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A couple of days ago there was a great deal of discussion about the merits and costs of a Sand Point crossing. There are two things that a study would find out that everybody would like to know; the monetary cost of the crossing and the potential ridership over the connection. Unfortunately I can’t give any insight into those things. What I can to do is provide some tangible benefits based on travel time using Seattle Subway’s previous posts about the Crossing, Ballard Spur and Better Eastside rail.

Estimate Methodology

To make things easier I made a couple of assumptions. First, I assumed the average speed on the line would be 35 mph, second, I assumed dwell time at Stations would be 20 seconds, and third, I assumed it would take 7 minutes to make a transfer (on average based on headways). Distances were measured from this map:

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The calculation for a segment is distance * speed (60/35) + dwell time (20/60) and by adding segments together we can approximate times.

We know this is a pretty good estimate because we can use the same method for East Link and get comparable travel times.

International District station to Downtown Bellevue: 19.85 vs 20-22 minutes.

South Bellevue to University of Washington Station: 26.06 vs 24 minutes.

Downtown Bellevue to Overlake TC: 9.8 vs 10 minutes.

Segment Results

Station A Station B Distance (mi) Time (min)
Downtown Issaquah Gilman Village 1.00 2.05
Gilman Village West Issaquah 0.74 1.60
West Issaquah Lakemont Boulevard 2.39 4.43
Lakemont Boulevard Eastgate 1.83 3.47
Eastgate Bellevue College 0.83 1.76
Bellevue College Factoria 0.88 1.84
Factoria South Bellevue Park & Ride 1.24 2.46
South Bellevue Park & Ride East Main Street 1.55 2.99
East Main Street Downtown Bellevue 0.55 1.28
Downtown Bellevue Hospital 0.55 1.28
Hospital South Kirkland P&R 2.01 3.78
South Kirkland P&R Houghton 0.76 1.64
Houghton 86th Street 0.91 1.89
86th Street Downtown Kirkland 0.84 1.77
Downtown Kirkland Sand Point 2.71 4.98
Sand Point Children’s Hospital 1.46 2.84
Children’s Hospital University Village 0.85 1.79
University Village U District 0.62 1.40
U District Wallingford 1.00 2.05
Wallingford Greenwood 0.92 1.91
Greenwood Ballard 1.43 2.78

Over all the line looks like this:

Total: Distance (mi) Time (min)
Issaquah to Ballard 25.07 49.98

Time Chart:

W. Iss. BC Bell. Kirk. Red. U Dist. Ballard
Bellevue College (BC) 10
Bellevue 18 9
Kirkland 29 19 11
Redmond 44 31 15 30
U District 40 30 21 11 41
Ballard 46 37 28 18 47 7
Westlake 31 22 22 20 37 9 15

All times rounded to the nearest minute. The Ballard to Westlake times assume that Ballard to Downtown isn’t an option.

Other modes

So what do those travel time numbers really mean? Some readers will have experience on some trips, but for everybody else the best comparison is to travel times by other methods.

Drive (In traffic) W. Iss. BC Bell. Kirk. Red. U Dist. Ballard
Bellevue College (BC) 16
Bellevue 32 16
Kirkland 5 29 16
Redmond 53 33 23 19
U District 47 46 32 37 43
Ballard 59 58 50 54 50 17
Westlake 49 33 36 40 47 12 23

Driving times were acquired using the walkscore professional commute demo and the following addresses:

Issaquah: 1082 Renton Rd, Issaquah, WA 98027

Bellevue College: 14200 Eastgate P&R Acrd, Bellevue, WA 98007

Downtown Bellevue: 600 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

Downtown Kirkland: 308 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland, WA 98033

Downtown Redmond: 8178 161st Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052

U District: 4344 University Way NE Seattle, WA 98105

Ballard: 5500 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Westlake: 4th Ave Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101

A few notable things from the charts. With traffic, the only time driving is faster than the train is from Redmond to Kirkland at +11 minutes. The biggest wins for the rail are enabled by the Sand Point crossing, 36 minutes faster from Kirkland to Ballard, 26 minutes faster from Kirkland to the U District, 22 minutes faster from Ballard to Bellevue and 21 from Ballard to Bellevue College.

