S 200th Link Construction: Gantry

[UPDATE 2 4/3/2015: Please see this February post that clears up the confusion about $15 billion packages. The $15 billion in the title here does not mean what you think it means.]

[UPDATE: Chris Karnes points out that small starts grants are capped at $250m in total project size, so Tacoma Link extension is ineligible.]

This month’s board deliberations revealed that Sound Transit’s request to the legislature for more tax revenue would enable an ST3 capital program unlikely to exceed $15 billion in year of expenditure (YOE) dollars, not conincidentally about the size of ST2. What might a package of that size buy for the region?

As this exercise involves a lot of guesswork, and is largely designed to illustrate scale and plausibility, I’ll lay out all the underlying assumptions for ease of ridicule at the end of this post. In reality, updated revenue projections, inflation rates, state and federal grants, and the actual sequencing of projects will have a huge impact on what’s actually possible, well beyond what I’m able to compute as an amateur outsider.

All of the long range plan studies are priced in 2014 dollars. I couldn’t get detailed revenue projections from ST, so using simplifying assumptions I’ve translated $15 billion in YOE dollars into $10 billion in 2014 dollars. In addition, ST spokesman Geoff Patrick estimates that existing uncommitted tax authority amounts to about $300m in both Snohomish and Pierce, and $100m for the others.

I’ve broken the combined sums up by subarea as follows: $1.6 billion for Snohomish, $3.1 billion for North King, $1.6 billion for South King, $2.6 billion for East King, and $2.1 billion for Pierce. For the most part, these sums mean that each subarea can afford one big project out of the long range plan.

To be clear, these projects are my guess as to what the board will do given the funds available, not my personal dream sheet in each subarea.

Snohomish County: The bad news is that $1.6 billion is the low-end cost estimate for the relatively cheap I-5 Light Rail option to Everett, with no extension to Everett Community College. Enthusiasts seeking the higher ridership potential of SR99, or County leaders eager to serve job centers at Paine Field, would have to either abandon those dreams, find state or federal grants, or accept something less than getting all the way to Everett in this round. Even advocates for an I-5 alignment would evidently have to accept some project risk or significant quality reductions on the line. Then again, the ability to stamp “Boeing” on something may be the magic trick to get direct transit funding out of Olympia. Mr. Patrick noted that these limitations “have been flagged in the board room.”

South King:  In practice, fulfilling the commitment to get to Federal Way along SR-99 has to be the first priority. The SR-99 alignment will probably cost $1.8 billion, so it’s about the right size.

Pierce County: One wrinkle in subarea equity is that a subarea may spend money outside its the boundary if it clearly benefits that subarea. It would be hard to argue that Federal Way to Tacoma is a priority for South King County, so Pierce should fund the $1.9 billion to run Link along I-5 to Tacoma. Given the limited development demand and sketchy long-term future of the land near the port, forsaking development along SR-99 may be worth the savings. The remaining $200m or so could cover some of the $600m cost of Tacoma Link expansion to TCCwith a Federal Small Starts Grant possibly helping to cover the difference.

East King: Completing the East Link Segment E preferred alternative to Downtown Redmond (page 6-18), the last unfinished business from ST2, would cost up to $800m.

For the remaining $1.8 billion, the real answer is to go back to the drawing board. This subarea is where the long-range plan study alternatives were all atrocious, mostly because it constrained the relatively cash-rich Eastside to routing along the cheap but poorly sited Eastside Rail Corridor, or a hugely problematic 520 and ship canal crossing.

For the sake of completeness, I’ll suggest two options that would fit in the available budget space, although both have significant drawbacks.

First, modify the studied $2.7 billion line from Totem Lake to Issaquah along the Eastside Rail Corridor, Richards Rd., and I-90. I would focus on the core from Downtown Kirkland to Eastgate, which cuts the length in half. The ~$1 billion+ in savings would pay to tunnel into the important centers in Downtown Kirkland and Downtown Bellevue instead of skirting them, ideally along Downtown Bellevue’s East/West axis. The hope is that these routing improvements would improve the anemic ridership projections of this proposal.

The second option is build the massive I-405 BRT network ($1.7 billion) and use any remaining funds for the $500m UW-Kirkland BRT line. Technically, this project is entirely worthwhile. However, I’m not sure that will be enough to overcome natural voter skepticism of BRT, and resistance to the idea that cities like Kirkland should settle for second-best.

In any case, revisiting the Kirkland/Bellevue/Eastgate rail options and an initial study of the Sand Point crossing would be a worthwhile activity in 2015.

North King: North King is the hardest to predict because there are several interesting projects at different price points. Meanwhile, Seattle projects are most likely to excel under FTA formulas and gain hundreds of millions in federal grants.

There are many ways to mix and match the components. If my revenue estimates are a little high, then a Ballard/UW tunnel ($1.7 billion), preferably with additional funds for at least one more station is the only thing Seattle can accomplish. It’s the cheapest way to connect what should be one of the highest-priority neighborhoods in the region, Ballard.

At the $3 billion+ level, where I’m guessing North King will fall, it’s possible to instead build Ballard/Downtown option B (elevated via Interbay, $2.8 billion) and extend the tunnel through downtown. At the cost of missing Fremont and Wallingford, this serves Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, and the regional destination that is Seattle Center, in addition to some less-dense neighborhoods. Moreover, this alignment is a clear down payment on extending Link to West Seattle in the next round by constructing the necessary downtown tunnel.

At the $4 billion+ level, there’s enough money to instead build the superior Ballard/Downtown option D ($3.5 billion) plus the downtown tunnel. This alignment swaps Queen Anne Hill and Fremont for Interbay, which is a clear upgrade.

At the less plausible $5 billion+ level, ST could build both Ballard/UW and from the West Seattle Junction to Downtown ($3-3.5 billion?), covering all of the city’s quadrants. Any additional money would be best deployed to tunnel further up into Belltown and Seattle Center.


Once again, the revenue estimates above are hugely dependent on a series of educated guesses I made. As it happens, South King and Pierce are in the ballpark for completing the spine to Tacoma, the primary focus of their representatives in this process. East King seems perfectly sized to finish East Link to Redmond and run BRT on I-405. Snohomish is coming up a bit short of Everett, even setting aside the goal of Paine Field. North King is the hardest to read, because there are several projects with different price tags and different merits; what happens there will depend on what the final budget estimates are.

Simplifying Assumptions

  • Rough adherence to subarea equity: each subarea (Snohomish; Pierce; North, South, and East King) will spend the revenues it collects more or less within its boundaries. It’s conceivable that suburban voters could be won over by the higher productivity of Seattle’s projects, or that the Sound Transit Board might cynically shift resources out of richer Seattle, where transit voters are pretty reliable, to win over marginal voters in the poorer suburbs. However, I think it’s most likely that the Sound Transit Board will stick to what works, which is providing some assurance to the electorate that it will spend their dollars locally.
  • High-end cost estimates from the studies, to allow for a reserve. Note that cost estimates are “for comparison purposes only,” so what I’m doing here is an abuse.
  • Each subarea will collect revenue in the future in the same proportions they have in the past.
  • To convert YOE dollars to 2014 dollars, I used the future spending curves for Northgate Link (page 38 of the 2015 Transit Improvement plan),  assumed 2029 was the ST3 equivalent of 2021 in ST2, and reduced each year’s spending by the cumulative construction costs inflation estimates from Sound Transit’s model. As I don’t have the historical spending curves, I assumed 10% of the spending would be complete by 2018, 25% by 2022, and the years 2023-2029 correspond to 2015-2021. It comes out to about $10 billion.
  • The West Seattle cost estimate is from an hour of squinting at insufficiently granular study corridors.

184 Replies to “Informed Speculation: What $15 Billion Might Buy”

  1. I think it’s a good idea to start thinking, as early as possible, about how we’re going to approach this work as much as what we’re going to do.

    For instance, are we going to build the easiest part first, or the ones that deliver the most ridership when built?

    And whether we are going to go for as much automation as possible at one end of the scale, or as much driven by people as possible?

    And most of all whichever of the above we choose, are we going to stage this work so that the some parts of the system have to wait completely for other parts to be built? Or we going to make a point of building a system that can carry passengers as efficiently as possible.

    In other words, as the Downtown Seattle Transit Project was intended- buses to joint ops to trains of increasing speed? Notice I said “intended”. With first order of business being to study the project from its inception in the early 1980’s for lessons of what to do and what to avoid.

    And very important- how to prevent plans for the future from becoming excuses for substandard operations in the present. Something for which we’ve got enough material to fill a mile long train of coal cars.

    Which I wish could really happen.

    Mark Dublin

  2. For Federal Way to Tacoma, the difference between an I-5 alignment and sr99 alignment is not as significant as in the rest of south King. The South Federal Way station should probably be between 99 and 161, or even at the S. Federal Way park and ride (which probably wouldn’t be that difficult with an elevated rail track above S. 348th street, then an elevated segment (or even a significant portion on ground level) above the underdeveloped area south of there to bring it back to I-5.

    For a Milton station at porter way, there would be no substantial difference between an alignment on 5 and an alignment on 99. Same for the fife station, although I think the best way to do that is to have the fife station be built near 54th Ave east, north of I-5 and south of 99, with a pedestrian overpass over I-5. That way, both downtown Fife and the trucking jobs south of I-5 are accessible by light rail.

    And for Tacoma, clearly the alignment doesn’t matter, because of course the light rail will connect with Tacoma link at TDS. Right?

    1. Actually, there’s a substantial difference between I-5 and SR-99 for the Pierce County sections. SR-99 is the preferred alignment for Fife, as they have done upzoning that anticipates a station around the EQC. This was done before the Roads and Transit ballot measure in ’07. An I-5 alignment is just sloppy, and the Puyallup Tribe would likely insist on a Portland Avenue Station for EQC to make up for the lost connection in Fife.

      I want to know how you feel about the assertion that South King should only have to pay to Federal Way Transit Center. FWTC to King County line in my mind would be the “fair share” of infrastructure to pay for. With Martin’s scenario where Pierce pays for that section, only $200M of $600M of a Tacoma Link extension to TCC is funded. The hard cap on small starts grants is $75m, which would leave a $325M funding gap. The project would have to be halved in scale.

      1. A precedent for one sub-area paying for trackage in another sub-area would be East King paying for East Link through the Mt. Baker tunnel to Rainier Station. I don’t know; did South King pay for Central Link south of Rainier Beach station? There’s also North King not paying for any Sounder or ST Express service that comes into the city. So, while it might seem fair for South King paying for Link to the county line, be prepared for the board to reason thier way to having Pierce paying for the segment to the last station in King County.

      2. Snohomish is the most straightforward. Link to Ash Way, and BRT to Everett, Everett CC, Boeing, and Mukilteo. Even those who don’t support Link to Everett often support Link to Ash Way, and all alignment options have it. It would allow a second station in downtown Lynnwood (pedestrian-oriented like Bellevue TC) and a station at Alderwood Mall. One BRT line could go on Ash Way – Everett – Everett CC, and another line Ash Way – Boeing – Mukilteo (transfer to Swift for Mukilteo-Everett or Boeing-Everett, since Everett Transit is so minimal).

        For South King I’d like to see all-day Sounder, but Link is where their heart is.

        For Pierce, they’re lucky they have just enough money for what they want. But when will the ST board directly address Link’s slowness compared to ST Express for Tacoma and Federal Way, and explain the implications of it and what ST will and won’t do about it.

        For North King, a lot of tradeoffs are available. Ballard – U-District is the greatest need. ST would likely object that it would overcrowd the U-District – downtown segment. In that case, better build that Montlake ventilation shaft and arrange some extra Stadium – Northgate runs.

