WSTT Initial Service Pattern
Maps by Oran Viriyincy

It is becoming clearer that Sound Transit 3 (ST3) will not provide Seattle (‘North King’) with the approximately $7B needed to fund a true subway from Ballard to West Seattle. At currently proposed ST3 funding levels – $11B in the Senate and $15B in the House for all regional projects–  Seattle’s shortfall could be roughly $2-4B. This presents a dilemma: should we build the high quality segments we can afford (and risk alienating the neighborhoods we pass over), or give in to the political temptation to dilute the quality of the lines (surface running, stub lines, etc) to serve more neighborhoods at once? At Seattle Subway we believe we cannot let today’s funding constraints forever dampen the quality of our transit service. So what investments could we make with an ST3-sized budget that would provide high quality (and highly upgradeable) transit?

There is a single project that rises above all the others: The Westside Transit Tunnel (WSTT). For general readers who have heard of Ballard to West Seattle rail for years, proposing a new bus tunnel may seem to come out of nowhere. But let us show you why this is so important for ST3.

What is it?

The WSTT is a new rail convertible bus tunnel through downtown designed to serve Ballard, West Seattle, the Aurora corridor, and South and East King County. The route and features you see in our diagram did not come out of thin air, but are a combination of routing seen in Sound Transit’s Ballard to Downtown Corridor Study and the Downtown portion of the West Seattle & Burien (“South King County”) Corridor Study. We took these studies and enhanced them with a couple of our own ideas: the addition of a Battery Street fork to serve Aurora and bus improvements to the Spokane Street Viaduct to create a direct connection to the E3 busway and improve the connection to West Seattle.

Just like the current Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, the WSTT will start with bus service and switch to rail over time as we expand our subway system. This new bus tunnel would have two important features from opening day: 1) tracks and power systems for rail and 2) separate stubs and portals for rail expansions. This project is a major step in the building of a true Seattle Subway.

Why is the WSTT important?

  • Mitigates the closing (for buses) of the current Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel
    Sometime before 2021 the Downtown Seattle Bus Tunnel will close completely to bus traffic. Very few additional routes can move to city streets and those that do will be moving much slower than they do now. This will also mean more forced transfers from the suburbs.
  • Solves mobility issues not addressed by Viaduct Replacement Tunnel and mitigates impact of a possibly failed Viaduct Replacement Tunnel Project.
    If Bertha is a success, the WSTT will solve serious mobility problems not addressed by a bypass road that skips downtown. If Bertha fails, the WSTT project will be an essential lifeline to central and western Seattle neighborhoods.
  • Speeds commutes for a great many people living west of I-5 
    An average commuter using the WSTT will save 10 minutes per day round trip. That time really adds up — that’s 41 hours per year — like getting a whole work week of your life back each year. About 60,000 people ride the buses that will be in this tunnel each weekday. That means daily commuters would collectively save 142 years of commute time each year the tunnel is open.
  • Better connections
    West Seattle:  This project provides West Seattle with exclusive lanes in and out of downtown and fast direct connections to growing employment centers like South Lake Union, Pioneer Square, and Belltown.
    Ballard:  Avoids major choke points in North Downtown, around Denny, and through Lower Queen Anne that greatly improves on current local and RapidRide service.
    Aurora Corridor:  Extends exclusive lane access through downtown and avoids major choke points through north downtown and around Denny.
    South and East King County:  We didn’t represent it on this map, however, South and East King will see an immense benefit even if they don’t directly use the WSTT. A lot of space in downtown Seattle will be freed up by moving buses that are currently on the surface into the WSTT. This will mean less bus congestion and could mean fewer forced transfers. There is also capacity to add South and East King routes to the WSTT.
  • Solves immediate mobility issues while setting up for long term rail investments
    Just as the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel–which has served buses for years and is now shifting to rail as more rail is built–the WSTT will do the same. The WSTT is a critical step in later rail extensions to Ballard, West Seattle, the Aurora Corridor, and express to the Airport via Georgetown. Seattle is a pioneer in this strategy and it has worked — let’s take our lessons learned from the current DSTT and improve upon that success.
  • Save Metro money in operations
    All of that time costs a Metro lot of money. We estimate that Metro could save about 72,000 service hours a year which translates to a savings of $3.5M/year even when considering the added operating costs of the new tunnel.

The best thing about the WSTT is that we can get an immense benefit the day it opens while making an incremental step towards a Seattle Subway. This is not a one-off project that doesn’t connect to the regional vision. The WSTT is the single improvement with the greatest geographic impact of the projects considered so far for ST3.

The WSTT is just one of multiple investments that North King and the entire region will make as part of ST3. We will get into the full details of what we think should be in ST3 for each subarea in our upcoming ST3 system planning series. If ST3 funding fails at the state level, this project is a must for a local funding option.

Building the WSTT ensures that there is maximum use of the system until we have the money to build out the subway and the demand to use the tunnel to capacity. For these reasons, the WSTT is the most important component in any North King package we pass.

The estimates we used above are conservative. We added existing buses with existing ridership to a tunnel, as is, and made some assumptions about speed improvements. This method misses many positive impacts such as the induced demand that comes with better service. We explain our math in this document of assumptions. For this post, discussions of local funding options are off topic and will be covered in a later post.  

WSTT Initial Service Pattern

WSTT 2Maps by Oran Viriyincy

262 Replies to “Westside Seattle Transit Tunnel: An Introduction”

  1. I like it. Building this in no way inhibits a fully realized vision for Seattle transit. It builds the hard part first, and sets the tone for the quality of rail we can build over time.

    For places like West Seattle whose cynicism is high, this might be a tough sell. But if it’s really a choice of getting forever-shitty light rail in ST3 vs. a new bus tunnel now plus a full-blown subway in ST4, the latter is clearly a better choice. West Seattle is also a textbook case for true BRT – diffuse land use patterns funneled into a single chokepoint (the West Seattle Bridge) – and I love the way this idea serves today’s land use patterns so well while nudging them into a denser (and subway ready) future. Building the WSTT allows all of West Seattle to get a significant upgrade, no need to choose between Delridge or the Junction, because they all get significant improvements.

    1. West Seatlte light rail is possible only if Ballard light rail is also in the package. There’s no way West Seattle only light rail would fly, when Ballard is the highest-ridership unserved area in the city and cheaper technically. So if ST3 flat out can’t afford both lines, then West Seattle will have to choose an alternative, and this plus some West Seattle transit lanes may be the best bet. Also, the rail lines really need a downtown tunnel to be most effective. Does West Seattle really want a light rail that transfers at SODO or Stadium? Would Westlake Station be overwhelmed with transferees from Ballard? How much potential ridership will be missed because of those weak points? So the most feasable scenarios seem to be Ballard LR + WS LR + tunnel (WSTT or rail-only) or Ballard LR + WSTT + WS BRT. (And “Ballard” can mean either a Ballard-downtown line or a Ballard-UW line.) I was skeptical of a dual-mode tunnel at first, but now I think it’s a good way to keep our options open in an uncertain future.

  2. I think in lieu of a Madison stop it would be better to curve further east to First Hill. Or maybe even a wider loop to better link First Hill / Capitol Hill and SLU. Obviously not everyone is going to be 100% happy 100% of the time, but that’s my 2 cents.

    1. +1, I love the idea of moving the Madison stop further east to Madison/Boren. However, not sure about those soil issues that prevented the original First Hill light rail station from being built

    2. err… except that involves crossing I-5 twice underneath it. I don’t think we want that kind of risk this time around.

      1. If a Ballard Line was paired with East Link, I-5 would only be crossed once. It could have a tunnel portal south of Jackson Street and an overpass over Dearborn Street to link with East Link tracks just south of Dearborn Street and north of I-90.

      2. Al S., I like that idea. There are lots of different places the Ballard line could go after crossing under I-5 to serve First Hill. That decision will wait for another round of expansion, but it makes much more sense to serve new parts of Seattle rather than build new stations just blocks from where we’ve already got them.

      3. Yes Dave F, but in order for buses to turn around/layover in the interim, the tunnel would probably need a south portal. That would require choosing a portal at Dearborn and 12th or portal geared towards W. Seattle. I think a Dearborn portal is the obvious choice in that case

      1. +1. That could go farther (or even just be set up for later expansion farther east) and it would go more along the dominant line of demand. Also, it’d leave room for this downtown tunnel to provide better transfers to/from the existing DSTT.

    3. It’s worth detailing and seeing how far it can go. However, I wonder whether it’s feasable, and I wouldn’t want the tunnel held up because of it. There is Madison BRT coming, and the plan has a Madison station which is the most conspicuous missing thing in the DSTT.

      1. I agree that putting off the actual tunnel until later makes sense. Perhaps we can build the Madison station with enough space to allow a spur out to Madison/CD at some point.

        The surface options going onto Madison Street right now should be enough over the short term to serve some of the latent needs until we are ready to start branching out from the new tunnel.

  3. after the problems with Bertha do you think there is enough political support to begin a new tunnel? Also have you studied possible conflicts with the BNSF train tunnel which the current DSTT already crosses – twice. An alignment under 5th may be the most conflict free option, although upgrading IDS would be tricky at best without wiping out half of Chinatown.

    1. “after the problems with Bertha do you think there is enough political support to begin a new tunnel? ”

      That is exactly what Mayor Murray has been worried about, but hopefully both the DBT and the two additional tunnels that ST is currently building will be successful and mitigate irrational fears.

      1. It will help the case that the current tunnels being finished for U Link came in ahead of schedule and under-budget. Remember that Bertha’s name isn’t coincidental, and that train/bus diameter tunneling is much more of a proven process (as opposed to the technological ambition set forth by Bertha).

      2. Let’s none of us be too worried. Sound Transit is on bored tunnel number 8. They’re about 9 months ahead of schedule on the Downtown to Husky Stadium project and $150 million UNDER budget.

      3. It’s Mayor Murray’s job as a leader to inform the public why they’re both different types of projects and use hugely different diameters of tunnel. However, Murray is also a big supporter of the DBT, which might shed light on his hesitance to go on the defensive for Sound Transit tunneling efforts ( )

        Additionally, it’d help if Sound Transit went on the defensive for Sound Transit.

      4. Indeed, Sound Transit hasn’t had any big issues building their tunnels. Moreover, when you add sewer tunnels to the mix, and keep in mind the Great Northern railroad tunnel under downtown and the triple highway tunnels under the Mount Baker neighborhood, it’s clear that Seattle has no difficulty building tunnels when the tunnels use proven technologies.

        It’s only the one that’s being built by pushing a technology to limits it’s never been pushed before that’s running into big trouble.

    2. I didn’t think so with the transit tunnel at some indefinite point in the future. But now with it being promoted right on top of Bertha it’s a harder sell. Of course, the most technically safe tunnel is a cut-and-cover, but that’s the kind 4th Avenue businesses would be most heavily against because it would block off the street for a year. And given that 4th is the primary northbound automobile street with hardly a feasable detour, I don’t see how you could close it.

      1. A cut-and-cover tunnel would certainly complicate things while it is being built, but it wouldn’t “block off the street for a year”.

        I’m actually old enough to remember the existing. downtown transit tunnel being built. It was generally possible to drive down 3rd Ave; a temporary support structure was erected to allow traffic to pass over the construction happening below. If memory serves, it was built using lots of steel plates and grating (I remember the clanking as I would drive over it).

      2. Yes, David’s right. When the BART/Muni double deck subway was built down Market Street in San Francisco they simply covered the hole with very heavy planking supported by a network of steel beams. Those beams also suspended the utilities which could not be moved while the dirt was removed around them. After the double deck rail box was completed they just filled in the trench.

      3. Third wasn’t cut-and-cover, except the stations. It was bored tunnel much like what ST is doing now. The Pine segment of the DSTT was cut-and-cover, and I believe parts of it were closed at times (although my memory of that is a bit fuzzy).

      4. Yes, Pine was closed, but not sure if for the whole length at once. Fifth at Pine also, but the tunnel boring machine frames ended right under Fourth, so Fourth stayed open.

        Just make sure to follow the specifications for the materials in the reconstruction, as they found out with the Westlake pavers.

  4. Great vision! Present and future challenges addressed in a single project!

    I also like that this will be a litmus test for the “invest in BRT, not rail!” crowd: do they actually support real BRT investment, or is that just a clever ruse to soften the public face of their anti-transit stance? Now we can really find out…

    1. The answer is no, it’s a soft face. They’ll counter any BRT proposal with “buses work fine, we just need reform* to reduce waste and increase service. Vote no!” Happens all over the country. Even happens here with ST2 and Metro’s Prop 1.

      *note no ideas are actually given, just rhetoric.

  5. If we can’t afford a full subway in ST3, this strikes me as a very sensible fallback, but I’m also not ready to give up on Ballard-West Seattle rail in ST3. I do agree with Seattle Subway that a mixed-use tunnel makes sense until we get to a point where the lines necessitate <5 minute frequency, and also that it makes sense to build portals/branches that anticipate future lines.

