Many commenters noticed an oddball among the potential new corridors being considered for inclusion in Sound Transit’s long-range plan (LRP). Corridor 25 calls for high-capacity transit from Ballard to Queen Anne to the Central District to West Seattle(!).

Now, like most of the updates discussed in last week’s workshop, Corridor 25 may not make it to the final LRP. As Adam noted in his writeup, it didn’t have many people speaking out on its behalf. ST spokesperson Geoff Patrick noted that the corridor, like many others, was included based on public feedback during the comment period.

While Corridor 25 might not have many fans, it represents a significant departure from the X-shaped system Seattle has been talking about building since the ’60s. It acknowledges that development has moved north from downtown since then, and any long-range planning document ought to at least consider the possibility of high-capacity transit through South Lake Union, the fastest-growing jobs center in the city. Heck, it might even accommodate a sorely-needed second station somewhere on Capitol Hill.

Finally, this corridor opens up our minds to the idea that all North-South HCT must go through downtown Seattle. Despite all of what we know about the advantages of grid-based transit networks, the high-capacity transit we’re building and planning generally follows a radial approach.

The deck seems stacked against Corridor 25 making it into the LRP.  West Seattle and/or Ballard will probably ultimately be served via a line from Downtown, as expected.  But here in this moment, when things are still in flux and it’s all still lines on a map, it’s interesting to ponder.

49 Replies to “Corridor 25: The Oddball”

  1. Which reminds me, I never did send that e-mail of support for corridor 25 to Sound Transit.

    I doubt that light rail will ever be suitable for 25 but a streetcar down 23rd or MLK–as I posted last time, I think that 23rd picks up more of the density and would be more suitable from a number-of-passengers-served statistic but MLK is wider–connecting to Ballard, University Link, electric BRT on Madison, a hopefully-extended 23rd/Jackson First Hill Streetcar, and maybe even Mount Baker, Running it along 23rd and extending the FHSC might even open up opportunities to interline service.

    Astute observers will possibly note that the southern side of corridor 25 somewhat follows the 48’s alignment from the late 70s. We could avoid the Montlake bridge mess quite nicely and link western CD with its Capitol Hill neighbor by going up 23rd, turning left where the 8 does, and following Denny around to Western/Elliot, up 15th (very much sufficiently wide) and going into Ballard. Heck, that might even be cheap enough to do with a dedicated-lane streetcar or trolley such that Ballard/the CD/W Seattle get connected before Ballard/downtown do.

    (All of the preceding is wild speculation but, dang, I’d love to have something like this as a resident of the CD.)

    1. Denny is way too steep for surface rail. Pike/Pine is the only slope with a grade shallow enough.

      1. Fair enough. Do it with electric trolleys in their own lanes like Madison BRT.

        We’re almost halfway there if Metro keeps with the restructure of the 8.

      2. The restructures were cancelled with the cuts. Metro would have to re-propose them, with the usual public hearings and council vote. The restructures were never approved; they never got beyond the proposal stage. And Metro would doubtless change the restructures if it didn’t have simultaneous cuts. For instance, the Queen Anne and CD restructures were unequivocably “good” in my opinion; the Fremont and Yesler restructures borderline; and the West Seattle restructures “bad”. So a new proposal should keep the former but rethink the latter.

        But Seattle’s money is now another factor. It came with a principle of maintaining existing routes. Seattle could add a brand-new route with the money, but it can’t unilaterally force Metro to change existing routes, and that principle would probably keep it from trying, and the county council would have to approve changes to existing routes anyway. Also, the city council probably wants to avoid controversy, which means adding to the status quo rather than forcing reorgs. They’re more scared of “You took away my route 2” than “You improved frequency on Madison.” Better to let big bad Metro take the blame for those changes. Unless we can make a public climate that rewards politicians for doing reorgs, stronger than the status quo pushback.

  2. They’re studying the gondola line!

    Not really, you wouldn’t run a gondola that far. But numbers from the SLU-CH section could certainly be used in studying a gondola.

    1. And by “certainly” I mean “maybe”. I suppose it depends on where they put stations.

  3. I would love to see something in the 8 corridor between Uptown and Madison Valley. I would also like to see HCT in the Madison corridor. Having one of these turn south along 23rd or MLK to Mount Baker would be great. I’d probably skip the connection to West Seattle as not being terribly cost effective.