        On the Ballard-downtown line, upper Queen Anne is the first expendable station, and that would allow skirting either the east or west side of the hill. Queen Anne Station was always nice-to-have rather than essential. Fremont is second-most expendable. I think Fremont has adequate travel time in all directions (downtown, UW, Ballard) on the existing buses and a potential Wetlake-Fremont-Greenwood streetcar. Ballard does not: the bus and streetcar alternatives to downtown and UW are unacceptable. There’s a hole in Fremont-Ballard service when the 40 goes half-hourly, but that’s a minor issue compared to any of these others.

        Re second DSTT and West Seattle, there have been tons of proposals the past several months so I have nothing to add. Open BRT to the Junction and Delridge sounds promising.

        We also have to look at the revenue sources. The first link says ST will ask the legiislature for property tax, sales tax, and a variable MVET. I’m concerned about the MVET because that’s what Tim Eyman hates the most, so it’s what legislators will be most afraid to give. The article doesn’t say what percent of the $15 billion would come from MVET, but we have to think about what if the legislature gives ST the first two taxes but not the MVET, then the budget would be maybe a third lower.

        (As an aside, Mr Eyman would only have to sell one or two more watches per year to pay his MVET. If he was willing put some custom transit-related engraving on them, maybe transit fans would chip in and buy them, at least the first year. We could give one to Kemper Freeman.)

      3. Mike;

        With everybody having cell phones and smart devices who the heck needs a watch in 2014?

        That said, sure I’ll give a damn 20th century watch to Bob Pishue because he’s my 2nd fav person at my fav think tank :-).

      4. Joe: status symbol. The riff-raff have cheap digital watches. The 1% have $200+ mechanical watches with a dial and gold trim. Echoes of “The Diamond Age”.

      5. You know I have my father’s multi-hand Armitron with me and frankly I’ll keep it at home. My preferred status symbol is just different than others… it’s the change I effect.

      6. Chris,

        Good point about Small Starts Funding.

        A few hundred million dollars would make a huge difference for Tacoma Link and is well within the margin of error of this exercise, so with luck Pierce County could do both.

        However, merely getting to FWTC exhausts South King County. Quite aside from any notion of fairness, if Pierce County refuses to fund most of the FWTC-Tacoma segment, it simply won’t be built in ST3. Moreover, if I were a South King County leader I would place far higher priority on connecting Southcenter and Burien to the spine than Federal Way to Tacoma.

      7. @Mike. Good comment. Ash Way is a good compromise between folks who want rail all the way to Everett, and people (like me) who think the best value for Snohomish county is now improved bus service. I think we get diminishing returns beyond Lynnwood, but the returns really diminish after Ash Way.

        Depending on how you define BRT, all of the heavy lifting for BRT along the I-5 corridor is already done (exclusive lanes and exclusive ramps to exclusive stations). You would need to add off board payment to be fully considered BRT in my book, but for the most part, people won’t care (folks in the suburbs like ST express buses, and those can be ramped up even more). Along I-5, I would say that one BRT line, with stops at every station would be unnecessary and not especially popular. The vast majority of the riders along the I-5 corridor will not be walk up riders. They will arrive by bus. That bus can then just continue on to the Lynnwood station (or Ash Way station if it gets that far). That would provide neighborhood to neighborhood service, but with fewer transfers. Likewise, for the vast majority of riders, it means one less transfer. Those that might walk to, say, the Lynnwood Park and Ride and want to take a bus to the Ash Way park and ride would have to wait longer, but I seriously doubt there will be that many riders doing that. In short, for Snohomish County along I-5, express buses can do the job very nicely (and provide overall service that would be the envy of every other suburb in the region).

        The 99 corridor is different, as there are plenty of destinations along that route. Likewise, the other corridor you mentioned (Mukilteo) has potential, as does 128th to Paine field. I have no idea how expensive that would be from a road perspective, I only know that there are destinations and people close to those roads, so a BRT along there could get a fair number of passengers. Such a BRT could get on the freeway and then stop at the Lynnwood (or Ash Way) station, thus giving lots of people a fast two seat ride from Seattle to any of these areas. This is, of course, the exact same number of seats that a typical rider would have if light rail continued to Everett. I know nothing about the practicality of such lines, but I would imagine it would be a lot cheaper.

      8. @Mike — Splitting up the comment to cover Pierce County. As you mentioned, Pierce County is a lot more challenging. There are really several problems:

        1) Link is not especially fast or frequent, south of downtown Seattle.
        2) Neither is Sounder.
        3) There are very few destinations between Tacoma and Seattle (SeaTac is pretty much it). There are very few pockets of population between Tacoma and SeaTac, and Link will not hit the biggest ones (in Kent).
        4) So far, there is no easy way to get to Link from an HOV lane (on any of the freeways or highways).

        For example, there are some moderate pockets of density along 99, from 272nd to 288th. BRT might make some sense there, linking up with Link at Angle Lake (or a Highline CC station). But that would be slow unless we added an HOV lane. It is one thing to change HOV 3 to HOV 2, but to take a general lane and convert it might be very unpopular. Even if you did all that, you are talking about a two seat ride to get to downtown Seattle, and a fairly slow and infrequent one at that (compared to express bus service).

        I suggest the following:

        1) Add a station to the south end of Link that is next to the freeway, and has exclusive bus lanes (like the stations in Snohomish County). This could be the next station (east of Highline CC) or the one after that (if we really want to directly handle Highline CC). Personally, I would just make it east of Highline, since that would mean less back tracking for Kent riders who want to get to the airport.

        2) Improve the connection from I-5 to downtown. Personally, I would go with a new bus-only ramp from I-5 to the SoDo busway, along with a new light rail/BRT tunnel through downtown (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/10/24/lets-build-another-transit-tunnel/). This tunnel would be built from the beginning to handle both at the same time, without slowing down either (e. g. off board payment and level boarding for all buses through the tunnel).

        3) Express buses from Kent to Tacoma would make one stop along the freeway (to connect to Link, allowing faster service to SeaTac, Tukwila, and Rainier Valley) and then go along the HOV lanes right into the heart of Seattle.

        4) Change HOV 3 to HOV 2 as necessary. I really don’t think this would be politically difficult. There might be some whining, but nothing like when we take a general purpose lane for buses (and we have done that plenty of times).

        5) Improved Sounder service. Given the route that the railroad takes, increased Sounder service is as much a benefit to Tacoma businesses and suburban riders as it is to Tacoma riders. Adding service along here is very low hanging fruit (assuming the details can be worked out with the BNSF). It really is a shame that the line zig-zags as much as it does, otherwise it could easily replace express bus service.

        The combination bus/rail tunnel would be the most expensive piece of this, and the most controversial. It isn’t absolutely necessary, either. You could simply have the bus slog through the surface streets (as they do now) or turn around earlier. Doing so wouldn’t cost the rider that much time (if they are in a big hurry to get to the north end of downtown, then they could just get off the bus at SoDo and ride Link) but having the bus slog through downtown hurts frequency. Once the HOV lanes to Tacoma are finished, a bus has the potential to get from Tacoma to Seattle in about thirty minutes (and that includes the new stop for connecting to Link). If the bus then spends another twenty on the streets of Seattle, that would be a shame.

    2. We’re talking about my backyard here. I live in Milton.

      Running Link down I-5 is worse than 99. 99 is where it should go, because that is where the most potential for ridership is.

      I ride the 500 and the 501 all the time (depending on whether I feel like biking down the hill or not to catch the next bus)and the 500 that runs on I-5 is typically standing room and the 501 will have 10 people on it. Those trucking jobs down in the formerly world-class farmlands of Fife? Nobody wants to walk 3 miles to get down there. Pierce Transit rerouted the 501 to do a dog-leg through that area but it is a waste of time because 1. The service is not spread enough for it to be a reliable way to get to work and 2. Nobody that has one of those jobs is going to want to wait for a bus and 3. Oftentimes one will be required to work past their normal ending time and now with as gutted as the 501 is that will probably mean missing the last bus. The area is poorly planned and would not benefit from running Link on I-5 at all.

      It is much better served to go down 99 and serve the Casinos and Smoke Shops etc. If you’re even riding Link in that area that’s probably where you’re going to be going, because it would be a fool’s errand to try to ride it all the way to Seattle. That’s what the 594 is for. In my case I ride a 402 to catch a 578 and skip the busway.

      1. Thank you for that perspective. I forgot about Emerald Queen Casino. That is probably the second most popular destination between Tacoma and Rainier Valley. But unfortunately, like Tacoma, it sits a really long ways away from everything. I just don’t see the value of light rail going all that way, but as you say, if you did run light rail all the way to Tacoma, that route would make more sense (to serve other Puyallup reservation land).

        I think BRT along 99, from SeaTac to the Emerald Queen Casino would make the most sense. Add in the other suggestions I made above (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/11/29/informed-speculation-what-15-billion-might-buy/#comment-563954). Of course, this would mean some back tracking for those getting to the casino from Tacoma.

        You could, of course, add a bus station on the freeway (with exclusive lanes) where 99 and I-5 cross. Instead of Tacoma buses stopping off at the station close to Highline CC, they would stop off at this station. It would take a little longer to get to SeaTac, but it would still be one transfer. I think you would want both bus stations, just so buses from Kent (east of the freeway) and Federal Way (and Auburn and Milton) could easily connect to Link (and SeaTac). I’m thinking each express bus to Seattle would make only one stop along the freeway, but if there was enough demand for both, it could easily be adapted to serve both (e. g. if enough Tacoma riders really want a fast ride to the airport and other riders really want to get to Emerald Queen Casino, then the express buses to Seattle could serve both).

        More than anything, though, I appreciate this:

        it would be a fool’s errand to try to ride it [Link] all the way to Seattle

        I agree with that, which is why I think it doesn’t make sense to run it all the way there. The vast majority of riders simply want to get into Seattle, and Link won’t do that great of a job, even if went all the way to Tacoma.

      2. There are special grants for bus service on reservations. For suburban reservations it seems to me there is a special case for more federal support than usually provided for light rail.

      3. I do think that having Link to Tacoma should still be a goal. Getting to SeaTac Airport would be made much easier. The 574 could be truncated to Tacoma Dome Station. It makes sense to take it not as the two end points but as a matrix. I think that the ridership between Tacoma and Federal Way and Federal Way and the airport would make it. Logically, I would imagine that the stops for South Link would be Tacoma Dome, Fife, Federal Way Transit Center, Star Lake/Redondo, S 200th, and the Airport. 99 makes the most sense for all of this, but grade seperated so that it is quick.

  3. A depressing read. Oh well, it probably won’t matter, since Republicans are probably going to keep it off the 2016 ballot.

    1. That is a defeatist attitude. It is worth fighting even if nothing happens in time for 2016.

      ST will almost certainly continue trying to get something on the ballot in future years (2018 is a good year due to the senate race). Unless something radically changes the budget will be roughly the same.

    2. we just need to change the narrative so that the Republicans see the Puget Sound Region taxing itself as a positive for them

      1. changing narratives is fine and good, but it almost certainly won’t change how Republicans in state government vote.

      1. Channeling my inner d.p.

        Too many projects of dubious value, not enough money for the stuff we need in North King. Link to Everett via 1-5 over 99 is particularly frustrating; I’m open to being convinced it’s marginally worth it on the better alignment.

      2. What’s depressing about it is that there’s so little in Seattle.

        My understanding of Seattle Subway was that it was designed to agitate for Seattle chipping in extra, on its own, into ST3. I don’t hear much about that any more. The most memorable posts from Seattle Subway I’ve seen lately are nonsense about long range plans to tiny little suburbs of suburbs that most of us have literally never heard of.

        One single line funded by ST3 (maybe), with no talk of Seattle bootstrapping a second line at the same time – that’s pretty depressing.

      3. Newsflash to KPT: The world does not start and end in Seattle.

        In other news: Maybe people would like to go to Paine Field or Everett or Tacoma or the multimodal terminal in Mukilteo due by 2020.

