Last Thursday, Sound Transit unveiled a new website about future rail expansion in the region. It’s pretty slick; if you haven’t seen it yet, it worth checking out. At the same time they also opened a survey, asking what people would like to see in a future ballot measure:

While the survey has its flaws (why do we have to support parking garages to support sidewalks and bike trails?), it’s a great way to let the agency and Sound Transit Board know what you want to see on the ballot next year. If you haven’t filled it out yet, here are Seattle Subway’s suggestions.

First off, these types of surveys have a hard time capturing nuance. If you want to have an effect, you need to push at the extremes. Rate outcomes that you don’t like very low (1) and ones that you do very high (5).

Our recommendations:

1. We recommend rating all the Seattle options that say “at-grade” a 1 and all the Seattle options that say “elevated/tunnel” a 5.

2. Top 3 projects.  Here are the four best options (pick 3.)

These projects are the best bang for the buck while avoiding unacceptable compromises.

3. Missing projects that need to be studied.

  • A Metro route 8 Subway from Belltown to South Lake Union/Denny to Capitol Hill to the Central District/23rd corridor. This is an extremely high demand corridor that has never been studied by Sound Transit before. It would add the dense, high demand, locations of South Lake Union, Denny Triangle, Capitol Hill, and the Central District to the system.   This line is the missing link that would, with other investments (Madison BRT, First Hill Streetcar, SLU Streetcar), give the densest neighborhoods in Seattle an integrated transit network.
  • A bypass line to the airport via Georgetown to speed up service to downtown Seattle for South King and Pierce extensions and speed up airport service. In addition to adding Georgetown and South Park to our regional system, this line serves a very important function as a bypass of the slow section through the Rainier Valley.  We estimate a time savings on this bypass line versus the Rainier line of 12-15 minutes per trip.  This matters some for airport trips but is extremely meaningful for trips from South King and Pierce. Without this bypass light rail will be painfully slow for commuter trips to downtown Seattle.
  • An Issaquah to Kirkland line that connects in South Bellevue to improve transfers and access to transit supportive destinations.  The only studied Kirkland to Issaquah line slows transfers to Downtown Seattle and direct service to Downtown Bellevue.  We wrote an article here on this subject last year.
  • A line that extends from Ballard to Crown Hill, Greenwood, North Seattle, Lake City and out to Bothell.  This line was identified in the transit master plan and would connect areas that are currently dense and may be upzoned in the Seattle 2035 plan.  The connection at Aurora would allow direct connections for buses traveling south to fast, reliable, transit.

This is the just the beginning of the process, not the end, but we need come out strong and get it started on the right track.

208 Replies to “Seattle Subway’s Recommendations for the Sound Transit 3 Survey”

  1. Sound Transit has made it abundantly clear, time and time again, that they are a suburban transit agency. They don’t care about inner-city mobility (That’s the job of Metro, another suburban transit agency). They exist to get people from a 60-mile radius into downtown in the morning and back out to the hinterlands in the afternoon.

    I’m glad a group like Seattle Subway exists but I am willing to bet we’d have an LRT tunnel through the Cascades out to Ellensburg before anything the city needs, if left up to ST.

    1. But that’s what our job is: we need to push for our government agencies to do the right thing. We need to hammer home the need for the Ballard-UW line, the necessity for grade separated lines etc etc.

      1. But is there any reasonable hope of getting ST to completely change their sense of their mission in that way? And not just in the broad sense, but on the particulars – or would we be stuck fighting for every entrance to every station? Or, would it be better and less wasteful to instead lobby to fund some more urban-focused group – such as Metro or SDOT – to build an actually reasonable subway?

      2. Valid concerns william. I believe that going through ST is by far the quickest path to a subway. They are the only capital construction group in transit in the area, and they are doing a good job with the financing and contract management. I think it is far less risky to try to steer them into building more urban lines that it is to steer transportation agencies with no recent experience with capital construction towards adding a whole new thing to what they do.

      3. I’m not an expert on the law, so def correct me if I’m wrong:

        Sound Transit is the only organization that can raise the capital required to build something like a subway. ST asks the legislature for some of its property tax cap (limited to 1% increase constitutionally) to fund its capital investments and goes and builds it. Metro/SDOT don’t have the authority to raise anywhere close to what ST will raise in Seattle based on our current laws.

        That’s why ST has to build it and that’s why we need to push ST to do the right stuff in NKC.

        I come from a culture of unresponsive (NY) politics where the elected officials laugh at the plebs trying to advocate for rationality. Y’all have such a good system (comparatively so, ofc) that makes advocacy possible!

      4. I don’t think there’s any chance of steering ST off course – it’s their prerogative to serve the suburbs as that’s a majority of their voter base. And it’s very unfortunate that their taxing authority doesn’t allow the suburbs to pay for city service, but that’s the way the law was written. All of this said, ST is a great tool we can use for building our own system. If they come up with a plan that’s acceptable to us, great. If not, come up with our own funding source and use them as contractors to build what we want.

      5. I don’t agree necessarily with one thing Matt wrote: the “majority of their voter base” is technically outside Seattle, yes. But the majority of their supportive voter base is arguably within Seattle and the closer-in cities like Bellevue, Shoreline, etc. To be successful at the ballot box, they are incentivized to make proposals that serve transit demand in the urban and close-in (yes) suburban core. ST2 had something like a 70% yes vote in Seattle and 58% in Bellevue, which was plenty to carry it regionally.

    2. ST is suburban-centric but let’s not lose perspective. They aren’t saying “Suburbs only” or “Nothing more in Seattle” or “Ellensburg or bust”. Instead, two subareas are saying “Everett and Tacoma must be in the next round.” Two other subareas have not said much at all, actually. South King wants Federal Way; East King wants Redmond; both are short and relatively inexpensive. What they haven’t pushed for, which I would have expected, is Kirkland, Burien-Renton, and Issaquah. South King seems to have lost interest in Burien-Renton for the time being. East King has three or four projects including Kirkland-Issaquah Link but none of them have generated a “must-have-this” campaign.

      ST’s board mostly represents the suburbs, and the suburbs have outsized power in the “one city, one vote” paradigm. But that’s the extent of it. The rest of it comes more from the suburban way of thinking; i.e., peak hours, replacing highway travel, trips to downtown Seattle, and intra-suburb trips. It’s just where they perceive transit as being most relevant.

      ST’s charter covers the “urbanized parts” of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. That was decided as Everett – Lynnwood – Bothell – Woodinville – Redmond – Issaquah – Renton – Kent – Auburn – Bonney Lake – Fredrickson – Dupont. For some reason Pierce got more exurban land included than the other counties. It’s not going to march out to North Bend or Ellensburg or Arlington. If we see anything it’ll be extending Sounder to Olympia and buses to Smokey Point.

      1. “ST’s board mostly represents the suburbs, and the suburbs have outsized power in the “one city, one vote” paradigm”

        That’s not really true. Seattle has many votes; a lot of cities have zero votes. Of course, North King consists of only two cities, so it makes sense that Seattle would have outsized influence on a per-city basis. Okay, so there are more not-Seattle directors than Seattle directors on the BOD, but that’s true of every city, and every sub-area.

      2. I agree. I’m frustrated with what Sound Transit has done and is planning, but I think we need to let this play out. Subarea equity, in this case, is our friend. It prevents us from doing what a lot of people would think is right (spending money where it will do the most good) but it also prevents us from doing something really stupid (like build another BART). I think there is a strong argument that folks in Lynnwood should help chip in for light rail through Seattle (since they are likely to use it, and enjoy the financial benefits that come to the entire region because of it) but at least Seattle doesn’t have to pay for Everett to Lynnwood light rail (which would benefit the region only marginally and be used by Seattle residents rarely). I’m really not that concerned about pointless or ill advised transit projects in the suburbs if I don’t have to pay for them. Perhaps that is a bit selfish, but if Tacoma or Everett wants to blow their money on a light rail line, I’m not going to stand in the way (it reminds me of this:

        My main concern is that good value projects are built in the city. I don’t think we can afford to build things out of order, like we have so far (no one in their right mind would start with downtown to the airport, but it just happened that way). We need to spend our money wisely, and not assume that we will build anything after that. Which means that UW to Ballard light rail might be our last project, or maybe WSTT. I could live with that, even though I really want to see a Metro 8 subway. What I don’t want is West Seattle light rail before a Metro 8 subway or Ballard to UW light rail. To be clear, I doubt I will ever want to see West Seattle light rail — but I would love to see West Seattle open BRT.

        Eventually, though, I think Sound Transit will come crashing down, if not with ST3, then with ST4. In most of the suburbs, you get diminishing returns with mass transit. This is the opposite of an urban environment. Eventually, it becomes very difficult to spend the same amount of money on, say, the Metro 8 subway as it does light rail from Lynnwood to Everett. The folks in Lynnwood (or even the folks in Everett) might say “enough already”. This will eventually kill one of the proposals, it just isn’t clear which one.

        But I’m OK with that, as long as Seattle’s proposal is sound. If we come up with good plans for the city, then it will pass with very high numbers in the city. Even if the proposal is rejected by the greater population, it gives us a clear path to the next step. We simply ask the legislature for the right to tax ourselves that amount (or more). That would be similar to the Metro bus proposals (failed in the county, passed in the city). By then, hopefully the legislature will be more amenable to such action. It is also possible that we go the initiative route, and propose a change in state law to allow cities (or counties) to tax themselves to provide bigger transit projects. Either way I see this playing out the right way, given current trends (towards urbanization). I think at this point, we should push Sound Transit to make the right decision (or set of decisions) and then see what happens.

      3. RossB, if you’re concerned with building things in the right order, you’ll build the WSTT before or concurrent with Downtown-Ballard and you’ll build Downtown-Ballard before or concurrent with Ballard-UW. This permits you to have a path to the OMF for trains on those lines without building some messy connection at Brooklyn station. Maybe there would need to be some additional storage and light maintenance yard on those lines, but you want to easily get to the heavy maintenance facility.

        Prioritizing Ballard-UW over everything else makes no sense.

      4. When I say “building in the right order” I mean build the most important things first. You know, like most cities do.

        WSTT and Ballard to UW are both excellent projects. The only other big project in the same league is the Metro 8 subway. We should build all of these before we build other things.

        Ballard to UW would be cheaper, and would have a more dramatic effect on the entire transit network than Ballard to downtown. It is really about the buses (although the stations there are fine). Ballard to UW changes the entire area north of the ship canal and west of I-5. Given our density — lots of moderately dense areas, with only a handful of very dense areas that we are about to serve — it makes a lot more sense than Ballard to downtown. It simply has a bigger area — a bigger bus catchment if you will — then the other.

        WSTT meanwhile, is the best part of Ballard to downtown. It provides fast service for lower Queen Anne and Belltown, and a nice one seat ride for those who do want to stay on the west side of Ballard to go downtown. It also provided excellent service for the Aurora corridor, and is part of an ideal system for West Seattle. There is simply no way we can provide good light rail service for all of West Seattle, but we can provide good bus service, and WSTT is part of it.

        The engineering challenges have been discussed and are, with all due respect, not an issue. Really. You build a very small, cheap line connecting the two. It is only used for maintenance. That is, assuming you don’t just interline the two routes (which is arguably what we should do). But even if we don’t, you are talking about a very cheap bit of track that lots of systems around the world have. I’m too lazy to look it up, but Toronto has this. Seriously — look it up, I’m sure you’ll find it (they don’t have many lines).

        “Issues” like this crack me up. It’s like someone at Amazon worrying about the number of paper clips they have if they decide to ramp up. This is a billion dollar system — laying a few feet of line to simply connect two systems for this purpose is really cheap. I’m sure Toronto didn’t freak out about the idea, they just built it.

      5. The OMF issue for Ballard/UW is a red herring as is the feasibility and cost of a non-revenue connection to Northgate Link.

        The current OMF is only big enough for the current ST2 build out and will require additional storage tracks and an operator base.

        There is room for an OMF in the Ballard/UW corridor, especially since it won’t need to be anywhere near the size of the SODO OMF. Part of building the line would be to weigh the costs of a complete OMF, vs just storage tracks and an operator base, vs a non-revenue connection and putting those elsewhere in the Link system.

        As Ross says just build the segments that make the most sense from a service perspective and figure out details like how to store and maintain the vehicles afterward.

      6. build the segments that make the most sense from a service perspective and [then] figure out [the ancillary and comparatively straightforward] details…


        Why would we ever do something as rational as putting service where it is most useful?

  2. A very Seattle-centric set of recommendations. For the pick 3 question, that was phrased as “which 3 projects would most benefit you?” On that basis, I ranked East Link extension to Redmond as #1. I did pick an elevated/tunneled downtown-Ballard and the WSTT as 2 & 3.

    West Seattle rail doesn’t have enough benefit for the cost. Likewise, your Kirkland-Issaquah option via South Bellevue. The cost and risk of crossing the Mercer Slough and the I-90/I-405 interchange are too high. ST’s studied option of a trasfer at Hospital Station is good enough. Travelers from Kirkland would have equivalent travel time to Seattle; they’d have to take a one-station transfer to get to downtown Bellevue. Traveler’s from Issaquah would be inconvenienced a bit by some out of direction travel and a transfer, but if we can build more with less money, that’s a good tradeoff.

    1. “A very Seattle-centric set of recommendations.”

      That’s why it’s called “Seattle” Subway. :)

      Downtown Bellevue is the overwhelming largest general destination and transfer point in the Eastside. (Microsoft and Bellevue College, in contrast, are high-volume single-purpose destinations.) So crossing East Link at Hospital would depress potential ridership. That could change if 116th develops highrises and shopping centers, but Chick Fil-A and Whole Foods do not inspire confidence.

      1. I’ll point out that while Seattle Subway may be “Seattle”, ST3 is regional. If you don’t get voters from the suburbs to buy in, you won’t get ST3 no matter the quality of the Seattle projects. And, the East Side projects are, at best, mediocre.

      2. David, the voters from the suburbs never buy in. To pass the regional system, you need Seattle itself voting yes in large numbers, in order to compensate for the no votes in the suburbs.

      3. kptrease, I disagree that suburbs don’t buy in (at least for East King and Snohomish). I tracked down the ST2 results ( and you can see that while Seattle certainly has much stronger support, the areas of East King and Snohomish that get something out of ST2 voted for it. The areas that don’t (e.g., Sammamish) voted against. And I don’t blame them.

        My point is, unless you have decent support in the suburbs, no matter how many people from Seattle vote yes, you won’t be able to overcome that. If even transit advocates in East King are unhappy with the current plans, then the general public will even more likely be unhappy and ST3 won’t pass.

      4. I agree with David on this one, you need suburban support. Or at least, you need suburban voters to vote close to 50/50, even if they vote against it. If suburban voters vote 75/25 against, the thing is toast.

        The problem is that there are very few great projects for the suburbs. Extending East Link to Redmond is pretty much it. Issaquah to Bellevue is not that great. Wait — to Hospital? Wow, that is even less great. Now folks headed to downtown Seattle get nothing from the deal (meaning you still need to run those buses from Issaquah to Mercer Island) and folks headed to downtown Bellevue have to backtrack. The handful of people headed to Costco headquarters (and the like) coming from Seattle (or the south on 405) get nothing. This is all for an area that really doesn’t have that many people. Yeah, I know it seems like there must be a bunch of people out there with all the traffic and everything, but send everybody from Magnolia out on the roads heading the same direction in the morning and the entire city would shut down (seriously — it would, like dominoes: 15th, Aurora, I-5, 520, I-90, then 405).

        So, no. Sorry, but no. Issaquah to Bellevue is marginal enough. That still is no better for someone headed to downtown Seattle, but it might be a bit faster to downtown Bellevue. But so would a bunch of interchange work done so that buses could get to downtown Bellevue (or just South Bellevue) a bit faster. There really aren’t that many people in the entire city of Issaquah. Queen Anne is bigger. Wedgewood/View Ridge and Olympic Hills/Victory Heights is bigger. Yep, two neighborhoods most people never heard of have more people. You don’t need to spend billions on a light rail line there when buses can do the trick just fine (at a much smaller price).

        So yes, you need suburban support, but you need to have decent projects to get suburban support. Extend light rail to Redmond and then make the buses better. Do work on the ground (if necessary) or just add more routes.

      5. The hospital station is downtown. It’s only a few blocks from the downtown station.

        And even if there is a problem, the problem is transitional. Sound Transit’s choice of Eastlink routing is moving Bellevue’s downtown core Eastward. Let’s not get into the stupid arguments we had about the “Vision Line”, which was two blocks from the final line. It’s just silly.

        Sound Transit is an urban redevelopment agency as much as it is a transit agency. (And one could argue those are the same thing….)

      6. AP, the hospital station is outside of the downtown area and, worse, it’s across the 405. The 8th street bridge is extraordinarily pedestrian and bike unfriendly (not that Bellevue in general is pedestrian-friendly, but at least the downtown area is more so). I suppose you could put in a new bridge, but that would require a lot of extra money and many people may not want to walk all the way over the bridge to their jobs.

      7. David, let me be more clear: Bellevue’s downtown core is shifting eastward. I might be wrong, but we won’t know that for another twenty years.

        Once the train and all the redevelopment happens there will be life on both sides of 405. There’s already way more development than just Chick-Fil-A.

      8. FWIW the City of Bellevue wants to extend NE 6th all the way across 405. In addition the Link crossing itself could be built with sidewalks for pedestrians and bikes.

        Furthermore with Link pedestrians can simply take the train between either East Main or the Bellevue City Hall station and Hospital station.

      9. I think downtown Bellevue is more growing eastward than shifting and I doubt growth will easily jump 405. Regardless, I doubt the western edge of downtown Bellevue will shrink, and the hospital to Lincoln/Bellevue Square is over a mile along roads that are rather bad for pedestrians. The downtown station is half that distance. I doubt that Bellevue will suddenly decide to rebuild all of its pedestrian and biking facilities, of which there are the bare minimum at the moment. I really don’t see Bellevue changing their position.