What’s more is those are all point to point times. So if parking is a hassle then you might be saving people even larger chunks of their time. Indeed some of the gains are so large that it would be faster to take the train from Kirkland to the U District or Ballard then to drive without traffic.

ST Proposed Lines W. Iss. BC Bell. Kirk. Red. U Dist. Ballard
Eastgate Station 9
Hospital Station 16 7
Kirkland 24 15 8
Redmond 36 27 14 29
U District  39 23 23 21 28
Ballard 45 29 29 22 42 8
Westlake 43 34 23 27 37 9 22

This chart assumes B2+C2 from U District-Kirkland-Redmond Study, A3 from Ballard-U District and C3 from Issaquah to Kirkland are built. B2 is LRT over 520 and up to Totem Lake, C2 is interlining with East Link at 120th Ave Station after branching at South Kirkland P&R and the ERC, A3 is the Wallingford Tunnel option and C3 is rail to Issaquah via I-405 and I-90.

Using the same assumptions we get the above times, except for the bolded ones, which are from the Sound Transit studies. Since these are point to point I was generous to ST by changing a station location on the chart, to Hospital station, and not including the 12 minutes of walking time to Downtown Bellevue Station that would make them directly comparable or the 14 minute walk from Kirkland Station to the Kirkland Transit Center.

Seattle Subway and I criticized these studies for not including enough stations; so the times on the chart above ought to be faster for lack of dwell time. What you see is this generally hold true. But that the Sand Point Crossing reverses these gains for some trip pairs including Kirkland to the U District (10 minutes faster via Sand Point), Kirkland to Westlake (7  minutes) and Bellevue to the U District (2 minutes, thanks to the need to transfer and the slower East Link alternative, south and around, being uncompetitive).

Other gains come from interlining with East Link through Bellevue over the Mercer Slough and transferring in South Bellevue, 12 minutes faster from Westlake to Eastgate and Issaquah.

The 520 line had it’s biggest advantages where it interlines with East Link, being 13 minutes faster to Redmond, and from fewer stations on I-90 when it goes to Issaquah (8 minutes faster to Redmond and Ballard).

I won’t get to much into buses which are almost always slower and often absurdly so (Ballard to Kirkland in 73 minutes, a 255 to 542 to 44 three seat ride, vs 18 minutes with rail and the Sand Point Crossing). The notable exceptions are the  16 minute 248 trip from Kirkland to Redmond which is faster than both the Seattle Subway’s and Sound Transit’s proposals and the 554 on its 8 minute trip from Issaquah TC to Eastgate Freeway Station.

All bus times were taken from Google Maps trip planning between the addresses above.


This post had two goals. Explain where my estimated times from the Sand Point discussion came from and to compare those times across modes so that we could compare the relative merits of a 520 and Sand Point crossings. I have tried to explain my methods well enough that they could be independently reproduced and criticized fairly.

The Sand Point Crossing would be an enormous win for Downtown Kirkland and surprisingly good one for Bellevue and North Seattle. I don’t know whether it is worth the expense of building, but it is well worth the expense of a study.

35 Replies to “Timing out Ballard to Issaquah via Sand Point”

  1. You forgot to include “switch to a transfer-enabled, HOV-lane-expedited 520 bus, and get there just as quickly and for $8 billion cheaper” as an option.

    Heck, you don’t even offer a 520 bus transfer on your intra-Eastside line. Bias much?

    It is pretty hilarious, though, to see your “complete” map, with its yellow line 7.5x lengthier than its only high-demand segment, yet with Eastside stations pervasively spaced closer than any subway segment in the parts of the Seattle that remotely resemble urban form.

    Yeah. Houghton and Newport. Seem like a blockbusters of pedestrian walk-up. Totally worth fucking over urban transit access for.

    1. That map was used for route distance and station spacing only, it was never intended as complete.

      I agree that Seattle, and especially Ballard would need more stations was an oversight to not include them. Probably another minute of dwell time would be more accurate for times to Ballard.

