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I have been advocating for quite some time to establish a large transit center at SODO Station and I’m glad to see that others readers are now debating the issue. I’d like to summarize my reasoning and present the outline I’ve created for the SODO Station Transit Center and invite others to build on my ideas.

Why build a transfer station at SODO?
Metro will be facing a transit capacity problem on the streets of downtown Seattle when the bus tunnel is finally closed to buses. During peak hours the streets are already congested with bus traffic and adding the buses that currently use the tunnel to the surface traffic will only make congestion worse. When the buses are removed from the tunnel, those riders who currently have a one-seat ride into downtown Seattle will experience a longer, more agonizing trip to work which will make transit less appealing. By creating the SODO Station Transit Center, many of the buses that would be making a one way trip through downtown Seattle on surface streets would instead turnback at SODO Station and riders would transfer to Link trains at SODO.

Aren’t forced transfers one of the things that people hate about riding the bus?
Yes! But building a transfer station at SODO is the best possible location for building a transfer station without forcing transfers. SODO is the Link station that offers the best connectivity to the greatest number of locations. Because of its close location to downtown, SODO could be connected more easily to locations like West Seattle, First Hill, Beacon Hill, Belltown and South Lake Union than other stations further south on the Link route. The most compelling advantage of SODO Station is that it can effectively offer connections to many more prime destinations. I’m purposely making a distinction between forcing transfers and offering transfers. A location such as SODO can be more effectively connected to many more locations than a location like Rainier Beach Station. The problem with Rainier Beach Station is that it is the definition of a forced transfer. There’s very little commercial activity near RBS, the walk shed is terrible and there is very little opportunity to improve density or commercial activity in the vicinity. Also, the geographic layout of the neighborhood makes it very difficult to make easy bus-to-train transfers at RBS without having to walk long distances or cross several busy streets.

But SODO Station would still require that riders might have to wait up to 10 minutes to catch a train, isn’t that too long?
Yes it is. My solution to that problem would be to terminate both the RapidRide D Line and the RapidRide E Line at SODO Station. The E is currently running on 12 minute (or better) headways and the D Line runs on 15 minute (or better) headways. That would add a minimum of 9 RR buses per hour between SODO and downtown. Combined with at least 6 trains per hour, if schedules were timed optimally, the maximum wait times between SODO and downtown could be as low as 4 minutes. Once the buses are kicked out of the tunnel and if all those buses are added to the surface streets, it’s inevitable that the one-seat ride trip time through downtown Seattle will increase. At that time, a 4 minute (or less) wait at SODO won’t be a negative factor.

Another benefit of terminating the D and E at SODO would be that the C Line would need a new destination beyond downtown Seattle. How about Uptown for the C Line terminal? If the C Line is terminated in Uptown, the D Line could then skip the Uptown deviation and run faster to Ballard via Denny and Elliot Way. Hopefully, without the Uptown deviation, trip times between Ballard and downtown on the D Line would be about 5 minutes faster which would compensate for the added running time to SODO. If the D Line’s faster service attracts more riders, then headways could be moved to 12 minutes, which would add even more connectivity between downtown and SODO.

Another suggestion for creating better connectivity at SODO would be to build a major bike share facility at the station with dedicated bike lanes to downtown and the other nearby neighborhoods.

The SODO Station Transit Center isn’t a perfect solution to a complex problem, but it does offer the best solution I can see to provide timely and cost-effective connections between downtown Seattle and the more distant areas of the service area.

What are your thought?

3 Replies to “SODO Station Transit Center”

  1. I think this could work OK, and was thinking of writing my own post about it. However, basically this is what I would do:

    1. Turn the tunnel into Link only – which will have to happen some day anyway.

    2. Add light rail from Westlake Station to Convention Place. Convention Place then becomes a north end equivalent to the proposed SoDo station.

    3. The current Convention Center to Sodo segment of the line should be able to support very frequent train service since, after all, they are running part-time diesel buses in the tunnel. There should be no ventilation issues in that segment once it is light rail only.

    4. Augment SoDo to Convention Place service by adding frequent Link trains between the two.

  2. The thing here that most concerns me is actually mostly unrelated to the SODO Transit Center: the idea of extending the C to Uptown, and thinking that could replace the deviation on the D.

    By doing that, you’d sever the only connection that area has left to anywhere other than downtown or Upper Queen Anne. I know merely transferring at Queen Anne & Denny shouldn’t be a big deal, but forcing customers to backtrack like that would be a non-starter. I really think the only solution to the D deviation would be switching it with the 24 and/or another route up Elliot/15th.

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