        Regardless, the whole idea of Issaquah to Bellevue LR is a bad one to begin with. Terminating it at the hospital is just one more bad idea

    2. “The cost and risk of crossing the Mercer Slough and the I-90/I-405 interchange are too high. ST’s studied option of a transfer at Hospital Station is good enough. Travelers from Kirkland would have equivalent travel time to Seattle; they’d have to take a one-station transfer to get to downtown Bellevue. Traveler’s from Issaquah would be inconvenienced a bit by some out of direction travel and a transfer, but if we can build more with less money, that’s a good tradeoff.”

      I don’t get either side of this argument. Kirkland to Issaquah rail is a fundamentally lousy idea in ways that go far beyond which stations the lines intersect at. (And let’s get real, it’s Totem Lake to Issaquah, not Kirkland to Issaquah. This thing is not going to Kirkland proper).

      Why are we so in love with trains that we insist on interposing multiple transfers and circuitous routings on currently simple travel paths? Nothing you can feasibly come up with via rail will be a more useful service than either the current Metro services in Kirkland, or the ST express routes in Issaquah.

      What is the point of rail on this route? Does anybody think capacity is the problem that needs to be solved? Frequency, span of service, speed. You don’t need mostly empty trains to solve any of those challenges.

      1. Because trains are cool :)

        I’m not in love with I-405 BRT; I think your idea of BRT on the ERC makes more sense. It could “pave the way” to rail on the ERC (at least the northern half of it) if and when a capacity boost is needed.

        BTW, if Seattle-Issaquah LR is built and solves the problems of crossing the slough and I-405, then it would indeed make sense to interline a hypothetical Totem Lake/Kirkland-Issaquah line from Hospital to S. Bellevue.

      2. Trains might be cool, but they’re also expensive. In an ideal world with unlimited funds maybe we’d have LR in every corridor. But that’s not the case and asking East King to support an expensive rail line that 90% will never even think of using won’t work. East King needs something that will provide some benefit to most people. Unless the 405 BRT will bring amazing changes to service, the only people who will benefit from ST3 in East King will be those living in Issaquah and Redmond. I don’t think you can get a majority in East King with those kinds of plans.

  3. It’s a good thing Seattle Subway doesn’t run ST. I like their top 3 projects but don’t care for their missing project list at all. I had an electric walkway connecting airport terminal to link as important and a Street car up the ave to replace the 70s buses. I also had a link from UW to U-ville/Ravenna/3-4 station Lake City Way/2 station Kenmore/Bothell spur and a UW/U-ville/Childrens/NOAA/Kirkland study.

    1. Well put les. I think Seattle Subway is getting a little too carried away… Everett needs light rail. Just to feed the buses to/from Paine Field tenants. Yes, tenants.

      But yes, Ballard needs light rail just as much as I need the sniping trolls to quit shooting at me & my dream. He he.

      1. Everett can have light rail if they want it. What Everett *can’t* have is North King County money to build it. I’m glad Everett wants higher ST authority: please give us more here in Seattle too so we can build grade separated rail quicker.

    2. The Duwamish bypass is surprising. To me it’s “nice-to-have-in-the-long-term”, not a priority. If South King and Pierce want it so much, they can pay for it.

      1. I view the Duwamish bypass more as something that could be offered as a premium service… possibly even by a private company.

        There is nothing wrong with charging extra for express trains to the airport. Its done all the time and makes sense for folks on vacation or a business trip that want to make use of those last few hours before the plane takes off for a fee.

      2. This is my feeling as well. Sure, airport trips take a while on the current train, but a speedup here will mostly benefit those who are coming to Seattle from south of town. The current routing connects a lot of places within Seattle. A bypass line, by definition, passes by a lot of stuff in order to get to outlying areas faster. I’d certainly use this occasionally for airport trips, but it’s much more useful for South King/Pierce and they should be the ones paying for the majority of the cost.

    3. I’m not thrilled with all of their suggestions, but let me see if I understand yours:

      Electric walkway connecting airport terminal to link — Sure, why not. This is probably very cheap. The airport itself should pay for it, though. No matter what, though, you are talking about something that makes very little difference to very few riders. People endure a long walk to the subway just like they endure a late flight, or a long walk from their departure gate to their luggage pickup. Its not like the bus to rail transfers (which effect way more riders). Screw that up and people stay on the bus (making the buses slower) or simply drive (because the transfers are so painful). As painful and annoying as that walk is, I don’t think the SeaTac mistakes cost ridership one bit.

      Street car up the ave to replace the 70s buses. — Completely pointless. You can run buses up the Ave (or on nearby streets) and they will be just as effective. Our streetcars have less capacity than our buses, so you would have to spend money on a whole new fleet of streetcars before you gain any sort of advantage, and even then the advantage would be slight. So this is a waste of money (as all Seattle streetcars are). Gaining transit right of way is great (as is level boarding and off board payment) but let the buses use it. You could put the extra money saved into other projects (like the first one you mentioned).

      UW to U-ville/Ravenna/3-4 station Lake City Way/2 station Kenmore/Bothell spur — The problem is that you have huge empty gaps and not that much value added. You can see this from the census maps (zoom in on this — U-Village to 65th is OK, but no Belltown or UW in terms of population. After that it gets really empty until you get close to Lake City. Really empty — as in well below average for Seattle. Meanwhile, most of the people in the area (around 65th) will just take a bus on 65th and very quickly get to the Roosevelt station. Those around the U-Village aren’t as lucky — there is congestion from there to either the U-District or Husky Stadium stations, but its not that bad, and could be made a lot better with a little bit of work. So you would definitely improve things, but it wouldn’t be the dramatic improvement that Ballard to UW rail would be. That is just the southern end. Once you get north of Lake City, the population numbers drop dramatically until you get to Bothell. Even then the number of people per mile is way less than Lake City. Meanwhile, there are bus lanes all the way out there. So basically you are talking about billions and billions of dollars to speed up the trip for not that many people. Generally speaking, you pay for tunnels by the mile. So the cheapest and most valuable thing to do is run a light rail line from 145th and Lake City Way to 125th, then either go to Northgate, or just take a sharp left and head to 130th, then on to Bitter Lake (like this, more or less: I still don’t think that is needed (since bus lanes can do almost as good of a job) but that would have much better stations (more people by each one) while providing another east-west line to compliment our north south one. Now buses from Bothell and Woodinville go along 522 and take the left to the station at 145th. Other buses just go north south, and don’t have to make the jog east or west to a station (making them a lot more frequent). Maybe someday that line could be extended (to Bothell) but I doubt it would ever be cost effective to do that. Anyway, that line (as drawn) would be way cheaper, and carry more riders, but probably shouldn’t be a priority yet.

      On the other hand, Seattle Subway leads with the Metro 8 subway, which is probably the second most successful line we could build (after UW to Ballard). This is a highly congested, highly populous, highly popular area. Lots of people live, work and play along that route. The area is booming, too (more new offices and apartments are probably added along that section in a month than area added between the UW and Lake City in a year). The 8 is an extremely popular bus, despite the fact that it moves really slowly. Building a subway along here would be a dramatic improvement in mobility for the city.

      1. With regards to bus lanes on 522, the only substantial ones are in the southbound (toward Seattle) direction and it’s definitely not complete. I think there are a few areas with northbound lanes as well, but much less. I have a feeling it runs late on the trips north – my wife has taken it a few times on weekends and even then it was running 5-10 minutes late by the time it hit Bothell on the northbound buses. I’m sure during peak traffic it runs slowly.

        I don’t think that corridor needs LR, but the 522 is heavily used and making it more BRT and extending bus lanes on both sides for the whole corridor would probably be worthwhile. A good chunk of that could probably even be paid with East King money.

      2. I think over time Bothell will be a semi-reasonable destination, particularly as UW Bothell and Cascadia College will both continue to grow probably rather dramatically. There is a good deal of unmet demand for 4-year college places in this state. Bothell Landing will help, as will the large development planned (and delayed) at the Kenmore cement plant site.

        That said, I concur with spending money on completing the HCT lanes for the entire length of the corridor and moving towards BRT through Lake City at this point. Much as I grew up in the Lake City area weaned on the 1968 plan and the thought of having a subway station nearby, for the foreseeable future making the corridor really work with buses is the way to go.

      3. Why not? Ross’s critique seems quite well-framed and applicable. Why do you disagree?

      4. les, that’s exactly what the comment I thought of when I read yours this morning. :)

      5. I also agree that BRT (or simply bus lane improvements) make a lot of sense. There are some gaps in the bus lanes, especially in the key section (125th to 145th). This, plus downtown traffic explains the lateness in buses I would imagine.

        I’m sure you also get some congestion from right turn users. I’m not sure if it warrants left lane running, though. Then again, it might work, but along with it, you would want to get rid of the left turn signals and left turns in general. This isn’t cheap, but it might be worth it. So instead of spending billions on light rail (which I assume to mean full fledged grade separated light rail) you spend half that on stations in the middle of road, some wider streets and some overpasses. You wouldn’t need that many, and traffic for the drivers would be much faster as well. I think that would be hugely popular. Do that and it makes it much easier to give the bus signal priority. Overpasses aren’t cheap, but most of the time all you need is a pure overpass (no need for ramps — those that are turning left have to wait for the light as they do now). Still a huge amount of money, and maybe overkill, but now the buses run really fast almost the entire way. Even if there is a bit of a slowdown in Bothell and Lake City itself, to get from one to other very fast would be really nice. Drivers have a much improved driving experience, until of course, congestion clogs everything up for them. When that happens, the bus would go sailing right by everyone and become even more popular.

        But I would need to know about all the choke points before that makes a lot of sense. That would be expensive, and might be ugly (and thus unpopular). Simply adding more bus lanes (and I know this can be added in Seattle) along with off board payment and level boarding might be just fine. This is why studying the corridor and studying full fledged options (not assuming that BRT means a little bit of paint) makes a lot of sense.

      6. RossB, that’s quite the plan – thanks for putting it together. Honestly, I’d guess just finishing the BAT lanes on both sides and upgrading the stops a bit would be enough to make a nice difference to people riding the 522, but keeping the possibility of future upgrades open is certainly a good idea. If you’re going to put the bus lanes in the center though, I would, advocate doing underpasses instead of overpasses like the Burke Gilman has in Kenmore right now. Less ugly and I doubt the cost would be that much different. The other part might be investigating is doing something around UW Bothell. That would also benefit the 535 and future 405 BRT. I have no idea what (it would probably require a substantial amount of infrastructure) but would help the buses in that area.

      7. “Electric walkway connecting airport terminal to link — Sure, why not. This is probably very cheap.”

        It’s not Sound Transit property though. The Port would have to do it, and they know people have been requesting it ever since the Link station opened. It seems to be waiting until the garage is redeveloped anyway and some hotel is put in. ST can ask for a walkway or even offer to pay for it, but it can’t compel the Port to install it.

      8. @David — I agree. Underpasses rather than overpasses makes sense. Looks are important, and probably where we would get the most objections (people don’t want to turn that part of 522 into a freeway). But as you said, BAT lanes the whole way might make sense.

        I think it is best to keep our options open. I’m a big fan of overpasses/underpasses in general. That same highway (522) from Woodinville to Bothell has added a couple over the years and it makes all the difference. I’ve really lost all respect with WSDOT, though, because they decided to widen the freeway (costing huge amounts of money) before adding a couple more (and making the entire section traffic light free). I think the only reasoning is that it forces the hand of future builders. Now that it is four lanes much of the way, you pretty much have to build the overpasses. Disgusting politics, in my opinion. They should have just built the overpasses first, and then worried about the expansion later (it probably isn’t needed, once you remove the bottlenecks).

      9. @RossB, can ST just fund the projects with the cities directly? My understanding is that once the freeway section ends, Bothell handles most of the maintenance. Including shifting all of 522 to make way for the whole downtown revitalization and adding BAT lanes. I don’t know if WSDOT is really involved except in an advisory role. I don’t think the cities want to remove the traffic lights to be honest – that’s the primary road going through Bothell, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park. Make it into a freeway and no one goes into those towns.

      10. @David — That is my understanding as well — the cities pay for the work. I think the closest analogy is Aurora. The city is paying for most of that work (although the state is paying for the new tunnel). So improvements that have occurred over the years (like new bus lanes, traffic lights, etc.) have all been paid for by the city.

        I think Aurora is a good example of what I would like to see as well. Much of it is freeway, but much of it isn’t. There are a lot of options, and I’m no traffic engineer, so I’m throwing out ideas (many of which I’m sure seem crazy to someone who is a traffic engineer) but in general I would do the following:

        145th — I think you would have to leave it alone. even though this is often where the biggest slowdowns are, it is also a very challenging intersection, with lots of turning cars in every direction. You could fix it, but it would be very expensive, and require lots of ramps (making it ugly).

        Bothell — Same thing. They’ve done a lot of work in the last few years, so to turn around and build overpasses or underpasses would be embarrassing politically, expensive and not that pretty. Then again, if they got money to build a flyover ramp (or two) at 96th, I don’t think anyone would complain.

        Ballinger Way — I would add flyover ramps heading to and from the north. This is expensive and ugly, but I think it would be OK there. This is a major bottleneck, and there is a plenty of land to work with and it isn’t exactly pretty right now. You don’t need ramps heading to the south — very few people go that way. You would keep the light and the crossing, but have it turn very rarely (with signal priority for the buses). Either that or you just force the people there to take a right and loop around.

        68th — Another major bottleneck, but one that is easy to solve with an underpass. There are parallel streets around there, and you force those that are turning into using them, so you wouldn’t need to build flyover ramps. So if you are northbound on 68th, and want to head west on 522, you cross the road (without stopping) then take a series of rights. Likewise for someone westbound on 522 trying to head south on 68th — take a right on 65th, then a right on 181st and cruise across the highway. This will be faster for everyone.

        For a lot of the minor intersections, I would eliminate left turn lanes. You would need to add underpasses, but without flyover ramps, because there wouldn’t be that much traffic. You don’t need that many of these (every half mile or so).

        In general, a lot of these changes result in very few left turns and very few complete stops. You would have lots of people making right turns leaving the highway, and right turns to merge. This would be similar to Aurora, which means the speed limit needs to drop, which is probably better for folks along there. It also is great if you are in the left lane — the bus lane. If merging is a major problem (too much traffic) then you can isolate the left lane (the bus lane) from the rest of the traffic. The right lanes (general purpose lanes) have to stop (if the light is red) but the bus lane just keeps moving. Or if you want to be generous to the drivers, apply the traffic light only to the right lane. This is fine as long as you isolate the lanes (with barriers) before the stop light (and hide the light to drivers in the through lane to avoid confusion.

        Anyway, those are some of my ideas. All of this costs big bucks, but not nearly as big as full elevated light rail. I personally think a combination like this would be very popular. I really don’t think the cities would mind — having that road move faster is good for them. There is always a trade-off between making the road faster and sprucing up the local area. It really depends on the area as far as how people feel about it. Lake City itself, for example, has gone through a lot of effort to spruce itself up, and slow things down. In general I think everyone would be thrilled if traffic moved slower, but with fewer bottlenecks. Right now it is bad — really high speed limits on some sections, then followed by a traffic light.

    4. The link to Bothell is essential. Stations in Bothell can serve people all the way from Lynnwood to North Kirkland. This can take alot of traffic jam up out of I-405.

      Bothell is growing like crazy with the new downtown rebuild and UW/Cascadia.

  4. The third and fourth Ballard-DTS options: “Downtown Seattle to Ballard (Market Street vicinity) light rail, primarily elevated/tunnel options” and “Downtown Seattle to Ballard (Market Street vicinity) light rail, primarily at-grade along Westlake Avenue” actually retain a Ship Canal tunnel as an option instead of punting and using a 70′ movable bridge, so keep that in mind. The 70′ figure was arrived at by estimating the biggest sailboat masts that might possibly use Lake Washington, but I don’t think there is any public data on that, so it is unknown how many openings would happen, compared to the Ballard car bridge.

    Preventing Ship Canal backups that also affect cars/buses is arguably more essential than having the line be grade separated everywhere else. It’s about the most dramatic queue jump there is. If we settle for a 70′ movable bridge, that is repeating the compromise of providing BAT lanes along an entire corridor, except where they are needed the most, on the bridges, natural bottlenecks.

    1. I don’t follow you. Being able to immediately cross the moment an (exceedingly rare) bridge opening ends, without having to wait for a single non-transit vehicle to move out of the way, would indeed be “the most dramatic queue jump”. A 70-foot transit-only bridge would therefore bear no resemblance to the current situation at the Ballard and Fremont bridges. Not really a compromise at all.

      I can’t imagine why anyone would accept (or argue for) the countless other daily run-time compromises and major-intersection conflicts inherent in the so-called “rapid” streetcar, in exchange for avoiding a 90-second-at-most bridge opening a few times per year (with no residual clearance effects). Heck, our terribly designed I.D. Link portal already wastes more time on every trip than a 70-foot-bridge would on a few trips annually.

      There remain (also rare) drawbridge openings on both of Chicago’s multi-line access points to the Loop, as well as in a couple of locations in the Bronx. Compared to the many other operating glitches on those (or any) systems, the delays caused are so slight that no one even notices.

      This is “perfect as enemy of the good” incarnate.

      1. My reaction, as a New York native, upon reading this was “The Broadway Bridge opens?!”

        It does. That should say how rare it is to happen (of course I don’t regularly ride the 1 either).

      2. Yup. Slightly more common on the Brown/Purple Line bridge in Chicago.

        Still something by which most Chicago riders have never been inconvenienced, if they’ve experienced or noticed it at all.

      3. I agree with d.p. A 70 foot bridge accommodates all but the rarest large vessels. The Coast Guard is willing to have time restrictions on bridge openings in many places, as long as they don’t place undue restrictions on shipping.