    But I'm having trouble seeing ST agree to use its hard-won authority to build something that only Metro would operate in for years. So I have to wonder, if we built this as a bus/rail tunnel, could we use monorail authority to build the WSTT portion and let ST3 and Federal grants pick up the rest? If so, would it be possible to have a Ballard-West Seattle rail line and Aurora tunnel buses included from day 1?

    1. It’s an interesting thought, Zach. The better timing is likely to go ahead with ST3 funding, see what we get and what the region votes for. Then later add funding to speed up the Seattle process. Getting back on topic: this is the starting point for ST3. Where we go from here depends on lots of things.

    2. Zach – local funding – off topic! :)

      Yeah – we think the WSTT should be built regardless of which additional rail line is built with it. Right now the Ballard Spur + the WSTT seems to make the most sense, but that could change.

      A CTA could build the WSTT but we would have to get it in the ballot this year. Seems pretty unlikely – but I’m all for it.

      1. Keith, this article doesn’t repeat the “about $1 billion” cost claim in the Seattle Times article from 2/16.

        Quite frankly, I find that claim totally unbelievable. Just the six stations will likely cost more.

        I think this is a fantastic idea, but you can’t get *that* off-the-cuff about costs.

      2. Why would the CTA need to go to the ballot this year?

        I thought the plan was to see how ST3 did in the legislature, do a ‘plan B’ if that fails, or wait until the ST board decides what is in North King for ST3 before determining how that can be supplemented with Seattle money.

      3. Ben, the tunnel in that document is half the length of the proposed WSTT and ST estimated it would be about $1B. Seems like WSTT would be at least $2B.

    3. Guess we’ll find out if Dow is serious about integration.

      This makes way too much sense, improves way too many current trips and sets up expansion way too well for petty bullshit about who gets to use it first to derail.

    4. I’m also not ready to give up on Ballard-West Seattle rail in ST3.

      I’m really surprised to read this from you, Zach, since you’re usually so sensible on matters of mode.

      I struggle to see how West Seattle rail, with its comically limited catchment and lousy intermodal connections and billions-higher price tag, is better in any way to the effective “open BRT” enabled by this proposal.

      Frankly, ditto most of the north-south rail proposals from Ballard, whose catchments are similarly weak.

      1. I totally agree that an open BRT is perfect for West Seattle’s current land-use patterns, and I like how this proposal elegantly accommodates that without stifling future rail in any way. But it’s more of a concession to political reality than a modal determination. Given Dow and O’Brien’s commitment to West Seattle rail, and combined with the cumulative weight of perceived historical sleights (Forward Thrust, the monorail), West Seattle must be satisfied for ST3 to succeed. Therefore, my preferences in descending order are:

        (1. Build the whole damn thing using ST3/Federal grants outside of Downtown and CTA authority for the WSTT portion.
        (2. Build the WSTT now and something like Ballard/UW, upgrade to rail in ST4.
        (3. Build nothing.
        (4. Build a maximum footprint, minimum quality, unreliable, MAX-style rail line on the surface that technically qualifies as “West Seattle to Ballard”.

      2. I’m on the record as finding Dow not especially bright, but in any head-to-head comparison of travel times between a rail-stub transfer and this plan, the bus tunnel’s superiority becomes achingly apparent. For perhaps $2 or $3 billion less than a largely ineffective train.

        If a politician can’t work with that, then he’s not much of a politician.

        As for “perceived sleights”, West Seattle should remember how it got a massive and direct freeway bridge in the first place, and who paid for it. That bridge is, in fact, the only piece of Forward Thrust — intended even in 1970 to carry “bus rapid transit” (zoom in, scroll right to the “phase 2” key) — that was ever built.

      3. This in itself is not open BRT, but it’s a large step toward it. Open BRT would also require street improvements on the West Seattle end, a transit lane on the bridge, etc.

      4. This proposal does, as far as I understand it, anticipate fixes to the West Seattle bridge bus lane and access points. Real capital expenses, though not whopping ones. It would be silly to have the one without the other.

      5. Any chance you could get Lars Larson to get a summer home in Alki or something? He did a really good job of convincing Clark County that light rail is the end of civilization as we know it.

      6. @Zach — Of the choices, #2 is the obvious one. Nothing will move more people with less money than that. UW to Ballard light rail compliments this quite well. There are still some challenges for Ballard (because of congestion by the bridge) but going downtown via the UW would be a huge improvement over today. Meanwhile, if you are on a Ballard bus headed dowtown, you will just keep going, and get there much faster than today (once you clear the bridge). For Queen Anne, this is a huge improvement. For Ballard to Queen Anne or Belltown it as well.

        For folks in West Seattle, this will be a huge improvement, and by my estimation, the best thing we can do for the area (as mentioned). The area is just too diverse for great light rail. But this keeps the idea of light rail alive for now (and builds by far the most important piece). I think once people realize how this compares with West Seattle light rail, they will support it.

        For example, if asked to think of the three most iconic spots in West Seattle, I would name the junction, Alki, and South Seattle (Community) College. Light rail can’t possibly serve more than one of those. One. Everyone else would have to transfer, and the transfer would, in most cases, be worse than the current line. On the other hand, this makes life better for all three areas (and many more).

      7. Sadly #4 seems most likely at this point. All the cost of grade separated rail all the speed, reliability, and frequency of a mixed traffic streetcar.

    5. Considering Tacoma LINK as a precedent, they wouldn’t be on very strong ground resisting this project- especially considering the IDS station- not far under ST offices, and venue for Board meetings!


      1. This tunnel goes through Pioneer Square. There isn’t strong ground to resist anything there, as we’ve seen recently.

    6. Given the cost to serve West Seattle with rail. I think it is off the table in ST3 even if the $15 billion from the House package is approved.

      Ballard to Alaska Junction is on the order of $6 billion if the line is fully grade separated.

      WSTT + Ballard/Downtown will fit within the Senate funding levels. Local funds can build Ballard/UW.

      1. I think we need a citizen initiative to tap the monorail authority, with or without ST3. Hopefully we can design something to complement whatever package is approved as ST3, perhaps by adding additional funds to extend Ballard further (or make concessions to the West Seattle crowd). Maybe we use ST3 to get light rail to Ballard, and the CTA to fund whatever is not-quite-good-enough to make it into ST3?

      2. Ballard to UW plus this is a better value, and more palatable politically than Ballard to downtown plus this. Ballard to the UW serves the entire north end of Seattle (essentially everything north of the ship canal). Ballard to downtown will be seen as serving Ballard, even though it benefits Queen Anne and Magnolia. This benefits Queen and Magnolia (immensely). Thus the two go together really well.

        West Seattle folks will accept this much more easily if they see that Ballard didn’t get light rail “to downtown” either. The truth is, they did, it is just that it will go through the UW.

    7. @Zach,

      As far as ST not getting anything out of the WSTT, didn’t Metro pay for the original DSTT and generously allow ST to operate in it?

      1. When all the buses get kicked out of the tunnel to make room for light rail, will ST be paying all of the debt service on the tunnel? Unless that’s the case, it seems a strong argument could be made for ST to build a replacement tunnel for Metro to accomodate its buses.

      2. Yes, that’s the deal. If ST today convinced Metro to put another ST Express route in the tunnel, its share of the debt service cost would go up.

  6. “There is also capacity to add South and East King routes to the WSTT.”

    I can see how this might work for South end routes, but I don’t think the tunnel would be useful for Eastside buses. For I-90, remember that the D2 roadway will be taken over by East Link, so there would be a lot of manuvering that would be needed to get to the south portal.

    For SR-520 buses, the Aurora portal is located too far north to be convenient. You don’t want buses getting on I-5 at Mercer and then have to cross four lanes of traffic to get to 520. Using the Stewart St exit and the Olive Way entrance would probably burn up all the time savings of using the tunnel.

    1. Remember that Renton is technically East King for subarea purposes, even though everyone thinks of it as South King. I think that’s what they’re talking about, routes like the 101/102/143, or even an I-5 version of the 111.

    2. Vertical transfer by elevator and escalator probably no problem at IDS- also likely providing the “Great Hall” expanded refreshments and coffee that used to be there.

      Will also bring to life intended market area on the International District side- like much else about the DSTT, left abandoned for 25 years. So East Siders should be fine with this one.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I’m thinking more about the portal to I-5 at the convention center (vs. the stop itself). A spur from 2nd ave, down stewart/olive to the current convention center would allow for buses to/from I-5 which are currently using the DSTT to use the WSTT. I doubt it is future proof and would be mostly useless when it switches to rail, but for a bus tunnel it would allow for more direct connections to I-5 and 520. this will help sell it to more voters outside of Ballard and West Seattle.

  7. How long would it take to build and become operational (assuming it is passes as part of ST3 in 2016)?

    1. Good question. I don’t know the answer. But for reference, the DSTT planning started in 1974, plans were approved in 1983, construction began in 1987, and it opened in 1989-1990. Let’s hope that if the WSTT happens, it can be pushed through faster than that.

      1. I’m curious, do you know how much of a construction mess to expect should this idea go through? What was it like when the first tunnel was constructed?

      2. 3rd wasn’t closed other than for brief periods. The disruption near University and Pioneer Square was similar to the Pine street stub tunnel, except for a longer period of time.

        Pine street was closed for an extended period of time while Westlake station and the Pine street tunnel were built.

      3. Aaron: Our understanding is that ST is only considering Deep Bore (though it would be shallow) for this section. The stations would be cut and cover, but its possible to do this very quickly (as they did at Westlake years back) to minimize disruption. This must be built with the most minimal disruption possible.

  8. If the WSTT will eventually turn over to rail, why not connect it to the existing tunnel infrastructure? Seems strange and inefficient to me to have parallel rail lines when they could all be served by a single tunnel.

      1. Do you have figures on the capacity of the existing tunnel infrastructure? Are there any possible ways to increase capacity?

        I agree that this proposal would result in better service to the parts of the City that are currently under served as you describe, but taking a wider view it seems like this is an imperfect an inefficient solution in an arena where efficiency is paramount.

      2. ST is reserving all capacity for Lynnwood/Bellevue/Des Moines and possible Everett/Tacoma extensions. It won’t release it for other lines until it sees actual ridership and long-term trends. There’s a missing ventilation shaft in Montlake that could increase capacity. Beyond that, there’s a lively debate about why ST requires 3-minute headways when east cost systems have 90-second headways. But it ultimately boils down to, ST has the keys and makes the decisions, and even if it is just ultra-conservitism there’s nothing we can do about it.

        In the meantime, a second tunnel would put us in an excellent position of having plenty of capacity for two or even three more lines. Better to have a surplus of resources and fast buses, than constrained resources and slow buses.

      3. That’s probably true (2nd tunnel needed for capacity) but it seems like it would be a nice connection for detours. For instance in Chicago, the red/orange/green lines on the south side and red/purple/brown lines on the north side are somewhat intertwined and they can send red line trains to the loop if they have to.

        I would guess the fatal flaw is excavating a huge hole in downtown Seattle to tap into the DSTT with a rail interchange around 3rd and Pine. I would think a connection between the two lines on the south end would be good with ideally a cross-platform transfer at Sodo.

    1. Per ST the current tunnel will be bus free by 2020 and at train capacity by 2023. We werw always going to need a 2nd tunnel for Ballard to West Seattle.

      1. I understand that. My question is… why? Why does it *have* to be bus free by 2020? It seems to me that a medium-term reduction in rail efficiency is worth it to have a unified, efficient system. If we’re building a transit system for the next 50+ years, it makes a lot more sense to me to combine the tunnels than this proposal does.

      2. The pacing item for kicking the buses out of the DSTT will (in all likelihood) not be anything related to ST.

        The pacing item for kicking the buses out will probably be Convention Center expansion, and will most likely occur in the next couple of years.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the buses are out of the DSTT by early 2017.

      3. sp the ghost:

        One reason buses are coming out is that bus layover/waiting zone in the southernmost tunnel station (ID/Chinatown) will be removed to make room for East Link trains to turn around.

    2. The capacity issues forcing the buses out of the current tunnel are exactly the reason why we need a new tunnel. We can’t keep running buses and trains in the same tunnel once North, South and East Link are all up and running.

      To keep running buses underground, a new tunnel is needed. This tunnel would of course need underground connections to the existing stations to make transfers as easy as possible.

    3. Not only is it a capacity issue but a flexibility one as well I think. Currently if there is an issue in the existing tunnel, say a broken bus or train or accident, the entire light rail and bus system comes to a halt, transit in Seattle becomes almost a gridlock with a ripple effect across the entire Puget Sound. With a seperate line people can still move at least and have the flexibility to find alternate routes. I found in NYC the altnerate lines where a godsend many a night

  9. Anything that provides a dedicated commute option that doesn’t share surface streets with existing traffic gets my vote!

    1. Anyone who has ever ridden the D, the 18, 17, or 15 knows the simple, compelling logic of this idea.

      1. Ryan — right? This fixes the most brutal part of Ballard/DT trips and leaves enough funds to give relief to the poor souls who ride from UW – Ballard on the 44 via the Ballard Spur. Its the only way we could think of to help all three corridors (and the bonus Aurora corridor/South King) considering the likely budget constraints.

