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There has been some talk about how to serve Ballard with light rail in the future. There have been suggestions for a route running north from downtown to Ballard, and for a “spur” running west from the UDistrict to Ballard.

Advantages of a direct line from downtown:

-shorter Downtown Ballard travel times
-areas in-between, like Belltown, Denny Triangle/SLU, and Lower Queen Anne can be serviced

Advantages to a line running west from Brooklyn station:

-faster service alone 45th Street corridor
-would create both north-south and east-west lines in north Seattle. The entire north Seattle bus network could be redesigned so that every bus route serves at least one LINK station. Presumably, many could serve two (for instance, a bus route could connect Northgate to a stop on the Ballard spur)

If a Ballard spur were built, I first thought it should be a separate line, and not be interlined with other routes. However, I really only think that would be a good option if LINK service were always super-frequent. I now think it should be interlined with other LINK lines. So this is my proposal:

Ballard spur service

Ballard spur service proposal

There would be four lines:

1. Angle Lake (or whatever the southern terminus is) – Lynnwood (the current “Central Link” plans)
2. Redmond – Lynnwood (the current “East Link” plans)
3. Angle Lake/southern terminus – Ballard
4. Redmond – Ballard

These are my proposed service levels. No longer would there be less frequent service before 6am or after 10pm:

Peak hours: -each line would run every 12 minutes
Off-peak hours: -each line would run every 20 minutes

This would result in the following headways:

Peak hours:
-ID station – Brooklyn station: -every 3 minutes
-Angle Lake/southern terminus – Brooklyn station: -every 6 minutes
-Redmond – Brooklyn station: -every 6 minutes
-ID station – Ballard: -every 6 minutes
-ID station – Lynnwood: -every 6 minutes

Off-peak hours:
-ID station – Brooklyn station: -every 5 minutes
-Angle Lake/southern terminus – Brooklyn station: -every 10 minutes
-Redmond Brooklyn – station: -every 10 minutes
-ID station – Ballard: -every 10 minutes
-ID station – Lynnwood: -every 10 minutes

The only drawback to my plans compared to the current plans would be less frequent service between Brooklyn and Lynnwood. However, I believe that it is worth it to serve Ballard, and to provide one-seat service from Ballard to as far as Angle Lake/southern terminus and Redmond.

Proposed stations:

-45th/I-5 (entrances at both 5th and 7th Avenues)
-45th/Wallingford Avenue
-45th/Stone Way
-45th Aurora (entrances at about Winslow Place and Linden Avenue)
-NW Market/3rd Avenue
-NW Market/15th Avenue
-NW Market/24th Avenue
-NW Market/32nd Avenue

22 Replies to “LINK service patterns with a “Ballard Spur””

  1. Let’s assume trains at ID arrive at …

    :00 from Ballard
    03 from Lynnwood
    :06 from Ballard
    :09 from Lynnwood

    … and are running to alternating endpoints from each departure station:

    :00 from Ballard to Redmond
    03 from Lynnwood to Redwood
    :06 from Ballard to Angle Lake/southern terminus
    :09 from Lynnwood to Angle Lake/southern terminus

    That makes for a 3/9min interval on one of the outer sections. How are you planning to make this a 6min interval?

    1. Damn, you’re right. Oh well, I guess I’d just have two lines:

      Angle Lake to Lynnwood
      Ballard to Redmond

      Of course, this is identical to what is planned except “East Link” would go to Ballard instead of Lynnwood.

      1. My original draft of this (https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/06/30/ballard-uw-should-be-the-next-light-rail-line-in-seattle/) had a paragraph dedicated to this subject. It got cut because the post was running very long. Anyway, I came to the same conclusion — pairing Ballard with the East Side makes the most sense. There are a few reasons for this:

        1) Lynnwood riders have been promised a one seat ride to the airport.
        2) This roughly follows a geographically consistent route. One line goes east/west, while the other goes north/south.
        3) It probably doesn’t matter much since the vast majority of riders will be using the stations between the UW and downtown Seattle.