      I don’t see how this would “fuck over” urban transit access. Care to explain?

      As for 520, I didn’t include it in this analysis. The Sound Transit study rates BRT options well on cost effectiveness, but poorly on travel market potential and reliability. The LRP comments were overwhelmingly in support of Light Rail, for just that reason in my opinion.

      If we only look at travel times we end up several options.
      U District to Kirkland (Totem Lake) via I-405: 15-23 minutes, 7k-9k riders
      via the ERC: 19-24 minutes, 7k-9k riders
      to Redmond via 520: 35-40 minutes, 10k-13k riders.

      The last route is notable because it contains a second disclaimer for “potential reliability issues” below the travel time. So the buses are slow and unreliable which is exactly what we don’t won’t transit to be.

      LRT to Kirkland from UW is a disaster in the study, 4x the cost for no gain in speed or ridership. However the Eastlink interline to Redmond I mentioned has a substantial ridership increase of 5K to 12k more riders. Which just goes to show the substantial benefits of an interline. The other LRT disaster has a “transfer opportunity to East Link” at Hospital station which is the insane option of building a second and entirely separate Hospital Station.

      So just as quickly is a howler to the tune of at least 5 minutes from the U District (station to station) and more from points east, like Ballard and Wallingford, thanks to the transfer penalty from rail to the bus and that doesn’t even start on the walk from the stations to the walkable part of Kirkland of 14 minutes for the ERC option and more like 20 or a connecting 248 bus from any I-405 station.

      As for cheaper, sure the same way a band aid is cheaper than stitches. The BRT presented doesn’t solve the Eastside’s mobility problems. It wouldn’t enable people from Bellevue to quickly get to Ballard or Kirklanders to the Ave.

      It wouldn’t be much different than the status quo with it’s worthless 540, which gets about 6000 a quarter more riders than the 596 (Bonnie Lake to Sumner), because it is never the fastest way to get from Kirkland to the U District during peak hours or the current 520 buses which move “fast” but don’t help people in Bellevue or Kirkland at all and would continue not to help them because Sound Transit has no plans on building any interface between them that don’t involve the ERC, so at this stage I-405 buses are right out if you want to get people from Bellevue or Kirkland to the U District or other parts north of the Ship Canal.

      Anybody who wants a I-405 BRT should really start agitating for a 520-405 interchange transfer station. Sound Transit gave no reason for why it wasn’t included. Perhaps people might object to shutting down the most important interchange on the Eastside for construction?

      1. I’m not going to read all that.

        Because I’m not talking about “the BRT as presented”. I’m talking about the ability to transfer from something that runs really fast and really often down 520 — as buses already do — to something that is really frequent and of impeccable quality running north-south to connect the inner Eastside.

        Such a transfer doesn’t even exist on your 24-mile rail-biased fantasy map.

        And the city gets fucked by proposals like this for two reasons:

        1) Because when you zoom out the map really, really far (as you have done), the non-walkable station spacing and incomplete urban corridor penetration starts to look almost reasonable. That’s false, an optical illusion. But it entirely explains the galling gap on MLK and the jaw-dropping anti-urbanism represented by U-Link. Think regionally; screw up locally.

        2) If this uni-boondoggle were ever somehow built — which, mercifully, isn’t going to happen — you would immediately be struck by an order-of-magnitude demand disparity between the western 1/8 of the line and the other 7/8. Even with turnbacks, there’d be almost no way to avoid terribly underserving the former in order to comically overserve the latter.

        So the places with the genuine needs get screwed over twice. Their geometry is compromised in the design process, and then their service needs get stymied… all at tremendous cost, and for the sake of something that simply does not need to happen.

        You can make all of the “hypothetical trip” calculations you want, but the demand for all those combined trips, hampered by the land-use weaknesses of northeast Seattle and all across the Eastside, is simply too diddly-squat to justify the investment.

        Sure, these trips happen. So it’s time to start thinking about real and feasible ways to make them faster on transit. Yet your bias is too strong to even put those on the map!