  10. ST’s studies agree: the one project that rises above all others in North King is Ballard–UW.

      1. On a cost/mile cost/rider basis (how the FTA evaluates projects) you’re exactly right, Kyle S.. But things could change, and Seattle Subway is focused on what gets the most federal dollars.

      2. Creates capacity issues on U-Link, no rational expansion plan, bulk of riders are traveling to DT and not to UW, etc.

      3. 1) Not if you don’t interline with U-Link, but instead plan for a Ballard to Downtown Connection.
        2) Rational Plan: Ballard to Downtown Transit Study Phase 2 Corridor A connecting to WSTT
        3) That’s not entirely true for the Ballard to UW corridor. For the whole city, perhaps it is, but remember the 2nd biggest transit hub in the WHOLE macro region is the University of Washington.

      4. I should mention: you’d need a temporary Ballard to UW O&M facility, but only for a few vehicles. Then you can put a big one in Interbay or across Sand Point on the Eastside.

      5. 1) Ultimately the capacity crunch results from the highly directional nature of the commute north of downtown. It’s a demand issue at peak LRV thru-put.
        2) It’s highly unlikely that ST3 will fund both Ballard-UW and a DSTT2. Hence building an orphan line like Ballard- UW does nothing for ST4 or beyond.
        3) If you are willing to take your highest ridership demand and force them to transfer at the UW, then certainly a line from Westlake Station north to Ballard would do better at similar cost while still building rationally towards the future.

      6. then certainly…would do better at similar cost.

        The north-south options did less well at 2x times the cost, or similarly well at 3x the cost.

        Facts! They’re what’s for breakfast!

        (Also, give it up on the packed-solid Lynnwood trains. Not happening in our lifetime.)

        (Also, the future is universal multi-modal urban mobility. It isn’t downtown-centric, and it doesn’t involve radial rail extended in all directions to infinity.)

      7. Ben,

        A non-revenue track connection, which must be built in any sane world, gets trains to any maintenance base you please.

        And now I shall invoke the “Sand Point Rule”, which involves unequivocally shutting down that branch of the discussion before you make an ass of yourself and undermine all of Seattle Subway’s important and reality-based work on the WSTT proposal.

      8. Lazarus,
        Given a new WSTT: NO ONE GOING FROM BALLARD WOULD USE THE BALLARD TO UW ROUTE TO GO DOWNTOWN. Please tell anyone at Sound Transit telling you otherwise that they’re being silly.

        d.p., ok.

      9. @Ben B,

        The reason that UW bound travelers from Ballard will transfer DT is that there won’t be a Ballard-UW spur in ST3. ST simply doesn’t have the funding capacity to do Ballard-UW and a new DSTT2, even if Ballard-UW made sense (and it doesn’t).

        Given the realities of the situation, ST will be focused on doing something with rail on the Ballard-DT-WS route. if they can make that happen (and it will be a stretch), then there won’t be nearly enough left for anything other than maybe redeployed Rapid Ride on Ballard-UW.

        But why anyone would take a bus from Ballard to UW when they can have a 2 seat rail-only ride is beyond me, rail would be faster and more reliable.

      10. … when they can have a 2 seat rail-only ride is beyond me, rail would be faster and more reliable.

        Between some destination pairs, yes. Between others, no.

        With RapidRide as slow as it is today, yes. With a WSTT literally cutting RapidRide’s running time in half, perhaps not.*

        Rail is an excellent tool when deployed well. But it is not a panacea, and it is not a teleporter.

        Meanwhile, Ballard-UW is a more useful line with a better access-shed because it is a more useful line with a better access-shed. It also happens to be cheaper than even the lamest north-south rail. That it also provides a competitive Ballard-downtown journey time is a bonus. And furthermore, all of this is documented, which makes your incessant protestations to the contrary insufferable as well as deleterious to the cause of effective high-capacity transit in Seattle.

        (If you don’t know that fully 50% of RapidRide D’s present Ballard-downtown journey time is between Mercer and downtown, then you have no business butting into this discussion.)

      11. A small note that crosswise lines have more ridership potential than parallel lines. Parallel lines cannibalize some ridership from their neighbor, while crosswise lines bring in crosstown ridership that was never served at all, as well as new L-shaped trips.

      12. A Ballard-UW line with properly spaced stations does the following:

        Replaces trips on the 44.

        Provide transfers to/from the following bus routes:
        RR D, RR E, 5, 16, 26, 28, 40

        Some trips on the 31,32, and 48 would likely switch to rail as well.

      13. lazarus,

        I would invite you to read the Ballard-Downtown and Ballard-UW studies again, paying careful attention to the ridership and cost estimates.

        For Ballard-Downtown, leaving out the non-serious at-grade options (C & E), you have a range of options costing between $2.4 and $3.6 billion, with ridership estimates between 22,000 and 30,000, depending on the option.

        For Ballard-UW, leaving out the non-serious BRT options, you have a range of options costing between $1.2 and $1.9 billion, with ridership estimates between 20,000 and 28,000, depending on the option.

        But don’t take my word for it. Go read the both of the studies yourself. Then tell us again why Ballard-UW doesn’t make sense? I’d say half the cost for similar ridership is pretty compelling.

      14. @Jason Rogers,

        ST won’t be so myopic as to focus on only one metric — even one as seemingly simple as cost per rider. They need to consider capacity constraints in the rest of the system, and future expandability. For those reasons alone the Ballard-UW line is a loser.

        Additionally, ST can’t gold plate the north end while ignoring WS and the south end. That would be suicide for ST3. That leads towards cost cutting on Ballard-DT in an attempt to fund DT-WS too. That effectively means that ST might consider more surface running in favor of more coverage. I don’t like this trend, but it is understandable.

        These are the tradeoffs that ST will need to consider when developing the plan for ST3, and ultimately they work against Ballard-UW.

        And again, my preference would be for some Federal funding to make Ballard-DT-WS possible.

      15. “ST can’t gold plate the north end while ignoring WS and the south end.”

        The Ballard-UW line is cheaper. That means more money to help West Seattle, not less.

      16. lazarus,

        I know that pure cost-benefit isn’t the only metric, but your postings so far have taken the tone of saying Ballard-UW is a ridiculous line. Specifically, you said “ST simply doesn’t have the funding capacity to do Ballard-UW and a new DSTT2, even if Ballard-UW made sense (and it doesn’t).” Ballard-UW makes a lot of sense, and by certain metrics it should be the #1 priority in the North King subarea; no other project that has actually been studied has a better ROI (the WSTT presented here hasn’t been fully studied).

        I’m not convinced a Ballard-UW line with the WSTT results in overloads on between the U District and Westlake because you’d still have significant ridership and capacity on RR D (and other routes). Beyond that, ST’s ridership projections put the capacity crunch out towards 2035-2040, so there would likely be a period where there is no capacity crunch. It is also possible that there’s a capacity crunch immediately, or never; 20 years in the future is a long time.

        With that said, I recognize the political calculations going on, and have serious concerns about how the ST Board is going to structure the ST3 package. There are serious revenue constraints that appear to cause major political problems in both North King (not enough money for both Ballard and West Seattle rail) and Snohomish (not enough money to get to Everett except with a cut-down line). The proposal put forth by Seattle Subway here for a WSTT implies doing a Ballard-UW line, which would appear to fit within the range of ST3 revenue possibilities for North King.

        Rail to West Seattle has serious drawbacks, including a very high cost for not much ridership, and as pointed out by others would not really improve the transit situation there. Politically you need to do something for West Seattle, but a massively expensive rail line that doesn’t improve mobility seems to be a huge waste of money. The political calculus here is tough; West Seattle (rightly or wrongly) feels entitled, but Ballard is the obvious 1st priority and all of the public feedback told ST to go big or go home on Ballard rail. Seattle Subway’s WSTT proposal clearly attempts to bridge the political divide by offering something for everyone that is affordable within the revenue constraints. Whether its enough for everyone is another question, but I think the technical merits of this approach are sound.

        As you point out, federal funding is the wildcard that may ease the money crunch, but it seems foolish to rely on that.

        I’m willing to agree to disagree.

      17. Ballard->UW is also not just about getting to the UW. It’s about getting anywhere north or east of the UW. Someone going from Ballard, Fremont, or Wallingford is not going to want to go downtown first on the way to Northgate, Lynnwood, or Redmond. The most direct route is to go first to the UW, then take a train north or a bus east from there.

      18. Well said Jason. This plus the UW-Ballard line compliment each other really well now, and into the future. It will take a long time, if ever, for North Link to reach capacity. If it does, then we build Ballard to downtown light rail. A WSTT provides the toughest part of it. Everything else (assuming you go via Interbay) will be on the surface, and can be built a lot faster. Tunnels take a long time — elevated rail does not. Link is taking forever to get to Northgate, but it will get from there to Lynnwood in only two years. Obviously a lot of the delay in getting to Northgate is planning, but if the issue is capacity, that can be sped up. Sound Transit s taking their time because they know they can take their time — it doesn’t hurt their system. But if North Link is headed towards a capacity crunch, then we can easily build out the rail line to Ballard, and WSTT is an essential part of that.

        I think Lazurus confuses a commuter rail line with a transit network. Not everyone is going downtown. Otherwise, you would see lots more people on the bus, and lots fewer people driving. Even the folks who work downtown will benefit greatly from the Link rail line, if they dare to wander out into the rest of the city after work. Imagine you commute from Roosevelt to downtown. Link will be a nice improvement, but not a huge one over the express buses. But imagine you want to take in a show on Capitol Hill after work. If you ride the bus, then getting from the show back home is a pain (requiring you to go back downtown and wait for an infrequent bus). Folks like this drive. But with Link, every piece of the trip becomes much easier.

        If you look at Vancover’s rail line, you will notice two things: not all lines go downtown, and not all lines go everywhere. It compliments the bus lines. Vancouver manages to have the third largest per capita transit ridership in North America. Third! Higher than Chicago, Montreal and Boston. Many times higher than Seattle. They do it with good rail and bus service that work together.

        The WSTT and a UW to Ballard rail line would provide that kind of service. All buses in the north end would feed into rail, and buses heading downtown (along 15th, Aurora or the West Seattle Freeway) would be much faster, and connect to Uptown along the way. Magnolia, Queen Anne and everywhere north of the ship canal and west of I-5 improves greatly with the two lines. Not only does the connection with downtown and the UW improve, but the connection with each other. Wallingford to Uptown. Phinney Ridge to the UW. Chuck’s in Greenwood to Roosevelt. Lynnwood to Fremont. These all become very fast, very easy trips. These are all trips that would involve driving for most people in the city. These are the types of trips that clog our roads. The only way to get anything near the transit ridership of Vancouver is to build a system like Vancouver’s, which involves a fast, frequent network of buses and light rail. This WSTT and UW to Ballard rail does that. None of the affordable alternatives do that.

      19. Ross, Jason, DP. Though we are not always on the same page, we are all very much in agreement on this issue. When we were brainstorming ST3 considering the budget constraints this idea (with the help of Bruce Nourish and others) came through like a revelation. Its the only way to serve all three corridors considering the budget limitations. It would really help a lot of transit trips when paired with the Ballard Spur.

  11. It would be great if the stations could have center platforms. You’d have to have buses and trains run on the left side rather than the right, but I don’t think that’s a huge problem.

    1. I like the idea of a double-platform with space for four tracks, a center and left/right platform. You could have multiple lines serving the same platforms and could also consider having express service in the distant future.

      Probably just a pipe dream though… :P

    2. Yes, center platforms! It is an engineering task, but we as advocates need to mention it regularly or else we’ll get something like Central Link. The Board and planners listen to the massive amount of feedback from the public, the ST project managers listen to their colleagues, and the engineering design firms listen to their ST project managers. Also, never underestimate the power of a formally submitted comment during EIS and network development type studies. A couple hundred comments in favor of something clear, like this transit tunnel or grade separation, can move the needle. The groundswell that the formerly possible Latvian Church displacement caused led ST to choose a different path forward.

    3. Note that center lanes will force both buses and rail to travel on the left side (assuming that in the future they will share the tunnel at some point). Its a bit confusing to riders, but doable.

      1. I also saw a rendering that showed that the DTSTT was originally designed with that kind of configuration.

  12. There are a couple of problems with this:

    First. the economics of this would be problematic. Building this as a bus tunnel won’t be significantly cheaper than building it as the equivalent LR only facility, but it will attract much fewer total riders. Thus it would score lower in any discussions regrading Federal funding. Yes, it is rail convertible, but the chances of overall success might be better if we built a larger LR only facility using a larger Federal funding share.

    Second, the DSTT was never really that successful. Metro was never able to run the full number of buses through the tunnel that they originally promised, and even at that the DSTT was operationally problematic. And they never got their platooning system to work — it was abandoned almost as soon at the tunnel opened.

