not only because of the low density and really big physical size, but because of the existing freeways (that include substantial HOV lanes) and rail infrastructure. It would not cost 4 billion dollars to create grade separation for various parts of West Seattle to SODO. These buses would travel just as fast as light rail would. From there, a rider would have to transfer. But that transfer would be a lot more frequent than the transfer from a bus to a station at West Seattle (which, again, would provide the highest ridership numbers under the most optimistic scenario). If you add a turnback station at SODO and increase the headway for North Link (which would make sense for other reasons) then you could increase frequency even further. If the Ballard to downtown line ends at SODO, the transfer would be a minute or two.

        In other words, for the vast majority of people living in West Seattle, BRT would be faster and more frequent. The fact that it would cost billions of dollars less is just a bonus.

        But I completely agree that the BRT solutions so far are inadequate. They are terrible. That is, by far, the most depressing part of the proposals. They didn’t really come up with BRT proposals. They simply have bus proposals, along with some hand waving. Someone needs to tell them that BRT involves more than just a new paint job.

      4. “West Seattle is unusually well suited for BRT.”

        Guess what, BRT is two of the alternatives. Send another one to ST if you have a better one in mind.

      5. Then you simply haven’t been listening.

        I’ve been howling at the top of my lungs for years about how Lake City should be considered for something. Anything. Transit. Right here on this blog.

        A center running line right down the middle of Lake City, popping out around 80th as a spur off Roosevelt would be fairly inexpensive in just about any metric, compared to the silliness that is eastlink or the absurdity of running something to Burien. Burien can easily be served with the existing planned BRT from Tukwilla to connect to central link. No reason to blow billions more for a few apartment buildings.

        Go elevated over Lake City, then run center lane again all the way to Bothell. Maybe go elevated to reach UW Bothell and Woodenville.

        In any case, it would very likely make a heck of a lot of sense in terms of ridership per buck, if it were only studied.

      6. I meant geographically. Even if it’s physically one-fifth, it’s still a quarter in the sense of southwest, southeast, northwest, and northeast. This gets back to my point about geographic distance. Lake Cityans, Broadviewites, and Central District dwellers can easily take a short feeder to Link. West Seattlites can’t. It would be the same issue if Central Link were routed through Georgetown or West Seattle and excluded Beacon/Rainier; then we’d have to think about HCT in Beacon/Rainier.

      7. Who gives a fuck, Mike?

        Transit requires people near stuff, which you readily admit is in short supply most of the places Sound Transit is aiming its future plans.

        Transit needs to follow demand, not some crazy notion of topographic symmetry wholly at odds with actual people and stuff and needs.

      8. The ONLY way Lake City is served as part of the X (which when originally planned had a line THROUGH Lake City) is with a 130th Street station. Few people are going to backtrack up to 145th via transit from LC (or from Bitter Lake, for that matter), and Northgate is a no-go. Very, very few people will take the bus from 125th and LCW to Northgate. I made that commute for many years and it didn’t take me long to decide to drive to the transit center even though the traffic around Northgate is horrendous, and even worse than that for the 6 weeks around the holidays.

        A connection to the east (not to mention from the west) from Northgate might have made sense if ST had had the brains to site the station OVER Northgate Way, not at the most remote possible point to make bus connections. The current transit center is on the opposite side of the mall complex from any possible direct transit routes whatsoever and easily adds multiple minutes to any conceivable route. Just because there was once a transit center there is no reason to build a damn train station in the same place! If the station had been sited above NGW, frequent cross-town buses could have pulled over, you’d debark, go upstairs to the platform and hop on your train. Believe me, the current location of the station DOES NOT SERVE Lake City. Roosevelt will serve Lake City if anything, and that’s only with better bus connections there. 130th is vital for this large chunk of the city to be “directly” served, at least until a decent line comes through as it was intended 50 years ago.

        There is a major topographical feature between Northgate and LC with two 2-lane roads ONLY travelling between them (and one of those indirectly, at 125th). Between 85th and 125th only the tiny and crowded Northgate Way is a viable path west from LC.

    5. Also, ST is currently updating its long-term plan. The PSRC will have to update theirs at some point. Then Seattle can argue that Lake City has grown enough to be included.

  2. In my expert opinion, any eastside rail should happen on or next to I-405, and not on the former eastside rail corridor property, which should be dedicated solely to greenspace and a walking and biking path.

    1. In that case, I think you’ll find a lot to like in the ST studies.

      1. I watched the video of the session online, and I’m very unimpressed with what they did for the eastside. They basically treated the rail corridor and 405 as two completely separate corridors (even though they are essentially the same — at least by the standards that is used for other neighborhoods (e.g. it’s like saying SR 99 and I-5 are separate corridors). As a result there was some weirdness — for example, they said that BRT on 405 would serve the most riders, but they didn’t consider using the eastside rail corridor for a busway and then having the busses continue north on 405 past Totem lake.

        I honestly think that some hybrid of the 405 and eastside rail corridors would result in the highest ridership (no idea of cost effectiveness though).

        Mostly — I think they should have considered the “corridor” to be Lynwood to Renton via Bellevue and just considered a few different paths (405, eastside rail, hybrid etc…).

      2. “In that case, I think you’ll find a lot to like in the ST studies.”

        The critical question is: What do the voters on the Eastside think.

    2. Eastside rail certainly shouldn’t happen in the old tracks, because they don’t go anywhere people want to go.

      But neither does I-405 unless you deviate significantly from it, which starts looking awfully expensive and (in Bellevue’s case) un-Kemper-like.

      Buses can easily and quickly (if you build a bit of good bus-only infrastructure) deviate from I-405, and I-405 already has good HOV infrastructure in place (especially if you go 3+), which is what makes I-405 BRT so appealing.