      2. Let me just quote the end of my comment since you admitted to not reading it.

        “Anybody who wants a I-405 BRT should really start agitating for a 520-405 interchange transfer station. Sound Transit gave no reason for why it wasn’t included. Perhaps people might object to shutting down the most important interchange on the Eastside for construction?”

        That transfer happens at South Kirkland on my map, just like it does for all of Sound Transit’s ERC options. The problem is that the transfer won’t happen with I-405 BRT, because for some reason Sound Transit doesn’t want to make a station at 520.

        1) What do you propose for stops on a Kirkland to Eastgate Light rail?

        2) How do you do transit that is “really frequent and of impeccable quality running north-south to connect the inner Eastside” without it being a comical overserve?

        If we get 4 car trains with 3 minute headways from Ballard to the U District it seems you would only need every other car to go to Eastgate (and perhaps Issaquah). To get good demand on the rest of the line and you can use the facility in Bellevue instead of the one in Seattle to store trains.

        We don’t know the demand for a decent Eastside line nor a Sand Point crossing. They haven’t been studied properly.

        Let me say it again. The map was a tool, produced by a piece of GIS software, that measured distances for a line. The other lines are other distance I wanted to measure. Not a vision map or proposal. The proposal was the Seattle Subway posts.

      3. That depends on where you make people transfer and if you hold to the current definition of the “lines”.

        The way I look at it is that the design as shown would be 3/4 of an eventual “circle line” that could make a large circle around central Lake Washington starting in downtown going to bellevue and then kirkland then across the lake to UW, Ballard and back down to downtown eventually.

        Service to Issaquah, Redmond, West Seattle and the airport could be less frequent trains that break off the core more heavily used circle. Sure you’d end up with some over service into the eastside but no solution will be perfect.

      4. People would transfer from the train to 520 buses at South Kirkland P&R.

        The loop seems unlikely as one “line” what seem more likely is that it is done with two lines with transfers at U District station and South Bellevue.

        Any plan has to deal with the reality of East Link’s and Central Link’s set in stone routes and stations.

      5. Touché on the paragraph I didn’t read.

        But then you seem to modify yourself, putting the onus on South Kirkland P&R for those transfers.

        South Kirkland is really the nightmare that keeps giving, isn’t it? Not only a terrible place for 520 transfers, but a terrible place for transfers on any bus that should have the misfortune to pass near its orbit and be sucked into its wasteful looping whirlpool.

        And that is, ironically, why people like you continue to think buses suck. You get so fixated on the dozens of miles of rail that you cease to give two shits how people access it, and then you yourself propose transfer points (and Sound Transit designs transfer stations) that can only be terrible for bus riders.

        And then you wonder why your intermodal symbiosis and your “network effects” never materialize. Because you don’t think in terms of universal mobility. All you consider is “what low priority problems would massive overspending on rail sorta-kinda-not-really solve?”

        I do think a Kirkland-Eastgate segment could exist that, if well-integrated with cross-transit, garner the demand to justify moderate/usable frequencies (10-15 minutes) at all hours. I won’t claim to know the exact addresses to place the stations, because I am not that intimate with Kirkland or the southern parts of Bellevue and (unlike some people around here) I have no interest in opining with specificity about things I don’t possess the ability to opine with specificity.

        But even if you interlined to create Kyle’s “circle service” to Seattle, you still aren’t looking at a fraction of the demand that will be seen on fully urban segments. Again, East Link’s ridership metric promise to be disappointments for a reason!

        Meanwhile, for the umpteenth time, we know that East Link’s demand will be weak for its cost, as a direct result of unfavorable land use throughout the Eastside. A from-scratch 2nd crossing will be far, far worse. It doesn’t matter where you try to put it. It’s a turkey.

      6. If we end up with I-405 BRT, then a 520 transfer interchange is essential.

        On the other hand if Rail is built on the ERC you might want an ERC flyer stop where it crosses 520, just north of Hospital station, around 116th Ave. Forgive me for only bringing up 116th and 520 now. It only just occured to me.

        WSDOT really screwed up that 108th ramp; it’s useless for any route other than the 255.