        Since vessels large enough to require opening a 70 foot clearance bridge will be very rare, I don’t see why it would be an undue restriction to require them to pass only between the hours of 1 and 5 AM. The only train movements which might be delayed at that time would be non-revenue base runs.

      4. Frankly, I would be satisfied if there were legal avenues to restrict openings to very non-peak hours. For example, only allowing openings between 8PM-6AM. If ST can get a favorable arrangement such as that approved by the Coast Guard, then that would be good. However, I don’t recall there being anything specific about that possibility nor any data on how frequently a 70′ bridge would tend to open in the Ballard-DT HCT study. I need more robust data than anecdotal statements that operations would likely be fine with a 70′ bridge that would only open a few times a week. Somebody please give me some better data.

      5. There is a local analogy as well, but unfortunately, it has been sullied by the current work on it. I’m talking, of course, about 520. Ten years ago, if you asked someone about 520, most would say the same thing “Really, it opens?”. Bridge openings are very rare, and scheduled. The same thing would occur here.

        It really is nothing to worry about. I wanted a higher bridge (as high as Aurora) but that was shot down. I had two arguments — the first was the number of openings, the second is that it would be much cooler. The first was shot down, and retracted by me once I gathered all the facts (we are talking about very few openings). The second still stands :)

        Put a 70 foot bridge would still be a wonderful ridership experience. Imagine your commute today. Walk or take a bus, then ride well above the Ballard Bridge, looking down at Ballard or over at the Olympics or Cascades. This should not be a huge consideration, but it shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. I could easily see it adding to increased ridership, which is good for everyone and good politically.

      6. @RossB – Would you please refer me to the documents that contain the facts re. the “very few openings” realization?

      7. Documents are not required to substantiate common sense.

        The 30-foot Fremont and 44-foot Ballard bridges do not rise at rush hour. Therefore, a 70-foot bridge inaccessible to boats to tall for the other bridges will never rise at rush hour either.

        Furthermore, 70 feet amounts to excess clearance for the overwhelming majority of recreational and commercial masts and vessels that currently force the other two bridges to rise. Thus, the extreme rarity of 70-foot opening is inherent in that chosen clearance.

      8. @NM — Sorry, I can’t find records of that, but keep in mind that the height limit was set in cooperation with the Coast Guard. Basically they figured out if there would be enough openings to cause a problem and the Coast Guard said no. This makes sense. As everyone said, it won’t open during rush hour. So, what is our frequency during non-rush hour on this run? Ten minutes? I’ll assume eight, just to be optimistic. Worse case scenario, that gives you a gap of four minutes. You don’t think a boat can get through in four minutes? Really?

        Keep in mind that a single boat usually passes through quite quickly. The only time the span stays open a long time is when there are lots of boats. Basically, the bridge tender lets a few people pass (in response to their request) then figures he’ll let the guy in the distance go through as well. This just won’t happen with this bridge. 70 feet is really high. The next highest is Montlake, at 46 feet. The Fremont Bridge is 30 feet, which is why you see it going up and down all the time (and why the bridge tender can let a cluster through). I’ve seen this a lot; I have actually had two jobs where I could see the ships go through the canal. Many years ago I worked as a security guard at the lumber mill. Until recently, I worked in an office overlooking the canal. Big ships are quite common, but big tall ships aren’t. It really is rare to see a ship that tall — folks stop their work and admire it (look up the boat on the internet, etc.). Boats like that can basically be asked to wait, and manage to clear the gap in plenty of time.

        I think a train being delayed by a boat will be less common than some other technical problem (and have less of an impact). That’s the thing. Assume the worst. Assume that a boat can’t make it across in time (or the bridge tender decides to let a couple boats cross at once). Let’s assume this is a one minute delay. Big deal. A train (or pair of trains) has to slow down a bit. This is nothing like a long delay for car traffic. The problem with automobile traffic is not the delay, but the ripples it sends later (you are better off at the front of the line when the bridge goes open, not ten minutes later). So in the very unlikely event that this is an issue, it just isn’t that big of one. Its not like traffic will be snarled for miles. Its a train.

      9. @RossB Thank you for the context. I also appreciate the respectful tone you have taken. I also like reading studies that have actually looked into and determined that the bridge would only open a few times a week based on past vessel traffic or whatever. For better or worse, one man’s common sense is rarely universal.

        It’s not that I don’t think that a 70 footer is a tolerable design choice, it is okay. I’m just thinking more of choice riders. If there is a rapid transit line that is never susceptible to the bridge openings that all the roads except for I-5, Aurora, and West Seattle Fwy have to contend with from time to time, it becomes attractive in the same way that taking an Aurora or I-5 bus home instead of a Fremont Bridge one does. Movable 70′ bridge is better than movable 44′ bridge, of course.

        I also hear you on the ripple point. Much of my consternation for movable bridges comes from being stuck in Downtown Fremont in my car or a bus for 15 minutes while the three way “non peak” snarl vents across the bridge. The peak ranges of 7-9 and 4-6 for the existing Ship Canal bridges are not wide enough. Like I wrote to Anandakos earlier, I’d be fine if the openings were restricted to say 8PM-6AM or at least longer peak time spans were negotiated with the Coast Guard. The whole potential for interruption is still a cut below the freeway bridges though. I believe transit deserves the same expressway treatment. Also, a Ship Canal Tunnel is hardly out of reach as a design component. After all, I’m not calling for the Queen Anne-Fremont-Ballard tunnel.

        Plus having more than one fixed Ship Canal crossing for rail transit puts us in a favorable position for the decades to come. Cynics and angry office chair chair bullshit callers can call me a dreamer who is ruining everything we’re all working for, but I’m going to stay on the lines and fight for what I believe is best, what Seattle deserves.

      10. @NM — I too with we had more documentation for this. I searched, but couldn’t find it. But I do know that each bridge has different hours (not all of them match Fremont’s). For example, the Montlake Bridge has a different rush hour schedule, and only opens on the half hour. Fremont is especially bad because it is so short. You are likely to get boats — even just big fishing boats — stacked behind it during rush hour. They open and the bridge tender sees a big freighter that just cleared the locks and next thing you know the opening will be really long.

        This would be the opposite. It is a train. That is a big deal. My best analogy is 520, which, believe me, most people never knew opened. It isn’t a perfect analogy, because more boats go through the ship canal, but it does show that bridges can restrict when they open, especially when they get very few boats that size (and I think all of them are recreational). So it wouldn’t surprise me if they simply require any boat over 70 feet to travel within very limited hours, and register first. I wish I had something more concrete, but I would bet you good money that a delay occurs less than once a month (which is better than our current system).

        Meanwhile, the positives are much bigger than that. Adding support for bikes would be huge and the experience would be much nicer. That is one thing I’ll miss about the buses going over the freeway — it sure was cool to look out the window as you cruised by. It would be nice to have the best ride in the city be public transit.

    2. I can report from my anecdotal experience of living alongside the ship canal for decades that almost every sailboat out there will fit under a 70′ span. Also consider that the new 520 approach only has a 70′ clearance itself. Half the lake is inaccessible to taller boats anyway.

      I’d expect to see the span open mainly for special events, e.g. historic ships coming to lake Union. Assuming the new bridge maintains the no rush hours opening policy, I see no advantage to spending $$$ on a tunnel.

      1. As an added bonus, the bridge option can come with a sidewalk for walkers and bikers.

      2. Sorry, Ron. But special events are exactly the time transit has to be rapid. And drawbridges have been known to not undraw.

        If they had to build it now, the street rail across the every drawbridge in Seattle would have been mined.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Ron…

        If the existing bridges maintain the no-rush-hour opening, then by definition a much higher bridge will never open at rush hour, whether formally enshrined or not.

      4. Right. Not only will this never open at rush hour, but it may never open when passengers are on a train, as Anandakos said above.

  5. Ballard to U-District: Subway is only way to build this badly-needed line.

    Another Downtown tunnel: Same as the BART tubes underneath the MUNI subway-surface tunnel under Market Street. (The one in San Francisco, not Ballard.)

    Though much harder to build because because BN tunnel adds a vertical constraint to problems of utilities and foundations. But equally necessary.

    +10 squared on CBD- Sea-Tac line. Natural to do Rainier Valley route first. High and rising ridership, and easiest corridor to start. But I really think direct line has always been intended, if not in current plans.

    Had some hope when Alaska Airlines threatened to leave Sea-Tac for Boeing Field. Rental car buses stupid but tolerable. Half hour bus ride to change flights? Passengers will permanently change airlines, too. Too bad Alaska was bluffing.

    Mark Dublin

  6. If we’re going to start building grade-separated lines in new downtown tunnels, can we at least consider an automated technology so that we can cut future operating costs and improve the operations? If we’re building new tunnels for West Seattle/Ballard and are considering an airport bypass line, then let’s make them proper Skytrain/automated metro technology from the start, rather than trying to run slow, clunky, manually-driven streetcars through them simply because we do it elsewhere.

    1. Amen to this. Especially given the probable junction terminus of the West Seattle line. A Delridge or Junction transfer is just fine with 4-6 minute headways, increasingly painful above that. An automated system can run those headways all night with little additional cost, avoiding D.P.’s death spiral scenario of thirty minute night headways.

      1. A Delridge or Junction transfer is just fine with 4-6 minute headways, increasingly painful above that. An automated system can run those headways all night with little additional cost, avoiding D.P.’s death spiral scenario of thirty minute night headways.

        I don’t think that moving 210,000 pounds of metal is ever that inexpensive, driver or no driver.

        The supposed cost savings of trains is that one driver can carry hundreds of people vs about 60 on a full bus. The physics of moving a heavy vehicle work against these savings when the number of riders isn’t large.

        Take a look at what Jarrett Walker had to say this morning. Frequent buses in Portland have operating cost performance comparable to light rail.

        So the savings of going from multiple buses with multiple drivers to a train with one driver aren’t important. The savings of getting that last driver out of the train so that you can run 4-minute headways to the Junction just aren’t important when you set them against the billions in capital costs. (Capital costs are not an insignificant issue when we’re talking about West Seattle in particular).

      2. While I’m no Dublin-Luddite, I see no reason to believe that in a sprawling city of moderate population, without Vancouver’s underlying pervasive density or naturally-consolidateable trunk corridors, automation should be the priority to pursue at all costs.

        This obsession runs the risk of precluding numerous cost-balancing considerations, some of which may actually offer routing/access/coverage/operational/holistic-mobility benefits that significantly exceed those of a limited network of stubby automated corridors.

        Furthermore, the Seattle Subway automation obsession seems to ignore that Vancouver’s success has been built on a fully integrated multi-modality, including dozens of all-hour-frequency-oriented corridors driven the old-fashioned way (i.e buses).

        And lastly, I would submit that if a Seattle corridor is unable to justify running reasonably high frequencies at all hours on the demand-derived merits, then we have no business building any kind of extremely expensive from-scratch infrastructure on those corridors! Much less miles of subterranean paragons of automation to run every 2 minutes… empty.

      3. Dan,

        Your point can only be construed as a recommendation of an unequivocal vote against ST3, because with the exception of Ballard-UW there is nowhere that Link might be built as a result of its passage which buses could not serve as well and nearly as cheaply. Without some “marquee” projects for the other four sub-areas, even if the project list for North King is Ballard-UW and the DSTT (without rails), the measure will fail.

        So, let the living bury the dead, honor what has come to pass (U-Link) and will come to pass (North Link and East Link) and go home to feasting.

        Then tomorrow get down to work figuring out how Seattle can fund its own needed projects.

      4. “Without some “marquee” projects for the other four sub-areas, [], the measure will fail.”

        I’m not really sold on the political salience of marquee projects. It’s too close, for my comfort, to “let’s build something shiny for the rubes in the burbs”. When voters understand how their several hundred dollars a year will go to a train that goes nowhere useful for them, we’ll see the supposed bias for marquee projects evaporate very quickly. Who on the Eastside wants to pay $1.5 billion + for a train to Issaquah? Some smallish fraction of the already smallish fraction of Eastsiders who care about going to Issaquah.

        I really don’t know how some of these rail proposals can survive first contact with actual transit ridership reality. What is the point of a train to Issaquah when the 555/556 has just enough ridership to run 30-minute headways and no service after 7pm? Why is a faster second line to Federal Way something anybody should care about? Even on the numbers presented here (and promptly debunked), it’s still slower than an actually existing bus.

        We need more transit investments, including rail because there are some corridors where either the capacity requirements or the grade separation requirements make sense for rail. But mostly we need a network of higher-frequency transit with good span-of-service and competitive speeds to more places.

      5. So the savings of going from multiple buses with multiple drivers to a train with one driver aren’t important.

        There are some significant issues with the TriMet “frequent bus” network, including the fact that they can switch to fairly infrequent intervals late at night (because the “frequent” part is only measured during the day), and in the case of the 75 a very expensive part of the route to operate is simply eliminated.

        There’s lots of other issues with the comparison, but you have to assume “all things being equal” and unfortunately that is not the case.

      6. And MAX drops to 30-35 minute headways in the evening, in some cases as early as 7:30 or 8pm, with certain segments/directions disappearing entirely by 10:30.

        Ceteris paribus would seem to apply quite well in a Portland example, where one can presume no “predictability” or “scalability” benefits whatsoever from the existence of rails.

      7. What Dan and d. p. said. There are many great lessons to be learned from Vancouver, but “make your light rail automated” is very low on the list. If they suddenly had to pay for drivers on each train it wouldn’t cost that much, relative to the rest of the system. I doubt they would change frequency at all.

        Besides, even if it is an issue, whose to say that we can’t retrofit an automated system. Compared to a driverless car, our system is pretty easy to automate. You only have one small section where someone could walk or drive in front. A stop light can turn, but that itself is very easy to manage (with electronics).

        Besides, the very thing that makes everyone assume that we will never get automation is exactly the reason we won’t get very high headways: street running. If our system was automated (and demand was there) we still wouldn’t run trains every four minutes down Rainier Valley. The city won’t allow it. So while we would save a few bucks (maybe) by having an automated system, it wouldn’t necessarily come with more frequency. Vancouver has high frequency on most of their runs because they are very popular. It isn’t clear that we will have that.

      8. Anandakos, I agree completely with Dan here. Building a marquee project (at least in East King) will get you little support. Instead, why not upgrade a large chunk of the transit network (like Dan’s idea from some time back) here? It might not be fancy, but it will help more people than a single rail line no one will use.

        There are huge areas of the transit network here that need help. Looking at just the area north of 520 here, there’s no fast way to get from downtown Kirkland to almost anywhere. There’s no fast way to get from anywhere except downtown Kirkland to Redmond/Overlake. There’s no fast way to get from downtown Redmond to downtown Bellevue (at least not for another 8 years) most of the day. There are plenty of HOV ramps that could be added that would help 405 and 90 buses. Maybe not sexy, but if packaged up well it could probably be sold to voters here as a real improvement.

      9. It’d be good to do something about a 520 station. Maybe they made it so it could never be built, so then maybe it needs to be something a bit further south and accessed by horizontal shaft, but it would really help connectivity to have something better than the UW parking structure station for transfers between Link and buses on 520.

    2. The point is that a new tunnel and new lines gives us the chance to remedy some of the errors were baked into the previous line. Metro built a BUS tunnel in the 1980s which was designed for light rail. Light rail was considered a foregone conclusion by Sound Move, even though other technologies may have been a better fit (heavy rail, skytrain, etc.). Because of this historical planning process, light rail was chosen for the “spine”, even though it’s not the ideal technology for a busy, dense, city. Upfront it was sold to us that light rail would be cheaper because it allowed street running, but we’ve now seen that a) it’s not really any cheaper, and b) there’s nowhere else in the city limits where street running makes any sense or is politically viable.

      Automated rail technologies would be cheaper to operate, would be able to use smaller trains that run more frequently (and thus cut capital costs on ginormous stations), can accelerate and decelerate faster than our pokey LRT system, and can use high platforms which would make the interior of the vehicles more roomy. The current link vehicles are quite narrow and congested inside… compare them, for example, with BART, Skytrain, or other high platform systems.

      We’re stuck with LRT technology on central link and through the DSTT. But if we’re building a parallel system with a new tunnel through downtown, we have an opportunity to change to something more suitable.

      1. Yeah, I could see that. For example, I think the UW to Ballard light rail line will never interline with the main line, except from a maintenance standpoint. But that brings up the drawback to that approach. A whole new set of equipment might mean that you would have to build a separate maintenance yard (instead of just linking the two pieces together). That adds a lot of money to the system.

        But other than that, it would make a lot of sense for that line. The Ballard to UW line is much more of an urban, short spaced line, where smaller, more frequent trains would be most welcome. Of course, then you have a problem with the mismatch. What if huge numbers of people get off the train at the UW and are headed to Ballard, where they won’t all fit? I know, not a horrible problem to have (they just wait a couple minutes for the next train) but still kind of weird and not at all what Vancouver has. I don’t know how many cities have built similar systems (a bit of this and a bit of that) but it might be worth considering. The idea of smaller, more frequent trains is very intriguing.

        I don’t know about the engineering limitations of our system compared to Skytrain, but the automation of Skytrain is credited with its ability to get really low headways. If that is the case, I see no reason why additional processing can’t be retrofitted to our trains. Drivers would drive them the same way that pilots fly passenger jets — for the most part they just monitor the systems as opposed to actually controlling the thing.

      2. I’m with you on the non-“ginormous” stations.

        And one can not oversell the degree to which smaller stations has allowed projects like the Canada Line to afford appropriately urban spacing (and easier platform access, in contrast to Sound Transit’s palaces miles and miles apart.

        On the other hand, the only true non-regulatory-overkill requirement of a subway platform is that it not become crowded in such a way that gives the next vehicle difficulty in clearing it. In the absence of a corridor that consolidates so many high- and variable-demand purposes as a Canada Line or U-Link, neither the spatial requirement of the platform nor the frequency requirement of the vehicle is especially outlandish.