        This means, for example, that I don’t think you would get that many riders using a one stop ride from North Link to East Link even if it was available. If you are at Northgate and want to go to downtown Bellevue, then I think you would, but what if you are in Alderwood (north Lynnwood) and headed to Redmond? Maybe you take a bus, then Link to Redmond, but I think you would take a bus heading to 405 instead (it would probably be significantly faster). Even a trip from Northgate to Kirkland is more likely going to mean getting off at Husky Stadium, then taking an express bus.

        Now the opposite is not true. Folks in Ballard would love a one stop trip to SeaTac, but again, trips like that won’t be a big part of our system. SeaTac is not a major destination (it’s just better than the other stations around it).

        So you really don’t lose much with this pairing (as opposed to having every combination).

  2. Also, ST is digging the tunnel north of Brooklyn with no provision whatsoever for a junction, whether it be level or flying. Had they planned for it and made split-level tunnels around 50th (the north/westbound tunnel rises and the southbound does the opposite, enough to clear a diverging trackway), northbound trains could turn left above or below the southbound track.

    But they didn’t, which means that they would have to turn right and dive deep under the flat tunnels to be then loop around back south to join the east/southbound track.

    Not cheap; not nice to ride through; and not easy.

    1. And d.p.’s suggestion to have the division before Brooklyn could work, but it would mean that folks headed south would have to choose between two platforms for the same set of destinations. That is guaranteed not be please.

      1. I’m not quite getting what you’re saying here. With my plans, the routes would all be interlined. There wouldn’t be two sets of platforms at any station.

      2. Anandakos is basically talking about the third paragraph on this post: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/03/23/ballard-uw-downtown-link/ (“An ideal, but more expensive solution …”). He is right in that riders boarding at that station and headed downtown would have to choose one platform or the other. Personally I don’t think it would be that big of a deal (have a sign listing which train (heading south) arrives next, and when). Worse case scenario someone misses the train (just barely) and then walks to the other one. It is an issue, just not a huge one in my book.

        Meanwhile, what you have proposed Chris is the first paragraph on that post (“There are several ways that the Ballard-UW line could connect with North Link. One of the easiest …”). Given what Anadokos said, though, it may not be that easy.

        My guess is that they will simply go with a transfer. Let’s hope they build it in such a way that the transfer is quick and easy (I don’t have much faith given their record so far).

      3. Ross,

        It wouldn’t be an issue if the platforms were at the same level on different tracks (perhaps on two sides of the same platform), but they won’t be. The east-west line will have to be below the Spine tracks. New York almost always makes the rider return to the mezzanine level when changing lines, and in the case of the four main track lines, even to switch between the express and local trains. Sure, it works, but it’s a hassle.

        Now presumably ST would do like DC at its shared stations and have direct connections between the two track levels, and not force people to return to the mezzanine to change levels.

      4. Yeah, they definitely will be on two different levels. I’m just saying it is only an issue for those who entered from the street and are headed downtown. So, as the person enters, they see the sign and then decide which level to go to. Not ideal, by any means, but not the end of the world, either. Basically you are asking those folks (the ones entering there) to put with a bit of a hassle (picking the right station) so that other riders (those coming or going from Ballard) will have a one seat ride. The thing is, it isn’t an issue for those who leave the station, nor is it an issue for those who transfer — it is only for those who enter, which is where the (first set of) signs should be. To me that is a fair trade-off, assuming it isn’t too costly.

      5. I seriously doubt the Ballard/UW line if built will be connected to the spine in the University District. There will be a transfer and most likely if the stations are connected IoT will be via the mezzanine. There might be a direct platform to platform connection but I doubt it.

        It won’t be perfect but even with the transfer and walk it will still be a much easier and faster trip to Ballard than the current buses from either downtown or the University District.

        One upside it the potential to build Ballard/UW as an automated driverless line able to run at high frequency.

      6. “New York almost always makes the rider return to the mezzanine level when changing lines, and in the case of the four main track lines, even to switch between the express and local trains.”