        I’ll concede that South Kirkland Park and Ride is an awful place to transfer and is not easily fixable. Even a true 108th flyer station leaves you with the question of how to get riders between there and the ERC. That’s a 9 minute walk and would make for an unreasonable transfer. The transfer near the 116th would be much better.

        Fair enough on not opining on stations. I was wondering if you had an idea about it since you have given it a little thought. I hope you understand that I have included every other reasonable stop on the Seattle Subway map and would only cut stops from that vision.

    2. I wouldn’t get to enamored with the 520 express buses! Have you ridden them lately? Of course once they get off the freeway they are anything but express compared to grade separated mass transit. But most importantly there is nothing within walking distance of *any* SR 520 highway stop other that low density residential neighborhoods with the exception of Husky Stadium and the Med Center @ Montlake and arguably the NE 40th stops. And many of them have no parking and no where to put parking with good road access.

      Fact is we need to get away from building mass transit systems that entirely parallel highways and move them closer to where people live so they don’t have to actually get in their car in the first place. One thing always ignored in these studies is the time it takes to commute to the stop, find a parking spot and board a train, they are almost always stop to stop calculations. Traffic app can tell me in 1 minute while I make my morning tea whether it’s worth driving or grabbing a bus.

      I agree Mike, it’s a shame that this line misses Totem Lake.

      1. And that’s why it’s such a huge problem that 520 has no easy-transfer platforms at Bellevue Way today, and that Peyton’s tunnel vision would have him drawing $30 billion maps and building brand new floating bridges but failing to create a workable 520 transfer for a relative pittance!

        It’s also incredible that people would propose this kind of folly while remaining entirely okay with the terrible situation that exists on Stewart and the nonexistent Link access at future Montlake.

        The cognitive dissonance here can be seen from space.

        Also, don’t you find it weird to (correctly) argue against super-expensive investments that don’t go where people want to be, but then in the next breath vouch for Totem Lake, which has about a 0% chance of developing into anything better than a autocentric office park with sweeping views of the cloverleaf?

      2. Where did you get this idea that I’m not creating a “workable 520 transfer”?

        I’m sure any South Kirkland P&R station will be made for easy transfers if we agitate for it, which I will.

        If you mean my scenario where you have to transfer from a train to a bus if you build Ballard to U District rail but 520 BRT. Then it’s the nature of transfers to take time and buses to be missed.

      3. No I don’t find it weird at all to vouch for Totem Lake. Because doing something and talking about how you would do it are totally different things. If you did actually build a mass transit line of any type to Kirkland it would be folly to not at least look at that area.

        And as to no freeway stations at Bellevue Way to transfer, that’s relatively easy to fix. Sure it would have been good to do it now, but 15 years ago even talking about the need for any type of mass transit service on the Eastside elsewhere than downtown Bellevue and maybe the MS campus would have been laughable. So I’m not gonna knock the SR520 engineers who designed that highway 8 years or more ago for not foreseeing it.

        And yes Stewart is bad but it pales in comparison to Denny as it is a slow but steady move for transit due to the lanes as opposed to a complete halt.

      4. The 542 already does a good job connecting Redmond to north Seattle, and the opening of North Link and (hopefully) the Ballard spur will improve connections on the Seattle side to make it better. It’s fast and reasonably frequent, and I see little reason to mess with it.

        Today, off-peak service is on the 545, which originates downtown, but perhaps once East Link is able to take over the downtown->Redmond trips, the 545 can be replaced with all-day service on the 542.

        In any case, slowing down either the 545 or 542 to deviate into South Kirkland P&R would be horrible mistake. It would make things significantly slower for people trying to go between Seattle and Redmond, while leaving people traveling between Seattle and Kirkland no better off (and probably worse off, given the extra transfer) compared to today’s 255.

        If ST 3 can provide funding for a 108th Ave. freeway station that would allow the 542 or 545 to make a quick stop to connect with north/south buses, that, perhaps, might work. But simply making every bus passing within a mile of 520/405 detour into the P&R – no.