      1. Here’s the thing with 405 BRT: existing ST service already does everything 405 BRT would do (and more). Its ridership is underwhelming, for exactly the reason you state: 405 isn’t actually where people want to go, and won’t be ever. Its massive footprint and inhuman interchanges actually prevent anything resembling a walkshed from developing (this is just as true along I-5 and all the deviations and P&Rs in North Link plans are proof of it). The problem is not the quality of the existing transit service. If you could instantly teleport between any two existing stations along existing 405 routes, it would still be more convenient to drive for most of the people driving on 405 today. That even applies for many people going to places nominally served by the routes — Canyon Park and Totem Lake, for example, cover tons of land, and have lots of pedestrian barriers and walkshed-eating road/parking infrastructure even beyond the freeway and P&Rs.

        405 BRT will surely include some plan for bus lanes and TSP in Bellevue and Renton that will surely be watered down by popular demand. But that won’t address the real reason so few people use transit to move north-south in the 405 corridor, which is that the bus won’t go where they want to go.

        So… then what, do we propose more deviations for stops? Surely with billions in capital funding we can build fast ways in and out of new stations! Bothell, Kirkland, Factoria! But the existing interchanges and roads (which aren’t going anywhere) spell either monstrous expense (for a totally new path in the middle of an existing complicated interchange) or awful delays (if you have to merge with traffic). There was some article recently about transit paying for the auto’s sins — this is that.

        I think there are roughly two trip pairs on the eastside today where transit ridership could be much higher if service quality was better. One is Bellevue-Redmond, and they’re getting the train they want (at great cost to cul-de-sac residents elsewhere on the eastside). The other is Bellevue-Kirkland, which 405 BRT won’t be able to fix.

        Here are the only things 405 BRT does well:

        – makes us feel good about zoning for growth in offramp settlements like Totem Lake and Canyon Park, instead of in places that are physically capable of developing a walkable public realm
        – as a corollary, allows hidebound cities like Kirkland and Bothell to claim they’re zoning for growth by virtue of including these places within their boundaries
        – allows the highway lobby to cynically greenwash their calls for 405 expansion

      2. I think your characterization of Kirkland and Bothell is off-base. I live in Bothell and can speak for their zoning: the focus is on adding massive amounts of mixed-use development that is walkable to the transit center downtown or near UW Bothell. This is real walkability. Canyon Park is not where the action is. Most of the sprawling development happens outside of city limits, in unincorporated Snohomish County. I don’t see any evidence of Canyon Park being used in the cynical way you’re suggesting.

        In an ideal world, 405 would never have been built and any suburban development in the Seattle area would have been on commuter rail lines that could be built up as the suburban population grows. We’re stuck with it, though. One result is that our bus system is so bad I ride my bike to work (because it’s faster, as well as the other advantages.) I’m not sure how to fix it, but I do hold out for light rail between dense neighborhoods on the Eastside in the long run.

      3. I agree with Cascadian. I think your post may be largely correct, Al (and quite well written, I might add) but Bothell is in the midst of changing, and the UW has a lot to do with that. It is a destination for a lot of people, and I expect that to only increase in the near future. Any improvements in that area are likely to see substantial ridership.

      4. “In an ideal world, 405 would never have been built”

        In an ideal world, 405 would have been called I-5, the area around it would have remained rural, the other I-5 would not exist, and Seattle would have developed like Chicago.

      5. “In an ideal world, 405 would have been called I-5, the area around it would have remained rural, the other I-5 would not exist, and Seattle would have developed like Chicago.”

        You’re right that interstate highways should never have gone through urban centers. In my view, they should only have had exits where there was existing population, or for pocket rest areas/refueling stations in long unpopulated stretches. The number of exits should have been as few as possible, located on the outskirts on the existing population and integrated with the local road network and transit services, with car services clustered around the exits. That way, any development attracted by the highway would be consistent with existing patterns and you wouldn’t promote sprawl.

        I don’t think continuity of the system was necessary, so rather than an Eastside bypass interstate, I was imagining an I-5 laid over the 99 alignment that distributes traffic to surface streets right after crossing the Duwamish into Georgetown. Then the interstate would pick up again somewhere around the northern city limits. I-90 would have been rerouted so that its westernmost exit served Renton and it intersected with I-5 at 99 west of where 405 intersects the I-5 in our version of reality.

        And of course freight and transit would have priority/exclusive lanes so that even if you did have some repopulation to suburban exits, people and goods could still get to the city center quickly. Personal cars would pay a variable toll to pay for road maintenance and minimize congestion.

    3. Why would you want to waste the existing rail corridor? Especially in favor a freeway alignment that does nothing to promote a carless lifestyle?

    4. The Eastside Rail Corridor report is damning: low ridership and high cost. It’s effectively dead now.

      405 BRT is based on WSDOT’s 405 BRT outline, which naturally runs along the freeway. ST could deviate from it for Kirkland, and that will probably be considered in the EIS. This is just a conceptual outline to decide whether to pursue a north-south line at all. Look at East Link, where 112th did not even appear at this stage but was finally chosen many years later.

      1. [cynic]They sandbagged the ERC twice before, so of course they’ll do it once more.[/cynic]

  3. My own favorite one is the turquoise line from Ballard through the U-District and across Lake Washington. Reserved street trackway from Downtown Ballard, tunnel under Phinney Hill, Wallingford, and the U-District, more surface trackway Sand Point Way to Magnuson Park, and bridge to Kirkland.

    Sorry, Ben. You can automate the one under Queen Anne, but I’m gonna drive this one.


    1. I think that’s the most important upcoming corridor in the city. Have it completely underground from Ballard to the U District and boom: we’ve got a high capacity connection from Downtown to Ballard in addition to serving the corridor itself.

      1. Yeah, but now we can’t fast-track this obvious need, because it “must” be studied along with some $5 billion Sand Point Bridge bullshit that will completely screw up the cost-benefit analysis!

        Because regional maps have pretty colors!

      2. d.p., this is what Ed Murray means when he says everything we do in transit has to be “regional.”

        See this space tomorrow for (among other things) a rant about excess regionality in ST’s new West Seattle corridors.

      3. d.p., you don’t think they’ll prioritize and build things in phases?

        It seems to me to be a good idea to have a rough plan for where you want to go eventually before you start building things.