  4. I like it. I think adding higher-speed service to SLU, a possible second station to Capitol Hill, and service to the Central District are all more valuable than adding a parallel line through downtown. There would need to be a good transfer point to the existing line (the current Capitol Hill station, perhaps?), but as long as that’s in place I think serving more destinations within Seattle is better than serving fewer on a slightly straighter path.

    1. You may think that if you don’t live in Ballard or West Seattle. I can see them saying, “I’m not voting for a line that doesn’t go downtown.” The 45th line is a separate high-ridership market, but this line looks like it almost goes downtown but not quite, so it looks weaker compared to a true downtown line. But if you chop off West Seattle and Ballard, then it looks like a different kind of line primarily serving central Seattle, and there it look superior.

      1. I do live in the Ballard area. A direct line to downtown would be nice, but a transfer at Capitol Hill to get downtown without being slowed down by traffic at any point would still be a massive improvement over the status quo.

        Add in the ability to get to SLU without having to transfer to the SLUT or walk from Westlake Station and this plan sounds like a winner for a lot of people.

    2. I think it is highly unlikely that corridor 25 would be seriously proposed as an alternate to going though Downtown as part of ST3.

  5. A Capitol Hill infill station: all of the really good locations are precluded due to the line’s placement. What are the alternatives? A spur line?

    1. ST will not consider a spur until it’s shown that downtown-UW-Lynnwood-Bellevue demand leaves enough capacity for another line, which won’t be known until 2030. Anything in Capitol Hill would have to drill down to the line, build an underground station, and shut down both Central and East Link during construction. So it would be very expensive and very unlikely. A separate line would not have these problems, but it raises the issue of good transfer points.

      1. Best to forget spur lines downtown unless they are designed in as part of the ST3 build out. The current DSTT and Capitol Hill tunnels are unlikely to see any spurs or infill stations. The proper spots in the track geometry simply weren’t left to do such things. At best a vent might be added around Montlake to allow doubling frequency in the UW-Capitol hill segment.

  6. This corridor would link regional attractions like First Hill and Cherry Hill hospitals. It could enhance Eastside connectivity with lots of destinations. It might ease the impending delay issue coming from heavy transfer activity at IDS. Frankly, it could have more broad-based appeal for voters than some of the corridors that only local residents would use.

    1. I agree. I think many are unaware of what Yeslet Terrace might become too. We should plan transit for tomorrow’s land uses – because it’s not going to open until at least 2030.

    2. It’s hard to serve Yesler Terrace except with a stub or a very deep station. You’d need to erupt from the hill onto a high, high, high elevated structure right through the International District. It would be quite dramatic for the riders, but the acrophobic among us would doubtless choose a different line.

      1. It’s hard to serve Yesler Terrace except with a stub or a very deep station.

        Or a gondola!

  7. Rainier-First Hill-Capitol Hill-SLU, and maybe Lower Queen Anne, should be the first priority in ST4, and depending on how the numbers work out might be worth shoehorning into ST3.

      1. Charles: Definitely. Can someone explain this to whomever came up with the plan to fill the battery street tunnel with rocks?

      2. How would the Battery Street Tunnel be useful for transit routes? It goes from Aurora & Denny to Western & Bell. Wouldn’t that be like the monorail proposal running on Alaskan Way where the bulk of passengers aren’t?

      3. Mike: The new ST tunnel will go along 2nd. Battery Street would be a sensible place to branch off for an Aurora corridor/SLU line.

      4. Last I heard ST was preferring 4th.

        It should be easy enough to take rocks out of the tunnel decide to use it again. The main purpose of the rocks is to prevent it from becoming a homeless encampment, and people suing the city if they fall on things in the dark.

      5. Mike ST is preferring 4th South of Union. From Pine North they are preferring 2nd.

        In any case even if the old tunnel doesn’t get recycled much of the utility relocation has already been done in the Battery Street ROW which makes it a useful spot to provide transit tunnel access to Aurora and SLU.

    1. Martin — Definitely. I think a cross between the pink and yellow lines from the STMP that interlines with the new DT tunnel and terminates at SLU (or further north, $ permitting) should be priority #1 for ST4. That line will be expensive to build but would have mind blowing ridership potential.