        Which is to say, on any other corridors we are remotely considering — even the most sensible ones — a 2-car train coming every 5 minutes at rush hour and every 10 minutes the rest of the time would probably handle even the most atypical demand spikes perfectly fine.

        Add to that the short lengths of our one grade-separation-justified corridors — the North Seattle
        Spur, for example, is only around 3 miles long — and the necessity of automation all but evaporates. You’re looking at 2 or 3 drivers, tops, at no harm to the utility of the service.

        Which isn’t to say it’s a terrible idea. Just not nearly as important as the idea of accessible, utilitarian stations built where they are most useful, which can happen independently of any automation push.

      3. There is another issue with automation in the USA.

        I don’t know how HART plans to deal with it, but the automated people movers in airports have platform side doors as well as train car doors. My understanding is that in the USA the Federal Transit Administration would require platform side doors just like those in the airport people movers.

        This isn’t necessarily a huge obstacle, but it does get to be a pain to deal with because every single piece of equipment has to be exactly the same for the doors to line up right. It would not be easy, for example, to have TriMet’s situation where the first generation of cars is a significantly different design than the second generation and therefore the doors are in a different location.

        My hope would be that we could move away from that. I like to think that Americans are not significantly more stupid than Canadians and therefore an automated line like SkyTrain could work here. However, at one time platform side doors were actually being proposed as a vital piece, and significant obstacle, to fully automated train operation here.

  7. I can’t really bring myself to care about a survey so impossibly designed as to be guaranteed to haul in garbage data… which Sound Transit clearly intends to throw in the dumpster before proposing the same of resource-sucking long-haul crap it always proposes.

    But it worries me that Seattle Subway — which really needs in this moment to be not only an advocational corrective to ST’s broken understanding of mobility solutions, but also to present itself as more inherently trustworthy than Sound Transit — is using the survey as an excuse to yet again flog the pet insistences of its membership and the logical fallacies that drive those insistences.


    The most glaring?

    “We estimate a time savings on this bypass line versus the Rainier line of 12-15 minutes per trip.”

    No. Just no. Do you even ride the existing train about which you complain?

    We are currently running 36-38 minutes for Central Link, end to end. 7-10 minutes of that is simply crossing downtown. 10-11 minutes is the time from SeaTac to where your hypothetical bypass would diverge. And SoDo is 3-5.

    So how long does the train spend on the entire Beacon-R.V. segment, today? Hmm… only 12-16 minutes!!

    Is your “bypass” a freaking teleporter?

    Even if there were the slightest reason for your bypass — a chance that it would make Federal Way Link useful to anyone (nope), enough airport ridership to justify doubling your expenses or halving your frequency on the sole all-day-demand segment along the way (nope), any kind of population whatsoever in the South Park (nope) — your “time savings estimate” would still be as entirely bullshit as the PSRC/ST’s Guaranteed Massive Everett Influx™.

    Stop it!


    Then you ask readers of this blog to join you in flogging more of your old fallacious favorites: Holman and Not Really Greenwood rail [sigh]; the Issaquah Baby Bullet [sigh]; and 100% grade separation + automation everywhere, whether needed or not [double sigh].

    New context; same obsessions. And exactly the same refusal of to engage self-awareness that plagues ST and threatens to destroy it from within.

    You can’t just be them w/ (marginally) more urban priorities. You have to be better than them.

    1. Hey, selling 12-15 minutes savings for a Georgetown bypass, but kicking it to the future, is a good way to trick South King into voting for ST4.

      1. My point is that if Seattle Subway truly cares about taking the high road to major infrastructural investments in positive mobility outcomes, this kind of bullshit needs to stop. Completely.

    2. The Duwamish bypass savings don’t seem unreasonable to me.

      It’s 6.72 miles between SoDo Station and Boeing access road. Currently that takes ~24 mins. Assuming 1 stop for Georgetown and 40 mph avg system speed, 6.72 miles * 40mi/hr = 10.2 mins, plus 30 seconds dwell time. Time savings of about 12-14 minutes.

      1. Rainier Beach SoDo is 14 per the official schedule, and per every one of my experience in which the signal cascading worked properly.

        Add 2 minutes from Rainier Beach to the potential divergence point (3 at most).

        That’s 16-17 minutes, including SoDo stopping time, which I didn’t include before.

        Is the hypothetical bypass going 150 mph and picking up the hypothetical Georgetown pub-crawlers by grappling hook?

      2. The bypass makes more sense if there is a second downtown tunnel, full grade separation in SODO and a new Seattle-Renton line. Otherwise, it’s operational validity is quite diminished where it would merge back into the existing rail service.

      3. I’m not really sure what you’re talking about any more, d.p.

        Seattle Subway is proposing for the bypass to meet up with the Central Link at Tukwila Station. According to sound transit’s trip planner, SoDo to Tukwila takes 24 minutes. By Seattleite’s calculations (which you didn’t dispute, just dismissed), the bypass will take ~10 minutes to meet back up with the spine.

        24-10 = 14, and that’s how Seattle Subway got their numbers.

      4. The issue is not the bypass in isolation, it’s the bypass relative to other projects. Money we put into the bypass is not available for Ballard-downtown, Ballard-UW, Lake City, West Seattle, Graham Station, 130th Station, Denny Way, etc. So the question is, is the bypass more critical to North King than these other projects? I’d say no; it’s behind all of them. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea; it just means we need to build the more critical things first. All those projects will be a full plate for both ST3 and ST4. SeaTac and Des Moines do not need two ways to get downtown when half the city doesn’t have any HCT at all. I don’t mind studying it in ST3 but I don’t see any reason to prod ST to do so when its main beneficiaries, South King and Pierce, haven’t even asked for it.

      5. Tukwila to SoDo takes 24 minutes because Tukwila to Rainier Beach station takes nearly 10.

        At least 8 of which are the time it takes just to reach your hypothetical merge point (and superfluous Boeing Access station).

        When you claim that “15 minutes can be saved” — 15 minutes being the present-day, schedule-confirmed length of the entire Rainier Valley + Beacon Hill tunnel — what you are saying is that “express” trains can travel to the merge point, and then magically teleport to SoDo.

        Ride the train. Count the minutes of the actual bypassed segment in question.

        This is really fucking basic, Seattle Subway people.

      6. p.s. It is also insane that you think anyone is going to build a duplicate track along the part of the journey with so few destinations that the existing train doesn’t bother to stop for 10 minutes.

      7. And to be perfectly, spotlessly, crystal clear…

        This is an ~10-mile distance about which you are hypothesizing. As the crow flies. And, according to Seattle Subway’s latest incarnation of its perennially dumb “vision” map, with 4 or 5 new stops along the way.

        And you think this distance will be covered in “~10 minutes”?


      8. I’m fine with sometimes missing basic points, Dave, but you don’t have to be a massive prick about it, especially if you turn out to be wrong because then you end up looking like a clown. Explain yourself clearly, and if it’s “really fucking basic” then it’s the failure of the communicator to explain the point rather than the communicatee.

        No one is saying anything can move by magic, or teleport. What people are saying is that basic math shows a branch from SoDo to Tukwila stopping in Georgetown will save commuters 14 minutes. The proposed merge point is not 8 minutes away from Tukwila station, but right there near the station.

        You haven’t refuted Seattleite’s math about the 6.7 mike, 10 minute trip through Georgetown and you haven’t explained what you’re on about about Rainier Beach. Those are all things you have to do to show Seattle Subway’s math wrong.

        Please explain this basic point.

      9. 1)

        Tukwila International and SoDo — your current benchmark for “24 minutes” — are at least 9.2 miles apart by the very straightest path you could possibly take. (With a veritable shitload of unjustifiable tunneling, mind you.)

        9.2 miles. Minumum. Not 6.7. And likely closer to 10 by the best possible real-world path you could conceive of hashing out even if money were no option.


        Your map shows 5 intermediate stops, all of them new. But the one in SoDo south of Spokane is unlabeled, so I’m happy to round down to 4.


        Subway trains do floor it out of the station and sail at 65 mph all the way to the next stop. No matter how straight a ROW or how many tunnels you give them, or what kind of fancy magic-futurist technology you pretend to bestow upon them.

        They don’t go that fast non-stop. They really don’t go that fast when stopping repeatedly, especially when all of your gaps hover in the 2-ish mile range.


        You continue to insist that “~10 minutes” covers all of the above distance, all of the above stations, and can be solved by going at unprecedented speeds on an apparently miraculous ROW.


        So, yeah, that’s impossible, and preposterous, and naive, and a little bit beneath me to have had to explain to you four times.

        Also known as “really fucking basic”.

      10. Zach,

        The line through “Tukwila Town Center” simply cannot diverge timetable north (compass east) of the platforms at TIB. The tracks are at least 75 feet in the air within a block east of the station where a diversion would be made. There isn’t room between the freeway and the existing structure to “belly” out to the south before rising over the (yes, quickly dropping) existing right of way.

        The only way to do this is to bypass TIB and have the junction just south of the curve at the freeway interchange.

        Anyway, if the new line — the Seattle Subway proposal is no “bypass” — diverges “north” of TIB it would have only one (with Graham two) fewer stations than the existing line. How can it save much time? It’s stations that slow things down, not distance at 50 miles per hour. True, it avoids the slow climb up the hill to TIB and the sharp curves transitioning between MLK and BAR and BAR and East Marginal Way. It would be faster; but not ten or even six minutes faster.

        And anyway, it’s almost as wiggly-woggly as the existing line. It’s not quite, but it is headed there. Running up PHS through Tukwila it would have to wiggle-woggle over to East Marginal somewhere just south of the river to visit the shared station, then swoop back to the west around BAR. Maybe it could be engineered with larger radius curves but there’s no guarantee.

        Once it gets to South Park and crosses the Duwamish it starts being constricted to street rights of way. Fortunately the intersections at 16th South and East Marginal Way and Fourth South and East Marginal are “angled the right way” so it shouldn’t be too hard to get fairly gentle high speed curves.

        And finally, the folks in “North Georgetown” around Lucile street are going to be plenty pissed if you put an elevated structure through their much abused little community without giving them a station. And of course the city council will cave and then there were zero fewer stations.

        Now I’m all for urban subways with lots of stations, but only where there is genuine demand, and it’s extremely unlikely that high rises will sprout around Fourth South and Lucile. Maybe they would, but it is in the Boeing Field north approach and right next to a 24/7/365 freight yard with glaring sodium vapor lights. So I doubt it.

    3. I follow Seattle Subway’s Facebook page, where they’ve been posting a lot about ST3 lately. Every time they get a chance, they talk up rail to Everett as if it’s a great idea. You catch them at it, they’ll admit they want Seattle rail first (but then say “we’ll have much more to say about this soon!”), but then the very next comment, it’s “complete the spine” all over again.

      I’m glad they’re on board with Ballard-UW and the transit tunnel (the transit tunnel they deserve particular credit for), but flogging Issaquah just makes you roll your eyes all over again.

    4. I’ve always thought the bypass idea was crazy, but someone mentioned another idea that makes it less so (to my eyes anyway). First add a split at Rainier Beach, with half the trains headed to SeaTac, and half the trains headed to Renton. That itself sounds like a great idea to me, but I think a lot people would complain about the really infrequent times for the south end. Since trains have six minute headways on Rainier Valley (if memory serves) that means trains every twelve minutes to SeaTac. I wouldn’t mind, but I think a lot of other people would (it is a degradation of service). Now add the bypass, and everyone is happy. Folks get a faster ride to the airport (although not as fast as they (or Seattle Subway) might think, but still faster). Folks in Rainier Valley (or Beacon Hill) have a less frequent trip to the south end (including the airport) but a much better connection to Renton. Considering the cultural connection between the two areas (Rainier Valley and Renton) this is a small price to pay.

      But this is still way down the list. It only makes sense if it is really cheap to build all of that, and there is a lot of growth in the area.

      1. It could be “very cheap to build” if it’s placed on the east side of Boeing Field, between the railroad tracks and the freeway. No, it doesn’t then service the Museum of Flight, disappointing Joe, or “Georgetown” as everyone thinks of it with the pretty old sandstone buildings.

        Now of course such a purely utilitarian “express” alignment east of Boeing Field does not serve South Park or (the extreme west edge of) Georgetown, probably at Corson by Seattle CC. But neither does it require a crossing of the Duwamish River in the navigable section and a long stretch of elevated guideway along East Marginal Way and Fourth Avenue South.

        Finally, given that if the Seattle Subway plan were adopted, there would be five stations between Sea-Tac and SoDo, how much of a “bypass” is it, really?

        Presumably the new alignment through “Tukwila Town Center” would “bypass” TIB since it would be impossible to have a “flying junction” north (compass east) of the existing platforms; the tracks are already “flying” plenty high there. Otherwise there would be six stations between Sea-Tac and Sodo. Assuming that the new “coke bottle” station at Boeing Access Road shown on the map is built as well as the “Spokane Street” station shared with the Red Line, the “bypass line” would have only two fewer stations than the current line, three if Graham is built.

        By the way, is the proposal to share platforms at BAR or have two stations next to each other? Sharing one set of platforms requires two flying junctions at either end of the station which is within the Boeing Field flight path. No really high structures need apply.

        On the other hand, having two parallel sets of platforms means people have to choose which platform to use.

        True, this version of the “Duwamish Bypass” doesn’t have the street running on MLK, but Seattle Subway simply can’t be serious when they claim anything more than four or five minutes’ time saving with this alignment. There is really less than a mile distance saved via this route versus MLK. It isn’t a “bypass”; it’s a separate line.

        Finally, Tukwila has already said not just “No”, but “Hell, No!” to elevated over Pacific Highway South through the city. I think all of us here at STB agree that they were shortsighted to do so, but unless Seattle Subway knows of a change in political heart in that city, the line through “Tukwila Town Center” will not happen.

        This is a lot of elevated construction (BART del Norte!) just to serve South Park and the six blocks of the extreme western end of Georgetown, neither of which has shown much if any inclination for “revitalization” even while much of the rest of the city creaks and groans with new residents, threatening to split at the seams.

    5. There is a significant amount of track already existing as part of the BNSF main line. Once PTC signalling becomes more commonplace I expect there will be a huge effort to reconcile required safety standards between North American and everywhere else.

      Spending a billion or so to add two more tracks to what is, in many places, 3 to 10 tracks worth of infrastructure before the real impacts of those changes are known is highly premature.

      If speed is what you are after, you want a Stadler unit geared for 87 mph operating on those main line tracks providing your bypass route, not Link at 50. Today you can’t do that, but there is enough movement in that direction I wouldn’t want to bet $1billion building a parallel main line. The risk of it being rendered obsolete by a changed regulatory landscape before it is completed is too great.

      1. Glenn,

        While it’s premature to write off “all-day Sounder”, it’s going to be a big expensive lift. BNSF is going to extract its pound of flesh. But if you propose running diesel Light Rail cars on their tracks every ten minutes they will simply walk away. Yes, because the UP trackage between Argo and Black River Junction is dispatched by the BNSF dispatchers it is essentially three main tracks between those points. But even with that enormous capacity it’s still tricky to move trains through it.

        There is simply no room to run a Sprinter every ten minutes.

        And it wouldn’t be a billion to do at-grade between the existing tracks and the freeway. It’s narrow in a couple of places, so there would have to be retaining walls built, but it could be nearly 100% at-grade between the diversion junction north of BAR and the Maintenance Facility loop to get back on Link. About five businesses east of the old railroad spur south of Spokane would need to be bought out, but they’re all small and mostly rudimentary.

        However, the bottom line is that since Federal Way put a dagger in the heart of Link on SR99, there will only be TIB, Sea-Tac, and maybe a “Midway” station with any walkshed on south Link. That renders the extension essentially useless; folks will opt for the express buses instead.

        Thanks, Federal Way, for ruining what might have been an opportunity for linear development through South King County.

      2. I forgot Angle Lake and the potential South 220th station. But if Link south of Midway is going to be on the I-5 right of way, you can be pretty confident that ST will put it on I-5 to the north as well.

        Which means that Highline CC will go without any station; the “Midway” station will be at the freeway and Kent-Des Moines Road; that’s about a third of a mile from the northeast corner of the campus.

        These suburban politicians are clueless how to make transit work.

      3. Eventually, you have to bite the bullet and do what Metrolink in LA did and buy the line outright.

        In most of the area there’s some secondary track through there that could be upgraded rather than a new line.

        Triple track can really handle a lot of train traffic. See the BNSF “racetrack” in Chicago. Lots of passenger and freight through there.

        Either way, you don’t want to build a parallel 50 mph line when WashDOT is hoping to be able to get Cascades up to 90 mph and hourly service. If that happens, your express spine exists no matter what else BNSF is doing. It should be one hell of a railroad to accomplish Spineifest Destiny without a semi-parallel new line.

  8. I am glad that groups like Seattle Subway exist and think it is great that they react like this!

    I think this ST survey is a mere distraction though. It is designed to say “we took public input” but it takes input from individuals rather than focus groups, and there is no interactive discussion in the survey. Unless groups like Seattle Subway can produce an organized response, I think it’s a diversion. Time is better spent talking to local elected officials and having neighborhood groups have interactive focus groups – and discussing these things with the ST board members.

    1. On open threads, I kept asking this blog to interview the Mayor or the head of SDOT to get a sense of what they support/what they will push for— but they haven’t done so (if they are getting stonewalled or not asking, you’ll have to ask them).

      1. Because the mayor, like all successful politicians, is a past master at not answering questions in complete sincerity. And he has ordered his head to SDOT to do the same.

  9. “This line is the missing link that would, with other investments (Madison BRT, First Hill Streetcar, SLU Streetcar), give the densest neighborhoods in Seattle an integrated transit network.”

    The SLU Streetcar is transit, but Metro buses aren’t? Really?

    1. Sometimes. But for high demand high ridership routes metro buses are a very poor solution.

    2. They’re still transit, but I wouldn’t call buses like the 8 part of an “integrated transit network” when they run every half an hour evenings and Sundays and are often 15 minutes late during peak.