      4. If I were going back in time and prioritizing cross-lake projects (both road and rail projects), I’d select a crossing at Kirkland way before a crossing at Evergreen Point. There’s really nothing on the immediate east side of the 520 bridge. But I do suspect that with 520 where it is, any second cross-lake rail crossing is probably going on 520. But the point of a study is to find out how much it would cost, informing future decisions.

        Ballard to UW makes sense and I don’t think it makes less sense studied in the context of a crossing to Kirkland that is unlikely to ever pencil out.

      5. Oh, and rail on 520 will never happen either. 3x the cost of I-90 rail, with a high degree of cannibalism from East Link, which itself failed to justify federal transit subsidies.

      6. I agree with Cascadian. I see no problem with studying something, even though we all know it won’t pencil out. If anything, it confirms it. The same is true with the West Seattle light rail. Now, if someone asks:

        “Why can’t we have light rail to West Seattle?”
        “Because it would cost over 4 billion and only serve a handful of spots”.
        “But you could extend it to Burien?”.
        “Yes, but for four billion more”

        The biggest problem is if they fail to adequately study the alternatives. Hopefully they will ignore rail to West Seattle and do some serious work on improving BRT to West Seattle. Right now, there is nothing on the table that I would call BRT. If there was, then it would have the same travel times as light rail. Even a semi-BRT system that came within a couple minutes of the light rail time would be worth looking at.

      7. Look at the map. The Ballard-Redmond corridor has already been split into Ballard-UW and UW-Redmond. They are being considered separately.

        “The biggest problem is if they fail to adequately study the alternatives.”

        That will be our job, both now and during the public hearings. However, the other corridors will not have two hearings like Ballard-south, because the city didn’t put extra funds into them. So they’ll have one hearing each. That means when the West Seattle hearing comes we can suggest changes to the alternatives, or mix-n-match, but we may not be able to get a totally new alternative considered. So if you have any suggestions for a much better BRT alternative in West Seattle, I’d send it to ST now.

        “Why can’t we have light rail to West Seattle?”
        “Because it would cost over 4 billion and only serve a handful of spots”.
        “But you could extend it to Burien?”.
        “Yes, but for four billion more”

        That’s not it. The N-S and E-W corridors were aggregated for study convenience, and to determine whether an L-shaped line would pan out. That doesn’t mean we can’t split them again or have light rail just on one leg, or something else. Alternative B5 specifically shows two disjunct lines, one LR and the other BRT, with only the latter going to Burien.

      8. “Nothing is going between Sand Point and Kirkland. Ever.”

        I predict the lake crossing will not make ST3 because East King will have sticker shock over the cost, and will decide that the other corridors are higher priority.

        But never is a long time. People in 1930 would not have predicted 520, and people in 1970 did not predict the Eastside would grow as large as it did, or that it would change from a bedroom community to a jobs center that that people reverse-commute to. But the freeways magnetically attracted people, and then they attracted jobs.

        Now it’s 2014, and we can’t predict how zoning might change in the future. Opposition to density will likely weaken. but we can’t say when. Bellevue will look much bigger when “greater downtown” extends beyond 124th, which is already in the cards.

      9. I think you missed my point Mike. Building light rail to West Seattle doesn’t make sense. By studying it, we’ve proved it. It is too expensive, and serves too few stops. The counter argument, however weak, that it could be justified as part of light rail to Burien has also been obliterated. Burien light rail, no matter what its path, is too expensive for the handful of people that would ride it. Studies like this are very valuable, because they show that sometimes an idea really is just too expensive.

        For example, if there had been enough studying on the 99 tunnel before the politicians fell in love with the idea, it would have failed the sniff test. It started out as three lanes each direction, then got dropped to two. Meanwhile, the Western and downtown exits got dropped. So, instead of being “just a bit more than a rebuilt viaduct” it is a lot more, and provides a lot less.

      10. “By studying it, we’ve proved it.”

        By studying it, they’ve quantified it, which is what was needed.

        “It is too expensive, and serves too few stops.”

        That’s your conclusion, it’s not everybody’s. We’ll have to hear what the public and politicians think. Different people put a different value on the benefit and on the cost. We can only build what there’s sufficient consensus to build.

        I could possibly be persuaded to BRT if it’s a good BRT, and if enough people in West Seattle and politicians support it to make it doable. The LRT price tag may convince others to agree with you. That remains to be seen. But if enough people support LRT, then we should do it., because it would make more of an ideal long-term network.

    2. Sorry, Ben. You can automate the one under Queen Anne, but I’m gonna drive this one.

      We need to be designing all our future rail lines for automation, or else the operating costs are going to continue to eat our lunch.

  4. Everything I wrote yesterday, x100:


    It is becoming clear that a non-negligible faction at Sound Transit — the fiefdom bureaucrats and some (hopefully) minority portion of the planners — have bought into the delusion that a zillion-mile sprawl-spanning pan-regional high-capacity system is! what! this! region! absolutely! must! have!

    Never mind lessons from the perpetual operating-subsidy sinkhole that is Bay Area sprawl rail. Never mind that this area’s sprawl is even thinner of demand than that one’s, or that we have little in the way of easily rail-claimable ROW anywhere. Never mind rational cost-benefit analyses. Never mind the pathological aversion by their own constituents to urban forms that aid transit viability. Never mind the $$. The Bailo/Schiendelman/teenage-fantasy-mapper-on-the-internet vision must be pursued!!

    The problem is that, when sober reality inevitably invades the proceedings, it ain’t gonna happen.

    New York’s Second Avenue Subway — whose $16 billion price tag, equivalent to “only” two of ST’s suburban wet dreams above, has produced no shortage of sticker shock — will tunnel eight miles beneath the superlative city that is Manhattan, and will carry at least ½ a million riders from the day it opens.

    Boston’s northerly Green Line extensions, which aim to increase the rapid-transit walkshed in the nation’s second-densest municipality of more than 70,000 people from 15% to 85% of the population, and which is being built almost entirely alongside existing main-line railways, is costing $1.3 billion and taking years to come to fruition.