      1. I don’t think you understand what this thread is about. It’s not Downtown-SLU, it’s Ballard/Fremont/SLU/Capitol Hill/First Hill/Upper Rainier Valley and (maybe) West Seattle. Martin rightly truncated it in “Rainier” rather that West Seattle.

        Personally, I think that this should be a close in circumferential connector, with shared stations but different platforms with each of the radial Link Lines. It would serve many close in trips and allow riders from any of the long-distance Link lines to access SLU and First Hill without having to walk to the streetcars.

      2. Depending on where you head south this line could serve East Capitol Hill and the CD.

        There is clearly already a lot of demand in the 8 and 48 corridors.

    2. Martin, I’ve wondered for a while about the feasibility of splitting East Link west of Rainier Station and sending half the trains to SLU. That reduces the number of East Link trains that go to Northgate, which frees capacity for a Ballard-UW spur under 45th.

      Unfortunately the Rainier station design calls for a grade-level pedestrian crossing west of the station. Which quite frankly boggles my mind: ST is completely unwilling to build a crossover junction for trains, but is perfectly willing to have pedestrians cross in front of trains at an elevated station!

  8. Over many years of attending transit open-houses, I’ve really come to think that maps showing transit corridors with thick colored lines give worse than no information.

    They’re downright dangerous- because they leave in the viewer’s mind the impression that a transit line is a matter of two dimensional linear direction and willpower. And the phrasing “Why don’t we just……” And efforts like the last two monorail ones.

    The only way to comprehend Corridor 25 is, for starters, a graphic showing what right of way, structure, stations, and vehicles would be used- and where, and how.

    From what I can make of it, the only corridor transit that could serve 25 will have to be fully-reserved for its entire length. Subway or elevated – which is NOT the same thing as Monorail- and surface only with zero cross traffic.

    Anything lighter, it may just be a “quibble” what to call it. It’s certainly good to envision Seattle’s transit system woven into an integrated net enabling passengers to get anywhere from anywhere else- exactly as we used to be able to do with cars before we ran out of room fifty years ago.

    With current construction capabilities, even if the project was “shovel ready” today, nobody would bet a dime on completion date. Sound Transit can’t be blamed for time between DSTT opening and first LINK train. DBT- less excuse right now. But in general, we can’t know either the future- or what’s two feet in front of the boring head- until we break through to it or hear a huge crunch.

    I’d really look forward to a much more detailed conception of the Route 25 plan. Because more than any other plan I’ve seen for Seattle, critical clearances for this one will be a matter of inches, not subareas.

    6h pencil, please, not large flat fuzzy magic marker.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I agree. More stations on Capitol Hill makes sense, but where exactly to do you put them? Make the lines fuzzy enough (or thick enough) and you get the idea that maybe Pill Hill, Seattle U, Yesler Terrace and Garfield all get stations. That is silly, as you will only be able to pick a few from that list.

      Of course, in this instance, unlike most of the routes, you can’t go too wrong. The central core of this route (which passes through the central area) Is full of stations that will all outperform every station north of Northgate, or south of Tukwila (i. e. every station we will definitely build within the next few years). It is only when you get to places like Queen Anne (e. g. the Seattle Center, which already has a grade separated express rail line) where you really need to be specific, else you run a good chance of screwing up.

  9. The central piece of this will be built if Seattle takes control of its transit destiny. Service to SLU is essential and the streetcar seems too unpopular and capacity limited to get the priority it needs. If Ballard-Downtown via the Queen Anne tunnel comes to pass, this line could go from the western end of Elliott at 15th West, share a station with new lower platforms in LQA with the Ballard-Downtown line, have a couple of urban-spacing stations through SLU (Taylor and Harrison and Terry and Harrison?) belly north a bit then head southeast to new slightly northwest-southeast platforms underneath the existing ones at Capitol Hill Station. The alignment could then wind south through First Hill staying west of Boren on the top of the plateau and then turn east to the lower CD around 14th and Jackson, and go aerial south of Jackson along Rainier to Jimi Hendrix and Mt. Baker. Another “urban spacing” station between them could serve the new cluster of high rises planned there.

    It will never be included in an “ST#” project list, though. The folks in the suburbs would be just as offended about an in-city “circulator” line as d.p. (and most of us) is/are by the stub to Orting and the inclusion as “#25” speaks volumes about its priority.