      4. djw,

        I think this is basically par for the course.

        In Seattle, ST1 was (is) a couple of miles of tunnel, 3 underground stations, and a whole bunch of elevated and surface track.

        ST2 will be a few more miles of tunnel, 3 more underground stations, and a ton of freeway ROW.

        My argument here is that ST3 is likely sized to get from Ballard to the south end of downtown, with lots of underground stations and at least half of it underground. The strong emphasis on grade separation is going to reduce the total track miles, but this is not far out of line with previous packages. Totally new grade-separated track from Ballard to West Seattle would be significantly larger than anything ST voters have ever approved. I certainly wouldn’t mind more a more aggressive plan, but this isn’t disappointing.

      5. Yes, Joe, I’m well aware that the world doesn’t end at the city limits. That’s not my point. My point is that there are many mass transit projects with a far higher ROI inside the city than outside it. I’d guess even one of the various West Seattle plans has better ROI than any of the non-Seattle projects listed here. I understand that Sound Transit has a certain governance structure it has to work with. I also understand that at one point, Seattle Subway had a vision of breaking Seattle free from the constraints of that governance structure – I haven’t seen much about that vision in a long time.

        In one sense, I favor massive projects in the burbs, as it will mean a high enough revenue inside the city to build something actually useful. In another sens (channeling my inner d.p., as djw does above), I think that empty trains in the burbs will hinder transit’s credibility to the point where we don’t get anything else in the city, as the voters in the burbs won’t let us have it.

      6. Actually West Seattle has dismal ROI. Not as bad as the Eastside, but far worse than Lynnwood-Everett or even Federal Way-Tacoma.

        West Seattle is extremely expensive to serve, has relatively low density, and a relatively small population base.

  4. I have a feeling that Sounder South is going to see a dramatic increase in service, along with a new station or two in the mix

    1. I was thinking along the same lines. Kent and Auburn need more Sounder service, not Link to Federal Way and Tacoma. The Federal Way mayor may claim he needs Link, but what the community really needs is more service on the 577. Similarly, what Tacoma really needs is more buses and Sounder trips, plus HOV lanes on I-5 through Tacoma.

      1. In 2017 Amtrak Cascades will serve Tacoma Dome. If some sort of Railplus program is implemented, that may serve part of Tacoma’s need for increased Sounder service.

        The Pierce Co delegation would need to know more about what the costs and reductions in commute times would be. I don’t see HOV 2+ cutting it. Pierce spends too much on “express” bus service that sits in congestion.

      2. The I-5 congestion is mostly within Tacoma. Tacoma to Seattle is usually free-flowing. HOV 2+ within Tacoma would probably not do much, but HOV 3+ would probably do a lot. Sometimes I wonder how WSDOT managed to warm up to the ideal of 3+ HOV lanes on 520, but nowhere else. They do an excellent job there.

      3. In theory, there’s a metric that WSDOT should be using to designate HOV lanes as 3+ or to make them 24 hr. It’s not clear that they’re folloing that guidance. SR-520 is a bit of a special case as the bridge is a two lane bottleneck currently. It will be interesting to see when the new bridge opens with more capacity if they’ll drop the HOV designation to 2+.

      4. Light rail to federal way was supposed to be on st2 until we had a recession. So we are essentially obligated to finish the job. It also facilitates any future extension to tacoma. Mile for mile light rail will beat out buses in productivity. We just gotta build it.

        It’s already funded to 272nd. We just have to get it the last three miles to federal way. Same distance as between s 200th street and Tukwila Boulevard station.

      5. We are not obligated; ST3 can supecede anything in ST2. ST2 was going to go to 272nd but it was truncated to 240th when the recession hammered South King’s tax revenue. So 272nd is not funded. 320th was never in ST2 because even the pre-recession budget couldn’t fit it. When ST truncated it, Federal Way asked ST to do the designing to 320th in exchange. That does not obligate ST to build it.

  5. It’s not practical to send Everett Link on a diversion to the Paine Field area. The ridership potential is low there, since many workers live in the exurbs and rural areas where transit service is nonexistent or minimal. It would also increase travel times for through riders, hurting ridership potential between Downtown Everett and points further south. It’s only local politicians who want Link to serve Paine Field.

    It’s much better to do an I-5 and/or Evergreen Way/SR 99 alignment, which minimizes travel times, minimizes costs, and maximizes ridership potential.

    1. The alignments up to Ash Way are roughly the same.

      I agree serving Paine Field seems rather pointless for the cost when high quality bus service connecting to link would accomplish the same thing.

      I hope the SR 99 alignment is chosen even if it means not reaching Everett in this round.

      1. As an aside a summing ST wants to apply Lynnwood-Everett is a pretty good candidate for federal funding. This may be enough to fund the 99 alignment all the way to Everett.

      2. Chris +1 when it comes to Paine Field. Double talls running around Paine Field to link to Swift or Link on 99 would do great.

        But the politicians want Link………….

      3. Serving Paine Field would essentially be a hand-out to Boeing. Given all the wonderful things Boeing has done to get its employees out of cars and onto transit, I don’t think Boeing deserves any handouts. And, even if the train did go to Paine Field, Boeing probably wouldn’t even bother to run shuttles to connect the station with anything. Heck, by the time ST 3 gets built, Boeing might not even be in Everett anymore – they could decide to just move everything to South Carolina and its lower labor costs.

      4. Boeing isn’t going anywhere for a while. Their investments in Everett are a bit too substantial to just walk away from.

        That said the next clean sheet design they do may very well not be built in the Puget Sound area.

    2. would rather depend on whether Paine Field will get airline service in the end … although this could easily be a bus connection to Link rather than a dedicated airport route diversion

      1. I think frankly the fact there are 270,000 tourists from around the world going to Future of Flight (crude average of 730+ per day) would make that irrelevant when coupled to Boeing, Flying Heritage Collection, several flying schools, Historic Flight Foundation, and several major maintenance shops for jetliners.

        At the least get some Double Talls going around the airport to feed a major trunk line.

      2. I’m sure any attempt to get passenger service to Paine Field would meet huge NIMBY opposition. To the people who live near the airport, planes=noise, and passenger flights=more traffic.

      3. More importantly, no feasible commercial service out of Paine is going to be able to operate at competitive fares, so any grand push to fashion it into a second major Seattle airport is doomed to failure.

        By the time this hypothetical line arrived at the terminal, the terminal, the check-in desks will have already sprouted weeds.

      4. The demand to turn Paine Field into a major airport with passenger volumes on the order of what SeaTac carries is most certainly not there. A few people may be willing to make compromises on the schedule and pay an extra $200/ticket to avoid the hassle of driving from Everett to SeaTac – maybe even enough to fill up a few small-plane flights to major destinations.

        But it will never be enough to justify Link service to Paine Field, especially since people that are willing to pay an extra $200 on a plane ticket to avoid a long drive are most certainly NOT the people that will ride public transportation to avoid a $30 parking expense. Especially since parking at Paine Field would almost certainly be a lot cheaper and easier than parking at SeaTac.

        The issue still remains whether any commercial service to Paine will overcome the inevitable NIMBY opposition.

      5. On that comment asdf, I think we find agreement. Granted if ST3 to the voters includes light rail I’ll support it. But for now, the goal should be a better bus network.

        I mean if Seattle wants a second commercial airport – that’s what Boeing Field could be for. Then go ahead and put light rail to the terminal.

        I also think it’s time we heard from the Mukilteo mayor :-).

      6. We did hear from the Mukilteo mayor (and Council) when they commented on the draft SEIS for the LRP.

        They want light rail on Airport Road. They would like it to serve Boeing and the other businesses in the Southwest Everett Industrial Center. But they are opposed to any extension of light rail to serve a proposed terminal or commercial service.

        All politics is local, I guess.

      7. I doubt either Paine or Boeing field will ever see much beyond air taxis and charters for passenger service.

        The ULCCs like Allegiant and Frontier, while they often serve secondary airports, only really go places where the airport is begging them for service. I don’t think there is a single case of a US airline starting service where the owner of the airport actively opposed scheduled passenger service.

        With the 3rd runway the only capacity problem Seatac currently has is a lack of gates during certain times of the day. This is mostly a problem for Delta’s expansion as the port can usually find a gate or two for new service.

  6. Your idea of Ballard-UW + West Seattle to downtown, tunneled up to Belltown and Seattle Center, could be a very worthy alternative to a modified ‘green line’ west-side Seattle route.

  7. Two things:

    1. We need to push ST to go for FFGA agreements in Seattle. They didn’t in ST2 in order to go after Lynnwood funding.

    2. A 50% FFGA (like U Link) would mean $6.2B in Seattle. That could mean Ballard Spur ($2B) + Ballard/DT Upper QA-less Option A ($2.8B) and the DT tunnel (1B) – leaving .4B – creating financing (extend ST1/ST2 capital funding and put West Seattle construction into the future) could probably us to the junction.

    West Seattle is clearly priority #3 though.

    1. Serving Interbay instead of Queen Anne and Fremont would be a disaster and an affront to everybody who responded to ST’s survey. Interbay is a wasteland of light industrial and suburban-style shopping centers.

      I’d rather build a line to Lake City than spend money on an Interbay light rail corridor.

      1. People love Option D, sure, but its exorbitantly expensive and high risk primary to serve Upper QA. The most populace part of Fremont would be served by the Spur Line. At some point you have to make value decisions – upper QA fails the sniff test.

        Lake City has nothing to do with this discussion.

      2. The residential population of Fremont is north, but the business center is south. Fremonters may be satisfied by a stop at 50th or so, but the rest of Seattle would be scratching their heads.

        I think the popularity of D is driven more by Fremont and speed than by Queen Anne. A light rail line that is slower than driving people hope other people will ride, so that they can drive more quickly; a line that is as fast or faster than driving gets people excited to ride it themselves.

      3. Fremont has as much population and employment as Ballard.

        The current transit service is slightly better than Ballard but won’t be if Ballard gets HCT and Fremont doesn’t.

        One alternative would be to serve Fremont on a Ballard-UW line. The elevated version of option B (via Fremont) or a version of option C (45th elevated) with Ballard and Fremont elevated segments similar to B. The big issue with either if these is I doubt elevated lines in the respective business districts would go over well with the neighborhoods involved.

      4. There is a clear bias towards tunneling anywhere near where people already live. The Ballard Spur is a must – it will serve the populatuon of Fremont. I tend to think the business core of Fremont can be served by a westlake/fremont/ballard 24th corridor streetcar – that would be a city project.
        Again – the risk is every bit as much of a concern as the cost with Option D. It would require an insanely deep upper QA stop.
        My primary point: The Spur line is more important than Ballard/DT. If paying for a gold plated Ballard/DT line takes the spur off the table – we shouldnt do it.

    2. I agree completely with Keith Kyle here. It is a matter of finding the best value, and Keith described it well. The best value by far is Ballard to the UW. This will include Fremont. How much of Fremont (AKA where in Fremont) is debatable. Lower Fremont would mean a little more walk-up riders, with a little more cost. Upper Fremont (50th or so) provides for a much better interaction with buses. Even though I personally would benefit a lot more from the former (I visit and work in Fremont a lot) I think the latter makes a lot more sense (there are way more people to the north who need a fast way to get onto Link).

      Once you provide this level of service, it is debatable whether UW to downtown is even necessary. But Sound Transit is convinced that they would have a crush loading problem if we only provided UW to Ballard service (i. e. too many people would funnel into trains heading downtown). Likewise, ST won’t allow interlining. I think both concerns are nonsense, but we can’t change their mind, so we are stuck trying to find another route to downtown (because we don’t want our system to actually reach capacity — or something). Of the routes going from Ballard to downtown, Corridor B or something similar is simply a better value, when combined with Ballard to UW service. Compared to Corridor D, you lose Upper Queen Anne and maybe a second stop in Fremont, but you gain two stops in Interbay and save an enormous amount of money. Money that could be put into additional Ballard stops (to the north via 15th, or to the west on the Ballard to UW line). Interbay is not a great stop, but it isn’t terrible. There are plenty of apartments nearby on both Queen Anne and Magnolia (as well as new ones being built). Plus it would serve as the main focal point for all Magnolia service. Magnolia does not have that many people, but all of them travel through that location. But like I said, the main advantage is saving money.