    Third, starting operation as a bus tunnel would cause our suburban friends to expect continued access to it in perpetuity. Witness the problems we are currently having getting buses reduced and/or eliminated in the DSTT.

    That said, if we did build another rail convertible bus tunnel, at least we should swap the running direction so we can have center platforms (run NB buses on the westside lane, SB on the eastside). Metro had their blinders on when they designed the DSTT and this never occurred to them, but it would have saved them significant money in construction and (probably) maintenance.

    1. Regarding your last point, maybe center platforms in the DSTT would have occurred to Metro after they got experience with Bellevue TC. Running buses in the ‘wrong’ direction does get a little tricky at the portals. It might be simpler if a portal is located at a one-way couplet, or one of those weird intersections north of downtwon where the grid falls apart.

    2. Building this as a bus tunnel won’t be significantly cheaper than building it as the equivalent LR only facility, but it will attract much fewer total riders.

      Says who? The vague sense that rail is “better” or has “higher capacity” that will be used regardless of which direction it comes from needs to stop attempting to pass itself off as an argument.

      The persistent problem with West Seattle rail sketches is that they serve so few people directly that they would barely justify moderately high frequencies at the height of peak, and provide such mediocre transfer experiences to other parts of West Seattle that their appeal is depressed.

      Meanwhile, from the north end, this proposal sees all Aurora buses entering (and saving a ton of running time) from day one, as well as all of the Ballard buses (with similarly dramatic time savings).

      Those routes may cumulatively already add up to more ridership than you would get for the forseeable future from a rail line with such limited catchment.

      Anyway, the federal-algorithm numbers — costs, time savings, new riders, etc. — for the Ballard-UW spur crunch better than any of the radial options. West Seattle rail wouldn’t earn a dime from the Feds, and I’m not sure this downtown section could either.

      That’s no reason not to pursue this downtown-to-many-places expediter in its most useful possible expression, which is probably as a rail-convertible bus tunnel!

      Third, starting operation as a bus tunnel would cause our suburban friends to expect continued access to it in perpetuity.

      This I actually agree with completely. Favoring highway access for distance commuters at the expense of all else was the great error of the first DSTT, doing nothing for the intra-city transit crawl for a generation.

      Let’s not repeat that mistake.

    3. Probably main reason for side platforms in the DSTT- as well as over-complicated station layouts and single-direction escalators, was the very tight side-to-side space.

      Closest I’ve seen is in Pittsburgh- where many of our own engineering team came from. Pittsburgh features joint bus-rail running on outdoor fully-reserved highways.

      Seattle and Pittsburgh: stations are fitted into existing buildings like precision gold dental work into a tooth.

      Also, though probably secondary, the system had serious doubts about using buses in the Tunnel at all, and wanted to be sure breakdowns could be cleared.

      At the beginning, the DSTT had two special tow-vehicles specifically for dragging out buses- though didn’t take long to go to standard tow-trucks.

      In addition, it was a good idea to give buses to ability to pass each other in event of breakdowns. Though some of us who drove in there felt that supervisors and drivers should have had more latitude to use the passing lanes.

      And for much else that proper training and use of existing signalling should have allowed us to do.

      But main thing to remember for every fully-reserved bus right-of-way:
      unless brakes are hopelessly locked, a train can be either pulled or pushed out of the Tunnel, or onto a side-track by another train.

      Theoretically, buses could be structured out for coupled operations, as well as emergency removal. Standard bus frame won’t take very much in any direction.

      Have seen pics from Russia, where ordinary forty-foot trolleybuses are coupled. Probably by means illegal here, though doubtless simple and sturdy. Poles up on rear bus only.

      Mark Dublin

    4. “Building this as a bus tunnel won’t be significantly cheaper than building it as the equivalent LR only facility, but it will attract much fewer total riders. Thus it would score lower in any discussions regrading Federal funding.”

      The only reason we wouldn’t build full Ballard and West Seattle light rail now is if we can’t afford to. So it doesn’t matter what the federal score is because there’s an insurmountable gap between what we have and the cost of a full rail system. Meanwhile, even if full Ballard+WS rail is running at 10-minute headways (it wouldn’t need 5-minute since it’s not going to Lynnwood or SeaTac), that’s a lot of spare capacity going unused. That capacity is for the Aurora/Georegetown line in Seattle Subway’s vision, and there’s theoretically room for a third line although it hasn’t been identified. Meanwhile RapidRide E and other routes will be running on the surface while we’re just throwing capacity away. Is that good?

      We must not depend on federal grants for critical parts of the infrastructure. Federal grants are a nice extra, but they’re completely uncertain. We need to design a core system we can build locally if we have to, and use federal grants for add-on extras or to reduce the bill.

      “Third, starting operation as a bus tunnel would cause our suburban friends to expect continued access to it in perpetuity. Witness the problems we are currently having getting buses reduced and/or eliminated in the DSTT.”

      Those were explicit promises made for the first tunnel, which was built by King County, was designed to connect to the I-5 express lanes and I-90, and the voters rebelled at an alternative that would have had a closed trolleybus line and bus-transfer stations at each end. This tunnel would not have these, and it would be primarily for the west side areas that were left out of the first tunnel: Ballard, Aurora, and West Seattle. Any other invitations would be as capacity exists, and perhaps come with a condition that they would not be guaranteed if Seattle wants to use the capacity for something else. Again, North King is paying for it. Oh, and the E goes to Shoreline, which is part of North King.

      1. >> The only reason we wouldn’t build full Ballard and West Seattle light rail now is if we can’t afford to.

        I would say that is true of Ballard, but not true of West Seattle. Assuming that West Seattle only has one line, and that it doesn’t serve Alki (a very safe assumption) means that most of West Seattle folks would not be able to walk to a station. There is nothing terrible about that (quite the contrary). Bus to rail connections are critical for a vibrant transit network. But in this case, you wouldn’t have that. The transfer would be awkward, and ignore the very fast alternative (traveling on a grade separated freeway all the way to and through downtown). In other words, a transfer from Lake City to a stop at 130th NE is not bad at all. You get much faster trips to Northgate, Roosevelt, the UW and Capitol Hill over the current bus line. But for someone coming from Alki, a transfer really gets them nothing, and simply costs them time.

        Sometimes the cheaper alternative is the better alterative. This is one of those times.

    5. Got a spare $6 billion laying around? Because that is what grade separated rail between Alaska Junction an Ballard is going to cost. I don’t see that sort of money being there in ST3. Given the cost vs ridership I very much doubt anything other than the downtown portion as a dual-use tunnel would be able to qualify for Federal grants.

      All things considered I think Ballard/Downtown via Interbay with a dual use tunnel all the way to IDS and an Aurora portal can be built in ST3.

    6. I am becoming more and more convinced that its foolish to keep running EVERY bus THROUGH downtown on a n/s axis. Perhaps the time is coming where ST/KCM need to build a transit center in downtown and run the suburban buses there much like what is done in New York, Denver, San Francisco. I think with this type of arrangement you could free up many service hours for re-use, and with LINK expansions there will be plenty of N/S service to absorb the bus riders.

      1. Boston transit operates on this principle too. With so many rail lines available, the MBTA structured the bus system so that only a few routes actually run through Downtown Boston.

      2. FWIW, it’s Boston’s compactness that ensures most of the urban nucleus, and the heart of downtown in particular, can be easily covered from all directions by four core subway lines. This is why there is no need for all-day bus routes crossing or penetrating the core. (There are a handful of high-fare premium express buses that still do.)

        However, with the exception of a couple of buses from the north (which turn around at Haymarket), bus-train transfers are happening nowhere near the core. Even in a city so compact and with such high-frequency trunk service, it would make little sense to bus people to within half a mile of their destinations and then force them to transfer just to continue in the same cardinal direction.

        Proposals to turn all comers around at Westlake and the I.D. — at elaborate terminals taking minutes to access and dock in, to boot — therefore have little resemblance to Boston. They far more resemble the Denver model, which I can tell you from experience sucks unequivocally. It’s laborious, confusing, leads to worse travel-time outcomes almost without exception, and in my humble opinion is partly responsible for the gap between Denver’s “pride” in RTD and its paltry actual usage of the system.

        In the short term, the best way to reduce the clusterfuck of cross-downtown buses jamming up the curb space would be a more generalized rationalization of the network: simplified and reduced routes everywhere, running much more frequently, and with fewer coming anywhere near downtown in the first place.

        Later, with a built-out ST2 Link supplemented by this WSTT and a Madison BRT, you might begin to see the bulk of trips to, from, and across downtown further shift away from the clusterfuck of surface routes. But this will be a natural progression stemming from the improved logic of the resultant system; it will not be forced.

  13. I’m with Barman. It seems like paralleling the existing tunnel is a missed opportunity to expand the service area. Obviously it will require a lot of transfers but moving the downtown part of the westside tunnel east could increase access to a number of areas. I’d drop 2nd and move the whole line east. Heading SE from the Denny stop with a stop in south lake union and lower capital hill as well. The biggest challenge would be the north connection station. Perhaps we could re-use elements of the convention center station. But again, just my two cents…

    1. Chris, having been “in on the beginning”, I’ve been ragging on Metro since September 15, 1990, to quit wasting the signal system and improve training for the skilled teamwork required for successful joint operations.

      Too bad the word “accountability” only means punishment for the poor. Millions of dollars for signals dropped after two weeks. Many more millions for lost operating time over a quarter century. Wish aversion to one’s own official sweat counted at least as vagrancy.

      But honestly. With world’s best possible crew and equipment, fast trains at much closer headway will soon need the DSTT for themselves- as was always intended. Good metric: consider difference between train and bus for loading a single wheelchair.

      However: since every construction measure can have delays, it’s very possible that routes like the 41 and even more, the 550, will be with the Tunnel for awhile. Might be room for 512 and Everett service too.

      So maybe as revenge for a quarter century of embarrassment- would be worth it if for a few extra few years, the DSTT could be operated as the credit to the transit industry and its workers that it was designed to be.

      Mark Dublin

    2. The major flaw in this proposal is that it does not expand the walkshed to rail, at all, in ST3. The construction timeline is too long for voters to sign on to something just because it will help ST4. Voters want rail they can use to get to more places, now. I know you all hate transfers for rail (even though you love transfers for buses), but they’re really not a problem when you have a fast, all-day rail network. I do not think the WSTT could win at the ballot, and I don’t think it should. We’re much better off covering new ground away from downtown in ST3, and then using ST4 to connect the stubs created in ST3.

      1. Voters want mobility, or convenient access to places. Whether we can build rail depends on how much money we have and what the projects cost. People can understand a second DSTT as a big improvement: that’s why they want their routes in the DSTT and envy those who do. They understand it as a major down payment on rail in the future, because they saw it succeed before. And, if you can convince them that the bus routes will be significantly improved beyond just stuffing them in a tunnel, they may decide it’s OK for an interim solution. Again, the question of this vs rail is not whether we want rail, but whether we can afford it now.

  14. Since it crosses the existing tunnel, it looks like it will have to be built below the existing DSTT. I can’t help but rejoice at the one good thing about buses getting kicked out of the DSTT, which is that certain bus to bus transfers will never again be subject to an escalator ride between ground level and tunnel level. If we build the WSTT under the DSTT, then those bus transfers will now be subject to two tunnel levels of elevation change (which realistically is probably around 4 building levels), and for all the complaining on this blog about walking distance and ramp access between bus stops, I am surprised that this didn’t even get a mention in this post.

    1. This needs to be underlined.

      Could it be built above the DSTT? I have utterly no idea; I’ve no idea of Downtown soil conditions.

      1. BN tunnel does go over the DSTT just north of Jackson Street. Not very far over, either.

        Maybe still-burning event in West Virginia and earlier Dresden-remake in Quebec will see to it that local tank cars carry milk.


    2. Very likely no, the WSTT cannot go over the DSTT. The DSTT isn’t that deep and all the building foundations are quite deep.

      1. I think that is the bigger problem. You can’t cross from 2nd to 5th without going below the DSTT because of building foundations. This means that both the Westlake Station and Madison Station would be built very deep, particularly because ground level at those station areas is substantially higher (25 feet plus) than 3rd avenue between Pine and Spring.

        This raises the question of whether you could cross above the current DSTT by placing a Westlake station under 4th [or 5th], such that the line followed under 1 street through that section? Station accessibility matters.

      2. The routing proposed came from the Sound Transit study work for Ballard to DT and WS to DT. We will defer to them on the exact method by which they intend to accomplish this routing. We know the crossover exists because 2nd to the south has soil and utility issues (just ask Bertha on the former.)

    3. Just because it would cross the DSTT doesn’t mean it has to be built lower than it for the entire length. Due to the change in grade between 4th & Madison and 2nd & Pine the WSTT would be diving down anyway. Heck if you need to just put a dip in the tunnel like in the DSTT between Pioneer Square and IDS.

  15. This is a great idea to fall back on… but I would rather we push for rail harder than ever before. If we can get a subway just to the northern tip of West Seattle, that would already be better than a bus-only tunnel. Besides, I agree with Zach Shaner… this would serve only King County Metro buses… I’m not sure Sound Transit would be real keen on being that generous.