    3. Buses are definitely a part of it – we were just talking about fixed capital investments. We were for both prop 1’s, you know.

  10. So much handwringing and angst about ST and their perceived mission that I sort of have to laugh.

    Want good solid investments in the core? There is an easy way – just make sure that sub-area equity is retained and not watered down. That will get seattle what it needs, and the burbs would support us on this because they fear the possibility that Seattle might spend their tax dollars in Seattle. Ya, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a reality.

    So insure sub-area equity remains, and then just keep after ST not to water down their design standards in an effort to increase coverage.

  11. With the consistent advocacy of a Ballard-UW line segment, I was wondering if the 520 rail crossing idea should be put on the table as part of this. I know it has a rather messy political history, but I can see lots of advantages to split East Link into two lines- one going to Redmond and one going back across 520 to UW and Ballard (transfers at UW and/or U-District station). Add to that a second Ballard-UW-Redmond line and that could be a pretty powerful system. It would replace “build the spine” with “build the loop” as a political mantra. The 520 bridge lines perform well in the ST3 studies, and the connectivity would even benefit Snohomish riders wanting to get to Bellevue. It could also unload some of the through-riding congestion forecasted in Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

    I’m just asking here. What do you guys think?

  12. A bypass line to the airport via Georgetown to speed up service to downtown Seattle for South King and Pierce extensions and speed up airport service. In addition to adding Georgetown and South Park to our regional system, this line serves a very important function as a bypass of the slow section through the Rainier Valley. We estimate a time savings on this bypass line versus the Rainier line of 12-15 minutes per trip. This matters some for airport trips but is extremely meaningful for trips from South King and Pierce. Without this bypass light rail will be painfully slow for commuter trips to downtown Seattle.

    A to the freakin men! I thought I was the only one that thought this.

    1. Nope.

      Apparently the internets are just chock full of people who think you can save 15 minutes on a segment that only takes 16 minutes today, just by skipping all the people and places and firing up the nitro boosters.

      1. I’d also note that the MLK alignment isn’t that out of the way. Columbia City Station is further west than TIBS is! Even Rainier Beach Station is only a few blocks more easterly than TIBS is. The east “jog” on the ST diagrams is technically unrepresentative — TIBS should be directly below Rainier Beach Station. A “bypass” may reduce travel time by having fewer stops and having faster top speeds (assuming an expensive full grade separation), but any travel time savings associated with distance would be negligible.

      2. People forget that the speed limit from Rainier Beach to just past Mount Baker Station is 35 mph. A by-pass could conceivably go 50+mph in grade separated r.o.w.. That has to be worth some savings.

  13. I’d like to see Seattle Subway get a little more realistic in its short-term goals, though I appreciate its broader vision even if I don’t always agree with where they end up.

    So having West Seattle rail on their ST3 list at all is a mistake, as is the bypass route. A realistic Seattle Subway plan would focus on lines where they make sense now, supporting integration of other transit systems with those subway lines, and gradually building up service in areas that don’t support that investment now but will in the long run.

    The realistic way to serve West Seattle in ST3 is with a West Side Transit Tunnel, with a plan that allows for phasing in rail down the line if/when it becomes necessary and feasible. Building any rail now that will just force bus riders to transfer and end up increasing commute times and complexity is a bad idea.

    A bypass to the airport really doesn’t fit the vision at all, so it should be dropped as a priority. I really quite like the idea of the Denny/CD (route 8) part of the line, though. The question is what to do with the tail after dropping the bypass route. In the short term you could just run it as a shuttle or maybe even a circulator (if you could somehow use the existing Link tunnel from Mt. Baker station). For the long term, I think I’d rather have the northwest end go to Lower Queen Anne and then tunnel north via Fremont to eventually emerge around the zoo on 99 (you could eventually take it as far north as ridership could be built through future development). South of Mt. Baker there’s really nowhere to take the line so that would remain the southern terminus.

    I don’t think the orange line makes sense (alas, as I am in Bothell). I’ve argued for it before, but it’s a vestige of the monorail plan that increasingly looks like it needs to be abandoned (certainly north of 85th/15th starting with the Holman segment). I think making buses work better along 125th/130th from Lake City, connecting with Link at a 130th station, 99, and maybe Greenwood, is better than any cross-town train. Just make the 522 run in exclusive lanes from UW Bothell to Aurora, and similarly improve cross-town bus service on other major east-west corridors, and you’ll be better off.

    1. Cascadian,

      It is “just a shuttle route”. It was never proposed as the “tail” of the Duwamish bypass. How did you get that idea?

      It’s a way to expand the area of downtown which can support the densities which are developing there without having seventy jillion radial lines slicing through little pie slices of the arc. One transfer from either a bus or one of the other Link lines gets you to all points of the arc quickly and, most importantly, reliably.

      1. Just to clarify, I saw this article linked from Seattle Subway’s Facebook account, which prominently features this map. So even though I clicked through to STB, I was reading it in context of their apparent long-term plans given that map. It fishhooks at the east of of SLU to serve the Belltown stops of the WSTT, as far as I can tell, then heads south to Georgetown, across the Duwamish to South Park, then to Boeing Access Road, Tukwila Town Center, and then off the map. It’s in yellow the whole way, without interruption.

      2. Interesting. So Seattle Subway has changed the Duwamish/Aurora line into a Duwamish/Denny/23rd line.

    2. And it is not meant to go anywhere else. The west end should go through Uptown and out to Elliott West where a car storage yard could be built next to the railroad yards. There would have to be a non-revenue connection at Mt. Baker for cars to be sent to the Maintenance Facility for heavy work.

      1. That makes sense to me if it’s the plan. Though are you saying that there would be no way for passengers to actually transfer at Mt. Baker? The map (which apparently is misleading or just plain wrong) suggests that would be possible, though with two different elevations it wouldn’t be a trivial connection.

      2. Not to speak for him, but I think there would be a pedestrian connection at Mount Baker, and a separate, non-revenue rail connection (for maintenance). These are minor details, though.

        Anyway, the key piece is from Mount Baker to Belltown. With light rail from Ballard to downtown, or even just the WSTT, I think the curl makes sense. Belltown is actually closer (as the crow flies) to South Lake Union than Uptown, so the curl would actually save you money. A train would continue south (from Belltown) to downtown.

        The rest of the yellow line just doesn’t make sense. You are talking about a bypass that will have demand for maybe once every 15 minute frequency, connecting to a line that will be one of our best performing (with demands to match). Do you really want to limit South Lake Union to downtown (or South Lake Union to Madison or any other combination) by the Georgetown to Tukwila ridership? Of course not.

        This is really what d. p. is talking about. I love Seattle Subway, but sometimes they get too excited, and start proposing some really silly, pie in the sky ideas. That map is really the opposite of the WSTT. The WSTT is not extravagant or fanciful; it is practical and an outstanding value. It is not ideal, but it is a huge step in the right direction, and would provide a bigger improvement in the transit experience for more people than many of the other ideas. Meanwhile, that map is full of those other ideas. West Seattle light rail — we’ve been over this — it is not great for West Seattle, and not a great value (open BRT is better on both counts). The orange line? Not a great value. A bypass? Again, not a great value. Sometimes less is more, and that means limiting your proposals. A Metro 8 is a premier light rail line for Seattle. Most people don’t know this, because they see maps from Sound Transit that don’t even include it. This map has it, but basically puts in the same category of other “wouldn’t that be nice” projects that aren’t close to being as valuable, let alone as good of a value.

      3. Ross,

        You’re thinking of having the arc-line (“Metro 8”) turn south and go through downtown in the WSTT? What is gained by that? Are you expecting people to get on at the First Hill stops and ride around? Or get on in SLU, ride to downtown and then transfer to Link or suburban buses?

        I suppose some might do that, especially folks riding between SLU and south King or Pierce via express buses. I will admit that the expresses to and from those areas wouldn’t make direct connection with the arc line if run as they exist today. The arc line would connect to Link at three places and the WSTT at one (and probably use the Republican tunnel west of Seattle Center). But it wouldn’t cross the southend expresses unless they were run through the WSTT to the Aurora/SLU station. From the list of lines running in it there should be adequate capacity in the tunnel for buses to do that. The only problem would be turning them back and finding layover space north of the Aurora portal.

        By the way, I don’t know why the station for SLU is right at Denny Way, a block south of the tunnel portal. Why incur the expense of an underground station when the better alignment for the east-west line is a couple of blocks north? But whatever, those sorts of technical issues can be settled later.

        I truly believe that the best use of this is as a pure collector/distributor with excellent connections to the radial lines. Make it all distributor “fish” and no “radial” fowl and it will provide a better product. But that’s just one opinion.

        By the way, where is “this map” you referenced in your last paragraph?

      4. Thanks, d.p.

        I now see that they take “Metro 8” literally, but I do not think that is the best use of resources. Between Broadway and 23rd the trolleys move relatively quickly; perhaps not the 2 because of the bowtie, but the 14, 27 (not a trolley), and 3/4 (soon to be “3” solamente) scoot along.

        And I’m not convinced at all that the gentrification that has already taken place along 23rd hasn’t pretty much foreclosed the likelihood of development that would make digging a subway through there worthwhile. At the time of the original Forward Thrust with its “Model City” version of Negro Removal — er, ah “Urban Removal”; beg pardon — the area around 23rd and the Madison Valley was mostly minority and not wealthy. Now there are some pretty well-to-do folks in the neighborhood (fortunately many of whom are still minorities, but with some power now) who are going to be skeptical at the least.

        But more to the point, it leaves the “other bow-tie” (e.g. the area south of Madison between Boren and Twelfth hostage to the egregious 3. Now maybe Metro’s new routing via Yesler will be the greatest thing since sliced bread and the area will suddenly have great service. In that case then the subway could move farther east, though not all the way to 23rd; maybe 12th or 14th.

        But right now I think that it’s MUCH better that it head south then a little west from Capitol Hill and serve a couple of stations in the hospital complex before curving back east to 14th and Jackson for the run south along Rainier. In point of fact, I think it will remain so.

        That’s just my opinion, but I think it makes more sense that running it through the 23rd corridor.

        So far as the interlining with the “yellow” line, even though I still believe that someone should keep the right of way open around Spokane Street that we hammered on at length a year ago, given that Federal Way has axed any chance that South Link will have a genuine “catchment area” with real development, I agree with you that a bypass is a waste of money and Ross that South Link ought to stop at Midway. The chances of that happening, however, are almost nil without a “No” vote on ST3. Extension to Federal Way (via the damn freeway right of way) at a minimum will be in the plan. Bank on it.

        How enthusiastic the all-important North King sub-area will be for what finally gets proposed remains to be seen.

        But in any sane world without South Link on SR99, there should be no “yellow” line.

      5. @Anandakos You’re thinking of having the arc-line (“Metro 8″) turn south and go through downtown in the WSTT? What is gained by that?

        That is an interesting question. I was inspired in part by Vancouver’s Millennium Line. No one would take that end to end (it literally forms a loop) but it makes sense ( I’m sure there are similar lines throughout the world.

        Anyway, there are trade-offs. But first, let me sketch out the rest of the Metro 8 subway.

        I am going to assume that a station in South Lake Union would be around Terry and Harrison — far enough away from the freeway to not be hemmed in by it. I thought about two stops in South Lake Union, but I can’t see it working (again, because of the freeway). The Madison stop is trickier. I could go either way on it, but I would put it a bit further away from First Hill, at around PIne. There are a lot of people there, and since it is diagonal from the Capitol Hill station, would not poach the ridership much at all. I would add a station at 23rd and Cherry (serving the neighborhood as well as buses on both streets); another station at 23rd and Jackson as well as the two existing stations (Judkins Park and Mount Baker).

        I will also assume that we do build a Madison BRT (which is partly why I pushed the Madison stop away from First Hill a bit). I also assume that the WSTT map is more or less accurate:

        Given all that, there are two logical choices. Either end it at Lower Queen Anne, or loop around as I suggest. The loop would mean that after South Lake Union you get Belltown, then Westlake, Madison, and I. D. Either the train turns around there, or continues to Stadium and SoDo before reversing direction.

        So, assuming that layout, here are some connections that are faster and slower for the loop:


        1) South Lake Union to Belltown, Westlake, Madison, I. D. Much faster (no transfer).
        2) Belltown to other areas on the 8. Much faster (no transfer)

        Here are some connections that would be slower:

        1) Lower Queen Anne to areas on the 8. Much slower (transfer).
        2) Ballard or Interbay to areas on the 8, with the exception of Capitol Hill or Judkins Park . A tiny bit slower (one more stop, but you still have to transfer). Capitol Hill or Judkins Park is the same (either way you have to transfer).

        So basically, this places heavy emphasis on South Lake Union and Belltown, at the expense of Lower Queen Anne (and to a small degree, those that are coming from Ballard or Interbay). I can live with that. I just think those connections in the first group are more important than those in the second. South Lake Union to other downtown locations (Belltown, Westlake, Madison, etc.) is huge. Likewise Belltown to the Metro 8. Belltown and South Lake Union are huge, from a population and employment density standpoint — much bigger than Lower Queen Anne.

        But all of that assumes that there aren’t engineering complications with sharing the tunnel. If buses have to be kicked out of the tunnel to accommodate this direct route, then the trade-offs get a lot trickier.

    3. I agree with almost all of your points, but as I said below, I think the curl makes sense, and then you just put the train line into the tunnel. After all, it should be built from the beginning to share both trains and buses. So now buses go from West Seattle, Aurora and Ballard into the tunnel, and trains go from Mount Baker, curve around and meet up at Belltown and then go through the tunnel to SoDo. That is the cheapest thing (once you get to South Lake Union, the closest station is at Belltown).

      Of course, you could also curve around and make another connection from Belltown to Westlake (which would not be that expensive since the distance is pretty short). This would only make sense if the headways on the WSTT become a problem. I could see this — maybe we want to keep the WSTT just for buses, and put more rail in the main downtown tunnel (which I believe can handle it).

      Heading north is fine and would be nice for Uptown riders (as they would have quicker access to South Lake Union, Capitol Hill and the rest of the Metro 8 subway). As you said, that could give you Upper Queen Anne, as well as Fremont if you wanted. That is a lot of money for a couple stops, though. Stops that, if the Ballard to UW subway and the WSTT are added are not that bad. Either way folks have to transfer to downtown, although this eliminates some minor bottlenecks (upper to lower Fremont or upper to lower Queen Anne). Meanwhile, that would mean a two seat ride from South Lake Union to Belltown, Westlake (or any other downtown stop). Its a two seat ride from Belltown to any of the Metro 8 stops (Capitol Hill/C. D.). Less important is that it is two seats from Madison or further south to downtown, since there alternatives (BRT on Madison, buses on Cherry, etc.). Still, if I’m on Madison, and headed to Westlake, I might just loop around, rather than ride on Madison and then transfer/walk. So, I think from a network standpoint, it is a wash, at best. The big value is in adding the stops (Fremont and Upper Queen Anne) and I’m not sold on the value for that. But we have certainly considered — or are considering — much worse values.

      1. The idea as I originally wrote it on the Line 25 post is not to go anywhere. You just stop at Elliott West at the bottom of the hill. No, it’s not the world’s best stop, but it’s a great bus intercept for EVERYwhere north of there, including the peak hour expresses which will surely still run in a Ballard-Downtown-LRT-free world.

        And you were absolutely correct to say that there would be adjacent platforms for transfer to and from South Link at Mt. Baker.

        If this is built is is essential to include the two stations on Aurora other than the Link transfers. This would be a purely urban subway and hence should have frequent stations with large development nodes around every one.

        With this line and Ballard-UW a person could very practically live in that neighborhood without a car. Nearly everywhere interesting in the city except the peripheral parks would be available to a resident via a train ride, sometimes requiring transfers of course.

      2. I defended my curl route up above (

        As far as two stations on Rainier are concerned, I don’t follow you. This is basically what I have sketched out for a Metro 8 (from south to north):

        Mount Baker Station
        Judkins Park Station
        23rd and Jackson
        23rd and Cherry
        Madison and Pine
        Capitol Hill Station
        Harrison and Terry

        I could see trying to squeeze in another station between the first two stations, but I think it is hard. That area is not especially dense and a midway station puts you on Walker, next to a bottling plant and close to a warehouse, a tennis center, and two parks. Things could change, of course, but I don’t see it. I think the strongest argument for a stop there is that it could save Metro some service hours. But I don’t think it would save that many. The 14 still makes sense. You could truncate it in Leschi, but that would leave those on the east side of the hill with a long walk. So I would just keep the 14 either way.

        Meanwhile, there is no need anymore to run buses south of Cherry, on MLK or 23rd. That is where the savings come from. You would still have east-west runs to downtown (on Jackson, Yesler, Cherry/Jefferson, etc.) as well as a bus heading north on 23rd to Montlake.

        I agree with your larger point. We are quibbling over minor details now, really (e. g. whether Belltown or Lower Queen Anne deserves premier versus excellent service). The main thing is that a system like this, along with UW to Ballard light rail and good complementary bus service, pretty much does it for the entire city. There would be plenty of areas without rail (Lake City, Fremont, Upper Queen Anne, West Seattle) but they would still have very good bus service, connecting to very good rail service. Very few parts of the city have this right now. A lot of people would suddenly be in a position to not own a car or only use it to go somewhere in the boonies.

      3. Ross,

        No, it’s not dense now. But look at the city’s plan for the neighborhood. It’s going to get huge. And it could get huge all the way to Dearborn without anybody complaining that the big buildings block their views. The folks who have a view are high up on the parallel ridges. Everybody else is either on the low part of the ridges and can’t see over the other one or on the flats looking up. The best places for high rises are right on the summits of ridges (think Roosevelt north of 80th and Phinney/Greenwood between the zoo and 80th, plus of course the rim of the flat part of Queen Anne).