      Some of the extra money could go towards adding a station at NE 125th/130th. This would benefit Lake City and Bitterlake residents a tremendous amount. I would also pay for the Graham Street station (for Central Link). Both of these would be very cheap for the benefit gained. I would apply some of the extra money in making sure that light rail that goes from Ballard to downtown (via Belltown) also can serve BRT. Not buses the way that the old transit tunnel did, but real BRT (off board payment, level boarding, etc.). That might not be cheap, but it wouldn’t be that expensive either. Whatever is left could be spent on improving the BRT routes in the area, especially from the south (Tacoma, Renton, West Seattle). The state might pay for some of the HOV only ramps, but since the regular WSDOT budget is in shambles, it might make sense for Sound Transit to pay for it.

      1. of course, the NE 130th Street station could and should be funded by ST2; it need not wait for ST3, that may never be; ST just has to cash in the 500-stall garage for the NE 145th Street station (poorly located in a congested interchange).

    3. Kyle,

      Sorry to pop your balloon, sir, but there will BE no “FFGA grants” for a very long time. That will be at least until 2022 and only then if Democrats retake some important state legislatures to ensure a more even playing field in Congressional elections.

      It’s actually not possible to create a truly even playing field because Democrats cluster together so strongly in the cities. Sure, there are several 75-80% Republican districts out in the Great Plains west of the “lime line”, but there are far more 75-80% Democratic districts in the big cities.

      That’s why Democrats could win the popular vote for the House of Representatives in both 2010 and 2012 and still end up on the short end of the stick in terms of representation. We actually almost tied the popular vote in this year’s historic Republican wave.

      So there will be a Republican House through 2022 and there is a Republican Senate this year. The Transportation Bill needs to be renewed for the next five years this year, not in 2017 when the Senate may swing back to the Democrats. So DO NOT EXPECT anything for transit capital spending except buses in this bill.

      1. That’s why Democrats could win the popular vote for the House of Representatives in both 2010 and 2012 and still end up on the short end of the stick in terms of representation.

        Your larger point is well taken, but the Republicans won the vote for the House in 2010 by over 5 points.

      2. For clarity, when I said “this year” I should obviously have said, “early next year”. The point is that the new Congress will have to do the re-authorization, and it’s not “pro-transit” by any twisting of language. Apologies for my inaccurate description.

        And thanks to those of you who agree that it’s something with which to be concerned.

    4. Oh, apologies. My post was to “Keith Kyle”, not “Kyle S.”, though everybody needs to keep it in mind.

    5. A few things here:

      1. Sound Transit is almost certain to specify ST3 projects in terms of corridors. While budget will dictate what can be built there really is no alignment per se until a locally preferred alternative is selected during the EIS process. Even that is subject to change as we saw with U Link and East Link.

      2. Anandakos makes a good point about there being no major federal capital grant program for HCT at the moment. I expect one will return at some point, but to build a ST3 plan around that hope risks over-promising and under-delivering. Assuming Congress does nothing by the time ST finalizes ballot language it is best to go to the voters with what can be funded locally. It would be best to include some “if funding becomes available” wiggle room for additional projects/scope in case grant programs return in time to be useful for constructing ST3 projects.

      3. With or without federal grants there is a huge opportunity for Seattle Subway to come behind ST3 and fill some of the holes left by whatever ST proposes. UW-Ballard or a second DSTT are the easiest to do with the money availible. Downtown to Ballard or West Seattle might be possible if federal grants return or if there is ST money availible as well.

      1. Anakondos — Point taken but I don’t think its as clear as what you are saying – a transportation bill is likely to pass and everyone will line up for their pork, so expect some bi-partisan back scratching. Both Ballard/UW and Ballard/DT would meet the current FFGA guidelines – until we know otherwise, its the best guess at what will be available in the latter part of the decade when ST is writing grants.

        My larger point about promises is that ST is in the position to think slightly larger than what they are doing. They can put projects on the Ballot that are contingent on getting federal funding. They can renew ST1/ST2 funding in perpetuity in order to fund projects.

        Regarding Seattle Subway – we absolutely think that Seattle needs more funding than this package will afford. Plan A should involve Seattle directly funding whatever the biggest gaps are in the 2016 measure with a 2018 measure.

        We are also working on plans B and C. Getting ST3 funding from the state is far from assured.

      2. If there are 50 projects across the country that meet the FFGA guidelines, but enough money only exists to fund one of them, the feds will only fund one.

        I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over hoping that this one will be ours.

      3. We got a 50% FFGA on ULink. There as an FFGA on the initial segment. Thinking there could be one on DT to UW via Ballard is hardly outrageous.

      4. until we know otherwise, its the best guess at what will be available in the latter part of the decade when ST is writing grants.

        Why does this make sense to you? I don’t understand why you think it’s wise to plan without paying attention to national political developments and their predictable consequences.

      5. Assuming federal capital grants for rail return I agree with Keith that Seattle will be in a good position to receive money. Scoping ST3 with a 40-50% grant assumption for North King is not unreasonable. Similarly I expect ST to apply for federal funding for Lynnwood-Everett.

        For me the priorities are as follows:
        1. Get the legislature to approve ST3 funding.
        2. Develop plans B and C in case they don’t.
        3. Getting approval for ST3 or plan B at the ballot box.
        4. Develop plan A to fill the gaps in ST3
        5. Get plan A approved at the ballot box.

        Note that ST3+plan A+40-50% FFGA is a fair chunk of change. Certainly enough to potentially build all the things. (Junction-Downtown-Ballard-UW)

      6. DJW – You should read the rest of that comment. I don’t think ST should be blind to the political realities, but these projects are planned, built, and funded over more than a decade — even after they are voted for.

        ST can put together a long range plan within a measure where timing is contingent on Federal Funding sources. That gets a larger package built without additional votes and gives ST the flexibility to time their asks to the Fed.

      7. The grant funding for U-link was before the sequester and the Republican takeover of the Senate. If we can get something from the feds, great, but it would not do well to assume it.

  8. At the $4 billion+ level, there’s enough money to instead build the superior Ballard/Downtown option D ($3.5 billion) plus the downtown tunnel. This alignment swaps Queen Anne Hill and Fremont for Interbay, which is a clear upgrade

    Option “D” is the best of these options for Ballard to Downtown. if for no other reason than it goes where people live/work/want to go.

    Question is downtown … would we be better off having the tunnel run under 1st/2nd avenues? or 4th Avenue? 1st/2nd would allow for an extension of the mezzanine under pine st connecting the existing westlake station with the new Pike Place Mkt Station … whereas 4th ave could also have a connected station at Westlake (tho Im not sure if it would have to be deeper than the existing tunnel or squeeze in-between (anyone know how deep the existing tunnel is there?)

    1st/2nd could also have a station near the ferry terminal and one by the stadiums and then near Starbucks HQ before splitting off to go to West Seattle and for a MLK bypass connecting to the existing airport line (via Museum of Flight station maybe?)

    Anyway … the potential is wonderful to think about.

    1. Fun fun. I wish capacity wasn’t an issue, and we could just add it to the existing tunnel – it would make for better connections and save a ton of money, for which there are no shortage of worthy projects in the Seattle area.

      But given the constraints of the tunnel, the the alignments you suggest are pretty cool. Just so long as we get te transfer to westlake right.

      1. We have to build a transfer station at Westlake or thereabouts in order to connect the ballard line to the existing downtown tunnel. If we don’t have enough money to build downtown-ballard-UW at the same time as a second downtown tunnel, why don’t we build from the transfer station north to ballard, and then east to UW, while saving the second tunnel for ST4? I know we don’t have capacity for more trains in the existing tunnel, but there should be room for more passangers to transfer to central link. It will be a tough sell to convince voters to add a second tunnel before there are more branches to the line. I know the existing tunnel is capacity constrained, but the average voter does not.

    2. About politics, jw: the time this project will take is going to take a lot more than one election at every level. Forty years ago Jim Ellis and other Republicans founded the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle. It’s a hundred percent certain the another sane and responsible movement of younger people will take over the party the same way the current Southern Democrats did starting 1968: precinct on up.

      The same process will sooner or later turn the Democrats back into a party with the guts to say “working class” again, instead of just “middle”. And give both classes the representation they had in the years above. In my adult life, starting with the day the Viet Nam War went real, the one thing worse than a right winger for transit- and a lot else- has been a Democrat afraid of one.

      Also likely same new generation will form one or two new political parties- which countries ahead of us on transit all have. Not to worry- as in the past, they can formulate ideas that the other ones can steal. Especially for transit.

      I think the extremely uncertain time element chiefly means that our work needs a double focus- short and long-term flexibly combined so we can get the best of any political events, shifting approach as fast as possible Or in case we get an earthquake. Or an Oso-caliber mudslide from the Ship Canal to Dearborn.

      And Gordon also raises a good point about Underground Seattle. Main question isn’t depth of the DSTT, but vertical distance between our tunnel and Burlington Northern’s. Just north of Jackson, at about Fire Zone 810, diesel locomotives hauling both coal and really dangerous oil clear the roof of the DSTT by about five feet.

      In ground we had to inject with cement for about a year until we could turn it into ground solid enough to dig. From its natural state of water with a little dirt in it.

      And another aquatic feature: the river headed downhill for Spring Street’s namesake.

      It didn’t take long for the engineers get underway: “dewatering” by passing faster water past the stream diverted the Spring so well they had to moisten the ground to keep tunneling. But first information for this whole project, subway and elevated pillars alike, is the planet underneath them.

      Mark Dublin

    3. Gordon,

      A tunnel on Fourth of Fifth Avenue crossing the existing DSTT would have to be below the existing track level. The mezzanine occupies the volume between the existing station box and street level.

      1. That said this is something other systems have done in the past including building new platforms under existing stations.

      2. Chris,

        Certainly, it happens frequently. Mining out the new platforms would be …… “interesting”, no?

    4. The nominal alignment ST was talking about in its studies was under 2nd to Pine, shift to 4th between Pike and University, then shift to 5th between Yesler and Jackson.

      1. That would avoid the Westlake station box, for sure. But the tunnel would still have to underrun the DSTT because it’s going “across the grid” which means that it will be directly underneath building foundations. Yes, the DSTT is fairly deep just north of University Street, but I don’t think it’s deep enough to squeeze a diagonal tunnel in above it but below the buildings.

  9. Politically and financially I think there is no way we get both Ballard lines (downtown and UW). It wouldn’t be seen as fair if we skipped West Seattle, but with West Seattle, we’d be WAY too expensive (and building a line that just the density just doesn’t support).

    I think we need both, though. Fremont, Queen Anne, and Belltown need service, and Ballard needs fast service to downtown more than any other location.

    And the southern portion of north Seattle is not only the densest corridor not yet served, but also one of the slowest routes by car relative to rail, WITHOUT traffic. Lack of east west connection in north Seattle could seriously hamper growth. Not to mention, it could feed into a 520 BRT corridor very nicely.

    But we can’t have both. Too bad.

    1. Its not really “both ballard lines” – that designation is artificial – there is only one DT Ballard Stop. Its DT to UW via Ballard and it should clealy be built ahead of West Seattle.

      1. I like that way of selling it. Is it reasonable geometrically, though, to do Fremont-Ballard-Wallingford? How attached are we to being able to extend north from Ballard?