    We need to push for a full-blown subway and fall back on this and Ballard spur if it doesn’t work.

      1. Do you know how slow buses must travel? Around corners, stop lights, etc. On the rare days there is no traffic on the W Seattle Bridge, the train would still be faster to transfer to and ride. As traffic worsens, the bus will not be going anywhere on the Bridge.

        I say build the WSTT, but at least try and build the rail line out to the northern tip of West Seattle.

      2. Then you have misunderstood the proposal.

        The proposal is to evade the blockages, fix the bottlenecks, delete the many-cornered routings, and to keep those buses moving all the way into and through downtown.

        A low-demand, low-frequency stub train would still need to be accessed by bus for the overwhelming majority of West Seattlers, but now they would have transfer penalties (many involving the slow-corner-looping you deplore) to contend with as well.

      3. Andrew, as a resident of West Seattle (when I’m not in school) I have to really question that assertion. Except inbound during the AM peak and to a lesser extent outbound during the PM peak, bus travel times between the Junction and Westlake on the C Line are fast and fairly reliable (or at least compared to most parts of the city). At most other times, the bus practically sails.

        Infrastructure that bypasses the remaining chokepoints will provide a basically uninterrupted, free-flowing ride to at least the edge of Downtown. In the AM peak the point where the bus actually slows to a standstill is on the entrance ramp to northbound SR 99. I assume some sort of bus-only ramp could be constructed. Likewise, the outbound direction lacks bus-only lanes, which could easily be painted. The demolition of the Viaduct will add some new difficulties, but there should be space for bus lanes along Alaskan/Columbia or some pathway to the proposed WSTT. These sort of investments save hundreds of millions (probably billions) compared to a train, and leave money for extensive, targeted improvements to multiple bus corridors on the peninsula so that even the mixed-traffic segments have off-board payment, among other things.

        Considering that a train would almost certainly make stops in Sodo, would it really be faster than current buses? Add in a 5-minute average transfer penalty for most West Seattleites and there’s really no competition. Have you ever been on Link crawling along the Sodo surface segment? Even with crossing gates, it’s considerably slower than the parallel C Line cruising non-stop along the bus-only lanes on 99. A legitimate point of debate is whether a SR 99/Alaskan pathway (maybe with an E-W connection to this WSTT around SR 519?) or a Sodo Busway pathway will be faster once the Viaduct is demolished (which seems like an inevitability regardless of the outcome of the replacement project). People seem to assume that Sodo is faster, but I wonder whether they realize how fast the existing infrastructure is, which will mostly remain with potential for investment in the gaps.

    1. The “northern tip” of West Seattle is the Admiral District, with expensive single family homes, and several hundred feet below, condos along the beach front.
      I don”t think the current ridership of the RapidRide C line and the 21 will like the idea of traveling to Admiral for a transfer to a longish elevator ride to another mode, and for some, only to have to transfer to yet another route once in downtown.
      Not to overlook the riders of the 120 and 125 which service the eastern portion of West Seattle.
      Will they have to go to Admiral too?

      I like the Seattle Subway proposal.
      What’s the best way to advance this line of thinking?

    2. It’s not “generous”. It’s building the regional transit facility that voters want (if they do), which is ST’s job. It doesn’t matter if it’s “Metro” buses using it, only that it fulfills regional-mobility goals. Regional mobility means people going from downtown to Ballard as well as from Bellevue to Ballard, because often they’re the same people at different times, and somebody else is going from Ballard to SeaTac. And people in Bellevue also want to go to West Seattle, as people in Ballard do too.

    3. FWIW the WSTT serves not only King County Metro routes but serves the following ST routes: 577, 578, 586, 590, 592, 594, 595.

      1. What, says who? There goes the spare capacity if you put all the Tacoma routes into it. That’s a lot of buses.

    4. I can imagine several scenarios where West Seattle does get rail in ST3, and some of them are actually pretty decent policy outcomes.

      1. If any of them involve money falling from the sky Feds, then they are doubtful.

        The ROI really is that weak, and Dow really isn’t that influential.

      2. Unfortunately I too can imagine several scenarios where West Seattle gets rail in ST3. All of them horrible from a transit and policy perspective. (Put all North King funds in serving West Seattle, build crappy rail with all the expensive bits like a Duwamish crossing but all the performance of a mixed traffic streetcar. Tell Ballard to wait another 30 years).

        I’d love to know the scenarios you think would be decent policy outcomes.

  16. This. This. This. I will vote for this. I love this idea.

    More needs to be done with the connection from the SODO Busway to Spokane st. If we are going to be spending Billions of $’s on this don’t skimp on the details. A two way center lane flyover ramp from spokane st. to the Busway is a must. Also, a two way transit only ramp from SR99 to spokane st is needed as well. This would enable all of the transit from the south on SR99 and SR509 to use this as well.

    Adding the the stub to SR99 is big. With this we need to focus on how do we get Fremont connected to SR99 Rapid Ride.

    1. Fil – We agree that the idea needs more input on the West Seattle side. We were minimal on details on that front for brevity’s sake.

      So – what BRT improvements can be made to this plan to make it better for West Seattle? We assume that the Avalon bus lane will happen without ST’s influence. What else? What’s the best way to connect West Seattle to the SODO bus lane?

  17. If this new tunnel is going to integrate busses and light rail eventually, why not design the stations to specifically accommodate both? As I understand it, the problem with the existing tunnel is mainly the lengthy dwell times of the busses. If you design the stations with two center platforms, each served on one side by the right door of the busses, and on the other by the left door of the light rail trains, you could greatly increase the tunnel’s overall throughput. The added expense would only be at the stations, so it would be relatively small when compared with the overall tunnel cost. It would look somewhat like the new stations Trimet is building on either side of the Tillicum crossing in Portland. MAX serves the outside of the plaforms, and bus/streetcars serve the inside:

  18. My concerns with this proposal is that it would potentially avoid the mistakes and issues with the current tunnel.

    From a design perspective, the current tunnel is over built for rail. The large passing areas originally built for buses are not needed for rail. Furthermore the platforms are relatively small. Side platforms add cost and inconvenience to the overall scale. The tunnel we have today is great – but it could have been even better (and cheaper) if it were originally designed for trains.

    Then there’s the political issues. Kicking buses out of the existing tunnel has proven very difficult from a political standpoint. Today we’re left with mixed operation that is mediocre at best and doesn’t serve either mode effectively. Would a new tunnel create exactly the same situation down the road?

    A bus tunnel designed for conversion to LRT also closes off potential options in the future. I think that the Ballard and West Seattle corridors could be serviced just fine with a smaller profile, automated metro system (think the SkyTrain or Copenhagen Metro as an example) rather than 4x LRT cars. We’re locked into the existing light rail technology for central link, but as future lines would not share any of the existing Link infrastructure downtown, I don’t see why newer lines using a different tunnel couldn’t use a more optimal technology.

    1. “Kicking buses out of the existing tunnel has proven very difficult from a political standpoint.”

      The 41, 71, 72, 73, and 550 are fulfilling Link’s role until the extensions are built, and the 74 and 301 help them out peak hours.

      1. The 301 is on the surface now. And the 76/316 also fulfill Link’s role during peak until Roosevelt Station opens.

    2. It’s over designed for rail because it was originally designed for buses. The rail installed at the last minuted as an afterthought in the DSTT wasn’t even put in properly. The $500M cost back in the 1990’s wasn’t so bad. And we’d probably save more money if the stations weren’t huge vaults covered in beautiful stonework.

      There’s no reason why we can’t automate 4x LRT vehicles or big trains. Muni does it. Tons of other systems use automation of metro rail systems.

      1. Another problem with this proposal is that it is directly contrary to Seattle Subway’s goal of driver-less trains. Sound Transit will never allow automated trains to interline with buses. If you create another hybrid bus-train tunnel, you will kill any chances of introducing driverless technology on new lines.

      2. We don’t think so. We are about to enter into the era of driverless cars and trains with their complex signalling systems (and the fact that they already exist in the world) are much easier to design to acomplish this. If we can get Ballard to UW as driverless then by the time ST4 rolls around having the new trains driverless will seem like a no brainer.

  19. If this idea is studied further, I’m interested in how the SR99 Stub integrates with the area around the North Portal of the DBT. It would be nice if we committed to this in time to have the stub tunnel start at Harrison St. and not Denny. I also agree on the center platform idea of having the buses run on the left.

  20. I love that this WSTT proposal includes Belltown and QA/Uptown, I had been thinking a WSTT would just be the length of the current DSTT between Westlake and ID. This provides new coverage downtown to busy part of the urban core greatly in need of rapid grade separated transit.

    I’d like to know how this proposal works with underground Ballard-Downtown Option D (via Queen Anne Hill and Fremont), I feel like this route design positions it better for a route via Interbay which I don’t like.

    What about serving SLU via a branch further east that hits the heart of SLU? Maybe on Westlake with a center transitway (shared with bus and streetcar). Streetcar staying on surface in downtown with City Center Connector and the buses diving into the tunnel? Denny/Aurora seems like an odd location for a SLU station.

    I’d love to see the heart of Pioneer Square get a station, its a bit of a hike to the current ID and Pioneer Square station from say Jackson/1st. The WSTT would then be east of the current DSTT too.

    Seattle Subway/STB/Sound Transit I think really needs to give a solid explanation (especially for the general public) as to why the current DSTT will be at capacity soon. I think many have a hard time thinking that having 3 rail lines in a single tunnel is not possible given there are multiple bus lines using it now and examples of tunnels all over with many more than 2 rail lines using it. I have a bit of a hard time myself buying the capacity issue but am taking other people’s word on STB for it.

    1. It’s not STB’s responsibility to justify the DSTT’s capacity limits, it’s ST who imposed the limits. STB is merely reporting that ST refuses to loosen the limits, and communicating the explanations that have been given. However, part of the ST3’s studies include “reevaluating the assumptions re the DSTT’s capacity”, so we may hear something about that later this year.

      1. Well someone needs to clearly explain why the new tunnel is needed given it will take voters to pass this thing. There will no doubt be people questioning the need for a second tunnel downtown over building rail branching off DSTT at Pine to Ballard or off the E3 Busway to WS. STB is a powerful and valuable voice for transit advocates that a lot of cities would kill for. Portland lacks this strong united transit voice and forum and they are putting projects on hold and watering other ones down because of a lack of supporters showing up looking out for whats best for transit.

      2. Even if we could put one more line in the DSTT (Ballard – West Seattle or downtown – U-District – Ballard), we could not put two more lines in (Aurora/Georgetown). And it would be at 100% capacity with no room for adding extra trains if overcrowding occurs. Compare that to two tunnels where we have plenty of breathing room for anticipated and unanticipated needs. And almost a dozen bus routes could use any extra space in the meantime. Do you think people would like to have every bus route underground and out of traffic? We can’t do that but we may be able to put your route underground, and there’s a lot better chance of it with two tunnels than with one.

      3. Furthermore, one of the biggest costs of a grade-separated rail line will be behind us rather than in front of us. That’s what happened with the DSTT: they built it in the 80s when costs were less, so we didn’t have to include it in the cost of ST1, and that was probably a significant factor in why ST1 passed, since the higher the cost the less likely the chance.

    2. While I like the idea of a tunnel as a good intermediate-cost, high-benefit solution, I’m also worried about how this tunnel route might lock us into poor rail routings later. With the north portal being where it is, this looks to strongly favor an Interbay routing for an eventual north/south Ballard line. I think the Queen Anne/Fremont tunnel route, while more expensive, could enable a whole lot more trips than a line through Interbay.

      I would also argue that if we do build the Ballard-UW line as part of ST3, a line through Interbay would probably not be a great use of funds anymore. Ballard would already have a pretty quick rail trip to downtown (transferring in the U-District) and the new line would basically connect Ballard to Interbay and Belltown. It would save a few minutes for the downtown-Ballard trip, but isn’t a big gamechanger in the grand scheme of things. However if a new line also connected Fremont and Queen Anne to the Link system, that changes things.

      1. Central link basically threw out the convention place station for an alignment to get to Capitol Hill. We could similarly discard portions of the new tunnel for later connections if it makes sense.

      2. “this looks to strongly favor an Interbay routing for an eventual north/south Ballard line”

        I thought that too at first, but underground lines can curve without regard to the streets above and without losing much travel time, so it could come out the east branch and curve west to Queen Anne, east to Fremont, and west to Ballard. That’s similar to alternatives for the Ballard-UW line that curve to serve both Fremont and Wallingford.

  21. Keep in mind, this tunnel with the legs out to QA and Aurora would likely double the tunnel cost and get close to $3 billion when all is said and done. The $1-1.5 billion for the tunnel option in SKC study was for a portion from ID to Westlake.

    Just something to remember. That said I think this is a worthy alternative to consider.

    1. $1B does a lot of the hard parts per Sound Transit– we expect the final cost to be around $1.5-2B triangulating on their other estimates and knowing what is added. Remember there is a tunnel to Aurora already.