        I don’t think this is the case at all. I’d say that across-the-platform transfers are much more the rule than the exception for express/local transfers. And those tracks often have multiple lines travelling on them. (Glaring and annoying exceptions in Manhattan would include 34th street on the 1/2/3, and 59th & 86th on the 4/5/6.)

        There are still indeed many stations where changing lines involves tromping up and down staircases and some additional walking. But there are two things to keep in mind. One is that the MTA long ago inherited multiple lines that were privately built and competed with each other, so there’s not much they could have done about it. The other is that the frequency on many, most or all of those lines is saturated enough that I doubt it would be feasible to run every train through on a single set of twin platforms.

        Neither of those factors really applies here in Puget Sound. Since we are starting our system from scratch, there’s really no good excuse for designing bad connections.

      7. Ken,

        I can certainly not claim to have ridden all or even a reasonable fraction of the four track lines, especially out in the boroughs. But I’ve ridden the north end Broadway line (it used to be the “A” I think but now it’s the 1-2 and on an express train you roar along with a blur of supports separating your track from the local track. My recollection is that the express tracks have a center platform and one has to go up a level to change to the local.

        Maybe I’m not remembering correctly. You sound like you know what you’re talking about so I’ll retract the statement.

      8. Ross,

        If the signs were “real time” and had countdowns they probably would be good enough. People would learn how long it takes to get from the entrance to each platform and then know if they need to skedaddle to get the next train or that it’s a lost cause and go to the second train’s platform.

        But I personally prefer NOT to have them interlined, because then the Ballard-UW can be a Seattle project and run with frequent automated trainsets. With the set of stops on which we all seem to agree, this would intercept every bus headed for downtown Seattle west of I-5 except the 26.

    2. The transfer situation is critically dire because ST has not even conceptually outlined how it can be integrated with the under-construction station. This station will likely have the largest transfer volume in north Seattle, so it deserves much more attention now. The station box is constrained on the west, east, and south by building foundations and the historic apartment, with only six inches of leeway. That will make it difficult to integrate a second platform, but that’s all the more reason to pre-design the interface now.

      When I’ve brought this up at North Link open houses, the answer I got from an ST rep was, “We can’t plan for a transfer station now because the line isn’t voter-approved yet, and its alignment isn’t chosen yet so we don’t know if it will even use U-District Station. He cited the Pacific Street/UW Station/520 alternative as one that wouldn’t use the station.

      Ayayayay! First plan the network, then approve construction in phases! Don’t plan each line in isolation from later lines.

      This leads to a worst-case scenario where transferring from North Link requires going up to the surface, waiting at a traffic light, crossing a street, walking a block, and then going underground again at another station. That would make visitors think, “How could you do such a major transfer so badly?”

      1. Yes, it would cost tens of thousands to design such a connection, wouldn’t it? Oh the humanity!

  3. The biggest problem with the Ballard spur is, again, engineering and the glacial pace of public projects. Even though the tunnel has not actually been dug around the U-district, the plans are already finalized, and the plans were drawn with the assumption that there would never be a Ballard spur, since it was not part of ST 2.

    In fact, I would not at all be surprised if the designs of Brooklyn Station itself, again, already finalized before talk of a Ballard Spur was every serious, preclude even an in-station transfer. Which would most likely mean a separate station in the U-district where anyone making connections would need to go all the way up to the surface and down again.

    The glacial pace of public projects is also the reason why the powers that be insisted that the D-line had to deviate to lower Queen Anne. It was originally supposed to be the local shadow for the monorail, but when the monorail extension to Ballard was cut, the pathway of the D-line (due to federal grant applications, etc.) was already set in stone.

    1. As much as I find Sound Transit’s obvious disregard for future-proofing their system frustrating, I’m not sure it is quite as dire as you suggest. The design of the station is done, but designs can be changed. The station itself won’t be built until 2017, well after a ST3 vote (if things go well). I’m sure there were some steps taken in the design and the tunneling that assumed no Ballard to UW line, but I don’t think that will be the end of the world. It might cost a bit more, but compared to the overall cost of the various projects, I think all it does is mean that the other line would have to go under this one (instead of the other way around). Maybe not ideal, but no big deal as far as I can tell.