      2. I’d say we are very attached to a future extension north from Ballard. That is all about station design at Ballard to allow a future extension. Ballard/e Ballard/Fremont/Wallingford/ UW was the highest rated corridor ST studied. Its a must in the next package.

      3. I’m trying to understand this Downtown to UW via Ballard route (Ballard spur & Option D), and I think I’m liking what I’m hearing… Northern Fremont (like 50th & Fremont/Woodland Park Zoo) would be on the UW-Ballard part and Southern Fremont (34th & Fremont) would be on the Ballard-Downtown part?

      4. Poncho: Correct. Option D may be too expensive and risky though. – so an alignment that skips upper QA and serves E Magnolia might be an outcome of the System Plan (ST’s next step.).

      5. Upper QA might be too expensive and risky, but the alignment that goes under it (including Fremont and lower QA, with the speed and reliability of a tunnel) is by far the most popular. It does what light rail should do, and no other Ballard to Downtown option does: connect dense places with enough speed and reliability that it doesn’t make sense to drive.

        Upper QA is the lowest density stop with the most expense along the alignment – I wouldn’t be shocked if the stop was dropped, but I really don’t think interbay or westlake have the density, growth potential, or appeal to voters to make good light rail corridors.

        I don’t think we can get the whole package on ST3, but at the risk of making the perfect the enemy of the good, I also don’t think we should build it the wrong way.

      6. No one thinks that Interbay has the density or growth potential of Upper Queen Anne. It is just that building a line there could be substantially cheaper. With the extra money, you could add extra stations in Ballard (say 65th for the north-south line and 24th NW for the east west one). Or you could add other stations in the system (Graham Street and NE 125th/130th infill) plus plenty of other amenities. Again, it’s not that Interbay is a better route, it is that it is a better financial value, especially when the north end is served via very good east-west service (which is a much better value than anything we are considering).

        Oh, and I know lots of people chose Corridor D, but frankly, I don’t think that should matter that much. Given the choice between something that sounds great and something that sounds mediocre, people will always choose the option that sounds great. But these things cost money, and people were never given the choice of various options, with a set amount of money attached. Light rail from Kirkland to the UW sounds great, but not if it costs 10 billion dollars. If you start adding up the costs of all the things that we need, and all the things that we could build soon, suddenly Corridor D just seems like spending too much on too little. Again, I want to be clear — if we could only build one line to Ballard, and that line couldn’t be built from the UW, and that was the only thing we ever built, then I would definitely support Corridor D. But fortunately, we don’t have that limitation.

      7. “Upper QA might be too expensive and risky, but the alignment that goes under it (including Fremont and lower QA, with the speed and reliability of a tunnel) is by far the most popular. It does what light rail should do, and no other Ballard to Downtown option does: connect dense places with enough speed and reliability that it doesn’t make sense to drive.”

        That’s all true but we have a limited amount of money. If we spend it all on option D, that might be all we get if there’s no ST4. So we have to compare one superior line to two moderate lines, or to a moderate line and an extra station or two and something else. Those things might be a better overall deal for a wider cross-section of people. If we have to make a tradeoff, I don’t think upper Queen Anne is worth foregoing a 45th line or some of the other options, because it’s not really that dense (it’s less dense than any of Belltown, Uptown, Fremont, or Ballard, and they don’t want to hear about upzones). Even if they have to take a bus to lower Queen Anne and transfer to Link, their transit will still be twice as effective and reliable as it is now. That won’t satisfy one-seat riders but it will satisfy those who just want to go somewhere.

      8. Yes, what Mike said. Also, we want to take a look at the details of what a station like this would mean. Upper Queen Anne sits at a very high altitude, much higher than lower Queen Anne. This means a very long set of escalators.* I love escalators, but this will take a while and be very expensive. When all is said and done, taking a train to upper Queen Anne might not be that much faster than taking a train to lower Queen Anne, followed by a bus. This assumes that the lower Queen Anne stop would be integrated well with buses, especially buses going up the counter balance (AKA, Queen Anne avenue). I would consider this a must for any line from Belltown to Ballard. The monorail can serve the Seattle Center, but Link needs to serve Uptown and the buses. As it turns out, a station with a portal at Roy and Queen Anne Avenue would serve the most populous areas on Queen Anne quite well. The most densely populated census blocks are just west of there.

        If traffic is really a major concern when it comes to connecting upper to lower Queen Anne, there are a number of simple remedies, all of them a lot cheaper than a station. For example, Queen Anne Avenue is wide enough to have bus lanes. This is true not only getting up the hill, but on the top of the hill. You could simply take out some of the parking and give it to the buses.

        As it turns out, the distance between Galer and Roy is very short, but the altitude difference is huge. A station under Galer would not be much higher than at Roy. So, basically, if you really, really want a station at Galer, you could simply do all the (expensive) escalator work, but instead of doing it under Galer, you do it sideways, from Roy. You need to dig up (substantially) either way. That sounds crazy, but either way you have to dig up, and a rider needs to travel up to get to the surface (so you might as well travel over).

        Of course, you lose the direct connection between Fremont/Ballard and Queen Anne, but that just isn’t worth the money — according to the study, 2% of the trips from Fremont are to Queen Anne and 4% of the trips from Ballard are to Queen Anne (and that is using the term “Queen Anne”, which may include lower Queen Anne, which would be served). Again, if money was no object, and we didn’t build the east-west line, then Corridor D makes sense, but otherwise, there are way cheaper alternatives (and I want to use the money elsewhere).

        * I’m assuming that the plan was to use escalators. It is possible the plan was to use elevators (which have their own set of concerns).

      9. Elevators are the only choice after a certain depth. This would be like Beacon Hill Station so I assume it would have to be elevators. That also indicates the cost: it would be one of the most expensive stations on Link. Upper Queen Anne is not one of the most populous places in Seattle; hence the disconnect.

      10. Thanks, Mike, for correcting me. My fanciful idea (building the same escalator from Uptown) wouldn’t work (it is steep, but not that steep). I’ve never used the Beacon Hill station. Apparently their are four elevators and they are pretty fast, going from one place to another in twenty seconds. How many people do they hold (roughly)? In other words, if the station became really popular, would people have to wait to use the elevator?

      11. Some of the deepest subway stations in the world (Kiev, St. Petersburg) actually use escalators rather than elevators. Modern practice in Europe and the US seems to be to use elevators for stations over 100 or so feet deep.

        The elevators at Beacon Hill and Washington Park (Portland) seem to work well. On the other hand I’ve never been to either when an entire trainload of people was trying to get to the surface at the same time.

      12. I assumed it was deeper than St Petersburg, but then I can’t measure the distance. In any case, St Petersburg, Moscow, and Woodley Park (DC) have escalators that take five minutes from end to end, which is not very transfer-friendly. London has elevators for the deepest stations (Gloucester Road). The Beacon Hill elevators are large, maybe twice as big as a regular elevator. Peak hours everybody goes in in two or three elevatorfulls. Off peak there are only two or three people per train. There are four of them and they are fast.

        One peculiarity is that the display has names for all the intervening floors even though there are no floors or buttons for them. Reconstructing it from two YouTube videos, the floors going up are T, BP, TF, SV, B3, B2, B1, P. Presumably “T” means train, “P” parking (although there is no parking), and “B123” basement, but what do the others mean?

      13. FWIW option D for Ballard-Downtown has a slightly lower cost per boarding than option B. The estimated cost difference is $800 million but serves two neighborhoods roughly the same size as Ballard.

        That said, the $800 million difference between option B and D is enough to build option E as well. Queen Anne still gets service in the densest residential and commercial area.

        For Fremont I’d like to see cost and ridership estimates for a tunneled version of Ballard-UW alternative C (Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-U District).

    2. @Mike: Gloucester Road isn’t particularly deep, just old, and relatively uncongested [I assume you are referring to the Piccadilly Platforms since the District & Circle ones are only about one story down from the surface]. South Kensington, one stop closer to central London, and very busy thanks to shops, offices, UCL and the museums has been retrofitted with escalators [I remember riding lifts there as a boy, but there were definitely escalators there on Saturday].

      This sort of retrofitting has happened elsewhere: Angel and Charing Cross are two other recentish examples; in the case of Angel Station, there are two flights of escalators (future proofing for a possible future Chelsea-Hackney line), one of which has a vertical rise of about 90 feet.

  10. I’d really like to see the costs/ridership potential of Belltown/SLU/cap hill. Short enough to be cheap, snarled with traffic to the point that walking is almost competitive with driving, long enough that it isn’t comfortable to walk, and growing like mad.

    1. i.e. the gondola route that was being discussed a while back?

      I think the Madison BRT project could be a good case-study for Denny Way BRT line … both face similar topographical constraints and both are really congested corridors.

      Now … if you have the $$$ and the political will … something like Lausanne’s Metro line 2 would easily work for a Belltown – SLU – Capitol Hill line: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lausanne_Metro#Line_M2

      Another example of a mini-subway would be Perugia’s (yes that Perugia) mini-metro … http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/it/per/perugia.htm

    2. Madison HCT is among ST’s proposed additions to the long-range plan. One boardmember said it’s unclear whether SDOT’s Madison BRT is it — i.e., whether it supercedes the need. But if the HCT gets into the LRP, then we can argue that the HCT should be realized on Danny Way rather than Madison. Because LRP corridors are really general things — in this case east-west mobility in central Seattle. So Denny Way is close enough to be the “same corridor”, and that would save us from having to get another line added to the long-range plan.

    3. A subway to replace (more or less) the Metro 8 is a very good idea. Lots of people have discussed it here, and it is, arguably what should be built next. I think the general consensus is that it is second only to the Ballard to UW line in terms of ridership potential for the money. Unfortunately, it will have to wait until later (it isn’t part of the current planning process). Gondolas could work for much of it (the part west of Capitol Hill) and could be build much faster (and would not necessarily be redundant if and when a subway is built).

  11. Maybe we can get the east side to fund a second, transit-only bridge over the montlake cut, to tie 520 BRT into link? Expand the BRT to Bellevue and/or Redmond if there’s money left over, and leave the ends open for feeder routes from eastside neighborhoods.

    I think that cross-lake BRT is one of the better stories in this package – great bang for the buck, and with open ends, it could serve a lot of eastside neighborhoods without costing a ton.

      1. Rail doesn’t work well on the east side (outside of what we’ve already done +Redmond) because things aren’t in a line or high density, but BRT over 520 because it could fan out into the neighborhoods, offers a lot of connectivity for cheap. The limiting factor in its utility would be the connection to link – hence the eastside’s interest in improving the connection to the UW link station.

      2. The Eastside may have an “interest” in improving the connection to UW Station, but they don’t seem that interested in it. It’s mostly transit idealists talking about it, not Eastsiders.

    1. I don’t think there’s much awareness on the Eastside yet of the issues around connections at UW, among either riders or the electeds.

      But if Dow Constantine tells them he doesn’t want Eastside buses proceeding downtown after Link to UW opens, that will concentrate their minds rather quickly. Until/Unless they understand that buses won’t go downtown, they’ll persist in thinking of the UW connection as secondary to their interests.

      This definitely deserves to be in the mix for potential east subarea projects.

  12. What I would like to see (if money were no option):

    Basically Option “D” with the following “adjustments” (assuming tunnel under 1st/2nd aves)

    Ballard – Fremont – Queen Anne Hill (like Beacon Hill station) – Seattle Center – Belltown – 2nd/Pine – 2nd/Madison – Stadiums – SODO (Starbucks HQ area) – Georgetown -|| JUNCTION

    Diverging Routes:

    Georgetown – Museum of Flight area -|| Joins existing line to SeaTac
    Georgetown – South Park – White Center – Fauntleroy – West Seattle (multiple stops) – Alki point (have station portal open out of the side of the hill somewhere providing link service to the West Seattle waterfront)

    I chose this route for W. Seattle because it allows for service to South Park, White Center and Fauntleroy (where many downtown want to go) while still allowing for reasonably quick service to West Seattle stops.) … and according to Sound Transit folks whom I have chatted with at Open Houses would be easier than a ginormous viaduct from SODO into the West Seattle ridge across Harbor Island/Duwamish waterways … which in many ways would be harder to construct than simply mining longer tunnels.