    The $2 billion dollar East Link, which connects arguably the two most prominent — and more importantly, most proximate — economic anchors of the Puget Sound combined statistical area, which bridges a truly intractable bottleneck and which serves an established and inarguable “edge city” success story, nevertheless has geometry and ridership fundamentals so horrible that the Feds were unwilling to kick in a single dime!

    The notion that West Seattle is “rapidly densifying” is absurd. The idea that the nominal existence of a “downtown Burien” puts it in line for an $8 billion high-capacity investment is absurd. The Issaquah spurs and the Sand Point crossings and the 70-mile “high-capacity spines” are all absurd. And by absurd, I mean never going to happen.

    But by “conveniently studying” (read: shackling) every possible right-scaled actual service need as part of some zillion-mile “combined corridor” with a massive price tag, Sound Transit will doom the cross-North Seattle corridor, will torpedo the needs of Lake City Way, will probably keep West Seattle stuck forever with its RapidRide/DBT deficiencies.

    Opportunity costs are real. This proposal at the top of this page is not.

    1. I have no qualms with studying the rail lines, if only to confirm how absurd they are. A lot of people might assume, for example, that a rail line to West Seattle would be relatively cheap. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

      My biggest complaint (as stated again below) is that they seem to focus on really nice, really expensive systems, or really cheap, poor ones. It isn’t just West Seattle, but Ballard has the same problem. Putting aside for a second, a line from Ballard to the UW as the only line necessary (since it would allow someone to get from downtown to Ballard just about as fast) there is still a mix of Lexus and Yugo plans. Either run a rail line through the streets of downtown, or tunnel all the way to Ballard. It took one of the writers here (Bruce Nourish) to come up with a moderately priced proposal that would provide a substantial improvement over the current mix of buses ( It saves money by building cut and cover for only the section that really needs it. On a per minute, per rider basis, that is probably the most cost effective system on the table. But it wasn’t designed by Sound Transit, but by Mr. Nourish. I know Sound Transit wants citizen input, but we really shouldn’t have to design the system for them.

      I fear the same sort of thing will happen with the UW to Ballard line. Boring a tunnel is expensive. Are there any cut and cover options? Maybe surface for parts and cut and cover for others (like the Nourish plan). How about running an elevated system (maybe over the Burke Gilman)? I’m afraid that they won’t study those questions because they won’t ask them.

      More than anything, I think this is setting us up for a really big failure at the ballot box. People like their rail, but I don’t think they are willing to spend this much for this little. A plan like the Nourish plan for Ballard gets people excited. It would provide great service for not much money. On the other hand, alternatives will just get people upset. I could see the fancy Ballard plan (through Queen Anne) being successful, just because it does provide for a lot of good stops. But West Seattle rail? No way. I would vote against that (and I vote for almost every tax increase). That is just too much for too few people. The cheap alternatives would probably be really unpopular as well. Surface though downtown to Ballard is no better than a bus — it would be really slow. But if Ballard gets a fancy, very expensive light rail system, then West Seattle would want one too. Telling them that they will get a really bad BRT system instead isn’t going to cut it. That won’t be seen as a compromise, but as a slap in the face. People in West Seattle want light rail. Tell them they can have a BRT that is just as fast, and more frequent, then they will be happy (I know I would). But tell them they can have a slow, crappy, BST system (Bus Slow Transit) then they will be pissed. Even though there aren’t that many people in West Seattle, I don’t think they are too happy with things right now, which means that they could cause a lot of problems politically. I don’t blame them. If Sound Transit can’t come up with an affordable way to greatly improve public transit to the peninsula, it is a very flawed organization.

      1. Basically agreed.

        The image up roughly mirrors the Los Angeles 2040 rail plan in length and scope.

        Except that every last inch of the Los Angeles plan traverses a fully built-out (and yet still infilling) urbanized environment. And the Los Angeles plan is paid for by a full ½-cent sales tax over a transportation benefit district with millions and millions of people in it.

        ST is approaching cult-level delusion if they believe their own visual hype here.


        Re: Ballard bore: One of the paramount benefits of the east-west option, cost-wise, is that it’s actually quite short! Here’s that image I threw together years ago, with U-Link included for a sense of scale. Put the terminus between 15th and 17th NW, and your whole line is barely 3 miles! The westerly 2/3 of a mile could easily be cut-and-cover.

      2. How does an isolated Ballard-UW line fit into the network? Do you just run quick shuttles back and forth? Where do you service the trains? You can’t interline them into the tunnel at Brooklyn/UW station because East Link plus Northgate Link uses up all of the capacity. I think in some ways it’s the highest-priority corridor but makes sense only in the context of a broader network of lines, including Ballard to Downtown via Fremont, Queen Anne, LQA, and Belltown. And there are plenty of good stations locations that could be served by extending that line, including Lake City.

        My priorities north of the Ship Canal would be the tunnel from downtown to Belltown, LQA, Queen Anne, Fremont, and Ballard. Build the Fremont stop for the next step, which is an extension through Wallingford to UW at Brooklyn. Also include the possibility of a future north fork at that same station to serve Phinney/Greenwood/99 and keep your options open. That gives Ballard TWO ways to downtown, and serves the cross-town needs north of the canal, and includes lots of other places that are dense enough to be in the network. After those bits, you decide whether to go north from Ballard or from Fremont, add a stop further west in Ballard, or extend east to Children’s. Any line going north could eventually turn east and cross I-5 to serve Lake City and points further out.

      3. “Even though there aren’t that many people in West Seattle,”

        About 1/5th of Seattle’s population.

      4. A couple of thousand less than 1/7th of the population, by the very broadest definition of “West Seattle”. And spread over immense sprawl.

        But keep up the delusions of cruciality for which you urban escapees are so famous.

      5. This hostility is bizarre, pointlessly elitist and nonsensical. I asked some friends who work on DPD stuff for some raw numbers on how much our housing stock has increased, which to the naked eye is plainly obvious. The last time I looked at the raw census numbers for our zip codes back to 1990 the growth was apparent as well. I’ll forward the numbers when I have them to the actual STB staff for them to use.