      1. If you’re referring to the Battery St. turnnel, won’t that be going away once the new SR-99 tunnel is completed? And if you’re referring to the new north portal, there’s no way that a transit tunnel could punch through that. The WSTT would need to have a separate Aurora portal and get on SR-99 from the surface.

      2. @aw

        I believe the plan is to fill in the Battery Street tunnel and abandon it. We could surely retrofit it instead though. Regardless the right of way is going to be unused and will not require expensive utility relocation…. even if filled back in with rubble it will be fairly easy to reuse.

      3. A new tunnel under Battery Street would need to be built to current standards, so even with the existance of a hole in the ground it would need lots of work. You wouldn’t be able to get away with the vents in the middle of the street, so you need to add ventilation and fire suppression. It wouldn’t have enough headroom for LR under catenary, so it would need to be undercut. With this work, it might be about as costly to build a new tunnel on an unconstrained alignment.

      4. Maybe, but I don’t suppose that the city would charge lots of money for tunnel easements under other city streets.

      5. Not because of easement costs. Because the physical space is already there.

        Even if you have to refurbish, that’s still the overwhelming majority of the cost of starting from scratch, handed to you on a platter.

      6. I’m not sure how much of the Battery street tunnel could be re-used but having it already excavated with utilities out of the way is a big help.

        As for clearance remember the Battery Street tunnel has more vertical clearance than the current DSTT tubes.

  22. Using Second Avenue is an inferior option for several reasons.

    1. The route conflicts with the AWV replacement tunnel.
    2. The stations are located further away from the tallest buildings in town, like the Columbia Tower.
    3. The depth will not make it easy to build this as a deep bore. An alignment further east would be preferable for that.
    4. The route does not serve higher density First Hill, which should be our top priority in terms of new rail stations. That area has several high-rise residential buildings, major regional destinations like Harborview, Seattle U and major redevelopment approved for Yesler Terrace. It has difficult and expensive parking issues as well.

    1. Not really:

      1. The DBT is very deep where the WSTT will be crossing it. You will have to cross the DBT no matter what if you want to go to Ballard or the Seattle Center.
      2. The tunnel crosses to 4th before the financial district. There is only one station at Madison & 4th between IDS and Westlake.
      3. I see no reason going further east makes a deep bore easier. The tunnel is going to have to be deep enough to go under building foundations between 4th and 2nd in any case.
      4. Maybe. The technical difficulty of crossing I-5 twice may preclude serving First Hill. Also for a number of reasons the spots you might be able to hit further east of 4th on First Hill may be limited due to rail geometry, building foundations, and soil conditions.

      While I think the option of a First Hill station should be looked at I’m not convinced the ridership or cost/benefit would be any greater than a 4th & Madison station.

      1. I have to disagree with your analysis on 4. I think assuming that it would have to cross I-5 twice is unreasonable given that you can construct a reasonable network with one crossing and a long term connection to East Link. I also find it extremely hard to believe that 2 to 3 stations [say Boren and Madison, 12th and Cherry, 12 and Jackson] in an area as dense as First Hill and the redeveloped Yesler Terrace would have less ridership. Yes soil conditions are potentially an issue, but the transit geometry suggests that the idea should be seriously studied as part of this corridor.

  23. I like the concept, but I wonder if this alignment precludes Ballard/DT Option D? On the other hand, if coupled with Ballard/UW rail, Option D isn’t really necessary and we can save money by going down 15th.

    1. Martin: it shouldn’t necessarily preclude option D (it’s just a matter of different rail stub locations anyway). But then again, even if it did, there is still either of option A or B, which could either be designed to directly connect to or expand north from the Ballard-to-UW corridor.

    2. As I said above, I disagree that Ballard-UW makes Option D less compelling.

      Absent a Ballard-UW rail line, you can make a reasonable argument that the Interbay alignment is the best way to get to Ballard because it’s much cheaper. However once we already have rail to Ballard, when building a new line from downtown we should be primarily considering what value we get from a new line over what we have already. Connecting Interbay to the system likely isn’t worth spending a couple billion dollars on, but if the line can be tunnelled to serve Queen Anne and/or Fremont as well, that adds a whole lot more real destinations to the system while also speeding up the Ballard-downtown trip.

      1. Eric, don’t forget Ballard to UW route should serve Fremont, slightly north of where you might really want it, but still right in the heart of some serious development a (better?) omni-directional walkshed than right by a waterway.

      2. I would expect the Ballard-UW route to serve “upper” Fremont, somewhere between 45th and the zoo. The main Fremont business district would be a pretty big detour, and I would support keeping the east/west line relatively straight for speed and cost reasons.

        There’s plenty of room in the neighborhood for two stations: one near the bridge (on the north/south line) and also up the hill a ways (on the east/west line).

    3. If you couple WSTT with Option D, then the WSTT is obsolete before it opens. We’d be converting this rail-convertible bus tunnel almost instantly. I think it will just replicate our existing problems with interlining in the existing tunnel. Converting infrastructure is not cheap or easy – it’s better to build it right the first time. I think the WSTT is a distraction from our real goals of a rail network across the city.

      1. Why would we convert it instantly, Dave? And the WSTT is actually a direct, pragmatic path to a rail network across the entire city given the total resources we will have from ST3 to spend in Seattle and the desire to serve all the corridors that need better transit with ST3.

      2. Dave,

        I believe the intent is to design the tunnel such that any “conversion” needs are minimal.

        Second even with a rail line or two you probably want to continue having routes like RR C or the 120 in the tunnel.

    4. I’m not wedded to any particular routing. It’s the concept (dual use tunnel) that we’ve got to convince the powers that be to give a serious look.

    5. I feel Corridor E, with the Westlake portion tunneled, should be considered as a strong alternative to Corridor D. It serves Ballard, while picking up booming SLU, eastern Queen Anne, and Fremont. And it does all this while utilizing existing ROW on a 1.3 mile long, unimpeded parking lot along Westlake Ave N. You gain the cost savings benefit of the Interbay alignment but still serve Fremont and part of Queen Anne. We could make Westlake Ave N into a Busway equivalent of SODO and let all the buses crossing the Fremont bridge drive in exclusive lanes all the way through the city. With a little finessing, we could reroute RR E onto this busway too.

  24. A poster recently suggested moving East Link to a new Downtown Seattle tunnel a few weeks ago. That is an idea that I think is worth considering.

    1. If East Link was shifted to a new tunnel that ran east of the DSTT, it can be extended to South Lake Union and eventually towards Ballard. A transfer station, probably around Sixth Avenue and Pine, would be the key feature. This second line would become our “east-west” line to contrast with the north-south orientation to the current line and give us much more coverage for our investment.
    2. This configuration would free the current DSTT to be used for a second West Seattle Link line to the south. One line would continue on the existing tracks and the other would go to West Seattle. This would mean that it would not be necessary to build new track through SODO to get to West Seattle.
    3. If a second light rail line for the East Side gets introduced (Issaquah? Renton? Kirkland?) that could continue to the IDS station (which would need a third terminal track in the station).

    If we are spending this kind of money, we should really open our minds to all sorts of configuration options at this point, rather than lock into a fixed Second Avenue tunnel. Let’s think through as many configurations as possible!

    1. That East Link to Ballard via SLU route alternative would leave out Belltown. The advantage of the WSTT as presented here over that alternative is that it serves Belltown, SLU, and LQA. That looks like more coverage to me, except that Ballard doesn’t have a direct Link connection to downtown right away. But the tunnel would still save loads of time on buses to Ballard, so it’s not like Ballard-Downtown direct gets nothing out of the WSTT.

      1. Oh I think the branching north of Downtown could be a great idea! We need to pencil out lots of different configurations! Maybe a branch that goes to Belltown from the main line using Battery Street but headed the other way (perhaps ending up on the waterfront headed towards the ferry terminal)?

        I have to wonder if splitting into two lines north of Downtown is the best operations strategy. That probably doesn’t balance well with demand because most of it will be coming to/from the north. Anyway, the best thing we can do at this point is to look at system possibilities. I suspect we should see at least two dozen configurations being considered before the better ones emerge. Just look at how many alternatives LAX has looked at to meet up with Metro rail for an example.

      2. LQA is already served by the most underutilized piece of infrastructure in the city, the Monorail. Once ORCA is accepted, commuters and everyone can experience a two minute ride into Westlake. For the price of one infill station at 5th and Battery, we will have grade separated transit that serves from Westlake thru Belltown to LQA. It doesn’t get more cost effective than this. Let’s use our existing infrastructure and free up the limited money for areas that aren’t currently served. And let me preemptively state that the SLU Streetcar is not a viable option for transit, so don’t use that as an excuse that SLU is already covered and undeserving of real grade separated transit.

    2. Eastsiders are looking forward to a one-seat ride to UW and Capitol Hill, and to a lesser extent Northgate and Lynnwood, because that’s where people like them are and places they more commonly go to are. ST is very unlikely to split the promised the North/East line.

      1. Eastsiders can easily have a fast one-seat ride today to UW using a bus. That ride gets many Eastsiders to UW lots faster than Link will. In exchange for losing that access, Eastsiders could also have new direct access to Seattle Center and South Lake Union with the option.

        I’m not adverse to seeing the East Link presented as two light rail lines, with half the trains in the current DSTT and half in the new tunnel. After all, there are two termini north of Downtown in the proposal.

        I’m mainly saying that system combinations should be considered and many larger rail system configuration options should be examined. .Let’s not summarily dismiss any at this point.

      2. Yes, things can change in the future. Many subway systems have ghost stations and abandoned sections of track as the network was expanded, so Convention Place Station is nothing unusual, nor would be reconnecting the SODO busway to a second tunnel. But I do not consider the 271 a solution to East Link’s indirectness. If it were moved to 405 and transit lanes added there and on Pacific Street and the Montlake Bridge, then it could. And Metro has been talking about moving the 271 to 405 at some point.

        My point is that, while it may make sense to reconnect East Link to a west side line at some time in the indefinite future, it does not make sense for ST3, and would contradict the promises ST has made to the Eastside, promises which have not even been fulfilled yet, and would contradict their ST2 vote.

        Also, splitting the runs between branches halves the frequency on each branch. That would give each branch 20-minute access to the Eastside, which is not frequent and hinders it from fulfilling one of the basic purposes of subways.

    3. Al,

      While I agree that an arc from LQA through SLU, Capitol Hill, the border between First Hill and the CD and upper Rainier, ending at Mt Baker has a great future, it doesn’t make sense to divert East Link to it. The vast majority of transit riders coming from the east side of Lake Washington are headed for the towers downtown, not First Hill. They would be up in arms about any such proposal and defeat it soundly at the polls.

      While they’ll probably be pretty lukewarm about ST3 since it’s going to be BRT of 405 and the extension to Redmond for them, the vote over there needs to be no worse than break-even for the ST3 enabling vote to pass. Snohomish is going to be bitterly disappointed that much of any Link extension is omitted, and Pierce is angry that ST is going to make them pay all the costs for any extension south of Federal Way TC, and both Pierce and South King are in for a disappointment that the capacity of the allowable package is insufficient to get to Federal Way.

      Seattle’s vote, no matter how enthusiastic it may be for a new bus tunnel and cross-town Link to Ballard, cannot overcome the “No” vote in South King, Pierce and Snohomish which is almost inevitable now without East King voting “Yes” at least to some degree. Forcing everyone headed to the business core to transfer somewhere along Pine Street and backtrack to the center of the city is a guarantee of rejection.

      Not to mention that it adds the ridership that would have entered the tunnel from the south to the trains from the north at their most crowded point.

      This is not a useful proposal.

      1. “Pierce is angry that ST is going to make them pay all the costs for any extension south of Federal Way TC”

        What do you mean? That was always the expectation. At most they could maybe get South King to pay up to a 344th station, if it’s important enough to Federal Way. If Pierce didn’t understand this, then that’s Pierce’s problem.

      2. Actually, I see an opportunity to make the Eastside be more enthusiastic about ST3 with a diversion onto a First Hill=-Ballard tunnel. It provides an opportunity to add a second East Link line for Seattle-Issaquah. The entire portion of East Link through Downtown Bellevue has no grade crossings, so should easily be capacity to have two lines on this segment (keeping in mind that Link through Downtown Seattle will accommodate both East Link and Central Link lines as currently planned)..

        If a Redmond Line is paired with Ballard, than an Issaquah line can terminate near IDS on a new platform. Of course, that would require some rethinking of the track arrangements around IDS, but as long as a switchover is available, there should be room to have an end-of-line station there. The only challenge then would be how to add pedestrian platforms to allow for transfers. The need for an IDS redesign is a whole other issue which is discussed in other posts.

        Without a second tunnel in Downtown Seattle, either Issaquah will have to terminate at South Bellevue or Mercer Island, or it will have to terminate in Kirkland. Since Eastgate riders today have direct Downtown Seattle service, they may not be very eager to support a rail configuration that does not continue to provide it.