        A few of the allowed buildings might rise high enough to see over the parallel ridges, creating new view properties in what was a low density wasteland.

        But it only works to go high density the entire way if there is high capacity transit available all the way down the street with frequent stations. Elevated stations aren’t that expensive, and they don’t have to be the Temples of Doom to which ST seems addicted.

        Also, as I’ve said, I don’t think 23rd is the right place for the north-south line. Either winding along Broadway serving SU and the hospitals or if the 3 reroute shows itself to be a winner 12th to 14th Avenues are better places with more potential for growth.

      4. Station at Walker — Fair enough. Make it an infill station (to add later). If it grows, add it, if not, don’t.

        There is no obvious way to curve around to Capitol Hill station. But the advantage of a more wide turn is that the line is more of a gentle curve, which means that it covers more ground for roughly the same cost. The stations are farther apart, in other words.

        For example, let’s say we have a station at Broadway and Madison. That is a great station. But that is also really close to the next station. So someone at Pine and Broadway doesn’t get much out of it.

        Then there is the sharp turn required if you come from directly south, but head directly east. That isn’t a huge deal (the train is coming to a stop anyway) but worth considering.

        It isn’t an obvious call — each area has its merits. Bus integration for the greater Central Area always makes my head hurt. There is no obvious set of stations and routes that would make it great from that perspective. I would be tempted to go with whatever Metro said is best, just because you really can’t go too wrong in that area (unlike most of the city, the entire place is fairly dense).

      5. I agree with the idea of providing for infill stations north and south of Jim Hendrix/Judkins Park/I-90 rather than building them on spec. The city might be wrong that the area is a good place for density.

        However, the more I read about the clueless — and hostile — responses by all of the cities in the region except Bellevue to greater density, the more certain I am that Seattle is necessarily going to have Vancouver-style [e.g. high rises] around all of its major transit nodes. There will be no other way to accommodate all the people who want to come to the region.

        There are 36 million people in California who are used to living within a half day’s drive of the Pacific Ocean. Their lifestyles are under serious threat from a possibly decades long drought, whether it’s from AGW or simply reversion to the mean. The last century was wetter in California than average of the previous five as shown by tree ring growth.

        The people displaced are not going to want to move back to Oklahoma, dust bowl or no. They’ll want to come here and Oregon.

        Everyone is worried about a tsunami should the subduction zone thump; this migration will be a slower tsunami, but with possibly greater impacts.

      6. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few Vancouver towers, but the reason Vancouver is so much denser than we are is because they have a lot more ADU type construction:
        This is what the city needs most. This would enable very affordable housing and a lot more density. It is why those neighborhoods are fairly dense, by Seattle standards. There are areas in the Central Area with plenty of density, even though it doesn’t look that impressive. That is because a lot of it is old, when they allowed more backyard cottages and mother in law apartments or just houses converted to apartments. So when they do add a bigger apartment, it is building on what is already there, and already dense.

  14. Rather than respond to individual posts, I thought I’d put together a few general responses to comments I’ve seen here.

    1. We are working within the context of Sound Transit when we write articles about what Sound Transit should do. This article is just about this study. When the state legislature finishes their work we will have a more comprehensive opinion to share.

    2. We focused on lines that were not studied that we felt needed to be studied – most of that was in North King. Extensions to Everett and Tacoma really don’t need our advocacy. Smaller projects that we like (130th, etc.) we will continue to push for, just not in the context of this study.

    3. The airport/bypass line is very much for South King and Peirce rather than a priority for North King. 12-14 minutes in time savings is a realistic estimate, DP is not considering the variables properly. A new tunnel, 100% grade separation, few major curves, less stops, higher top speed. It could be more time savings if, for example, the new line didn’t connect at the Boeing Access road and Graham Street station is added in the Rainier Valley. We can’t answer that exactly because it hasn’t been studied, which is what we are asking Sound Transit to do.

    4. Regarding the Issaquah to Totem Lake: We don’t know if it will be too expensive to cross the Mercer Slough or not. ST didn’t study it. That’s why we’re telling them to study it. What we do know is that it would mean much better transfers and direct connections for that line.

    5. Driverless trains have massive operating advantages in both flexibility and savings. Vancouver operates at a profit. It would be irresponsible not to study driverless trains for future Seattle lines. We’re talking big savings and if we talked about savings as transit investments instead – almost all of you would fight to get that money for transit. Luckily, in response to our advocacy related to their long range plan, Sound Transit has included studying driverless technology. We will hold them to that.

    1. 12-14 minutes in time savings is a realistic estimate, DP is not considering the variables properly. A new tunnel, 100% grade separation, few major curves, less stops, higher top speed.

      You are arguing that Tukwila-SoDo can be >50% faster than the current line, 1/3 of which already operates as a non-stop express.

      Sorry. No.

      It is this kind of blatant, unrepentant bullshit — along with more subtle fallacies such as the one underlying #5* — that tarnishes your brand and therefore undermines any productive advocacy work you may be doing anywhere else in public or behind the scenes.

      *(choose total grade separation and presume very high frequencies where geography and demand do not warrant… in order to save money???)

      1. DP.

        No, we’re claiming Westlake to Tukwila can be 12-14 minutes faster. Like I said, you are not taking all the factors into account.

        That means we are claiming a straight 13 mile line with 8 stops and none of the impediments of the current system can do it in 24-28 minutes.

      2. Every recent trip I’ve taken on Link has run from Tukwila to Westlake — your revised benchmark — in 33-35 minutes via the so-called “detour” (reliably down from 38 when it first opened).

        So your actual, non-truth-stretched claim is to save 5-11 minutes. Maybe the lower end of that range is feasible, with an unjustifiable amount of fresh construction. But it isn’t exactly as impressive as your claimed savings, is it?

        And it sure as hell isn’t the “~10 minutes to meet back up with the spine” that is being claimed repeatedly above.

      3. Don’t move the goal line. The schuled time (and my experience) with Link is 38 min.

        Adding graham and BAR will push that over 40.

        Our estimate is completely valid.

      4. 38 minutes to SeaTac. 35 to Tukwila.

        And when the tunnel isn’t being problematic, often a minute or two faster. (That’s called “schedule padding”, and is extremely common at the terminus of any transit line.

        You and your underlings are the ones claiming that the 15-minute (by schedule) R.V. segment can literally be bypassed in seconds.

        It’s ridiculous. Stop.

      5. DP, Oops — yes, 35 to Tukwila – I did the other estimates to Seatac as well, so drop three minutes.

        Regarding the other part — I can only assume you are being intentionally dense. Its not just about the RV. I’ve said that several times. Every single part of Westlake to Sodo will be upgraded (bypass line or not) which is part of what will make the bypass work better than Link is currently capable of.

      6. @Kieth: A completely revamped, totally grade-separated line through downtown and SODO is not really what part of what anyone has ever called a “Georgetown Bypass”. Indeed, you just said, “Every single part of Westlake to Sodo will be upgraded (bypass line or not).” This contradicts attributing the time savings to the bypass line like you did up top.

      7. Al – that investment will not definitely serve riders to the south – just riders in West Seattle. Thus the distinction and reason we want ST to study the bypass.

      8. Agree.
        If the goal is faster RV service, propose speeding up the DSTT and reclaim 5-10 minutes, then propose to do the same in the Rainer Valley segment and speed up that service by a few more minutes.
        Alternatively, just kick buses out of the tunnel sooner, and save 5-8 minutes.

        Please don’t claim a really expensive bypass down 4th and marginal will recoup 15 minutes all by itself.
        Note that Georgetown residents are opposed to light rail down airport or corson, so potential stations are 0.6 miles from commercial or residential areas.

    2. I question if Seattle Subway is at all serious about their proposals. I’ve waited with anticipation for four years now to see something on its website beyond the pretty map with lots of lines running all over the place. Surely you guys have more to offer than that after all this time.
      Subways are grossly expensive to build and take decades to complete. With ST debt being piled higher and higher with every phase, I ask 2 simple questions.
      1. Roughly how much does your system cost?
      2. How would you propose to pay for it all?
      At some point, transit will have worn out its collective welcome at the ballot box.

      1. I’ll take the hit on our website, its on our list. Most of our advocacy is done via writing articles, FB or in person.

        Regarding subways, yes – they cost a lot to build, however, they are the cheapest way to move people. Most of the lines we are advocating will be pennies/ride in local capital over 40 years for a system that last a century or more and will have a lower operating cost/boarding than the bus.

        A subway is an investment, not an expense.

        Its always interesting the extent to which a few people on this blog jump on us when we tell ST to go get answers to the questions you are asking. Not 100% sure what that’s all about.

      2. Regarding subways… they are the cheapest way to move people. Most of the lines we are advocating will be pennies/ride… and will have a lower operating cost/boarding than the bus.

        This. This right here. This is the problem Seattle Subway keeps having.

        You take everything you just wrote above as a given. Wherever. Whenever. In whatever direction and for whatever purpose. “Subways are the best, the most efficient, have lower operating costs than the bus.” Inherently. Always.

        The problem is that this is quite simply not fucking true!

        Subways are inherently efficient and cheap to run only when a slew of situational factors line up just right. Density and land-use patterns and topography and a variety of work/life/play/other human-demand factors that must be able to focus human movements into efficiently-consolidateable corridors at effectively *very* high rates!

        This is non-fudgeable, and non-negotiable.

        That you continue, again and again, to draw maps with half a dozen winding and undulating and bypassing and lake-circumnavigating lines traversing tremendous distances, suggest that the concept of situational appropriateness as requisite for the “efficiency payoff” of subways is simply not getting through to you!!

        It really needs to. Right now.

      3. DP, its really not clear to me how you can not get that we consider the political element in what we do at this point.

        Yes, we know that not every line is ideal. We are pushing for the best possible outcome considering the constraints of the situation.

      4. Also – seriously… Using Max to make a point?

        You know we are aiming more towards Vancouver.

      5. Mic I think Seattle Subway is really serious about these proposals, but SS isn’t an agency. Let’s not forget they are asking us to ask Sound Transit to study these things that they don’t have answers Ondaatje it’s ST’s responsibility to determine funding sources. SS is an advocacy organization hoping to push ST to think differently than they might otherwise.

        As for DP. Check yourself, dude. STB is supposedly to be a place for thoughtfully, respectful dialogue. You are free to disagree without being disagreeable. You are equally as free to advance your own concepts and proposals without resorting to boldface rants.

      6. You’re aiming for Vancouver, but you’re making all of MAX’s mistakes.

        Vancouver is not about lines from everywhere to everywhere, via low-density nowheres and featuring bypasses galore along the way.

        Vancouver is not about being tunnel-happy and promising limitless infrastructure for the sake of improbable acceleration abilities.

        And Vancouver, emphatically, is not about automation just for the sake of automation. You are so grossly inverting the “cause” and “effect” of their high demand/high frequency relationship that it is embarrassing.

        Vancouver can teach us many lessons. But not if we insist on squinting northward and massively misreading them.

      7. (And if I have to resort to “boldfaced rants” to get it through some heads that it does us no good to spout easily debunked foamer platitudes in service of the latest $100-billion fantasy map, then “boldfaced rants” there will be.)

      8. I liked Seattle Subway from the start because (I thought) they claimed to advocate for cost effective, high demand transit in the city, and raising money in the city – a supplement to what ST would inevitably get up to.

        I really don’t see that from them, though. I see posts full of maps with lines that don’t (to my eye) do much for mobility, and no explanation for why they think they’ll do much, unless it’s “improve the suburban commute”. And zero estimates for cost. And really zero discussion of how we could pay for it outside the context of ST.

      9. KP – This is a post about how to respond to an ST survey. The most controversial parts appear to be the parts where we are asking ST to study things.

        We are intent on using every available method to get a high quality Seattle Subway.

        Sound Transit is the most direct, but not the only mechanism, we are considering.

        We do not ignore the political implications when talking about Sound Transit. That seems to get us in trouble here.

      10. @kptease,
        Totally valid concern. But fear not! There is a good reason that you don’t hear Seattle Subway (or other orgs) talk about other ways to raise revenue. Transit advocates should not be talking about that yet. The time is not ripe. There is nothing to be gained by telling the legislature that we dont need their funding authority because we want to do something different. Back up plans are just that, back up plans. And I don’t think we(transit nerds) could really come up with a back-up funding plan better than the ST authority. Not against it at all, I just haven’t thought of one. If you have one laying about somewhere, good God man! Send someone an email!

        In my eyes, you grossly misinterpret what Seattle Subway can accomplish and tries to accomplish. I have seen them produce technical proposals, they are after all transit nerds. But to my eyes their primary mission has been to move the Overton Window of the the public and elected officials so much that fully grade separated options are non-negotiable must haves, and considered a common-sense standard. And also to accelerate the pace of planning and construction so that people here can reap the benefits sooner. Steering ST towards a model of serving riders and mobility first and foremost, perhaps over-riding regional interest groups, is a long term political project. It cannot be done by yelling over the internet. It could possibly be done by organizing people and orgs interested in transit to display their interest in that sort of urban transit to ST and their electeds. That’s slow, and a lot of work, and it might not pay off. But its got a shot. A shot definitely worth taking.

        I have never thought that Seattle Subway existed to “take the high road” or plan the perfect system. They are all transit wonks, and would of course love to do that, but that is not in their wheelhouse. Even if they did it, would ST just take it and say “thanks guys”? I dont believe that to be a practical goal. Seattle Subway’s advocacy and outreach might just push the window closer to making good outcomes the norm. In my mind, that’s a more practical role.

        You are the one who wants to be the planner of the perfect system, regardless of any political realities. As such you must not have any aspiration to see any actual construction of any system, which cannot happen in a political vacuum. People who want to get it built cannot afford to have such an attitude. Politics builds things, not planning.

        I personally don’t believe that ST engineers stalk STB looking for alignment tips, so I dont see what effect arguing about every detail ad-infinitum could possible accomplish in the real world. And if you want to have an effect of your cyber-audience, you should be nicer. Half the time I agree with your sparing partner just because you are so rude. Your argument could sound more rational, and I agree with them anyway. It’s terrible rhetoric. Please be nicer. A lot of your ideas are good, frame them in a way that is more inviting. Honey catches more flies, or so they say.

      11. I guess that’s something I’ll never understand about the “Seattle ethos”.

        Such concern for politeness, such care for the illusion of consensus.

        So little concern for informational accuracy, reality-based modeling, policy implementation that takes into account demonstrated real-world principles, or not lighting everyone’s money on fire for no discernible improvement in anyone’s quality of life.

        How has that worked out for livability, practical mobility, or quality street-level urban outcomes so far? I honestly can’t think of one thing that works in this town that wasn’t a total accident!

      12. I see posts full of maps with lines that don’t (to my eye) do much for mobility, and no explanation for why they think they’ll do much, unless it’s “improve the suburban commute”.

        I certainly think that the subway in place of the 8 proposal would be a good step in the right direction – if it wasn’t combined with the southern plunge shown on their map.

      13. Dp,

        What is the “Seattle ethos”? I don’t think something like that is at play here. You have a problem getting people to listen to you and agree with you. Its because you are rude to people, not because they are too focused on “consensus” or something. You could still come out of left field with opinions, and people will listen to you more if you lose the rudeness.

        If you really care about reality based modeling you should start including the political realities into your models. You frequently ignore them, seemingly dismissing them as foolish. They might be. That’s just too bad. The political climate in the US and Seattle is not optimal for building transit. Just repeating untenable positions on the internet, however pure or wise, will simply not result in anything happening.

        Any group that wants to see shovels hit dirt has to play some politics. I, like you, wish that wasn’t true, but it is. Its a fact of life you should try to get comfortable with.

      14. @Glenn – yes, the 8 line looks great! Or, it would without the silly tail and rationalization of “improving speed for the suburban commute”.

        @Jon – I listen to d.p. I could certainly have been called something of a rail fetishist before listening to him forcefully insist, over and over and over, that transit projects actually accomplish something other than make pols feel like the built something expensive. Yes, d.p. uses naughty words sometimes. But, to me that’s a lot less rude than hearing feedback and completely failing to respond to it. Of course you could calculate and present costs! Of course you could speculate about funding sources! STB posts do it all the time. Perhaps you could do that with the 8 line being proposed here – what would it cost, roughly, to do this from Mt. Baker to Belltown? With and without the Georgetown cutoff? How many riders would you expect? What’s your ROI for each option? Every time someone asks you about this, I literally hear “we’ll have much more to say about this! Stay tuned!”

        Insisting on grade separation is one way to demand quality. Insisting on ridership is another, much more useful one. You guys get the first. d.p. gets the second. You failing to engage on the second excuses the occasional ad hom edit, IMO.

      15. I honestly don’t even know if Jon is part of the Seattle Subway team, but I am a little surprised to be on the receiving end of his rebuke, because I know he has had problematic encounters with the “Seattle ethos” on here as well.

        Jon, when I use that phrase, I refer to the phenomenon wherein individuals feel entitled not only to their own opinions, not only to their own “facts”, but to a equal seat at the bargaining table for those “facts”. I also refer to the corollary phenomenon wherein, out of either excessive politesse or a misplaced sense of political expediency, no one is ever willing to rebut or rebuke problematic theories, even when real harm can come from the watering down of productive public priorities to meet the mistaken assertions halfway.

        You may think this is a widespread human (or, at least, American) phenomenon rather than a PNW one. But I have never seen it more strongly infect the general discourse and affect policy outcomes than it does here. At least a Republican Corporatist is explicit about his aims. Seattle types give themselves “green” pats on the back for driving to the store with reusable polypropylene bags in the trunk, while the multi-billion-dollar rail line zips past them with no stops for 3 miles.

        The unshakeable “ideals” of many Seattle boosters appear to be shaped by a problematic combination of confirmation-biasing internet explorations and superficial Old World tourism — we are, after all, both a tech town and a bastion of the nouveau riche.