        Sometimes I think the harsh opposition to ‘sprawl’ takes a dangerous religious fervor around here.

        1. West Seattle isn’t sprawl. West Seattle is the oldest part of the city overall and things ARE building up out here.

        2. You’re not going to get people to move out of the southern suburbs like Burien et al to move closer to the core. It’s not; it’s a child like naive view to expect that unless gas is $10 a gallon and there is no other alternative. The ‘southern’ population is growing as well and eventually will densify.

        3. The whole region pretty popularly wants rail like this up and down the corridor. North Seattle areas aren’t more important than southern areas.

        4. The entire hostile thing, again, is just weird. Chill out.

      6. I love the comparisons to other cities, d. p. Comparing our transit plans to the two biggest cities in the U. S. puts things in perspective. We are puny compared to them, and they aren’t spending much than us.

        I agree with your statement about Ballard. It is relatively short. Given the distance, a full bore tunnel the entire way is justified. But at the same time, any savings should be worth considering (such as cut and cover, or elevated, etc.). Probably the most contentious question is which of those teal lines makes the most sense. Lot of reasonable trade-offs there.

      7. You can’t interline them into the tunnel at Brooklyn/UW station because East Link plus Northgate Link uses up all of the capacity.

        Well even if you take this premise at face value — despite it being a pile of ST anti-urban nonsense bullshit with no relationship to the reality of human movement patterns — there would still be any number of ways to solve the problem.

      8. That doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is the total number of East Link + Central Link trains that head north. Avoiding a station doesn’t reduce the number of trains on the line.

      9. And no one is opposed to BRT if it’s actual BRT, not Rapid Ride. Grade separated, dedicated tracks, as a possible precursor to rail? The danger I’ve had articulated to me many times, however, is that BRT can still be taken away a lot easier with funding cuts than rail. You need to understand the level of anger I hear from people down hear at being viewed as second class citizens on so many things, when the needs are really pretty basic, and come down to one thing:

        Let us get get downtown as fast as anyone else.

        That’s it. A four to seven mile commute should not take an hour. That’s absurd.

      10. Joe:

        For the umpteenth time:

        Ballard. Junction.

        Two images at the same scale. The difference is shocking.

        The Ballard map is filled to every corner with various forms of multi-family housing and mixed-use buildings.

        The West Seattle map is 85% single-family on post-war-minimum-sized lots, none of which appears to be going anywhere.

        Density is not about one intersection. It’s about how many people and how many places exist in the walkshed. And in Ballard, that figure is an order of magnitude greater.

        West Seattle has a long ways to go, both physically and culturally.

      11. And lastly, though your RapidRide needs a lot of improvement before anyone can call it “BRT” with a straight face, at least it runs direct, and never takes more than 20-25 minutes in even the worst of traffic.

        Can’t say that for riders of the D. Or for people in the Central District, 1.5 miles from downtown Seattle yet somehow 45 minutes from anywhere.

        People resent West Seattleites because you have consciously divested of city living, chased “the good life” over to your peninsula hovel, have no idea how much better you already have it transit-wise, and then still try to jump in line ahead of everyone else for infrastructural investments disproportionate to your population or urban participation.

      12. Basically agreed, but folks in West Seattle (I am not one) would remind us that somewhere close to 1/6 of Seattle’s population lives in West Seattle. No doubt their perception of how much/how fast they’re growing is not accurate, but politically speaking you’re going to need to do *something* for those folks.

      13. 88,000 out of 635,000 is just under 1/7th.

        But no, I would never claim in a million years that West Seattle’s Metro status quo is good enough.

      14. Not sure how you replied mid-thread, Cascadian, but did you read what I wrote to the right of the image?

        Even if you buy the “maxed-out trunk” argument (which I don’t), there’s an easy solution:
        – Stack the platforms
        – Run east-west shuttle at rush hour, with 1.5-minute maximum transfer
        – Interline (run trains through) at all other times

        Thanks to ST’s distance-commuter-centricity, peak is the only time there’s going to remotely be a need for high frequencies on the north line.

        The other 16 hours per day, and all weekend, Northgate/Lynnwood Sprawl Transit would be lucky to match the ridership of a high-volume intra-urban intermodally connective line.

      15. >>And lastly, though your RapidRide needs a lot of improvement before anyone can call it “BRT” with a straight face, at least it runs direct, and never takes more than 20-25 minutes in even the worst of traffic.<<

        Weird, because when I do take Rapid Ride instead of the 21, it typically takes me 45-50 minutes from Westwood to downtown. Today was about 55 minutes. Where are you getting this 25 minutes timing from?

      16. From The Junction. Can be as little as 12 minutes. Is never, ever over 25.

        No doubt, Westwood is much further, just as North Ballard is much further. But even central Ballard has nothing remotely fast or direct, and travel to this exponentially busier area, of equal distance from central Seattle is an eternal 26-38 minute slog, with unpredictable interruptions.

        In light traffic, the RapidRide C end-to-end can be faster than just the key segment of RapidRide D.

        Anyway, if you’re coming from Westwood, there’s no doubt the 21 is a more direct route. Because West Seattle is, as I may have mentioned, highly decentralized.

        And there’s no doubt you too should have access to quick and high-quality bus infrastructure, rather than snaking through SoDo or getting stuck on Lower Spokane. Thus the absurdity of $8 billion rail, which probably wouldn’t do anything useful for you!

      17. “they seem to focus on really nice, really expensive systems, or really cheap, poor ones”

        That’s because they’re are two kinds of stakeholder/public opinions. One says “Build it right” and the other says “Build it cheap”. A fast, frequent system requires grade separation, and that’s expensive. A cheap system keeps taxes low. An in-between system pleases nobody because it’s too slow for some and too expensive for others.

      18. “How does an isolated Ballard-UW line fit into the network? Do you just run quick shuttles back and forth? Where do you service the trains?”

        It would not be isolated, especially because of the maintenance-base reason. These study areas don’t necessarily correspond to line termini. If all three of Ballard-east, Ballard-south, and West Seattle are chosen, they may be realized as one or two lines, but they’ll all have a path to the base, even if it means going on the other segment to reach it.