      3. Al,

        Nor will Issaquah riders be enthusiastic about being forced to transfer in sight of their destination. This whole idea of serving First Hill instead of downtown Seattle to be frank is bonkers. Serving First Hill in addition to downtown Seattle is an excellent idea, though the vast majority of the ridership will always be Seattle residents, not suburban commuters.

        The part of such a line which passes through SLU would of course attract transfer riders from the suburbs if the transfer is easy and frequent.

      4. I think you may need some specifics to react to, Anandakos. Before I dive into that, I believe that station locations and alignments should evolve through lots of discussion and study of alternatives, and not have one interest group ram one alignment down everyone’s throat at the outset. I’m much happier if there are dozens of alignments and system configurations studied before we lock into one.

        With that caveat, I would envision a route south of the Westlake area that follows something like up 6th to Jefferson (with Madison station), turning eastward on Jefferson (with Harborview station and Seattle U Station), and then turning south around 12th or 14th (with Jackson Station) before tying back into East Link. That’s two Downtown stations at Westlake and Madison/6th.

        Finally, I would note that as two lines come together, there will be some queuing up before trains reach IDS. With two high-frequency lines and one platform northbound at IDS, that’s going to happen! This would eliminate that problem for the primary East Link line. I assure you that there will be grumbling about this current arrangement in 2025 (nothing that these delays occur today for buses in the DSTT).

        In other words, Anandakos, this routing concept I’m mentioning would serve First Hill and Downtown and it would likely improve realtime travel time to Westlake by eliminating the merging queue at IDS.

      5. “I’m much happier if there are dozens of alignments and system configurations studied before we lock into one. ”

        This. This is the Seattle process. This is why it takes us decades to get anything done in this town.

        I’ll fully admit that I am part of this problem. Lately though I have witnessed so much of this “completely new idea no one has thought of that will solve our problems” thing that its got my head spinning.

      6. You can’t drill down EVERY option in order to decide.

        You look at the major options at a higher level, and the promising ones get moved into the next level of engineering. Of course, this is where politics can insert its influence, and options get left out that would be viable. If politics forces including a not so promising alternative, then the deeper analysis will eliminate it from further study.

        And when you actually get to know the staffers and others involved in the engineering, you find out that they have also thought about the ‘completely new idea’ a long time ago.

        It’s why I have a problem with our local media. The data is there, it just needs to be explained to the public by a third party, and try as he might, Mike Lindblom is still on ST’s leash.

  25. I don’t see why the tunnel has to be Express routes only. For example, the 21 local could use the tunnel as follows:

    To Downtown: North on 1st Ave S to Edgar Martinez Dr S, East on Edgar Martinez, North on 4th Ave S, East on S Royal Brougham Way, North on SODO Busway into (new) DSTT. **Note: Current routing on 4th Ave S between Lander and Royal Brougham would not work. Besides having obvious train delays, the last northbound stop before the tunnel would be Holgate, denying passengers from the south direct access to the stadiums, necessitating a transfer at either Holgate or IDS.**

    To Arbor Heights: South on SODO Busway from DSTT, West on Royal Brougham, South on 4th, west on Edgar Martinez, south on 1st.

    Likewise I am pretty sure the 5, 26 and 28 local would be OK operating in the new tunnel. (as you might have guessed, I am a bit disheartened that the current tunnel will be losing its “token local routes”–71-73)

    Also, I have brought this up before, but how does the possibility of using the new tunnel to reintroduce dual-power buses to Seattle sound? (In response to Dayton’s new dual-power buses).

    1. I think the 5 local is a great candidate for the tunnel, as it already runs on Aurora. The 26/28 local serve the Dexter corridor so there might be some issues getting the buses from Dexter to the portal on Aurora…depends on the exact design. There might be some value in retaining some service on the surface through that area anyway, as the tunnel is designed to have a much more limited number of downtown stops than the current bus routes.

      1. Seattle Subway agrees. A more complete list of local, express, and even regional routes that would operate in the tunnel could be compiled as part of a more detailed study. There might be capacity for all sorts of local routes from all over the city in the tunnel.

    2. Local routes are OK as long as they’re not milk runs that prevent more regionally-significant routes from being in the tunnel. In the DSTT, I would eject the 106 and 21x for the 554 or E or some routes like that. Given the greater capacity fo the second tunnel and its West Seattle emphasis, I’d put the 21 there since it goes to a high-ridership, low-income area not accessible from other West Seattle routes. I’m almost inclined to reinstate the 56 local to Alki. I hated that milk run and having no better option, but with all these improvements it would not be so milk-runny.

  26. The post claims that the WSTT, as roughly proposed, improves transit today while maintaining long term options for bigger improvements (i.e. rail). However, I continue to see a second DSTT as redundant, especially given there are alternative north south routings that could serve more destinations. This means that part of the investment isn’t really intended for the long term.

    A more explicit long term investment is a QA/SLU-Westlake-First Hill-Rainier option. If we are already spending billions of dollars tunneling, reaching additional dense neighborhoods, underserved by HCT, should be an extremely high priority. Since a First Hill tunnel can also free up capacity for a future West Seattle line it still achieves the goal of setting us up for rail expansion to W. Seattle.

    The real downside I see with a First Hill Tunnel is that it can’t help W. Seattle residents in the Sound Transit 3 time frame. However, I think it is worth noting that SR-99 BRT improvements would solve most of those issues. Note also that a First Hill Tunnel would maintain the travel time benefits for North Side Buses. Ultimately, long term I think having First Hill stations will prove to be more valuable then 2 DSTTs.

    1. I completely agree with you – the goal of ST3 should be adding new stations to our existing rail network. The WSTT just duplicates the walkshed we already have. Bending the incoming Ballard line toward First Hill would make much more sense. After First Hill, we could wait until ST4 (and fifteen years of infill) to decide whether the Ballard-First Hill-onward line would be better heading toward West Seattle or simply ending at an existing station, like Rainier or Beacon Hill.

      1. The WSTT adds high-capacity service (via buses at first, and rail later) to SLU, Belltown, and LQA. For probably more money (given the depth of a Queen Anne station), this alternative would skip Belltown and add upper Queen Anne and (maybe) First Hill (assuming the engineering problems don’t kill that idea for a second time). But then the Madison stop of the WSTT gets you pretty close to First Hill and Madison BRT gets you right through the area. And to make that rail line you miss an opportunity to improve bus service on Aurora and to Ballard (not to mention West Seattle, which would get nothing without spending more money, no sooner than ST4).

        Also, does it build a better network? I don’t really see how a diagonal line leads to a better long-term network than one that has a grid of lines covering the city.

        It’s not a bad alignment in isolation, but given the current realities and the eventual network we want to build, WSTT is better.

      2. Cascadian: I was either unclear or you are strawmanning me. The phrase “QA/SLU” was intended to include the broad swath of land between Denny, Elliot, I-5 and Aloha. Moreover, the north of Westlake alignment is essentially independent from the south of Westlake alignment meaning that the merits of the two parts of a WSTT can be considered separately. Thus, calling for a First Hill alignment doesn’t really preclude any of the SLU/QA/LQA/Belltown alignments.

        Personally north of Westlake I would advocate for the Denny/Aurora station and saving tunneling towards LQA for a future date, because connecting to Aurora is probably the most important thing a WSTT can do and tunneling dollars are limited.

        I also reject your claim that 4th and Madison gets you close to First Hill. While technically it is only three blocks away, most of First Hill is a good 10 to 15 minute hike from there. Seattle University or Swedish would not be readily accessible from such a station. Also a First Hill alignment could reasonably include not 1 but 3 stations [for example, Madison and Boren, 12th and Cherry, 12th and Jackson]. Those areas aren’t reasonably served by rail under the proposed WSTT, whereas the ID and 4th and Madison have rail service today.

      3. You really cannot daylight the northwesterly branch in the middle of Belltown and call it done. You cannot spend this much, and then still leave buses fighting the nightmare of Denny crossing and Mercer backups and the general pain of detouring through the Uptown grid.

      4. The Denny issue is a big problem obviously and it would be ideal to extend a tunnel West/North West to LQA from Denny and Aurora. But Denny represents a tiny [in terms of length not impact] choke point that probably could be alleviated with a EB peak [especially evening] bus lane, as well as signaling that allows buses to make a left turn from 3rd to Denny. In particular, building a rail convertible tunnel probably prohibits putting trolley buses in the tunnel, which means the 1/2/13 corridors will still get hit by the Denny slog.

      5. All the more reason to offer those riders a tunnel transfer so much faster and easier that the transfer penalty becomes inconsequential, and the unavoidable zigs and zags of any surface routing from the QA grid to the downtown grid become a distant and unpleasant memory.

        As anyone who regularly rides the D will tell you, the LQA zig-zags are the most laborious and infuriating bits of the entire journey, even at night and in zero traffic. It is slower even than Belltown’s poorly-timed signals and downtown’s skip-stop curb chicken. Zigs and zags are quite simply what surface transit does worst. And you will never 100% prioritize for buses at Denny, in part because the routes literally cross themselves, and you cannot “prioritize” every direction at once.

        Again, this proposal derives its value from promising to fix the very worst segments of everyone’s journey: the last-mile slogs on the way to downtown. That’s why it sells itself as an alternative to full-length rail (to fewer destinations).

        Daylighting in Belltown emphatically fails to achieve that. Your version of the plan would rightly be called sub-par, described as “BRT creep”, and rejected by the riding public.

        If WSTT is going to happen, it needs to happen end-to-end.

    2. ST is not going to ignore its existing chosen potential ST3 corridors for a brand new corridor. You can try again in ST4, when the long-range plan is updated again.

    3. One argument against this is, “Another premium mode downtown when other parts of the city have nothing?” But the benefit is not to downtown and its walkshed per se but to the other ends of the routes, which are in underserved isolated parts of town. And where they need to go to is the center of town and where all the transfers are, which is along 3rd/Pine/Jackson. So that argues for putting it next to the existing tunnel. Crosstown service between Uptown and the CD is a separate issue, which may be important but its a different thing, and benefits fewer people. Because only a few people want to go from there to there, while a lot of people want to go from northwest Seattle, north-central Seattle, and southwest Seattle to everywhere.

      1. That is true to an extent, but, excepting Sounder, ALL transit service that serves any part of downtown comes within two blocks of Westlake Station, which would be served by this alignment. Meaning all of those transfers would still be just as doable with a First Hill alignment. Not serving Westlake would be absurd and I wouldn’t propose such a thing.

        Also, a First Hill alignment is about equidistant from 3rd ave as I-5 is from Aurora. But the Aurora alignment was still studied.

    4. How are you going to get from a station connected to Westlake — by underground tunnels presumably — to First Hill? Such an alignment would necessarily pass right through the center of the geology that ST rejected for U-Link. If First Hill is to be served by rail — and I agree it should be in a reasonable time frame — it must connect to Link at Capitol Hill Station on the north and “Jimi Hendrix”/”Judkins Park” Station on the south (and I’d say continue on the Mt. Baker with a station in between). From Capitol Hill it would continue west through SLU to LQA and eventually Elliott West where there’s a budding node of development.

      The line just defined would be a perfect use for the Monorail Authority that the city has. Use automated trains with third rail power (with catenary and driver’s cabs for operation on Link the Maintenance Facility) and you’ve completely avoided the pox of “Light Rail”.

  27. I just hate seeing the price tags of all this peaceful infrastructure. Such a pittance compared to the waste of 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. $1 trillion in Afghanistan and $1.7 trillion in Iraq.

    $2.7 trillion equals about 1350 km of tunneled light rail in an urban area.

    1. Sad but true. Bombs for “jihadis” are more valuable to Americans that mobility for themselves.

  28. This sounds like a great idea. I’d like to point out that such a tunnel should have buses run on the left side instead of the right, and a single platform in between the lanes (like the Bellevue TC and any self-respecting subway station). That way, the stations can better accommodate transfers between buses/trains, and people won’t have to climb stairs and rush across to the other side like in the existing downtown tunnel.

  29. Here’s what I see as most likely. If the budget is larger than $15 billion (which it won’t be), we could get UW-Ballard-West Seattle light rail. If it’s $15 billion or $11 billion, we could get some parts of that, possibly mixed with the WSTT or West Seattle BRT alternatives. If there’s one rail segment, it will be Ballard-downtown or Ballard-UW, not West Seattle. There’s no way the highest-ridership, most transit-voting-for area around 45th can be ignored.

    It’s unclear whether Ballard-downtown or Ballard-UW will be preferred if it can only be one or the other, and I don’t think it’s worth speculating until ST reveals more. I think Ballard-UW is superior because that corridor is known high-ridership, the 44 is egregiously inadequate, it would be acceptable for Ballard-downtown trips, and it would enable L-shaped trips that would otherwise be impossible. But ST historically has favored Ballard-downtown, mainly because Mayor McGinn did. But McGinn is gone, and I think some ST boardmembers at least understand the merits of the 45th line, so it has a 25-40% chance.