        Remember when you butted heads with people who refused to consider that the bustling shared-street geometry and root-level-commerce of Pike Place was not only working, but a healthy example of good urbanity’s precarious balance? What you were encountering is ideological purity: “I’ve seen/read about places with full pedestrian separation; I am a pedestrian advocate; therefore I extrapolate that full pedestrian separation must always be preferable.”

        Seattle’s bike-helmet inerrancy is another example of ingested dogma, confirmed by limited circumstantial experience, preventing openness to any competing information. Once you have bought into the idea that a bike helmet is a magical forcefield that prevents any and all head injuries, regardless of the riding circumstances, anyone riding without one is presumed “reckless”, and those who argue for legislative or enforcement changes are “merchants of death”. Never mind reality.

        Fundamentally, I do not think it should be too much to ask the politicians or the advocates in this town to attempt to operate in a world where outcomes matter. If that means telling your fellow board member that their obsession is fundamentally nonsense, unprecedented anywhere in the world (except as grotesque failure), so be it.

        And if it means me using “rude” language to call out the claims that this will all cost “pennies/ride” just by being cooler than the “loser cruiser” and single-handedly drawing millions of people to skyscrapers on Holman Way and in Tukwila Town Center — whatever the fuck that is — then so be that too.

      16. That was an awesome comment DP, and I was happy to see it.

        I know you’re smart and have good ideas. In that comment you stated them well without any rudeness and it made it a lot easier to agree with you. I hope I didn’t come off as mean, because I do think your point of view is usually very valid and is based on good principles. I just also think that the battle to communicate and convince is much easier won if you don’t put people on the defensive.

    3. For Issaquah to Totem Lake: Its not that many of us (from what I’ve read) think the current route is bad. Many of us just think that rail to Issaquah no matter the route is a poor use of money and will have very little support. Bellevue to Kirkland would be better, but LR on that doesn’t let you hit Kirkland without spending a lot of money. Personally I’m not a big fan of putting transit on the ERC, but if you are going to do it, at least get it to hit downtown Kirkland.

      1. I think our biggest disagreement is about support. I tend to think BRT will not vote well on the Eastside and will make selling ST3 there more difficult. Particlarly BRT that requires giving up additional general traffic lanes.

        We are not married to any particular alignment – if there is a way to serve DT Kirkland that is an improvement on what we’ve presented – we want to see it studied and presented to the public.

        Really, I think both BRT and a major rail expansion on the Eastside should happen as part of the next vote if ST3 is to pass.

      2. As an advocacy group, I don’t think you should propose something just because you think it will be more popular. No one does that. To be clear, politicians do that behind closed doors all the time (“Hey, what we really need is overpasses, but all the voters want new lanes, so put that in the budget”). More common, though, is horse trading (build that over there — even though we both know it isn’t as good as our project — so that we can build our project).

        But someone like the League of Women Voters, or the Urban League, or the ACLU or the Sierra Club, or any other political organization never leads with “Well, we all know that it would be better to build the other thing, but we propose this instead, because we think voters aren’t smart enough to figure that out”.

        As I said below, I think the best thing to do is just avoid the subject. We will have our hands full with Seattle. Areas like the east side are very tricky. But Seattle, in comparison, has two big projects (and lots of little ones) that could be part of ST3. Please focus on those, and let the suburban groups haggle over their plans. If there really is wide spread support for a new east side light rail line, then it will manifest itself. So far I haven’t seen it, and I doubt I will. Partly because, like the monorail, or many other projects, it just doesn’t make that much sense when you look at the details (how many people would actually get a substantially improved transit experience).

    4. With regards to d. p.’s rants, I don’t think it is too bad. I have had more heated discussions about sports with guys I love (seriously). To be fair to the both of us, we were drinking. Anyway, both d. p. and Keith are on the same side, and while d. p.’s criticisms are bit blunt (to put it mildly) they are so spirited because he (like me and the rest of us) admire and respect what Seattle Subway does and has done. To use a sports analogy, nobody got mad at the Clippers organization twenty years ago, because twenty years ago they sucked so bad that nobody cared. No, of course, many a bar argument occurs because they are very good, but not good enough to win it all.

      With regards to Seattle Transit’s approach, I see a couple problems. The first is that sometimes less is more. There are some very big decisions that have to be made. There are also some really big “bang for the buck” decisions to be made. To muddy the waters with talk of automated trains or getting higher top speed (a previous recommendation that has since been dropped, thankfully) just dilutes the message.

      But there is also a problem with trying to guess what is politically popular. Propose what is right, and work within the framework. We know a Metro 8 subway is not possible for ST3, but it is right, and you are correct in pushing Sound Transit to study it (so that maybe it can get in ST4). But to suggest that some light rail project somewhere on the east side might be more popular because it has more pizazz is to second guess the intelligence of the east side voter (and take a political approach that I’ve argued is simply incorrect).

      With that in mind, here are a few specific complaints about the suggestions, in order of most annoying:

      1) West Seattle Light Rail. This will never be cost effective, unless West Seattle doubles or triples in size (which is highly unlikely). The physical and human geography as well as the existing infrastructure make it appropriate for open BRT, not light rail. There aren’t enough people on that peninsula to justify one line, let alone two or three. But without multiple lines, the majority of the people in West Seattle get nothing from light rail. They are way better off with open BRT. Not every bottleneck should be solved by adding light rail. Sometimes a bottleneck should be solved with bus improvements.

      2. An Issaquah to Kirkland line is in the same category. I just don’t see it as making sense. There aren’t that many people in Issaquah, and very few would live close to a station. Why take a bus to a train that then gets to downtown Bellevue? Why not just take a bus that gets you right there? If there are bottlenecks, then solve them with more freeway ramps (which are way cheaper). Kirkland, for the same reason, just needs better bus service. Kirkland, for all its charms, just doesn’t have the concentration of people to justify or take advantage of light rail.

      3. A bypass line to the airport via Georgetown would be nice, but I just don’t think it belongs here. Even if it is as fast as everyone wants, it isn’t that great. It just doesn’t belong in the same category as “Metro 8” rail. If you are going to propose it, then simultaneously propose a split at Rainier Beach, so that half the trains can go to Renton. Again, not a priority — but that would be the best thing to come out of a bypass.

      4. A line that extends from Ballard to Crown Hill, Greenwood, North Seattle, Lake City and out to Bothell. West of the freeway, this really isn’t a great value. You can make out Holman Road when looking at a census maps, even without label. North of the diagonal street, density drops off quickly. South of there, there are a handful of dense areas, but in general the density picks up, and runs continually as you go south. So on Greenwood, for example, it is moderately dense all the way to the water. On 8th though, it doesn’t pick up until around 85th. If you think of the density maps as topographic lines, you want to run your rail line over the top of the mountain, not along the edge, as this would. You could, of course, do that — curve at 85th and take a more direct route right to the college. But now you are talking about spending a lot more money — and then what — elevated over the freeway? Under it, while connecting to an elevated station? I just don’t see it. Meanwhile, the folks on that side of the freeway, for the most part, would have a straight shot bus ride right to the UW to Ballard light rail line. That is really what makes the UW to Ballard light rail line so important. There are people close to the station, but really not that many, compared to the number of people along those northern corridors — a corridor that can run buses really well.

      The eastern side is a bit more complicated. From 145th to 125th along Lake City Way it is very dense (and growing). It isn’t that far to Northgate. A little spur of that nature would be expensive, but not that expensive. You could, of course, split the light rail line there. I don’t think you are going to get demand in Shoreline or Lynnwood to justify really high frequency, especially if you make 145th a lot less valuable (by building that subway line). So now buses run from Woodinville to 145th and Lake City Way. This removes the most difficult part of that stretch (145th or Lake City Way) and thus would speed things up considerably for those folks. If you can’t interline the system and really want to get out to the west side of the freeway, then just go from 145th to 125th, then over to NE 130th and continue to Bitter Lake. That is a more populous area, and further away from the Ballard line (making the value of a connection to the main line more valuable). That would be much cheaper and better.

      Of course, none of that is high priority. None of that is in the same category as Metro 8.

      My final suggestion is to ask Link to look at the big picture. More than anything, this is what is missing from the discussion. In some ways it is what is missing from this post. I know Seattle Subway cares a lot about integrating buses and light rail, but they need to use every opportunity to emphasize it. I would stick with that first suggestion (study the Metro 8 subway) and as my second and third bullet point, just use the following:

      * Ask Sound Transit to coordinate with the bus agencies to provide for a better overall transit network. Ridership numbers should include both those that benefit directly (by riding the train) and those that will ride the bus because of a better overall bus network. For example, if I want to get from Lake City to Bitter Lake right now, I drive. Anyone with a car would. It takes forever otherwise. But if you build a station at NE 130th, then buses will go from Lake City to Bitter Lake, and I’ll take a bus.

      * Ask Sound Transit to consider shorter dwell times, so that the trips can be faster.

      I know it might be considered a stretch to call these “projects” but on a larger sense they are. Someone would have to be put in charge and manage these projects, whether they result in a new construction or not.

      Anyway, that’s my feelings on the subject. Oh, and if you think that Seattle people are always nice, then I suggest you check out the NWHikers forum. That is a hiking forum (hiking, for heaven’s sake) and it is by far the nastiest place I visit (threads are locked down all the time).

      1. With regards to d. p.’s rants….

        Ha! That’s not a rant. d.p. is from Boston.

        You should see what someone from Boston is like when they actually get pissed off about something.

      2. In the tradition of Sam’s assignments, might I suggest the following. For those frustrated with d.p.’s frustrations, peek back at his comments from years past about projects now out in the wild. The First Hill Street Car is a great case study. In hindsight, you might find his tone overly restrained. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot time and again. Don’t get frustrated with the guy yelling to take our finger off the trigger, and to move the muzzle to the real target.

        That outcomes matter is a vital takeaway. Politics are a reality, but moving the Overton window is harder to do when you kneecap yourself by arguing from a starting position that already conceded ground to political concessions.

  15. That Crown-hill line makes little to no sense. Only someone with Ballard on the brain would suggest that the way to give NE Seattle transit access is to build a meandering train to Ballard. Because “who doesn’t want to got to Ballard! Of course they need 3 subways! Walrus! Carpenter! Delancy!”

    Anyway, once you get over you Ballard-is-the-center-of-the-universe fetish, you realize the obvious way to connect the NNE is the little blue dot called Roosevelt on the map.

    Sound Transit should study a spur coming off of Roosevelt station, popping into daylight around 80th and Lake City, running on the surface right down the middle of Lake City Way (or maybe the West side. Very few crossings either way, with the ridge there), getting elevated as it pops over Lake City-proper, then going surface all the way to Bothell/Woodinville. It would be far cheaper and just as dense or denser then the slow-boat to Blue Ridge.

    And it would go someplace people in the NE would actual want to go. And sorry. It ain’t Ballard.

    1. When Lynnwood Link proves to be a peak only disappointment a la BART to Dublin, Sound Transit might consider a branch there. But until that time, consider their complete unwillingness to consider a interlined Ballard-UW-Downtown line symptomatic of their attitude toward branching.

      Anyway, the tunnels are mostly dug north of Roosevelt and there has been none of the sort of necessary provision for a junction provided.

      Other than that, it would be an excellent line, though there will be massive opposition to taking a pair of lanes. Massive.

      1. You clearly haven’t taken a close look at Lake City Way.

        They wouldn’t need to take any travel lanes. Most of the stretch between 80th and 123rd is 6 to 7 lanes wide. A middle turn lane. 3 lanes northbound. Parking lanes. a lot of wiggle room against the greenspace to the west and very low rent properties all along it. The road is massive, so the opposition wouldn’t be.

        All it needs is better design, and you might even maintain 2 travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane all to the way to the Lake City stop where it would go up and over for 10 blocks or so.

      2. Biliruben,

        How do you propose that cars would get to that “center turn lane”? Are you thinking that Link should run in mixed traffic like a streetcar? Or at any rate, that cars should be able to cross its right of way randomly?

        Which would mean that narcissistic morons would immediately be driving on it, because “Benghazi”

        If so, forget about that. With the huge long trains that are planned to be run, it simply can’t stop in a reasonable distance. It’s not a “streetcar”.

        The opposition to taking lanes would be massive if only because Dori Monson and the like would bloviate about “The War on Cars” for seven months nonstop. Remember that this is a state highway so the legislature would have a say in such a taking. Can you imagine Curtis King on his wheat ranch saying, “Sure; I think we should rebuild SR522 through Northeast Seattle so that they can put a train down the middle of it. What a good idea!” I can’t.

        I think you’re right that there is the opportunity for widening though really only south of the Northgate Way intersection and certainly not all the way to 80th. More like 20th NE and 87th. But there are possibilities for at-grade for that distance.

      3. I was imagining it just how it’s done on the current link line, except fewer crossings.

        It might be better to run it west side however. Maybe cut a trench, or perhaps just carve a bit of supported space out of the hillside.

        In any case, there is plenty of room for engineers who do these things for a living to work with. If they lose the center lane completely, that’s fine too, really. It would just move the bottlenecks, as there is no turn lane from I-5 ramps to 85th right now. All it would do is make it more uniform, and change it from the speedway it is now north of 85th and a parking lot south and west of 80th, to more steady state all along the corridor.

      4. Looking a bit more closely, if we brought the spur to the surface north of 85th, there would only be 2 west-side streets of note that would impact traffic before going elevated at Lake City – 24th and 117th, which lead up to Northgate. There are a few smaller, neighborhood residential streets who’s residents would likely appreciate closing them to cut through traffic.

        So you have to either trench under or build a car bridge over to maintain access to Northgate. A drop in the bucket compared to tunnelling or elevated, I’m guessing.

        Then North of Lake City, if you drop down at-grade again at 145th, you have maybe 5 major crossings until you are into Kenmore, or less if you switch to the West side and parallel the Burke Gilman.

        Very do-able.

      5. The problem, though is that ST, just as they did in the U-District, didn’t plan for it by splitting the elevation of the tunnels; one rises while the other falls enough that the diverging track which would have to cross the through track can clear it. d.p. says it’s not necessary, and he’s right that there are plenty of places around the world with frequent level crossings where trains aren’t smashing into each other. But Sound Transit doesn’t seem to want level crossings in their system so if such a divergence were suggested without a budget for the flying junction ST would probably say “We can’t do that.” The politicians wouldn’t fight them.

        With split levels both tracks could diverge to the east. But without the southbound track from Lake City Way would have to under run the existing tunnels (or maybe over run depending how deep they are around 75th) and belly out to the west a few hundred feet to make the transition curve smooth enough for reasonable speeds. I’m sure that TBM’s can manage the feat, but it can’t be easy or cheap.

        Also, south of 125th there is a northbound delineated parking lane north of Northgate Way, but none southbound. There’s enough room for emergency stopping, but it’s not striped for parking, and there were exactly zero cars using it for parking when the Google Truck last went through. South of Northgate Way the delineation stops on the northbound side. Cars do still park there on down to 110th. But after that point the southbound roadway loses the “looks like a parking lane” emergency stopping verge. The roadway is a narrow two-and-a-half lanes northbound where cars can park, but only if they put their right wheels on the sidewalk, the two way turn lane and two lanes with no shoulder area southbound.

        About 108th the hill starts being pretty much constantly directly adjacent to the west side of the roadway, so it might be possible to take some land there with retaining walls. But it’s pretty steep, so they’d be rather expensive.

        Around 100th the physical roadway widens out to two-and-a-half lanes both north- and southbound for a couple of blocks to 98th. South of there the northbound side is striped for three lanes, but interestingly there is no “This Lane Must Turn Right” at 98th, so cars in the rightmost lane have to merge into the center lane or risk intruding on a car from the middle lane which north of 98th has the right of way to the white stripe. The roadway is only a foot or two wider, but apparently enough that SDOT or WSDOT thinks that north of 98th it is not wide enough for three travel lanes.

        There’s a left turn pocket at 95th and south of there the space taken by the pocket is “no man’s land” between the two directions for a little way. So for a half a block north and south of 95th, the roadway is actually six lanes in width. After that half block the “no man’s land” becomes the left turn pocket for Ravenna Avenue.

        North of there the northbound roadway is back to two-and-a-half lanes striped for two, the two way center turn lane and two lanes southbound with no shoulder. About 93rd the roadway has been widened on the west side for tenant parking at the row of apartments lining the roadway on the west side, but the northbound roadway is two-and-a-half lanes with no additional shoulder. This pattern continues to just north of 90th where the southbound parking strip ends. The southbound side reverts to two lanes with a bike-lane sized shoulder.

        At 88th the southbound parking strip resumes at the Shell station and the two way turn lane becomes a left turn pocket for 20th NE.

        So you see, there aren’t enough lanes to build a Link track down the middle with MLK-style turn pockets. Rebuild the roadway in the way it was done on MLK? Yes, probably, though it’s pretty tight in some places.

        So far as the west side option, there really are only a total of about nine blocks between a practical portal about 92nd where the apartments end and Northgate Way where the west side of the roadway is actually unbuilt. I agree that it would be feasible to build in those blocks, as long as you get right on it double-quick, before they’re filled up with new condos. Also, as you noted there are a few places where it’s pretty steep and the retaining walls would be fairly expensive. But all along the way new construction is sprinkled into the old auto-oriented businesses.

        For instance, there are two fairly big new apartments around 98th, but the valley is wide enough there that it might be possible to go behind them. Alas, though, there are houses directly to the north which reach all the way to Lake City Way and a pretty big condo building with commercial on the first floor just north of them.

        The east side doesn’t work either because of the huge apartment building at the Ravenna Avenue intersection.

        There just isn’t room for practical at-grade Link along Lake City Way. It’s tunnel or elevated or bus.

      6. Thanks for the detailed analysis. As I read, all I thought was, “this is actually easier and more doable than I originally thought.” Then I reached your conclusion, and I was left scratching my head.

        just don’t think one minor narrow stretch is a deal killer with eminent domain power.