      19. ” An in-between system pleases nobody because it’s too slow for some and too expensive for others.” That explains why everyone buys Yugos and BMWs, and so few people buy Fords or Hondas. Sorry, but I believe in value, as do most people. I see no reason why Sound Transit can’t propose it, when members of this blog can.

        How many times do I have to say it Mike: Grade separation to West Seattle with BRT is cheap. It is already half way built. Besides, if it isn’t cheap, then prove it. Tell me the numbers on what I suggested below — tell me how much they cost and how fast the buses can go if you build them:

        I’m not some BRT groupie, either. BRT doesn’t make sense in many situations. It can never handle the load that light rail can handle (which is why light rail makes sense from the UW to downtown). In many cases, it is almost as expensive as light rail. But in this case, it isn’t. In this case, it is unusually well suited because it is relatively cheap and light rail is so flawed for this area. As I mentioned, 4 billion dollars and your first stop after SODO is either Delridge or 35th. It can’t be both. That’s a boatload of money before you get to the first station, and it skips over (or turns before it reaches) the other one. Yowzer! Plus, West Seattle has roads that funnel people towards the freeway, not towards the center of town. So the folks that live on Delridge (assuming the Junction wins) will be so close (in distance) but so far (in time). The roads just don’t operate that well from the east (with big greenbelts in the way) or the north/northeast (with California as a bottleneck). They are good to the south and southwest, but that is still a relatively small number. In most cases, buses are better off funneling people onto SODO, rather than a station along the spine of the peninsula.

        @joeszilagyi — I agree that West Seattle deserves better. But as I said, the best solution is real BRT, not the crap that they are calling BRT on these proposals. Not only would it be cheaper, but it would provide better end to end service for the vast majority of people in West Seattle (and that includes you) over light rail. See this comment:

        I don’t share the apparent hostility that d. p. has (that is just d. p. being d. p., really). It is also a comment on a blog, so you have that. Anyway, I know things suck from a transportation standpoint in West Seattle right now (in part because of the change to the viaduct). I know folks take it out on developers, as a result (which is bad for everyone). This sucks, and it needs to be rectified. But I agree with d. p. in that not only is light rail a bad solution, it is an unrealistic one. It won’t pass. It is just too expensive for too little. The really bad part is that Sound Transit has done nothing (so far) to fix the situation. Spend a billion dollars so that everyone in West Seattle can have a nice fast, frequent bus ride into town (and get a SODO transit center than can serve more people)? Sure, I’m all for that. But as I said above, right now they are setting themselves up for catastrophic failure from a political standpoint. Ballard should get light rail (for all the reasons mentioned) and if West Seattle is only given cheap ass, Yugo style “BRT” (in name only) then they will be pissed. There aren’t that many people in West Seattle, but don’t underestimate the power of a very vocal minority.

    2. By “conveniently studying” (read: shackling) every possible right-scaled actual service need as part of some zillion-mile “combined corridor” with a massive price tag, Sound Transit will doom the cross-North Seattle corridor

      B-but, muh sub-area equity!

      Also, we need to do everything at the regional level, we can’t do anything locally!

    3. “a zillion-mile sprawl-spanning pan-regional high-capacity system is! what! this! region! absolutely! must! have!”

      These are just studies. It doesn’t necessarily mean all of them will be in ST3. It depends on how much each subarea wants them and what tax rate they’ll tolerate. It may be only one project each. I don’t think you have to worry about West Seattle getting ahead of Ballard. The only thing we know is that nothing outside these study areas will be in ST3. Lake City was excluded from ST3 at an earlier stage, sorry.

      1. Mike,

        You know that I appreciate your wide-eyed transit-utopian optimism enough that I do my best not to lump you in with the substance-free-delusional-railfan faction. But sometimes, you need to address reality.

        How do you respond to the point that these “just studies” seem rooted in the conviction that the Puget Sound is destined to build a network as extensive and as expensive as the one underway in Los Angeles, despite a fraction of the tax base paying a slimmer tax levy, and despite the fact that every inch of the Los Angeles plan serves built-up places with full-fledged ridership potential an order of magnitude greater than anything that is ever going to exist here?

        Delusion isn’t just a river in Delusium.

      2. If you want all your Seattle lines now, you don’t ask Sound Transit to build them, you ask Seattle to. This network comes out of Sound Transit’s structure. You can’t expect suburban boardmembers or voters to approve your Seattle dream, and subarea equity prevents it. We need some level of consensus between the public, ST board, cities, counties, and legislature in order to build anything, and this is the closest to consensus you’re getting. If I were king I might proclaim your network first and the regional network second (more like a German system). But I’m not, and the fact remains that any of these LRT lines would improve the situation, so I can’t say no to any that have a chance of being approved.

        Comparisons to LA or the Bay Area are immaterial. It’s unproductive to cut off South King County or West Seattle simply because they doesn’t have LA’s density. People live there and work there and have family there and visit there, and they’re significant parts of our metropolis. You may have to live there or work there someday.

      3. Sorry, but you didn’t remotely answer my question.

        Where is the $50 billion for Structurally Batshit Sprawl Rail going to come from? Not from the nonexistent tax base. Not from the negligible ridership. Not from the fucking sky.

        If the political “structure” that has been instituted can only build useless crap and deny basic geometric reality, while simultaneously opportunity-costing away the chance to fund right-scaled transit investments anywhere, then it needs to be torn asunder and reestablished from scratch!

        New administrative structure. Variable-rate taxing. Somebody who knows how the fuck transit works somewhere in a position of influence.

        [Oh, and show me the tiny-ass Puget-sprawl-oriented German metropolitan area with the 70-mile S-Bahn as its primary feature! You can’t — no such thing exists! And no, the Rhine-Ruhr system does not count: that area has 11.5 million inhabitants, component cities built (and served) as actual cities, and the furthest extremities of the S-Bahn are still half the span of our suppose “spine”.]