    1. Yep. It really isn’t rocket science. You are simply replacing the 8, but sliding it a bit away from the busy streets, and into the heart of each neighborhood (because a tunnel can do that). It is such an obvious route that parts of it actually makes sense for a gondola (because it is so congested and broken by the freeway that surface options — even biking — are slower than molasses and because there are so many people there). But the biggest proponent of a gondola, in his well written proposal, stated very clearly that it is no substitute for light rail. Rail can handle a lot more people, and this area makes sense for grade separated light rail.

      This is clearly a top three proposal. Arguably top two. Basically:

      1) UW to Ballard.
      2) Ballard to Downtown across the ship canal.
      3) Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Central Area.

      Pull up a map showing population density, employment density and existing corridors and this should jump out at you before we start talking about West Seattle or Kirkland, let alone Federal Way, South Everett or Issaquah. This route not only serves very important areas, but it serves them in ways that compliment the buses and compliment each other.

      The fact that we are talking about other, suburban, areas — hell, the fact that we are building stations in places like Angle Lake (a place I never heard of despite having lived here on and off for fifty years) — shows how messed up our priorities are.

      1. +1

        I see gondolas best used to connect to rail from high-density areas that can’t/won’t have rail. It’s hard for me to imagine Corridor 25 making sense as a rail line, but if it’s feasible to build I’d probably support it over a gondola line.

      2. “Angle Lake” meant the area around the actual lake, which was an obscure residential neighborhood off everybody’s radar. The neighborhood was probably stretched to give a cool name to the Link station, the same way Columbia City Station and Mt Baker Station are outside or at least at the border of their traditional neighborhoods.

      3. Right. Except that some other logical names for the Mount Baker station would be something quite familiar to anyone who has lived here a while; names like “Rainier Valley” or “Franklin High School”. Even names like “Garlic Gulch” or “Sicks Stadium” (now torn down) are very familiar. Angle Lake is unfamiliar, as is just about any other name you could come up with for the area — I have no idea what the neighborhood is called — maybe south SeaTac? It is unfamiliar in large part because there just aren’t that many people there (never have been, and probably never will be).

      4. @Matt — One of the great things about a gondola is that area is that it would be useful even if light rail is built. For example, let’s assume that a gondola is built from Harrison and Broadway to Harrison and Westlake. Then let’s assume that two years later, Sound Transit decides to build light rail to “South Lake Union”. Even if they build a station at the exact same place (Harrison and Westlake) they wouldn’t connect it to Broadway and Harrison. They would either connect it to the Capitol Hill station or to Westlake. So, basically, you would still have a gondola that would, at worse, provide a little different service to an area. Remember, there is essentially no transfer penalty with a gondola since headways are measured in seconds. This means that if you happen to be at Broadway and Harrison and want to get to a new South Lake Union station, the fastest way to get there would always be the gondola, since it saves you a few blocks of walking.

        Furthermore, it would be fun. I ride the ferries because it is fun. People ride the monorail because it is fun. A subway is OK, but it is mostly just about functionality. The fact that you could build a very practical, very important bit of public transportation now, that might, twenty years from now become a little less essential, doesn’t mean that it would sit idle even then. The views alone are worth a lot (basically like the Space Needle, except in this case, it actually goes somewhere).

        You really can’t say that about a lot of the infrastructure we are building. A lot of the light rail will make a lot of the bus infrastructure obsolete (if we continue to build light rail right next to the freeway).

    2. Oh, I should add, Anandakos, that this line would work really well even if Ballard to downtown light rail is done via Interbay. The Ballard to downtown line would still have a station on lower Queen Anne, which presumably would also serve as the western end of the other rail line. Even if the Ballard to downtown line went the other way around Queen Anne (to the east) it still works. Either way the station is shared between the two lines (as it would be for Capitol Hill, Judkins Park and Mount Baker).

  10. Anandakos, you’re right to be thinking about the street rail network Seattle will need for its future. Terminology shouldn’t be the hang-up it is.

    Might be useful to think as Nordic transit does: If it’s got steel wheels running on tracks in the street for any of its route length, or can theoretically run street track, it’s a tramway.

    Just about every street rail system in Europe operates on tracks in regular streets, boulevard medians, elevated structures, and tunnels- very often on the same run. Also common to run what are essentially tracked lawns- streetcar tracks are a lot friendlier to grass than buses are.