    Any perceived time penalty could easily be made up for by having 3 or 4 tracks (think larger 2-track TBMs instead of the current single track ones) … which would allow for express train service to West Seattle either all day or rush hour direction (like the I5 express lanes) and with automated trains in a 100% grade separated line can run much faster than our current line anyway … which will also speed up the journey

    As for automation … we discussed this at last weeks Urbanist meeting. I feel that if the new line is 100% automated … the trains have to be compatible with the Tukwila and SeaTac stations et al … this would mean that the existing Link trains that go to the Rainier Valley would still have a driver but would be controlled by the computer as far as where the two lines would separate SE of I5/Boeing Field (they currently switch from essentially manual operation to cab signaling today (simple automation) … this could be easily done … and would allow for all the benefits of automation as well as keeping SeaTac – Rainier Valley service.

    w/addition of new line, 33-50% of Rainier valley trains could reverse at Rainier Beach station as 50% of new line would replace SeaTac / S. King County service.

    There is no technical reason why this couldn’t be done … would require some modification to the existing Link vehicles but the benefits of mixed service from SeaTac would outweigh any modification costs incurred.

    With automation … as long as the doors are on the platform the trains could actually be longer than the current 400′ or so maximum that Link was designed for (only an issue at Tukwila, SeaTac, S200, etc …)

    Automated trains could also be open-gangway style vehicles … all which would allow for additional capacity within the existing station platform dimensions.

    When all is said and done our system could look like this:

    A line (25%): Everett – Lynnwood – Downtown – SeaTac – Federal Way – Tacoma
    B line (25%): Everett – Lynnwood – Downtown – Rainier Beach
    C line (50%): Everett – Lynnwood – Downtown – Mercer Island – Bellevue – Overlake – Redmond
    D line (50%): Ballard – Queen Anne – Downtown – SODO – SeaTac – Federal Way – Tacoma
    E line (50%): Ballard – Queen Anne – Downtown – SODO – South Park – White Ctr – Fauntleroy – W. Seattle
    F line (peak direction) – Ballard -Q.Anne – Downtown – SODO – Fauntleroy – W. Seattle

    1. What about east-west connections? Also, if money were no object, while a dream we all play with, is probably a bad habit. It 1) distracts us from what we can (and need to) do, and 2) of we do get what we want, we often end up with routes that don’t have sufficient ridership. That means larger public subsidies and longer headways, eroding political support and the utility of all that track (and cutting into the bus system budget that feeds the lines).

      I’m by no means free of reality-free transit dreams, but I think we are well served by focusing our efforts on ridership and mobility.

      This is why equal taxing across all subareas is such a problem, because we have to pay for trains to terrible stations, in addition to the stations themselves, while we wait to build lines that would take half as much subsidy to operate, thanks to fares.

      1. Well everything I mentioned is more or less what seattle subway is advocating for I just have the west seattle line running farther south so not really out of the question

      2. EHS’s vital point is that it is frustrating to watch as Martin’s meticulous dollar-for-dollar assessments of the available packages*, which pointedly found the inclusion of West Seattle of dubious value and equally dubious likelihood in this round, stoke yet another onslaught of fantasy-mapping, branch-concocting, Museum of Flight-serving ridiculousness.

        Martin and I certainly disagree a lot on priorities, and on political quasi-truisms versus usable outcomes, but we’re both desperately trying to see a path forward for the stuff that has a shot in hell of making life better around here by virtue of perhaps actually existing. The “build all the things” dreamweaving is both distraction and obstruction to that goal.

        *(assuming we continue down our possibly-electorally-unsustainable path of non-variable sub-area taxing rates)

      3. I suppose you might technically be right with the 952, provided you are willing to arrive several hours before the museum opens.

        On a more serious note, I don’t see a reason for the museum of flight to be a super-high transit priority. The typical person goes there on the order of once a lifetime, so even if the total cost (rental car + museum admission) is close to $100, it’s not the end of world. There is also another flight museum in south Seattle with much better transit accessibility.

        We need to focus our transit dollars, especially huge capitol dollars, on places that people go repeatedly, where the cumulative savings over driving back and forth every day actually matters.

      4. asdf, Okay

        The Museum of Flight in Seattle is home plate for Seafair flight ops. So watch this you mean little person: http://youtu.be/rGMyZ8dtSeo

        As to the Future of Flight, you just wanna shut me up. You hate me. I get it. I’ve always said Paine Field, not wanting to contract the “save my bus” disease afflicting King County politics. You’re all tip and no iceberg: http://youtu.be/qW4UckbTAJE

      5. ASDF, as to, “We need to focus our transit dollars, especially huge capitol dollars, on places that people go repeatedly, where the cumulative savings over driving back and forth every day actually matters.”

        Agreed. That means serving job centers like Paine Field.

        Perhaps if you’d say that without the usual trolling insults, we’d actually come to some agreement.

      6. It’s not trolling to point out that Boeing’s support of transit is almost nonexistent, it wants tax breaks to come to it (which is effectively what the Payne Field alternative is, as well as Swift II’s priority over Edmonds – Lynnwood), and it could well vacate Everett while Link is half built. Even in the 1990s the tech companies in Silicon Valley had shuttles all over the Bay Area, and from their buildings to the nearest Caltrain station. Boeing hasn’t done anything like that. In fact, Boeing is responsible for much of the region’s sprawl, by locating in transit-unfriedly areas and switching people arbitrarily between plants. My parents say the reason Kirkland was built up is it’s halfway between Everett and Renton, and since people didn’t know which plant they’d be at they bought a house in the middle. We’ve just considered it a peculiarity of our region, but it’s really the buildup of exurbia decades before the concept of exurbia existed.

        I’ve met asdf and he’s a down-to-earth, thoughtful guy, not trolling or insulting. It’s just that some people don’t put the priority on Payne Field or Boeing as much as you do. Yes, Metro has a route, a half-hourly milk run. When I’ve taken it to the Museum of Flight, it wasn’t heavily used. And why is Boeing Everett a must-serve when Boeing Renton was not, and Boeing never expressed any discontent about that?

      7. Okay Mike, I’ll pull the claws back and make this the last comment of the night.

        I don’t think calling for transit service to Paine Field is a bad idea. In fact, I think Paine Field is underserved.

        Also as to Boeing leaving? Boeing & IAM 751 have made long-term commitments to Paine Field via the 777X contract. That said, I am a light rail light supporter in lieu of being strident due to the nature of the sheer cost.

        Also Mike one reason why Boeing doesn’t locate with density is because airports & residential density don’t exactly mix. Actually they conflict greatly.

        Great comment about the Museum of Flight milk run. I just want the same service not just for Paine Field’s museums but also the industrial & education facilities out there. Why oppose that? Oh because it’s anti-density to some which is nonsense – most people aren’t aviation geeks/avgeeks and don’t want to live next to the thrill/nuisance of airport noises.

        As far as Boeing tax breaks, switching plants and not serving Boeing Renton right, no comment.

        Nice somebody met ASDF in person. :-)

      8. Everybody agrees on transit to Payne Field. It is underserved. The issue is routing Link there. Those who oppose Link support including it in BRT.

        Boeing Renton has residential density nearby. With The Landing now it has residential density practically next door.

        asdf is the founder of the Seattle Transit Hikers group on Meetup. I’ve been on several of those hikes. There never has been one around Everett I think, the closest is the Mukilteo ferry, so there may be an opportunity there.

  13. hopefully not OT …

    Under Seattle downtown (which will inform the decision as to where a new tunnel might run) are:

    1. DSTT
    2. Great Northern Railway tunnel (Amtrak/Sounder/BNSF)
    3. SR99 (if they fix Bertha)
    4. major sewer line running under downtown
    5. Seattle Steam pipes that criss-cross downtown and go up to First Hill

    1. The DSTT, BNSF tunnel, and the sewer line are the major obstacles from what I understand. The other utilities are relatively easy to relocate if ended and the 99 tunnel doesn’t really get in the way.

  14. A lot of people have remarked that there don’t seem to be many “good options” for the Eastside. While transit projects on the Eastside will probably gain fewer riders than those in Seattle (for obvious reasons), there are still tremendous opportunities for transit to make a huge impact. I made a map of some of my preliminary proposals: http://tinyurl.com/ol23xnt

    While it might not be possible to build all of these in ST3, I believe some of the highest priorities are:

    -Extension of Link to Redmond: Redmond is a major urban center, and the current 542/545 experiences significant congestion approaching Downtown Redmond, which can be addressed by Link.
    -Build a transit-only bridge connecting 520 to UW Station. This will allow 520 buses to be truncated at UW Station without worsening reliability/travel times, and will drastically improve connections from the Eastside to North Seattle.
    -Either retro-fit Link between South Bellevue P&R and Downtown Bellevue to allow buses to travel on it, or create a new busway on that corridor. Congestion on that corridor is terrible, and buses from Issaquah, Renton, Factoria, etc. should not have to sit in it.
    -BRT on the Cross-Kirkland corridor, to give Kirkland a trunk rapid transit line
    -Work with WSDOT to make sure that buses have a reliable congestion-free path on the I-405 corridor. Since WSDOT is already planning to widen 405, this should be relatively easy.
    -Build the “Bellevue College” connection described elsewhere in the blog

    Other projects that would be helpful, but are probably less of a priority:

    -Make the 522 corridor a complete BRT line, with bus-only lanes and stations in the center of the roadway, plus signal preemption. This is not as important since bus-only lanes are already available throughout much of the corridor, but bus speed could be improved more.
    -Build an elevated busway that allows 405 buses to serve Bothell CC without delay
    -Build an elevated busway through Renton that allows 405 buses to serve Renton without delay
    -Build an elevated busway through Factoria that allows I-90 buses to serve Factoria without delay
    -Speed up the 554 through Issaquah


    1. The comments are directed at what ST has already studied. There are certainly projects worth building on the Eastside.

      Here is an article we (Seattle Subway) wrote about it; https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/07/23/better-eastside-rail/

      405 BRT is also a worthy project. The problem is that 405 BRT is a hard sell as the primary benefit of a large transit package for the Eastside. There is a very real anti-bus voter pattern on the Eastside. A bus only project seems unlikely to bring votes.

      1. 405 BRT may be a hard sell because it isn’t that good, but I don’t think we can assume that the east side voters hate buses. They voted for buses before (with ST1). In other words, I think they really like Sound Transit buses (after all, they don’t even have rail yet) but hate Metro. I think that attitude is shared by many riders, actually. To be fair, Metro has to do the heavy lifting, it can’t cherry pick popular suburban express service like Sound Transit does, but that doesn’t change the politics of it.

    2. Finishing the Redmond connection is the no-brainer on the Eastside, and even that has a baffling design feature as depicted by ST:

      The agency intends to bypass downtown to a massive P&R at the very end of 520, and then force a mile-long backtrack of dubious ROW priority in order to reach the place that genuinely resembles an urban center.

      It’s one of the oddest expressions of anti-urban priorities in a long litany of expressions of anti-urban priorities.

      1. What alternative ROW would you imagine a more direct route into downtown Redmond using, without tunneling of course? Taking into account that 520 is already descending a steep hill, that the train would have to somehow cross the freeway between downtown Redmond and Overlake Transit Center. The proposed route was probably drawn that way because it was the simplest route engineering wise, not because of some inherent bias of P&R’s from Sammamish over downtown Redmond.

        Of course, things are not in stone yet and it’s not too late to switch to a straighter routing if Sound Transit can find a way to do it for an acceptable budget.