      4. [Or how about Berlin? A huge city! The very furthest S-Bahn extremity runs about 19.5 miles from the center city. And guess what… it doesn’t run very often! Because even in huge cities distant sprawl-rail has middling all-day demand!]

      5. “Where is the $50 billion for Structurally Batshit Sprawl Rail going to come from?”

        That problem will take care of itself. If ST can’t find a sufficient tax base, it will propose fewer projects or shorter extensions in ST3. If the public believes the tax rate is too high, they’ll vote it down. If revenue comes in under expectations, ST will defer segments. In any of those cases you don’t get your beloved Lake City line, but you don’t get your hated West Seattle line either.

        I don’t believe ST3 will include all these projects. These are just a menu of choices. Some will be chosen in ST3, others later, and others will be discarded as a poor cost/benefit ratio. If West Seattle isn’t chosen now, people might change their minds by the time ST4 comes around, and they may choose Lake City over West Seattle then.

      6. And now we’ve come full circle.

        The vast majority of this map is never going to happen. It’s never even going to come up for a vote. If it continues to pursue insanity, Sound Transit will be dismantled by the forces of reality before that ever becomes a possibility.

        The cumulative cost-benefit ratio on display above isn’t just bad. It’s astronomically bad… ridiculous… impossible… inconceivable. The fantasy-map lunaticking of a child who just came home from his first New York subway ride and bought a new box of crayons.

        The problem is that, along the way, Sound Transit will probably scuttle Seattle’s last and best hope for an urban transit system that actually works. Your beloved burg will remain a trafficlogged, car-oriented bastion of urban mediocrity forever. I’m sure you’ll be proud.

      7. The S-Bahns connect to other S-Banhs if you’re going further. I went from Duesseldorf to Bonn on two lines. The first one was half an hour to Cologne, the second half an hour or an hour to Bonn on a different line. So that must have been more than 30 miles. And the first line went further north than that, to Essen and beyond.

        Pugetopolis is 3 million people and is expected to grow to 4 million. That’s what the Bay Area was twenty years ago, and it’s almost half of your count for the Ruhr area. If our distances are longer, we’ll just have to run less-efficient service to span it. The “component cities as actual cities” is a problem we must fix, not a reason to eschew rapid transit and surrender to car-and-freeway dependency forever.

      8. The most amazing fact for you. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on a display at Diridon Station. BART was drawn up in the 1950s (the supposedly non-transit-minded utopia) when Santa Clara County had 200,000 people. That was the era when the county ultimately opted out of BART and chose expressways instead. Then the county’s population doubled in the following decade, and then doubled again. Oops.

      9. You actually used three different agencies’ S-Bahns, developed independently and tenuously connected/vaguely interlined over time. Neither Cologne nor Bonn are part of the amalgamated Rhine-Ruhn S-Bahn, and the ability to travel across three entire cities is incidental to the primarily urban-ranged purpose of the systems. (Germans would switch to a regional service if traveling clear across the megalopolis.)

        If you think Sound Transit’s distance über alles approach has any reflection in the German paradigm, then you have learned nothing from your travels.

        If you think demand can arise from thin air, at greater distances, with terrible urban connectivity and extremely few people along the way, then you’re putting the cart before the horse.

        And if you think the Puget Sound is going to grow into the 3rd largest metro area in the States, then you’re just as credulous and as nuts as Schiendelman.

        Design for reality, not fantasy.

  5. I hope they can have decent cost analysis for bits and pieces of the system, especially as it relates to BRT. So far, the West Seattle proposals are really disappointing. It essentially has nothing, except to say that if buses run on the regular streets (with the traffic) they will be slow. It also says that light rail to West Seattle will be horrendously expensive. I think we knew all that (although the latter point is very important, and worth confirming, so I have no qualms with it). But I would really like to see cost estimates for the following:

    1) Adding additional car pool lanes to the West Seattle Freeway (including the ramp to 99).
    2) The creation of a transit center in SODO that would allow for very fast transfers from bus to train.
    3) A new ramp from 99 to the transit center (or from the West Seattle Freeway if that makes more sense).
    4) A turnback station at SODO, which would allow trains coming from the U-District to run more often (since trains heading south to the airport can’t).
    5) The extra cost of tunneling from the Stadium (otherwise a logical endpoint) to SODO for a Ballard to Downtown train line. That way someone from SODO could take either train to downtown.
    6) I’m not wedded to the SODO idea — it may be that something else (like the Stadium station) might work just as well. I’m not sure what it would cost to get grade separation there.
    7) Surface street improvements for buses in West Seattle. I don’t know what all the bottlenecks are, but I could imagine more dedicated lanes, light priority, etc. This would various areas in West Seattle (Alki, Genessee, Delridge, etc.) not just one or two corridors.
    8) The cost of just a small transit tunnel through the main part of West Seattle. I assume this is the most congested part of West Seattle. This would allow for rail travel later (if West Seattle gets really big). People from Delridge would take the more direct ramp.

    I think at this point there seems to be a lack of creativity at Sound Transit, especially with regards to BRT. Admittedly, BRT is more complicated, because you could have lots and lots of routes, but a cost breakdown of the pieces that all BRT systems in that area would share would be most helpful.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree that WS would be well-served by real BRT. Thank you for laying out the case.

      However, I have a quibble with what seems to be a growing consensus around placing the transit center at SODO station (or even Stadium), with the implicit presumption that BRT riders will be transferring for points north. The Eastside is a big employment center, and East Link will be a destination for West Seattleites. SODO station and ID station are 1.3 miles apart. I don’t think it a particularly great idea to force a transfer at SODO and another at ID over such a short distance. Build great connections between WS BRT at SODO, but continue the bus route up to ID station to optimize the E-W connection.

  6. It seems to me that it wouldn’t be too difficult for the 405 BRT to make a stop at Alderwood mall, followed by the Lynnwood Link station/Transit Center/P&R, followed by a connection to SWIFT on 196. That’d be very convenient.

    1. That makes sense to me. I wonder how quickly it can make those stops (are there carpool ramps)? If a bus gets stuck in traffic exiting or entering the freeway, I wonder how much it would cost to improve the situation. But in general I think those types of improvements are fairly cheap, and would make things a lot better for people.