      5. I had the idea for a 520 station on the ERC near 116th with a corresponding bus flyer station, when I was replying to d.p. That would be the best transfer opportunity. No need for a rail or bus deviation.

      6. It makes no sense to divert buses from Redmond off SR-520 to S. Kirkland P&R, but it would make sense to divert buses on Northup Wy or Lk. Wahsington Blvd./Bellevue Way or 108th/112th. LRT on the ERC would have a somewhat awkward connection with buses at S. Kirkland, but BRT on the ERC could get off the corridor at 108th NE, go to the bus loop and get back on the corridor. Since they’d be conflicting with East Link further south on the ERC, BRT buses headed south could either get back on 520 to 405 or stay on 108th NE to get to BTC. BRT buses headed west could just get on 520 at the HOV access ramp.

        With 520 just having been rebuilt, there is no chance that it would be modified in the next 20 years to accomodate a freeway station at 108th.

      7. I think it would be safe to do construction on the sections east of 108th Ave where the recent improvements end.

        What do you think of my idea for a station at the ERC under 520 near 116th, as detailed in my other posts tonight?

      8. And yes Stewart is bad but it pales in comparison to Denny…

        No argument there. And you know what isn’t on Peyton’s map? Anything that would fix real problems like Denny!

        Because they’re too busy ACTION ALERT!!ing over fantasy hinterrail!

      9. The map that features Seattle in the post is not a vision map. It is a map for measuring distances involved in East Link, the Sand Point crossing and the Better Eastside Rail post.

        Frankly for Denny I like the Gondola idea. Other than that it will take congestion pricing to truly fix that area. All the current improvements just seem to be shifting the problem around. Perhaps bus lanes liberally added to the area would help some.

      10. Not really about the map, though.

        It’s about the demented sense of priorities on display, and the energies wasted on the fundamentally and conspicuously unfeasible, when you and Keith try to ACTION ALERT!!! up the conversation with nonsense overreach.

      11. Peyton, regarding your comment about a bus station at the point where the ERC crosses SR-520, there is really very little room there for a station. There is a tiny separation between the bridges and 520 is very congested there due to the I-405 ramps. Be aware that if you look at aerial photos at that location, both Bing and Google have old images that don’t show the result of the Bellevue Braids project that added a collector-distributor lane on the south side of 520.

      12. Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make a decent 520 transfer point; to mix my metaphors.

        If highway users have to inconvenienced so that the Bellevue finally gets access to the highway buses that they deserve then that seems more than worth the cost. Even if that means knocking down the north overpass and moving the route of the freeway slightly. It’s not like there aren’t other options for

        It could be done as part of station construction. It’s not like drivers in the area aren’t used to reroutes for construction and other mitigatory techniques.

  2. One thing this route misses is Totem Lake, which Kirkland is positioning as its primary urban center. We can’t realistically move the crossing further north, and this line would probably prevent a Totem Lake – Kirkland – Bellevue line (unless it’s part of a Bothell-Renton line) because there’s not enough Kirkland-Bellevue ridership for two lines, and this line already overlaps with East Link in Bellevue. So, shouldn’t Kirkland be more concerned about internal travel and intra-eastside travel, especially if it expects people to live in Totem Lake and take transit?

    Of course the conventional response is, “Most transit riders are going to Seattle, and always will. Because Seattle has more people and more unique destinations and parking is more expensive and people going to Seattle are more the transit-riding type, whereas people travelling within the Eastside are more likely to drive.” But isn’t part of building HCT trying to bend that curve, to make a transit system that people are more willing to use for intra-Eastside trips, and shouldn’t the Eastside become more independent anyway to shrink the percentage of lake-crossing trips?

    1. Really non-regional transit needs are supposed to be met by Metro and and local municipalities. If Totem lake isn’t getting served that whole section of the ERC is open to a short BRT section, Streetcars, Gondolas or other options.

      I view Totem Lake similarly to Issaquah Highlands or Crossroads, it would be nice to get rail there but if the opportunity costs are too high. For Issaquah Highlands it’s a geographic problem of being on top of a plateau which makes the extra station a sixth to quarter of the costs of the line as a whole.

