Let’s get this on the table right up front: West Seattle should receive a light rail line in the next Sound Transit funding package (ST3). STB has covered this issue before with articles about possibilities, options presented, and even the hazards of regionalism. What might actually be included in the next regional package, and how does the study presentation impact the ST board’s decision? We think that a better presentation of the information contained within this study would serve the Sound Transit board and West Seattle well when it comes time to select corridors for ST3. As currently presented, the study makes the West Seattle line appear less cost effective than it should be. Seattle Subway has some suggestions to improve this.
As others have noted, this study is comprehensive to the point of being difficult to comprehend, and contains routes and options that cost more than $8 billion and are well beyond what the region will build in near future. We have two main requests to help make this information easier to understand and analyze.
1. Option “A6”
This option would connect the West Seattle peninsula to downtown and the rest of the regional rail system with stops only at the Alaska Junction and North Delridge. It is similar in concept to the northernmost portion of Sound Transit’s Option A5, but with the addition of a North Delridge stop. It would allow for future expansion, as funding beyond that included in ST3 becomes available, into a long tunnel much like ST’s Option A5 or David’s proposed corridor. This option should identify future rail options and be built with expansion in mind.
The intention of A6 is to find the least expensive/highest performing fully grade separated rail option to locations that allow for frequent bus connections. The North Delridge station is crucial to good bus connections, as Route 120, West Seattle’s highest-performing bus line, could not connect to the line otherwise. It would also allow for much easier connections to South Seattle Community College, White Center, and Westwood Village. The Alaska Junction station would allow for connecting bus service to most of the rest of West Seattle, including a frequent route that would duplicate the remainder of today’s RapidRide C Line; a more frequent version of Route 50 to Admiral and Alki; a more frequent version of Route 128 to High Point; and other less frequent service to lower-demand neighborhoods.
The option allows better service to more of West Seattle than any of ST’s existing options, and given its short length should be affordable in ST3.
2. Present the costs of the new Downtown Transit Tunnel separately from the West Seattle segment.
Several routing options for new tunnel segment from the International District Station to Westlake were also presented as part of this study. We think those options and their costs require a more in-depth presentation. The section of the new downtown tunnel from International District to Westlake has its costs and options buried within this study. The downtown tunnel options are expensive and largely separate from routing concerns in West Seattle. It’s critical that the board fully understand the options.
All three of the Seattle corridors that ST has studied (Ballard to UW, Ballard to Downtown, and West Seattle to Downtown) are critical to Seattle mobility and should be included in the ST3 plan. North King County will potentially have enough capital to complete all three corridors due to subarea equity and federal grant eligibility.
Today, West Seattle suffers from lack of resilience given the low number of Duwamish crossings and their susceptibility to disruption. When the West Seattle Bridge experiences major issues, it can cause serious headaches for the entire peninsula. Having another option – one with the speed and reliability that only grade-separated rail can provide—to connect West Seattleites to downtown Seattle and beyond would go a long way to solving that issue. That is why we urge Sound Transit to present options to the Sound Transit board that focus on getting rail to the peninsula and make the costs and options related to the downtown tunnel sections of the line fully separate and apparent.
What to say to ST in your comments:
1. I want rail to West Seattle! Study “A6” to North Delridge and the Junction.
2. Building a high quality line is the most important consideration in this corridor as it is a high value corridor with possibilities of future expansion and would significantly improve the transportation options for West Seattle.
3. Study driverless subway technology to control costs and increase flexibility in operations.
This post was written with contributions from David Lawson, Oran Viriyincy, and the Seattle Subway Communications Team.