    3. @ Joshua Fan, I’d quibble with some of the details, but I like this map a lot. It’s a much better way forward than the “pick one megaproject and hope the rest of the eastside applauds” approach. This gets a lot more service to a lot more people.

      The eastside has a lot of good transit destinations, but no more great ones. One look at the geometry of your map tells us it’s going to take an unreasonable amount rail-building to get to all of them. In the shorter run, every rail line built is two or three bus lines foregone. More if there’s another lake rail crossing in the mix.

      I’m somewhat supportive of a version of 405 BRT. I don’t want to spend too much money on it because I think there are better priorities. It’s somewhat valuable to have better commuter service, but it does very little to encourage better land use. The commuter belt will demand some version of it, because otherwise there’s nothing for Woodinville or Bothell or Renton. A modest approach that takes advantage of existing highway infrastructure, but doesn’t kick in huge amounts of money for a few more ramps, seems about right.

      (Since much of the ridership for 405 BRT will come from north of the Snohomish line, Snohomish should be kicking in a proportionate share of the funds. Even if it forces a further shortening of the Link alignment.)

      Sound Transit has not studied a 405/ERC combo as you’ve mapped. I don’t think we know enough yet to assess whether it’s better than 405 BRT and Kirkland-Bellevue BRT running in parallel. But it’s worth a serious look. On one hand, it adds useful destinations to the 405 alignment. On the other hand, there will be some travel time penalties to running through Kirkland, particularly is there’s a significant deviation off the corridor for downtown. There have to be some operational savings too at the off-peak hours if they can serve all of 405 and Kirkland-Bellevue with a single set of buses. At a minimum, ST should consider the option you’ve mapped before building either of the other studied options.

      Within downtown Kirkland, I’d maximize use of the corridor, and make a short deviation off the corridor to downtown via 6th St rather than the longer deviation you’ve mapped. There’s very little space for busways around there, so everything will get stuck in traffic at peak. There are potential fixes on 6th St which would make the tradeoffs of a downtown deviation acceptable (and I think a future transit center on 6th St is worth a look). State St, which you’ve mapped, is an unfixable mess for transit.

      I’d put Woodinville way down the list for anything other than express bus, if even that. The ERC (Renton-Woodinville) study found hopelessly poor ridership in Woodinville.

    4. I agree with Dan. I think this list sounds very good and very promising. That pretty much covers every important area of the east side with very high value projects. I think Keith’s idea for east side rail is very nice, but has several flaws. Another crossing of the lake would probably be extremely expensive. Light rail to Factoria/Bellevue College/Eastlake is justified, but getting through the slough could be very problematic. Issaquah is a terrible location for light rail, but outstanding for express bus service.

  15. I think at this rate and cost somebody needs to be talking Sound Transit bus services to Paine Field……………

    I am not the biggest fan of Link for Paine Field at this time. I am the biggest fan of transit service to Paine Field’s many tenants – not just Boeing and museums. Big difference.

    Double talls to link to Link or Swift I anybody or is it just me?

  16. Put Ballard, Kirkland and Redmond within 5 stations of Children’s Hospital, Swedish Hospital, Fred Hutch, Seattle U, UW Medical Center, UW, Woodland Park Zoo, HarborView and U Village. Where else is there greater ridership potential and a lower subsidized ride. Goal for PT is to remove as many cars off the road as possible. For Everett? Maybe a LR triangle starter line involving Snohomish to Mukiteo to Marysville? Stops at Boeing Plant(40,000 employees), Everett CC (20,000 students), Ferry (10,000+ riders/day) and Sounder stops.
    Numbers are healthy enough: Mukiteo population 23,000, Marysville 63,000, Snohomish 10,000, Everett 105,000. For Tacoma continue to build out their system with a few more stations.
    ST4 – Connect Tacoma to SeaTac, Ballard and West Seattle to downtown, Redmond to Bellevue, Everett to Lynnwood

    1. ST’s service area ends in Everett, so no Marysville. (The area is Mukilteo – Everett – Mill Creek – Bothell – Woodinville – Redmond – Issaquah – Renton – Kent – Auburn – Orting – Pierce/Thurston border. Trivia note: one of these sides is more rural than the others. :)

      1. It doesn’t cost money to annex an area, it’s just a question of whether the area votes to pay ST taxes and ST is willing to annex them. But there’s a bigger issue that should make transit fans wary of annexing. ST already covers the largest cities and suburbs. Annexing means going further into the exurbs and bringing in boardmembers and voters who are most likely to be hostile to urban needs and taxes (e.g., more Seattle lines) and support cost-ineffective exurban luxuries (e.g., trains to nowhere). For instance, Sound Transit could cover the entire I-5 corridor from Canada to Oregon. But that would give Skagit and Clark Counties a 2/8 vote on what the Seattle-Bellvue-Tukwila core should have. That’s a recipe for even worse stagnation and neglecting the core.

        Also, Marysville can buy service from ST now without annexation. If Marysville wants the 512, it just has to pay for the extension. Pierce Transit and Intercity Transit are doing that for peak-hour Gig Harbor and Olympia service. Any annexation agreement would certainly specify what initial services the area would get, and that’s essentially the same service it would get with an out-of-area agreement.

      2. Okay Mike….

        So could Skagit Transit perhaps um, buy a Sounder North southbound to Everett & northbound to Mount Vernon run or two runs in lieu of bus service?

        Just a thought. Over to you Mike.

      3. Yes. But that would involve expensive BNSF track leases. There was a study last decade of a commuter train from Bellingham to Everett transferring to Sounder. It has been collecting dust because while the intervening counties are mildly interested in it, they’re not interested enough to pay for it. (And since then, oil trains have filled the tracks.)

      4. Actually, I wasn’t being serious about annexation. But looking at a map I see that the Marysville Mall is only 3.5 miles north of Everett Community College. Maybe once a spur got built to ECC then Marysville might express interest. Also Lake Stevens is only 7 miles from Marysville so triangle might work out, ie, right leg would connect to Lake Stevens park-n-ride and Snohomish(42,000 pop) Then leg from Snohomish to Everett Mall, Paine Field and Mukilteo. Third leg would be Mukilteo to Everett Community College up to Marysville.

      5. I couldn’t find the primary link or I would have given it. If you search for “Bellingham Everett commuter rail” it brings up some newspaper articles about it.

      6. If lack of money one day forces the second Vancouver train to be truncated back to Bellingham, adjusting the schedule to turn it into a real commuter train under the Amtrak brand might be the best way for the truncated train to get riders.

        Right now, a commuter schedule would not work because the train would have to leave Vancouver way too early in the morning to arrive at Seattle in time for a normal work day.

  17. Until we see something similar to the following alignment is studied, I’m not willing to give up on a Eastside Light Rail line in addition to Eastlink:
    • Kirkland (Station at 6th and Central) via diversion and the ERC to Overlake Hospital Station
    • Interlining with East link through downtown Bellevue
    • South Bellevue using Elevated tracks with stops at Factoria and BCC
    • Using the median of I-90 to service Issaquah(Likely some sort of diversion)

    The alignment above would have lower costs than were studied as 25% of the tracks already built and the only major aerial section is from South Bellevue PR to 150 SE/I-90. The ridership would also be far higher due to moving the Kirkland station to within a half a mile of all of Downtown Kirkland and servicing Downtown Bellevue without a transfer Penalty.

    PS the Cross lake HailMary has not come in yet and it’s a long-shot but let’s wait and see before writing off East side rail and settling with BTR

    1. The ERC is a trail and should remain that way. I’ve heard talk about a trail and rail corrdior co-existing side by side, but the fact remains that it is not possible to build tracks there without significantly degrading the quality of the trail. Turning the cross-kirkland trail into a 4-foot sidewalk right up against speeding trains is NOT an option.

      1. I love the ERC trail as a trail too. But I’ve never seen a serious Sound Transit proposal for Kirkland that doesn’t use the corridor.

        (And, no, the over-hyping of 405 BRT with imaginary connecting service at NE 85th doesn’t count. Even if they sunk a couple of hundred million into that thing, it would still be inferior to the Metro service we have today).

        It won’t be a 4-foot sidewalk. It’s a 100-foot wide corridor. It’s just not that hard to fit a great trail and a transit corridor in that space.

      2. @asdf, It isn’t materially narrower in very many of the relevant places. There are a lot of encroachments in the corridor in or near Renton, but nobody’s serious about running any transit on that part of the corridor any more. The only serious pinch points that ST identified in the Kirkland-Issaquah study are around Hospital Station and Lake Bellevue.

        Not much by way of slope issues in that area either. The only challenge I can think of, and it didn’t worry ST much, is at the back of the South Kirkland Park & Ride where there are slopes on both sides of the current trail for a few hundred feet.

        Relative to any other potential corridor I can think of, these are easy problems to solve.

        Sound Transit is committed to preserving the trail, and has even included trail costs in the estimates for transit on the corridor to comply with rail-banking requirements.

        Both ST and City of Kirkland think it’s easily manageable (although at this early point in corridor planning, they may not yet be aligned on how). Nobody is picturing this as a narrow sidewalk.

  18. Much has been said on the criticality of a Ballard – UW line in Seattle, and while I would selfishly love a stop right next to my office, I’m also quite happy to get within walking distance. As noted, a rapid streetcar along Westlake is a future possibility, as well – one that the City could fund.

    Politically West Seattle is also a must, though the ‘light’ plan with stops at Delridge and the Junction would be sufficient to radically transform mobility on the peninsula. Orient the Rapid Ride C line to serve that stop and you also get a lot more service hours to create more connection routes in that area, too.

    What’s important to me, more than anything, are these:

    Sound Transit *must* pursue federal funding for the North King subarea projects. We could do so much more with a 50% FFGA, and as noted, the Seattle routes have the best chance of getting that kind of funding. Chase after money for Everett, too, but don’t throw away 3 Billion further south so you can maybe get a few hundred million in Snohomish.
    The authorizing legislation, and ultimately whatever measure that goes to ballot to spend it, must authorize the supporting taxes in perpetuity. We need to get away from piecemeal funding authorizations that expire and move towards building as much as we can, as quickly as we can. When one project is done and paid for, start building the next one on the list – there are plenty to choose from. Olympia has proven to be ineffective at getting us the funding we need, but is really fond of playing games, so let’s at least try to take away the football.

    1. For city funding of bus and bike improvements and the like, I agree: we need permanent tax increases.

      For sound transit projects, we’re taking out a long-term loan each time we build a project. I don’t want to have to wait 30 years for us to pay off that loan to get going on the next project, so we have to have a new tax increase and vote.

      (the alternative way of reading it – new tax each time we finish building – would be a path to infinite taxation, which even a hard core liberal like me isn’t down with)

      I think the current scheme is pretty good, all things told. We’re behind on transit investment – it allows us to play catch-up, and pay for it over the period when we’ll be getting use out of the investment, rather than all up front. The balance between interest paid/ ability to do big projects is about right, I think.

    2. It’s already that way. ST1 and 2’s tax authority are in perpetuity. However, ST has promised to roll them back if the board decides not to build any more capital projects or the public stops approving them. The issue is not that we can never build these lines with ST1/2 funds, but that we can’t start until the ST1/2 bounds are significantly paid off, which is around 2040 or 2050. If we did that they wouldn’t open until 2055 or 2065. By that time most of us will be dead or retired, and another generation will have suffered their whole life on slow/unreliable/overcrowded/infrequent buses that don’t compete well with driving. The purpose of ST3 is to raise enough tax authority to start these projects now rather than in the 2050s. Because a city of 650,000 and a region of 4 million should have this level of transit infrastructure — or rather it should have significantly more. A city in Europe or Asia would have the number of lines as Seattle Subway — plus a comprehensive 24-hour frequent bus network to complement it.