      In the same way the transit mobility needs of the people from Bellevue, Overlake and Downtown Kirkland (the last of which lives in one if the densest, most walkable, spots on the Eastside) trying to get to Seattle in a reliable manner.

      I mention Crossroads because they have received a Rapidride line and don’t appear to be in line for anything else in the foreseeable future. Yet they are already the second densest part of Bellevue and the part that uses the most public transit (more than downtown Bellevue).

      In any case I think that serving Downtown Kirkland really well, is worth missing Totem lake and that it is up to Kirkland to deal with it’s internal transportation problems when they zone density around a freeway interchange.

      1. That’s the question though: will Totem Lake be regional in the future, and does it have the potential too. If Kirkland is going to make it its largest urban center, then maybe. Noody would have considered a Link station in SLU ten years ago but now it looks like an obvious place. So if it is going to be regional it should have a station, if not it shouldn’t. But you can’t just write it off because of the current use, especially since we need to make these decisions ten years before it happens.

      2. That’s a really good analogy. Because Sound Transit appears to have failed to add a route in the vicinity of South Lake Union.

        Oddly enough the proposals to serve it include Bus Lanes for the 8, a Gondola and improvements to the Streetcar. Which exactly echos what I just proposed as alternative ways of serving Totem Lake.

        Call me sceptical about Totem Lake. It is still centered on that huge interchange and I haven’t seen a single proposal that serves Lake Washington Tech. The school is a 20 minute walk from Totem Lake TC and a 9 minute walk from the ERC which means two stations in the area or one if Totem Lake TC and the school not being served. A bad outcome either way.

        Perhaps another mode could reasonable have more stops but it would be a difficult situation for regional light rail.

      3. Pardon my thinking out loud but perhaps a small Link branch to SLU be made utilizing Convention Place station with an additional short tunnel or even surface route north up from CPS to Cascade Park area? This would only work for Link from the south which is the least busy part of Link and most riders would be coming from points east and north which this would do nothing for. This isn’t be best route but might not be all that expensive. Obviously serving SLU by Denny is the best but that wont be until 2040/50.

      4. A surface-level Link extension to SLU? Sounds great – maybe we could even call it the South Lake Union Streetcar!

        Meanwhile, regarding tunnels, I’ve got the impression the setup costs of getting the TBM in place are a lot more than the incremental costs of extending it farther. So if we get a machine in place to underground Link to SLU, it’d be a lot better to just go ahead and dig East-West.

  3. I love this discussion and the original poster’s effort. It is fantastic.

    But it is too easy to draw lines on a map and say “look how fast we can move people around the region!!! Whoo hoo!!!”

    What kind of urban area do you want to live in?

    It is defined by the land use plans developed since the growth management act. There are designated urban centers with employment and housing growth targets. Serve those with appropriate cost effective technology. Don’t just reach for your “costs are no object cool engineering rail dream.”

    You know what the 520 bridge replacement is costing. If you want to know the rail/ped/bike Manuson-Kirkland bridge cost will be just scale the 520 floating bridge cost by 150%. It will cost at least $6 billion.

    1. Thanks, I hope I explained things well enough that others could make copycat efforts in the future.

      It’s hard to view King County’s designated Urban Centers as anything other than a joke.

      If you take a look at the Map you see that these areas include Totem Lake and Northgate while missing the entire Rainier Valley (especially Columbia City), Central Issaquah, Downtown Kirkland, Ballard, Eastgate, Lake City and many other places that are zoned for density and in some cases growing quite rapidly.

      Downtown Kirkland has good urban fabric and is a place people want to visit, as well as live. Houghton is zoned much more densely than it is built and would support a station, particularly with Google still expanding in the area. South of that you get to 520 and the edge of Downtown Bellevue.

      I don’t see why a narrower rail/bike/ped bridge across a shorter span would be more expensive. If anything it should be cheaper. In any case I’m not equipped to make an estimate wither for a floating bridge, suspension bridge, or floating tunnel.

      1. Because it is entirely from scratch, while 520 is a rebuild with all of its ROW taken care of at either end.

        There’s really no comparison.