    2. Anyway, once you get over you Ballard-is-the-center-of-the-universe fetish,

      Don’t be silly. Fremont is the center of the universe.

      1. I know, right! So why does Ballard get 3 subways and Fremont is left holding Stalin’s left…

    3. The Orange line is about serving the dense areas across NW, Central and NE Seattle. A Lake City rider could transfer at Northgate to go Downtown or just stay on the train.

      Its part of the Seattle Transit Master Plan.

      1. It isn’t a many-billion-dollar, emphatically-grade-separated, purposely-circuitous boondoggle megasubway in the city’s Transit Master Plan.

      2. Keith, the two orange lines meeting in Ballard (UW & Holman) are ‘Thin Lines’, and merge into a thick line going to downtown. Is that intentional, indicating the UW line would merge with Holman and proceed to the 2nd tunnel in the CBD, and from there head south?

      3. Mic – Yes. The Ballard Spur and Holman line would interline to DT. We’re probably going to get rid of the line thickness thing though.

        This map is a draft which is why we didnt put it in the article but thought it would give context on FB.

    4. @Mic, Yup, it’s showing interlining of the Ballard-UW Spur with he Orange line.

      1. Thanks. I’m fine with interlining and merging lines in general. The major drawback is trying to strike a balance between loads. Splitting northbound trains at Ballard, with one continuing north, and the next hanging a right to UW is problematic, as loads from Ballard will far exceed the loads going north. Either one line suffers from overloads, or the other suffers from poor ridership. Finding those combinations that work well is difficult.
        The ST spine is even more problematic except during the peak of the peak. Putting all those 4 car trains and drivers out on the system early enough to do some good, means they can’t be easily contracted to 3 and 2 car trains as the day progresses. So rather than breakup cars, the headways are reduced, and on branching lines, that spells death to ridership.

      2. I agree mic. I think the obvious split is at Northgate or Roosevelt. Send one line up north and the other out to Lake City. Those are very similar lines, in terms of load, in my opinion. Meanwhile, the core (UW to downtown) has plenty of demand. So maybe 8 minute frequency during peak (meaning 4 minute frequency for the core) and 10 minute frequency off peak. I think that would work.

        On the other hand, I’m not sure it is worth it. Let’s say they run BRT along 522 and then onto 130th and Bitter Lake. Now assume that we run the trains every 5 minutes in the middle of the day. Beyond 130th the trains are half empty, but we can deal with that. If I’m at Lake City, I think it is a wash. The bus comes a lot more often, and so does the train. It takes a little longer to get there (and to transfer) but there is a lot to be said for never having to look at a watch (or phone) to see when your ride is coming.

    5. Surface running on Lake City Way north of 80th is not a problem — I agree with that. It is similar to Rainier Valley. You give the train signal priority on the handful of crossings (20th, 95th, 24th, Northgate Way, 115th). You would eliminate the non-signaled crossings (which is really not a problem because there are so few). There is plenty of road space there, and besides, that isn’t where things back up. You could easily take a lane there — you could take it today for buses, for example — and people wouldn’t care.

      The bigger problem I see with your idea is going elevated over Lake City Way in Lake City. People don’t like elevated rail. I remember that the Rainier Valley people fought hard for tunneling in Rainier Valley, but then accepted surface rail. But they were adamant about no elevated through there. Lake City is similar. The city has spent a huge amount of money making it nice for walking — it would be tough to then put an elevated line through there. I can here the argument now — “Why does Roosevelt, an area of a lot less density, get a tunnel, while we get a loud train running over our heads? It is because they have more money?”. I think you are forced to go surface the whole way or spend big bucks for a tunnel. You could do a mix, of course, but I’m not sure how much money that saves. Not that it would be bad to go surface the whole way. There is enough room to grab lanes almost the entire way. You might have to move a few curbs, but for the most part all you would need to do is take parking lanes.

      Signal priority is one of the arguments for light rail, I suppose. The trains would run less often, but carry more people. So every 8 minutes at rush hour, a train cruises along (like it does on MLK). The city would have no problem giving the train signal priority for that sort of frequency.

      I could see that, but I’m still not convinced that BRT types service wouldn’t be better. Add those same BAT lanes the entire way, with a handful of exceptions. Allow signal priority on the minor streets, and less signal priority on the big ones (125th, 145th, Ballinger Way, etc.). I’m sure there is some way to get signal priority without it being an absolute (balance the needs of the BRT buses with the needs of the crossing streets). Run the buses on there fairly frequently (five minutes at rush hour). You might get some bunching, but I doubt it. They wouldn’t go to Roosevelt, though, they would go to Bitter Lake, which then forms a very good east-west line (connecting Lake City with Aurora and Greenwood at a very densely populate area). That is more value added, in my opinion, even though it means a two seat trip to downtown. It would definitely be a lot cheaper, and would mean that Lynnwood would keep its frequency (which is what they were promised).

    6. With a 130th station I question the need for rail to Lake City at all. BRT between 3rd NW or Greenwood and LCW along 130th/125th should provide plenty of capacity. This can be extended out Lake City/Bothell Way to UW Bothell.

      If there is a need for the capacity of rail just run a short intersecting line from Greenwood to LCW and perhaps up LCW to 145th.

      A line from Roosevelt (or Northgate) to Lake City would be longer and more expensive with little to no added utility.

      Rail needs to be where there is or will be density and transit demand. If the rail is grade separated the rail need not follow the most direct route between two points to be faster than a bus. This is the genius of the Ballard/UW line, or a line following the 8 corridor.

  16. “The Luddites’ goal was to gain a better bargaining position with their employers. They were not afraid of technology per se, but were “labour strategists”. Wikipedia

    Thanks for getting my technology approach right, d.p. I think one of the 19th century English skilled rebel artisans’ main points of contention was management’s willingness to use machinery to cut product quality along with wages. And simply pocket the savings.

    I think what I said last was that where warranted, I’d rather see an automated system that works than a manual one that doesn’t. Every tool has its use. And its needs.

    Especially the past experience necessary to future success. Whatever the linear distance between a train and its operator, the size of the workforce, or the linkage between the control levers and the motors, passengers’ comfort and vehicle reliability requirements remain the same.

    Prejudice, maybe. But gut-level, I think the design and operating teams of systems like the SkyTrain had best include people presently in the drivers’ seats and the maintenance shops that bring SkyTrain its passengers.

    Mark Dublin

  17. The consensus that held through ST2 is breaking down, and it’s unclear whether it will coalesce into two pro-transit camps or splinter further. Three months ago I never doubted my support for ST3, now it depends. One month ago I never doubted my support for Seattle Subway’s vision, now I’m not sure. Is Seattle Subway going to have a meetup soon? I think I need to talk with them about how compatible their and my ideas are, and perhaps others would want to too. I see two main issues.

    The first issue is, there are essentially two visions with organized campaigns behind them at this point. One is Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan and what we can divinate of its ST3 direction. The other is Seattle Subway’s vision, which has a larger Seattle network and a smaller suburban network, but still has Link to Everett and Tacoma. What’s missing is a “Pragmatic Suburban HCT” alternative; all those BRT segments that are floating around, and that includes West Seattle too. The fissue is that some people who supported the ST2 compromise are pulling away to a “more central/north Seattle lines; suburban BRT; West Seattle BRT” position. At the same time ST is (partly) pulling away in a different direction, “Everett and Tacoma first.” These two are incompatible, and Seattle Subway is in the middle. The BRT pragmatists are pulling away from Seattle Subway but they don’t have an organized campaign to go to. That means they don’t have an effective voice (i.e., influence on the public), but at the same time they’re subtracting votes from Seattle Subway’s position and potentially from ST3. There are at least three possible solutions to this. One is for a separate “Suburban HCT” campaign to promote a BRT-centric vision for the suburbs and try to gain support in those subareas. Another is for Seattle Subway to offer an “urban rail; suburban BRT” alternative or to consider going that way. A third is for a separate campaign to promote an integrated “urban rail; suburban BRT” vision.

    The second issue is, ST is possibly changing direction to “Spine now, Seattle later maybe.” We need a response to this, and I’m not sure that just continuing the ST2 arguments is adequate. Seattle Subway seems to be continuing the ST2 arguments, basically “Spine and non-spine light rail”. I’m not sure whether that will remain viable through 2016, much less later. How is Seattle Subway evolving its message to the changing ST/public environment? Which priorities remain constant and which are changing?

    The change in the Georgetown/Aurora (Kent/Everett) line to Georgetown/Denny/23rd (Tukwila/Kent) is interesting. I like the segments; not so sure about the unified line. Does that mean an Aurora line is withdrawn?

    As for the recommendations in the article, I think the problem is readers conflating studying vs building, the article prioritizing all the “missing studies” equally, and the article conflating a bypass vs a separate central line. So I would split #3 to put the Denny Way/23rd segment and the Lake City/Bothell segment first, and put the rest of them in #4 at much lower priority.

    The conflation in the bypass line is that many people understand “bypass” as being from SODO to TIB. But the map shows it continuing south to Southcenter and beyond. Does that mean Kent? (Which desperately needs HCT and has the highest ridership potential.) Would it turn west from Kent to SeaTac? Anything continuing south of Southcenter is really a separate line, not a “bypass”, even if it eventually ends up at SeaTac.

    1. We’re meeting tomorrow Mike. Would love to talk this through with you. I think you will like our thinking. You can RSVP on our Facebook.

    2. I can’t make that meeting, but I’ll try and make other ones.

      As to the larger point, Mike, I’m not too worried about it. Or at least, I’m not more worried than I used to be.

      ST3 was always going to be a challenge. The low hanging fruit has been picked. UW to downtown, Bellevue to Seattle, done. We’ve even picked some medium hanging fruit. We needed a north end terminus, to connect the buses (UW won’t work, and neither would Northgate) but we went well beyond Mountlake Terrace (the logical north end terminus) all the way up to Lynnwood. Same with the south end — we have service for Rainier Valley all the way to SeaTac, and beyond. We are really starting to get diminishing returns here for the suburbs. The mean population center of Snohomish County is probably close to Lynnwood. I can’t imagine someone living there wanting to spend a lot of money on rail to Everett, when buses run just fine. Even if you are in Everett, you might think twice about spending all that money when the really bad part (from Lynnwood to Seattle) is about to go away. Meanwhile, places south are now so far away that light rail begins to not make sense. There are no easy answers for the east side, either (except extending light rail to Redmond). Meanwhile, Seattle still has some major work to do. We are growing like crazy, with areas like South Lake Union that are bigger than many suburban cities (even though they were quite tiny not too long ago). Mixing the various needs into something that everyone gets excited about is very difficult.

      But all of this talk really doesn’t matter that much right now. I think this is a two step process:

      1) The state gives Sound Transit the right to put an initiative on the ballot. We aren’t clear how much money they will allow, so it is a bit hard to say what makes sense. The smaller the amount, the easier it is (politically) for it to pass (in my opinion). I think it is a given that this will pass, but the overall transportation package is so bad, that if I was a representative, I would vote against it (and wait for another two years to pass something focused on maintenance).

      2) Once this gets approved, and once we know the amount, then the real lobbying begins.

      My recommendation for Seattle Subway is, after that point, for them to do the following:

      1) Focus on Seattle projects. It is in your name. Don’t worry about the east side or south end or anyone else. A lot of people (myself included and I would guess most impartial transit experts) think that buses are the answer there. so don’t worry about that part. Even if you think light rail — better east side light rail — is a great idea, it is obvious that unlike UW to Ballard light rail, or a new bus tunnel, that opinion is not shared by that many on this blog (or many impartial experts). So just avoid the topic, and focus on Seattle.

      2) Stick with UW to Ballard light rail and the WSTT. This may be all we have money for. I think there is great consensus out there for these two projects. By making these two projects the main big projects, you avoid some of the hurt feelings that would come with two light rail projects to Ballard and none to West Seattle. Meanwhile, you avoid the open rebellion that would come if West Seattle light rail eats up most of the budget (and it would, if proposed). If we have money left over, then make it even better. It is a bit like buying a basic house and then making additions and adding new furniture. It is a lot easier than buying a house you can’t afford and living with the ugly walls (because you can’t afford paint). So, for the WSTT, you could move the Madison Street stop up the hill. For West Seattle, start identifying all the little pieces that need to be done to make buses run smoothly (new lanes, signal priority on some streets, etc.). I would love to read a comprehensive list of West Seattle bus improvements. Add a NE 130th station to this list (of course). Make sure the Ballard to UW light rail line has all the stops (don’t skip 8th or you’ll screw up the buses). If you have money left over, extend it out to 24th NW (which would be a very good stop).

      I think you would get a lot of people behind that idea. I think most in the city would support it. If Sound Transit proposes something else for the city, then things get hard. Depending on what they propose, there may be a lot of transit people who will oppose it. That will simply kill the initiative. But if they propose something really good for the city (like this) and then the proposal dies, then it will die because the suburbs opposed it — mainly because they didn’t see value for their projects. Fair enough. They voted against Metro bus service. If that happens — if the projects for Seattle are good and supported by voters, then we will still be in a good position, after the election. That will be an general election year, and it is quite possible that the legislature will be more amenable to our interests. Having a mandate for a Seattle transit project (that we ourselves would pay for) makes things a lot easier. We can simply ask the legislature for authority and have the vote all over again. I would guess that there would be little opposition in the suburbs (especially since the anti ST3 campaign in the suburbs will probably consist of the phrase “enough already”). To which we say “Yes, you are right. Your piece of big transit infrastructure is done. Congratulations. Enjoy. Now, please let us liberal, tax loving hippies tax ourselves, before we ask the state to tax everyone”. I really don’t see a problem with that.

    3. Engineering alert: it is very nearly impossible for a line through “Tukwila Town Center” also to serve TIB, except by a separate set of platforms a little bit to the west. Immediately east (timetable “North”) of the platforms the tracks are 60 to 75 feet in the air and right next to the freeway. ST has ensured that there will be no diverging line swooping to the north at that point. It would be possible to have a divergence to the south in case Burien-Renton LRT ever gets built (doubtful), because the “belly” for the westbound line would be the one that would have to belly; there’s room to the north of the trackage for that.

      It would be one HELL of a “flying” junction. Sort of define the genre.

      So, if the “yellow line” through Tukwila Town Center is ever built (extremely doubtful) it will have to diverge somewhere between Sea-Tac and TIB.

      1. Southcenter and Renton should be more of a priority for a direct route from Downtown than “Tukwila Town Center.” One Duwamish Bypass alignment option that I haven’t heard anyone else mention is at-grade along the mainline railroad, which could be fast and serve Georgetown at its main drag before joining the new West Seattle guideway after Spokane St. Would possibly only need a touchdown ramp at the point where Central Link leaves I-5 and joins 599 or at Boeing Access Road. If Rainier Valley Link is limited to 10 trains an hour, the elevated South Link guideway could potentially accommodate 15-20 more trains an hour, allowing some interlining for both South Link and Renton Link trains.

        Unlike Paine Field, The Landing and potential new development at the vacant lot across from it, provide more of an all day demand base to complement the potential Boeing-generated ridership. Southcenter is good to serve because it has the space to intensify uses like Tysons Corner and Downtown Bellevue. A Duwamish Bypass sounds more reasonable if it is actually anchored by significant activity centers like the 737 plant and Southcenter.

        Instead of advocating a Duwamish Bypass, which gets a few more South County riders onto Link into DTS at great expense. We should look at the existing regionally oriented bypass – Sounder. Measures to allow Sounder to increase frequency, speed, and reliability would likely be significantly less expensive. Building a dedicated passenger track between DTS and Tacoma would also benefit Amtrak Cascades and the prospect of high speed rail in the future.

      2. One Duwamish Bypass alignment option that I haven’t heard anyone else mention is at-grade along the mainline railroad, which could be fast and serve Georgetown at its main drag before joining the new West Seattle guideway after Spokane St.

        Then you haven’t been reading the blog for very long. d.p. and I had a two-week long argument last year about that very alignment — which I favor strongly and have actually mentioned upthread in this post. If the “red line” through SoDo were actually built down past Spokane as shown in the Seattle Subway maps, it is a no-brainer to use the median of Industrial Way to get from the east side of Airport Way over to the junction with the line to West Seattle.

        However, given that Federal Way has put a stake in the heart of any possible usefulness for Link south of Midway (they’ve ruled SR99 off limits), there is no reason for Link to proceed beyond Kent-Des Moines Road. Ever.

        Well, in truth a few blocks south of there to Highline CC, via a station at “New Kent” to be built between 99 and I-5 just south of KDM.

  18. This is a great list! I had already voted, though. Their survey said if you only had 3, but it didn’t say per section or altogether, it ended up the latter, which was tough. My three were: (1) Ballard to UW, which has been clogged for over 3 decades; (2) Stadium to West Seattle; and (3) Tukwila to South Bellevue (the most-congested part of I-405). I know, the latter is ignored by everybody, but here’s the point. Someone from Lynnwood or even Ravenna take light rail to Boeing-Renton, heck they could even transfer to Sounder at Tukwila and go further south if the connections were right. I’d also like to see light rail move south on I-405 to at least Bothell. SR-522 is one of the other missing segments that ST routinely forgets.

    1. How many bus loads per day do you think travel between Tukwila and downtown Bellevue? If it’s less than a hundred then a train is not the answer. If more people want to ride than the buses currently can carry, more buses is the answer.

      [Hint: For the first question, it’s WAY less than a hundred.]

  19. The biggest issue with our regional transit and ST in general is the slothful pace in implementation. There is clearly no sense of urgency, and the projects seem to last the entire careers of those involved. Do the projects exist only for the construction/planning jobs or are they to improve transportation? No Eastside light rail for a decade? No light rail to Boeing Everett or other large centralized employers, so we can get all those cars off the roads? A huge missed opportunity was with the old BNSF right of way from Renton to Snohomish county. It still sits ready for light rail tracks that could have been laid and operational years ago. Some of it is now a bike path that may never have a chance in the future for rail to return.

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