      The bigger problem is the one that Anandakos mentioned (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/04/20/65342/#comment-613052) and the subject of this post. Interlining the two routes would be a lot easier if they planned on that in the first place. With that being said, the U-District station has a center platform, so if they do go this route (mixing the lines before that station) then at least we have that.

  4. I like this idea conceptually even though I don’t think it has much of a chance. There’s a lot of demand for Eastside – 45th trips because the areas are more economically and culturally similar than some other parts of Seattle, so people have more of a reason to travel between them. A robust transit network would take that into account and put a primary line there. It’s also an east-west corridor so grid-correct.

    ST’s main objection to a Ballard spur has been adding non-Northgate trains to the shared tunnel. But in this case it’s diverting trains rather than adding them, and by creating a Ballard-Eastside line it makes a fully-crosswise line that makes the network most effective and highest-ridership.

    Attention then goes to Northgate and Lynnwood, which would lose half their trains. That could require keeping or reinstating some express buses to prevent overcrowding, if not initially then in ten or twenty years. ST is strongly against that idea, which is why it’s reluctant to divert any trains from Northgate/Lynnwood until actual 2030 ridership is known.

    Chris’s original proposal is nice because it doubles the frequency in Rainier Valley and SeaTac. But if it’s not feasable as Sascha describes, then the simplified network (Ballard – Redmond, Lynnwood – Angle Lake) is a good fallback.

    As always, the biggest attention needs to be on the single-line branches. I hate how MAX and several other American networks work, where each line is 15 minutes and only shared segments have the 10-minute frequency that I consider minimum. It gives a significant disincentive to live on a single-line segment, which then raises the housing prices in the multi-line segment.

    Remember that Link’s 10-minute standard is only until 10pm; after that it goes down to 15. That would imply… 30 minutes in Chris’s scenario? That makes it no better than an ordinary bus, and destroys one of the primary goals of rapid transit.

    1. >>Chris’s original proposal is nice because it doubles the frequency in Rainier Valley and SeaTac.<>Remember that Link’s 10-minute standard is only until 10pm; after that it goes down to 15. That would imply… 30 minutes in Chris’s scenario? That makes it no better than an ordinary bus, and destroys one of the primary goals of rapid transit.<<

      I addressed this in my post. I would do away with less service after 10pm. My original plan called for four lines with 12 minute headways on each during peak hours, and 20 minutes at all other times.

      Now that Ive rescinded my original idea, I guess I would just go with the two lines, 6 minutes each during peak, and 10 minutes each at all other times.

      1. >>Chris’s original proposal is nice because it doubles the frequency in Rainier Valley and SeaTac.<>Remember that Link’s 10-minute standard is only until 10pm; after that it goes down to 15. That would imply… 30 minutes in Chris’s scenario? That makes it no better than an ordinary bus, and destroys one of the primary goals of rapid transit.<<

        I addressed this in my post. I would do away with less service after 10pm. My original plan called for four lines with 12 minute headways on each during peak hours, and 20 minutes at all other times.

        Now that Ive rescinded my original idea, I guess I would just go with the two lines, 6 minutes each during peak, and 10 minutes each at all other times.

      2. –Chris’s original proposal is nice because it doubles the frequency in Rainier Valley and SeaTac.–

        No it doesn’t. My original proposal called for four lines with peak headways of 12 minutes each. That would give average headways of 6 minutes south of ID Station, which ST is planning to go to later this year anyways. Though as Sascha pointed out, my original proposal would result in headways of 3/9/3/9 etc. Which is why I rescinded the idea.

        –Remember that Link’s 10-minute standard is only until 10pm; after that it goes down to 15. That would imply… 30 minutes in Chris’s scenario? That makes it no better than an ordinary bus, and destroys one of the primary goals of rapid transit.–

        I addressed this in my post. I would do away with less service after 10pm. My original plan called for four lines with 12 minute headways on each during peak hours, and 20 minutes at all other times.

        Now that Ive rescinded my original idea, I guess I would just go with the two lines, 6 minutes each during peak, and 10 minutes each at all other times.

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