      2. If you have breakdowns of what various Sand Point crossing options would cost then you’ve been holding out on us.

        Otherwise you only have your gut feelings, which may or may not be accurate. This project isn’t easily comparable to previous ones in terms of scope for the area (and for the world for the floating tunnel option).

        What would be informative would be useful for someone to find the relative costs of rail bridges versus highway bridges. My guess is that the former can be built more inexpensively.

        If your concern is ROW at each end, I view that as the cost of putting a station in an urban area on the kirkland end and it should be cheap enough for ST to get the city to let Sound Transit use part of Magnuson park for staging and a station.

        The hardest part on the whole route would be dealing with the University south of University Village shopping center. They own all the land south of 45th St as far east as 35th Ave which would make staging tunneling there challenging if they don’t cooperate.

      3. Sorry, no.

        From-scratch = costier than rebuild-in-place.

        When you’re dealing with that level of ROW-access disparity, arguing about bridge width and surface materials really is nitpicking and semantics.

        Neither 520 rail nor Sand Point rail would be less than thrice as expensive as I-90-refurbishment rail, which — for the umpteenth time — isn’t even a blockbuster rail line.

        I’d really like to believe that you’ve grown up a bit since the Great Columbia City Alehouse Exasperation of 2012, but your logic-warping doesn’t seem to have changed a bit. When your “prescriptions” involve absolutely massive investments for very little expected return, the onus is on you to prove that they demand special attention or consideration, or that your project will be unexpected cheaper than any comparable idea.

        It is not my responsibility to produce engineering documents to demonstrate the obvious: mile-long ROW across a lake is fucking expensive!

  4. This crossing kind of reminds me of the west side monorail plans. It sounds really cool, but when you start looking at the details, it just doesn’t make sense. While the monorail was destined for Bertha-like problems (of a different nature to be sure) at least it made some sense. Elevated rail is generally cheaper than tunneling, and there are a lot of people in Ballard. In this case, a tunnel through here would make some connections much faster than anything else. But unlike the monorail, this would serve hardly anyone.

    While Kirkland is not without its charms, there just aren’t that many people there. This becomes rather obvious when you look at a census map of the area ( Zoom in and look for dark areas along this route — there just aren’t any. Likewise, this happens to go through one of the least populated areas of Seattle. Then you have the very high cost of tunneling as well as a lake crossing, and the fact that you can’t possibly put a station in the middle of the water and it should be obvious that this is just not a very cost effective solution to the problem.

    Serving Kirkland might be a nasty conundrum, if not for the obvious remedy — better bus service. Unlike Ballard to the UW, there is a major freeway along here. The ERC should become a bus corridor. Additional freeway stations should be added. The 520 to Link connection should be improved. The first two are not complicated, but the third one is. I have some ideas, and of course, all of them would be much cheaper to build than light rail all the way across the bridge. The problem with light rail along this corridor is the same problem with light rail in most of the suburbs. To be successful, you will have lots of bus to train transfers. In almost all cases, the bus can just as easily, and just as quickly get to it’s destination by following the freeway. The exception in this case is Juanita. But an ERC busway would be just as big as an improvement, and would mean one less transfer.

    The problem with all of this talk is that, like the monorail, it gives people false hope and prevents everyone from focusing on the right thing. There are a lot of people in West Seattle who are pissed about the monorail. They feel like they deserve light rail, even though it really isn’t the most cost thing we should build next. This means we will have trouble getting their vote unless we build something that really isn’t the worth the money. The same is true here.

    If I live in Kirkland, and I read all of these proposals, then I start thinking that this makes a lot of sense. I’m not interested in more mundane talk of a better Montlake connecting (linking stinky old buses to light rail). I want to know when we can start working on that fancy Sand Point crossing. When Sound Transit finally kills the idea (and they will) then I get pissed. Meanwhile, many years have passed, light rail to the UW has been running for years, and we still don’t have a good connection between Link and 520. That is not good for anyone. I like beautiful, pie in the sky ideas as much as the next guy, but I really don’t think it helps us get to where we need to go any faster. I think it does the opposite.

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