    So West Seattle will only get light rail if Ballard does too. And they may not like a line that terminates at SODO, even if ST4 would extend it to downtown. They didn’t like the ST BRT alternatives, which is unsurprising. But this WSTT, combined with fanning lines to all major neighborhoods, would be significantly better than that. We don’t know what West Seattle would think about that because they haven’t been asked. I looked in the West Seattle Blog for initial reactions to the WSTT, but it doesn’t seem to have gotten there yet. In the meantime we needn’t be defeatist and say “West Seattle and ST will accept nothing less than Link to West Seattle.” Instead we should as West Seattlites, “What would a bus alternative need to do to get your support?” Presumably they’d say, “Prove it won’t have traffic bottlenecks and will be frequent and won’t be watered down.” So that is really what we need to do to make West Seattle BRT more popular, possibly popular enough to be chosen and pass the voters. And it should be rail-convertible BRT, whatever that means, so that if we do decide to retrofit it with rail later we can just plug it in rather than throwing away our earlier (BRT) investment.

  30. Wow . ..over 200 comments for the “WSTT”! That’s a whole lotta read’n . . so I’m just going to say that undoubtedly we need underground rail between Ballard and West Seattle via the CBD. But from a political standpoint, the city of Seattle should do a heck of a lot more to pick up the tab of building it. Suburban residents, especially those on the Eastside who need rail in their neighborhoods just as much as everyone else (won’t get it anytime soon), should not be paying for an expensive tunnel that is predominately going to be built and used in Seattle.

    1. Suburban residents aren’t paying for it! Except Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, which are part of the North King subarea. Eastsiders are only paying for Eastside projects.

  31. Only one station in the downtown core? No. This bus tunnel is clearly designed for Seattle ridership, not regional express users. Relatively few people want to take the bus from Aurora north to West Seattle or vice-versa. Relatively few people want to take the bus from Ballard to West Seattle or vice-versa either. Yes, some do, but far fewer than want to take the bus to and from downtown Seattle.

    So having just three stations in downtown is too few. Rather than exactly replicate those of the DSTT, the new tunnel should have one more not one fewer. You show the “Westlake” station as a little north of Pine, and that’s good; it will serve the area north to about Bell Street. So have stations at Union, Madison and James to serve downtown well.

    But make them shorter than the DSTT stations. If Seattle does grow enough to require that the tunnel be converted to rail lines in the future, three car trains will be sufficient to handle any reasonable capacity demand from the areas served by it. It simply isn’t that far to 65th and 15th NW in Ballard for there to be hundreds of thousands of riders per day in that corridor.

    Yes, Seattle’s topography makes rail a “very good thing”, but the city is probably not going to have a million and a half residents within its city limits. And, the reality is that the current downtown core is nearly “built-out”; there will be a few more large towers built but increasingly development will move north into the Regrade and SLU. Those areas are going to require an east-west line that could eventually extend farther into Seattle proper.

    As a hedge against some future in which the city does grow enormously — probably as a result of Climate Change refugees from the desert southwest — ensure that the rail lines which feed into this new tunnel are built with complete grade separation so that they can be automated. Then three car trains every minute and a half will provide the necessary capacity anyway.

    1. Not all Seattle riders want five stations downtown. I’m glad it has only one between Westlake and Intl Dist, and that it’s on Madison.

    2. Somewhat agree with the idea of more downtown stations. Very disagree on the 3-car limitation. we should definitely build to 4-car lengths. this isn’t something you can really go back and change, ever.

      1. Whatever.

        Money-from-the-sky overreachers like to claim the Canada Line was “underbuilt” and a “poor example” for us.

        And yet that line was built in just a couple of years, with 16 stations at urban spacing, for less than we spent just on U-Link, and carries literally hundreds of thousands of passengers every day.

        “Huge” and “effective” are hardly synonymous.

      2. I’d love Seattle to have a ‘failure’ like the Canada Line.

        That said since what we’re talking about here is a dual-use rail and bus tunnel not a rail-only tunnel for an automated line the needs of maximizing bus throughput should drive the design,

        I may be wrong but open BRT such as a bus tunnel would seem to benefit from longer platform lengths and wider stop spacing than something like the Canada Line. This minimizes the opportunities for random bus dwell times to delay other buses or any rail sharing the tunnel.

      3. I’m not convinced our extended, multi-bay platforms have ever done much good for anyone, even when the tunnel was ride-free. It’s just a whole lot more distance for “runners” to conspicuously run when the bus finally shows up, while drivers habitually wait. That goes double for passengers who merely wish to head in the cardinal direction that the tunnel heads, and have three boarding locations to contend with.

        There’s a reason the “pre-metro” tram tunnels of Europe, which are fundamentally like our bus tunnels in terms of number of vehicles and variety of routes served, have platform lengths of just a couple of tram cars: vehicle enters station; those who want it board; those who don’t don’t; vehicle leaves.

        Needless to say, if there isn’t a 100%-off-board payment policy in place in this WSTT by the time it opens, Metro should be banished to the 8th circle of hell.

      4. I’m not sure what the right answer here is. One would hope we could look at best practice based on what happens elsewhere as well as our own experiences with the DSTT both as a bus-only facility and in shared use.

        Of course this would mean getting past ‘not invented here’ and ‘Seattle is a special snowflake unique in the world’.

      5. Chris,

        Perhaps I should have been clearer. I’m not advocating automated operation in a mixed bus/train environment. That would be dangerous to say the least. What I should have said is “even though they will initially be driver-operated, build any rail lines connected to this new tunnel with strict grade separation, so that when rail volumes grow sufficiently that the buses must be ejected, the trains can be automated for shorter headways“. At least, that’s what I meant to say. Obviously folks may disagree even with that longer version.

        And so far as the “this is too many stations for rapid service” argument, downtown is where people are going on the lines envisioned to use this tunnel! None of them serve any other activity center of note, except Belltown and Lower Queen Anne, and they’re increasingly just extensions of downtown.

      6. Anandakos,

        I agree, automated operation should not be precluded by any design decisions.

        Given that this is likely to be a bus-only then a mixed operation facility for a while best practices for an open BRT facility should be followed with regards to stop spacing and platform length.

        Also remember that tunnel geometry may preclude stations in certain locations such as Union and that each additional station adds cost.

        That said I think the case can be made for an additional station around James.

  32. A simple analogy:
    WSDOT builds an 8 lane bridge over the Columbia, citing congestion, future growth and capacity. Upon opening the new facility, it promptly announces that only 4 lanes (two each way) are available because of technical issues. Taxpayers and Olympia lite the torches for being conned into buying something with only half the value, and have long memories the next time WSDOT wants another mega-this-or-that.
    ST creates itself, citing the spine rail as having a capacity of a 13 lane freeway with 2 minute trains providing 23,000 riders per directions in the peak periods. Upon opening the DSTT, the capacity is halved to just 4 minute headways for technical reasons. Torches lay in the corner at the ready, STB buys the story, Seattle Subway sees the need for a 2nd (equally bogus capacity tunnel), and the tale is told once more to sell the WSTT.
    The voters buy all the crap in the papers being shoveled out the doors of government and ST3 passes, nearly doubling the taxation for transit again.
    Transit modeshare continues to remains flat, taxes soar, STB and the Times spill more ink, and everyone is happy.
    PT Barnum would be proud of us.

    1. The two tunnels would most certainly not be redundant.

      The existing tunnel, facing east at the north end, does nothing for Belltown of the northwest part of the city. It’s just too far out of the way for a bus from Aurora or Ballard to go east to Convention Place Station to go south into the tunnel.

      The WSTT would not only solve that problem, it would also eliminate the problem of stoplights and traffic within Belltown and around the Seattle Center, something the existing tunnel again does absolutely nothing to address.

      1. I would agree with that statement if it were not for the fact that the WSTT is being sold as a bus tunnel to start with, and then converted to rail lines shortly thereafter. That’s how the DSTT got its start.
        So now we have a DSTT operating at a fraction of its original capacity, while the same old arguments are being trotted out to justify a repeat performance. The first make of that movie wasn’t that great, and the sequel really stinks.

      2. So mic what is your alternative? You love to go on about how the local transit agencies are just wasting the taxpayers money. What should they spend money on instead?

        Or perhaps you are one of those people who believes we could have magic congestion free door to door highways if we just weren’t ‘wasting’ so much money on transit.

      3. Chris, I would take more time to respond to you if I thought you were at least a little bit serious in your inquiry.
        The give away is your snarky, ridiculous paragraph at the end about magic solutions.
        The suggestion I made about branching a rail line on the north end, just like we have on the south end isn’t pie in the sky.
        Here’s another thought. The Seattle Subway map shows an underground wye junction in Belltown. How is this any different than the current wye just east of Westlake station, except for being further west? Will it too be deemed technically doomed after construction is completed, as CPS was?

  33. a second transit tunnel in downtown Seattle has great promise. the portals will be costly and difficult. should not the station spacing be about the same as with the DSTT? should not at least one pair of stations be interconnected for inter-line transfers?

    the concept of rail convertible bus tunnel should be carefully planned. one would not want a shut down period per 2005-2007.

    the d.p. points about West Seattle seem valid. A bus tunnel could be used by lines from several corridors. a single Link line would not hit many potential riders. the alignment would have high cost.

    the premise in the first bullet, that buses will be out of the DSTT before 2021, is unnecessary for this ST3 discussion and probably not true. it is very tight Link headway that will end bus use of the DSTT. no one knows when that be implemented. the ST SIP implies six-minute Link headway in 2016 and past 2021. a longer extent of Link does not end joint operations.

    ST3 may be a long ways off in the future.

    1. Thanks Jack, nice to hear from you from time to time. I’m still peeved the DSTT, got a royal screwing over as ‘The Crown Jewel’ of a revitalized transit hub for Seattle. First the rails were put in as an after-thought, causing much delay in tearing them out, only to put them back in. Then the ill fated decision to abandon CPS as a rail station in the future.
      I still think Seattle can do the right thing, by ‘Crossing the Transit Tee”. There is a Wye on the south end of the DSTT with trains merging from both the Eastside and South Branches at IDS. The Wye branching on the north end of DSTT is in place, with one line going to CapHill, where headways were cut in half due to the missing vent shaft,
      BUT, that still leaves room for another branch of up to 4 min headways to service CPS, S.Lake Union, LQA, then on to Ballard.
      The Tee would be Eastside trains continuing to Ballard, while Lynnwood trains would continue to Federal Way.
      Most transfers would be in the same direction on the same platform.
      The only drawback is the non-flying junction on the N.Wye, but that could be fixed for a hell of a lot less than building the WSTT from scratch. I’d be curious to see the screenline loads for this operation, assuming most Eastside trips would be better off using SR520 to get to the U-dist, rather than on Link.

      1. Lots of posters, including myself, have repeatedly asked why there wasn’t better thought put into expansion capabilities when U-Link was designed. What I’ve read on this blog over the years is that there is no way to do that. It has to do with elevations (northbound tracks shouldn’t cross southbound tracks), turning radii for trains and this obsessive concern about over-capacity (mathematically projected but based on the old notion of traditional peaking behavior circa 2000 and no assumed RapidRide service from the north siphoning off some riders) between Downtown and UW.

        I know enough about engineering to know that there are few fatal flaws and these aren’t one. Sure, it is an expensive fix. Eventually, solutions can be penciled out. Consider that they are now back to extending LA Metro by the La Brea Tar Pits after a few decades where they said it couldn’t be done because of methane gas.

        I again agree to your point that if we are willing to spend billions on a second tunnel, maybe it would be cheaper to examine this option.

    2. Eddiew,

      While the alignments are far from set in stone it is fairly likely and additional transit tunnel downtown will offer transfer opportunities at IDS and Westlake.

      With IDS there is room for another set of platforms under 5th. The most likely configuration at Westlake would involve connecting a station at 2nd & Pine with the current Westlake station via an underground pedestrian walkway.

  34. How much more would it be to make it across the cut? I’m afraid all of this infrastructure will still leave us with buses stuck in line on the Ballard bridge. Though maybe as mentioned above we save that as a stub under the Seattle Center for a future Option D.

    1. A new de novo crossing of the cut, with approaches, is a minimum $½ billion for a low drawbridge, and easily over $1 for a higher bridge or a tunnel. Continuing the WSTT bore the extra three miles as a uni-tunnel would add another billion or two on top of that. It can’t merely be an addendum; it’s a whole other level of project.

      Meanwhile, the worst Ballard Bridge troubles (after openings, and at the peak of outbound rush hour) could be fixed tomorrow if the city would simply design an absolute queue jump. When the bridges are up, traffic at the merge point is halted with signals until any waiting buses are allowed in first. Ditto at rush hour whenever a bus approaches the Emerson pull-out.

      Surprising as it may be (given that one faction at SDOT still clings furiously to 1950s LoS dogma), there are rumors that an internal push for an Emerson light is already underway.

      1. I was referring to this comment:

        “Surprising as it may be (given that one faction at SDOT still clings furiously to 1950s LoS dogma), there are rumors that an internal push for an Emerson light is already underway.”

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