      1. 405 BRT will serve Alderwood Mall the same way the 535 does it today: by taking Alderwood Mall Blvd. instead of I-5 between Lynnwood TC and 405. Most of what you need to know about 405 BRT starts with this equation: 405 BRT = 535 + 560. From there, we discuss the capital upgrades and deviations.

        The 535 and 560 were designed within the last generation, by planners with a mandate to spend operational money in the suburbs but without delusions about the trends and shape of development in the area. They’re pretty reasonable answers to a question with no perfect ones.

        The HOV lanes are mostly in the middle of the freeway. HOV exits where they don’t already exist will be very expensive (especially near interchanges). Non-HOV exits and surface routings will be slow and unreliable. These are the costs of a freeway route, and the difficulty of doing something like BRT (serving trips between a variety of destination pairs within a single corridor) on the freeway (which thwarts pedestrian mobility and the creation of destinations, and necessitates a long transition between full-speed HOV-lane transit vehicle movement and arrival on a public street by one means or another).

  7. Just wondering, would there be any way to design the East Link segment between I-90 and Downtown Bellevue for use by both buses and trains (or would that cost way too much)? From a network-design perspective, it would be optimal to route the I-405 BRT and possibly the Bellevue-Issaquah BRT on the East Link corridor to allow for quick connections to Seattle at South Bellevue Sta (instead of having to backtrack all the way to DT Bellevue to get from Newport Hills to Seattle, for example). That part of 112th Ave/Bellevue Way can be very unreliable, but if we can allow buses to use Link’s dedicated ROW, that would improve things greatly.

    1. ST and Metro are already leaning toward truncating all Eastside routes at South Bellevue or Mercer Island, so there wouldn’t be any routes left. That leaves just the question of, if Link breaks down, would replacement buses or emergency vehicles still be physically able to drive in the lanes, and that I don’t know.

      If buses terminate at Mercer Island, it would be a pretty direct transfer, so the main issue is the space constraints at the P&R. If buses terminate at South Bellevue, the main problem is the added travel time going up Bellevue Way.

      In an Issaquah Link scenario, I expect it would share the East Link track between South Bellevue and Hospital, and then diverge to Kirkland. That would leverage the existing investment, and the track would not be congested because East Link is solo there. Turning up the Eastside Rail Corridor would save a minute for travelers to Bellevue and add a minute for travelers to Seattle, plus the construction cost, so I don’t think it would be worth it.

      1. An alternative for Issaquah Link would be to use the ERC between Kirkland and Wilburton, sharing the SOMF if it’s built in what I think is the only sensible place, 120th Station and Hospital Station. Near SE 8th it could follow the Lake Hills Connector and Richards Road toward either Factoria or Eastgate P&R, then to Issaquah.

      2. Just to clarify, I was mostly talking about I-405 BRT (or what is now the 560), not downtown Seattle routes. It seems that Sound Transit is planning to have the I-405 BRT skip South Bellevue Station and go straight to Downtown Bellevue. While this would be faster for commuters to Downtown Bellevue, it would be at least 10 minutes slower for anyone trying to get to Seattle or Issaquah from the I-405-south corridor.

        The alternative is to simply truncate the 560 at South Bellevue and force a connection to Link, but that seems rather pointless and forces unnecessary connections to some places (for example: Newport Hills to Kirkland would become a 3+ seat ride).

      3. If Metro and ST are going to truncate all the I-90 routes at South Bellevue and Mercer Island, then YTF are they cutting the shoulder between freeway traffic and the bike path to almost nothing in order to install bi-directional HOV lanes?

      4. @aw: Your alternative would increase travel times from Issaquah to Seattle by more than 10 minutes (my guess would be ~6 min from South Bellevue to Hospital, and ~5+ min from Factoria to Hospital Station), so I don’t think it would be feasible. While Seattle is obviously not the only destination for Issaquah commuters, it is definitely one of the largest, so it makes little sense to force them on a blatantly indirect route.

      5. Al Dimond, that’s because there’s a lot of reverse peak traffic on I-90. HOV lanes increase the roadway capacity. It’ll work even better if they toll the I-90 bridge with an HOV free ride.

        The visualizations always show buses in the HOV lanes, but that’s an option, not a certainty.

      6. Josh F., consider a wye at NE 6th, half the trains from Issaquah could go toward Kirkland, the other half could go toward Seattle. That makes it a no transfer ride (at reduced frequency) to Seattle and (almost) downtown Bellevue. In addition to that, it would serve the Hospital distrct and (almost) downtown Kirkland.

      7. Are you suggesting that passengers from Issaquah to Seattle should be forced to deviate all the way north into Downtown Bellevue and back? That would be significantly slower than even current bus service.

      8. So send some peak hour buses straight down I-90 to either Mercer Island or all the way downtown. With the routing I suggested, ST could get rid of the 555/556. The 554 replacement might take a little bit more time, but it would have higher reliability, more destinations and probably, higher frequency.

      9. Issaquah trains won’t go to Seattle because of DSTT capacity. [1]

        Bellevue Transit Center is absolutely must-serve, because it’s the largest transfer station and the largest downtown in the Eastside. South Bellevue is not essential, but Issaquah-Seattle trips need some consideration. All the Issaquah-Seattle alternatives have different tradeoffs.

        The HOV lanes are because it’s nine years till East Link, and reverse-commute buses are currently stuck in traffic. The truncations were not certain when the HOV lanes were decided, and they’re still not certain. And if East Link runs into construction delays or is mothballed, those lanes would be needed longer term. Plus the carpools and emergency vehicles.

        [1] Whether it’s actual capacity or merely ST’s policy is immaterial, because ST won’t consider allowing it until after Lynnwood/KDM or Everett/Tacoma are running for a few years.

      10. A wye would have the frequency. With a 10-minute off-peak baseline, that would mean 20 minutes off-peak, which would destroy the frequent network and prevent Link from reaching its potential.

Comments are closed.