    LINK would fit the category, on the heavy side- but has less tolerance for running in traffic than comparable systems overseas.

    I think this system will be very good for Seattle, including Corridor 25. Though due to terrain, it will need more than one new tunnel. Fremont through Queen Anne Hill, definitely. Go online and check out Barcelona, and Gothenburg.

    I think both passengers and the business community would like this mode very much, and drivers like me would never pick off of it. Would also lend itself to being built in stages, as money comes available.

    But I quit listening to Dori Monson even before SLUT was ever built. Rush hour now, unpopularity is well-hidden by number of people on the train. Not very long ago, it would have been fair to say that South Lake Union itself was unalterably unpopular with developers.

    Right now for various reasons I wish Amazon wasn’t quite so popular, but Jeff Bezos doesn’t care what I think. So will have to team up with Dori. He gets the streetcar. I get to retaliate for the loss of Mokas Cafe- though Kakao is great, their espresso is fantastic and chocolate even better, and the streetcar, with its unpopularity bursting out the windows, goes by right outside.

    Stop is a block south.

    The way tramway projects go, we’ll be working together for a long time.

    Mark Dublin

  11. Seriously, thanks, Anandakos. I’m sorry if I didn’t read carefully enough to scope this out much earlier- because subway would be the only way for this project to make any sense.

    Would really like to start hearing some of the real- (underground)-world considerations involved: geology, soils, ground water. Because I’ve got the feeling that this could be one of the engineering wonders of the world if we bring it off.

    Not really worried about the “chicken and egg” problem. Will this project create the population along the route to make it necessary? Or will the population have to develop to some degree in order to either justify or finance it?

    I get the sense that something like this, and its ridership, will develop in conjunction with each other. In exactly the same way as both the Interstate Highway System right of way and our post WWII suburbs were cornfields in 1945 and huge sprawled cities twenty years later.

    It’s also certain that by the time we’re anywhere near ready to start building this corridor, tunneling technology will have reached the point where, say, a pipe ahead of the cutter will be detected and removed well in advance. Or vaporized on contact.

    But most important for transit right now, is what we can get done on the surface or with smaller tunnels to provide the “capillary” transit the subway will absolutely need above it. Subways in Toronto, San Francisco, and everyplace else populated enough for subway, have intensive bus and streetcar service on the surface.

    The more anyone believes in this particular subway, the more important immediate surface transit improvements will be. The tramway line from Ballard down Leary to Fremont, with a station under the Ship Canal, the subway under Queen Anne Hill, and the wonderfully revived Waterfront line…if I can’t die at the controls, at least name it after me.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The CD is densifying, and has been densifying for ten years, and could densify further with the right zoning changes.

      One thing that symbolizes the CD’s gentrification to me is 23rd & John, right on the 43 and 48 (and now 8). In the 80s that area was all single-family houses before the apodments and townhouses came. The house on the northeast corner I called the “Anti-Reagan House” because it had signs on the wall decrying Reagan’s welfare cuts. It also had a toilet seat mounted sideways on the wall for no apparent reason, and a sign saying “Rooms 50c per hour”.

      1. >> It has been densifying for ten years,

        and prior to that it was way more dense than most of the stations that we are proposing to build. Don’t be fooled by the lack of tall apartment buildings — the central area has always had a lot of people. I think the census numbers probably exaggerate the growth — after all, census numbers usually under-represent the poor and minority population (which used to dominate the area).

  12. I think there is a danger that “Corridor 25” gets dropped because it proposes to much. There is broad consensus here that a route that is similar to the Metro 8 (Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Central Area) would be a great station and that it compliments other proposals. But extending that to Ballard or West Seattle would be a lot less of a value. It would make a lot more sense to have separate lines (as suggested above) with intersecting stations (four in all). I hope Sound Transit doesn’t throw out Corridor 25 because of the Ballard and West Seattle parts.

  13. I like 25 in th LRP. It may not be priority #1, but it stitches together neighbourhoods and corridors that need to be in ST 4. A n-s network will be important, but that e-w, nw-sw connectivity is highly important, too. Especially if we want to change the pattern of development and begin to emphasise other places for legitimate development capacity. We all know that Downtown and South Lake Union will be exhausted of capacity in the next 20 years, so then what?

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