  19. Why does the agency think they need to spend money like a drunken fool when only not recently they had to curtail service because the budget was lacking?

    1. I think you’ve got Sound Transit & King County Metro confused. Both agencies are separate silos.

      1. I’m still wondering how many riders new ST lines will take from Metro. The swing voter will be more likely to support ST3 if ST can demonstrate that it’s more cost-effective to operate rail. Of course, no one paying for any of these studies seems to want to look at this basic truth..

    2. The issue is how much the region needs the infrastructure. Transit lines aren’t the same thing as a vacation in Bangkok or a spree in Vegas or whatever else you think drunken fool spending is. Either these projects are essential and important or they’re not. If they’re important, we should raise the money and build them. If they’re not, we shouldn’t. Your statement suggests you drive everywhere, don’t take transit, don’t know anyone who would benefit from transit, and aren’t concerned about rising congestion or the environmental issues of driving. In that case these projects would not be important to you. That’s the issue, not how much ST spends. Everything is a tradeoff. If we don’t build these transit projects, then other things will happen, and those things will impose some costs (hindering commerce, making it harder to get around, inequality between car-haves and car-have-nots, making our region less able to cope with security shocks or economic shocks or oil-price shocks or climate shocks). The alternative to these projects is not zero cost, it’s the cost of the do-nothing scenario.

  20. Martin,

    I’d like to reply to your brush off of a South King bypass in the linked article from May. Yes, an East Marginal Way alignment is questionable, but why would Link be routed that way anyway? It’s tremendously expensive to tunnel under the accesses from the hangars to Boeing Field for a line adjacent to East Marginal. If the route is along the Waterway, it’s inconvenient to whatever one is going that way to serve.

    No. A bypass should run between the railroad tracks and I-5 on the east side of Boeing Field. There is a long strip of otherwise useless land just wide enough to accommodate the new tracks, and north of Georgetown there is a natural transition to the existing trackage using the access loop around the Maintenance Facility.

    Everyone says “oh, Link will be so slow to Tacoma!” and everyone is right, especially so long as trains to and from Tacoma and deep South King County force everyone headed to downtown Seattle to make five (and soon likely six) extra stops along the way and amble along at 35 miles an hour for four and a half miles. Especially!

    Link to Federal Way and Tacoma will be a laughingstock without the Duwamish Bypass.

    Yes, there is certainly a market for some South King/Tacoma business to the Rainier Valley. But not enough to ruin the service for everyone else. Run the Rainier Valley trains to Sea-Tac on a schedule which has an express leave Westlake three or four minutes before the “via Rainier” local collecting passengers for Sea-Tac and south which will then arrive at Sea-Tac just before the following express arrives. The reverse can be accommodated northbound by having the local leave Sea-Tac a couple of minutes after the express delivers passengers bound for the Rainier Valley.

    The difference of nine minutes between the via Rainier routing and the Bypass is perfect for such an operation.

    1. What kind of money would we even be talking about for this express bypass track? Could this not be dirt cheap by US light rail construction standards? I agree if Link keeps going south to Tacoma this becomes important so that the entire line isn’t completely absurdly slow.

      1. Poncho,

        It would not be “dirt cheap” by the standards of early new-era US light rail systems: San Diego, Portland and Dallas. But it would be extremely cheap by Link standards, because it could be built almost entirely at-grade.

    2. I think this is actually a great argument against link to Tacoma (yet). If we see it as getting people who live in federal way and Tacoma to work in Seattle, rather than getting people from federal way to Tacoma, 1) it’s going to be absurdly hard to get the line fast enough to be useful, 2) we’re encouraging suburban rather than urban growth, BART style, and 3) there is clearly nowhere along the line, even Tacoma, with the kind of urban character needed to make light rail work.

      The money would be better spent growing Tacoma link to try to increase urban growth there, or on bus service. Then if Tacoma’s economy picks up, you can build Tacoma link to the north to reach Seatac, not the other way around. By then, hopefully there will be enough money to put the Rainier Valley segment underground, where it should be. Then we wouldn’t need a really expensive bypass to an already expensive line, to get to a location of dubious value. We’d have ridership going both ways, and enough speed to make the through trip work, too.

      1. EHS,

        You are absolutely correct that Link to Tacoma does not make sense yet. RossB and d.p. have both made great arguments against extending it south of Midway ever. If ST3 fails or Link extensions south of there are omitted and there are only going to be four (maybe five for a bus intercept around 599) stations served by such a Bypass, it doesn’t make sense.

        But if South King and Pierce are determined to push Link south to Tacoma Dome, in the absence of a large amount of highly urban development along it to attract short distance “light rail” type trips, the line is going to be a two-peaks-a-day failure without the Bypass.

      2. And, P.S. It would not be “an extremely expensive bypass”, at least, not if one uses the east side of Boeing Field rather than the west side. Even assuming $100 million for the flying junction at the south end, $80 million to underpass Airport Way north of Spokane Street at the north end and 3/4 of a mile of elevation south of Albro Place to avoid road complications, this could be done for just under $400 million. That’s using a rather generous $30 million per mile for an at-grade-on-flat-ground newly constructed double trackway with catenary and $80 million per mile for the elevation.

        There would be roughly 4.5 miles of at-grade construction or $135 million and 3/4 of a mile of elevated or $60 million, plus the two significant bridges noted above for a total of $375 million.

        There would also be some fairly minor costs to move operations currently at the back side of the City of Seattle traffic shops from its current location just south of Adams Street to the now apparently almost unused lot between the building at Adams. And finally, the WSDOT NW Region Signals Headquarters would have to be moved, because it would be orphaned by the trackage right next to the westbound Columbian Way to southbound I-5 tall ramp. But it looks more like a house than a significant office structure so not that much can be happening in there.

  21. This article makes it painfully apparent why we need to put DMU or EMU on the table. I’d like to see an Everett – Lynnwood (North Link connection) – Eastside Rail Corridor (with East Link connection) — Renton — Kent — Federal Way (South Link connection) — Tacoma — South Tacoma line, for example. .

    1. I’m not recommending this line but this is a mere example. It may be that we should consider a shorter DMU/EMU from Federal Way to Tacoma and extend it to Fort Lewis, for example.

      1. DMU only really makes sense for existing RR tracks. Any place it has been done in the US only has short segments of new track.

    2. I really like the concept, and to me the most obvious place to start is DuPont to Tacoma. The incremental cost is basically a few station platforms and the cars themselves, since the line is being rebuilt for passenger service anyway. The cost of turning a ten passenger trains per day line into a half-hourly passenger train line is basically a rounding error on one of the big projects.

      Furthermore, the buses that are there contend with heavy congestion and terrible routing that make them slow. Converting it to rail operation should have huge advantages.

  22. This article shows the painful way we’ve let ST set up “subarea equity”. Shouldn’t we be looking at rail where it’s the most cost-effective for the region rather than have five different districts that are treated like they have their own currency? Isn’t the intent of ST to create a regional transit system anyway? Perhaps we should include better justification criteria than mere geography for capital funding.

    1. I think it’s part of the legilslation that created ST, so it would have to be the legislature that changes it. There are two parts to subarea equity. One is home rule: taxes raised in one subarea can only be used to benefit that subarea. That was intended to prevent suburban money from going Seattle lines (what you call “most cost-effective for the region”), but it conversely prevents Seattle money from going to suburban extensions because they have more votes (the BART problem). So that part is not necessarily bad and it may be the only thing enabling a Ballard line and second DSTT at all.

      The other part is a common tax rate across subareas. That seems to be an ill-advised thing that may have been inserted by a few people, and its effect may not even be what they intended. It would be a fantastic mathematical coincidence if every subarea’s highest-prioritiy projects and willingness to pay were exacty proportional. Perhaps it was intended to counter the anti-tax sentiment in the outer subareas, to prevent them from being zeroed out. But that’s the best argument I can think of. Meanwhile Seattle is suffering with much less HCT than it needs, and the Eastside may be getting more than many of its residents want.

      1. The common tax for the entire ST district came first, sub-area equity was added later.

  23. first, ST3 taxing authority seems quite unlikely to be approved by the Legislature any time soon.

    second, if it was approved, all ST modes should be considered.

    suppose variable tolling was enacted on the limited access highways; the state needs to fund maintenance and it has the potential yield free flow for all modes, including regional express bus.

    regional express bus seems best for several corridors: Tacoma to Seattle via Federal Way given the South 317th Street center access ramps; Everett to Lynnwood, given the Lynnwood center access ramps; and, Issaquah and Eastgate to MI Link, given the Eastgate center access ramps.

    Martin’s post unfairly criticizes the Eastside Rail Corridor; it would serve the hospital station of East Link, Google, and is close to downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake. it could be trail and electric transit. the SR-522 corridor should be included as a frequent BRT corridor; it would extend to Northgate via Lake City and the NE 130th Street station. both South King and Snohomish County could have a network of frequent bus lines. all-day two-way service on the BNSF via the Sounder stations should be pursued; how about DMU per the Bruce suggestion? In addition to the new Link line speculations, Seattle could use an infill station at South Graham Street.

    1. eddiew,

      Martin’s post unfairly criticizes the Eastside Rail Corridor

      If the ridership projection is 9-11,000 riders for ERC-based corridors (running all the way to Issaquah) then there is something wrong with the corridor. It’s presumably the failure to serve the major demand generators on the Eastside. If you think the ERC is close enough and there is some other explanation, please share it.

      1. There’s a really important piece of context around those ridership numbers that we just don’t know. Well, maybe somebody here knows, but I don’t.

        We’re all agreed that maximizing actual ridership on a corridor service means taking some deviations from the corridor. The BRT options assume one deviation in central Bellevue, and ridership would likely benefit from at least one more in central Kirkland. But we don’t know how that would affect the model’s ridership estimates.

        What, in a modeling context, does it mean to have the corridor station 0.5 miles from downtown Kirkland (and uphill)? Or on the edge of downtown Bellevue?

        If, for instance, the model assumes that ridership would taper off linearly by distance from the station, then that would mean the model has really handicapped the ridership estimates. On the other hand, if the model assumes that a station can capture all potential riders within some broad circle around the station, then better station placement might not get us higher ridership estimates in the model (although it would surely have some impact in the real world).

        I’m not aware that Sound Transit has ever given us enough insights into their process to assess this sensibly.

    2. eddie,

      You mention the 317th ramps and they sure seem great on paper. But it takes at least twelve minutes to leave the freeway, wander through a couple of stop lights and turns to the park and ride, load and unload (which of course is a constant regardless of the placement of the TC) and then return to the freeway via a much more circuitous route.

      if express buses are to give their best accounting in Federal Way, an elevated busway needs to be built connecting the ramps to the TC.

  24. I thought of another wrinkle in the “small starts” idea for Tacoma Link to TCC. FTA caps the scale of Small Starts grant projects to $250m, so that project at $600m wouldn’t be eligible for those funds.

  25. I don’t think it’s terrible if the Snohomish County light rail goes along I-5, in fact I think that’s preferable. That’s because there already is bus service to Boeing-Everett by both of that county’s transit providers, and those routes don’t have high ridership. In addition, Swift 2 is proposed to take riders from, among other places, 128th, where a light rail station would presumably be, to Boeing-Everett. Who from north of Everett would care for the diversion to Paine Field for the convenience of Boeing, especially on weekends? It didn’t take “Boeing” to get the light rail that we have now nor that which is upcoming, otherwise we’d see Marginal Way, Factoria, and particularly Renton, which is bypassed in all of the light rail discussion altogether (despite being along the notoriously most-congested part of I-405). If they had to stop short somewhere, anywhere between 128th and 526, the latter by the lightly-used Eastmont Park & Ride, along I-5, would be acceptable. Hopefully, there would be improvements for bus movements at 128th with a direct access ramp or, if not, freeway stations, and completion of the northbound ramp from the Ash Way Park & Ride.

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